The Fellowship of the Resurrected Ones: In Death, Graves Are Opened; In Resurrection, Graves Are Emptied

Today’s selected reading continues in and concludes the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as it was written and recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage begins with the fifty-seventh verse of the twenty-seventh chapter and continues through to the twentieth and final verse of the twenty-eighth chapter. “When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple: HE went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed. And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre” (Matthew 27:57-61). WHO ALSO HIMSELF WAS JESUS’ DISCIPLE! BEGGED THE BODY OF JESUS! PILATE COMMANDED THE BODY TO BE DELIVERED! HE WRAPPED IT IN A CLEAN LINEN CLOTH! WHEN JESUS CAME INTO THE  WORLD HE WAS WRAPPED IN SWADDLING CLOTHES! WHEN JESUS WAS BURIED IN THE TOMB HE WAS WRAPPED IN A CLEAN LINEN CLOTH! JOSEPH LAID THE BODY OF JESUS IN HIS OWN NEW TOMB, WHICH HE HAD HEWN OUT IN THE ROCK! HE ROLLED A GREAT STONE TO THE DOOR OF THE SEPULCHRE, AND DEPARTED!

            “Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch” (Matthew 27:62:66). THE CHIEF PRIESTS AND PHARISEES CAME TOGETHER UNTO PILATE! WE REMEMBER THAT THE DECEIVE SAID, WHILE HE WAS YET ALIVE, AFTER THREE DAYS I WILL RISE AGAIN! COMMAND THEREFORE THAT THE SEPULCHRE BE MADE SURE UNTIL THE THIRD DAY! LEST THE DISCIPLES COME BY NIGHT, AND STEAL HIM AWAY, AND SAY TO THE PEOPLE, HE IS RISEN FROM THE DEAD! SEALING THE TOMB! SETTING A WATCH! A STONE, A SEAL, A WATCH! MAKE IT AS SURE AS YE CAN! THEY WENT, AND MADE THE SEPULCHRE SURE, SEALING THE STONE, AND SETTING A WATCH! GUARDING A DEAD MAN! SEALING A DEAD MAN INSIDE THE TOMB! STANDING WATCH OVER AGAINST A DEAD MAN!

            ”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; AND THE GRAVES WERE OPENED; AND THE 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” (Matthew 26:51-53). THE VEIL OF THE TEMPLE WAS RENT IN TWO FROM THE TOP TO THE BOTTOM! THE EARTH DID QUAKE! THE ROCKS RENT! THE GRAVES WERE OPENED! MANY BODIES OF THE SAINTS WHICH SLEPT AROSE! CAME OUT OF THEIR GRAVES AFTER HIS RESURRECTION! WENT INTO THE HOLY CITY, AND APPEARED UNTO MANY!

            “In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the LORD descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: and for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring the disciples word” (Matthew 28:1-8). THERE WAS A GREAT EARTHQUAKE! THE ANGEL OF THE LORD DESCENDED FROM HEAVEN! CAME AND ROLLED BACK THE STONE FROM THE DOOR! SAT UPON THE STONE! HIS COUNTENANCE WAS LIKE ILGHTNING! HIS RAIMENT WHITE AS SNOW! FOR FEAR OF HIM THE KEEPERS DID SHAKE, AND BECAME AS DEAD MEN! FEAR NOT! I KNOW THAT YE SEEK JESUS, WHICH WAS CRUCIFIED! HE IS NOT HERE! HE IS RISEN! AS HE SAID! COME, SEE THE PLACE WHERE THE LORD LAY!

            “And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: Go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me” (Matthew 28:8-10).

            ”Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day” (Matthew 28:11-15).

            “Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:16-20).

            Before we get into the words which are found within the final portion of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew it is absolutely necessary that we first consider the events which surrounded the death of Jesus. When I speak of the death of Jesus, however, I am not speaking of the six hours in which Jesus hung upon the cross, but rather that moment when He fully yielded and committed His spirit into the hands of the Father. If you read the words which are found within this passage of Scripture you will find that from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness which descended upon and completely covered Calvary where Jesus was hanging on the cross between those two thieves. It would be upon the ninth hour Jesus would let out a lout cry—a cry that was heard by all those who were present there on that day, however, it was a cry that very few actually understood and recognized. As you read the words found in the twenty-seventh chapter of this New Testament gospel you will find how at the ninth hour Jesus would cry with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani.” Those who heard these words thought that Jesus was calling for Elijah and even went so far as to think and consider that Elijah would come to the aid and rescue of Jesus. There were those who heard these words and thought Elijah was somehow calling for the ancient Hebrew prophet Elijah, and calling for him to come to the side of Jesus as He hung there upon the cross. The truth of the matter, however, is that when Jesus spoke these words He wasn’t calling for Elijah. That which Jesus was doing when He spoke these words was crying out to the Father asking Him why He had forsaken Him.

