This is who Jesus Christ himself is. Let’s start with the one thing that will define who God really is? What is eternal life? John 5:26b…For as the Father HAS LIFE IN HIMSELF; so has he given to the son TO HAVE LIFE IN HIMSELF. The life Jesus referred to is eternal or everlasting life.
By his declaration and definition, he declared that he himself did not have eternal life at the time he was walking the earth or he was a complete liar! If you truly believe that the Bible is the Word of God, then you have to believe that Jesus Christ spoke the truth. If so, from his own mouth, he declared that only God had eternal life. Christ himself only had the promise of eternal life!
In this context of John 5:2 - 5:47, but beginning in John 5:16, Jesus is going to capitalizing on the popular understanding of the condition of the dead in ‘hades.’ Jesus made use of this popular belief several other times, not to endorse it, but to impress upon the minds of his hearers of different important lessons. Many of Jesus’ hearers had come to believe in a conscious state of existence between death and the resurrection, though such a belief is foreign to Scripture.
You see, the Greek word ‘hades’ came into Biblical use when the translators of the Septuagint chose ‘hades’ to render the Hebrew ‘sheol.’ The problem is that ‘hades’ was used in the Greek world in a vastly different way than ‘sheol.’ In Greek mythology, Hades was the god of the underworld, and then the name of the nether world itself. Charon ferried the souls of the dead across the rivers Styx or Acheron into his abode, where the watchdog Cerberus guarded the gate, so that none might escape. The pagan myth contained all the elements of the medieval eschatology: there was the pleasant Elysium, the gloomy and miserable Tartarus, and even the Plains of Asphodel, where ghosts could wander who were suited for neither of the above.
This Greek conception of ‘hades’ influenced Hellenistic Israelites, because of the conscious decision of Alexander the Great. He used what is called ‘religious syncretism,’ Alexander took this tendency of syncretism, of mixing together different religious traditions from different places, and he used it as a self-conscious propaganda technique. But what Alexander and his successors did, was they made sort of a conscious, propagandistic decision to use religious syncretism to bind together their kingdoms.
The Hellenistic Israelites adopt the belief in the immortality of the soul and the idea of a spatial separation in the underworld between the righteous and the godless. The souls of the righteous proceeded immediately after death to heavenly felicity, there to await the resurrection, while the souls of the godless went to a place of torment in ‘hades.’ When Jesus came on the scene, the current Israelite concept of Hades became a subterraneous region where the light of this world does not shine. This region is allowed as a place of custody for souls, in which angels are appointed as guardians to them, who distribute to them temporary punishments, agreeable to every one’s behavior and manners.
According to Hellenistic Israelites, ‘hades’ is divided into two regions. One is the region of light, where the souls of the righteous dead are brought by angels to the place known as the bosom of Abraham.” The second region is in perpetual darkness, and the souls of the ungodly are dragged by force by the angels allotted for punishment. These angels drag the ungodly into the neighborhood of hell itself, so that they can see and feel the heat of the flames, but they are not thrown into hell itself, until after the final judgment. But a chaos deep and large is fixed between them; insomuch that a just man that has compassion upon them, cannot be admitted, nor can one that is unjust, if he were bold enough to attempt it, pass over it.
Jesus did indeed capitalized on the popular understanding of the condition of the dead in ‘hades,’ not to endorse such views, but to drive home the importance of heeding in this present life the teachings of Moses and the prophets, because this determines bliss or misery in the world to come. In John 5:21, the word ‘quicken’ means give life to, which was universally believed by the Israelites. The word ‘raise’ means awake or to rouse up from sleep; the resurrection.
Jesus was explaining that he was given the authority to give the promise of this eternal life to whomever he wished. He was not the source of that eternal life, but he was the only way to obtain the life from God himself. Jesus did not have life in himself, so he could not be the source of that life; however, that being said, he was given the authority to give the promise to whomever he wished. He was not the source, but he was the only way to obtain the life from God himself. This is not semantics, the scriptures make it quite plain to anyone who reads it.