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Lazarus went to sleep. Jesus said "Our friend lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up" Then His disciples said "Lord if he sleeps he will get well". However Jesus spoke of his DEATH but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus said to them plainly "Lazarus is DEAD...." John 11:11-14 Jesus had the answer regarding the truth about death all along. He said nothing about Lazarus going to heaven. Not even a mention of him 'coming down' from heaven at Jesus command. Lazarus just died. God compares death as a sleep, why? Because time is of no consequence, it ceases to exist. And the Good News is when Jesus comes again He will resurrect those who are His. Martha had known the truth also, she said " I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day" John 11:24 The hope for the Christian, is not when we die, but "in the appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ" Titus 2:13 Jesus said to her "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me though he may DIE, he shall he live." John 11:25 "And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die." (i.e eternally) John 11:26 Do you believe this?
The short answer to this profound question that has confounded Man since ancient times is that Lazarus went where he was called from. I am not going to repeat what Jesus said about Lazarus when he died, but let it suffice that Lazarus was indeed dead dead. He was dead for 4 days before Jesus arrived at the grave site. Note also that Jesus went to call him from the grave, where he was. There are generally two schools of thought on what happens when a person dies. The first one embraced by the majority, is that the righteous dead go to paradise (heaven). The second which I believe is derived from the bible, and embraced by a few, is that all the dead (good and bad) sleep in their graves until the resurrection day. I will address the most popular first. Applying a bit of logic helps a great deal as well here. Imagine you are Lazarus and you have died. You are whisked to heaven and being a righteous man are admitted straight away into paradise. You are starting to really get into the grove when suddenly after 4 days of heavenly joy you are whisked back to this miserable earth to toil again. This is exactly what it would have meant if we believe that the dead go to heaven or hell when they die. I think we can all recognize how ridiculous this scenario is. The other view which in my opinion is derived from the bible, is that Lazarus after his death did not go anywhere. He was returned to the dust from which he came from as instructed by God in Gen 3:17. Jesus being the Creator was able to reverse the process of death and His breath reunited with the body and Lazarus became a living soul again. His consciousness, feeling and emotions all returned. We do not see the relatives running away that they have seen a ghost, but they embrace him and welcome him back. When Lazarus walked out of the grave, everyone should have crowded around Lazarus and asked him what the other side was like. It really would have made the headlines and what headlines they would have been. But instead what do we hear from Lazarus after his resurrection? Nothing, absolutely nothing. Why? Because there was nothing to tell. Time, feelings and all consciousness stopped. Even more interesting is the absence of questions from the onlookers! Why? Because their belief was typified in the answer given by Martha:“I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
This is an interesting question. The Bible provides a straightforward answer! First, the Bible record tells us where God told Adam that he will go following his disobedience in the garden of Eden: "And to Adam He said, Because you have listened and given heed to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, saying, You shall not eat of it, the ground is under a curse because of you; in sorrow and toil shall you eat [of the fruits] of it all the days of your life. Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth for you, and you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat of your face shall you eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you shall return" (Genesis 3:17 - 3:19 AMP). So Adam would die and return to dust. From that time, humans will die; if the body can be available, most are be buried and return to the ground and turn to dust. Wise King Solomon gave more information on the matter: A. "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun (Ecclesiastes 9:5 - 9:6 KJV). B. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest. (Ecclesiastes 9:10 KJV). "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom " (Ecclesiastes 9:10 NIV) " Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going "(Ecclesiastes 9:10 NKJV). "Whatever you do, do well. For when you go to the grave, there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom. (Ecclesiastes 9:10 NLT). Where did Jesus himself go when he died and before he was resurrected? The Bible answers: "King David said this about him: ‘I see that the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts his praises! My body rests in hope. For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave. You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence") Acts 2:25 - 2:28 NLT). Clearly, Jesus was in the grave when he died but God did not leave him there to rot; God raised him up from the dead. Our conclusion then is that Lazarus went to " the realm of the dead, the grave", when he died- just like every other human, before he was resurrected.
