Arlen L. Chitwood
The Resurrection of Israel
By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones. (Hebrews 11:22)
The two previous chapters in this book have dealt with a detailed account of the blessings in store for both Israel and the Church, which will be realized in the coming age. Beginning with verse twenty-two (“By faith Joseph”), the center of attention shifts to Israel and the Gentile nations.
From this verse through verse thirty-one (“By faith . . . Rahab”), there is a sequence of historical events typifying in chronological order a series of events that will occur on earth at the conclusion of the Tribulation.
The faith of Rahab though is slightly different. The faith of Rahab deals with issues that both reach back into the Tribulation and are projected forward into the Millennium.
That which is foreshadowed in the first part of this sequence of events (emanating out of Joseph’s and Moses’ faith [vv. 22-29a]) pertains specifically to Israel, and events in the second part (emanating out of the faith of the Israelites under Joshua, and Rahab’s faith [vv. 29b-31]) pertain more specifically to the Gentiles, though Israel, of necessity, is still seen at the forefront throughout.
Note how this overall sequence of events in verses twenty-two through thirty-one is structured:
1) The Bones of Joseph (v. 22)
Attention is directed to the bones of Joseph immediately before the Exodus from Egypt. “Moses took the bones of Joseph with him” at this time, for (because of Joseph’s command to his people before his death) his bones were to be transported out of Egypt with the living (Genesis 50:24-26; Exodus 13:19).
This foreshadows that future day when attention will be directed to the bones of Old Testament saints immediately before the deliverance of Israel from a worldwide dispersion. Abraham and his descendants through Isaac and Jacob, who died in the faith during Old Testament times, will be raised from the dead and delivered with the living (Ezekiel 37:1-14, 24; Daniel 12:1, 2; John 11:6, 7, 25, 43, 44).
2) The Deliverance of Israel (vv. 23-29a)
The Israelites, after keeping the Passover, were delivered from Egypt under Moses, taking the bones of Joseph with them.
This foreshadows that future day when the One who is greater than Moses returns and, following the national conversion of the Jewish nation (when they keep the Passover) and the subsequent resurrection of Old Testament saints, delivers the Israelites from a worldwide dispersion. Those having died outside the land, in places such as Babylon, will be raised from the dead and will return with the living.
3) The Destruction of Gentile Powers (vv. 29b, 30)
The destruction of Pharaoh and his armed forces in the Red Sea at the time of the Exodus under Moses and the destruction of Jericho under Joshua forty years later when the Israelites entered the land present two different facets of God’s dealings with Gentile world power yet future.
Gentile powers yet future, as in the past, will stand in the way of the Israelites’ departure from that which is typified by “Egypt” (always seen as a type of the world in Scripture) and entering into and dwelling safely, at rest, in the land covenanted to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, realizing the rights of the firstborn in that land.
The final and complete destruction of Gentile power in that day will occur after the Israelites have been removed from a worldwide dispersion, with the dead (resurrected) returning with the living. One facet of the type is shown by and through the utter destruction of Pharaoh and his armed forces after the Israelites had been removed from Egypt under Moses (Hebrews 11:29a); the other facet of the type is shown by and through the utter destruction of Jericho after the Israelites had entered the land under Joshua (Hebrews 11:30).
4) The Salvation of Gentiles (v. 31)
Rahab, a Gentile, was saved out of the destruction of Jericho.
This foreshadows the great host of Gentiles yet future being saved out of the destruction of this world system. Their salvation will be effected by and through hearing and believing the message of the 144,000 Jewish witnesses during the Tribulation, as Rahab’s salvation was effected by and through hearing and believing the two spies that were sent into Jericho before the Israelites had crossed the Jordan and entered the land (Joshua 2:1ff; Revelation 7:1ff).
Then, the matter is projected into the Millennium, when an entire converted Jewish nation will go forth with the message of the one true and living God, carrying this message to the Gentile nations worldwide (Isaiah 53:1ff; cf. Isaiah 43:7-11).
(The Old Testament, beginning in the opening chapters of Genesis, is filled with end-time events pertaining to the Church, Israel, and the nations. And Hebrews chapter eleven, drawing from the Old Testament, beginning in Genesis, can be no different. In fact, almost all of Hebrews chapter eleven is prophetic in its scope, as is the book of Hebrews as a whole.
