Church of God, New World Ministries

Bible Q & A

Q. In the Bible I read that many arose from their graves at the time of Christ’s resurrection (Matt. 27:52-53).Who were these people? Are they alive today?
A. A common conception, taken for granted by thousands, is that some of the prophets arose at Christ’s resurrection and are still alive, wandering somewhere on earth today. This is not what the Bible says!

Notice the scripture: “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto man.” Were these “saints” the Old Testament prophets and patriarchs? NO!

Notice this. In Acts 2:29, some fifty days after the resurrection of Christ, Peter says that David the beloved of the Lord, one of the patriarchs of the Old Testament was still dead and buried in his grave. And more important, in verse 34 Peter relates: “David is not ascended into the heaven.” David had not gone to heaven with Christ. He was still in his grave. And so are the rest of the prophets. This is the Bible teaching.

The context shows very clearly that those saints were some who had died recently, just before Christ’s death and burial. After their unexpected resurrection they went back into Jerusalem and showed themselves to many who knew them before. This was a proof that Christ had power over the grave. These people were not Old Testament saints, for had they gone through the streets of Jerusalem proclaiming themselves as Abraham, Moses, or David just recently resurrected from the dead, who would have believed them? None of the people who lived during Christ’s time knew how the Old Testament saints appeared, and where was the proof to show the people they were the prophets of old instead of imposters? The people of Jerusalem knew who those “saints” were. They knew they had been resurrected from the grave, for they knew they had just recently died. This indeed was a witness of the resurrection of the dead and that Christ had power over the grave. Nothing else would prove it as clearly! Many people have assumed that this event was a resurrection to immortal life. It was nothing of the kind!

The first resurrection to immortal life is yet future. It will be manifest at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (Rev. 20:5). Christ was the first to be resurrected to immortal life and all others in Christ will have to wait until His Coming. “For in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ’s the Firstfruits; then they that are Christ’s at his coming” (I Cor. 15:22-23). No one, outside of our Savior, has yet attained to immortal life (I Tim. 6:16). All others are yet in the grave awaiting the first resurrection!

The resurrection of those “saints” was a restoration of temporary, mortal life. Notice the evidence in both the Old or New Testament. The son of the widow at Zarephath was raised from the dead by Elijah. This is mentioned in I Kings 17:17-23. Jesus brought back to life the widow of a woman in the city of Nain (Luke 7:11-18). We also read of Lazarus being resurrected out of the tomb in which he had lain four days (John 11:1-46).Peter through the aid of the Holy Spirit raised Tabitha from the dead (Acts 9:36-42). And the apostle Paul caused the young man who fell from the window to have life again (Acts 20:9-12). None of these resurrections were to immortality. These people were undoubtedly healed of the afflictions that caused their deaths prematurely. They were restored to mortal life human flesh and blood continued to live out their physical lives and then died as we all do. They are all awaiting the first resurrection of the dead to immortality (Rev. 20:5). Had the saints of Matthew 27 been raised to immortality, then the first resurrection to eternal life at Christ’s Second Coming would not be the first, but actually the second. However, the first resurrection is yet in advance of us!
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