Articles from May 2019

The Most Significant Event in History

There are many significant events in history that changed the world. Some of the most significant events might include major world wars & revolutions, the printing press, the industrial age, the reformation, discovery of medicine, and so many others. It is hard to contend that events like these have not had world-wide impact physically, economically, and socially. But the question at hand is what was the “most significant” event in all of world history. It is not difficult to determine this event. While the world has their long list of speculations, we know for certain that the most significant event in history was the day that Jesus Christ was “lifted up from the earth” (John 12:32). Many in the world would say that the death of Christ on the cross was an immediate defeat, not a victory. But when we hear directly from the lips of Jesus we understand that the cross was the very central and most significant event in all of world history. Jesus tells us three decisive victories in John 12:31-32 that would result from Him being lifted up.

“Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

The World is Judged
It is clear that Jesus came into the world to save the world and not judge the world (Jn 12:47). But something decisive was happening when Jesus was “lifted up.” The cross became the very event that would determine every person’s destiny. The cross became the main issue in every person’s life (whether they even know about it or not). What every person in the world believes about the cross determines their judgment. In a positive sense, those who receive Jesus will be forgiven through the atoning work of the cross. But in a negative sense, everyone in the world who rejects this atoning work will be judged and condemned. It is ironic that the world thought they were passing judgment on Christ by killing him. Quite the contrary! The cross was passing judgment on them. And the cross continues to draw a line in the sand even today. Every person who rejects the cross will ultimately be judged and condemned.

Satan is Cast Out
A second victory of the cross was that the ruler of this world will be “cast out.” This certainly speaks of Satan who is the god of this world (Eph 2:2, 6;12). We might think that the cross was a victory for Satan, but it was actually his defeat. And the result of this defeat was that Satan would be “cast out.” At first glance we might think that this casting out never occurred. We certainly know that our “adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The devil is alive and well on planet earth. So, we must understand this casting out as something gradual, in stages. The first stage happened literally at the cross. Satan’s hold over this world was broken. Colossians 2:15 teaches us that Jesus on the cross “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them.” In that first stage of casting out, Satan was disarmed, dethroned and disgraced. While he still currently has residual power, it is curtailed by the Holy Spirit (John 16:11). The next stage of casting out will be in the future when Satan is “cast out of heaven into the earth” (Rev 12:10). The next stage will occur when he will be cast into the bottomless pit (Rev 20:3). The final and ultimate stage of His casting out will be when Satan is cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where he will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Rev 20:10). (A.W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing. Pg 681).

The People of Jesus are Drawn
The third and most glorious result of Jesus being lifted up is that He will “draw all people” to Himself. A dead savior could do nothing, so this certainly speaks of the work of the living and resurrected Christ. He personally will “draw” people unto Himself. Once crucified and resurrected Jesus would become a great attraction to many people.

A major question is, what did Jesus mean when He said “all people?” Certainly “all” doesn’t mean every person in the world. If this were true then we would all be universalists. The scope of the word “all” here is exactly the same as in John 6:45 when Jesus says, “And they will all be taught by God.” It is clearly a reference to the elect and is described in John 6:37, “All that the Father gives me will come to me.” Once Jesus is raised, He will begin calling those whom the Father has given Him and they will come to Him. His sheep will be drawn from two different folds, both from Israel and Gentile folds (John 10:16). When Jesus calls, they hear His voice and they follow Jesus (10:25-26) and He gives them eternal life. Jesus will irresistibly call out people from every nation and tribe and tongue! Just as Peter drew his net to the land with a great number of fish (Jn 21:11), so Jesus will draw his net through this world and bring God’s elect to the shore (Matthew 13:47-50).

If you have trusted Jesus Christ as your savior, then you are the recipient of this great promise. Do you remember when you were called? Do you remember when you were drawn by the Holy Spirit and shown your sinfulness and need of a Savior? Do you remember when you cried out to the Lord Jesus to save you? All of this happened as a result of Jesus being “lifted up.”

