All Is Lost, All Is Found

This year’s Easter article (2009)is one of the more intriguing I have written.  It is based on Scripture I have wanted to explore for years.  The article “All Is Lost, cialis sales view All Is Restored” deals with an unusual occurrence during Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection – one that few Bible commentators exposit to any extent.  This Easter I will attempt to interpret and apply Matthew 27:51-54.  It is one of the most incredible Scriptures I have read.

ALL IS LOST, look ALL IS RESTORED!

“Behold, cialis I am the Lord, the God of all flesh;

is anything too difficult for Me?”

Jeremiah 32:27

Earthquakes were very common in Israel in Jesus’ day, much like they are in California where I live.  So when two earthquakes hit Jerusalem during His crucifixion and resurrection, this most likely did not surprise the Jews.  The only ones who might have been caught off guard by such seismic activity were the Roman soldiers who were new to the region.  But regardless of whether you were a Jew or a Roman, earthquakes did cause fear and got everyone’s attention.

I know this because I have been through most of the recent California earthquakes.  Two of the worst took place in 1971 and 1994.  We were both scared and caught off guard.  In 1971 (The San Fernando/Sylmar earthquake) 65 people were killed and 50 million dollars of damage was done.  In 1994 (The Northridge Earthquake) 61 were killed and 15 billion dollars of damage resulted.  Everything in our house seemed either shattered or broken after the Northridge earthquake.  We slept outside in our van for a week until the aftershocks subsided.

But as frightening and attention getting as those earthquakes were in Jerusalem over 2,000 years ago, there was another event even more startling and surprising taking place …and I am not talking about Jesus’ resurrection.  Matthew is the only one of the Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) to record this astonishing event because he may have been the only one to see it firsthand.  Regardless, it is in the Scripture and plays a significant part in Jesus’ death and resurrection.  As you read the following verses, realize that the first verse about the veil of the Temple being torn was in each of the other Gospels.  It is included here in order to give context to what comes afterward.

And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and  the rocks were split.  The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.  Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

Matthew 27:51-54

So, who were these Saints?  What was God’s purpose in raising them from the dead?  Where were they before their bodies were raised from the dead?  What did they do for three days before entering Jerusalem after Jesus’ resurrection?  How long did they live before dying again?  These are all challenging questions, but I will do my best to answer them according to my own background knowledge of the times and the Bible.

Who were these Saints and what was their purpose?

Some commentators (and there are only a few) purport that these Saints were some of the earlier Patriarchs; men like Moses and Elijah.  After all, these two men showed up at the Transfiguration, why not again in order to accomplish God’s purpose?  But I don’t believe so as no one in Jerusalem, except Peter, James, and John who were at the Transfiguration, would have known who they were for there were no previous portraits, pictures, or videos from which to draw.

In respect to God’s purpose in raising these Saints from the dead, I deduce that these were believers in Christ who had recently died.  They were men, women, and even children who would immediately be recognized when they walked through Jerusalem after Jesus’ resurrection.  This works into God’s purpose, which I believe was to give those in Jerusalem further evidence that Jesus had truly risen just as those who stood before them – once dead, but now alive.

Where were the Saints before their bodies were raised from the dead?

The Scripture is pretty clear about where a believer goes when he or she dies…whether it is in Old Testament times, Jesus’ day, or today.  All immediately move into the presence of God (2 Corinthians 5:5-8; 2 Thessalonians 4:13-14).  In our culture we use the term “pass on” for death to soften the blow.  In Jesus’ time they used the term “fallen asleep.”  No matter the term, when a believer dies he is with the Lord.  Just as Moses and Elijah were when they appeared to Jesus, James, John, and Peter at the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9).

What did the risen Saints do before entering Jerusalem?

Although there is no way of really knowing what they did after being raised from the dead until they entered Jerusalem, it can be assumed they went home and showed themselves first to their own family and friends.  What a joyous surprise that must have been for those families.  After those three days at home, they fulfilled God’s plan and entered Jerusalem showing themselves to all.  In the midst of such an obvious miracle, it seems almost impossible they would not have proclaimed a risen Christ during their walk around that great city.  For what other purpose were they raised except to do this?

How long did the Saints live before dying again?

Once again there is no direct Scriptural reference detailing how long they lived before dying again.  The only reference to draw from is in John 11where Lazarus had a similar experience.  He, like these Saints, died and was raised from the dead.  Lazarus’ raising was to build belief in Jesus as the Son of God.  How long he lived after that is not important, anymore than it was for the Saints who did the same with their testimonies.   But in both cases, I surmise there were a lot less tears at their second funerals than the first.  Because all would know as never before, that life does not end on earth but goes on in a glorious way with God and others throughout eternity.

Jesus said, “Remove the stone.”  Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.”  Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”  So they removed the stone.  Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.  I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.”  When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.”  The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth.  Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”  Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him.  (John 11:39-45)

Final Thoughts

As you celebrate this Easter amidst a very difficult and precarious time where many have recently lost their jobs, savings, and homes, God is still making miracles.  Two thousand years ago the Jewish people had lost everything; the Roman occupation had wiped them out; they lived from hand to mouth.  Then Christ came and things began to change.  For the first time in years, they had hope – a renewed expectation that God would restore their lives and their nation.  But at the height of their hope, Jesus was crucified.  All was lost!  All was lost!  All was lost!

After Jesus’ body was torn down from the cross, all returned to his or her own home, likely head down, broken and downtrodden.  And then all of a sudden for some, perhaps those who had held onto their faith, loved ones whom had recently died began showing up at their doorsteps.  These were perhaps mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and even children, once dead, but now alive again!  With tears joyously rolling down many of their cheeks, how many ways did they say, “How can this be?  How can this be?”  But it was, because when God is in charge anything is possible.  At the height of their despair, God sent two great miracles, one of the risen Saints, and the other of Jesus, the Son of God.   The Saints brought evidence of the Son, as well as victory over death.  Christ’s death and resurrection, brought victory over sin and the promise of eternal life to all who believe (I Corinthians 15:55-57; Romans 6:9-10; John 3:16).

At the end of it all:   The two earthquakes, Christ’s death on the cross, the resurrection of Saints, and finally the resurrection of Christ Himself, all was restored!  All was restored!  All was restored!

WILL HE NOT NOW ALSO RESTORE US?

“O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?”  The sting of death is sin, …but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  (I Corinthians 15:55-57)

“..knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.  For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all…”  (Romans 6: 9-10)

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”   (John 3:16)

God’s Word

(Other references in the article)

2 Corinthians 5:5-8  5Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.  6Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord 7for we walk by faith, not by sight 8we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.

2 Thessalonians 4: 13-14  14But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.  14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.

Matthew 17:1-9  1Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brothers, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves.  2And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light.  3And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.  4Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  5While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud (God the Father) said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!”  6When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground and were terrified.  7And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, “Get up, and do not be afraid.”  8And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus Himself alone.  9As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.”