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How is the resurrection of Jesus, His rising from the dead, different than all the former dead saints who were seen alive in Matthew 27:52-53?

Matthew 27:52-53 says: 'And the graves were opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.'

In one of his debates, Frank Turek, an American apologist, says that these people (specifically referring to Lazarus in his answer) are merely resuscitated, only to die again later and that Jesus received a glorified body and never died.

That still doesn't make fully sense to me, because isn't that reasoning AFTER the fact? At the moment Jesus rose AND the saints rose, the only thing people saw that there was rising from the dead; they didn't know that the saints would die again and that Jesus would not, right?

So I guess my question is, how doesn't all this rising from the dead, mentioned in Matthew, negate the power and miracle of Jesus' resurrection?

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  • All others died before their time, and were then resurrected to an earthly life, so as to enjoy a normal lifespan here on earth; Christ, on the other hand, rose, but not to an earthly life, since He ascended to heaven, to partake of an immortal life.
    – Lucian
    Jul 25 at 11:40
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    Their resurrection is an apocalyptic symbolism of the final resurrection of the saints; it is founded on the resurrection of the Christ, the firstfruit. It does not undermines Christ's resurrection, but the answer of the Frank Turek does, maybe he believes that Jesus too died a natural death after being resuscitated the third day. hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/18779/…
    – Michael16
    Jul 25 at 12:12

11 Answers 11

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You should distinguish between the Principle of resurrection and the object of resurrection. Only the Lord Jesus Christ is both a) the Principle of resurrection and b) the object of resurrection. He is a) the Principle of resurrection together with the Father as the Father's co-unbegan eternal Logos, without whom Father can neither create the world nor resurrect anybody from the dead, which actions are, as a matter of fact, the same divine actions; and He is b) the object of resurrection, for His human body was indeed dead, for He suffered pain and death according to His human nature truly.

The righteous men who were resurrected at the Crucifixion, as well as Lazarus before them, were only objects of resurrection and this is the most important difference.

Also, post factum difference is that, as you say, all of them died afterwards, so they have experienced death two times, which means that they will be resurrected also two times, the second time at the end of history, when they will re-obtain their bodies already immune from illnesses and dying, with those consequences of the sin being totally consumed in them by the fire of divine grace of the Resurrected Lord.

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There are several things about Jesus' resurrection that make it unique:

1. Jesus predicted His resurrection

  • Matt 16:21 - and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
  • Matt 17:23 - They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.
  • Matt 20:19 - and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!
  • Mark 9:31 - They will kill him, but on the third day he will come back to life.
  • Mark 10:34 - who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.
  • Luke 18:33 - they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.
  • Luke 9:22 - The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

2. Jesus' resurrection (or at least its promise) enables all others

  • Rom 6:5 - For if we have become united in the likeness of His death, certainly also we will be of the resurrection,
  • 1 Cor 15:12-22 - But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? ... But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
  • Rom 5:18 - So then, just as one trespass brought condemnation for all men, so also one act of righteousness brought justification and life for all men.
  • 1 John 5:11, 12 - And this is that testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
  • Rom 1:4 - and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.
  • John 2:19-21 and 10:17, 18 both say that Jesus resurrected Himself. Further, John 1:4 & 5:26 says that the Son has “life in Himself”, that is, is not dependent on the Father for His existence. [Yes, I know that other texts also say the father or God resurrected Jesus. This simply means that BOTH were involved.]

SUMMARY

The best summary of why Jesus resurrection is so important is spelled out in 1 Cor 15:3-7 -

3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

Thus, without the resurrection of Jesus, no one else could have, would have, or will be resurrected.

I think the Jewish leadership instinctively understood this and desperately tried to cover up Jesus' resurrection, Matt 28:13-15, by bribing the soldiers.

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The people that were raised from the dead went into the city. It never says they ascended into heaven.

1 Corinthians 15 talks about the order of resurrections

But here's what it says about Jesus.

Acts 1:10,11 After He had said this, they watched as He was taken up, and a cloud hid Him from their sight. 10They were looking intently into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.”

Renner make some really good notes about Jesus after he was resurrected when he was making appearances on earth before he ascended.

