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What Happened to the Saints Resurrected with Christ?

Posted October 2, 2010

Hi M____,

Thank you for your question about those who were resurrected "after Christ's resurrection". Let's look at Matthew's account of that incident and notice when it is said to have taken place.

Mat 27:45  Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.
Mat 27:46  And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
Mat 27:47  Some of them that stood there, when they heard [that], said, This [man] calleth for Elias.
Mat 27:48  And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled [it] with vinegar, and put [it] on a reed, and gave him to drink.
Mat 27:49  The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him.
Mat 27:50  Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
Mat 27:51  And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;
Mat 27:52  And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
Mat 27:53  And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
Mat 27:54  Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.

So let's be aware that this was not on "the first day of the week" when Jesus arose and appeared to Mary, and the two men on the road to Emmaus, and later that evening to all those in the room in Jerusalem. This event happened some time "after His resurrection.

You call them "Old Testament saints" and indeed they were Old Testament saints, but not in the sense of being Abraham, Isaac and Jacob or any of the kings or prophets of the Old Testament. They were 'Old Testament saints' only in the sense that this all happened before the day of Pentecost when the New Testament church was founded.

The words used are "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 many."

The purpose for the tearing of the veil from top to bottom was to witness to the fact that this was the Son of God who had been murdered by His own people. The reason for the earthquake was to confirm that witness, and the raising of "many bodies of the saints" was to "appear unto many" for the very same purpose of confirming Christ to have been the Son of God, who had been rejected of and murdered by His own nation of Israel. If these saints had been the patriarchs, kings or prophets of old, no one would have known who they were, and their witness would have been meaningless. But if these 'saints' had been recent deaths of those who had heard Jesus speak and had seen His miracles, then the people of the city would have known them, and their testimony that they had been resurrected to vouch for the Truth that Christ was the Son of God and the propitiation for our sins, then their testimonies and their witness would have been enormous in Jerusalem, and would have put fear in the hearts of those who participated in the crucifixion of Christ.

That is exactly what happened according to Acts 2:

Act 2:22  Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:
Act 2:23  Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:
Act 2:24  Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.
Act 2:25  For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved:
Act 2:26  Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope:
Act 2:27  Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
Act 2:28  Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.
Act 2:29  Men [and] brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.
Act 2:30  Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;
Act 2:31  He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.
Act 2:32  This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.

"Approved of God among you... which God did by Him in the midst of you... you have crucified..." proves that it was indeed, "those Jews which believed on Christ", and who Christ had healed of their diseases, their crippled and blinded condition, and had fed with His loaves and fishes, are the very people who were clamoring for Christ's crucifixion.

Joh 8:30  As he spake these words, many believed on him.
Joh 8:31  Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, [then] are ye my disciples indeed;
Joh 8:32  And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
Joh 8:33  They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?
Joh 8:34  Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.
Joh 8:35  And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: [but] the Son abideth ever.
Joh 8:36  If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
Joh 8:37  I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.
"Whereof we are all witnesses" is referring to Christ's resurrection.
Act 2:32  This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.

Christ had appeared to many "after His resurrection", even to crowds of over 500 people at a time.

1Co 15:3  For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
1Co 15:4  And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
1Co 15:5  And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
1Co 15:6  After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.

But another extremely powerful witness to who this Man was, is this very incident of which you inquire. "Many bodies of the saints which slept arose [who had fallen asleep during the time of Christ's three and one half year ministry], and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many."

When we consider the effect of the resurrection of Lazarus, who had been dead for four days, and then we multiply that effect by every saint that was resurrected "after His resurrection", we have a very powerful witness as to who Christ really was.

Joh 11:39  Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been [dead] four days.
Joh 11:40  Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?
Joh 11:41  Then they took away the stone [from the place] where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up [his] eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.
Joh 11:42  And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said [it], that they may believe that thou hast sent me.
Joh 11:43  And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.
Joh 11:44  And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.
Joh 11:45  Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.
Joh 11:46  But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.
Joh 11:47  Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles.
Joh 11:48  If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.

Joh 11:53  Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.

We see in this scripture the effect of seeing someone raised from the dead had on people. Just imagine if you attended a funeral and the deceased suddenly awoke out of the coffin how you and the others around you would react. It would have been the same way then, as no one had seen a physical resurrection.

Joh 12:9  Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead.
Joh 12:10  But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death;

As you can see, it attracted so much attention with just the resurrection of that one man the chief priests not only wanted to kill Christ, but wanted Lazarus dead also.  They thought that would put a stop to the crowds wanting to follow after this man who was 'turning the world upside down'.  But multiplied by the great number who were physically resurrected after Christ was resurrected, there would have been no way to silence the reaction to such a great witness.

I hope this helps to give a picture of what events must have been like just before and after "many bodies" were physically resurrected as a witness to God's power and a type of things to come. They went on to live out the time allotted to them by the Father, and will be raised spiritually in God's time.