CHAPTER TWO

LAZARUS' 'SICKNESS'

"Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister, Martha."

(As I present the story of Lazarus, Mary and Martha, I will flow back and forth from the literal story in Jesus' day to the prophetic metaphors these three individuals portray. So, be ready to "shift gears" at any point.)

We are not told exactly what ailed Lazarus, only that he was sick. But the sickness of the Israel-Lazarus is discernible. God's Word often depicts Israel as a stiff-necked people. This was capsuled perfectly in Acts 7 by the deacon, Stephen, in his sermon to the Sanhedrin (religious leaders of national Israel). Note verse 51:

"Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do ye."

And to show just how stubborn and "stiff-necked" they were, here's the response of the Sanhedrin in verse 54:

"When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth."

And if this is not enough, note what they did next:

"Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, and stoned him;..."

The Jews Stephen was speaking to couldn't stand to hear the truth, so they killed him, the man God had raised up to deliver this stinging message concerning their guilt.

The primary sickness of Israel---God's Eleazar, or Lazarus, the one whom He aided---was always unbelief. But we shall see this in a new light in just a moment.

Verse 2.

"It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick."

This is a very key verse relative to Mary being a picture of the Church in the USA.(1) Let's look at the scene of the anointing mentioned in the above verse: Matt. 26:7-13.

________________________

"There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he was eating.
But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?
For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.
When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? For she hath wrought a good work upon me.
For ye have the poor always with you, but me ye have not always.
For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial.
Verily I say unto you, Wherever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her."

Certainly we must not overlook the plain message of Mary's humble act. I'm sure it had far more significance in the spiritual realm than any of us can even imagine. But now I want you to think about another "A-Mary-ca"; one of national proportions.

History very clearly reveals that the Church in America has always had a world view of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This was by the gift of God upon her. Look at this quote concerning the New England Charter:

"The very purpose of the Pilgrims in 1620 was to establish a government based on the Bible. The New England Charter signed by King James 1 confirmed this goal: '...to advance the enlargement of Christian religion, to the glory of God Almighty...'. The goal of a government based on the Bible was further reaffirmed by individual colonies such as the Rhode Island Charter of 1638: 'We...submit our persons, lives and estates unto our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and to all those perfect and most absolute Laws of His given us in His Holy Word.'"

And further, the aims of early English settlers were:

"...first to preach and baptize into Christian religion, and propagation of the Gospel, to recover out of the arms of the devil, a number of poor and miserable souls..."

I think few people consider the enormous amounts of time and money, even loss of life, which has been expended by Christian Americans, all for the primary purpose of spreading the Gospel. This great expense is pictured in the above incident by Mary's extravagance in the use of the expensive ointment upon Jesus' body. This nation can boast, not in themselves but in God, for the very special privilege of "anointing" the body of Christ world-wide with the Gospel and Bible literature. This is pictured so clearly by Jesus' own words concerning "Mary". (See Matt.26:13.)

"I assure you that wherever the Gospel is preached throughout the whole world, what she has done will also be told, as her memorial to me." (J.B. Phillips Revised Edition.)



Verse 3.

"Therefore, his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick."

In the short-range sense, this verse is clear enough. I would only make this one observation---the two sisters wanted to remind the Lord that someone very close to him, a good friend, their brother who Jesus "lovest", was sick. Their plea was designed to heap coals of fire on Jesus' head to make Him feel responsible to come at once. We'll see His response in a moment.

In the long-range sense, the verse reflects the awareness of the Church within G.B. and America as to Israel's seemingly-endless spiritual blindness. All my life I've heard preachers make comments on just how shocking and paradoxical is Israel's inability to see Jesus as their Messiah. I too find this almost unbelievable. But this is the "infection" which caused Lazarus' (Israel's) sickness. Is it curable or will it last forever? Let's see.

Verse 4.

"When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified by it."

In the literal story, this verse means that Jesus already knew what He would do for Lazarus when He returned to see him, and that what He planned to do would bring glory to God and also Himself. Much of Jesus' whole life was spent for the purpose of revealing His identity and His relationship to Almighty God. The Lazarus' story was one of the key incidences regarding God's Master plan of Jesus' mission on earth. In the futuristic sense, Jesus' statement alludes to the fact that Israel's sickness shall not ultimately end in death. Let's look at another passage of Scripture which shows the absoluteness of what I just said. (Ironically, but following the pattern, it is found in another eleventh chapter, Romans 11.) Paul is speaking.

"I say, then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.

