While I was pastoring here in Georgetown from 1999 to 2009 I was a regular at the round table in the Ball & Que Restaurant for morning breakfast. There were several men that came in regularly over the hour and a half I was there and we all talked about whatever during that time. There were many humorous conversations and a few very serious ones too.
With the passage of time I cannot remember the man’s name that asked me this question, and I trust my readers will forgive me for not being able to quote exactly what was said. So I am putting our conversation down to the best of my memory’s ability to remember. The conversation started off something like this, “Brad, how long did Lazarus live after Jesus raised him from the dead?” I knew that the Bible did not say anything on the subject of Lazarus’ life span after that point in his life, so we don’t know how long he lived after his resurrection. I replied, to my friend tongue-in-cheek, “He lived until he died.”
Everyone around the table laughed… except this friend. (I think he was laughing on the inside.) But he feigned disappointment that I would answer him so lightly. I told him, “Well, the Bible doesn’t say how long he lived afterwards.” He replied, “Well why didn’t you just say that?”
The truth of the matter was around that table at breakfast time, there was always a good bit of “each one giving the other a hard time.” The exchange between this friend and me was all in good humor. We had just finished our little banter when Pastor Ted Sherrill, from the First Baptist church came in and greeted everyone at the table. That was when my friend decided to ask him the same question.
Pastor Ted replied something like the following, “Well, we really don’t know, because the Bible doesn’t say.” My friend looked at me and said something like, “See, he gave me a straight answer.” Pastor Ted looked a little perplexed, as he did not know about the previous conversation. This friend said, “Well, I asked Pastor Brad, and he told me he lived until he died.”
Pastor Ted started laughing, and told him, “Well that was the first thought that came into my mind too.” This friend threw his hands up in the air with a mock expression of disappointment, and said something along the lines, “I knew it. These preachers all stick together.” Everyone was laughing again.
Death and dying are always at the back of all of our minds. Well, with all that is going on around us today with the COVID-19 virus, death and dying are probably more to the front of our minds now. I taught a college course on just that to freshmen at Florida State University years ago. We all have questions about death. Most people don’t want to confront it head on. We will talk about it with humor, or when a friend or loved one passes away, we may become more serious for a time as we contemplate our own mortality.
The Bible says in Hebrews 9:27 “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” We all will face death one day. Enoch and Elijah are the only two people I know of that did not die. God physically took them the Bible says, while they were still alive.
Death is not the end. It is the beginning of a new life in a different arena of reality, which we humans call eternity. Eternity denotes that it has no end; it lasts for all time, without beginning or end. Our finite human minds can’t quite wrap themselves fully around that concept.
Jesus, we know was crucified, and was resurrected on the third day. As Christians, we believe in the power of the Lord to resurrect those who believe and trust in Him, never to die again. All of those who Jesus raised from the dead in the New Testament, as well as those who were raised from the dead in the Old Testament, they did die again. This was not the everlasting life that we who are alive today, walking in our faith with our Lord are expecting. But it is a sign, a proof if you will, of the power of our God to do what He has said He will do.
This coming Sunday is Easter, or Resurrection Sunday. It is the day that we as Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Jesus still has power today over death. He can heal those sick with the virus, but if he does not they will be raised from the dead on that resurrection day when Jesus calls them forth from the grave as he did Lazarus.
Years ago in the church I pastored in Florida, a young couple came in about a quarter to twelve and interrupted the service while I was preaching asking for prayer for their baby. She was holding her three-month-old infant boy in her arms. The baby was black and blue from not breathing. I motioned for a nurse in the congregation to come and she examined the child as I held him. She whispered to me, “Pastor, the baby is dead!”
I asked the people to pray. The congregation as one began to call on the name of the Lord and the power of the Lord came into that place and touched little Jackie. He suddenly began to breathe on his own. His flesh lost that ashen, black and blue coloration as his heart began to beat, and his lungs began to function.
The first responders that someone had called, arrived at the church while we were praying, and entered the front door coming into the sanctuary. I saw them as they entered, and both of them stopped as if they had hit a brick wall, fell to their knees and did not move until the prayer had ended, the baby was breathing and the people were shouting and praising God.
I gave the baby back to his mother and told her to go and let the paramedics examine him. They did. After the service, I asked Steve Pigott, the first paramedic in the door, what had happened when they had entered the church. He said, “Pastor, I can’t explain it, it was like we hit a glass wall. Then something pushed us both to our knees, and we could not move until the prayer was over.”
Do I believe in eternal life after death? Yes, I do. I have seen and experienced with my own eyes the power of God. He still raises people from the dead today. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Do not fear this new plague that is around us and killing thousands of people around the world. Trust in God. Reach out to Him.
God still moves in the lives of men and women today. God not only can, but also will resurrect us who believe in Him and trust Him as our Lord to an everlasting life after our time on this earth has ended. Death and dying, is not the end, just a new beginning. Keep your faith, have hope and look upward. Jesus is with us still!
Brad Morris, a retired minister, originally from Georgetown, served as a pastor and then as a missionary in Costa Rica and Ecuador, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He has been in ministry for 50 years and a columnist for 17 years, 13 of which have been for the Times.