The Resurrection and The Life

“Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.”

By Simon Padbury 2 May 2024 30 minutes read

Lazarus had died of a sickness. We are not told what the sickness was, but we can infer that its progression was rapid, and that it took his life in only a few days. Yet our Lord Jesus Christ had said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby” (John 11.1-4). Jesus, of course, knew the seriousness of that disease, and the hold it had on his friend’s body, and what would therefore inevitably happen; and he also knew what he himself was going to do about it. He would intervene in these sad circumstances in a way that brought glory to God through bringing glory to himself.

But Lazarus died during Christ’s deliberate delay. The Lord let this man, whom he loved, die. He did not hurry along to the sickbed of his friend and heal him. And he didn’t heal Lazarus from a distance, as he had healed others (see Matthew 8.5-13, 15.22-28). He could have spared him the pain, and spared the grief of his two sisters, Mary and Martha, and of those in the close-knit Jewish town of Bethany, who were now all in mourning for the loss of one of their own.

The resurrection is an essential doctrine of the Old Testament Scriptures. Many Jews therefore believed in the resurrection, though some did not.1 Lazarus’s sister Martha affirmed her faith in this revealed truth: “Martha saith unto him [Jesus], I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (v.24).

Let us briefly consider some of what the Old Testament has to say about the resurrection. Our aim here is only to provide some of the basis for Martha’s profession of faith in the resurrection at the last day.

The patriarch Job, even in the midst of his own sufferings, had this same belief in the resurrection millennia before Martha. He had professed, “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me” (Job 26.19).

King David also professed his belief in the resurrection in the Psalms. “I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell [Sheol]; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (Psalm 16.8-10).2 Here we see something of David’s assurance of his own salvation by God, by his Saviour Jehovah, his covenant “LORD” (Genesis 17.7-8; Exodus 3.13-17; 20.1-2; Psalm 16.1). In response to this salvation, David covenanted to set his “LORD” as his chief end.3 “I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved” (v.8). His desire was now to always walk in God’s ways, along his earthly pilgrimage toward God. And he knew from his own experience that God was also at his right hand as his Friend and Enabler. And he knew that God’s covenant was everlasting: God would not leave him to perish after all.

We understand the 16th Psalm at this point to be a prophecy of the Messiah. There is a latent truth here in these words of David, that later both the apostles Peter and Paul would interpret as fulfilled in the Son of David, the Holy One, the Messiah whose body really “saw no corruption” (Acts 2.25-32; 13.34-39). But first, David was speaking of himself: “my flesh…my soul…”. Of course David knew, as Job did, that his body would see corruption: worms would destroy his body. But he was looking past this, in hope, to the resurrection when in his flesh he too would stand again and see God.

In the next Psalm of David (Psalm 17), he affirms his faith again in the resurrection in his prayer to God: “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness” (v.15). David had the same faith as Abraham, who “believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15.5-7; see Romans 4.3). David, the believer, believed that he was covered with a righteousness that was not his of own works, but from his just and justifying God (Psalm 32.1-2; see also Romans 4.4-8). David trusted that God counted him as righteous (Psalm 7.1, 8-11). And he trusted that he would continue in this state and eventually have it in the fullest before God at the resurrection—when he would be, as it were, only wearing God’s righteousness and all his sins would be gone from him—that is, when God’s image would be fully restored in him (compare Ephesians 4.24; see also Psalm 49 especially v.15; 71.20; 103.4-5).

David was assured of all of these spiritual blessings and of his resurrection by God’s grace, as he affirmed in the 23rd Psalm: “Surely [God’s] goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever” (Psalm 23.4).

Turning to the prophet Isaiah, we read about God, that “He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it” (Isaiah 25.8). Prophecies such as this look beyond the deliverances and restorations of the Lord’s ancient people in this world (compare Isaiah 26.19; Ezekiel 37.1-14), to the ultimate defeat of death itself. This is how the apostle Paul interprets Isaiah’s words in this prophecy: the prophet reveals that this resurrection from death is accomplished by the victorious Lord Jesus Christ himself: “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written [in the book of the prophet Isaiah], Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15.52-27).