God has not cast away his people whom he foreknew...." Romans 11: 1 & 2.

This whole chapter delineates the fact that the purpose of Israel's "sickness" (spiritual blindness to the God Who called them) was not for their ultimate destruction. This parallels the message found in Jesus' remark that Lazarus' sickness was not "unto death". (More later on this.)

Verse 5.

"Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus."

On the literal side of the coin, this statement is of utmost importance. It shows Jesus' understanding, compassion and willingness to be involved at an intimate level with those He created. He "loved" that family in the same kind of way you and I understand close relationships. This is the plain message, but there is also a deeper message.

The apostle John was often referred to as the "one Jesus loved". (See John 13:23.) Skim-reading will cause one to totally miss the point of what is really meant. That Jesus "loved" John does not in any way mean Jesus "liked" John more than the other disciples. What it means is that Jesus had to pour more of His agape love into John in order to re-create him into the likeness of the man Jesus wanted him to be. In the process, Jesus molded John with His love in such a way that he was changed from a "son of thunder" to a man who wrote the most important Scripture in the Bible on love---the first epistle of John. This is what Scripture means when it says that God, or Jesus, "loves" someone. This understanding often flies right by many of us.

In the metaphoric sense, the above verse was included to show that Jesus has "loved" Israel, Great Britain and America in special ways. Was this because Jesus "liked" these nations better than others because of their goodness? Absolutely not! In the natural, like John, these nations have been "sons of thunder".

Here is the meaning: Jesus has poured abundant love upon Israel, the United States and Great Britain. To not see that these three nations have been interlocked and blessed [both spiritually and physically] more than any other nations on earth, is simply to avoid the simple facts of the matter. Paradoxically, it seems that the world understands [although in a perverted way] this more than those on whom the blessings have fallen. (The world confuses gain with blessings; and because of this confusion and misinterpretation of God's ways, the world hates Israel, Great Britain and the United States.)

Through Israel, the Messiah was given; through Israel, the Bible was given; through saved Jews, the Gospel commenced, and on-and-on it has gone.

Through Great Britain, the first English Bible was published (starting around 735 A.D.); through Great Britain, God raised up a host of great preachers during the past (roughly) 1260-years; through Great Britain, thousands of missionaries have been trained and sent forth into the farthest reaches of the world, and on-and-on it has gone.

Through America, God raised up a nation which was founded by Christians, even its Constitution being based on the Bible; through America, God raised up a host of great preachers who would proclaim the Gospel both here and abroad; in America, God raised up many universities and schools of Bible theology to prepare people for ministry which would be of world-wide significance, and on-and-on it has gone.

Remove the influence God has purposed and executed through these three nations and you virtually remove the Biblical Gospel from the earth.

Am I saying that God has done no work through any other nations, or that He thinks more fondly of the three I have singled out as having special functions and duties to perform? Indeed not! Let me give you an illustration which parallels the national situation: Did Jesus not use Peter, James and John in some special ways unlike all the others? Say, for instance, allowing them to see Jesus, Moses and Elijah transfigured? Or, the privilege of writing much of the New Testament? Does this mean Jesus liked these disciples more than the others? Or, does it mean Jesus poured more of His time and influence upon them? Surely it is the latter. It is by God's favor, choice, call and anointing which results in true discipleship, individually or nationally.

For divine reasons beyond anybody's ability to fully comprehend [other than to say that God has the right to do it], Jesus "loved" certain disciples, specially. At the national level, Jesus has "loved" Israel, Great Britain and America, specially. From the inception of all three, His love and protection has been all around us, whether recognized or not by those receiving the blessings.



ON THE ROAD TO EMMAUS

There's another particular Scripture which I believe ties in here. It relates to two "special" disciples Jesus met and talked with after His resurrection. It's found in Luke 24:13-32. It's worth including several verses here:

"And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs.

And they talked together of all these things which had happened.

And it came to pass that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.

But their eyes were holden that they should not recognize him.

And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one with another, as ye walk, and are sad?

And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering, said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?

And he said unto them, What things?..."

At this point, the two disciples rehearsed to Jesus (Who they had not yet recognized) all that had transpired concerning the crucifixion and resurrection of their Lord. But then in verse 27 Jesus said to them:

"And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them, in all the scriptures, the things concerning himself."

Then, a few moments later, Jesus allowed them to see Who He really was: (verses 31 & 32)

"And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight.

And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us along the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?"