            It is important that we recognize and understand the cry of Jesus upon the cross at the ninth hour, for the voice and the cry which Jesus made at this particular moment was one of tremendous desperation as He hung there upon the cross. We know that for three hours on this day—from the sixth hour until the ninth hour—darkness covered the whole face of Calvary and Golgotha where Jesus was indeed hanging there until He would die. What’s more, is that in order to truly understand the darkness which covered the landscape of Calvary it is absolutely necessary to first recognize the earthly and natural scene that took place there while Jesus was hanging upon the cross. We might safely say that for the first three hours Jesus hung there upon the cross that He experienced ridicule and mockery from those who chose to stand there and watch Him hang upon the cross, and from those who passed by and chose to mock, revile and scorn Him. As you read the words which are found in verses thirty-nine though forty-four you will find it written how those who passed by while Jesus hung upon the cross reviled Him, wagging their heads, and actually saying and declaring unto Him, “Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself.” WE must recognize and understand that this was only a portion of those words which were spoken by those who would mock, revile and ridicule Jesus, for they would go on to declare and speak unto Christ, saying, “If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.” This mockery—and not only this mockery, but also the temptation that accompanied it—would continue, for the chief priests who also mocked Him together with the scribes and elders would mock Jesus, saying, “HE saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, Let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the son of God.” What’s more, is the apostle Matthew writes and records how the thieves who hung their beside Jesus cast the same words within their teeth and out of their mouth.

            We have a great need to recognize and understand the words which were used—not only by the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel, and not only by the two thieves which were crucified next to Jesus, but also by those who passed by and wagged their heads. We know that undoubtedly during those first three hours Jesus experienced tremendous ridicule and mockery from a great number of those who passed by, and even those who stood there before the cross beholding this Jesus of Nazareth hanging upon the cross. Scripture paints a clear and present picture that during those first three hours upon the cross Jesus would be surrounded by those who would not only mock, but also ridicule Him as He hung there upon the cross. Pause for a moment and consider the tremendous fact and thought that during those initial three hours Jesus would face and experience the accusation, the mockery, the ridicule, the slander, and even the temptation from men concerning His being on the cross. THE TEMPTATION OF THE CROSS! THE TEMPTATION PRESENT AT THE CROSS! What we must needs and recognize when we read and consider this passage of Scripture is that while it is indeed true that there was mockery, slander, ridicule and scorn that was heaped upon Jesus as He hung there upon the cross, there was also a great temptation that was present as well. More often than not we overlook this reality and concept of temptation that would be present as Jesus hung upon the cross, and yet what we find within the narrative of Jesus hanging upon the cross is the temptation that was hurled at Him to save Himself. You cannot read the words found within these verses and not encounter and come face to face with the awesome and tremendous truth that while Jesus hung there upon the cross there was a great temptation that was hurled at and against Him by the religious elite who stood there before the cross, as well as from those who passed by and saw Him hanging there upon the cross.

            The more we read and the more we think about and consider the account of Jesus hanging upon the cross—particularly and especially when we consider those first three hours—the more we will encounter and come face to face with the tremendous truth that there was indeed a temptation which was found within the words and mockery of those who watched Jesus hang there upon the cross. The temptation that was present and manifested as Jesus hung there upon the cross was—simply put—the temptation to save Himself and come down off the cross. What’s more, is that the language that was used by those who were present on this day was similar to the language which was found in the wilderness when Jesus was tempted of the devil. You recall that in the wilderness the Devil tempted Jesus with three different things, and with two of those temptations we find the devil using the language of Jesus’ identity as the Son of God. When Jesus had emerged from the waters of the Jordan River the voice of the Father spoke from heaven and emphatically declared and proclaimed that Jesus was His beloved Son in whom He is well pleased. As Jesus entered into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil we find the devil’s first temptation including the nature of Jesus’ identity as the Son of God, for the devil would tempt Jesus, saying, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones be turned into bread.” We also know that the devil would continue tempting Jesus by bringing Him to a pinnacle of the temple and commanding Him to cast Himself down if He truly was the Son of God. Included in this temptation was also Satan’s twisting and using Scripture in his temptation, for he would misuse the words found in the ninety-first chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms concerning God commanding His angels and giving them charge over us lest we dash our foot upon a stone. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for when the devil sought to tempt Christ in the wilderness we find him using the identity of Jesus as the Son of God as the basis of his temptation. The devil sought to tempt Jesus the Christ based on His identity as the Son of God, and tempting Him to use His identity as the Son of God to His own advantage and His own gain.

