Signs in John's Gospel
Arlen L. Chitwood
The Resurrection of Lazarus
Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.
It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.
Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.”
When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was.
Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”. . .
So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. . . .
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.
And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.”. . .
Jesus wept. . . .
Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave and a stone lay against it. . . .
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”. . .
Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.
And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.”
Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!”
And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.” (John 11:1-7, 17, 25, 26a, 35, 38, 39a, 41-44)
The sixth sign in the gospel of John (chapter 9) showed Israel as having been blind from birth (vv. 1, 20), blind from the time of the inception of the nation. And this blindness, contextually, was relative to the message that Israel was called to carry and proclaim to the Gentile nations.
Israel, throughout the nation’s 4,000-year history, has never gone forth to the Gentiles in this manner. Rather they have always been as Jonah, disobediently going in an opposite direction relative to the Lord’s clear command.
The seventh sign in the gospel of John (chapter 11) shows Israel relative to the same thing from another perspective. This sign shows the nation as having been in the place of death for four days (vv. 17, 39), pointing to the status of the Jewish people throughout their 4,000-year history relative to God’s clear command concerning the message that they were to carry and proclaim to the Gentiles.
Once the blind man in chapter nine had received sight, he then carried a message that spoke volumes. Not only did he immediately bear a true message concerning the One who had healed him, but his healing foreshadowed that which the entire nation could experience, following repentance. And this would, in turn, be followed by the entire nation proclaiming the same message to the Gentile world that this man had proclaimed to the religious leaders in Israel (vv. 17, 25, 27, 30; cf. Isaiah 53:1ff).
And the seventh sign, the resurrection of Lazarus in chapter eleven, shows exactly the same thing. Though there is nothing recorded concerning anything Lazarus may have said following his resurrection, the sign itself, as the previous sign, spoke volumes concerning the matter at hand.
This sign foreshadowed life being given to the entire nation relative to the same thing seen in a foreshadowing of sight being given to the nation in the previous sign. Lazarus being in the place of death for four days foreshadowed Israel being in the place of death for 4,000 years. And Lazarus being raised following four days foreshadowed Israel being raised following 4,000 years.
In John chapter nine, the religious leaders in Israel cast out the man whose sight had been restored. In the Greek text there is a double use of “without,” or “on the outside.” The thought brought over into English would be, “They cast him out [out from the place where they resided], into a place on the outside [separate from the place where they resided],” with the text placing an emphasis on the latter — the place outside.
(In a respect, this would be similar to the expression, “the outer darkness” in Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:30. The structure of the Greek text, in all three instances in the gospel of Matthew, literally reads, “the darkness, the outer,” with the emphasis placed on the thought of “outer.” Then, with the repetition of the article before “outer,” the reference is not to just any darkness but to a particular darkness outside of a realm of light.
And the thought is somewhat the same with the double use of “without,” or “on the outside” in John 9:34. It was not just any place into which the man was cast, but a place outside of where the religious leaders resided [outside of any affiliation with the religious life of Israel — outside of the synagogue, etc.])
And, following Lazarus’ resurrection, the religious leaders in Israel sought not only to slay the One who had raised Lazarus (11:53) but they even sought to slay Lazarus himself (12:10). And the reason is given:
Because on account of him [Lazarus, raised from the dead, as a sign, with the results of this sign being witnessed by many in Israel] many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus. (12:11)
This sign, as the previous sign, was a testimony in itself. And many Jews believed because of that manifested through the sign, with the religious leaders in Israel wanting to put a stop to and do away with the whole of the matter.
The introduction to the sign though, unlike the previous sign, doesn’t begin with the time of Israel’s birth four days, 4,000 years ago. Rather, that seen in the introductory verses to the sign (vv. 1-7) begins at a time foreshadowed by the sign itself — a time, which today, would be both past and future, having to do with the present 2,000-year dispensation.
The introduction to the sign begins with a two-day period, which has to do with the latter two days of the full four days. It begins with a period foreshadowing the present two days, the present 2,000-year period, the present dispensation.
