Ward Fenley

Something to consider when examining the fullness which we have in Christ are the various "I AM's" of Christ. For example, when talking with reformers concerning Christ as the "Bread of Life" and ask them if this is spiritually speaking and if it is fulfilled in the regeneration of the believer, they will say yes. Ask them the same concerning Christ as the "Way," the "Living Waters," the "Light of the World," the "Truth," "Door," "Shepherd," and "Life," they will invariably say that Christ is presently those things spiritually. If we ask them if He will one day be our physical Door, or Bread, or Living Waters etc. they will generally say no. However, some may say yes. In which case simply ask them what Scriptures they would use to support a dual fulfillment of each of those. But, if they are reasonably studied, then they will say no. At which point we would simply ask them, "If our hermeneutic of Biblical theology finds Christ as the spiritual fulfillment of all of these things, when Christ says "I am the Resurrection, shouldn't we interpret that the same way?" They will probably say, "Well, He is both our spiritual resurrection and our physical resurrection." Then we ask them what Scriptures support that. Usually they will make an appeal to John 5:28,29 or 1 Corinthians 15. Then I take them to the full context of John:

John 5:21-29 For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. {22} For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: {23} That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. {24} Verily, verily, I say unto you, 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. {25} 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. {26} For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; {27} And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. {28} Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, {29} 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.
In verse 21 Christ establishes the fact of His sovereignty over resurrection. He does not say He is sovereign over two different soteriological resurrections. He simply declares that He and the Father are one in raising the dead. He identifies that resurrection as everlasting life, never coming into condemnation. He declares that the hour is coming and "now is" when the dead shall hear His voice and live. Reformers usually try to make verse 25 a different resurrection than verse 29. But the hearing of the Son's voice brings the same result. There is no where in the text a different result mentioned that would take place through this hearing. Rather, there is one group of people-the dead. The only difference is a group. One fell under the category of "the hour is coming and now is when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God and shall live," and the other fell under the category of "the hour is coming when ALL that are in their graves shall hear His voice and shall come the resurrection of life."

At this point it should be observed that the word for "damnation" in verse 29 is the exact same Greek word as "condemnation" in verse 24 with the exception of the preposition 'into' versus 'of'. It is still the same root word which is krisis. It seems that not only is Christ speaking of the same condemnation or damnation-it also seems that Christ is speaking of the same converse of that condemnation-namely resurrection life because of hearing the voice of the Son of God. Christ doesn't mention to different types of hearing the voice of the Son of God, so why would we assume two different resurrections?

The mystery then is whether Christ is speaking of two different groups of people. Some would suggest that this is the case. However, if Christ isn't speaking of two different "hearing His voices" and two different "lifes or everlasting lifes" or two different "damnations," how could He be speaking of two different groups of people? I believe that the only difference is the timing: the hour is coming and NOW IS, versus the hour is coming. In the hour that "now is" Christ is speaking of those who were going to hear His voice at Pentecost (John 7:37-39) and live. The hour that says only "is coming" is referring to those who would hear His voice in AD 70. I believe Christ clarifies this timing in John 11, which is a very strong parallel passage:

John 11:24-26 Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. {25} Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: {26} And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
Basically what Christ is saying is that there is one resurrection. It is Him. However, He would apply this Resurrection to those who were physically alive from Pentecost until AD 70. Then at AD 70 there is the resurrection of the physically dead who had never heard the Gospel. They were all a part of those dead under the law of sin and death. But Paul said of the entire collective group:
1 Corinthians 15:51-57 Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, {52} In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. {53} For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put onimmortality. {54} So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. {55} O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? {56} The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. {57} But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Notice that there are two groups in verse 52. Then in verse 53 Paul describes that corruption and morality that needed to put on incorruption and immortality. In verse 54 Paul does not at all begin to distinguish between the two groups, but rather sets forth the necessary changes for both groups-i.e. the saying, "Death is swallowed up in victory" needed to come to pass completely for both groups. This death simply cannot be referring to physical death because Paul said that the strength of sin is the law. And to even further support this, Paul declared that they were being given the very victory that was to be completely given to both groups at the Parousia. The distinction was not that there were two different groups. They all were previously dead under the law of sin and death. But Paul and the first century believers were firstfruits of the same resurrection. That is, as they believed in Christ they were immediately partakers of the same resurrection processwhich was taking place. Those under the OT were those very likelyidentified as the "creation" that was "groaning" in Romans 8. Paul said that the firstfruits were groaning with that OC creation. Again, we see one group of people and one resurrection to be applied, but a different timing just as Christ taught. I.e Christ taught that one group would be in the "hour that now is" versus the one group that would be in the "hour [that] is coming." The same death was going to be completely swallowed up in victory. But since Paul and the first century hearers were those that Christ identified as "he who lives and believes in me shall never die," they were correctly identified as those who had the firstfruits of the same resurrection. Because each invidual was inseparable from the growth of the collective body, each individuals level of change during the first century was only in accordance with the level that the body had grown as they grew closer to the reward of the In heritance, which was Christ in them. Previously Christ was only their hope of glory. However, once He would come to indwell them He would be their glory and it would no longer be a hope. This is precisely why Christ said "I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me, though he were dead (physically), yet shall he live (spiritually). He who lives (physically-first century firstfruits who were alive to hear the Gospel of the good news of Jesus Christ and Him crucified) and believes on me shall never die (spiritually). I hope this helps a little concerning the fact that John 5:21-29 is speaking of one resurrection.

Ward Fenley