Our Work Continues
We should expect that the Church will grow as Jesus draws His sheep to Himself. Jesus intends to use us to reach His people (2 Corinthians 5:16-21). We must never cease from our work as long as it is daytime. The night is coming when no one will be able to work (John 9:4). Our work consists of two things: walking in the light (Jn 12: 35-36) and making disciples (Matt 28:18-20). Since we have been called we must live holy lives, pleasing to the one who called us and we must conduct ourselves with fear throughout the time of our exile on this earth (1 Peter 1:14-18). We must be focused on living lives that reflect the glory and goodness of our Savior (Titus 2:11-14). But we must also be concerned about the souls of the lost. We must compel others to come to Christ. It is not our work to “draw” them. Only Christ can do that work. But we must use the means Christ has given us, and that is faithful proclamation of the person and work of Jesus. We must never be ashamed of Christ. And we should expect to see the Church expand as we see the promise of Jesus fulfilled even in our day!

The Greatest Paradox: Hate My Life to Keep It!

A paradox is a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement which upon further investigation is deemed to be true. The Bible is full of paradoxes (2 Cor 12:10, James 4:10) and Jesus often spoke in paradoxical language (Matt 23:11, Mark 9:35). He spoke in shocking language in order to emphasize the most important truths regarding spiritual things. The teaching method was designed by Jesus to stir the heart and the mind causing His listeners to think deeply and soberly and to give them an image that is not easily forgotten.

The Seed Principle:  Death Precedes Life
Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”  It shouldn’t surprise us that Jesus uses this agricultural image which would have been well known in a predominantly agrarian culture. Not only Jesus but the New Testament authors used the “seed” imagery many times (1 Cor 15:36-38, Mk 4:3-9, Mat 13:24-30).

Jesus oftentime began his most solemn teaching with the phrase, “truly, truly, I say to you” (Jn 1:51, 3:3,5,11, 5:19, 6:26, 14:12). This phrase indicated that the teaching of Jesus was of vital importance. And the important truth Jesus taught was modeled by the seed, namely that death is the necessary condition for the generation of life. Every seed planted in the ground must undergo decay in order to give birth to a plant. When a seed dies in the ground its shell is opened and new life comes forth producing many more seeds. It is amazing that a whole forest is wrapped up in one single seed. When the seed dies, it produces a tree, and the tree produces more seeds and more trees.

The First Seed to Die: Jesus on the Cross
This seed analogy was first applied to the Savior Himself. In this particular passage Jesus was teaching a group of Gentile Greeks who had traveled to Jerusalem to “see Jesus” (Jn 12:22) and to learn from Him. Jesus taught them that, “The hour [had] come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” It is possible that they had thought, like most Jews, that Jesus was going to be a physical deliverer and bring back Israel to a glorious state and particularly raise up a Kingdom on earth. But Jesus directly tells them that he came to be glorified and that glorification involved death, not coronation. The hour had finally arrived for Jesus to undergo death that would provide the necessary condition for the generation of life. J. C. Ryle explains it clearly,

“This sentence was primarily meant to teach the wondering Greeks the true nature of the Messiah’s kingdom… Our Lord would have them know that He came to carry a cross, and not to wear a crown. He came not to live a life of honour, ease, and magnificence, but to die a shameful and dishonoured death. The kingdom He came to set up was to begin with a crucifixion, and not with a coronation. Its glory was to take its rise not from victories won by the sword, and from accumulated treasure of gold and silver, but from the death of its King,” (J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels:  John, 3 vols. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1999, 2:376)

And indeed, Jesus did go to the cross and die. And as a result, He was the “first fruit” of a great harvest (1 Cor 15:20). He died and was buried and then rose again! And all who follow Him will be His harvest, and the “much fruit” that He will bear!

Other Seeds Must Die: His Followers
Not only was Jesus to die, but His followers must also die. Shockingly Jesus says, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (v. 25).  Jesus actually uses two different forms of “life” here which helps us

distinguish what He is trying to teach. Those who love their psuche (life) in this world will forfeit eternal zoe (life) in the next world. Psuche refers to the human personality that thinks and plans for the future. This is what Jesus says must die. “The independent will of man must die, so that the follower of Christ actively submits his will to Christ” (James Boice, The Gospel of John, Grand Rapids:  Zondervan Publishing, 1985, 817). Unbelievers love their life to the point where they are unwilling to turn it over to another master. This kind of love of self is ultimate idolatry. But true believers in Christ are willing to “take up their cross daily” dying to self and giving themselves over to Christ’s Lordship (Matt 10:38).

