John 5:25 NASB:

Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

Why the use of “hear” at the end of this sentence instead of “believe”? Why did Jesus leave out the believing piece which he had in verse 24?

5 Answers 5


Until the amazing fact of dead people being addressed is considered, no sense can be made of Jesus' statement. Corpses in their graves cannot hear. Though we are given something of a clue in the vision of the valley of dry bones that Ezekiel recorded (chapter 37). Those particular symbolic corpses were spoken to, to cause their bones to come together, to cause them to stand up and be clothed in new flesh. Yet they remained dead until the command was given to the four winds to enter into those lifeless bodies when spirit of life entered into them and they could then act as an army. The application is given in that text. The whole house of Israel knew that their symbolic 'bones' were dried up, their hope was gone, and they were cut off. Therefore God commanded Ezekiel to tell them that God was going to open their symbolic graves to bring them out of there back to the land of Israel. At that time, they were captives in Babylon. The vision was symbolic, about spiritual death, then at God's timing, a miraculous coming back to spiritual life, back to the land. "I will put my Spirit in you", God promised "and you will live and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it" (vs. 14).

The people who heard Jesus' staggering promise in John 5:24-30 understood the symbolism of Ezekiel's account of the valley of dry bones. Jesus did not need to explain to them about how corpses could hear a voice of command, and respond! They knew there was spiritual truth being taught here. They knew God's people could be displaced, being like corpses as to having no spiritual life even while living physically in a distant land. So, the first critically important point is that while people are alive physically, they can be dead spiritually.

That point is made by Jesus when he says that the time had now come - right there and then - when some would hear his voice of command and respond, even though he called them "dead". Verse 24 has to be considered first, for that is where Jesus speaks of those who hear his word and believe him who sent me not being condemned; having crossed over from death to life. That is the point of time when spiritually dead people will hear his voice. Those who hear will live. And that coming to life, spiritually, was happening that very hour, even as Jesus spoke! Those who literally heard his words and believed him who had sent him (God the Father), would cross over from death to life, that very hour.

This is the spiritual resurrection miracle enacted by the Holy Spirit - granting new life - the new birth - at the point of a person repentantly coming to faith in Jesus Christ. That began to happen throughout Jesus' ministry on earth, which is why he could say that the time for crossing over from death to life both would happen (future tense), and that the hour "has now come" (present tense).

The other thing Jesus then spoke of was the future time when ALL the dead would hear his voice and come forth to judgment. Some would rise to life, others to condemnation (vss 28-29). This referred to the resurrection of the body - but those who had already come to spiritual life had experienced the first resurrection. This is where Revelation 20:4-6 ties it all together.

The souls of those beheaded for their testimony to Christ were already in heaven, ruling with Christ. "The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended" (vs.5). The first resurrection is of those saints in that glory. They are raised to newness of life even before their physical bodies die, and simply step over from time into eternity, from death to life, in an instant. The grave can only hold their physical remains, but their souls are clothed with resurrection bodies on the Day of Resurrection and Judgment.

Here is an explanation written in 1998, dealing with Revelation 20:4-6:

"Here is a first resurrection, and a second death. From which it follows that there must be - according to the figure - a first death and a second resurrection. This first resurrection is out of death, but it does not affect all the dead, because verse 5 states 'The rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished'. Therefore this first resurrection affects some of the dead, not all of the dead, since the rest of the dead - other than some - lived not again until after the thousand years were finished. Those who are of the first resurrection are said to reign with Christ for this same figurative thousand years..."

"What is meant by this first resurrection? who are they that partake of it? and when does it take place? The word resurrection means being raised from the dead, and that there is said to be a 'first' resurrection evidently gives a spiritual meaning to the term. For example, what 'death' is it from which a certain number are raised at the 'first resurrection?' I put it to you that it is the being dead in trespasses and sins, Ephesians 2:1, 'You being dead in your sins', Colossians 2:13, The being in 'the body of this death', Romans 8:2, 'When we were dead in sins', Ephesians 2:5, 'To be carnally minded is death', Romans 8:6. Not to love one's brother. which is to 'abide in death', 1 John 3:14. To live in pleasure, which is called being 'dead' while one lives, 1 Timothy 5:6."

