Genesis 17:1-8 [A father of many nations]
“And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee and will multiply thee exceedingly. And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to the seed after thee. And I will give thee unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” God promised Abraham he would receive great physical blessings, and for his offspring to multiply greatly. The bible does not record anywhere that Abraham was told he would immediately ascend into God’s presence at the end of his life. Will Abraham be raised to immortality at the second coming of Jesus Christ? Yes, of course!! The key to understanding the transition from physical to eternal life, lies in properly understanding God’s master plan and the timing of key events.
Genesis 25:5-9 [Abraham died in a good old age]
“And Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac. But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and send them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country. And these are the days of the years of Abraham’s life which he lived, an hundred threescore and fifteen years. Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people. And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite which is before Mamre;” What happened to Abraham? At the end of a long and fruitful life, Abraham died the physical death of all men and was buried in the grave. Once again, there is no record of God promising Abraham he would ascend directly into heaven when he died.
Genesis 49:29-33 [Jacob yielded up the ghost]
“And he charged them, and said unto them, I am to be gathered unto my people: bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, In the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron the Hittite for a possession of a buryingplace. There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah. The purchase of the field of the cave that is therein was from the children of Heth. And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost and was gathered unto his people.” Like his father Abraham, Jacob was not promised a reward of eternal life immediately upon his physical death.
Job 14:12-15 [I will wait until my change comes]
“So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep. O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.” Job correctly understood that upon his death ,he would lie safely in the grave until the judgment and wrath of God had passed, and the time at hand for the saints to be resurrected.
1 Kings 2:1-3 [David slept with his fathers]
“Now the days of David drew nigh that he should die; and charged Solomon his son, saying, I go the way of all the earth: be thou strong therefore, and show thyself a man; And keep the charge of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that thou doest, and whithersoever thou turnest thself:” Continuing in Verses 10-11 “So David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David. And the days that David reigned over Israel were forty years: seven years reigned he in Hebron, and thirty and three years reigned in Jerusalem.” And also in Acts 2:29 “Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.” Where is David today? He is safely asleep in his grave, awaiting his change from physical death to immortal life at the seventh trump.
John 11:1-46 [Lazarus, come forth!]
“Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Zazarus was sick.) Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. 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 thereby.
Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again. His disciples say unto hm, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither 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.
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. The said his disciples, Lord, of 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. The 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. The said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellowdisciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.
Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already. Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off: And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. The 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. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.
Martha said unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shal he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee. As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him. Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him.
The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there. Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping, which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept.
Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved 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? Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he had been dead four days. Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, If thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?
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. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about him with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.” Now this is very interesting. Jesus obviously loved Lazarus very much, and I cannot imagine how much it pained Him to permit Mary and Martha suffer so. However, the ways and methods of Almighty God are different than ours, and He is not bound to do things in ways which are logical to the human mind, but He does have a grand purpose in everything He does. Because the Father permitted Lazarus to die, Jesus need to be patient and permit Mary, Martha and their family to pass into the normal grieving period, preparing the way for his resurrection back to a healthy, physical life. What a wonderful demonstration of God’s generosity and power, by bringing Lazarus back from the dead, perfectly demonstrating His power over death!
The following points should be carefully noted;
If the people wanted to know “What was on the other side?”, there is no record of Lazarus being questioned in this regard. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude the people rightly understood, “the dead know nothing” – Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.” And also, Ecclesiastes 3:19-20 “For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth them:as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.”
Lazarus continued to live his physical life, died, and was buried safely in the grave, where he is awaiting his change to immortality along with Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Isaac, David, Job, and all the other saints. Hebrews 11:13 “These all died in the faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”
Luke 7:12-15 [Jesus raised a young man back to life]
“Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.” Should we conclude this boy died, ascended into the presence of God in heaven, and came back to earth when Jesus brought him back to life? No, this does not make any sense whatsoever. Like Lazarus, this person died (again), at their end of their physical life and was buried in the grave.
Matthew 27:50-54 [Many bodies of the saints which slept, arose.]
“Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake,and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Noe when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God” When Jesus Christ died upon the cross, God performed a special resurrection of the saints, raising them back to physical life. Again, we should not conclude they were present with God in heaven, then brought back to life in their physical bodies. Please understand, scripture does not in any way support the common church teaching of the saints immediately coming into the presence of God when they die.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 [Those who sleep in Jesus]
“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.” Where are the saints who have died? Once again, they are resting safely in the grave awaiting the return of Jesus Christ. They are not, I repeat not, presently alive in heaven with God, which of course creates problems for those who believe the unbiblical “secret rapture” doctrine.