In Scripture, we read of two particular individuals declared dead by their friends and loved ones, but Jesus Christ raised them from the dead. Interestingly, he claimed both were “only sleeping.”
Jesus likened his own death and resurrection to Jonah, who was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. A question arises, did Jonah get swallowed and coughed-up on shore? Or did Jonah die, and later was resuscitated, and coughed-up on shore?
Let’s look at the words and imagery:
Jon 2:2-6 “And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.
For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.
Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.
The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.
I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.”
We didn’t see this part of the scene, did we? Where Jonah is in the belly of hell, or weeds were wrapped around his head, and saw prison bars.
But these phrases are not poetic and accidental. If weeds were wrapped around his head, and in the belly of hell, what gives? Jonah was out for three days and three nights, a time frame Jesus wrapped around his own death and resurrection.
What of Lazarus?
Jhn 11:39 “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 hath been dead four days.”
Lazarus had been dead four days, but what did Jesus say of him when he heard of it?
Jhn 11:11 “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.”
And of the daughter of Jairus, which Jesus raised to life?
Luk 8:52 “And all wept, and bewailed her: but he said, Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth.”
First, let’s point out that each of these individuals died later in life. Jesus resuscitated them to show he had power over life and death – and certainly over death as everyone understood it. That is, irreversible in human terms. Beyond the capacity of a doctor to help.
We also know these folks didn’t die in the most permanent sense, because we are told humans die only once:
Heb 9:27 “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:”
And as noted in other essays, God doesn’t have a need to bend or suspend his own rules. He is wise enough to make all the rules he will need, and integrate them to a Grand Architecture.
Our response is to gain insight on what happened here. If the person didn’t die, but was asleep as Jesus asserted, what did Jesus mean? These people were not resurrected (they didn’t receive immortal bodies).
Ecc 12:5-7 “ …because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets: Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.”
In the above description of the death process, we note several transactions. It’s almost like when a person takes their car to the DMV to transfer of title. They will see people printing, stapling, pulling pages apart, dropping things into the correct files for later processing, etc. The above has the feel of that sort of “administrative dispatch”. e.g. when it’s time to die, we have mourners, silver cord loosed, golden bowl broken, and the dust returns to the earth, and the spirit to the God who gave it – dismantles a person and the parts dispatched.
Here’s a thought: The chemicals in our bodies are transient. When we eat and breathe, we interact with the environment. What we eat and drink literally becomes part of us. Old chemicals are ever-so-slowly swapped out for new as we absorb food and eliminate waste. Chemically speaking, we are not the same person we were a year ago. What didn’t change? Our eternal soul and the information in our DNA.
So now we have an answer as to how God could form Adam “from dust”, and the valley of the dry bones could be reconstructed into humans, and how people who died a thousand years ago (and truly are dust now) can be restored completely.
Jesus said of the little girl “her spirit came back”, so clearly Jesus has power over the spirit world. Did this little girl’s silver cord get loosed, or did Jesus restore it? The Bible says clearly we only die once. Jesus would have no need to restore it if the cord was still intact and the girl’s spirit was “nearby”.
It is clear this “silver cord” plays a role. This is the only mention of it in Scripture.
Anecdotally, when people testify of a near-death experience, they report the presence of a silvery cord connecting their spirit to their physical body. Could this be the “tie” to the physical world that had not yet irreversibly broken for Jonah, Lazarus and the daughter of Jairus? How much time is necessary to be certain that the cord is loosed? Clearly Lazarus was in the grave four days and Jonah three days.
But Christ was in the grave three days and did not resuscitate, but resurrected. He had a completely different body than when he walked the earth before. We are also told in 1 Cor 15 we will be “transformed” into a resurrection body. and that Jesus is the “first fruits of them that slept”, clearly asserting that our resurrection bodies will be like his – incorruptible and immortal.
The Bible teaches Jesus most certainly died (spear in his side, with blood and water). He didn’t “sleep” or “swoon”.
And like Jonah, Jesus descended to hell.
1Pe 3:19 “By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;”
The mechanics of resuscitation are no different than the mechanics of a common clinical resuscitation. The problem is, the aforementioned persons had passed into a state from which a common doctor could never recover them.
And why were they resuscitated? What was the purpose? As with all miracles, the purpose is not the miracle itself, but in God declaring the miracle-worker as being his own mouthpiece. “Hear ye him”. This is true of all the prophets as well. If God merely told the prophets what the future would be, what would cause anyone to take them any more seriously than you or I? Can’t anyone claim to foretell the future? But if the miracle worker does something in real-time, like fire from heaven, healing the sick, or raising the dead, all eyes are on the miracle worker, and all ears are on his words.