"The first resurrection evidently applies to this first death, which is not the death of the body according to these scriptures. It is the inward death of the soul. But how is one raised from such a death as this? Saith Jesus, 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming' - now mark these next words - 'and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live', John 5:25. All his hearers he regarded as dead. At that present hour - which 'now is' - every person within earshot heard his outward voice: however he calls them all alike 'the dead'. But of these he selects a number whom he describes as 'they that hear'. That is, therefore, hear inwardly, and hear by divine inworking and initiative. These shall live, though before they had been dead. Then, this must be the first resurrection, and, by definition, it is interior, it is in the inward, hidden man of the heart.

"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', John 5:24. The body may die, but that is immaterial, the inward life, the everlasting life, quickened by the voice of the Son of God, abides for ever, carrying the living soul immediately into the presence of the Lord: 'and they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years', Revelation 20:4. Why? Because they were partakers of the first resurrection, hence their bodies just slept, death had no relevance, they had already passed from death unto life."

"Thus Jesus speaks to those who inwardly heard his voice, in the hour in which they heard it, 'Verily, verily I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death', John 8:51. "The Revelation of Jesus Christ" by John Metcalfe, pp 556-558 (capitals mine).

There is no separation between 'hear' and believe' when you incorporate verse 24 with verse 25. Isolating one verse is not the right thing to do. Verse 24 makes it perfectly clear that the spiritually dead who hear the words of Jesus and who believe the one who sent him (God the Father), are instantly raised - that very hour - to newness of life. They experience the first resurrection. Likewise do those who respond alike over the centuries following. Thus Jesus saying, "the hour is coming - and now is". To hear and believe Jesus is to hear and believe God the Father. Nobody can separate them, or that.

  • 1
    Great! I would also point out the dual meaning of שׁמע in meaning both "hear" and "obey".
    – Robert
    Commented Sep 17, 2021 at 21:39

John 5:25 NASB:

Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

Why the use of “hear” at the end of this sentence instead of “believe”? [...]

The ones referred to in this verse who will "hear the voice of the Son of God" are "the dead," and the expression "will live," refers to the dead coming back to life at the hour of His return:

John 5:28-29
28Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)
  • The interesting verse. John 5:29 and come forth— those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. There is nothing about believing in Jesus or the blood of Jesus to raise to resurrection to life
    – Yeddu
    Commented May 13, 2021 at 9:29

Why the use of “hear” instead of “believe” in John 5:25?

Answer: We "hear" before we can believe.

What is interesting about this passage is that "the dead" to which Christ is referring are all of us outside of His blood:

Ephesians 2:1-2a: And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world..."

Note the first command toward salvation:

Romans 10:17: "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ."

This verse in the Letter to the Romans is telling us that faith [belief] comes first from hearing God's Word. We can then believe what we hear, repent of sin, confess Christ at baptism, and live faithfully. Allow me to again quote John as does the OP:

John 5:25: “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live."

This passage might be paraphrased: "The hour has come in which those who are dead to their trespasses and sins will hear me and those that accept my teaching will live in Me."

The word "hear" rather than "believe" in the last clause of John 5:25 is intended to encompass the steps to salvation in Christ.


Note that voice is genitive ἀκούσουσιν τῆς φωνῆς. Going through BDB if you merely hear the sound of something, it is usually accusative. When someone listens and responds the direct object is genitive. This rule is followed better in classical Greek than Koine.

The implication in this verse is that the dead are more than hearing the sound of his voice. They are responding. Responding/following and obeying are linked to believing in the New Testament. See Difference between believing and obeying Jesus in John 3:36

Perhaps translating ἀκούσουσιν as listen instead of hear would give a better sense of the meaning.


Let's see the context, John 5:

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.

Two conditions are clearly listed:

  1. hears
  2. believes

25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.

Why this 2nd use of “hear” instead of “believe” in John 5:25?

Interesting question indeed :)

In terms of style, I think this has to do with parallelism:

a time is coming                                        and has now come 
when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God     and those who hear will live. 

The 1st hear is in Future Indicative Active.
The 2nd hear is in Aorist Participle Active.

The believing part is implied by the immediate context.

Not convinced? Jesus continues:

28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.

Not everyone who hears will live, but only those who hear and believe.

Why did Jesus leave out the believing piece which he had in verse 24?

The recorded verse left it out for parallelism stylistic reason but it was implied by the context before it and after it.

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