Isaiah prophesies of Christ’s resurrection, and of the resurrection of “his seed”: “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities” (53.10-11; compare 1 Corinthians 15.45; Hebrews 2.13) The Lord God prolongs Messiah’s days eternally at his resurrection, after having received his soul (i.e. his death) as an offering for sin. The Saviour bore the sins of “many,” namely his people, in a sacrifice that made intercession for them before God (v.12). And therefore, for evermore he will see his spiritual seed, resurrected and glorified, and living with him.

With that brief look at the some of Old Testament teachings concerning the resurrection at the last day, we will now return to Lazarus, Mary, Martha, and our Lord Jesus: the Messiah who has now come into the world.

Lazarus would have shared the same Scriptural faith as his sister, in the salvation of the covenant “LORD,” and in the resurrection to come. He would have been full of hope and comfort by these truths as he lay on his sickbed, and he would have held tightly on to them even when it became his deathbed.

Lazarus’s sister Martha had already begun to understand who Jesus was; and her understanding motivated her to action. “Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee” (John 11.20-22). Her brother had died four days previously (v.39)—but she knew that Jesus could still do something for him. Even now.

Even in her tears, mourning for her loss, Martha knew that the Messiah would raise the dead on the last day (v.24; see Isaiah 25.8; 53.10-11). She may have already wondered whether Jesus was the Messiah. Though she stopped short of asking Jesus outright to raise her brother ahead of time, for herself and her sister’s comfort, she did beg her Lord to pray to God for something—“whatsoever” Jesus would ask for.

Now, immediately after Martha had professed her faith in the resurrection on the last day, and while she still held this hope in her heart, “Jesus said unto her, 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. Believest thou this?” (vv.25-26).

Martha believed the very words of Jesus. He had openly announced himself to be the Resurrection and the Life—the Raiser of the dead on the last day—the One whose victory would swallow up death—the One whose life-giving power made death but a sleep for his people (Psalm 13.3; Isaiah 60.1-3 (compare Ephesians 5.14); John 11.1; Acts 7.60).

Who could this be but the Messiah?

“Believest thou this,” Martha? Yes, she found that she did believe.

And so, she now openly confessed to this man Jesus standing before her, “Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world” (v.27). My hope in the resurrection at the last day is a hope in thee, Jesus, Son of God, my Messiah who has now come into the world, as it was prophesied that the Messiah would come. I believe in you, my Christ, who is now speaking to me, face to face.

Martha wants to share her revelation and hope with her grieving sister. She immediately goes to get Mary, so that she can come to Jesus too. She pushes through the hubbub of mourners and speaks to her secretly, sister to sister, “The Master4 is come, and calleth for thee” (v.28). Evidently, Jesus also wanted Mary to come to him, and he had sent Martha to call her. Now Mary sets off at speed to Jesus. She cannot yet affirm her belief in Jesus as Martha can; but she falls at his feet, still weeping for the loss of her brother. But she too knows the power of Jesus. Perhaps she also had hope in him to do something even now. She says through her tears at his feet, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (v.32). Lord, why—why did you delay?

Jesus was deeply moved in his heart by Mary’s deep sorrow. He was moved in his heart too by the other grieving Jewish townspeople who were gathering, who had followed after Mary as she ran out to to him, where he was still in the road that leads into Bethany.

Where were Jesus’s disciples in all of this? They had accompanied him, but at this point they did not yet have this understanding and faith that Jesus is the Christ.

When Jesus had been informed that his friend Lazarus was suffering a deadly sickness (whatever the disease was, we are not told), he waited two days more, and he told his disciples that it as not in this case “unto death”—it would not end in death for Lazarus. The disciples took Jesus at his word, for they knew him to be a prophet and a teacher; and they waited with him those two days. Maybe they thought that Lazarus would recover, and that Jesus knew he didn’t need to heal him. They also feared that travelling to Bethany in Judea would put them all in danger, because it was not far from Jerusalem, where there were some people who wanted to kill Jesus.

So, when Jesus announced that it was now time to leave Galilee and head into Judea to Bethany, these men were alarmed. “His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?” (John 11.8). The Lord challenged their lack of trust in him with a parable: “Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him” (vv.9-10). I am still here, my disciples. I am your Light. Keep with me and you will all be safe. While God is still giving us days in this world, I will serve God; and so should you. Then he explained to them why it was now the right time to go, using a Scriptural expression that they should have understood: “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep” (v.11; see Psalm 13.3 etc.).