            When we come to the words which are found in the twenty-seventh chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we are brought face to face with the tremendous and awesome truth that while Jesus hung there upon the cross this temptation surrounding His identity as the Son of God would continue. You cannot read these words and not encounter and experience those who mocked Him in all reality tempting Him to save Himself and to come down from the cross. The words which we find within these verses are a powerful example of the temptation that surrounded the cross upon which Jesus hung and would ultimately die, for not only did religion seek to tempt Jesus to come down from off the cross, but so also did the thieves themselves speak similar words from their mouths. What’s more, is that those who passed by reviled Jesus and wagged their heads, saying, “IF you really are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” COME DOWN FROM THE CROSS! Oh dear brother, oh dear sister, please don’t miss the incredible importance and significance of the words which were spoken before and unto Jesus as He hung there upon the cross, for not only did Jesus experience ridicule, not only was Jesus reviled, and not only was Jesus mocked while hanging there upon the cross, but so also was there a temptation that accompanied that mockery, that slander, and that ridicule. There was a tremendous temptation that would surround the words which those who saw Jesus hanging upon the cross would present before and unto Him, for they would essentially tempt Him to come down from off the cross—and not only come down from off the cross, but to save Himself and prove that He was the Son of God. It is imperative that we recognize and understand that what we find here are those who were present mocking Jesus, but also tempting Him to come down from the cross and to save Himself. Not only this, but there was the temptation of religion to come down from the cross and save Himself, and they would proceed to believe Him.

            It’s necessary for us to recognize and understand the ridicule and the mockery which is found within this passage of Scripture, for the ridicule, the mockery, the slander, and even the temptation that was found within this passage of Scripture helps us to understand that which took place during those final three hours Jesus hung there upon the cross. Scripture makes it very clear that from the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness covered the face of the whole earth. I have long and often believed that the darkness which descended upon the earth during those three hours, and the darkness which was present at Golgotha was not merely a physical darkness as if the clouds concealed the sun, or as if there was a solar eclipse of some sort. When I read of the darkness that is found within this passage of Scripture I can’t help but find myself encountering and coming face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that the darkness which was present was the darkness produced by and from every spiritual wickedness, every principality, ever unclean and foul spirit, and even demon in hell descending upon the mount upon which Jesus was hanging there upon the cross and surrounding Him. There is not a doubt in my mind that for three hours there upon the cross Jesus not only experienced the ridicule, the slander and the mockery of men, but I would also dare say that during those final three hours Jesus was surrounded by every foul and unclean spirit in hell which sought to take their shot at Jesus. I would dare say that the darkness which was present on this particular day was not a physical darkness as we would know and understand it, but rather was a spiritual darkness that was produced by the whole host of darkness descending upon the cross at the same exact time. During those three hours there was a strong and powerful convergence of all the forces of hell that descended and came upon the cross that all of hell might not only ridicule and slander the Lord Jesus Christ as He hung there upon the cross, but also might tempt Him. For three hours Jesus would face and experience the ridicule, the slander and the mockery of religion, of thieves, and of those who passed by, and for three hours Jesus would face and experience the descent of all the forces of hell upon the cross.

            There is not a doubt in my mind that when Jesus cried out with a loud voice asking the Father, saying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” He wasn’t asking these words because He somehow felt that the Father had turned His back on Him. There would be some who would argue that in that moment the Father turned His face away from the Son because the full weight of sin was placed upon His Son as He hung there upon the cross. While this might sound good in theory, I am absolutely and completely convinced that it falls far short from what actually took place on this day. I firmly believe and am convinced that when Jesus cried out with a loud voice asking the Father why He had forsaken Him—that which He was crying out and asking the Father was in direct response to the tremendous darkness that had descended upon the mount at that time. At that time Jesus was undoubtedly completely and utterly surrounded by every foul and unclean spirit in hell, and every principality, every ruler of darkness, and all spiritual wickedness in high places. OH for three hours Jesus hung there upon the cross completely surrounded by the forces of hell as all of hell descended upon the place of the skull that they might take their shot toward and against the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus would cry out at the end and conclusion of those three hours asking the Father why He had forsaken Him, and there is not a doubt in my mind that He was very much aware of the presence of darkness before and all around Him during those three hours, and when He cried out with a loud voice asking the Father why He had forsaken Him, He undoubtedly felt completely and utterly alone. Those three hours Jesus hung upon the cross must have been the most difficult three hours He experienced, for He was and had been completely and utterly surrounded by the forces of hell which had descended upon the mountain and place of the skull.