Hating our life sounds extreme. But Jesus uses this hyperbolic language to show us a major contrast. Becoming a follower of Jesus means that in this world we are to love Christ and follow Him more than we love our own lives, to the point where it looks like we actually “hate” our own lives. In order to help us understand, Jesus tells us that hating our lives means we are willing to do two things. In v. 26 Jesus says, “If anyone serves me, he must follow me.”  Here is the essence of hating our own lives. Hating our own lives means that we serve Christ and follow Him. It means that we recognize that He is Lord. It means that we recognize that we are no longer the masters of our own lives, but are willing to submit and obey whatever Christ commands of us! It means that the Bible and God’s Word become the focus of our lives and we strive to obey it through the power of the Holy Spirit in us. Hating our lives means that we no longer do what we want, but we now have an allegiance to do what Christ wants us to do!

Glorious Promises
Jesus gives two glorious promises to those who hate their life in this world by serving and following Christ (Jn 12:26). First, followers are guaranteed the eternal presence of Christ. Jesus promises “where I am, there will my servant be also.”  This promise includes being with Jesus eternally forever (Jn 14:3). Jesus is with the Father and all those who serve Him will also be with Christ and the Father in heaven forever. The second promise is that followers are guaranteed that “the Father will honor” them. God the Father will treat Christ’s followers with glory and delight and praise.

Keeping our Life
The world teaches that there is nothing after death, so we are to “eat, drink and be merry.” But this is farthest from the truth. The afterlife is coming for every person. Those who loved their life in this world by living for self will lose eternal life. But whoever serves and follows Christ will gain an eternal life full of joy (Ps 16:11).

Apostasy & Perseverance

Apostasy means to “fall away.” Apostates are those who identify themselves with Christ and the Church and then subsequently renounce Christ. This falling away is not the loss of salvation, but the proof that these individuals were never truly converted. The greatest illustration of apostasy is the disciple Judas Iscariot. He spent three years under the care of Jesus, listening to the truth of Jesus’ words and seeing the miracles of Jesus firsthand. And yet, Judas having the devil in him (John 6:70) fell away from Christ showing a hatred toward him (Jn 12:4-6, 17:12). From an outward appearance Judas had all of the disciples fooled. One could argue that Judas was very trusted among the disciples being the one who was in charge of the moneybag of Jesus’ ministry. And yet Judas did not persevere in faith, but fell away ultimately rejecting the truth of Christ.

Clearer Understanding
While apostasy is illustrated clearly in Judas, it is adequately explained in Hebrews 6:4-8. The writer of Hebrews explains that apostates who have “fallen away” are people who were closely related to the Church. Apostates are those who particularly experienced the blessings of the church in a superficial way but not in a life changing manner. The writer of Hebrews says,

“For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.”

Five advantages or blessings are listed that this particular group of apostates experienced: 1) they had once been enlightened, 2) they had tasted the heavenly gift, 3) they had been partakers in the Holy Spirit, 4) they tasted the goodness of the word of God, and 5) they tasted of the powers of the age to come. It should be noted that the passage in Hebrews makes no reference at all to salvation. None of the normal terminology of salvation is used in this passage. Rather all of these descriptions are superficial at best. First, the apostate had been enlightened. This means that the individual came to a certain knowledge and had an intellectual perception of biblical truth. These individuals heard the Gospel and understood it naturally. They saw Christ and even heard his message (like Judas) and yet their lives were not permanently affected by the message because they did not believe it. Second, they only tasted of a heavenly gift. The gift is probably a reference to Christ himself (2 Cor 9:15) and the salvation that He brought (Eph 2:8). This gift was only tasted, but not feasted upon. It was only examined and then determined not to be worthy of ingesting and internalizing. Third, the apostate was only a partaker of the Holy Spirit. Partake has to do with association and not possession. These apostates never did possess the Holy Spirit but only shared with the congregation the joys and influences of the Holy Spirit. They never did receive a permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Fourth, the apostates only tasted the Word of God. They heard it and tasted it, but did not deem it worthy of ingesting. They may have tasted the word with enthusiasm and appreciation, but it did not taste good to them, so they stopped eating. Last, they also tasted the powers of the age to come. It is possible that these particular apostates had seen some of the very miracles of the Apostles and yet they still did not receive the truth. Their eyes marveled, but they did not receive and believe in the message of the Gospel.

