Resurrection | The Gospel of John

The following belongs to a series entitled “An Introductory Biblical Theology of Resurrection.” Read other posts belonging to this series here.


The Gospel of John

The resurrection, both Christ’s and the believer’s, plays a central role in John’s Gospel. Because Jesus is one with the Father (5:17-18), His will is exactly the Father’s (5:19, 21; 6:37-40), and “whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise” (5:19). Just as God raises the dead (a prerogative seen in the OT as belonging to God alone [2 Kings 5:17][1]), so Christ raises whomever He wills. Christ came to do His Father’s will (6:38)—to lose none of those whom the Father had given Him to save, but to secure their resurrection (6:39-40). And because Jesus has life in Himself as the Father has life in Himself (5:26), presumably He is able to raise others to life (5:25-29). As Christ has life in Himself, all those in whom He abides and who abide in Him have life (6:53-58). Those who hear the voice of Jesus (5:25) are drawn by the Father to come to Christ (6:44), believe on Christ (6:47), metaphorically feed on His flesh and blood (John 6:54), and are raised to life in some sense now—they have eternal life presently and in this sense will never die (John 5:25; 6:40, 47, 57-58; 11:25-26). But after physically dying, they will also be raised bodily on the last day (John 6:40; 44, 54; 11:24). All will certainly be raised, but some to life and others to judgment (John 5:28-29).[2]

In response to Martha’s affirmed belief in the eschatological resurrection (11:24), Jesus proclaims that He Himself embodies the hope of that resurrection (11:25) as well as the believer’s presently realized eternal life (11:25-26). In other words, “there is neither resurrection nor eternal life outside of him.”[3] Christ’s resurrection of Lazarus (11:1-44; 12:9) functions as a demonstration of Christ’s previous claims to have resurrection-authority over His own resurrection (10:17-18) as well as others’ (5:21, 25–29; 6:39–40). Lazarus’s resurrection becomes representative, so to say, for Christ’s claim to be “the resurrection and the life” (11:25). Consequently, Jesus performs this miracle in order that His disciples and those who are witnesses (as well as others presumably [12:17-18]) may believe on Him (11:15, 25-27, 42; 12:9-11).

But “if he was to impart resurrection life to others,” and to truly be the resurrection and life, “he must receive resurrection life himself. . . .”[4] Therefore, Christ’s death (and resurrection) is no mistake, but the charge He received from the Father (10:18). Christ intentionally and willfully gives His life in order to raise it back up again, having the authority to do so (10:17-18), proving Himself victorious over the curse of death.

At various points Jesus predicts and anticipates His eventual death and resurrection, predictions that include His “veiled” reference to Himself as the true temple, which will be destroyed and rebuilt (2:18-22). And in some sense, the Old Testament scriptures also foretells of Christ’s resurrection (20:9). Three days after His death, Christ is raised back to life and appears to His disciples (chs. 20-21).


[1] D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), 523.

[2] The “resurrection to judgment” drastically contrasts the believer’s future resurrection. It is not a resurrection to receive life once again but to be condemned and experience death forever.

[3] Carson, John, 412.

[4] F. F. Bruce, The Gospel of John (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1983), 228.