John 11:38-45 (ESV)

38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” 45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him,

Luke 16:30-31 (ESV)

30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’

Can seeing someone rise from the dead produce genuine belief (John 11:38-45) or not (Luke 16:30-31)?

Related: Does God approve or disapprove of convincing unbelievers through miracles?

  • Do you question whether Mary Magdalene or the 11 apostles had a genuine belief? Jul 15, 2022 at 0:49
  • Up-voted +1. Two kinds of faith are seen in John's account of the gospel.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 15, 2022 at 6:31

5 Answers 5


Seeing one rise from the dead can result in belief, if we use the following definitions:

  • Belief: accepting that a proposition is more likely than not to be true
  • Faith: trusting enough to act

This kind of belief (even if genuine) is not enough; faith is needed.


Greek words in play

  1. πιστεύω (pisteuó) - to believe, the word employed in John 11:45. Thayer indicates the following usage:

intransitive - to think to be true; to be persuaded of; to credit, place confidence in

transitively - to intrust a thing to one

The same verb is used in James 2:19

Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

When we speak of believing as "thinking to be true", the New Testament is clear that this belief is inadequate. The word, however, overlaps in meaning with and is related to:

  1. Πίστις (pistis) - faith, belief, trust, confidence, fidelity, faithfulness (source)

This is the word used repeatedly in the New Testament for faith, the belief & confidence sufficient to act. Specifically, the act of repentance (μετανοέω).

  1. μετανοέω (metanoeó) - to repent, change my mind, change the inner man (particularly with reference to acceptance of the will of God) (source)

Note that it is this change that the rich man in Luke 16 wants to persuade his brothers to pursue. He doesn't simply want his brothers to believe--he wants to persuade them to do something specific:

And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.



John 11

Those who believed after Lazarus was raised from the dead aren't "done". John has already established this reality in chapter 6. After seeing a miracle, believing, and presumably being quite impressed, some of Jesus' followers turned away after He taught them hard things about priorities:

From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. (John 6:66)

It wasn't enough for them to be impressed--they needed to be willing to make the kinds of sacrifices Jesus taught in John 6--and they were (to use the definitions from the beginning of the post) willing to believe, but not to proceed to faith & repentance.


Luke 16

Critically, Luke 16:31 employs the word "if". God has given them reason to believe--not just to believe Moses said true things, but to believe enough to repent--and if what God has already given them wasn't enough, the miracle proposed by the rich man won't be enough either.

This form of dialogue is common among those who choose not to believe - "I would believe if I just had more evidence!" The evidence of the Biblical text suggests this simply is not true. God has given evidence (e.g. Job 12:8-10). Asking God questions is encouraged (see Matt. 7:7); but rejecting the evidence God has given or demanding more evidence ad infinitum before repenting is condemned (see Matt. 12:39).



Reasons to believe are given, and if they are faithfully acted upon, more will be given (see also Isaiah 28:9-10).

As noted by Dottard, faith precedes miracles. It may well be that a miracle resulting from someone else's faith catches other people's attention and spawns their own journey of belief. But that new belief will produce no miracles and be no more effective than the belief by the devils in God (James 2:19) or by the rich man's brothers' belief in Moses (Luke 16:31), if it is not followed by faith & repentance.

Far greater than the miracle of giving physical life is the miracle of transforming a human soul for eternal life - this miracle requires more than passive cognitive assent: it requires faith.


For some background about signs wonders and miracles, see my answer to this question >> Does God approve or disapprove of convincing unbelievers through miracles?

Faith should never be based on miracles at all as Luke 16:30, 31 plainly teaches. In Luke 7:18-23 Jesus uses the miracles of healing, etc, to confirm to John's disciples the faith that they should have already had.

Jesus taught and preached far more than he healed. A Christian's faith should be based purely on their trust in Jesus as Heb 12:2, 3, Col 3:1-3 plainly teach. There is nothing wrong with miracles but they should only confirm and not convince.

The healing of the 10 lepers (Luke 17:11-19) is helpful here about the place of miracles:

  • the lepers had to have faith in Christ before their healing as demonstrated by Jesus' instruction to go to the priest before they were healed.
  • Despite the miracle, only one returned to "give glory to God" (Luke 17:18)
  • Jesus plainly declared that the ex-leper's "faith has made you well!" (V19)

That is, faith must precede miracles, not follow them. The same is taught in other places as well such as Matt 9:22, 15:28, Mark 5:34, 10:52, Luke 8:48, 50, 17:19, 18:42, Acts 3:16, 14:9, James 5:15, etc.


Luke 16.30 is talking about repentance - metanoeo. The rich man trusted in his own wealth, e.g. he did not love God with all his heart. He may or may not have believed that God existed, but he was certainly not devout.

John is talking about people who were looking for Messiah but weren't sure if Jesus was the one or if it was another. So that was not a matter of not trusting the law and the prophets.

  • "Repent" means a change of attitude, way of thinking, or direction. In the event Jesus describes, the only thing which requires repentance is a belief a person may be saved based on their ancestry. IOW, "I am a descendent of Abraham and based upon that belief, I will go to Abraham's bosom." That is a false belief requiring "repentance." The final outcome Jesus describes in Luke is fulfilled when He raises Lazarus from the dead, and there are those who saw and do not believe. Jul 15, 2022 at 7:34

Can seeing someone rise from the dead produce genuine belief or not?

"Yes" is the obvious answer.
(But it's not so obvious what the real question is.)

Can? Yes, as John said:

Many of the Jews therefore … believed in him

Not? Yes, as Luke said:

  • If …, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.

Some will believe, and some won't.


As an initial impulse for starting to believe, yes, but as a lingering and transforming faith - no, of course, for resurrection of Lazarus is in essence not different from any other miracle acted authoritatively and without any recourse to prayers by the Lord (which shows His divine dignity and authority).

Every miracle can be forgotten, or explained away, but a genuine faith is that through which man rises from death of love of sins to the life of loving the Lord and His commandments. If such resurrection becomes a fact of life, then nothing can be opposed to it, for, as Latins said: contra factum non datur argumentum. That’s why also Paul says that if an unbelieving husband is not driven to faith by words, then certainly by example of faithful life of his wife he will, for as again Latins say: verba movent, exempla - trahunt.

The Lord did a miracle of expelling legion of demons from a poor man and letting them to go to herd of swine. Such a glorious and joyful miracle for that demon-possessed man! But still the inhabitants demanded that Lord should leave their city; why? Because they themselves were possessed by demonic passions of greed, sexual lust, vainglory etc., so that even a miracle availed for nothing and they remained possessed with their demonic passions as a herd of swine. More often than not we also expel Lord from our lives and embrace a sinful passion instead, the sweeter it is, the more ruinous it is simultaneously.

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