God’s Word Is Alive
What Happens at Death?
JESUS’ good friend Lazarus has died. Yet Jesus is telling his disciples: “Lazarus our friend has gone to rest, but I am journeying there to awaken him from sleep.”
“Lord, if he has gone to rest, he will get well,” the disciples reply.
At that Jesus explains plainly to them: “Lazarus has died.”
Why did Jesus say Lazarus was sleeping when actually he had died? What happens at death? A look at Jesus’ visit to see Lazarus will help to answer these questions.
When Lazarus’ sister Martha learns that Jesus is approaching, she runs to meet him. Soon her sister Mary and all their friends also come out to meet Jesus. When Jesus sees their sorrow, he weeps. He asks: “Where have you laid him?”
When they get to the memorial tomb—it is a cave, and a stone is lying against it—Jesus says: “Take the stone away.” At this Martha protests, as you can see, saying: “Lord, by now he must smell.” It had been four days since Lazarus died. However, at Jesus’ encouragement the stone is removed.
After praying to God, Jesus calls out: “Lazarus, come on out!” And he does! He comes out alive, still wrapped in graveclothes. “Loose him and let him go,” Jesus says.—John 11:11-44.
Now think about this: What was Lazarus’ condition during those four days he was dead? Had he been in heaven? He was a good man. Yet he did not say anything about being in heaven, which surely he would have done if he had been there. No, Lazarus was really dead, even as Jesus said he was. Then why did Jesus at first tell his disciples that Lazarus was only sleeping?
Well, Jesus knew that the dead Lazarus was unconscious, as the Bible says: “The dead . . . are conscious of nothing at all.” (Eccl. 9:5) But just as a living person can be awakened from a deep sleep, so Jesus was going to show that, by means of God’s power given to him, his friend Lazarus could be awakened from death.
So, even as a person in a very deep sleep remembers nothing while he is asleep, it is similar with the dead. They experience no sensations whatsoever. They no longer exist. But, in God’s due time, the dead who are ransomed by God will be raised to life. Surely this knowledge should motivate us to want to win God’s favor so that we will come within his provision for a resurrection to life.—John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15.