This is another one of those passages where metaphoric content rings loudly in my spirit. I believe these two disciples who walked on the road to Emmaus with Jesus are a prefigurement of Jesus' "walk" with the two witnesses (the two sisters(2))---the Church in Great Britain and the Church in America. More than that, I even believe that those two disciples who walked and talked with Jesus were not only prefigurements, but were the actual first two persons leading to what would later become the national two witnesses.

_________________________

(2) It's interesting that the same nations mentioned in Scripture are referred to sometimes in the masculine and sometimes in the feminine sense; context determines which. For example, Israel is generally a "he", and yet Israel is also alluded to as the wife of Jehovah. (See Hosea 2.) The two witnesses of Rev. 11 are pictured in the masculine sense, but in John 11 presented as two sisters, Martha and Mary. This is fitting because the spiritual side of Martha and Mary's characteristics has to do with the role of the Church within them, and the Church is called the bride of Christ.

Think of it this way: these two particular disciples which Jesus selected (actually elected would be more appropriate), to whom he "opened the scriptures", were two "seeds" which were first planted in Emmaus. And from the two "sprigs" that came up, "transplants" would later be removed to other regions; and in their "branches" would be the message Jesus had "burned" into those first two messengers; and on and on the process would continue, from individual-to-individual and group-to-group, until finally those two "seedlings" and their "offspring" would expand into two gigantic nations which would contain this incredible, God-made "greenhouse".

Is my analogy too preposterous to be considered God's wisdom? Well, recall Jesus' command was to "behold...the trees". Since Jesus used the metaphor of "trees" to represent nations, I see no reason not to broaden on the concept. This was Jesus' hermeneutics, and I see nothing wrong with following in His footsteps.

Certain objections always arise when I speak of GB and the USA being the two witnesses. We might just as well discuss this right here.

Someone always says, "But England is one of the most humanistic, ungodly, un-Christian nations on earth today. Don't you know that on any given Sunday no more than 4% of the people are in Church?" And someone else says, "Lance, America today is the world center of unrighteous, unruly, immoral, filthy, holistic, idolatrous people. Even if the "two witnesses" of Revelation 11 were two nations rather than two people (which nobody in the Church but you believes anyway), how can you possibly identify this nation as one of God's primary "witnesses"? Such a notion is ridiculous!"

Without realizing it, those who make such statements have played right into my hands. The conditions described above perfectly match what the Bible says will be the characteristics within the two witnesses at the end of their "testimony"! Go back and read again, starting on page 6 in the introduction, what was said about spiritual "Egypt" and "Sodom". These two words picture in a nutshell the declining spiritual status that exists today in Great Britain and America. The apostle Paul also indicates that near the end of the Christian era there would be a great falling away from Biblical faith. It's found in 2 Thessalonians 2:3:

"Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day (i.e., the day of the Lord's return) shall not come, except there come the falling away first, and that man of sin (i.e., the anti-Christ) be revealed, the son of perdition,..."

Virtually all those who study eschatology agree that we are in the very last hours before the end of this age. This being the case, we should not be surprised to see evil rising to the full within the very nations God has called and anointed to minister for Him during the past 12 1/2+ centuries.

JESUS HEARS, BUT DELAYS:

Verse 6.

"When he had heard, therefore, that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was."

Now why in the world would Jesus purposely delay His coming to Lazarus? This doesn't make much sense considering only the plain side of the story. Well, of course Jesus was always on a very exact time schedule and He always knew precisely when He was to do the Father's bidding. In verse 4, Jesus had said that Lazarus' sickness was designed for the glory of God. So, He delayed His coming to make sure Lazarus was posi-tive-ly dead, in order for the whole thing to come off as planned.

But now let's look at this from the long-range perspective. Jesus remaining the "two days" in the "place where He was" refers to the time Jesus would be in heaven at the right hand of God the Father prior to His return to free "Israel-Lazarus" from his sickness. How do I get this? Well, we must look at a couple of other passages which provide the clues to apply here. The first is found in the writings of a man who Jesus had said would receive some of the "keys" to the Kingdom. I believe this is one of those keys:

"But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." 2 Peter 3:8.

People who have no affinity for Biblical metaphors try to make this verse say all kinds of things other than what it does. But the verse means just what it says. Without application of this key, many scriptures remain absolutely quiet as to their real, prophetic significance. The non-prophetically-inclined [and this appears to include many pastors] have no concept of this truth.