John 20:22 On Resurrection Day itself, Jesus appeared to the disciples at various times and places. It was simply a physical impossibility for Him to be at so many different places in one day. These appearances therefore revealed that Jesus’ glorified body didn’t have the same limitations His earthly body possessed before His resurrection and glorification. The Bible makes it plain that in His glorified condition, He was able to appear, to disappear, to travel great distances, and to even supernaturally pass through a wall or the locked door of a house (John 20:26). On the same day Jesus was raised from the dead, He not only appeared to Mary Magdalene outside the garden tomb (John 20:14-17), but to two disciples as they walked from Jerusalem to the city of Emmaus (Luke 24:13-31). When the three men sat down to eat together, Jesus blessed the food. After hearing the way He blessed the food, the two disciples instantly recognized it was the Lord — just as He suddenly “…vanished out of their sight” (v. 31). That same evening, Jesus supernaturally traveled through the walls of a house where the disciples were gathered, miraculously appearing right in front of them. John 20:19 tells us about this amazing event: “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews….” This verse says that when the disciples gathered for dinner, they made certain “…the doors were shut….” The word “door” is thura, which lets us know this was a door that was large and solid. But as if this were not enough, the verse tells us that these doors “were shut.” The word “shut” is the Greek word kleio, meaning locked. Doors of this kind were usually locked with a heavy bolt that slid through rings attached to the door and the frame — like the deadbolts we use in doors today, only heavier. This door would be difficult, if not impossible, to break down. The fact that it was locked “for fear of the Jews” tells us that the disciples had moved into a mode of self-preservation and protection.

Also Apostle Paul saw the glorified Christ on his road to Damascus. It was Christ's light that struck him down. Acts 26:13-15

There is a difference between a resurrected body and a resurrected body that has been clothed immortality.

First there is a resurrected body using this term.

First Corinthians 15:22 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.

anastasis: a standing up, i.e. a resurrection, a raising up, rising

Definition: a standing up, a resurrection, a raising up, rising 386 anástasis (from 303 /aná, "up, again" and 2476 /hístēmi, "to stand") – literally, "stand up" (or "stand again"), referring to physical resurrection (of the body)

And is one that's been clothed in mortality.

1 Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

2227 zōopoiéō (from 2221 /zōgréō, "alive" and 4160 /poiéō, "make") – properly, make alive (zōos); i.e. "quicken," vivify ("animate"); (figuratively) cause what is dead (inoperative) to have life; empower with divine life. 2227 /zōopoiéō ("make alive, enliven") is particularly used of God infusing His life in the believer.

ELPS Word-studies Cognate: 861 aphtharsía – properly, no-corruption (unable to experience deterioration); incorruptibility (not perishable), i.e. lacking the very capacity to decay or constitutionally break down. See 862a (aphthartos)

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Only Jesus was raised from the dead without the intervention of another human being. Every other recorded instance involved someone else being there and initiating it or being connected with it.

For example, Jesus himself was instrumental in the raising of Lazarus. But none was so involved when Jesus of Nazareth arose on the first day of the week.

As to Jesus himself, Paul says of his resurrection, Romans 6:4 (KJV) :

... Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father ...

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One point that does not seem to have been noticed so far in the answers is that you do not say what the translation is that you are working from.

This seems to have caused you to labour under the misapprehension that the bodies of the previously dead saints arose at the moment Jesus arose – in resurrection. But we all know it wasn’t until the third day after his crucifixion that Jesus arose in triumph over the grave. This means that the way into heaven had not yet been opened up by Jesus returning there as the glorified Son of Man. Those previously dead saints arose at the earthquake when Jesus died. After Jesus' resurrection they were seen to be walking about in Jerusalem. However, they could not have ascended to heaven because Jesus had not gone before as the ‘firstfruits’ of them that sleep in death. To be first in that resurrection sense, he had to be uniquely first in resurrection unlike any others who had been resurrected. This means that those dead saints only appeared, living, for some short while before returning to their graves, otherwise the book of Acts would have been full of who they were, what they said, and what happened to them after Jesus’ return to heaven on the Day of Pentecost.

