For various reasons I have not written a blog post for a while, but it is good to be back again. I intend to write shorter and more frequent posts. And today I am starting with what may become somewhat of a regular feature: A Question from a Catechism Student. The future of this feature depends of course on the catechism students that I teach and the questions they ask. But I do not want to limit this to the students I teach. If there are children or young people out there who would like to ask a question please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the answers to these questions I will attempt to point you to something published by the RFPA.
So here’s the question that came from a 5th grade girl. What happened to Lazarus’ soul after he died and before Jesus raised him back to life?
For an answer to this question I point you to Rev. Herman Hoeksema’s Reformed Dogmatics (vol. 2, Second edition, p. 471). Rev. Hoeksema speaks of Lazarus in connection with what is called the intermediate state. The intermediate state refers to the state of the body and soul after death but before final resurrection. Rev. Hoeksema teaches that ordinarily the soul of the child of God goes to heaven immediately after death to the conscious experience of glory and fellowship with Jesus. This is the hope and comfort of believers. Our souls do not sleep after death but go to heaven.
But Rev. Hoeksema recognizes that the soul of Lazarus could not have gone to heaven to then return to “this present world of sin and death.” So what happened to the soul of Lazarus and to others in scripture who died and then returned to this life? Rev. Hoeksema explains, “We must maintain that in those cases the Lord provided a special state in which most likely they were unconscious, and from which they were aroused into a conscious state in the present world by the wonder of what we would call a typical resurrection [a foreshadowing of the final resurrection of the body].”