Question: (Referring to Matthew:27:51-53): “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.” In his study Bible, Dr. Henry Morris writes: “The saints whose bodies were raised could only have been the men and women who had died in faith before the first coming of Christ. Until Christ set them free, their souls had been resting in that division of Hades called ‘Abraham’s bosom’ (Lk 16:22). However, when ‘he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive’ after He had ‘descended first into the lower parts of the earth’ (Eph:4:8-9). The Old Testament saints could only receive their glorified resurrection bodies after Christ had been raised, for Christ must ‘become the firstfruits of them that slept’ (1 Cor:15:20). This is apparently the only specific reference to the resurrection of these pre-Christian-era believers, yet no other interpretation seems plausible. Evidently their new bodies were seen by people on the earth during the brief period between Christ’s resurrection and His initial ascent to heaven (John:20:17).” Do you agree with this point of view?
Response: We appreciate what Morris is saying. Scripture gives us the illustrations of Enoch and Elijah, who were taken bodily into heaven. They must have received bodies that would be able to exist in the presence of God.
It’s interesting that the resurrection of Christ and this limited number of saints (Mt 27:51-53) appears to be analogous to the Feast of First Fruits. In the Law, when a farmer harvested his field, he grabbed a sheaf of stalks, cut it off, and offered it to the Lord for a wave offering. Now, we know that Christ is “risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Cor:15:20). “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land ...and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord...on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it” (Lv 23:10-11).
Isn’t it interesting that “on the morrow after the Sabbath” (Sunday), this offering was made? What a parallel to the resurrection of the Lord! Men have long pondered why this group of saints in Matthew 27 was raised from the dead and seen by many, indicating that they must have had bodies of some sort. What is not mentioned is whether they went on living, only to die again, or whether they were taken up to be with the Lord. We know that this appearance had to have happened for more than just shock value. We believe that Morris provides excellent insight.
Some may have never considered that in that sheaf of grain, the farmer was holding more than just one stalk. Christ was the “first fruits,” but those saints who resurrected at that time seem to have been included in that sheaf, again, fulfilling the type.