When Jesus cried out and yielded up His spirit in His death on the cross, the earth quaked, rocks split, and tombs opened. After Jesus resurrected, many saints resurrected bodily and came out of the tombs and appeared to many in Jerusalem (Matthew 27:50–53). The centurion who oversaw Jesus’s execution was in awe seeing the earthquake and its effect so that he declared, “Truly this was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54). Why did these saints resurrect when Jesus resurrected?
Jesus’s resurrection is the power of resurrection for all. Did Jesus need to be buried in a tomb for others to come forth from the tombs? Christ predicted, “Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28–29 ESV). Jesus promised to resurrect everyone who believes in Him on the last day (John 6:39–40). He revealed, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:54).
The apostle Paul wrote that those who have united in Jesus’s death by baptism will rise in a resurrection like Christ’s resurrection (Romans 6:4–5). How so? Paul spoke of the power of the Holy Spirit revealing, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11). Paul taught, “Knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into His presence” (2 Corinthians 4:14). The faithful will resurrect bodily as Jesus resurrected. The apostle Paul noted, “And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by His power” (1 Corinthians 6:14). Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection. He is the beginning of the coming resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20–26).
The nature of the resurrected will be bodily and spiritual. The natural body will change and put on the immortal and imperishable nature. The apostle Paul revealed, “So is it [the glory] with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15:42). How can this be? The mortal body does not dissolve forever but resurrects and changes (1 Corinthians 15:51–52). “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:53). Paul noted that the resurrected will not put off the body but put on the new nature as he also stated, “For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened — not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (2 Corinthians 5:4). Otherwise, “I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15:50). The body must change to enter the heavenly homeland.
For this reason, the apostle rejoiced, “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). Jesus’s resurrection is the reason that the gospel is the power of God to salvation (Romans 1:16). Jesus’s resurrection is the source and the reminder of the hope of eternal life. Paul declared, “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved” (Romans 8:23–24a). Therefore, let us proclaim the gospel of Jesus’s resurrection with hope of eternal life.