But in a more restricted sense, note that Hebrews 11:23-30 [the faith of Joseph, Moses, and the Israelites under Joshua relative to the destruction of Jericho] specifically foreshadows events that will occur over a very short period of time following the return of Christ at the end of the Tribulation. Then, as previously seen, verse thirty-one [the faith of Rahab] foreshadows the salvation of the Gentiles, which will continue from the Tribulation [by a first fruit of the nation (cf. Revelation 14:4), the 144,000] into and throughout the Millennium [by the main harvest, the entire converted and restored Jewish nation].
God attaches far more than just a passing note of importance to Christians understanding these future events, especially in their correct, chronological framework. Thus, these events will be dealt with in this book, as they are in the book of Hebrews, in four separate parts. The present chapter will contain the first part — the bones of Joseph accompanying the living at the time of the Exodus, foreshadowing the coming resurrection of Old Testament saints who, if they died and were buried outside the land, will accompany the living from a worldwide dispersion; and the succeeding three chapters will contain the other three parts.)
Resurrection in General
For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.
But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.
Then comes the end . . . . (1 Corinthians 15:21-24a)
To properly understand the resurrection of Israel and the place that it occupies on God’s prophetic calendar, one should be familiar with the complete scope of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, i.e., the resurrection of all mankind. Every individual who has died since the days of Adam will, at some point in time, be raised from the dead. Scripture is very clear on this matter.
The vicarious death and subsequent resurrection of Christ are universal in their scope. Christ died for the sins of the world, and whosoever will can realize salvation through His vicarious death. The resurrection of Christ is equally all-inclusive.
Because of His resurrection, all of the dead will be raised. That is, Christ died for the entire world, even though the world will not receive Christ; and because of the resurrection of Christ, every individual who has died (saved or unsaved) will, at some point in time, be raised from the dead.
Again, note 1 Corinthians 15:22:
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.
The word “all” in both instances encompasses the same group, i.e., all mankind. Contextually, physical death and resurrection are in view. All die because of an act by the first man, the first Adam; all (the same “all,” it can be no different) will be made alive because of an act by the second Man, the last Adam. Their eternal destiny following their resurrection (which was decided before their resurrection) is another matter entirely.
Every man will be raised “in his own order,” or “company” (a military term is used in the Greek text — the word tagma, meaning, “division,” “group,” “company”). Christians will be raised in one company, at a particular time (1 Corinthians 15:51-57); Old Testament saints will be raised in another company, at a particular time (Job 19:25, 26; Daniel 12:1, 2); Tribulation saints will be raised in another company, at a particular time (Revelation 20:4-6); and the unsaved dead from both Man’s Day and the Lord’s Day will be raised in another company, at a particular time (“Then comes the end [the end company] . . . ” [Revelation 20:11-15]).
The word “resurrection” is a translation of the Greek word anastasis, which means “to rise up,” or “to stand up” (a compound word [ana, “up”; stasis, “to stand”]). Since it is the body that dies and is laid to rest, it must be the body that rises, stands up.
The bodies of Christians will rise before the Tribulation; the bodies of Old Testament and Tribulation saints will rise after the Tribulation; and the bodies of the unsaved dead throughout both Man’s Day and the Messianic Era will rise at the end of the Messianic Era. All of the saved will be raised in different companies, near or at the end of Man’s Day, both before and following the Tribulation, preceding the Messianic Era. All of the unsaved will be raised in one company, the last company, 1,000 years later at the end of the Messianic Era.
These are some of the basics of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead; and the reader would do well to heed the admonition of the writer of the book of Hebrews, in chapter six (vv. 1, 2), “let us go on to perfection [maturity],” with “resurrection” being one of the six things mentioned in these two verses.
Resurrection in Particular
Many of the basic teachings concerning the resurrection of Israel are derived from biblical typology, or signs, in both the Old and New Testaments, along with the Jewish festivals in Leviticus chapter twenty-three. These teachings, in turn, must be understood in the light of biblical distinctions between God’s dealings with Israel and God’s dealings with the Church. Almost all erroneous teachings concerning Israel’s resurrection can be attributed to the expositor ignoring one or more of these areas of instruction provided in the Word of God.
