Question: "What is the meaning of those who were raised to life at Jesus’ death (Matthew 27:52-53)?"
Answer: Matthew 27:50-53 records, “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.”
This event occurred as a testimony to the immortal power ascribed to Jesus Christ alone (1 Timothy 6:14-16). Only God has the power of life and death (1 Samuel 2:6; Deuteronomy 32:29). Therefore, the resurrection is the cornerstone of Christianity. All other religions and their respective leaders do not serve a risen Lord. By overcoming death, Jesus Christ immediately receives precedence because He came back to life when everyone else did not. The resurrection has given us a reason to tell others about Him and place trust in God (1 Corinthians 15:14). The resurrection has given us assurance that our sins are forgiven (1 Corinthians 15:17). Paul clearly says in this verse that no resurrection equals zero forgiveness of our sins. And, finally, the resurrection has given us a reason to have hope today (1 Corinthians 15:20-28). If Christ was not raised from the dead, then Christians would be no better off spiritually than non-Christians. But the fact is that God did raise "Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification" (Romans 4:24-25).
The raising of the saints fits into the overall rhetorical devices and strategies used by Matthew in his gospel. Examining Ezekiel 37 and the bones raised to life in connection with this story reveals that an Old Testament prophecy was fulfilled in the raising of these saints. Additionally, the raising of the saints relates directly to the coming kingdom. The raising of a few and not all of the saints shows that Jesus has power to resurrect, but also points forward to the second coming and judgment of Jesus Christ, which will include all those whose names are written in the Book Life by faith in the grace of God. Knowing that Jesus has died and conquered death through His resurrection ought to hasten our desire to repent and trust Him alone for salvation so we too can one day be resurrected “in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52).
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