John 5:24 (ESV)

Truly truly I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and he does not come into judgement but has passed from death to life.

The verse states that when one hears Jesus's words and believes, one "has passed", implying at the time of the hearing and believing, from death to life.

Unless I am mistaken it also seems "from death to life" is the same as "being born again" mentioned previously in John 3.

Does this verse state that we are born again at the time we hear and believe in Christ?

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    Commented Mar 16 at 15:39

4 Answers 4


There are Christians I've known who bristle at the idea that a person can know the exact time they were born again. Maybe not to the minute(!), but perhaps within a day or week or month.

That some Christians can legitimately pinpoint their conversion experience cannot be gainsaid. The apostle Paul is but one example of this phenomenon. Would any Bible scholar say otherwise? Paul had an epiphany on the Road to Damascus, and his life would never be the same.

So yes, when a person listens to the Spirit of Jesus and believes that he alone can save them from the penalty of sin, they are born again.

This is not to say that a person does not thereafter "grow into" his or her conversion or new birth. Likewise, being born again relatively early in life--as I was--does not mean a person will not have a second (or third or fourth) renewal of their initial belief--as I did.

When I listened to and believed in the Lord Jesus when I was seven, I can say with full assurance that I was born again. Later on in my teens, however (and no, I cannot recall the day or month or even the year!), I told God that if my initial rebirth when I was seven was somehow incomplete, as a teenager I truly wanted in my heart to be a follower of Jesus. At that point, I experienced a peace that has not faded in over 50 years.

So yes, not only are Jesus's words to Nicodemus in John Chapter 3 reiterated in slightly different wording in John Chapter 5, but there are other biblical expressions that are synonymous, such as the one found in Romans 10:9:

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.


Question: "Does this verse state that we are born again at the time we hear and believe in Christ?" Answer: We should NOT read 5:24 as a logical IF-THEN statement (if "hear and believe" then "possess eternal life"), but as a diagnostic description of what a born-again Christian would do (he/she would continually listening and believing Jesus) and as already (proleptically) possessing eternal life which began when we were born again. The term "born again" should strictly be associated with the entrance of the Holy Spirit into our hearts, which in turn is associated with either baptism or with profession of belief (depending on the denomination).

Full answer below.

The Gospel of John's distinctiveness is to present who Jesus is and how we are to relate to Him. The whole book is a wonderfully deep spiritual exposition worth re-reading hundreds of times across one's lifetime because a different reading will resonate with different aspect and different situation in our life journey.

So we can read John 3:1-21 as the BEGINNING of our joining the Kingdom of God (vv. 3 and 5) by needing to be "born of water and the Spirit" (v. 5). Regardless whether we interpret the "water" to mean amniotic fluid or the water of baptism, believers enter the Kingdom of God by receiving the Trinitarian life (i.e. the Holy Spirit), a key event that represents the beginning of our spiritual walk with Jesus, the Lord of that Kingdom which has already come but not yet fully consummated. The subjective believing (faith), when we come to appreciate consciously this objective fact of receiving life, can happen simultaneously or later (depending on the denominaton), momentous or gradual (see @rhetorician's answer).

As with how John in his exposition stylistically repeats key themes from various angles (such as The 7 "I AM"), we shouldn't be surprised that John would re-visit this "seeing/entering the Kingdom of God" theme from another angle (i.e., the end-time "judgment" and the possession of "eternal life" as the reward for those who truly belong to the Kingdom).

So we can read your verse John 5:24 (which is part of John 5:16-30, the Relation of Jesus to His Father) as the END of our earthly journey (the "death") which marks the beginning of the NEXT STAGE of our eternal journey (the "life"). D.A. Carson in his acclaimed Pillar Commentary on the Gospel of John interprets John 5:24 as "the strongest affirmation of inaugurated eschatology in the Fourth Gospel":

The one who hears and believes in this way has eternal life and will not be condemned (krinō, here meaning ‘judged adversely’, as in 3:18). The idea is virtually indistinguishable from the negative component of Paul’s doctrine of justification: the believer does not come to the final judgment, but leaves the court already acquitted. Nor is it necessary for the believer to wait until the last day to experience something of resurrection life: the believer has eternal life and has crossed over from death to life (cf. Col. 1:13). This is perhaps the strongest affirmation of inaugurated eschatology in the Fourth Gospel. Nevertheless, it does not mean the Evangelist has adopted the error of Hymenaeus and Philetus (2 Tim. 2:17–18), who insisted the resurrection had already taken place. The following verses (especially vv. 28–29) demonstrate that John still anticipates a final resurrection. But the stress on realized eschatology is typically Johannine.

CONCLUSION When reading John, one must see a theme being elaborated in different ways. One theme is LIFE. We were once dead in sin, so need to be born again. That's treated in John 3:1-21. But that "spiritual death" (which necessitated us to be born again) is NOT the same as the "death" mentioned in John 5:24, which refers to our eventual physical death. Now that we have this life, we can safely pass that physical death and the day of judgment into eternal life, which we already possess (inaugurated eschatology) if we remain in the Kingdom by continual listening and believing our Shepherd Jesus's words.

  • So I believe I understand why you are saying it is our physical death at the time of judgement. However, he does say "has passed" specifically in the past tense. How can you just ignore that?
    – Joseph
    Commented Mar 18 at 15:58

There are several times in John's gospel where this phrase about being "born again" is stated, and all prior to the verse in question, which does not actually use that phrase. If we get a clear grasp of what being born again means, then it should not be difficult to know whether it's the same event being spoken of in John 5:24.

