We all know that Easter Sunday is the day we commemorate Jesus’ triumph over the grave, but did you know that His resurrection was not the first in Scripture? It also won’t be the last.
Here’s a quick guide to the other resurrections in Scripture.
The widow of Zarephath’s son (1 Kings 17:17–24)
Back in the book of 1 Kings, Elijah has the honor of being the first man of God through whom the Lord raised someone from the dead.
The story goes like this. After God used Elijah to provide miraculously for a widow and her son, the son later died. In her grief, the woman says to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!” (1 Kings 17:18).
But that wasn’t God’s heart at all. Instead, he used Elijah to bring the child back to life. It may seem bizarre, but Scripture records that Elijah stretched himself three times over the dead body of the boy and cried out to the Lord. The boy woke up.
The Shunammite woman’s son (2 Kings 4:32–37)
Elisha was Elijah’s successor in more ways than one, so it’s only natural that God used him to raise another boy from death.
A wealthy woman who lived in Shunem was kind to Elisha and provided for him whenever the prophet was in town. On one occasion, Elisha sent his servant to ask, “See, you have taken all of this trouble for us; what is to be done for you?” (2 Kings 4:13). Well, the woman and her husband had no children, so Elisha promised her that the Lord would indeed bless her with a son.
Sure enough, a son was born to the Shunammite woman. But then something horrible happened. He died suddenly while out in the fields with his father. His mother went and found Elisha. When Elisha returned with her to the house, he went up to where the child lay, and in Elijah fashion, “he stretched himself upon him, [and] the flesh of the child became warm” (v. 34). Then he did it again, the boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.
A random guy in Elisha’s grave (2 Kings 13:20–21)
In what might be the strangest resurrection in Scripture, a corpse tossed into the tomb of Elisha was brought back to life.
Yup. That’s right. It happened like this. A group of mourners were in the process of burying their friend when they heard some Moabite raiders approaching. Fearing for their lives, they quickly tossed the body out of sight. It landed in Elisha’s open tomb, and the two bodies connected. The dead fellow came back to life, a testament to the power of God that was at work through Elisha during his living years.
The folks Jesus raised from the dead (Luke 7:11–17; Mark 5:35–43; John 11)
Jesus is the Son of God, and during His earthly ministry He performed many miracles and signs to reveal the heart of the Father. Among these signs were resurrections.
One time, Jesus stopped a funeral procession to raise a widow’s son (Luke 7:11–17). Another time, he was “late” healing a synagogue official’s son, so instead of just healing her sickness, He brought her back from the dead (Mark 5:35–43). But perhaps the most famous resurrection Jesus performed was that of His friend Lazarus (John 11).
There Jesus declared, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). In God’s kingdom, death no longer has a final hold on any of Jesus’ friends.
Many saints on Good Friday (Matthew 27:52–53).
Of the four Gospel writers, only Matthew tells us that as Jesus died on the cross, the earth shook and many tombs of the saints opened up. Strangely, though they were apparently raised to life in that moment, they didn’t leave their tombs until after Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday morning.
Who were these “saints”? Likely, they were men and women who had responded to Jesus’ message but who died shortly sometime before He did. We can’t know for sure, but since they were recognized by folks in Jerusalem, that makes the most sense.
Why did they wait until Jesus’ resurrection to enter the city? Again, we can’t know for sure, but it would seem their presence was a testimony to the power and work of God. People would have begun hearing rumors that Jesus’ tomb was found empty with the stone rolled away. These resurrected saints were further evidence that God has power over death.
Tabitha, aka Dorcas (Acts 9:36–43)
Just because Jesus ascended to the Father at the beginning of the book of Acts, that doesn’t mean His work on earth is through. He continues to work through His followers, so we shouldn’t be surprised that He used His close friend Peter to raise a godly woman named Tabitha back to life in the coastal town of Joppa.
Eutychus (Acts 20:9–10)
Apparently Paul could preach… and preach and preach and preach. One time he preached such a long message in a poorly ventilated upper room that a young man fell asleep by the window and plummeted to his death. Like Peter, Paul was continuing the ministry of His Master, so God worked through the Pharisee-turned-apostle and raised young Eutychus from the dead.
The resurrection at the end of the age (Daniel 12:2; 1 Corinthians 15:35–58; Revelation 20:4)
There’s another resurrection coming—and it’s for you and me and all who have placed their hope in Jesus. But unlike these other resurrections in Scripture we’ve looked at briefly, this resurrection will be like Jesus’.
All these died again, but not Jesus. All these returned to mortal flesh, but not Jesus; He was transformed into glory. We, too, will one day open our eyes and find that we have been raised with spiritual bodies, physical yet supernatural, and that we have eternity laid out before us. And it’s all because of Easter Sunday.
Over to you
Read through the accounts of resurrection in Scripture sometime soon. What do they tell you about the heart of God?