Where Was Lazarus of Bethany Between His Death and When Jesus Resurrected Him?
Question from a reader:
Where was Lazarus of Bethany’s soul during the four days he was dead? When Jesus raised him from the dead, had Lazarus been in Heaven for four days? I searched this topic and found answers from others on different forums, but I don’t know if they’re trustworthy.
Answer from Stephanie Anderson, EPM staff
You ask a great question. Randy asked me to respond on his behalf, so here are some thoughts:
In his message This Illness Is for the Glory of God, John Piper makes these two points:
- Lazarus really died. It is not an easy thing to die. And as far as Lazarus knew, Jesus didn’t come. And his sisters saw him die. And they buried him. And they wondered where Jesus was. This was real death. And real loss. And Jesus really didn’t show up to stop it.
- In the way John presents this story, he means for us to see the resurrection of Lazarus as a picture of our resurrection — the resurrection of all who believe in Jesus.
An article on our EPM site about near-death experiences says this: “[In Scripture] there are several instances of miraculous resurrections which take place. Examples include the son of the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:17-24), Jairus’s daughter (Luke 8:41-56), the widow’s son (Luke 7:12-16), Lazarus (John 11:1-45), and of course, the resurrection of Jesus himself. In all of these cases, the scriptural emphasis is on glorifying God who brings about the resurrection, while there is absolutely no information on what the person experienced during the time they were dead.”
So yes, you are correct that Scripture doesn’t directly address Lazarus’s experience between death and when Jesus resurrected him. But we can make some deductions based on other Scriptures. We are told that to be absent from the body is to be home with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). Scripture does not teach soul sleep. Since Lazarus was a follower of Jesus and put his faith in Him, and given that Lazarus’s resurrection is a picture of our future resurrection (and when we die we go to the present Heaven, to be with the Lord and await our own resurrection), the logical conclusion was that he spent his time between death and resurrection in the present Heaven, what Jesus calls Paradise (Luke 23:43).
Stephanie Anderson is the communications and graphics specialist at Eternal Perspective Ministries.