Israel’s resurrection will occur at a particular time, in a particular manner, and will be followed by particular events. And one must understand distinctions that God has established between Israel and the Church in order to correctly see the overall picture, placing the resurrection of Israel in its proper Scriptural perspective. Consequently, the remainder of this study will center on material pertaining to these distinctions, particularly as they have to do with the resurrection of both Christians and the Jewish people.
1) Israel’s Resurrection Occurs Completely Separate from That of the Church
Israel’s resurrection awaits the completion of Daniel’s unfulfilled seventieth week (lit., “seventieth seven,” the final seven years of Daniel’s prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27 [seventy sevens, four hundred ninety years] pertaining to the time in which God will deal with Israel, preceding and leading into the Messianic Era). God deals with the Church outside the scope of these seventy sevens, but God’s dealings with Israel during the latter days are either within the scope of the seventy sevens or following this time (during the seventy-five days seen in Daniel 12:11-13, which is evidently the length of time between the end of the Tribulation [the end of Daniel’s seventieth seven] and the beginning of the Millennium).
(In Daniel’s prophecy, from the issuance of the command “to restore and to build Jerusalem,” following the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities, until the time when “everlasting righteousness” would prevail was to be “seventy sevens.” That is, from the decree issued by Artaxerxes [Nehemiah 2:1-8] until the Messianic Era, God’s dealings with Israel would be confined to a four-hundred-ninety-year period.
At the termination of sixty-nine sevens [four hundred eighty-three years], Israel’s Messiah was to be “cut off” [Daniel 9:26]. This event occurred in 33 A.D. Israel was then set aside, the chronometer marking a full four hundred ninety years was stopped, and during the interval [the present dispensation] God is taking out of the Gentiles “a people for His name.”
After God completes His purpose for the interval between the sixty-ninth and seventieth sevens [completes His purpose for the present dispensation], those whom God has removed from the Gentiles, with believing Jews forming part of this same body as well [Acts 15:14-18; Galatians 3:26-29; Ephesians 3:1-6] — comprising the one new man “in Christ” [Ephesians 2:11-15] — will be removed from the earth into heaven. God will then turn back to Israel, and the chronometer will again be set in motion, marking off the final seven years of the full four hundred ninety years.
For a fuller discussion of Daniel’s prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27, refer to the author’s book, The Time of the End, Chapter 12, “Daniel’s Seventy Weeks.”)
Daniel’s seventieth seven, the coming Tribulation, will comprise the final seven years of Man’s Day, climaxing 6,000 years of human history. And this will be the time when God will work out His plans and purposes regarding man in a final respect, resulting in man, at the end of these final seven years, being elevated into the position for which he was created in the beginning — to have dominion, to rule (Genesis 1:26-28).
These final seven years will be the time when Satan and his angels are cast out of the heavens onto the earth (Revelation 12:4, 7-12), anticipating man, at long last, holding the scepter. This will be the time of the rule of the Antichrist, to whom Satan will give his “power, his throne, and great authority” (Revelation 13:1ff). This will be the time when Satan launches his final and most intense attack against Israel, resulting in the destruction of two-thirds of the Jewish population of the earth (Revelation 12:6, 13-17; Zechariah 13:8, 9). This will be the time during which “unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s [Israel] sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:22). Israel will be saved out of this time, but Israel must pass through the complete four hundred ninety years before she sees the face of her Messiah again.
At the termination of the seventieth seven of Daniel’s prophecy, Scripture states,
Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:29, 30)
Israel’s Messiah will return, the nation will look upon the One whom they crucified, a nation will be born in a day, Old Testament saints will be raised from the dead, and “the whole house of Israel” (the resurrected, along with the living who survive the Great Tribulation) will be restored to the land covenanted to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Old Testament saints, contrary to that which is often taught, cannot be resurrected with Christians before the Tribulation. Aside from other considerations, God is not presently dealing with Israel on a national basis. The resurrection of Old Testament saints must await the time God turns to Israel once again, and the Scriptures are clear that this resurrection will not occur until the completion of the full four hundred ninety years of Daniel’s prophecy.