But they did not yet understand, or believe. Jesus had told them that this sickness would not be “unto death,” and that now he “sleepeth.” So, had the fever passed, and was Lazarus resting and recovering? “Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep” (vv.12-13). Now, why did Jesus desire to put himself and his disciples potentially into harm’s way, by walking the many days’ journey5 through Judea to Bethany, to wake a sleeping man? He needed to explain what they were failing to grasp: “Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him” (vv.14-15).

There is much that they didn’t yet understand or believe about Jesus, though they followed him as his disciples. They still required a sign (compare 1 Corinthians 1.22; Luke 7.20-23; John 14.11); and Jesus was arranging events so that he could glorify God by giving this sign. One of these fearful men, who failed to grasp who Jesus is, voiced his despair at the possibility of persecution in Judea. “Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him” (v.16). At least Thomas would stick with Jesus even if it meant being stoned to death.

Martha first—and for a while, Martha alone—understood Jesus to be the Christ, the Resurrection and the Life, who has come into the world.

With his fearful and doubting disciples beside him, Mary weeping at his feet, and the small city of mourners gathering, Jesus “groaned in his spirit, and was troubled” because of them all. All except Martha.

The Resurrection and the Life, the Raiser of the dead on the last day, was not troubled about Lazarus, and neither did he groan in his spirit for the dead man. Though he is indeed “touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Hebrews 4.15), Lazarus’s infirmities had already passed with his passing four days earlier. But the sobering presence of death had moved these people to their full outpouring of grief; and Jesus was ready to weep with them. And yet, what made Jesus groan in his spirit was their evident unbelief in him in these sad circumstances. For, even though the Messiah was right there with them, they were destitute of hope. Many, perhaps all of them there, believed in the resurrection at the last day—but they did not appreciate his part in it. So, Jesus was ready to weep for them.

Jesus asked the townspeople, “Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept”—and they all saw his tears. But they did not understand him. “And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?” Painfully aware of their unbelief and despair, “Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave” (vv.34-37). Maybe some of Jesus’s groaning of spirit was because he knew that even after he had showed the sign of raising Lazarus from the dead, some would still fail to believe in him (see v.46 ff.).

Not appreciating who Jesus is, they did not think that he could do something even now, if it was the Father’s will for him to do so.

When Jesus asked the townspeople to remove the large stone from the tomb’s mouth, “Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days” (v.39). At the prospect of being exposed again to her brother’s corpse, and knowing that there would by now be an unbearable stench of decay, faithful sister Martha too was alarmed. So, Jesus spoke kindly to support her personally: “Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” (v.40; evidently Jesus had already repeated to Martha that he had said to the disciples on the road about a week earlier, v.4).

“Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And 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. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth” (vv.41-42).

All as part of the miraculous sign that he was about to give, Jesus Christ prayed out loud to God, his Father in heaven, for the people around him to hear. With a prayer of thanks to God for his request being heard and permission granted, the Son of God raised the dead and called him out of his tomb.

“Lazarus, come forth.”

“And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go” (v.43).

This miraculous sign was one of very many confirmations from God, performed by Jesus, that proved him to be the Messiah (the Christ). Prophecies undeniably fulfilled before the people’s eyes, in their very presence.

Jesus is the Messiah that should come, and we should not look for another. The truth is what Jesus assured John the Baptist of: “Then Jesus answering said unto them [John the Baptist’s disciples], Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me” (from another resurrection miracle of Christ in Luke 7.22-23; read from v.1).

Lazarus was not the only one who was raised from the dead that day in Bethany.

As Jesus had proclaimed to Martha, “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. Believest thou this?” (v.25-26).

Notice that Jesus first proclaimed himself to be the Resurrection, before he proclaimed himself to be the Life. And he said these things to comfort grieving Martha, but they were not intended for her only to take to heart. The Lord Jesus Christ’s mission in his coming into the world was to establish the threefold resurrection from the threefold death, each followed by the threefold life. And the raising of Lazarus was a sign from God that Jesus would do all these things.

Man’s fall by the sin of Adam brought about a threefold death. Explaining the dreadful consequences of the events recorded in the third chapter of Genesis, the apostle Paul teaches us, “by one man [i.e. Adam] sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned…Through the offence of one many be dead” (Romans 5.12, 15; study Genesis 3).

