“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24).
What Is the Context of John 5:24?
John 5 narrates for us the story of a man who was crippled and lay by the pool at Bethesda in Jerusalem. The Apostle John, in his writing, tells us this man had been at this poolside for 38 years.
The Jews believed that when the water was stirred in this pool, the first person to enter it would be healed.
Verse seven recounts this unnamed man telling Jesus that “he was alone and had no one to help him into the pool.” Can you imagine lying by a pool, hoping for healing for that many years?
We don’t know what age he was when he lost the ability to move freely, was he born that way? Was it a childhood accident? We have no clue how this man ended up by this pool, just that this place would soon be a holy place where he would meet Jesus.
In response to his words, Jesus doesn’t react to his loneliness, but He simply replies, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk” (v.8). Then, at once, this man was cured.
But the one detail John is sure to add in the story is that Jesus heals him on the Sabbath. This is an important point to note, as healing on the sabbath caused a flurry for the Jewish leaders.
They were not only annoyed that the man dared to carry a mat on the Sabbath, which constituted work, but that Jesus was going around healing people and commanding them to break the Sabbath laws. This caused Jesus to be attacked for violating laws the Jewish leaders held onto tightly.
Then in response, they were annoyed at the very fact that Jesus would make himself equal to God. This was harrowing to them. Jesus tells them some incredible truths beginning in verse 19.
Jesus starts by telling them that He emulates the father and is only capable of the things He does because the Father does them also. Can you imagine being a Pharisee or Sadducee and hearing these words? This goes against everything that they thought of God.
But then He adds to the sentence by revealing the following in verse 24: “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”
Jesus announces that hearing the words of Jesus and believing that he was sent by God is enough to offer the soul eternal life. We can be saved from judgment and cross over from death to life by believing the words and deeds of Jesus.
Eternal life begins upon belief. This is a fleshing out of the words in John 3:16, which says: “That whosoever believes on the Him will not perish but have everlasting life.”
I love that Jesus begins his sentence by declaring, “Truly, truly.” I am sure we all know by now that when Jesus repeats himself, it means the words that follow or the words declared are of importance.
Here Jesus repeats the word: “Ἀμὴν,” meaning “Amen,” which we usually state at the end of a sentence. Jesus uses it at the start, and this is Jesus’ way of saying and reinforcing that he had a personal and first-hand knowledge of the truth that would follow.
It isn’t hearsay or second-hand information he is passing on, or even gossip, but words he knows to be true.
These words that Jesus is so sure of would have been like bile in the throats of the Pharisees and Sadducees. According to Krell, the Sadducees denied the existence of individuals after death because it wasn't mentioned explicitly in the Torah.
However, the Pharisees agreed on both bodily resurrection and immortality of the soul. They were heavily influenced by the Hellenistic ideas of the day.
The Pharisees believed that after death, the soul is connected to God until the Messianic era, when it is re-joined with the body in the land of Israel at the time of resurrection. Jesus, of course, was the Messiah whom they missed.
What Jesus is stating here is nothing at all like the beliefs of the Jewish leaders who founded their doctrine around their understanding of the written Torah and oral traditions. Which it seems they usually misunderstood.
How Are We Saved?
Jesus is declaring here that whoever believes in him or has faith in his words no longer faces death as the unsaved do. But the judgment is gone. They are now a new creation connected to heaven, knowing eternal life in the present, even in part, on this side of heaven.
They are saved and redeemed; heaven will be their home at death, but they can experience some of the glory of heaven now because they have already passed from death to life. Their names are recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 3).
All these terms would have been opposing in comparison to the Jewish leader’s mindset. They believed in working for faith; being in right relationship with God meant protecting laws with more laws and never being truly free.
Yet Jesus lays out faith and salvation so simply. So simply, in fact, that all who hear His words can be welcomed into the family of God, embracing that eternal life. Jesus talks of believers passing from death to life.
This term is only mentioned in one other place in Scripture, and that is in 1 John 3:14, which reads: “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death."
Isn’t it a challenge to us that love is the barometer of our eternal lives? When we move from death to life, we become people who love. Those who do not love remain in death.
What Does This Mean?
I don’t feel we can outline the process of salvation and not finish the article by asking if you believe in Jesus. If the words of Jesus, outlined in Scripture, are ones that you have taken on board and chosen to meditate over?
Friend, Jesus is the greatest companion that a person can have. Being in relationship with Jesus and loving others isn’t a magic fix to life; hard times still come, sometimes all the more.
But can I tell you that the joy of knowing that I am sealed in Christ, that I am His child, and I am heaven-bound, and I can get glimpses of the glory of heaven in my everyday life is a profound and incredible thought to behold.
I do pray that if you are not a believer and have stumbled across these words, you will go away and think over a life with Jesus.
He loved you so deeply that He has pursued you, and I know that being a Christian can sometimes add more questions than answers because heaven is mysterious in part, but friend, it is a life worth living, and He is a God worth following!
If you are a believer, I hope you have gone away with a renewed reminder that you are saved in Christ when you believe, but a confession of that faith is essential in your walk with God.
Share your faith with others, pray for your loved ones, and prayerfully we will see our families, our friends, and our loved ones saved.
But also remember that loving others is a barometer of our salvation, so love well, and just like Jesus who emulated the father, may I remind you to emulate Jesus in your life.
For further reading:
Photo Credit ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/beerphotographer
Michelle Treacy is a Christian writer, a wife to Gerald, and a busy mother of three, Emily, Ava Rose, and Matthew. Finding time to write is not always easy. However, Michelle’s desire to write about Jesus, and passion to teach is what motivates her. Michelle writes on Instagram Michelle_Treacy_ and for CrimsonSeasCA. Also, on WordPress at Thoughts From My Bible. If you meet her in person, you will likely find her with two things in hand, a good Christian book, and a cup of tea!