2) Israel’s Resurrection Occurs After a Time of Trouble — After the Tribulation
The basic framework showing the proper place for the resurrection of Israel in relation to the Tribulation and subsequent restoration of Israel can be seen in the removal of the bones of Joseph from Egypt at the time of the Exodus. This same basic framework is also evident in other Old Testament passages such as Isaiah 26:8-19 and Daniel 12:1, 2.
During the days of Moses, 3,500 years ago, the Israelites were in Egypt under bondage to a governmental system controlled by “the Assyrian” (cf. Exodus 1:8; Isaiah 52:4). The Assyrians had previously come down, conquered Egypt, and were at this time controlling the affairs of state. Prior to the deliverance under Moses, events in this book move through ten plagues brought upon the kingdom of the Assyrian (Exodus 7:20-12:30).
The tenth plague had to do with the death of the firstborn (Exodus 11:1ff), which the Israelites experienced via a substitute — a lamb from the flock. Moses then took the bones of Joseph and led the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 13:19ff).
The Israelites in Egypt under bondage to a governmental system controlled by the Assyrian of his day typifies the Israelites yet future in their worldwide dispersion under bondage to a governmental system controlled by the Assyrian of that coming day — the Antichrist (Daniel 8:8, 9; Isaiah 10:5, 12, 24-27; Micah 5:5, 6).
The ten plagues brought upon the kingdom of the Assyrian in Egypt foreshadow God’s judgments yet future upon the worldwide kingdom of the Assyrian, though not the judgments of the Tribulation.
“Ten” is the number of ordinal completion and refers to all of God’s judgments. And, as these judgments in the type occurred following Moses’ return and acceptance by his people (Exodus 4:19-31; Exodus 5:1ff), that which these judgments foreshadow has to do with events (further judgment beyond the Tribulation) befalling the kingdom of the future Assyrian following Christ’s return and acceptance by His people, the Jewish people.
Moses’ turning his attention to the bones of Joseph following the Passover but prior to the Exodus reflects on that time yet future when Jesus will turn His attention to the bones of Old Testament saints (Israel’s resurrection) following the Passover (Israel’s conversion) but prior to the Exodus (Israel’s restoration). At this time the Old Testament saints will be raised from the dead and be restored, along with the living, to the land covenanted to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (cf. Ezekiel 37:1-14).
Old Testament saints — Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, et al. — must be raised from the dead and be placed back in the land of Israel, else the promises of God in the Abrahamic covenant cannot be fulfilled (cf. Genesis 17:8; 37:1).
Joseph, “by faith,” before his death, had made mention of the departing of the children of Israel from Egypt, and the fact that his bones were to be removed from Egypt and accompany the living back to the land at this time (Genesis 50:24-26). Joseph’s faith was based upon God’s promise (Genesis 46:2-4).
And the nation of Israel in her dispersion among the Gentile nations today possesses this same promise. As surely as the Israelites left Egypt under Moses and later entered the land under Joshua, the nation of Israel yet future will be removed from the nations of the world and be placed back in the land by Jesus. And, as surely as the dead accompanied the living in the type, the dead (resurrected) will accompany the living in the antitype.
3) Israel’s Resurrection Occurs Between the National Conversion and Restoration of the Nation
The seven festivals in the book of Leviticus constitute what could be called, “The Prophetic Calendar of Israel.”
(These seven festivals are Jewish, not Christian. They were given to Israel, through Moses, and have to do with the Jewish people.
A secondary application of that which is seen in these festivals — that which is foreshadowed by the events, along with the sequence in which these events occurred — can be seen in the history of the Church, but that is neither here nor there. These festivals are Jewish, they have to do first and foremost with the Jewish people, and this must be recognized.)
These seven festivals outline in chronological order a sequence of events about to transpire in the camp of Israel, and are all unfulfilled insofar as Israel is concerned. The fulfillment of Israel’s national Passover (the first of the seven festivals) in the antitype of Exodus chapter twelve is yet future, as are events in the other six festivals. Events surrounding the Passover must occur first, and this feast of the Lord will not be fulfilled until the end of the Tribulation.
The progression of events in these seven festivals reveal a progression of events that will occur in the camp of Israel when Christ returns as the great King-Priest after the order of Melchizedek to deliver His covenant people (also see Chapter 9, pp. 144-146 in this book):
a) Passover: This festival has to do with the national conversion of Israel, when the nation looks upon the Pierced One. The Lamb has already died, the blood has been shed (Exodus 12:6), but Israel has yet to apply the blood (Exodus 12:7).