Apostates are those who are closely related to the Church in a superficial way and have experienced some incredible advantages. But they never truly ingest and receive the truth of Jesus. They never have truly been converted and been anointed and receive the Holy Spirit. From an outward appearance these people seem to be attached to the Church which makes it difficult to discern their true spiritual condition. But after a period of time, their true colors and the true condition of their heart is revealed when they fall away (Mark 417). John the Apostle explains why some had left his congregation, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19).

The Warnings from Scripture
Some have been very confused about the warnings particularly in the book of Hebrews. The writer continues to warn believers not to fall away, but to persevere in their faith. Some advocate that this proves that believers can lose their salvation. But this doesn’t square with the rest of Scripture. Scripture is clear that those who have been given eternal life are secure (Phil 1:6, Rom 8:30, John 10:26-30). So, then what is the purpose of these major warnings in the book of Hebrews (2:1-4, 4:11-16, 6:4-8, 10:26-31, 12:25-29)? These warning passages are used as a means to exhort true believers to continue in the faith! The Holy Spirit uses these warning passages to prompt and push believers to faithful living and godly living.

The Need for Perseverance
It is clear that every true believer will be preserved by the power and the promises of the Triune God (Jn 6:39, 44, 54, Rom 8:35, 37-39). But this does not exempt every true believer from their responsibility to persevere in faith throughout their lives. Scripture issues numerous calls to persevere in faith indicating that failure to persevere will result in a failure to lay hold of final salvation (Matt 10:22, 24:12-13, Jn 8:31, 2 Cor 11:26, Gal 2:4, Heb 3:14). And indeed, every true believer will persevere in faith and obedience. Scripture calls all those who profess faith in Christ to examine themselves (2 Cor 13:5, 2 Peter 1:10).

Scripture gives many different ways to determine whether or not we are truly believers. First, we have fellowship with God through the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts (1 Jn 1:3, 1 Jn 2:27, 4:13, Gal 5:22-23). Second, we have assurance of our salvation by answered prayer (1 Jn 5:14). Third we have assurance if we truly long for heaven (Phil 3:20). Fourth, we have assurance if we are able to discern between truth and error (1 John 4:1-3). Fifth, we have assurance if we are acutely aware of our own sinfulness and God’s holiness (1 John 1:8-10). Sixth, we have assurance if we see a decreasing pattern of sin in our life (1 Jn 3:9) and an increase in obedience (1 Jn 2:3). Seventh, we have assurance if we have a rejection of this world and its system that dominates life (1 Jn 2:15, James 4:4). Eighth, we have assurance if the world hates us (1 Jn 3:13). Ninth, we have assurance if we see an increase in love for our fellow brother and sister in Christ (1 Jn 3:10). (MacArthur & Mayhue, Biblical Doctrine. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017, pg 649-653.) 

“Am I an Apostate?”
Some have become very concerned that they may be an apostate! Just to set the record straight, apostates are not typically concerned about this issue. Apostates, having hard hearts toward Christ and the Word of God, are typically not too worried about their spiritual condition. Apostates have comprehensively turned and rejected Christ and His Word. To be concerned about one’s condition is a good sign that the Holy Spirit is bringing about the necessary conviction of sin. If we encounter someone who may be struggling with assurance of salvation, we must point them back to the evidences above that gives us assurance.

The Need for the Community
Apostasy is real. It happens on a regular basis. This is why the writer of Hebrews says clearly, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering for he who promised is faithful. And, let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb 10:23-25). Coming together weekly to worship is a means of God’s grace in our lives to help us persevere to the very end.

 

Understanding Unbelief

Inevitably all of us are going to come face to face with many people who do not believe in God, nor in Jesus Christ and His Gospel! Some people may be hostile toward the Gospel, while others are simply passively indifferent. Regardless of their emotional stance, both kinds of unbelievers are in the most dangerous position possible, having their souls in danger of being lost and separated from God for all eternity. It is tremendously helpful to think theologically about unbelief and why unbelievers are in their present state. Considering this topic should produce worship and gratitude for us who have believed, realizing the mercy of God on our lives. Furthermore, it should equip us in understanding how to evangelize those who are in a state of unbelief.

