Issues of Life and Death

MEMORY SELECTION: “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.” —John 11:25,26

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: John 11:20-32, 38-40

THE promise of the resurrection of the dead is one of the glorious themes of the Bible. It is only because of this promise that God’s plan for the salvation of the world becomes meaningful, because many thousands of millions of people have lived and died in the past. Without the hope of a resurrection, they would remain asleep forever in the dust of the earth.

The hope of a resurrection has always been associated with God’s promise of future blessings in the kingdom. For example, when God began dealing with Abraham he revealed something of the promised kingdom to him and gave him to understand that he would be alive at that time to partake of the promised blessings. In Hebrews 11:10,13 we read: “For he looked for a city which bath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. … These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

God revealed to Moses something of the operation of the promised kingdom and indicated that the children of Israel who were alive then would participate in its arrangements. (See Deuteronomy 18:17-19.) The Apostle Peter quoted this text in Acts 3:22,23, and indicated that it would come to pass during the times of restitution—or the promised kingdom. The Jews became angry with Peter because they recognized that he “taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.”—Acts 4:2

There are many prophecies concerning the resurrection. In Isaiah 26:19 the prophet encourages the nation of Israel in their time of trouble, pointing to the kingdom: “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell’ in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead”; and in Daniel 12:2 we read, “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake.”

In the texts under consideration in our lesson, Jesus gave a profound illustration of the resurrection in the kingdom. When Jesus was informed of the illness of Lazarus, he said, “This sickness is not unto death that is, death was not to be the final issue], but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.” (John 11:4) And so Jesus deliberately delayed his return to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, until Lazarus died. Then he said, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth: but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.” (vs. 11) The disciples questioned Jesus about this, and he said simply, “Lazarus is dead.” (vs. 14) It is an interesting sidelight to note that throughout the Old Testament death is referred to as a sleep, in anticipation of an awakening in the kingdom.

Lazarus had been dead for four days, and the condition of his body was such that there could be no question about his being dead. Jesus said to Martha, “Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” (vs. 40) It was not the purpose of Jesus to glorify himself but rather to demonstrate the power of God that would be exercised in the kingdom to bring about the resurrection of the dead. Then “Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.”—vss. 41,42

“And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.” (vs. 43) Lazarus came forth, still bound in his grave clothes. The text continues with the statement that many who witnessed the miracle believed Jesus and claimed him as the Messiah. (John 12:17-19) We know, of course, that the restoration of Lazarus to life was only temporary, for in due time he fell asleep again to await his reawakening in the resurrection in the kingdom.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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