ESV John 5:28

Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice

Does this mean 60 minutes?

  • 2
    Could you elaborate more on what exactly you want to know is true?
    – agarza
    Feb 19 at 2:33
  • This question is appearing to take a word in a passage of scripture far too literally. so much so, it appears to even change the entire meaning of the passage itself. This text is not about how long an hour is, or even how long it will take the dead in the grave to hear His (Jesus) triumphent voice. Its merely saying that the dead in graves will be brought back to life again. There are different views on exactly when the wicked and righteous dead will be raised, however, there is no doubt all who are dead will be raised at least once from the dead!
    – Adam
    Feb 19 at 5:24

No, ὥρα does not mean 'sixty minutes'.

The word ὁρίζω, horizo, means, according to Thayer, see Strong 3724, Biblehub 'to mark out boundaries or limits', 'to appoint or determine'.

The associated word (I am not claiming either one is derived from the other, only that they are, indeed, associated) ὥρα, hora, means, according to Thayer, see Strong 5610, Biblehub 1. 'A certain definite time or season' 2. The daytime (bounded by sunrise and sunset) 3. A twelfth part of the daytime, being a twelfth of sunrise/sunset.

Only the third, least used, meaning approximates to a measure of time within a particular day, bounded by certain constraints.

The other, far more substantial, meanings are a literary device that expresses a concept.

So, no, none of these meanings means 'sixty minutes'.

Thayer gives extensive texts and support for his lexical meaning and I recommend perusing these texts (which I shall not copy and paste) in order to grasp a real understanding of what the word ὥρα, hora, actually conveys.

Whether John's report of Jesus' word in 5:28 is 'literally true' or not, or whether Jesus' words, themselves, are 'literally true', is a matter of faith. I believe his words to be true. And I see no reason to doubt this text to be literally true. It is presented neither as a parable, as a metaphor, as an hyperbole, nor as an allusion.

It is presented as literal truth and one either believes it to be true or one doubts its veracity.


There are at least 2 ways this could be true:

1. Multiple passages speak of the message of Jesus being taught to the dead:

1 Peter 3: 18-20

18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

1 Peter 4:6

For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

Some understand 1 Cor 15:29 & Isaiah 9:2 to be teaching the same principle. Salvation is to be offered to all whether in this life or the next (doesn't say all will accept it). Some in the days of Noah apparently had no such opportunity in life.


2. After the resurrection of the dead

Compare 1 Peter 4: 5

Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.

& John 5:22

For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son

Therefore: Jesus will judge people who have died.

Now consider John 5:29 (the verse immediately after the one cited in the OP)

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.

So clearly He has the resurrection in mind.

& Revelation 20: 12-13

12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.


After the resurrection people will stand before their judge, Jesus

  • ...I like your thinking in this answer. It raises a question in my mind...Whilst we know that the Dead will be raised, is there any need for those who died at the second coming to be raised again for the final Judgement? Some say not as they have ralready received their punishment (for the wages of sin is death) at the second coming.
    – Adam
    Feb 19 at 5:30
  • @Adam interesting question, which raises another. Are the wages of sin physical death or spiritual death? Since even the righteous die physically, does that mean the reference is to spiritual death?. Based on 1 Cor 15: 21 I conclude that those who died at the second coming will be raised for the final judgement. Feb 19 at 6:03
  • ...yes very good point and a hot topic of discussion i have had with my father who is a Seventh Day Adventist minister. I have always thought that all dead should be raised for the final judgement...it just seemed to make sense to me. However there is also a convincing argument against as well.
    – Adam
    Feb 21 at 10:40

John 5:28 cannot and should not be divorced from the next verse, so let be quote both:

Do not be amazed at this, for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out—those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

Thus, Jesus' subject matter is the resurrection of the dead.

What does "Hour" mean?

The Greek word for hour, ὥρα (hóra) is almost the same word in spelling and meaning as our English word. BDAG lists three basic meanings for this word:

1. an undefined period of time in the day, time of day, eg, Mark 11;11, Matt 14:15, 24:42, 44, Luke 12:39, 40, etc

2. a period of time as division of a day, hour, eg, Matt 20:12, Luke 22:59, Acts 5:7, 19:34, etc.

3. a point of time as an occasion for an event, time, eg, Matt 8:13, 10:19, 18:1, 26:55, Mark 13:11, John 5:28, etc.

Thus, it is clear that ":hour" can mean 60 minutes as per meaning #2 above. However, it often does not mean that but some other point in time as per John 5:28.

That is, Jesus is simply saying that a time for the resurrection will arrive when the dead will be raised. Barnes comments that -

The hour is coming - The "time" is approaching or will be.

All that are in the graves - All the dead, of every age and nation. They are described as "in the graves." Though many have turned to their native dust and perished from human view, yet God sees them, and can regather their remains and raise them up to life. The phrase "all that are in the graves" does not prove that the same particles of matter will be raised up, but it is equivalent to saying "all the dead." See the notes at 1 Corinthians 15:35-38.

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