In this respect, the festival was partially fulfilled almost 2,000 years ago, but the complete fulfillment awaits a future date. Israel today dwells between the statement ending Exodus 12:6 and the statement beginning Exodus 12:7, and this festival can be fulfilled only when the nation acts in accordance with that which is stated in verse seven:
. . . the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it [the paschal lamb, foreshadowing the Paschal Lamb which Israel slew 1,500 years later] at twilight [lit., ‘between the evenings,’ which is part way between noon and 6 PM].
And they shall take some of the blood [that which Israel has yet to do] . . . .
(Exodus 12:6b, 7a).
Note in the type that the Passover occurred while Israel was still in Egypt. In the antitype Israel will have her national Passover while the nation is still scattered throughout the Gentile world. This is the time when “they [the Jewish people] will look upon” their Messiah, and a nation will be “born at once” (Zechariah 12:10; Isaiah 66:8).
b) Unleavened Bread: This festival has to do with the removal of sin from the house (house of Israel) after the Passover. Of what sins is Israel guilty? Israel is guilty of disobedience over centuries of time, with an apex of this disobedience seen in Israel’s harlotry out among the nations. Then the Jewish people climaxed their sins by crucifying their Messiah when He appeared to the nation.
And, because of this climactic act, Israel is presently unclean by and through contact with the dead body of God’s Son, and will remain unclean for two days (2,000 years). After two days, on the third day (on the third 1,000-year period [after the Tribulation, which will end the two days]), Israel is going to acknowledge her sins in the presence of the very One whom she crucified (cf. Genesis 44:16). Israel will then put sin out of the house (out of the house of Israel).
c) First Fruits: This festival has to do with resurrection. Christ was raised from the dead on this day, and Old Testament saints will be raised from the dead at this time, fulfilling this festival. The first fruits of the resurrection of Old Testament saints occurred after Christ was raised (Matthew 27:52, 53). The main harvest will follow.
d) Pentecost: Note what began to occur on the day of Pentecost, 33 A.D. (Acts 2:1ff). Joel’s prophecy began to be fulfilled, and this prophecy would have been completely fulfilled had Israel done what Peter told the Jews to do in Acts 2:38 — national repentance, followed by national baptism.
However, Israel did not repent, the nation was subsequently set aside for a dispensation, and any fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy has also been set aside with Israel for a dispensation. Joel’s prophecy cannot be fulfilled today, even in part. But it will be fulfilled immediately after the resurrection of Old Testament saints (Joel 2:27-32).
e) Trumpets: This festival has to do with the re-gathering of Israel. Christians await a trumpet calling them into the heavens before the Tribulation; Israel awaits a trumpet calling the nation back into the land after the Tribulation, following Christ’s return (Matthew 24:29-31; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).
f) Atonement: This festival has to do with a cleansing from sin for a people who will have already availed themselves of the blood of the Passover Lamb. Activities on this day have to do with blood on the mercy seat and cleansing from sin (sins previously acknowledged and put out of the house [the house of Israel], fulfilling the festival of unleavened bread. Atonement is to be provided for Israel’s sin of crucifying her Messiah (the same blood shed at Calvary, now on the mercy seat). Note the order in Ezekiel 36:24, 25 — a re-gathering before cleansing from sin.
g) Tabernacles: This is the last of the festivals and has to do with offerings made to the Lord and a time of rest at the conclusion of the preceding feasts of the Lord. This points forward to the millennial offerings (Ezekiel 45:15ff; 46:2ff) and a time of rest in the coming age after the conclusion of events surrounding the first six feasts of the Lord.
This festival lasted for seven days — a complete period of time — pointing forward to the complete duration of the Millennium.
Following the return of Christ at the end of the Tribulation, as previously seen, there will be a seventy-five-day period between the end of the last seven years of Daniel’s prophecy and the beginning of the Millennium (Daniel 12:11-13). It appears evident that the events set forth in the first six feasts of the Lord, leading up to events in the terminal festival, the feast of tabernacles, will transpire during this time.
Thus, the resurrection of Old Testament saints in the feasts of the Lord occurs at the same point as in biblical typology — between the national conversion and restoration of Israel.