            It is necessary and imperative we recognize that which takes place here within this passage of Scripture, for we find that after Jesus had cried out with a loud voice once more as He hung there upon the cross, He yielded up the ghost. We know from one of the other gospel narratives that before Jesus yielded up the ghost He emphatically declared unto the Father that He commended and entrusted His spirit into His hands. Immediately after He cried out with a loud voice Jesus would give up the ghost and would die there upon the cross. The fiftieth verse of the twenty-seventh chapter brings us face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that Jesus would cry a second time with a loud voice, and would yield up the ghost. At that time the physical body of the Lord Jesus Christ would hang there upon the cross, however, it would be completely and entirely lifeless as Jesus had given up the ghost and entrusted Himself into the hands of the Father. What is truly astonishing and remarkable about this narrative is when you think about and consider the fact that upon the death of Jesus we find the veil which was present in the Temple being rent in two from the top to the bottom. What’s more, is that this wasn’t the only product of the death of Jesus, for the apostle Matthew also records how the earth did quake, how the rocks rent, and how the graves were opened. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of just how absolutely incredible this truly is, for we know and understand that the veil was torn in two from top to bottom, and we know that there was a great earthquake which took place upon the death of Jesus, but the apostle Matthew also writes and records something truly remarkable and interesting when we think about the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Not only this, but within this passage we find the apostle Matthew describing something which took place upon the death of Jesus, as well as something which would take place as a direct result of the resurrection of Jesus. Within this passage we find the apostle Matthew directly linking together the death of Jesus and the resurrection of the same—and not only linking them together, but also linking them together concerning the graves which were present in the earth during those days, and the saints of God which were buried in those graves. Consider if you will the following words which are found within this passage of Scripture beginning to read with and from the fifty-first verse:

            “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; 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” (Matthew 27:51-53).

            Please don’t miss the awesome importance and significance of what is found within these words, for with these words we find that upon the death of Jesus the earth quaked violently, the rocks were rent, and the graves were opened. What’s more is that in addition to the graves being opened, we find that after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after His resurrection. How absolutely and incredibly powerful this truly is when you take the time to think about and consider it, for it would be through the death of Jesus that the graves would indeed and would in fact be opened, however, it would be His resurrection that would actually cause the bodies of those which slept to arise. Within this passage of Scripture we find something absolutely remarkable and incredible, for we understand and come to know that it was through the death of Jesus that the graves were opened at that time. Despite the fact that Jesus’ death would unlock and open the graves we find that it wouldn’t be until Jesus actually rose from the dead on the third day that many of the bodies of the saints which slept arose. On the third day the stone would be rolled away and the Spirit would raise Jesus from death to life, and yet on that third day Jesus wasn’t the only one to rise from the dead. Have you ever stopped to consider this particular thought—the thought that at the resurrection of Jesus He wasn’t the only one to rise from the dead and emerge from the grave? We know within the life and ministry of Jesus that He would raise a little girl from death to life, and that He would raise the only son of a widow from death to life as well. We also know the most notable narrative of Jesus raising Lazarus from death to life after showing up at His grave and calling for the stone to be rolled away and removed.

            THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RESURRECTION! THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RESURRECTED ONES! I have to admit that when I read and consider the words which surround the resurrection of Jesus, I can’t help but come face to face with the fact that on the third day Jesus wasn’t the only one who would rise from the dead. We know from the words which the apostle Matthew wrote that upon the death of Jesus the graves would be unlocked and opened, and that it was through Jesus’ death that graves would and could in fact be opened. Despite the graves being opened, however, it wouldn’t be until after Jesus Himself was raised from death to life on the third day as the firstfruits of the resurrection that many of the bodies of the saints which slept would arise. When we read the words found in the twenty-eighth chapter we find the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of the people being utterly and completely concerned with the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and yet what the twenty-seventh chapter of the same gospel narrative points to and reveals is that it wasn’t just Jesus who would rise from death to life on that day. So often and so many times we think of the third day as being solely about Jesus rising from death to life, and yet we fail to understand and comprehend the fact that Jesus’ resurrection was the firstfruits and the beginning of a host of resurrections which would take place on that day. The apostle Matthew  makes it perfectly clear that at the death of Jesus the graves were opened, as well as the fact that after Jesus’ resurrection would be manifested within the earth many of the bodies of the saints which slept arose. Not only did many of the bodies of the saints which slept rise up again, but they would also go into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Pause for a moment and consider this—I  mean truly consider it—for it wasn’t simply about graves being opened at the death of Jesus, and it wasn’t simply about the bodies of many of the saints which slept rising up again. The resurrection of Jesus was also about the bodies of those saints which arose going into the holy city of Jerusalem and appearing unto many.

