Lazarus’ resurrection, an analogy of regeneration? Never!


Lazarus’ resurrection – A Calvinist’s analogy of regeneration

Calvinists often refer to Lazarus’ resurrection as an analogy of regeneration, not of the reprobate who have no John MacArthurchance of ever being saved because Jesus did not die for them on the cross, but the elect only. Their argument runs more or less as follows:

Man is so intensely evil and so totally depraved that he cannot in any way possible respond to the Gospel in faith. He hates God and will not come to the light to have his sins and transgressions reproved (John 3:20). As a matter of interest, Calvinists love to quote verses that underscore their doctrines and rarely quote its counterparts which prove the very opposite to what they believe and proclaim. Indeed, men are evil (worthless) but does that render them totally incapable to respond to the Gospel in faith. If so, Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11:28: ‘Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest’ was nothing but a cruel joke. Why would anyone in his right mind want to come to Jesus to find rest and refreshment for his soul when he is told that he is so utterly depraved that he cannot possibly come to Jesus. It follows that:-

The elect must be resurrected from the dead like unto the resurrection of Lazarus from the grave. God must sovereignly and unilaterally call forth the sinner who is dead in his sins and trespasses and impart his life to the dead cadaver, not through faith because there is no way a corpse can believe, but through an act of irresistible grace.

I want us to listen to a few audio clips to illustrate the meaning of the Calvinistic/electoral/predestined regeneration of man. Listen carefully to what Paul Washer has to say about Lazarus’ resurrection as an analogy of regeneration and see whether you can pinpoint his insidious inaccuracies.

Paul Washer

Have you noticed how cleverly Paul Washer makes his audience believe that spiritual death is equal to physical death? Here are his words again:

Born-again or born from above is the doctrine of regeneration. What does it mean? Well, first of all the Bible says that we’re dead in our sins. The word there means dead. Does it mean something else?’ . . . Does it mean sick in or sins, troubled in our sins, plighted by our sins? ‘ DEAD IN OUR SINS. Regeneration is: made alive, that we were spiritually dead to God. Now, what does that mean?’ Let me give you an example. There’s a dead man on the platform, right here. He’s dead. He’s laying there, he’s dead; not mostly dead but dead. Ok! and I come to him being the benevolent Samaritan that I am, I come to him and I say: ‘Sir, hearken unto my voice, not far from here is a well established hospital, they have those funny electric things they can put on your chest and though it will be quite painful they can shock you back into existence. Now sir, come with me. What’s wrong. you wanna be dead all your life? Come! Please! Now!’ That’s ridiculous isn’t it? Well so is our evangelism. And so is our evangelism.

Can you imagine me and brother Randall 2000 years ago standing in front of Lazarus’ tomb. ‘Lazarus, come forth.’ Ok! you try it. (laughter in audience) ‘Lazarus come forth.’ (applause).’ You try! . . . . What’s gonna happen? We’re gonna stand there all day until we are hoarse going ‘Lazarus come forth.’ Lazarus just happened to have a problem. When you’re dead, you can’t hear anybody. Now, think about this, Jesus comes up and goes ‘Lazarus come forth.’ There’s still the problem. Jesus spoke! Whoopeee! He spoke to a dead man. Dead men can’t hear. So what you need to understand is that when Jesus said ‘Lazarus come forth’ he also imparted into Lazarus the life to stand up and hear.

Lazarus could not hear Jesus

Did you hear that? Let me repeat what he said in layman’s terms. Lazarus wasn’t able to hear Jesus because as a dead man who is absolutely incapable of hearing anything or anyone (including Jesus), he first had to be made alive so that he could hear Jesus. Well now, that’s like saying that Abraham was more powerful than Jesus because the twice dead rich man who was in hell could hear father Abraham say:

Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. (Luke 16:25-31)

Paul Washer’s assertion that Lazarus couldn’t hear Jesus until life was imparted into his corpse so that he could hear, is sheer blasphemy. He is making an emphatic statement that Jesus is not omnipotent. One would at least expect the dead to be able to hear Jesus’ voice if He’s omnipotent. No! Washer’s wicked claim, which proves that even he is evil beyond comprehension, makes Jesus less than omnipotent because a twice dead man in hell was able to hear Abraham speaking and, believe it or not, fully understand him. Why does Paul Washer do this? Well, he has no other option because he must uphold the doctrine of election and predestination at all cost. Let us briefly again look at this vile doctrine. Men are utterly depraved and evil and dead in their sins and trespasses, the result being that they have no ability whatsoever to hear, let alone understand the Gospel and respond thereunto in faith. It follows that Jesus must raise them (that is, the elect) from their spiritually, corpselike death and first impart life into their lifeless bodies so that they may be able to hear, and understand the Gospel and receive the gift of faith. In layman’s terms, it looks something like this.

