Jesus stood outside the tomb of a dead man named Lazarus. It was a cave, with a stone lying against it.
The stone now removed, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” (John 11:43 NKJV).
And sure enough, “The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face” (John 11:44 NIV).
“A quaint Puritan writer said that if Jesus had not named Lazarus when he shouted, He would have emptied the whole cemetery” (The Bible Exposition Commentary, by Warren Wiersbe).
As a matter of fact, a day is coming in which Jesus will indeed empty cemeteries — every single cemetery on the planet.
Jesus said that “an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28-29 NASB).
In other words, there’s coming a day in which what happened to Lazarus will also happen to every person who has ever died or ever will die.
Being dead is not permanent. Being dead is just sleeping, with an awakening on the horizon.
Earlier in the story of Lazarus, before he was resurrected, Jesus had the following conversation with His disciples: “He said to them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep.’ The disciples then said to Him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.’
“Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking of literal sleep. So Jesus then said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead’” (John 11:11-14 NASB).
The Bible assures us that others who have died are, like Lazarus, merely “asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20; 1 Thessalonians 4:13; etc.).
Why does the Bible describe death as “sleep”? Here’s a great explanation: “This metaphorical use of the word sleep is appropriate because of the similarity in appearance between a sleeping body and a dead body; restfulness and peace normally characterize both.
“The object of the metaphor is to suggest that as the sleeper does not cease to exist while his body sleeps, so the dead person continues to exist despite his absence from the region in which those who remain can communicate with him, and that, as sleep is known to be temporary, so the death of the body will be found to be. Sleep has its waking, death will have its resurrection” (Vine’s Expository Commentary on 1&2 Thessalonians, by W.E. Vine with C.F. Hogg).
Yes, death will have its resurrection.
Jesus cried out, “Lazarus, come forth!” and Lazarus came out of his tomb.
One day, Jesus’ voice will be heard again, and all dead people everywhere will come out of their tombs.
Death is not permanent. Death is just going to sleep, with an awakening on the horizon!
By Jake King
(Jake King is the preacher at Seneca Church of Christ. He can be reached at (417) 776-3077.)