I believe the Bible teaches man is a tri-part being having a body, soul and spirit. Cessation of physical life (bodily death) does not terminate life of the spirit. Prior to Christ's resurrection departed spirits went to sheol/hades, the grave which was comprised of two compartments. It was a place of comfort for believers but one of suffering for the lost. (A different Lazarus, See Luke 16:19-31). We know that the only way for fallen man to approach God is through sacrifice, first demonstrated by The Lord Himself in the garden of Eden when he clothed Adam and Eve with coats of skins (Genesis 3:21). As with the later systematized Levitical sacrificial system, this was only a temporary covering or appeasement for sin. "For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins." (Hebrews 10:4). From the beginning we see that God requires full payment for sin but until the time of His choosing (Galatians 4:4) he initiated a means of becoming temporarily appeased for man's sin, animal sacrifice. I don't believe the patriarchs had a complete revelation as to the significance of the practice but demonstrated their faith by simply taking God at His Word and acting accordingly. In Ephesians 4:8-11 the apostle Paul wrote concerning The Lords different locations and accomplishments after His crucifixion 8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;" Verse 9 states that he first descended into the lower parts of the earth before ascending. V. 8 "When" he ascended up on high he led captivity captive". I believe the captivity spoken of here is the spirits of all those who died in faith PRIOR to His death, burial and resurrection. These are whom He took captive, delivering their spirits from the temporary holding area. God pays His bills and since Christ had paid the sin debt in full with his own blood he was retrieving those who had been placed on "lay-away". I believe when the Lazarus of John 11 died his spirit also went to the temporary holding area in the lower parts of the earth. Having been resuscitated PRIOR to Christ's death and resurrection he would have been in the category of a post resurrection believer when he eventually died. The Apostle Paul gives us insight into the status and location of post resurrection believers in death. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 "Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Philippians 1: 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. 23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: 24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. I believe the above is strong evidence that when a born again believer in this present age passes their spirit goes into the presence of God. I also believe that The Lord taught another significant principle by example in John 11. Yes, Martha believed that Lazarus would "rise again in the resurrection at the last day". The Lord demonstrated that not only would there be a resurrection of the dead at the last day but like Lazarus, there would also be a resurrection out from among the dead.
Lazarus was dead and his dead body was in the grave/hades. When he died, the "breath of life" went back to the Father who gave it. This "breath of life" was then restored to the dead body of Lazarus who was then brought back to life/resurrected.
The issue of death verses sleep, is that either way, our salvation is intact, if we truly have our heart following Christs teaching in act and deed. The scripture that comes to mind about life after death, is It is appointed for man to die once, and after that the Judgment. Some to eternal life, and others to eternal condemnation which is the second Death. A lot of people choose to believe that Lazurus died again, which goes contrary to the second death illustrated. Our minds try to limit what God can do, His ways are beyond our understanding. When Christ was on the Mount of transfiguration, were there not also those Prophets that died, and yet Jesus followers saw and recognized each of them. If so then they did not remain in the grave. Scripture only says that while in the grave, there is no conscience, that is all. No more no less. Most believers think that they will remain in the grave, however whey Christ returns He will return with His Saints. How can they remain in the grave if they return with Him. It is possible that their souls come back to inhabit the new body that is transformed upon its resurrection. The importance of this in the long run means you have to rely on what scripture itself says, not on your comfortable reasoning. Let the Holy Spirit guide you in all truth. Search your own heart, and know if your thoughts are selfish to justify your own righteousness or are you searching your heart, to continue to have a teachable heart, and look to perfection by being Holy as God instructs us. To sum it up death is important to us because we are speculating what happens, because we have not tasted death. The important issue is to know Christ and Him crucified alone.
Death is most often described as "sleep" or "asleep" in the New Testament, which to me is the 'comforting' word told us by the scriptures in I Thes 4:13~14. "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." And he (Paul) goes on to comfort us with these words in I Thes. 4:18 (please read). So this is the (first) resurrection when Jesus comes again to receive the believers only, as "others" in verse 13, have no hope (which the believers look forward to in Titus 2:13. Paul further comforts us by giving us confidence in II Cor 5:8 by saying; "We are confident, [I say], and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord". Absent from the body means that one is dead or asleep; so it goes to say that when a person dies, he (his soul) is present with the Lord - in spiritual realm because his body is asleep in the grave. Now, some people might say that it is very clear in Ecclesiastes that the dead know nothing (Ecc 9:5), or they imply that the soul sleeps. The book of Ecclesiastes must be understood in the text of its commentary that all is vanity "under the sun" (Ecc. 1:1-3 - please read in your bibles). The writer is telling us how things are from the human perspective, from "under the sun." He is not telling us doctrinal statements about whether or not the soul continues after death. Besides, one could err to use the Old Testament to interpret the New Testament. It is the New Testament that sheds light on the Old Testament. So to answer the question where did Lazarus went when he died, is clearly explained above that "under the sun" when a person is asleep or dead, there is no consciousness in his body; but his soul is present in the heavenly realm with the Lord and conscious in paradise. Paradise is the place Jesus promised to one of the thieves or malefactor hanged in the cross beside him, in which he asked Jesus to remember him when he will go to his kingdom. (see Luke 23:42-43); "And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise." Jesus said, "today" you will be with me in paradise - surely, there was no gap of time in there to allow for soul sleep. Consciousness of the soul can be demonstrated by the souls of Moses and Elijah in the Transfiguration in Matt 7:1-8. There is no soul sleep in them, and this is also confirmed by the conversations between Abraham and the souls of Lazarus, and the rich man in Luke 16:19-31 (please read). One may argue that the latter is only a parable, but we see clearly that Jesus was using imagery of soul consciousness after death, which is hard not to accept. More questions may come to mind for those who still cannot agree or may have doubt on this, because Lazarus did not recount how his experience in paradise was; well the scripture was silent about it, because if so, to me the glory may be shifted from Jesus to Lazarus, which is not the intent of the scripture, in which all doctrines must be harmonized from. Hoping this has shed further light on the question, and blessed are those who have believed even though they didn't see. For without faith, it is impossible to please God. To God be the glory. Joel Ruiz
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