Jesus’ resurrection was utterly unique. There never had been one like it in the past, including the rising of those dead saints when he died. This means that no previous resurrection negates the power of Jesus’ resurrection, nor equal the miraculous aspect. As has been pointed out, Jesus not only foretold his death, but also his resurrection. These scriptures show how the entire Godhead was involved in his resurrection:

The Father raised Jesus - see Acts 2:24 & 2 Cor. 4:14. The Holy Spirit also raised Jesus - see Romans 1:4 & 1 Peter 3:18. And Christ the Messiah raised Jesus - see John 2:19-22 & 10:18

That cannot be said of any other human resurrected back to life. On top of which, his resurrection proved him to be the Son of God, uniquely being “declared with power to be the Son of God, by his resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). There is no Son like this Son! His sonship is not due to having been created by the Father (because he wasn’t), whereas all other sons in the Bible are either created angels, or humans who have been adopted into God’s family by the spiritual ‘new birth’. And in both those categories, Christ did the creating (John 1:1-14) and enabled the spiritual adoption – by dying and rising in triumph over the grave. And the grave could not keep him because it can only claim sinners. Jesus never sinned. All others who have been (and will yet be) resurrected have all sinned. Not Jesus! All others escaped the grave for a short while, but Jesus conquered death - the ultimate power and miracle of his resurrection!

"This grace...has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." - 2 Timothy 1:8-10

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  • Wondering how you imagine Jesus raising himself if he was dead. Against the contradiction of the Father/God raising him. No text says the spirit did, your referred texts do not say that.
    – steveowen
    Jul 29 at 1:43
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    I did not imagine any of the 6 scriptures I referenced re. Christ’s resurrection. Put them all together and you get the complete picture of the complexity of it. But if you start with the stance that only the Father raised Christ, you will have to interpret the other verses accordingly. I choose to put them all together and so get a picture of how the Godhead co-operates, united as one. The biblical Jesus was always more than a perfect man, but I suppose you insist he was no more that a created, sinless man, in which case he could not have raised himself. I know you prefer
    – Anne
    Jul 29 at 14:12
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    a translation that says Christ was raised “in the spirit” and not “by the Spirit”, which accounts for you dismissing the role of the Holy Spirit in the resurrection. But there’s no contradiction in my statement any more than there is in those 6 scriptures. If you see contradictions, you have a problem.
    – Anne
    Jul 29 at 14:12
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How is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, different than all the former dead saints?

There is no indication that any other resurrection was to anymore than a physical resurrection - they would all die again. Only at Christ's return are the saints given eternal life as Jesus now has.

No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven John 3:13

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit. 1 Pet 3:18

Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 1 Cor 15:23

Jesus was the first to be raised to new spirit life - the firstfruit of firstfruits.

For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. Rom 6:9

He was raised by his God and Father as planned^ - certainly, like us, he could not raise himself. While death could not legally hold him, we have no verse saying that he "raised himself", but a couple like John 10:17 that express the nature of Jesus' willingness to lay his life down for all humanity and his authority in the Father to live again. But only if he managed to remain sinless until his last breath on the cross. He accomplished this by the Father dwelling in him in spirit.

He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead Col 1:18

Meaning that Jesus is the fore-runner Heb 6:20 of all mankind. The first to be changed from physical to spirit life. That's what so special about Jesus' new life!

^as approx. 30 verses testify. If Jesus were to raise himself, this would be a contradiction with every other verse on this matter. We know that while he was dead, he could not possibly raise himself anyway.

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Jesus said He would rise again after His death. His disciples had this promise. No one else knew they would be resurrected. They were just part of the story. Jesus's resurrection had special meaning because He had foretold it. He said if the temple (His body) was torn down that He would rebuild it. No one else said that. He prophesied His own resurrection. His resurrection was unique in that way.

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That still doesn't make fully sense to me, because isn't that reasoning AFTER the fact? At the moment Jesus rose AND the saints rose, the only thing people saw that there was rising from the dead; they didn't know that the saints would die again and that Jesus would not, right?

Ok, I kinda see your point. I will try to answer why Jesus's resurrection is so different and important compared to all the others, without mentioning his ascension and eternal life and new powers associated with his body like the ability to appear and disappear.