Foundational Theology of Unbelief
Even when the evidence is clear many people do not believe. This is clearly illustrated in the Gospel of John after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Contrary to unbiblical thinking, belief is not the product of environmental conditioning, education, financial success, good parenting, etc. This becomes very clear when we allow the Bible to speak particularly about the spiritual condition of all of humanity.

The devastation of sin: Scripture teaches that every human being is born in sin (Ps 51:5, Rom 3:23, 5:12), and has a sinful nature that has tremendous ramifications. Sin has so tainted every person that their minds are darkened to spiritual truth to the point that they “are not able to understand” (1 Cor 2:14). Sin has so depraved every human being that they are driven by their own sinful desires. Everyone without Christ is governed by the “desires of the body and the mind” (Eph 2:3). Jesus made it clear when he said, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” (John 3:19-20). The lost world who is still in their sin not only loves the darkness, but also hates the light. The Apostle Paul teaches that those lost in their sin are held by the “snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Tim 2:26). These are all devastating consequences of sin which give us the insight into why people do not believe. Unbelief is the product of the sin nature, the devil, and a love for sin!

The need for an outside intervention: To put it biblically, unbelievers are “dead in their sins and trespasses” (Eph 2:1). They cannot help themselves, nor are we as believers able to help them. We can and must preach the good news to them, but only God can open their heart (Ez 36:26-27, Acts 16:14) to receive Christ as Savior. They must have a direct help from God. He is the one who must “make them alive” (Eph 2:4). This is clearly illustrated in the life of the Apostle Paul. He was very religious and yet was hating Christ and killing followers of Christ. It wasn’t until Jesus Himself “called” him by name on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:4) that his eyes were opened and He came to faith in Christ. In the same way, Jesus calls those who are dead in their sins and they hear His voice and are made alive.

Expecting Conversions
We might become discouraged about the state of unbelievers, except that God has promised that the mission of Jesus will not be thwarted. Jesus came to the earth with a mission to save those “whom the Father has given Him” (Jn 6:37). Jesus knew clearly that His sheep would hear His voice and come and follow Him (Jn 10:27). In the same way we can have confidence that we will see unbelievers come to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. We should expect to see God’s Kingdom being moved forward as the Church preaches the Gospel to an unbelieving world.

Response to Unbelief: Preach & Pray!
How should we respond to those who are in a state of unbelief? The most important thing to do is to have mercy upon all men and to live peaceably! When we understand the theological reasons for unbelief, this should move our hearts to have mercy upon all men. This mercy is shown best by extending love to them. We must continue to share the Gospel with them in a loving manner. Ultimately, we must pray for them, that God would soften their hearts and open their minds. And we must be ready and expect the Lord to use us to “plant & water” knowing that only God is the one who gives the “increase” (1 Cor 3:6-7). Here are several ways we should respond when we experience the rejection of unbelievers:

1. Expect hostility & rejection. (1 Pet 4:12)
2. Don’t fear. (1 Pet 3:14)
3. Love your enemies. (1 Pet 3:9)
4. Trust God. (1 Pet 4:19)
5. Be respectful. (1 Pet 3:15)
6. Be prepared to make a defense. (1 Pet 3:15)
7. Find comfort with your church family. (1 Pet 5:9)

Reflecting Back
When we think back to our own state of unbelief, it should cause us to be full of gratitude for God’s present mercy in our lives. If it were not for the grace & mercy of God, we would still be in an unbelieving state. Reflecting back should cause us to be the grandest of worshipers, giving praise to God for the incredible love that He has lavished on us (1 John 3:1, Romans 12:1).

An Illustration of Salvation: Lazarus Come Forth!

While Jesus raised two other dead people (Mark 5:35-43, Luke 7:11-17), the raising of Lazarus is certainly one of the greatest miracles recorded for us in Scripture. The man whom Jesus loved died in order that the glory of God may be revealed pointing to the deity of Christ (John 11:4). With just His voice, Jesus created life in a man who had been dead for four days! This seventh “sign” in the book of John is meant to compel everyone to believe in Him.

