Questions From Readers
● If resurrected ones are to be judged on the basis of their actions after being raised from the dead, why did Jesus use the past tense in discussing this matter at John 5:28, 29?—H.M., Papua, New Guinea.
Those verses Joh 5:28, 29 read: “Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.”
Jesus apparently stated the matter as he did because it would in this way cover the circumstances of “all those in the memorial tombs.”
Those who gain heavenly life with Christ are judged on the basis of the works they do in this life. (2 Cor. 5:10) At the time they are resurrected to spirit life they are granted immortality. (1 Cor. 15:53; Rom. 6:5) They are not then placed on judgment, but are themselves empowered to act as judges with Christ. (Rev. 20:4) Theirs is a “resurrection of life,” and the “good things” referred to in their case are those they did before they died.
But what about “those in the memorial tombs” who are resurrected as humans on earth? Will it be determined immediately after their resurrection that theirs is a “resurrection of life” or a “resurrection of [condemnatory] judgment”? (Compare John 5:24 with Joh 5 verse 29.) What good purpose would be served by raising from the dead millions of persons whose former lives were filled with vile deeds, only to tell them that they are vile and then execute them? The indication of the Scriptures is that when Haʹdes gives up those dead in it, they will be ‘judged individually according to the deeds’ they do following their resurrection. (Rev. 20:13) The resurrection will afford them an opportunity to live.
As the apostle Paul wrote in Hebrews 9:27, 28, “it is reserved for men to die once for all time” due to Adamic sin, “but after this a judgment” that is made possible by the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ and that affords men the opportunity for “salvation.” Those who formerly did good things will no doubt find it easier to continue in that course, and, if they keep on doing good right on through the final test following Christ’s thousand-year rule, it will be shown that theirs was a “resurrection of life.” Those who formerly did vile things will be granted the opportunity to change their ways and gain salvation, but in the case of those who do not do so, it will become evident, at the time of that final test at the latest, that theirs was a ‘resurrection of condemnatory judgment.’
Now, what if Jesus had phrased his statement differently, saying very plainly that the deeds on which individuals would be judged would all be those performed after their resurrection? Had he done this, he would have been leaving out those who would gain heavenly life with him. Instead, by using an elliptical expression, he included “all those in the memorial tombs.” After first referring to the resurrection as one general accomplishment, he apparently cuts through all the in-between details, takes a future viewpoint of the matter when one’s past during the millennium must be judicially reviewed, and states the situation as it will exist at the time of the giving of final reward to those who are raised, namely, “those who did good things to a resurrection of life, those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.”