            Stop for a moment and think about and consider what a tremendous and powerful witness must have been present in the city of Jerusalem on the third day after another earthquake had struck the earth, for on that very same day—and perhaps even over the course of the next forty days—we find many of the bodies of the saints which slept arising and emerging from the graves. I would dare say that over the course of the next forty days we find the bodies of many of the saints which slept arising and emerging from the graves and entering into the holy city of Jerusalem appearing unto many. If the chief priests, the scribes, the elders of Israel, the Pharisees, and especially the Sadducees had trouble with the thought of Jesus being raised from death to life on the third day—I can’t help but think about what it would have been like to see many of the righteous saints which slept rising from the grave and appearing unto many within the city. The Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead would have undoubtedly seen and been witness to those who would appear and manifest themselves in the midst of the city as they would appear unto many. Oh how I absolutely love that which is found within this passage of Scripture, for noy only do we find the bodies of many of the saints which slept arising, but we also find these who were risen from the grave entering into the city and appearing unto many. Oh I can’t help but wonder if those saints who had been raised from death to life at the resurrection of Jesus were known by certain which were present during and at that time. I can’t help but wonder if there weren’t those who were present at this time who knew some of the righteous saints who had emerged from the grave and were absolutely and utterly stunned. With this being said, I invite you to consider the words which are found in the twenty-eighth chapter of this New Testament gospel narrative, as well as the words which are found in the first and opening chapter of the New Testament book of Acts, as well as the words which are found in the fifteenth chapter of the first epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian saints:

            “In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: and for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy: and did run to bring his disciples word. And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me” (Matthew 28:1-10).

            “The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: to whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith He, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water: but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:1-8).

            “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: and that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: 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. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed” (1 Corinthians 15:1-11).

            It is absolutely necessary that we encounter and come face to face with each of these three passages of Scripture, for the words we find here bring us face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that there is a strong and powerful link and connection between Jesus’ resurrection and the resurrection of the saints. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of how awesome this truly is, for what we find within the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew is a strong and powerful truth concerning the death of Jesus and how through His death the graves were opened and unlocked. It was the death of Jesus upon the cross that unlocked and opened the graves during those days, and it is absolutely necessary that we recognize and pay close attention to this. The words which are found in the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew are a strong and powerful picture of Jesus’ death being the catalyst that unlocked and opened the graves, for the earthquake that was connected to His death would be the earthquake that caused the rocks to rend and the graves to be opened. It’s quite telling and unique to think about and consider the fact that when we think about the death and resurrection of Jesus we essentially read of two distinct and two different earthquakes which took place and were present in the earth at that time. There was the initial earthquake which took place as a result of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ after He had yielded and given up the ghost. It was this initial earthquake that caused the graves of countless men and women to be opened, however, those who were buried and slept within those graves would and could not come forth at that particular moment. It would be through the death of Jesus the graves would be unlocked, and it would be through the death of Jesus graves would be opened, however, His death was only the means to open and unlock those graves. The apostle Matthew brings us face to face with the awesome truth that upon and after the death of Jesus the Christ a great earthquake struck the earth and caused the graves of countless men and women to be opened. Oh I can’t help but wonder what that sight must have been like as perhaps countless stones were rolled away and removed from tombs, and as countless doors to tombs were opened—almost as if an invitation was given to those who were inside to come forth into newness of life.

            We know from the words which are found in the sixty-first chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah that the Spirit of the LORD was upon the Messiah to open prison doors and to preach deliverance and freedom to those who were in captivity. We know that even when Jesus taught in the synagogue in His own hometown of Nazareth that He declared the words which the prophet Isaiah spoke were and had been fulfilled on that day in their hearing and before their eyes. I can’t help but be absolutely gripped and captivated with this tremendous and powerful truth, for when we think about the death of Jesus—more often than not we don’t think of His death as being the means whereby graves were opened and unlocked. When we think about the death of Jesus we don’t think about it as being a divine instrument in the hand of the living and eternal God to cause graves to be opened. The truth of the matter, however, is that the cross upon which Jesus died, and the death of Jesus was indeed a key which would unlock and open countless graves upon the earth during those times. We must pay close and careful attention to this, for when we think about the cross upon which Jesus died, and when we think about His death upon the cross we must needs think about and consider the fact that the cross is more than simply a tool and instrument of death and sacrifice, but the cross is actually a key that was used in the hand of the living God to open and unlock graves which had previously been locked. This reality takes on a whole different meaning when you consider what the ascended, exalted and glorified Jesus declared unto the apostle John when He appeared to Him on the isle of Patmos. If you read the words which are found in the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus you will find Him declaring that He was the One who was dead and is now alive forevermore—and not only was He dead and now alive, but He also held the keys of death, hell and the grave.