This 2,000-year period was still in the future at the time that the sign was performed, and it was in the early stages of being fulfilled at the time John later wrote his gospel and recorded this sign. That is to say, the whole of the material surrounding the sign, beginning with the introduction, has to do with time throughout a 2,000-year dispensation, from beginning to end.
The sign itself though has to do with events surrounding Israel at the end of this 2,000-year period, at the time of Christ’s return at the end of Man’s Day. And the material introducing and surrounding the sign has to do with time seen from this same vantage point as well, though covering the whole of the 2,000 years. The “why” of the two days introducing this material and the four days seen later in the material is easy to understand if these things are kept in mind.
“Two Days…in the Same Place”
As previously noted, the two days introducing the sign in the text foreshadow the two days, the 2,000-year period, comprising the present dispensation. This dispensation began on the day of Pentecost, fifty days following Christ’s resurrection (Acts 1:4, 5; 2:1-4); and it will end with the removal of the Church into the heavens, “to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Corinthians 15:51-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
The present dispensation comprises a time when God has temporarily suspended His dealings with Israel and has sent the Spirit into the world for a specific, revealed purpose — to call out a bride for His Son. The Spirit is presently taking 2,000 years to acquire the bride.
At the end of this time, after the bride has been acquired, the bride will be removed from the earth, and God will then complete His dealings with Israel during seven unfulfilled years of the past dispensation, with Israel being brought to the place of repentance and the Messianic Era subsequently and resultantly being ushered in.
The present work of the Spirit is occurring in the antitype of that seen in Genesis chapter twenty-four. Abraham (typifying God the Father) sent his servant (typifying the Holy Spirit) into the far country (typifying this earth) for a singular purpose — to acquire a bride for his son, Isaac (typifying Christ). And this occurred in the type following the death of Sarah in chapter twenty-three (Abraham’s wife, typifying the Father’s wife, Israel, being set aside) but before Abraham’s marriage to Keturah in chapter twenty-five (typifying God restoring Israel in that coming day, following the Spirit’s procurement of a bride for the Son).
(For a more detailed exposition of the preceding, refer to the author’s book, Search for the Bride.)
In John 11:5, when Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, “He stayed two more days in the place where He was” (v. 6). Sickness is a depiction of Israel seen throughout Scripture. The previous sign where the blind man was healed would afford one illustration, numerous signs that Jesus performed would afford others (e.g., Matthew 4:17, 23, 24; 10:5-8), and Isaiah’s classic description of Israel in the opening verses of his prophecy would afford another (Isaiah 1:4-6). The Old and New Testaments are filled with this type of information about Israel.
Then, another facet of the same word picture is seen in John chapter eleven — death. And this, as well, is something seen throughout different parts of the Old and New Testaments. Ezekiel chapter thirty seven would perhaps be the classic depiction in the Old Testament. In this chapter the dry bones in an open valley are revealed to represent “the whole house of Israel,” in a lifeless state. And after “sinews,” “flesh,” and “skin” had come upon and covered the bones, breath, producing life, entered into that which had been restored (vv. 1-14), which would be another picture of that which is seen through the resurrection of Lazarus in the New Testament.
Then, the resurrection of Israel had previously been depicted through Moses carrying the bones of Joseph out of Egypt at the time of the Exodus (Exodus 13:19), foreshadowing that prophesied in Daniel 12:2, 3, which will occur following the Tribulation (v. 1). This will occur at that future time when the One greater than Moses leads the Israelites out from that which the Exodus from Egypt typifies, out from a worldwide dispersion (cf. Isaiah 52:2; also note the preceding discussion on Genesis 23-25).
In John chapter eleven, both sickness and death are used of Lazarus in a somewhat synonymous sense, showing, as in the previous passages cited, two different facets of the same word picture. In verse three Lazarus is said to have been sick at this time. But later in the chapter Lazarus is also revealed to have been dead during this same time (cf. vv. 6, 7, 14, 17).
And Jesus was about to do something concerning the existing situation. But He had to remain “in the same place where He was” for two days before acting. Time foreshadowing the dispensation in which the Spirit would procure a bride for God’s Son must be allowed to run its course. Then, at the end of this time, at the end of two days, foreshadowing 2,000 years, Christ will return to the land of Judea for the purpose seen in the sign.
