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Pastor Jay's Blog

Lazarus, You Are No Help

A few years ago, the publishing world was hot with a very specific topic: trips to heaven. It became so common that it basically spawned its own genre that some called Heaven Tourism. The problems with this genre however were not too difficult to spot because there was information that could easily be known about this topic from the Scripture, while other details contradicted what the Bible says. If there was anything that could be learned from this publishing niche, without doubt it was that people want to know what is to come after death. The knowledge God has given about heaven and the afterlife seems to not be enough, or at the least familiarity with it has bred contempt. People needed a novelty shot-in-the-arm to stoke up their devotional life, and these books were just what the heresy doctor ordered.

In contrast to these Heaven Tourism books is the contrasting testimony of those who actually did die and return. The one place where we have the inerrant historical record of actual resurrections (better called resuscitations because they all died again) we find a big fat nothing when it comes to specifics concerning trips to heaven. Now, you have to believe people were asking those resuscitated people in the Bible what had happened after they died. In fact, after Lazarus was raised from the dead John tells us this: John 12:9 The large crowd of the Jews then learned that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead. You bet people wanted to see Lazarus too! This was the opportunity of the millennium. Someone who was actually dead, and was now alive, was available for interviews. But what do we get from those interviews? Nothing. A gigantic zero. Why? Why would we get nothing? I have three ideas.

1) Because nothing was shared. It is possible that the people who had been raised from the dead had the same prohibition that bound Paul from speaking about his experience. Paul was also taken to heaven, and he spoke about it in 2 Corinthians 12:1-6. He called it paradise, but most importantly he said that he “heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.” He was not permitted to tell us what he heard. Why? Perhaps we are too sinful to value it rightly; it would be like pearls before swine. Perhaps it is mystery that can’t yet be revealed, as we find in the book of Revelation when the peals of thunder spoke (Revelation 10:4). Whatever the case, Paul would not breech this command, and perhaps the others had this same fetter upon their conscience.

2) Because it was unsharable. Paul did say in 2 Corinthians 12:4 that what he heard was “inexpressible.” Perhaps trying to convey his heaven experience would be like trying to convey the color blue to a blind person or a symphony to a deaf person. You must have somewhere to start, some shared experience from which to build comparisons. But how do you describe a spirit-world to a materially bound person? We can say “glorious”, but that doesn’t really get us any further than we were.

3) Because we don’t need it. Whether or not the previous two are correct, this is true. If we needed to know the particulars about life in heaven they would have been given to us. The Spirit has determined exactly what details we need in Scripture. Sometimes we are surprised about the highly specific details we are given in a particular passage or account. But we can be sure they are there for a reason. And that is just as true for the details we are not given. We have all we need for life and godliness, and clearly details about heavenly accommodations are not needed. It would be fun to know, and it is fun to speculate, but the real fun is knowing that what is to come will so far exceed our wildest dreams that we will one day look back at our speculations as bland guesses from unimaginative children.