“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” – (John 5:24).
In this single verse, the Lord Jesus described a person giving two qualifying phrases. He began his description by saying, “He who hears My word.…” There is a significant difference between the words hear and listen. The word hears carries the idea to hear information and process it or to hear instructions and follow them, like a professor’s lecture or jury instructions from a judge. The word listen has the nuance of paying no attention to ambient sounds, like elevator music or someone else’s conversation. This person, whom Jesus described, hears the Word of God and doesn’t just listen to it.
The Lord’s second qualifying phrase is “…and believes Him who sent Me.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who sent Christ to the earth (John 5:36-37); it was God the Father, and the idea of belief carries the thought of trust. This person not only heard the Word of God, but he or she also placed trust in the Father who sent the Savior to the earth to redeem us from our sins.
Having distinguished this person from others with these two statements, Jesus then tells us three features about this individual.
First, this person who heard God’s Word and believed in Him, “…has eternal life.” The Lord used a present tense verb meaning a present possession of eternal life; He didn’t couch this phrase in contingencies, that is: He didn’t say, “If you continue doing good things, you might have eternal life.” Nor did He say, “If you’ve been baptized you may have eternal life.” He didn’t include any notion of uncertainty to what He said, like, “He who hears my word and believes on him who sent me perhaps, maybe, might or should have eternal life.” Notice this verb is also in the present tense—He said, “…has eternal life” (emphasis added).By definition eternal life is life that endures forever and has no termination. Hence Jesus said, this person, who has heard God’s Word and has believed upon God the Father, now has life that will endure for forever and will never end.
Jesus revealed the second feature of this person by saying, “…and does not come into judgment.” Again, this is a present tense verb and can be literally rendered, “And is not now moving toward judgment.” The Pharisees, which were probably the majority of the crowd hearing this, had taught that as soon as a person is born, he or she begins a relentless journey toward a judgment. They pictured this judgment as a balance scale where good works were put on one side and bad works on the other and whichever way the scale tipped would indicate a person’s eternal disposition. This balance scale thinking is common in many false religions. But the prophet Isaiah tells us that all of our good works amount to nothing more than a pile of putrefying rags (Isa. 64:6).
Having used the present tense so far, Jesus switched to the aorist tense for the third and last feature, “but has passed out of death into life.” Aorist tense indicates a point in time past. This person has already passed out of death and has been placed into life. The Greek term that is found here is a word that actually means change of address. This person was “living the death” (literal rendering) and has already been moved out of death and is now “living in the life” (also a literal rendering).
Does this verse describe you? Have you heard God’s Word and believed upon the Father who sent the Lord Jesus? If so, the rest of the verse tells us that you now have eternal life, are no longer on the road to judgment, and have already been transported from death unto life.