Through Adam’s original offence, many are dead. Except for the Lord Jesus Christ himself, all descendants of Adam are therefore born dead, in this state of being dead in their sins even while they are physically alive (Ephesians 2.1,5; Colossians 2.13). From this fall into sin and death Christ alone is the exception because, as it was taught in the Old Testament sacrifices, he is the perfect, spotless, blemish-free “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1.29).

As the apostle Paul puts it, when he explains the Good News about Christ’s substitutionary atonement: “For he [God] hath made him [Christ] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5.29).

Jesus knew no sin; he had no sin of his own. As the apostle Peter puts it: our Saviour Jesus “did no sin” but, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (1 Peter 2.22, 24; referencing the Old Testament prophecy in Isaiah 53.5).

This substitution involves a double exchange: first, Jesus takes our sin, and he receives in full the deserved punishment of death for it, even to being forsaken by God (Mark 15.34; fulfilling Psalm 22) in his wrath against our sins; then second, those who believe in Jesus have his sinlessness imputed to their account, and they receive the resurrection and the life from him. And this is the resurrection and the life in full, threefold.

The first part of the threefold resurrection is spiritual. Christ, the Resurrection and the Life himself, brings about the resurrection from spiritual death in the souls of fallen descendants of Adam. This resurrection is what the Bible also calls being born again, or quickened. As Jesus himself explained to Nicodemus, one of Israel’s greatest teachers in those days, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God…Except a man be born of water and of the [Holy] Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3.3, 5).

Peter understood this spiritual resurrection, or regeneration, to be a consequence of the Christ’s own resurrection: God has “begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1.3). And, speaking of born-again Christians, Paul writes, “You hath he [God] quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2.1; see also v.5).

The second part of the threefold resurrection is physical. Though he was indeed raised again by Jesus, in this miraculous sign of the Messiah, Lazarus died some years later. The sign was not the resurrection at the last day, but it was an evidence that Jesus is the Christ, the Resurrection and the Life, whose power will also bring about the resurrection on the last day (John 11.24-25).

Christ has the power to raise the dead at the last day. He even had this power while he was in this world, and he used this power when he chose to—for the glory of God his Father. Therefore, to believe in this raising of the dead at the last day, as taught throughout the Bible, involves believing in him who raises the dead.

This resurrection is the most important of the great events that the Lord Jesus Christ will bring about at that day. But there will also be “the judgment” (Hebrews 9.27). The truth is as Christ himself asserted: “For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him” (John 5.21-23).

After we have died (we will die if we are not in the last generation that will not pass through death),6 Christians will receive from the Lord’s hand the redemption of our body in the resurrection at the last day—alongside Lazarus, Job, David and multitudes more: “For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8.19-23).

The Lord Jesus Christ is reigning over all creation, and he is even now enthroned at the right hand of God the Father. And while his reign continues, all his enemies are being subdued under him (Psalm 2; Matthew 28:18; Philippians 2.9-11)—all, until Christ has no more enemies except this one: “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15.26-28). Death’s defeat and destruction occurs in the resurrection at the last day.

Resurrections like that of Lazarus, and of the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7.11-16), were signs of the Messiah. But in the Messiah’s own resurrection, he is “the firstfruits of them that slept” the sleep of death in him (1 Corinthians 15.20; see also vv.12-19). “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming” (vv.21-22). This making alive is the resurrection, at Christ’s second coming at the last day.

The third part of the threefold resurrection is eternal. Jesus emphasised this in his referring to himself as the Resurrection and the Life. This everlasting, never dying, eternal life is given to believers and sustained in them by the prerogative and power of the Messiah. Consider how Jesus opened his great prayer to his Father by laying out his personal mission and purpose, and asking God to enable him to fulfil it. Here we are privileged to hear, in our Saviour’s own words, how he understood his high priestly ministry: through his completing his life in this world without sin and by giving his own life—to give his people life: “These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him” (John 17.2).