If we take the above verse and apply it appropriately, the reason Jesus delayed His coming to "Lazarus" (speaking now in the long-range sense) obviously means that Jesus would return to the nation of Israel in two thousand years (the "two days" Jesus remained "in the same place where He was"). This same metaphor is also found in the Old Testament, beginning at Hosea 5:13:

"When, Ephraim (the Northern part of Israel) saw his sickness, and Judah (the Southern part of Israel) saw his wound, then went Ephraim to the Assyrian, and sent to King Jareb; yet could he not heal you, nor cure you of your wound."

Now of course this had a literal application to Israel in the historical setting when it occurred (as is true wherever metaphors are found). But in the futuristic sense, this scene forecasts exactly what we find in John 11. Here in Hosea, Israel is seen as Ephraim and Judah; in John 11, Israel is seen as Lazarus. The predictions of just how God is going to aid Israel, and heal their sickness, is the same in both stories. The proof of this falls right into place in the following verses, Hosea 5:14&15.

14 "For I will be unto Ephraim like a lion, and like a young lion to the house of Judah: I, even I, will tear and go away; I will take away, and none shall rescue him.

15 I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offense, and seek my face; in their affliction they will seek me early."

The customary interpretation here is the prediction that God would "tear" Israel and then withdraw from them until they repent. But look a little deeper and you can see an altogether different image. The key that opens this passage is found in the parenthetical phrase "even I". One day the "even I" caught my eye, and while digging around for answers, I made a wonderful discovery. The "I" of this passage in Hebrew is called an emphatic pronoun; but we have no such pronoun in English, just "I". So, in order to retain the fuller implications here, the King James translators protected the passage by simply adding "even I" at every point in the Old Testament where the emphatic pronoun is found. (Many modern versions have totally overlooked this fact and, consequently, God's intentional metaphors are often destroyed. That's what happens when certain theologians get there hands on God's Word as they try to make plain Scripture plainer.)

So, what does all this mean? The emphatic pronoun has the effect of shifting the focus from Israel to the "I". This means that it is the "I" that is going to be "torn" and then go away. Can you see that? Go back and read verse 14 very slowly and very carefully and you'll see what I mean.

The "I" being torn is an allusion to Jesus' tearing on the cross. And, it is this fact which will someday bring healing to the nation of Israel; not their sufferings, as severe as these have sometimes been.

Seeking Him "early" refers to Israel's attempt to see Jesus as a ruling King at His first advent. A king that refused to remove the Roman rule over them was, to Jewish mentality, obviously no king of theirs. They saw Him only in the natural. This was part of their sickness. This will remain so until they "acknowledge their offense" and truly "seek my face", says the Lord. But Israel will someday repent and God will heal them. The next two verses make this picture even clearer. Hosea 6:1&2.

1 "Come, and let us return unto the LORD; for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up."

2 After two days will he revive us; in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight."

Israel today, on the whole, is still oblivious to the fact that Jesus was, and is, their long-looked-for Messiah, their deliverer, their Savior. But, one day, national Israel will wake up and cry out to the LORD of Israel. Zechariah looked ahead and described it like this:

"And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplications; and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for his firstborn." Zech. 12:10.

Now compare this verse to Hosea 6:1 above. The "let us return" is a statement of Israel looking ahead to the time when they will awaken from their slumber. The statement reflects awareness of sin and a desire to repent and "return unto the LORD". Hosea and Zechariah are describing the very same eventuality. Notice in the Hosea' account, Israel will finally see that "he hath torn" (the 'he' being Jesus) and that the result of this tearing would be that "he will heal us". The verse continues this thought in the next sentence with the one being "smitten". Incidentally, there is no "us" following "for he hath torn", as is found in many modern versions, having the effect of negating these wonderful truths. Let me again stress that the "us" is left out because it is the "he" that was torn, and not Israel, which would result in the healing of Israel. Does the word "smitten" not trigger our thoughts toward another prophet's view of the Savior?

"Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed." Is. 53:4&5.

I doubt that there is any Biblically-minded Christian who doesn't know that Isaiah was talking about Jesus' crucifixion. Hosea and Isaiah are in agreement about the fact that it will be Israel's recognition of the one "smitten of God" which will result in the healing of Israel.

Now back to the last part of Hosea 6:1, "He will bind us up". This alludes to several things. In olden days, they used to "bind" the deceased for burial. From the beginning, Israel has had the tendency to reject the God that called them, and because of this, have, in a sense, been bound for 4,000 years. A little later, we'll see in the main chapter we're commenting on (John 11), that Lazarus being bound up in grave clothes pictures Israel's spiritual condition. But Jesus was also bound up in grave clothes. We must look at His "binding" and "loosing" in order to see the full picture here:

"Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury." John 19:40.