“Let Us Go into Judea Again”
Within the scope of that foreshadowed by the sign, matters now move from the present to the future, to that time when Christ will return back to the earth at the end of the Tribulation. The Tribulation per se is not dealt with in the text. One would have to go to other Scripture, comparing Scripture with Scripture, to see how the Tribulation fits into this sequence of events.
The fifth sign in the gospel of John, for example, covers the same time-period and deals with the Tribulation, and ends at the same place as seen in the seventh sign (John 6:15-21; ref. chapter 14 of this book). Both of these signs, as well as the other six signs in the gospel of John, simply present different parts or facets of the same word picture.
Jesus is presently in the heavens, at His Father’s right hand, both waiting and working.
In the words of Psalm 110:1, Jesus is waiting until the Father brings His “enemies” down from their present lofty positions to the position described as His footstool, pointing to the impending transfer of regal power, pointing to that day when the Son will hold the scepter and all things will be under His control and sway (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:25).
And, during this same time Jesus is also seen working. He, during the present dispensation is performing a work in the heavenly sanctuary. He is ministering in the sanctuary, as High Priest, on behalf of the saved, on the basis of His own blood on the mercy seat (Hebrews 4:14-16; 9:11, 12; 10:19, 20).
But the day is coming and cannot be far hence when Jesus will come forth from the sanctuary and hold the scepter. The dispensation is almost over, the Spirit’s work of procuring a bride for God’s Son is almost at an end, and the completion of the last seven years of the previous dispensation is almost at hand. Vast changes are about to occur, something foretold millennia ago in Moses, the Psalms, and the Prophets.
The two days, the 2,000 years, are about to end. Every second of every minute, every minute of every hour, and every hour of every day brings everyone that has ever lived or ever will live during Man’s 6,000-year day that much closer to that multi-prophesied and long-awaited day. The day when the Son will say, “Let us go into Judea again,” is not only rapidly approaching but it must and will come to pass.
What time is it on God’s prophetic calendar relative to the inevitable fulfillment of these events? There is only one answer to the question: It is much later than most in today’s Christendom or those in the world (which, in reality, is really where most Christians reside today) care to admit, or even consider.
But, then there is the other side of the matter. A segment of Christendom longs for that coming day. A segment is eagerly watching and waiting for the Son’s return. A segment can be likened to those who joined themselves to David during Saul’s reign, dissatisfied with existing conditions in the camp of Israel, eagerly waiting for a change, eagerly waiting for that day when David would hold the scepter in the stead of Saul.
In that which is foreshadowed by this type from the books of 1, 2 Samuel, a number of Christians, though by far a minority, find themselves dissatisfied with existing conditions in Christendom, or in the world at large. And they have joined themselves to the One outside the camp, eagerly waiting for a change, eagerly waiting for that day when Christ holds the scepter in the stead of Satan.
And for those Christians, the answer concerning time on God’s prophetic calendar would be entirely different. Rather than thinking along the lines, it is much later than one would care to admit or consider, they would think more along the lines of the manner in which John was led to close the Canon of Scripture in the book of Revelation:
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. (Revelation 22:20, 21).
“I Am the Resurrection and the Life”
At the end of two days, at the end of 2,000 years, Christ will return to the earth to raise Israel from the dead. He will return to raise a nation that, relative to her national calling, will have been dead for 4,000 years, dating back to the time of the nation’s inception.
That’s what the sign deals with. And the complete scope of resurrection would have to be seen in the sign — both individual Israelites and national Israel — for there can be no nation, seen in its completeness (“the whole house of Israel” [Ezekiel 37:11]), apart from a bodily resurrection of Old Testament saints to comprise and complete that nation.
The resurrection of Lazarus foreshadows the nation being raised up to “live in His sight” two days, 2,000 years, after Israel crucified her Messiah (cf. Hosea 5:15-6:2; John 11:6ff); and the resurrection of Lazarus, as well, foreshadows individual Jews who died in the faith during Old Testament days being raised from the dead.
Whether individual or national, the type of body in which Lazarus was raised will be the type of body that Israelites comprising the nation will possess during not only the Messianic Era but also throughout the following eternal ages — a natural body of flesh, blood, and bones.