The reason why Jesus's resurrection is different from all the other resurrections, apologetically, is context. Jesus's resurrection is more meaningful than all the other is because of all the previous prophecies associated with Jesus, up to that point, that were not associated specifically with the individual persons who were resurrected on account of Jesus.

These prophecies include the scriptures available at that time in the Old Testament as well as the prophecies Jesus himself made about himself. Jesus's resurrection fulfilled these prophecies and confirmed them and grants, to a high degree, credibility to whatever else the scriptures and Jesus had to say about Jesus and the Father and the hope of Christianity.

So the resurrection of Jesus would have taken on immediate significance compared to all the other resurrections because of the entire context leading up to the moment he took back up his life.

Without this context of meaning, there would be no reason to regard Jesus's miraculous resurrection as nothing more than an ancient mysterious occurrence that would have no impact on anyone's life even if we believed it to be true.

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What is so special about Jesus' resurrection in light of other people rising from the dead?

How did Jesus’ resurrection differ from the resurrections that preceded it?

Jesus’ resurrection was different from the resurrections that preceded it. People who were brought back to life earlier came back with physical bodies and eventually died again. Jesus was resurrected with a spirit body that was imperishable.

Acts 13:34 NASB

34 As for the fact that He raised Him from the dead, never again to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: ‘I will give you the holy and faithful mercies of David.’

Peter wrote that Jesus “was put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.” Moreover, “he is at God’s right hand, for he went to heaven, and angels and authorities and powers were made subject to him.”

1 Peter 3:18-22 NASB

18 For Christ also [a]suffered for sins once for all time, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the [b]spirit; 19 in [c]which He also went and made proclamation to the spirits in prison, 20 who once were disobedient when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. 21 Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God [d]for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.

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  • The only sign Jesus gave was that of Jonah. most evidence says Jonah did not die. But if he did - we would also have been resurrected. also Luke 24:36-39 implies that Jesus was not a spirit - Luke 24:37-39 (ASV) 37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they beheld a spirit. 38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and wherefore do questionings arise in your heart? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye behold me having & Hebrews 9:27 'destined to die once,' He also showed Thomas not spirit. Jul 26 at 11:53
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Jesus was the only one that has resurrected by himself, by his own power, and not by the power of a "third party". It is a silly answer, but perhaps may help you somehow.

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  • You are correct - it is a silly answer and without any biblical support.
    – steveowen
    Jul 29 at 1:26
  • Hermeneutics. Do you know what it is at all? The bible does not support Jesus ressurrecting by his own power? Well, I've been cheated for so many years then... Jul 29 at 20:58
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    David, the Bible does not support that Jesus raised himself by his own power. He was raised by the Father. I believed for a long time that the verse had been mistranslated and that it should say Jesus had raised "himself," but as I have studied Greek, I have learned that the Greek clearly does not support such an interpretation. "But God raised him from the dead" (Acts 13:30). And 1 Cor. 8:6; 1 Tim. 2:5; & John 17:3 all tell us who God is. 1 Tim. 6:16 tells us God only has immortality. He could not have died. Jesus, as "the son of man," died--and dead people don't raise themselves!
    – Polyhat
    Aug 9 at 0:36
  • @Polyhat well. you got that right 100%
    – steveowen
    Aug 9 at 0:52
  • What I meant was that Jesus was not raised by another human asking God for to Jesus resurrect. Also, Jesus is God who has "turned himself into flesh" to live among us. God is triune and not 3 different people. It is just a matter of how we interpret things, as long as it keeps tight to biblical principles and there is no contradiction. By the way, there is no resurrection by human power anyway. That's what I meant. Aug 9 at 12:53
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First question: St. Thomas explains the 4 properties of glorious body which are: impassibility, thinness, agility and clarity.

Second question: Other saints rose again in their passible bodies and they were assumed with their bodies in heaven at the lord ascension before the death as was for Blessed Virgin Mary.

Third question: Yes

Fourth question: As you see, this explained event increase the power of Christ resurrection.

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    John said no one is in heaven except Jesus.
    – steveowen
    Jul 29 at 1:22
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    @user48152 John said no such thing.
    – Polyhat
    Aug 9 at 0:41

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