(“Glorious Day” Video Below)
The word “resurrect” is defined as “to restore a dead person to life.” While Jesus was not the only person brought back from death to life by resurrection is the only person resurrected in a glorified body that will never die again.
There are a number of accounts of resurrections in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. But remember that the people who were resurrected, lived again in fully human bodies that would die again, not the glorified body that Jesus received.
The Bible tells of three resurrections from death in the Old Testament and five in the New Testament. It also tells of an unnumbered group of people who were resurrected from the grave following Jesus’ resurrection. There remains much mystery about that group of people.
Let’s consider each of the individual resurrections in chronological order and then what the Bible tells about the group of people.
The Widow of Zarephath’s son (1 Ki 17:17–24)
The first account of a resurrection in the Bible is that of a widow’s son. We do not know the name of either the mother or son. The mother is simply referred to as a widow from Zarephath who provided food and lodging to the prophet Elijah.
God had directed Elijah to go to Zarephath and had told him that a widow there would welcome him into her home. While Elijah was staying in the widow’s home, her son became very ill and died. The widow thought her son’s death was a judgment from God because of her sin and she blamed Elijah for his death (1 Kings 17:17–18).
Elijah took the dead boy from his mother’s arms, carried him to the upper room where he had been staying, laid the boy on the bed, and prayed, “O LORD my God, have You also brought tragedy on the widow with whom I lodge, by killing her son?” (1 Kings 17:19-20) Elijah then “stretched himself out on the child three times, and cried out to the LORD and said, ‘O LORD my God, I pray, let this child’s soul come back to him.’” (1 Ki 17:21) The Lord revived (resurrected) the child and Elijah took him to his mother who proclaimed she believed Elijah to be “a man of God, and ‘the word of the Lord in [his] mouth is the truth’” (1 Ki 17:22-24)
The Shunammite Woman’s Son (2 Ki 4:18–37)
Again there was a son of an unnamed woman (known only as a Shunammite) who was resurrected. It was the prophet Elisha, Elijah’s successor, who raised the woman’s son. Elisha would often stay in the upper room of the home of this woman and her husband. But one day when Elisha was in Mount Carmel, the couple’s son died.
The woman laid his body on Elisha’s bed and set out to find Elisha (2 Kings 4:22-25). She found Elisha and pleaded that he come back to Shunem, but Elisha gave his servant, Gehazi, his staff and sent him to the woman’s house. He told Gehazi to lay the staff on the boy’s face (2 Kings 4:31). When Elisha and the Shunammite woman arrived at the house, Elisha went to the room, closed the door, and prayed to God. He then stretched himself upon the boy’s body and the body began to get warm (1 Kings 4:34). Elisha rose and walked around the room and then returned to stretch himself again upon the boy’s body. After sneezing seven times, the boy arose from death (1 Kings 4:35) and Elisha took him to his mother (1 Kings 4:36-37).
The Man Thrown Into Elisha’s Grave (2 Ki 13:20–21)
After Elisha died and was buried, bands of the Moabites invaded the land (2 Ki 13:20). As they were preparing to bury a man’s body near Elisha’s grave they saw an approaching band of men. In haste, the men threw the body into Elisha’s grave. When the body touched the bones of Elisha, it was revived and the man stood up. (2 Ki 13:21)
The Widow of Nain’s Son (Luke 7:11–17)
The first resurrection Jesus performed took place in the town of Nain. As He entered the town, Jesus crossed paths with a funeral procession. A young man, the only son of a widow, had died and the coffin that held his body was being carried outside the city. Jesus touched the coffin and said, “Young man, I say to you, arise” (Luke 7:14), and the dead man arose and began to speak. Jesus then presented him to his mother (Luke 7:15).
Jairus’ Daughter (Luke 8:49–56)
A synagogue leader, Jairus, approached Jesus in a crowd and begged Him to heal his 12-year-old daughter who was dying (verses 41-42). Jesus was willing and together they set out for Jairus’s home. Along the way, they were stopped by a messenger sent. The messenger told them that Jairus’ daughter had died, but Jesus responded with “Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well.” (Luke 8:50). When they arrived at the house, Jesus permitted no one to enter except the girl’s parents and Peter, James, and John. Jesus said to all those who had gathered to mourn, “Do not weep; she is not dead, but sleeping.” They laughed, knowing she was dead (verses 51-53). Jesus made them leave, then took the girl’s hand, and said, ”Little girl, arise.” (Luke 8:54). Her spirit returned, and she arose immediately. (Luke 8:55)
Lazarus of Bethany (John 11)
This is undoubtedly a very well-known account of resurrection, second only to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Lazarus was Jesus’ friend and a message had come to Jesus telling that Lazarus was ill. Jesus declared, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4). Although Jesus knew Lazarus was sick and needed healing, He delayed returning to Bethany (verse 6).