Salvation horse-cart faith

If the dead were able to hear Jesus’ voice before Him having to impart life into their cadavers so that they may hear, even the reprobate would have been able to hear his voice and this, to say the least, would be an embarrassment to Calvinists, simply because Jesus did not die for them. They are not the elect and must, therefore, remain in their spiritually and utterly depraved state of wickedness and evil so that God may be glorified. Listen to this and you will see for yourself that even unto this very day many preachers, like Nicodemus whom Jesus chastened with the words ‘Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?’, don’t know what born from above means and how their spiritual lives work.

This is by far the most profound statement anyone has made this century: “I do not believe that Jesus died for nobody. I believe He died for somebody . . .”

Now listen up, Mr. MacArthur, says the apostle of love, “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.‘(1 John 2:2).

Not so, says John MacArthur. That verse should read as follows:’“And he is the propitiation for our (the elect’s) sins: and not only for ours (the elect’s) only, but also for the sins of the whole world (the elect).’ What does MacArthur mean when he says “I do not believe that Jesus died for nobody?” Who are the “nobody?” Well, if you listen carefully to what he means by

Well, if you listen carefully to what he means by “somebody” you will be able to recognize the “nobody.” Macarthur said: “I believe that He died specifically for those who would believe in Him and those who believe in Him are those who are regenerated by the Holy Spirit based on the eternal, sovereign, electing purpose of God.” The “somebodies” are those who are somehow very special in God’s eyes because Jesus died specifically for them whilst the “nobodies” are the wretched non-elect or reprobate for whom Jesus did not die on the cross.

If John MacArthur does not even know how his spiritual life works, doesn’t that disqualify him from preaching the Gospel? Paul said: “I know in whom I have believed” (2 Timothy 1:12). Why does he use the past tense “believed.” Was there a time when he stopped believing? Perish the thought. He used the past tense because he was referring to the day when he first believed in Jesus Christ in order to be saved. Therefore, Paul was equipped to preach the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ because he was genuinely saved. Only the genuinely saved can preach the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit because they know and experience the way He works in their lives.

John MacArthur is also very fond of using Lazarus’ resurrection as an analogy of the regeneration of the elect.

A frequent anomaly of these gentlemen is that they contradict themselves without even a hint of blushing.

If a man is so absolutely dead in his sins and trespasses and so utterly depraved and needs to be raised from his spiritual death by a supernatural act of God before he can even think of believing the Gospel, how can he hunger after righteousness and deliverance from sin, and death and judgment? Aren’t all these things given to the elect only after they had been irresistibly regenerated by God?

Can we really take Lazarus’ resurrection as an analogy of regeneration? Was it intended to be an analogy of spiritual regeneration? We may assume that it could be regarded as an analogy of God’s supernatural and irresistible regeneration if Lazarus had not been a saved person when he died.

The fact, however, is that he was already a regenerated man when he died and as such he was already one of Christ’s sheep who knew and heard his Master’s voice perfectly well. In fact, he was more alive in his sleep (death) than when he was still alive on earth and therefore was perfectly capable of hearing Jesus’ voice even in death.

If, as Paul Washer and John MacArthur believe, his lifeless body first had to be imparted with the life of God before he was able to hear Christ’s voice, and if it is an analogy of spiritual regeneration, then Lazarus had two consecutive rebirths from above ‘ one when he was alive on earth and one after his death at his resurrection.

That’s just plain silly. Ok! it is just a parallel analogy and as such we cannot argue as I have just done, would probably be a counter argument. Nonetheless, if it is only an analogy then it still remains a forced analogy and that of the unbiblical doctrine of election and predestination.

The obvious question to ask is: What then was the main purpose of Lazarus’ resurrection, if not to depict the spiritual regeneration of the elect. We find the answer in John 11:15., And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.”

Fancy that, Jesus was glad that Lazarus was dead and that He was not there when He died. In short: Lazarus had to die so that Jesus could raise him from the dead and so that the disciples’ faith in Him could be strengthened. Not only that, Lazarus had to die and be raised from the dead so that many Jews could believe in Him (John 11:45). None of those who had been unbelieving Jews had to be called forth like Lazarus and given life before they could hear his voice and his Gospel. NO! they simply believed when they witnessed Lazarus’ resurrection and were instantly saved.

None of those who had been unbelieving Jews had to be called forth like Lazarus and given life before they could hear his voice and his Gospel. NO! they simply believed when they witnessed Lazarus’ resurrection and were instantly saved.