But we know that Jesus didn't remain bound up. God raised Him from the dead. On the third day after Jesus was buried, Peter and John went to the tomb where they had laid Jesus. This is what John saw:

"And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in." John 20:5.

Now how long was Jesus bound up? Well, He had been placed in the tomb on Friday. The above incident with John and Peter occurred early Sunday morning. So, by simple deduction, Jesus could only have remained there two days. Let's look now at Hosea 6:2, the final verse of this Old Testament foreshadowing of Israel's plight:

"After two days will he revive us; in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight."

This is the crowning glory of Hosea's microcosm of Israel's entire history. It is so plain, even in metaphor, to miss it one must almost try not to see what is being said. Where Lazarus, the man, is concerned, it refers to the "two days" Jesus purposed to stay in the "same place where he was" after He heard of Lazarus' sickness. Where Israel, the nation, is concerned, this refers to two millennia, dating from Jesus' first advent up to His second, during which time He has been in "His place" (heaven) where He will remain until the end of the Christian era. At the end of these "two days", God will remove the spirit of blindness from Israel, and they, according to the above promise, will "live in his sight" during the third day---the Millennium. We need to look at Romans 11 for more insights on this:



"For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits: that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in (the 'fullness' being at the end of the Christian age).

..."Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.

For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all."

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" Romans 11:25,31-33.

Many important truths are found in Romans 11. I will touch only on a few here. First, we, as Christians, better not be too 'cocky' as we view Israel's present blindness towards God, for it has been to our advantage. Ultimately, God will be glorified in all this. The proper Christian response should be to cry out, "Oh God, thank you for being so merciful by seeing fit to call me to Yourself during this period of Israel's 'blindness in part'. Lord, bless Israel."

I believe it will not be long until national Israel will see the Lord Jesus Christ reigning in their midst as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. (Now there is quite a bit of history yet to be fulfilled before all this comes about. The reader needs to understand prophecy relative to the last of the "last days" in order to get the full picture here. I would strongly recommend my other book, The Two Witnesses, for a broad look at this period.) Now, let's return to the main road, John 11.

Verse 7.

"Then after that, saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judea again."

Now this verse strongly supports my whole thesis about Lazarus being a picture of Israel. Let me show you why. If we view this passage in the literal sense only, the above statement would seem to be a bit inappropriate if Jesus was referring only to His returning to see the man Lazarus. Think about it now. If Jesus was thinking and talking only about Lazarus, He would more than likely have said something like this: "I must return to see my friend, Lazarus, who is sick." But instead, He spoke of Judea. I believe Jesus was looking far into the future when He would return to earth after His "two day" stay at the right hand of God the Father.

The words "disciples" and "let us" here, metaphorically speaking, refers to those who will return with Jesus when He returns to earth. Yes, many will come with Him when He comes:

"And I saw heaven opened and, behold, a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war..."

"...And the armies that were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean." Revelation 19:11&14.

There is wide agreement that this is a prophetic view of Jesus and the saints in heaven preparing to return to earth; the touchdown will be in Judea. It is pictured in John 11 by the "disciples" and "us" preparing to return with Jesus to Judea to see Lazarus.

Verses 8-10.

"His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou there again?

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."

Looking again at the literal, historical setting, Jesus' disciples thought it foolish to return to the place where they had already tried to kill him. I love the way Jesus, in His unique style, completely circumvented an answer that they expected to hear.

In Jesus' mind, I'm persuaded, was the distant future. He was referring to the fact that all Israel would continue their walk in spiritual darkness. Since Jesus left 2,000 years ago, Israel has chosen to pursue their course at "night" rather than the "day"; these were represented in the Lazarus' story as the Jews that tried to stone Him. Just as the twelve disciples had the advantage of walking with Jesus as their guiding light, likewise the whole Church has had Him to dispel the darkness from then till now. Oh, how bountiful is the mercy of the Lord to us Christians!

But, praise God, someday Jesus is going to lift the veil and shine His light on Israel and allow them to see Him as He is. (See Romans 11.) Just as Jesus was determined to go back to Judah after His purposed-two-day-delay from Lazarus, He will also return to see Israel after His purposed "two day" stay in heaven.

Verse 11. (A key verse. Note the number.)

"These things said he; and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep."

Jesus was preparing His disciples to witness a miracle. He was so confident of the outcome that He wouldn't even call Lazarus' death, death.

