In Matthew 27:51-53 it speaks of bodies of holy people being
raised to life. Could you explain the significance of this, in light of Jesus
being the first fruit and he had not been resurrected yet. What happened to
these people? Did they die again?
Let us first explore what Matt 27:50-53 is telling us about this event: "And
when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that
moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth
shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy
people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after
Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people."
Notice the following facts that the apostle Matthew is giving us at the exact
moment Jesus died:
1. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
2. The earth shook and the rocks split.
3. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were
raised to life.
4. Only "after Jesus' resurrection" did these resurrected saints go "into the
holy city" and appear to many people.
What significance do all these events have?
Very simple, it proved beyond a doubt that Jesus was the Messiah. This is
confirmed by Matt 27:54 "When the centurion and those with him who were guarding
Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and
exclaimed, "Surely he was the Son of God!" NIV
1. The splitting of the temple curtain proved that all these animal sacrifices
had found their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. John 1:29 "Look, the Lamb of God,
who takes away the sin of the world!" NIV The time of sacrifices was over. Jesus
confidently said on the cross John 19:30 "It is finished." NIV
2. No one ever experienced earthquakes before when someone died. Again this
event was pointing out that we were not dealing with an ordinary person, but
with "the Son of God" (Mark 1:1).
3. Most Jews associated the resurrection of the righteous with the coming of the
Messiah (see for example Dan 12:1-2). Various Jewish groups disagreed on the
details, but consented in the overall outline.
Matthew is saying here that although Jesus was crucified and died on a cross
like a criminal, he still is the Messiah! How else could anyone explain the
resurrection of "many holy people"? His death was no accident. It was part of
God's plan as testified by the many prophecies in the Old Testament. All
throughout his gospel, the apostle Matthew underlines the fulfillment of many
Old Testament Scriptures concerning the Messiah. Jesus' death was also
prophesied in the Old Testament and so was His resurrection.
The Messiah had just died, but this was not the end! Many were resurrected when
He died, pointing out that Jesus is the resurrection: John 11:25 "I am the
resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he
Jesus was the Messiah after all! Nobody could deny this any longer unless their
hardened hearts blinded them.
4. Only after Jesus' resurrection did these resurrected saints enter Jerusalem,
corroborating that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. Can you imagine living in that
time period and seeing all these resurrected people walking in your streets? The
Scriptures do not tell us if these saints said anything about Jesus. It only
points out that they walked the streets of Jerusalem. Their presence alone was
proof enough that Jesus was no ordinary man. Their resurrection could only be
explained that Jesus was the Messiah.
One can wonder what happened to these people, but the Scriptures don't say
anything further about them. We could only speculate. One thing for sure though:
They were the firstfruits of what will happen when Jesus will return (see 1
The fact is that once their function as witnesses was fulfilled, they were of no
interest to the apostle Matthew. Let us remember that their resurrection was due
to Jesus. It was all about Jesus, not about the resurrected saints. Their
resurrection was made possible because 1 Thess 4:14 "Jesus died and rose again".
NIV Matthew's gospel is the story about Jesus, not the resurrected saints.
Because of Jesus, we do not have to be afraid any longer. Rev 1:17-18 "Do not be
afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold
I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades." NIV Death
is not scary to those who have accepted Jesus into their life and believe in
Him. We welcome it! Why? Because we concur with the apostle Paul when he wrote
Phil 1:23-24 "I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but
it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body." NIV
Would you like to gain such an assurance? You can. Accept Jesus into your life.
Welcome Him with open arms and enjoy the confidence He will fill you with. Why
don't you accept His call now? Do so at
Rob Chaffart Rob@Answers2Prayer.org
It is clear that Jesus would be the first fruit after conquering death. At
the time of death, the graves of the saints of old were opened. It was only
after Christ rose that the saints rose. We are told that the saints saw their
family and friends. “It must be observed, however, that the resurrection of
these sleeping saints was not like those of the widow of Nain's son, of Jairus'
daughter, of Lazarus, and of the man who "revived and stood upon his feet," on
his dead body touching the bones of Elisha (2Ki 13:21)” —Jamieson-Fausset-Brown
Those resurrections were merely to prove the power Jesus had and what he gave
his disciples. The resurrections of the sleeping saints shows that there is a
second resurrection coming and soon. This was just a precursor to what is to
come. Jesus was not teasing the saints just to send them back to the grave, they
went to heaven just as Christ did when he ascended. “And as it is appointed unto
men once to die, but after this the judgment:” (Hebrew 9:27)
The curtain of the temple being torn in two, and the bodies of holy people
being raised to life was very symbolic and signified the immediate access to God
made possible by Jesus' death. No they did not die again. Once into the holy
place, they were with the Lord. See Hebrews 10:19,20 also.
Jesus' death was unique because He, as God, raised Himself from the dead.
"Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take
it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to
lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received
of my Father."
Others who were raised from death (even though the Bible is silent) died again,
because that is an appointment all must keep. Hebrews 9:27.
"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:"
Delmer G. Lawson
The bodies of these saints were not raised until "after" Jesus was
resurrected, as He had to be the firsfruit of the resurrection. The question
says "he had not been resurrected yet" yet the Scripture says ""And came out of
the graves after His resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared to
many." I believe these were the ones who were in captivity, which Jesus took
captive and led on high. He was the firstfruit and there were others "in their
order" resurrected, as will be in the future included as part of the first
resurrection. This is an interesting question with many opinions. I thought I
would bring this to your attention that Jesus was resurrected when the graves of
these holy people were opened.
Jo Ann Kelly
Given the context of the scriptures Matthew 27:51-53 (KJV), that is,
examining several verses before and after these, Jesus is seen completing the
purpose for which He was sent by the Father to the Earth.
He (Jesus) did come to redeem and reconcile mankind back to God through His
sacrificial death, burial and resurrection. This portion of scripture according
to Matthew indeed is the physical manifestation of the spiritual consummation of
God's divine plan. As asserted by John the beloved, in Revelation 5:6,9 (KJV),
the verb phrases "had been slain" and wast slain" supposes that the action of
the verb was completed at some time in eternity past. That is, Christ was
crucified and arisen long before he ever went to Golgotha.
In fact, the writer of Hebrews confirms this when he, through the Holy
Spirit, penned Hebrews 4:3 (KJV). In this verse, the author does see the death
and resurrection of Jesus Christ at Calvary as a replay of a divine tape. The
death and resurrection of Jesus was completed before it began.
John in Revelation 13:8 (KJV) writes to enlighten us that the the slaying of
the Lamb of God who is Jesus was done and ended from the foundation of the
world. That means, it happened before man was even created or sinned. This
preordination by God of death and resurrection of Jesus before sin ever entered
the world only authenticates God's foreknowledge. Even in the main text: Matthew
27:51-53 (KJV), the prepositional phrase: "after his resurrection" further
suggests that Jesus even resurrected before the others thus signifying his
predominance - first fruit from the dead as written in the scriptures stated
earlier by John and the writer of Hebrews.
James Tannah Sarweh, Jr., Buduburam, Ghana, West Africa