The Lord Jesus speaks of two "hours" in the fifth chapter of John. May we prayerfully consider these important times and weigh their eternal significance. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live" (John 5:25). Again, "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:28,29). We have brought out here the hour of grace, and the hour of judgment.
The Hour of Grace
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live" (John 5:25). This hour began with His own ministry on earth, and is not finished; though He has finished the work of redemption, and is now at the right hand of God in glory. Who are the dead? All who have not heard and not believed Him are dead. Those who have heard and believed Him now live, for "the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live." What kind of life? It is eternal life! Not life in this world; not life that passes away. Thank God the believer has eternal life.
The Hour of Judgment
"Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:28,29). The resurrection of life, and the resurrection of judgment, are as different as light and darkness. The resurrection of life is a resurrection unto blessing. It is the moment when the Lord shall come, and shall take up from the grave His own people, bought by His own blood, and who, through grace, have found Him to be their Saviour (1 Thess. 4:13-17). The resurrection of judgment is when unrepentant and unbelieving men will stand before the Great White Throne, and be judged according to their deeds (Revelation 20:11-15). And what will that be like? No man can depict that awful moment when God raises man for eternal judgment.
The Critical Difference
Notice the difference in the character of the two hours of which our Lord speaks here. During the first hour He quickens into life by His word: "For as the Father has life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself" (John 5:26) Then there is the second hour, the hour of judgment, because the Father has also "given Him authority to execute judgment" (John 5:27). Do you suppose the first hour is endless, and that the long-suffering of God with man's sin is to be infinite and eternal? No! Make no mistake, the hour of grace is about to close. When, God only knows, but the ending thereof will introduce judgment in place of grace. God is giving you now the opportunity of being saved: "These things I say, that ye might be saved" (John 5:34).
Are you saved? Do you want to be saved? He wants you to be saved (1 Timothy 2:3,4). How may you be saved? Only by Him. I remember the time when I was not converted. I began to think of my soul, and I thought I must do something to be saved. I was only a poor dead man, trying to work out a salvation I did not possess. I was dead when I began, and I was dead when I finished. Of course I failed. My conscience accused me of sin, and then came the thought, "I do not have a life that will please God; I do not have one thing suitable to God. I get the sense that I am dead towards God." But then I heard, "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him" (1 John 4:9). God proposes to give you life, eternal life; "The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life" (Romans 6:23). You cannot win it, or earn it. You cannot buy it, and do not deserve it. But God gives it to us.
I know the wages of sin is death, but what do I see? I see the cross of Calvary, and the work Jesus Christ has done on the cross. He has taken all of the penalties and demerit of sin, borne sins, atoned for them, and thank God, blotted them out. "Now once in the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Hebrews 9:26). Look, look at the cross! There my sins have been borne, and have disappeared.
The Critical Choice
This is how—because of the cross—God can righteously and freely give us life, eternal life. My dear reader, do you have this life? If not, you are in a poor condition. How frail is the life you have. You are without strength, a poor sinner, and must let Jesus save you. The gospel is very simple, and very blessed. Listen! "When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:6). It is all the work of Christ. There is no work on your part, or mine. Salvation is by faith, and faith only: not by works (Ephesians 2:8,9).
"He that heareth My Word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" (John 5:24). On the other hand, the person who does not repent and believe the Gospel is on his way to judgment. Note this verse with a top and a bottom, but no middle: "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36). Which half of the verse are you in? Have you taken advantage of the current "hour of grace" and called upon Jesus Christ to be your Saviour? If so, hear Him say, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on Me hath everlasting life" (John 6:47). If not, beware the hour of judgment.
—Adapted from Seekers For Light by W.T.P. Wolston
"Eternity to the godly is a day that has no sunset; eternity to the wicked is a night that has no sunrise." —Thomas Watson