            This concept of holding the keys to death, hell and the grave are absolutely astounding, for when we think about the resurrection of Jesus we must needs realize and understand that He was raised from death to life with the keys to death, hell and the grave. When Jesus rose from the grave—not only did He rise from the grave with the prints, the marks and the scars of His suffering, but He also rose with the keys to death, hell and the grave. We know from the New Testament epistle which was written unto the Hebrews that Jesus came into the earth and was manifested to destroy that one who previously had the power of and the power over death—namely, the ancient serpent in the garden known as the devil and Satan. When Jesus died upon the cross His cross was the divine key that was inserted into the graves of countless men and women as it was used to unlock and open those graves. What an incredible and glorious thought it is to think about and consider how upon and as a result of Jesus’ death we find Him opening and unlocking the graves, and doing so as a portent, a sign and a powerful witness of that which was to come. The chief priests, the scribes, the elders of the people, and even the Pharisees and Sadducees were concerned and worried about the words Jesus spoke concerning His being raised from death to life on the third day, and yet I can’t help but think about them getting so much more than what they even bargained for and expected. Here were the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of the people appearing before and unto Pilate reciting the words Jesus spoke concerning His rising from death to life on the third day, and their requesting of Pilate to make the tomb secure lest the disciples come during the night, steal the body of Jesus away, and declare and proclaim among the people that He was risen from the dead. Pontius Pilate consented to their request and ordered a watch and a seal be placed at and upon the tomb. Oh how absolutely incredible this thought truly is, for as if the stone itself wasn’t enough for men to think that Jesus would and could remain in the tomb—the chief priests, the scribes and elders of Israel also thought and felt that a seal upon the tomb, as well as a guard and a watch would and could prevent the disciples from coming and stealing the body.

            What I so love about the narrative of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is that while the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel were entirely and altogether concerned with and worried about the disciples coming in the night and stealing away the body of Christ—they had absolutely no clue what was going to take place and unfold on the third day. The chief priests, the scribes and the elders of the people were worried about the disciples rolling away the stone and removing the body of Jesus from the grave and proclaiming how He had risen from the grave. They had absolutely no clue that an angel of the Lord would descend from heaven, there would be a second earthquake, the angel of the Lord would roll away the stone which was before the tomb, and those who kept watch before and at the grave would fall to the ground as dead men. The chief priests, the scribes and elders of the people were worried about the disciples stealing the body away and professing and proclaiming He was risen from the dead, and yet not only could they not fathom an angel descending from heaven, rolling away the stone, and Jesus being raised from death to life supernaturally, but they also had no context or framework for graves being opened at the death of Jesus, and the bodies of many of the saints rising from the dead with Jesus, entering into the holy city, and appearing unto many. We know that Jesus showed Himself alive with many infallible proofs over a period of forty days, and yet I can’t help but think about and consider the fact that during those forty days—not only was Jesus Himself alive having been raised death to life, and not only was Lazarus raised from death to life and present within the earth, but now we have the bodies of many of the saints which slept rising from death to life and appearing unto many within the holy city of Jerusalem.

            I absolutely love reading the words which are found within this passage—and not only that which is found within this passage, but also that which is found in the fifteenth chapter of the first epistle written by Paul unto the Corinthian saints—for what we find is that Jesus’ death upon the cross was the key and the catalyst the unlocked and opened graves, however, it was His resurrection that actually caused many of the saints which slept to rise again and come out of their graves. I am so captivated with the fact that when Jesus rose from the grave—not only did He Himself rise from the grave, but He also led countless others in resurrection out of their tombs and out of their graves. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of how absolutely incredible this truly is when we take the time to think about and consider it, for Jesus’ resurrection wasn’t simply about He Himself rising, but also many saints rising together with Him. I can’t help but wonder if during those three days Jesus’ physical body was buried if He did not interact with many of those who would rise with Him at His resurrection, and perhaps even prepare them for what was about to happen. We know that Jesus showed up at the tomb of Lazarus and commanded and demanded that the stone be rolled away and removed. We know that Jesus commanded Lazarus—that one who was previously dead to rise and to come forth from the tomb—however, when we think about and consider the resurrection of Jesus we must needs recognize that when He rose from the grave He wasn’t the only one to rise. HE WASN’T THE ONLY ONE TO RISE! THERE WERE OTHERS WHO ROSE AS WELL! IN HIS RESURRECTION WE HAVE OUR RESURRECTION! How absolutely incredible it truly is to think about and consider the fact that when Jesus died—and through His death upon the cross—the graves were opened, and it was through His resurrection that those whose graves were opened were actually able to emerge from them and enter into the holy city. I would absolutely love to know what it was like for those who rose from death to life together with Jesus to not only live again, but also to enter into the city of Jerusalem and appear unto many.