And so it also is with all the prophecies relative to Israel's eventual awakening. Recall the promise from Hosea was that "after two days He will revive us", (i.e., the "two days" after the tearing of Jesus). This has two meanings: a/ two days after Jesus was crucified, He would be resurrected and that is what heals all who trust in Jesus; and b/ the "two days" [2,000 years] spanning the Christian age, ending when Jesus returns. And in Romans 11:23, "...And they also, if they abide not in unbelief, shall be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again". In this passage, Israel is pictured as an olive tree whose branches had been broken off (alluding to Israel's non-acceptance of Jesus as their Messiah), but who God would eventually "graft" into the root system again at the end of their 2,000-year-wanderings down blind alleys.

Verses 12-14.

"Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well.

However, Jesus spoke of his death; but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep.

Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead."

The tendency in all of us is to keep things at a surface level of understanding. Allusions, metaphors and parables are "dark sayings" to most of us. The disciples were no different. Here Jesus was speaking of Lazarus sleeping, knowing full well that he was dead, and yet telling His partners that he was just asleep. So, to remove their confusion, Jesus finally had to say to them plainly---"Lazarus is dead!"

The short-range meaning of Jesus' reference to Lazarus' sleep is simply that Jesus knew in advance that He was going to bring life back to his body. So, calling Lazarus' problem "sleep", was actually quite appropriate.

The long-range meaning refers to Israel's present conditiona national numbness, or spiritual slumber, which Jesus also knew He would one day remove. Presently, "Lazarus", the nation, is dead to the things of God. But it won't last forever.

Verse 15.

"And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless, let us go unto him."

The plain message: Jesus was bolstering the disciples' faith by delaying His return to Bethany. Certainly we can all identify with this. Just imagine being there yourself. You would have heard, along with Jesus, that Lazarus was sick, and yet Jesus purposed to not hurry back. Would you not find this frustrating? In the natural, you would want to rush home to see what you could do to help Lazarus. But Jesus was telling you that, "No, we have other work to do here first" (which was surely the case). Jesus was teaching them about priorities. Staying obedient to God in difficult situations must always rise above the circumstances; Jesus was working on their faith to that end.

The deeper message: Jesus was speaking to the whole Church when He said "I am glad for your sakes that I was not there". I'm confident that in Jesus' mind were His own words found in John 16:7:

"Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you."

Jesus was speaking of the Holy Spirit. And throughout the Christian age, the Holy Spirit has been our constant companion in all that we do as true believers. That's what I believe Jesus' was alluding to when He said in our study verse "...to the intent ye may believe...".

[When He walked this earth before, Jesus always had bigger pictures and higher goals in His mind than just the local situation it portrayed, as important as the straight-forward message may have been. I promise you, opening your mind and heart to believe this will lead to seeing it everywhere in Scripture.]

In the fullness of time, Jesus will return to Israel. That's what the phrase "let us go unto him" speaks of.

Verse 16.

"Then said Thomas, who is called Didymus, unto his fellow-disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him."

The apostle Thomas had a tendency towards double-mindedness, which is what "Didymus" means. He had a hard time accepting truth until it was proven in the natural. But, then, isn't that the tendency in most of us? Thomas tried to be brave, though, for he indicated his full expectancy of dying along with Jesus.

Is there a long-range aspect here? I believe it refers to a group consisting of the Lord, the saints, and all the last-days evil-doers at Armageddon. Look at Rev. 19:19&21:

"And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army."

"...And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth; and all the fowls were filled with their flesh."

Thomas' statement had unbelief written all over it. He just couldn't see how they could avoid being killed if they went into Judea again. This reflects the general attitude that prevails throughout much of the Church today. As evil forces mount, which will culminate in the final anti-Christ system throughout the earth, it just doesn't seem reasonable to the natural mind that it can be stopped. Many Christians (including pastors) are frightened by all this and refuse to hear it discussed. They are the ones who reflect the Thomas' complex: "Let us also go, that we may die with him". Sounds admirable on the surface, but actually is nothing but fear, which, of course, is an outgrowth of inward-unbelief.

If you sometimes feel your faith is lacking, like your middle name is "Didymus", just remember verse 21 above: "...And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth; and all the fowls were filled with their flesh". When Satan, the anti-Christ and the False Prophet have done their best at setting up their kingdom, the war which they will wage against the Lord and His army will be a no-contest situation. When the demons of Fear, Despair and Insanity try to take your mind, just focus with all your might on the One Who has the Sword in His mouth, the Lord Jesus Christ. Never has the force of combat been witnessed as will occur when Jesus speaks at Armageddon.

Praise His Holy Name!