What are the dangers of a Gospel so many people are hearing preached by Paul Washer and John MacArthur? Listen to the following excerpt and decide for yourself.

Until He finds you? Really? God never said that sinful men should seek Him until He finds them. He distinctly said that they WILL find Him when they seek Him with all their heart and all their soul (Jeremiah 29:13). What does it mean “to seek Him with all your heart and all your soul?” Jesus gives us the answer in Matthew 9:12: “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” Only those who know and acknowledge that they are desperately ill (lost sinners on their way to hell) will realize they desperately need a Physician (Saviour). Those who refuse to acknowledge it, will not come to Him to be healed (saved).

Imagine Ananias to whom Paul was sent after he had been blinded on his way to Damascus say something like the following:

Paul, you have done some terrible things in your life. You have persecuted God’s children and even contributed to the death of God’s saint, Stephan, as well as many other Christians whom you have incarcerated for their faith. There is only one thing for you to do in order to escape the jaws of hell. ‘Seek the Lord with all your heart until He finds you.

And imagine Paul saying to Ananias.

Huh? He has already found me on my way to Damascus. Why must I seek Him? He appeared to me in the most brilliant light I have ever seen. It blinded me as you can see. His presence was so overwhelming that I fell off my horse into the dust. I asked, ‘Sir, who are you?’ I heard him say ‘Why do you persecute Me?’ He commanded me to come here to hear what you have to tell me.

That would probably have been the conversation if Ananias had told him that he should seek the Lord until He (God) found him. Instead, Ananias encouraged, prodded and edged him on to call upon the Name of the Lord for the washing away of his sins. ‘Get on with it! What are you waiting for? There’s no time to waste. Go to the Lord and call upon Him for the washing away of your sins.’ Ananias could never have been absolutely certain that Paul’s sins would be washed away by Jesus Christ if he, like Paul Washer, believed that God first had to find him. Did Jesus take up residence in Paul’s heart then or when he lay in the dust after he had fallen off his horse?. He must have made his abode in him when he called on the Name of the Lord and his sins were washed away by the blood of Christ and not before.

The wretched woman who came to Paul Washer and asked ‘What must I do?’ could have been saved if he had presented her with the Gospel and its demand to come to Jesus and call upon his Name for the forgiveness of all her sins. Did he do that? No! Why? Because he believes the insidious lie that God first needs to sovereignly impart life into her spiritual cadaver (lifeless corpse) so that she may hear the voice of Jesus crying our ‘Come forth.’ He first needs to regenerate her by a sovereign act and the imposition of his irresistible grace so that she may cry out ‘I am saved.’ Like John MacArthur, Paul Washer believes that man is so utterly depraved that he cannot seek God. He needs to be sought of and found of God in order to be saved. What does the Bible teach?

But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 4:29)

“Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:6-7)

I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, “Here am I, here am I,” to a nation that was not called by my name. (Isaiah 65:1)

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

In the book of Malachi the third chapter God says an amazing thing that proves beyond any shadow of a doubt that, although man is depraved and dead in his sins and trespasses, he can respond in faith and return to God. In fact, God says that the returning of sinful man to Him is the first prerequisite for Him to return to them. If they do not return to Him, He will not return to them.

Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?'(Malachi 3:7)

Paul Washer and John MacArthur are not preaching the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus Christ. Yes! they are preaching a gospel, like many other false apostles, preachers, and teachers, but it is another Gospel of another Jesus inspired by another Spirit.

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Tom Lessing (Discerning the World)

Tom Lessing is the author of the above article. Discerning the World is an internet Christian Ministry based in Johannesburg South Africa. Tom Lessing and Deborah Ellish both own Discerning the World. For more information see the About this Website page below the comments section.

3 Responses

  1. Karl says:

    Dear Thomas,

    I love your article. Thanks for this and other articles as well.

    I thought you may like to check this out. As you can see in the article of this link, the while the physically are not responsible, the spiritually are responsible.

    God bless you brother.

  2. Karl,

    Thank you very much for the link you sent me. I read it and there is nothing with which I disagree. It is a thoroughly thought out and excellent article. Anyone who believes he or she is saved because they are the elect who were chosen unto salvation before the foundation of the world is heavily deceived an still unsaved. If there is one heresy that makes me deeply sad but also very angry, it is Calvinism. It comes directly from the pit of hell.

  3. Karl says:

    “If there is one heresy that makes me deeply sad but also very angry, it is Calvinism. It comes directly from the pit of hell.”

    This exactly how feel. I find it frustrating trying to talk to Calvinists and I find James White very obnoxious.
    I used to be a big ‘fan’ of John MacArthur till I found out what he believed and taught about Calvinism.

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