            We know from the first epistle written by the apostle Paul that when Jesus rose from the grave He appeared to Peter, He appeared unto James, He appeared unto the remaining apostles, and He appeared unto upwards of five hundred people at one time. We know from the New Testament book of Acts that Jesus manifested, demonstrated and showed Himself alive over a period of forty days with infallible proofs. We know that Jesus appeared unto many after He had risen from the grave, however, what we oftentimes fail to recognize and understand is that Jesus wasn’t the only one who showed and demonstrated that He was alive. When Jesus rose from the grave and emerged from the grave He went unto Galilee ahead of His disciples to meet them, however, those righteous saints who emerged from their graves would actually enter into the holy city of Jerusalem and would appear unto many. Consider how tremendous and incredible it would be for Jesus to appear unto many within Galilee after being resurrected from the dead, for Lazarus to also be alive during this time and being present within Bethany, and for countless righteous saints who were raised from death to life at the resurrection of Jesus to appear unto many within the city of Jerusalem. Consider how this fellowship of the resurrection would actually be present and manifested within and in the midst of the land during those days and at that time, and how there were manifestations of resurrection appearing in three different places at the same time. This isn’t even taking into consideration the widow’s son whom Jesus raised to life again, nor even Jairus’ daughter whom He had also raised from death to life. What an absolutely awesome and powerful witness and testimony this resurrection was during those days, for there was a mighty and powerful company of resurrected ones which were present in the earth during those times.

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the fact that the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of Israel were all concerned with the disciples coming unto the tomb by night, rolling away the stone, stealing away the body of Jesus, and professing that Jesus had risen again, and yet they had absolutely no idea what would actually take place. Here they were trying to keep the disciples out of the tomb where the body of Jesus lay, and here they were trying to keep Jesus’ body buried in the grave, and yet what they ended up witnessing and experiencing is not only Jesus’ grave being opened and His resurrection from the dead, but also the graves of many other righteous saints being opened, and those righteous saints emerging and coming forth from the graves. I would dare say the scribes, the chief priests, and the elders of the people were undoubtedly shocked and stunned when they not only heard that Jesus the Christ had risen from the grave, but also that there were countless others whose graves were opened, and who emerged from those graves. PREPARING TO RISE! Stop and think that upon the death of Jesus graves were opened, and the bodies of the saints which were present in those graves were still found to be within the graves, and yet were preparing to rise. The graves were opened, and the graves were unlocked, and yet there would be a great many people who were preparing to rise from death to life when Jesus Himself rose from the dead. There was an initial earthquake at the death of Jesus which caused the rocks to rend and graves to be opened, and there was a second earthquake which would strike the earth on the day of Jesus’ resurrection. What’s more is that it would be this second resurrection that would cause the righteous saints whose bodies were buried in the graves to come forth, and on that same day Jesus rose from the grave there would be countless others who would also rise again. A great deal of emphasis has been placed upon the resurrection of Jesus from the grave, however, we must needs realize and recognize that with Jesus’ resurrection came the resurrection of those righteous saints who came forth from their graves at that time, as well as the promise of resurrection which would take place when the last trump sounds, and when those which are dead in Christ shall rise and meet Him in the air together with those who are alive and remain.

            I can’t help but find a powerful picture of the resurrection of Jesus, for it is because He Himself rose from death to  life and emerged from the grave that there is the promise of us rising from the grave. There is the spiritual and supernatural promise that is directly linked and connected to the resurrection of Jesus, for all those who have died with Christ and have been buried with Him can and will be raised to life again and will walk in newness of life. It was the apostle Paul who wrote that if any man be in Christ He is a new creation and old things have passed away, and behold all things have become new. Within the resurrection of Jesus we find the hope and promise of our own spiritual resurrection after we have been buried with Christ in baptism and through the death of our old nature, our old self, and our flesh. It is precisely because Jesus rose from death to life on the third day that we are able to experience that newness of life—that resurrection life—in the spiritual sense as our old man was and is crucified with Christ, and as we are and have been given an entirely new and different lease on life. How absolutely wonderful and powerful it is to think about the fact that Barabbas who was guilty went free because Jesus who was innocent was condemned and how Simon was invited to participate together with Christ in the fellowship of His sufferings. Not only this, but we also find a great many people who were invited to participate in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ as their graves were opened upon His death, and as they emerged from those graves after Jesus Himself rose from the grave. There was that one who was invited to experience freedom and a second chance in life because Jesus who was innocent was condemned. There was that one who was invited to participate in the fellowship of the physical sufferings of Christ being compelled to carry His cross. There was that thief on the cross who was invited to be with Jesus in paradise as He cried out to Jesus to remember him when He entered into His kingdom. On top of all this there was a mighty and powerful fellowship of the resurrected ones who would emerge from their tombs and graves on the third day.