An Analogy of Salvation
But the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead also serves as a precise picture of salvation. Salvation is the sole work of God whereby He grants life to those who are dead in their sins. Unable to help themselves, sinners have no ability to grant themselves life. Instead, life is granted by the mercy of God. Salvation comes to those who are dead, when the powerful voice of Jesus calls them and they hear His voice (Jn 10:27-28) and Jesus grants them eternal life. Jesus alone has the ability to grant life. He alone is the resurrection and the life (Jn 11:25).

A Real Dead Man
It was very important for Lazarus to truly be dead. Jesus actually stayed two additional days where He was ministering so that there would be no doubt that Lazarus was truly dead (Jn 11:6). When the tomb was opened, Martha declared that surely there would have been a very strong odor, because Lazarus had been dead for four days.

In the same way, sinners are spiritually dead in their sins and trespasses (Eph 2:1). This has significant theological importance. Every sinner is born spiritually dead with no ability or power to make any significant contribution to their salvation. Just like Lazarus we could not see since we were blind (2 Cor 4:4), we could not understand spiritual things (1 Cor 2:14), we had no volition to do anything toward God (Romans 8:7). Sin had left us all totally depraved so that none of us sought after God or had any merit before God (Rom 3:10-18).

An Effectual Calling
Lazarus, being dead, was only revived when the powerful voice of Jesus called him out of the grave. This is certainly a beautiful illustration of what happens when sinners are saved. Salvation begins in eternity past in the sovereign election of God (Eph 1:4). But in time, salvation begins with a calling! This is a very technical term which describes the voice of God calling His sheep specifically (1 Cor 1:2, 9, 24, 26). This call comes through the preaching of the Word of God. When the Gospel is shared, those who are the sheep of Christ inevitably hear the voice of God. Jesus said clearly, “All that the Father gives me will come to me….Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me” (Jn 6:37, 45). This calling is an effectual calling. This means that those whom the Father calls will inevitably come to Christ. The powerful voice of Jesus does not fall on deaf ears! It was not possible for Lazarus to remain in the grave. When Jesus called Lazarus by name, he was made alive and walked out of the grave. A question that we might consider is, “Was it possible for Lazarus to remain in the grave?” And the answer to that question is an emphatic “No!” The reason is that the purpose and plan of Jesus cannot be thwarted. All who are His sheep “hear” His voice and come and follow Him!

Made Alive
Those who are called are also immediately awakened from the dead and “made alive” (Ephesians 2:5). Life was granted to Lazarus immediately. The power of Jesus recreated everything that Lazarus needed immediately: new blood, new muscles, new organs, a new brain and so much more. The same is true spiritually of those who are saved. When sinners are “born again” they are granted new hearts, opened eyes, a freed will, and an understanding mind. In a word, all new believers are “new creations” (2 Cor 5:17).

Promise of Future Resurrection
The resurrection of Lazarus was a foreshadowing of a future permanent resurrection. While Lazarus was not completely made perfect, the promise of Jesus is that all who have believed in Him will be made perfect in the future. We call this glorification. Not only Lazarus, but all who believe in Christ will be given perfect bodies, bodies that are powerful, perfect and everlasting. The Apostle Paul summarized this whole salvation process when he stated, “Those whom He predestined, He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified” (Romans 8:30).

Our Response
Just like Lazarus, every true believer was dead in the grave of sin and Jesus called them out by His mercy. Immediately Jesus told those around watching to unbind Lazarus from his grave clothes and let him go. Lazarus needed initial help to unbind himself from the clothes that bound him in death. But once he was set free, Lazarus was to live again for the glory of God. While not stated it is certain that Lazarus gave praise to God since He had no room for boasting (Eph 2:9). The only response we have to our salvation is praise to our sovereign savior who grants life. But also, just like Lazarus, we are to throw off our grave clothes and “live to the praise of His glory” (Eph 1:6, 12), since we are “God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph 2:10).

The story of the raising of Lazarus is also our story of salvation. Those who are true believers were dead, heard the voice of Jesus, were raised to life, and now strive to walk in a manner pleasing to the Lord.

PHOTO: The Good Shepherd Catacomb of Saints Peter and Marcellinus, Rome, showing Jesus raising Lazarus from his tomb.