Relative to individual Israelites, this is evident from that which is seen surrounding Lazarus’ resurrection when contrasted with Christ’s resurrection.
The stone was rolled away to let Lazarus out of the tomb, and he came forth bound hand and foot with grave clothes, with a napkin still covering his face.
The stone covering the entrance to Christ’s tomb though was rolled away to let others in to see that He was already outside the tomb; and the empty, undisturbed grave clothes were still in the tomb, lying exactly where Christ’s body had previously been (maintaining the shape and contour of the body, apart from the body being on the inside), with the napkin previously covering His head having simply collapsed where His head had been (Luke 24:12; John 20:4-8).
Lazarus was raised in “a natural body” of flesh, blood, and bones, capable only of that which natural man is capable of today. But Christ was raised in a different type body, one that Scripture calls “a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:44), a body of flesh and bone, with the Spirit rather than the blood being the life-giving, animating principle of the body. And this type body is capable of things outside the realm of the natural (e.g., cf. Luke 24:15, 31, 36).
Then, Luke 1:33 reveals that national Israel, the nation at large, will exist in connection with the natural in this respect — in bodies of flesh, blood, and bones — throughout not only the Messianic Era but the eternal ages that will follow.
And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.
“Jacob,” meaning supplanter, was the natural man; “Israel,” meaning a prince who has power with God and with men, was the spiritual man. Christ, according to the text, is going to reign over the house of Jacob, not over the house of Israel. And it is evident from the wording of the text that this type of reign will extend beyond the millennium into the eternal ages.
The word “forever” in the text is a translation of the Greek words eis tous aionas. The word aionas (a plural case form of aion) refers to “ages” in the text. The word is preceded by a preposition and a definite article, in that order. And the complete expression, eis tous aionas, should be understood and possibly more properly translated, “with respect to the ages,” referring to all the ages out ahead, not only the Messianic Era but the unending array of ages that will follow.
“Lazarus, Come Forth”
Christ, who is “the resurrection and the life,” must be present at the time Israel is raised, as He was present at the time Lazarus was raised. And, as well, He must be present when Christians are raised from the dead at the end of the present dispensation. Aside from coming forth to meet His bride, this will be the central reason for Christ’s presence at this time.
Relative to the resurrection of Christians, which will occur preceding the Tribulation, Christ will “descend from heaven with a shout” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). And just as Lazarus came forth when “the resurrection and the life” issued the command, so will Christians come forth when Christ descends from heaven into the air above and issues this command (though in bodies like unto Christ’s resurrection body).
Relative to the resurrection of Israel, which will occur following the Tribulation, Christ will return to the earth and issue a command, foreshadowed by the command in John chapter eleven. And following Christ’s command in that day, Israel will come forth — both individual Jews and the nation at large.
Just as Lazarus was raised from the dead, individual Jews will be raised from the dead; and, as well, just as Lazarus was raised from the dead, the entire nation will be raised up to live in God’s sight. And even though, as in the sign, they come forth wearing grave clothes, the command will then be the same as it was at the time Lazarus was raised, “Loose him, and let him go” (John 11:44b).
In another type, or sign (cf. Matthew 12:39-41), Jonah was raised from the dead after two days, on the third day. And in that which is foreshadowed by the type or sign, Israel will be raised from the dead after two days, on the third day (cf. Hosea 5:15-6:2).
After Jonah was raised from the dead, he carried God’s message to the Gentiles. And Israel, in that coming day, after the nation has been raised up to live in God’s sight, will carry God’s message to the Gentiles.
And just as the Gentiles heard and responded to Jonah in his day, the Gentiles will hear and respond to Israel’s message yet future.
This will all occur in that coming day after God has raised all His firstborn Sons — Christ, Israel, and the Church — to live in His sight.
God raised His only begotten firstborn Son, Jesus, on the third day, foreshadowing a coming third day for the regal purpose seen in the Psalm 2; God will raise His created and adopted firstborn son, Israel, on the third day for the same regal purpose; and God will raise His created son, who will be His firstborn son following the adoption, the Church, on the third day for the same regal purpose (ref. the author’s book, God’s Firstborn Sons).