            When we think about and consider the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ we must needs recognize and understand that His resurrection is indeed one that not only led to and produced a mighty resurrection of saints during and at that time—a firstfruits if you will of resurrections which are still to come—but is also one that points to the resurrection of those who are dead in Christ when He appears at the last trump. The apostle Paul made it perfectly clear that when that last trump is sounded the dead in Christ will rise first, and then all those who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air. Pause for a moment and think about what that particular sight and experience is going to be like, for not only will you have all those who were dead in Christ rising from death to life meeting Christ in the air, but you will also find all those who were alive and remained upon the earth at the sound of the last trump meeting Him in the air. There is and there has been a part of me that firmly believes that it is in that moment when the dead in Christ and those who are alive and remain are caught up together in the air to meet the Lord Jesus Christ we can and will all meet and see Him together for the first time. I firmly believe that what can and will take place and be manifested in that moment and at that time is the resurrection from the dead of all those who were dead in Christ and their being given new bodies. With that being said there can and there will also be those who are alive and remain who will experience the transformation of their physical and natural bodies to that which the apostle Paul writes in the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints. There will be those who will not only experience the resurrection from the dead in that moment, but who will also experience the transformation of their bodies into immortal and incorruptible bodies at the same time. There are those who will take part in both the resurrection of the dead and the ascension unto the heavens to meet the Lord in the air, and there are those who will take part in the ascension to meet the resurrected ones and the resurrected One in the air. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the epistle which was written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints, as well as the words which are found in the epistle written unto the saints which were at Thessalonica:

            “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which given us the vitory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, umoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye  know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:50-58).

            “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

            As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the resurrection of Jesus, for when we think about and consider the resurrection of Jesus we encounter and come face to face with Jesus emerging from the grave—and not only emerging from the grave, but also emerging from the grave and leading a host of resurrected ones with Him. Undoubtedly Jesus was the first one to rise from the grave, and as a direct result of His resurrection we find a company and fellowship of resurrected ones who would be manifested in the earth. I absolutely love that prior to Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection there was a fellowship of resurrected ones who were already present in the earth—those whom Jesus had raised from death to life during the three and a half years He was publicly manifested in the earth. At His death, however, there were countless graves which were unlocked and opened, thus signifying that it was through His death that resurrection is even possible. I absolutely love how the apostle Matthew writes that upon the death of Jesus the graves of many were opened, for it brings us face to face with the fact that it is indeed the death of Jesus that unlocks and opens graves and makes resurrection possible. It was through the death of Jesus that graves and tombs were opened, yet it wasn’t until He Himself was raised from death to life that those who were present in those graves would actually be raised from death to life. When Jesus rose from the grave it wasn’t simply He Himself who was raised from death to life, but there was a host of saints who were raised up to life together with Him when He Himself emerged from the grave. Scripture indicates that it was after Jesus was raised from death to life that many saints who slept emerged from the graves and went into the holy city and appeared unto many, and we are left to wonder if they emerged at the same time as Jesus, or if they perhaps emerged during that forty year period of time. How absolutely fascinating would it be to think about and consider that during the forty day period of time Jesus manifested Himself as alive with  many infallible proofs there were many righteous saints who were also appearing and manifesting themselves as being very much alive and resurrected?

I find it absolutely incredible to think about and consider that the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel were so concerned with the disciples coming stealthily by night and stealing away the body of Jesus and declaring that He had risen, and yet they had absolutely no context or framework—not only for Jesus rising from the dead, but also many saints which slept rising from the dead. Oh how absolutely astonishing and remarkable it is to think about and consider this truly awesome truth and reality, for it calls and brings us face to face with the fact that not only did what the religious elite fear happening happen, but there would be others who would be raised from death to life the same time as Jesus. We know that Jesus demonstrated and manifested Himself as being alive during a forty day period of time, however, we also know that there were countless righteous saints who appeared unto many within the holy city. What a tremendous thought it is to think about the fact that not only do you have Lazarus who was very much alive and present within the earth, and not only do you have Jesus who was very much alive, but you also have “many” righteous saints who were also manifested within and upon the earth in the holy city. It is absolutely awesome and powerful to think and consider that the death of Jesus unlocked and opened graves, and it was His resurrection that actually caused men and women to come forth from those graves and appear unto and among men as being very much alive. OH that we would truly recognize and understand the awesome truth surrounding the death of Jesus as the key to unlocking graves, and the resurrection of Jesus as being the catalyst for men and women coming forth from their graves and being manifested as fully alive together with the risen Christ.

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