Two days later, Jesus set out for Bethany. Lazarus’ sister Martha came to greet him along the way and Jesus gave her a clear proclamation of His resurrection power and that Lazarus would live again (John 11:25-26). Jesus lingered where Martha had met him, and when Martha returned home and told her sister Mary that Jesus was coming, Mary left to meet him. “When Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:33) Seeing her weeping and those with her, Jesus was troubled in His spirit (John 11:34), and “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)
When Jesus arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been dead, in the tomb, for four days. Jesus went to his tomb and said, “Take away the stone.” (John 11:39) Jesus then thanked His Father for hearing His request (John 11:41) and “cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’” (John 11:43). Lazarus rose from death and came out of the tomb.
Tabitha (Acts 9:36–43
Tabitha (Greek name, Dorcas) was a disciple of Jesus who lived in Joppa. She was known for her good works and kind deeds. When she died, believers in Joppa laid her body in an upper room and sent for Peter. When Peter arrived, he sent the mourners out of the room and knelt down and prayed. Then he turned to the dead body and said, “‘Tabitha, arise.’ And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. Then [Peter] gave her his hand and lifted her up; and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive.” (Acts 9:40-41) Jesus had given the apostles power to raise the dead (Matt 10:8) as a way to show God’s power and authenticate their apostleship. When Peter raised Tabitha from death, it caused many in Joppa to believe (vs 42).
Eutychus (Acts 20:7–12)
Eutychus was a young man who had gathered with others in the upper room of a house in Troas to hear the apostle Paul speak. While sitting in a three stories high window, he was overcome by sleep and fell to the ground and died (vs 9). Paul went to him, fell on him, embraced him, and said to the others, ”Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him” (Acts 20:10). Eutychus was raised from death to life by Paul who had also been given the power to raise the dead by Jesus.
A Group of Resurrected Saints
Many Saints from the Grave (Matthew 27:50–53)
This is perhaps the most curious of all the resurrections in the Bible because it did not occur at the time of death. Plus, it was not an individual who was raised, but, as the Bible tells, many saints (vs 52). We know very little about this group of resurrected saints, other than what the Book of Matthew records.
Matthew 27 tells that after Jesus gave up His spirit (i.e. He died), “The veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split” (Mat 27:50-51). Then the “graves were opened,” from which “many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised” (Mat 27:52), “and coming out of the graves after [Jesus’] resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” (Mat 27:53) On the same day Jesus bodily rose from the dead, these saints were also bodily resurrected and became witnesses in Jerusalem to the power of the resurrection from death from our Triune God.
The Bible does not tell if they were raised in fully human bodies that would die again, or in glorified bodies (likened unto Jesus) that would live forever. However, it is biblically reasonable to believe that they were resurrected in fully human bodies to return to their families and live again…but also die again. They would have been an amazing testimony for Jesus and His resurrection power.
The Resurrection Above All Resurrections
Just as Jesus is the Name above all names, His resurrection stands above all others. In all the resurrections we just reviewed, each person lived again, but also died again. Jesus lives forevermore! And when the bodily resurrections of the living and the dead occur, all who belong to Jesus will be raised to live eternally forevermore. And all who have died in their sins will be judged and condemned. (John 5:29)
Tell everyone about Jesus. Share the gospel of saving grace with all people. Help build the Kingdom of God on earth and the future glorified Kingdom of bodily resurrected saints who will live and reign with Jesus.
Only Jesus could conquer death because only Jesus was sinless and not deserving of death. Only Jesus rose from death, never to die again. And only Jesus can give eternal life to those who come to Him in faith and trust in Him for forgiveness of their sins.
Video by Reasons for Hope* Jesus. Music by Casting Crowns. Lyrics by John Wilbur Chapman (1909)
All those were resurrected were fully human, sinful beings. They deserved the penalty of sin. They deserved death. But in Jesus, there was no sin. He lived the perfect life, the life we can never live. And He sacrificed Himself, dying to pay for the sins of all mankind. Jesus experienced God’s judgment so that we might never be judged. He took God’s wrath, poured out on Him so that we might never experience God’s wrath. He died so we might never die. And He rose so we might live.
What Must One Do to Be Saved
To receive the blessings of the sacrificial life, death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (i.e. to be forgiven of one’s sins and receive eternal life), one must repent and trust in Jesus’ finished work.
Rom 10:9 If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus
and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead,
you will be saved.
“Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19).
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