Jesus first said it, telling Nicodemus that nobody could even see the Kingdom of God (let alone enter into it) unless they were "born from above" (John 3:3 YLT). This phrase is then variously enlarged upon by other statements in that conversation:

"...born of water and of the Spirit..." (v. 5)

"that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (v. 6)

"...thou hast not known when he [the Spirit] cometh, and whether he goeth; thus is every one who hath been born of the Spirit." (v. 8)

Nicodemus would know that Jesus was referring to the water baptism of John the Baptist as this being 'born' of water. That is why those baptised of John were then prepared to receive Jesus as the Messiah. That is why Jesus said, "We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen". "We"? Yes, John's testimony about Jesus being the One from heaven, and Jesus' own testimony. They are to be believed. Jesus next went on to say something quite mysterious:

"And as Moses did lift up the serpent in the wilderness, so it behoveth the Son of Man to be lifted up, that every one who is believing in him may not perish, but may have life age-during, for God did so love the world, that His Son - the only begotten - He gave, that every one who is believing in him may not perish, but may have life age-during." John 3:14-16 (YLT)

Then, John the Baptist is questioned as to why he is baptising less people than Jesus' disciples are. John is very happy about that, saying, "A man is not able to receive anything, if it may not have been given him from the heaven" (v. 27). John keeps pointing to Christ, concluding, "He who is believing in the Son, hath life age-during, and he who is not believing the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God doth remain upon him" (v. 36). So ends chapter 3.

Chapter 4 is a different location, there is a different conversation with a woman at a well, Jesus speaking of giving living water that springs into everlasting life, and the hour having come when true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth. It is impossible for anyone to worship God as Father unless they have been born after the Spirit from above. Some days later the Samaritans in that village had believed Jesus and were born again.

Chapter 5 starts, the location now being Jerusalem. Jesus spoke about the Father raising the dead (v. 21), that God has committed all judgment to the Son (v. 22) hence the honour Christ is due (v. 23), and now the verse in question, those who hear Christ's word and believe the Father in heaven who sent him have everlasting life, not being condemned for they have passed from death to life.

But verse 24 cannot stand apart from the preceding verses and verse 25 — that the hour had now come (while Jesus was on Earth) when the dead would hear the voice of the Son of God and live. This is the first resurrection, inward and spiritual; pertaining not to sight but to faith, which is what verse 24 is all about.

The life Jesus spoke of was spiritual life that never ends; that begins with the unseen movement of the Holy Spirit bringing a spiritually dead person to newness of life so that they believe Jesus and the Father.

Significantly, the rest of chapter 5 has Jesus pointing back to the witness of John the Baptist, and to the continuing witness of the Father. Those who come to Christ will have life, as the Scriptures state.

Jesus himself said (verses 39-40) that those who come to him will have life. They are already living physically, but they need the unction of the Holy Spirit from on high to receive Christ by faith so as to live eternally as believers born from above. "A man is not able to receive anything, if it may not have been given him from the heaven" (John 3:27). All that is in chapter 5 fits in beautifully with all that is in chapter 3. Both chapters are speaking about being born from above but by chapter 5 Jesus has explained more, linking being born from above with the first resurrection.

  • we aren't born again and then born again again. we are only born again once. There is nothing in the bible to imply that he is speaking of johns baptism. The reason he is surprised Nicodemus doesn't understand what he is saying is because he is speaking from the OT, specifically the prophets. That's why he uses the word "we" in verse 11.
    – Joseph
    Commented Mar 18 at 11:37
  • 1
    @Joseph Of course there can only be one event of being spiritually 'born again'! Nowhere have I suggested otherwise. At the time Jesus spoke, all Israel, Samaria and Galilee were excited by John's baptism. Nicodemus knew full well of it, as his colleagues had sent a delegation to John to ask if he "was the prophet" foretold in the OT (the Messiah). He denied that, being the one to prepare the way of the Messenger of the Covenant. John said Christ would baptise with the holy Spirit - John 1:22-33 - the new, spiritual birth.
    – Anne
    Commented Mar 18 at 13:11
  • No, he is speaking of Ezekiel chapter 37. compare verse 9 with John 3:8. They are the exact same language. Jesus saying nothing about physical water it is the spirit, which is the water. see the prophets and Jesus's words in the NT.
    – Joseph
    Commented Mar 18 at 15:51

In summary the verse creates confidence in believers that the books of judgment will not be opened against them because Jesus paid the price for their sins already on the cross and by accepting and believing in him, they already have life everlasting. [Bought with a price]

It also assures non-believers that the judgment and wrath of God remains on them for refusing to believe in God's only begotten son.

  • But it doesn't say "will pass" it says "has passed"
    – Joseph
    Commented Mar 18 at 15:59
  • @Joseph, it depends on the Bible Version your using Commented Mar 18 at 16:01
  • Thanks for the reply but every version I see implies the past tense.
    – Joseph
    Commented Mar 18 at 16:03
  • 1
    The resurrection is still a future event that had not happened so using will is still correct contextually Commented Mar 19 at 3:48
  • Oh okay. I see what you are saying now
    – Joseph
    Commented Mar 19 at 11:42

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