THE GRAVES THAT WERE OPENED
THE GRAVES THAT WERE OPENED Matt. 27:51-53
This is on the face of it a difficult event to understand. However there appears to be strong clues in the narrative. The graves were opened at the same moment that the Lord arose, (v 53). When the Lord gave up His spirit of life to the Father, the Temple Veil was split from top to bottom (v.51), which was the beginning of the Death and Resurrection phenomena of our Lord, and the people who had believed in Him in His Ministry on Earth, that had died prior to the Lord's own death. This event was evidence and a foretaste of the "victory over death" that the Lord had achieved; and is destined for completion in His future manifestations, as King of Kings and Lord of Lords in the Millennial Reign! (See: Millennial Purpose).
The people that were raised to life went into the "holy city", (Jerusalem) to visit and be recognised and appeared unto many. The fact that they were recognised means that they had died after hearing the Lord’s Message of the Kingdom; and they were certainly all Jews, as He only focused on the Jewish population (Mat. 15:25 & 10:6); at that time. It is highly improbable and humanly unlikely that they would appear to unknown people in their lives, as they would not be recognised, so their appearing was almost certainly to families, relatives and friends still alive. This again underscores the fact that they were recently dead, and were witnessing to the victory over death of our Lord to the local population of Jews, that Christ Jesus as Messiah had achieved. This was a foretaste of what was to follow (will follow), when our Lord returns to Earth in “Power and Glory”, in the yet future!
The prophecies in Ezk. 37, and Isa. 26:19, and elsewhere, predict a resurrection of Jews at the acceptance of Christ by Israel. As He was not finally rejected by Israel until Acts 28:28, that event is in abeyance. Those raised in Matt. 27 are a foretaste of that wondrous event!
If this idea is correct which it probably is, it underlines the importance in Scripture and the purpose of the Almighty of the “Administrative periods”, (1Cor. 9:17, Eph. 1:10, 3:2 and Col.1:25). It is undoubtedly the case that in each Administration the rules of engagement between the Almighty and the Enemy (see: Satan's Contest with God) change for different purposes ultimately. (See: Bible Dispensations ).
For example in the present Administration (Dispensation) which has been running since Acts 28:28 (when the ruling Jews rejected Jesus as Messiah); it seems certain from Scripture that just prior to the return of Christ Jesus, all who accept Him as Saviour in their life time, will be taken from the world. This is described by the Apostle Paul as "in the twinkling of an eye" 1Cor.15:52 & 1Thess. 4:16 & 17. The dead in Christ shall rise first and those who are still alive will join them "in the air" to meet the Lord, and "then they shall ever be with the Lord" 1Thess. 4:17.
It is considered by many commentators that this event is just prior to or even years before the return of Christ Jesus as the Jewish Messiah descending (second Advent) to save the remnant of Israel, who are under duress to death by surrounding armies at that time, Isa.11:10-16.
There is much misconceived and erroneous teaching regarding death. Many groups teach that there is an enduring entity called "the soul", which survives physical death and its destination is determined by the behaviour of the individual in life. According to Scripture there is no such enduring entity, and the "soul" is defined in Gen. 2:7, which shows that the living person is "the soul" after Almighty God has given the spirit of life (breath of life). The living person "the soul", ceases when that same spirit is taken back to God the Father. See: Soul and Spirit, The Error:
Many so called Christian groups teach now, that death can be delayed, or by implication avoided by prayer for healing etc. These groups have different names, but generally are offshoots of “Pentecostal”, or Charismatic”. The Spiritualists teach "that there is no death", and it is incorporated into many of their hymns. These erroneous teachings are all an attempt to undermine the teaching of the Almighty in Scripture by stating that a person passes from this flesh life to a spiritual life. In fact Scripture teaches that "it is given to man once to die and then the judgement", Heb. 9:27, and that judgement in this Age goes straight to the question as to whether the individual accepted the loving provision of Christ Jesus on the cross at Calvary!
The only question is which judgement a person is subject to! There are more than one, as hinted in the last paragraph. It is the right and privilege of every person on Earth at this present time to seek out and to find the Lord Christ Jesus. If they will do this, they appear before the 'Judgement seat (Bema) of Christ' 2Cor. 5:10, which is a refining and rewarding process, as opposed to possible destruction at the 'Great White Throne Judgement', of Rev. 20:11.
The false teaching that there is no death falls right into the hands of the Enemy, Satan. It was he that first introduced death to the world through Adam, and it is described in Scripture as the final Enemy, that is conquered by the second Adam (Christ) (Rom. 5:12-21). To attempt to undermine the fact that all must die, is an attempt to undermine the true triumph of Jehovah in Christ in dealing with Satan, and Satan's major tool of fear which is death. The Truth from Scripture is clear that the last Enemy is death which is defeated by Christ, (as joyfully proclaimed by those that rose, when Christ Jesus arose). The joyful song quoted by the Apostle Paul "O death where is thy sting, oh grave where is thy victory", 1Cor. 15:55, is the proclamation of joyful success in Christ over death, and the defeat of Satan, which is to be brought to final culmination at the end of the Millennial Reign. (See: Satan's Demise!).
Regarding the people raised in Matt. 27:51-53. The very moment that our Lord gave up His Spirit of Life to His Father (Matt. 27:50), the Temple Veil was rent from “top to bottom” (Matt. 27:51). The “graves of the saints were opened as the Lord arose", Matt. 27:52-53. As Christ Jesus is the "first fruit", (1Cor. 15:20-23), He appeared to the Father as such, (Lev. 23:10-11), and afterwards the "saints" arose, and went into Jerusalem as witnesses! Different translations vary, but the original copy manuscripts show “the saints”, and “were raised”. As mentioned above, these were Jews of Jerusalem, and those in the surrounding areas that had believed in Jesus during His Ministry. This event was a further demonstration of the Lord’s Power over death as witnessed in His raising of Lazarus, (see: Lazarus Raised!) and was/is the antithesis to Satan's introduction of death by deceit in the Garden of Eden.
Also the death of our Lord as substitutional sacrifice for Sin was the beginning of the fulfilment of the statement against Satan in Gen. 3:15. This event was clearly meant to illustrate what His death meant, i.e. life for believers! Had Israel heeded this event and all His evidential miracles, all the prophecies of the Old Testament would have followed, but now await Israel’s acceptance of Christ at a future date, (Zech. 12:10), when they look on Him who they pierced!
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