We understand in these words of Christ’s prayer here, inscripturated for us to read in John 17, that God the Son was re-affirming his everlasting covenant of grace7 with God the Father. In this covenant the Saviour glorifies his Father, and his Father glorifies him. This is, indeed, how Jesus fulfils his mission and purpose, his own chief end: “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living” (Romans 14.9). And his glorifying God miraculous resurrection of Lazarus (John 11.4, 41-43) was a small token of what he, the Resurrection and the Life, will do in glorifying his Father at the last day.

Paul writes to Christians: “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15.51-57).

Again, Paul writes to Christians: “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. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4.13-18).

Jesus also confirmed the following about himself, who he is, and what he will do: “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6.39-40; see also vv.44, 51-54).

This threefold resurrection, though we describe it as comprised of three parts, is really one indivisible resurrection. Paul understood this, and thus he wrote to Christians: “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2.4-7).

After the resurrection (and transformation) at the last day, this everlasting life that our Lord Jesus Christ, our Resurrection and our Life, gave us when he gave us our new birth will continue forever. In this everlasting life we will “ever be with the Lord” in the new heavens and new earth (John 3.16; 14.1-2; 2 Timothy 2.10; Hebrews 5.9; 9.12; 2 Peter 3.13; Revelation 21.1-5).

It was only as a born-again, spiritually resurrected woman that Martha could truly confess, “Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world” (John 11.27). So, Lazarus was not the only one who was raised from the dead that day.

“Believest thou this?”—do you believe all that Jesus has just proclaimed himself to be?

“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. Believest thou this?”

Yes, Martha now believed that what Jesus had affirmed is the truth about who he is—even before she saw his miraculous resurrection of her brother: “Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.”

Do you believe that Jesus is the Raiser of the dead and the Life-giver, who both gives life at the resurrection at the last day, and the spiritual life that is evidenced by believing him him, and the eternal life that they have who believe in him, so that they shall never die?

In other words, do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?

And that same day in Bethany, there came to be many others who believed all these things. “Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him” (v.45). The Saviour had brought salvation to Bethany. These people had been dead in their sins, but they had come to believe on Jesus. They believed in him because, as he had said, they now “liveth and believeth” in him—they now both live in him and believe in him.

This is the spiritual resurrection and the eternal life that Jesus spoke about to Nicodemus: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3.16). And it is the same as John the Baptist affirmed of this resurrection and life that Christ gives: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life” (John 3.36).

All who truly believe in Jesus do so because they have first been given new life by him in order to live in him; whereas the spiritually dead, dead in sins, do not believe in Jesus. All believers in Christ too “were dead” in their sins (see Ephesians 2.1-5). Yet they have been raised from this spiritually dead state; or, as the apostle John also writes elsewhere in his Gospel, they “were born” again of God—this is the spiritual rebirth, or resurrection: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1.12-13).

Of this spiritual rebirth, or resurrection, Jesus also declared: “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live” (John 5:25).

  1. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection (Acts 23.8). ↩︎

  2. Neither king David nor the Messiah went to Hell: the place of everlasting punishment, destruction, and separation from God for their sins. This “hell” referred to in Psalm 16 is שְׁאוֹל (sheol), meaning the grave, or the temporary state of the dead before the bodily resurrection at the last day (Srong’s Concordance, Hebrew Dictionary, number 7585). ↩︎

  3. The Westminster Shorter Catechism, question and answer 1: “What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.” ↩︎

  4. The New Testament Greek word translated “Master” here is διδάσκαλος didaskalos (Strong’s Concordance, Greek Dictionary, number 1320), meaning teacher. The Greek-speaking Jews used it where in Hebrew or Aramaic they would say “Rabbi”. Earlier in this same chapter, the disciples call Jesus “Master” (ῥαββί, rhabbi, Greek 4461) (John 11.8). ↩︎

  5. After the long walk to Bethany, Jesus was informed that Lazarus’s body had already been in the tomb four days (John 11.49). So it was a four days’ journey on foot from the place where Jesus had revealed to his disciples that Lazarus had died, because the Jews buried their dead immediately. ↩︎

  6. The last generation of Christians in this present age, before Christ returns, will not pass through physical death. Their bodies will be transformed without physical death (see 1 Thessalonians 4.13-18). ↩︎

  7. The Westminster Confession of Faith chapter 7, section 3: “Man by his fall having made himself incapable of life by that covenant [of works], the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace: wherein he freely offered unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in him that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto life his Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe.” ↩︎