Are you dead dry bones or are you alive? Is your spiritual life lifeless? Do you fully understand the concept of being resurrected with Christ?
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. (Matt. 23:27)
We are challenged not to be like the Pharisees in so many ways. We do not want to be dead inside. The Pharisees were those who maintained the tombs of the prophets (Matt 23:27), and they were defined for their belief in the resurrection (Acts 23:8), and now to be exposed as dead men’s bones.
For so long, the Jews, all Israel, and the Hebrew patriarchs practiced burying the bones of their dead (Gen 50:25; cf. 1 Sam 31:8-13; 2 Sam 21:14; 1 Kgs 13:31). Moses brought the bones of Joseph out of Egypt (Exod 13:19), and Israel did not bury Joseph’s bones until
after Joshua led Israel to take Canaan (Josh 24:32). As reported, the historical Hebrew burial custom was to wrap the deceased body and place it in a tomb for a year and then removing the bones to place them into a bone box in an inner section of the tomb (Price, Randall. “The Stones Cry Out.” 1997.). Why such a respect for bones? Had they formed any additional ideas respecting God’s power to raise the dead?
Ezekiel’s prophetic vision of the Valley of Dry Bones can enlighten the heart and encourage the soul of every Christian. The Spirit of God brought Ezekiel into a valley full of bones. God asked Ezekiel, “Can these bones live?” For which Ezekiel replied, “O Lord God, you know” (37:3). God commanded Ezekiel to prophesy to the dry bones, “[H]ear the word of the Lord” (37:4). By doing this, God said, “Then you shall know that I am the LORD” (37:6). Ezekiel did as commanded and prophesied to the dry bones that rattled and came together. Sinew and flesh came upon these bones and the breath of God came from wind and filled these bodies bringing them to life. These people stood upon their feet and were an exceedingly great army.
The context of Ezekiel’s vision is the key to understanding what he saw. God revealed to Ezekiel saying, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’” (37:11). God was showing that Israel in their current captivity and separation from their homeland. God was going to restore them bringing them back to life. God said, “I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live” (37:14). From the context of the Valley of Dry Bones, God said,
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. (36:26–27)
When was this all to happen? Was this when Israel had immediately returned or was there another occasion when the Spirit of God would be poured out upon His people?
God putting His Spirit into His people is an indicator that this eternal kingdom and covenant is that of Christ (Rom. 8:10–11). Following the revelation of the Valley of Dry Bones, God showed what He meant about restoring Israel to life. Through Ezekiel, God revealed this raising to life to include “one king shall be king over them all” (37:22), “My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd” (37:24), “their children’s children shall dwell there forever” (37:25), “David my servant shall be their prince forever” (37:25), and “I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them” (37:26), and God said twice that He will set “my sanctuary in their midst forevermore” (37:26, 28). Add to this that earlier in Ezekiel’s writing before the Valley of Dry Bones, Ezekiel wrote similar words of the LORD,
And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the LORD; I have spoken. I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild beasts from the land, so that they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. (34:23–24, cf. 34:30–31)
An everlasting ruler, an everlasting covenant, and an everlasting sanctuary in the midst of God’s people, these are descriptions of Christ’s eternal kingdom (Dan 2:44; 7:14). This began as the church of Christ (Col 1:13; Heb 12:28; 1 Pet 2:9). The church became Israel and Israel united with the nations in faith (Rom 9:6; cf. Isa 42:6–7; 49:6; 60:1–5). The New Testament is the eternal covenant of the Spirit (2 Cor 3:6; Heb 13:20; cf. 1 Cor 11:25; Heb 7:22; 8:6–13; 9:15). The Temple is the church in which the Holy Spirit dwells (1 Cor 3:16–17; 2 Cor 6:16–17; Eph 2:19–22; 1 Pet 2:5). These concepts are both beautiful and epic.
We, the disciples within the Church of Christ, are resurrected. Though we were dead and dead men’s bones, we are now alive in Christ (Eph 2:1–6). We are saved by grace when were raised with Christ as Ephesians 2:4–6 (ESV),
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ by grace you have been saved, and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
By the hope of the resurrection, the Church is established being born again through the resurrection (1 Pet 1:3) and saved by baptism through the resurrection (1 Pet 3:21). Believers are raised with Christ from being baptized into the death of Christ (Rom 6:3–6; Col 2:12–13). Christ’s Spirit speaks in Romans 8:10–11 saying,
And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
By the Spirit, we have life. By the water and the Spirit, we have been born again to be able to enter the kingdom of heaven (John 3:5; cf. Gal 6:8; Tit 3:5).
Our faith in Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection is completed in conforming to Christ’s death and resurrection (Phil 3:9–11). The Scriptures prophesied Christ to die, buried, and raised from the dead (Ps 16:10; Isa 53:8–10). This is the saving Gospel (1 Cor 15:1–4, 17). Even, hostile sources reveal that Jesus’s body was certainly buried in a known tomb, the tomb was sealed and guarded by soldiers, and on the third day, Jesus’s tomb was found empty (Matt 28:13, 15). Neither the enemies of Jesus stole His body who would have returned it upon claims of resurrection, nor did the Apostles steal Jesus’s body to proclaim virtue in a lie about Jesus’s resurrection. Yet, the tomb was found empty. This leaves the verification from the Apostles in their writing that Jesus is the resurrected Christ just as Jesus said in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live”.