Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail
In Matthew 27 we find the start of what appears to be a mixture of supernatural and natural phenomena.
Clearly, Matthew, Mark, and Luke (the inspired authors of the synoptic gospels) make an airtight case for the diety of Jesus. Additionally, three extra biblical historians validate their accounts as well: Thallus, Africanus (the name of Janelle’s and my future first born— I hope), and Phlegon.
“From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over the land.” Matt. 27.45
Phlegon records in the 2nd Century AD,
“…in the time of Tiberius Caesar, at full moon, there was a full eclipse of the sun from the sixth hour to the ninth—manifestly that one of which we speak. But what has an eclipse in common with an earthquake, the rending of rocks, and the resurrection of the dead, and so great a perturbation throughout the universe? Surely no such event as this is recorded for a long period. But it was a darkness induced by God, because the Lord happened then to suffer.”
Not that we need Phlegon to confirm what God told us three times, but it’s interesting!
The Earthquake That Freed The Dead
Beginning in v.51ff, an earthquake splits the veil in the temple. The veil wasn’t a thin piece of fabric either— it’s thickness was equivalent to a man’s hand.
Next, the earthquake (used directly or providentially by God) cracks the circular stones open and the dead walk the earth. There’s some discussion over the identity of these “Saints” or “Holy ones” but it’s likely that they are followers of God who died in the past. Whether they were faithful servants that we read about in the Old Testament or followers of Jesus who were killed for their loyalty isn’t made clear in the text. My personal opinion on the matter is that they are Old Testament followers of God as this would indicate to “many” that a new Covenant or Testament is being fulfilled. These risen ancient followers would effectively convince those following the Jewish religion that Jesus is now who they should look to, and not Moses or Elijah (see the Transfiguration, Matt.17).
The Timeline Of Events
View One Of Chronology:
“The dead rise with Christ.”
Matthew captures the magnitude of Jesus’ death on the cross by describing the abnormal events surrounding his death in chapter 27. It’s important that the reader keep in mind the goal of the letter, and that’s Jesus. The tombs splitting open, then, likely occurred during the death of Jesus. After three days, the dead would then emerge along with Jesus and appear to many.
Matthew records what literally takes place, then, as well as alludes to the Day of His return. On that Day, all of the dead in Christ will rise.
View Two Of Chronology:
“The dead rose first before Jesus.”
The Bible is saturated in types and apocalyptic language. The New Testament brings a new light and depth to the things of the past. For instance, the flood account directs our minds to the second destruction of earth. The crossing of the Red Sea alludes to baptism. The blueprint of the tabernacle is symbolic of church and the entrance to her.
With that in mind, 1 Thessalonians 4.16 says,
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an Archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.”
This seems to indicate an order of resurrection. Those who followed God in life— rise first. This would fit beautifully with Matthew’s record of events in Matthew 27.
View Three of Chronology:
“The dead rise at the death of Christ, but enter Jerusalem three days later with Jesus.”
The NIV suggests that the dead were resurrected when Jesus died and then went into Jerusalem after Jesus’ resurrection. A number of theologians and Christians agree with this view.
Many others say that since Christ is the firstfruits of the dead (1 Cor. 15.22), then the resurrection did not occur until He was raised. This view takes the phrase “after Jesus’ resurrection” and then fits them with “…were raised to life and came out of the tombs.” This is possible in the Greek and is also hinted at in the KJV and the NASB. The tombs broke open at Christ’s death due to the earthquake, but the bodies were not raised till Christ was raised— which is the view I currently hold.
A special thanks to Brittany Dyer for posing some interesting questions. She’s a committed student of the Bible and an excellent example to the Tompkinsville church of Christ family.