4) Israelites Will Not Possess the Same Type of Resurrection Body That Christians Will Possess
Scripture setting forth the resurrection of Israel in its proper perspective is given in John chapter eleven. The resurrection of Lazarus is the seventh of eight signs recorded in the gospel of John. Out of all the signs that Jesus performed, the Holy Spirit moved John to record eight of them in his gospel account. And these eight signs have been recorded for one central purpose. They have been recorded in order that those requiring a sign — the Jewish people (1 Corinthians 1:22) — might believe, and by believing possess life:
And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book;
but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:30, 31)
(For additional information on these eight signs, refer to the author’s book, Signs in John’s Gospel.)
a) Lazarus, Israel — Type, Antitype
In the recorded accounts giving the life of Christ while here on earth, three individuals were raised from the dead (Matthew 9:23-26; Luke 7:11-15; John 11:38-44). There is no record of anyone dying in Christ’s presence. Note that the ones crucified with Him died after He had given up His spirit, i.e., after he had breathed out, after he had died. Lazarus died while Jesus was absent. It is not possible for death to occur in the presence of the One who said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).
This truth is set forth in the statement of Martha to Jesus: “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21b). The absence of Jesus, allowing Lazarus to die, was for a particular purpose: “. . . for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (v. 4b). Jesus Himself stated, “. . . I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe” (v. 15).
The time of the resurrection of Lazarus was after Jesus had been outside the land of Judaea “two days,” and after Lazarus had lain in the grave “four days” (vv. 6, 17). At this time Jesus said, “Let us go to Judaea again” (v. 7b). Lazarus was one whom the Lord loved (v. 3b), and the Lord returned to the land of Judaea, after a two-day wait, in order to raise Lazarus from the dead.
The time of the resurrection of Israel will be after Jesus has been outside the land of Judaea “two days,” and after Israel has lain in the grave “four days.” Each one of these days is 1,000 years in length (2 Peter 3:8). The length of Christ’s stay in heaven, out of the land of Judaea, will be “two days” — 2,000 years. At the termination of this time He will say, “Let us go to Judaea again.” Jesus will return and raise the one whom He loves from the dead. Israel at this time will have been in the grave “four days”: two days (2,000 years) before Christ under Law, and two days (2,000 years) after Christ apart from her Messiah.
b) Soulical and Spiritual Bodies
The resurrected body of Lazarus was the same soulical body that had died. Lazarus was raised in a body of flesh, blood, and bones. This was not the type of body that Christ possessed following His resurrection; nor is it the type of body that Christians will possess following the rapture and resurrection.
Christ, following His resurrection, possessed a spiritual body of flesh and bones — the same body that had been placed in the tomb — but the Spirit rather than the blood was now the life-giving, animating principle of the body. This is the same type of body that Christians will one day possess.
Both soulical and spiritual bodies are bodies of flesh and bone. The difference in the two bodies lies in the life-giving, animating principle of the body. Blood is the life-giving, animating principle of the soulical body; the Holy Spirit is the life-giving, animating principle of the spiritual body (cf. Leviticus 17:11; Isaiah 53:12; 1 Corinthians 15:44-50).
Note the contrasting difference between the resurrections of Lazarus and Jesus. The stone covering the tomb of Lazarus was rolled away to let Lazarus out (vv. 38, 39, 41). The stone covering the tomb of Jesus was rolled away to let others in to see that He was already out (Matthew 28:2-6). Lazarus came forth “bound hand and foot with grave clothes” (v. 44), but Jesus left his grave clothes undisturbed in the tomb (Luke 24:12).
Luke 24:12 states that Peter “saw the linen cloths lying (cf. John 20:5-7) by themselves.” The linen cloth forming the grave clothes of Jesus had been wrapped about the body using a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about “about a hundred pounds” (about eighty pounds [John 19:39]). Myrrh is a resinous gum, and aloes is a powdered wood. Mixing the two together formed a sticky substance that was spread on the linen cloth as it was wrapped about the body of Jesus in preparation for burial.
This complete process formed a covering about the body that would harden with time, similar to a plaster of Paris cast today. With the exception of His head, the complete body of Jesus was wrapped in this manner. His body was then laid in the tomb, and a napkin was placed over His head.
At the time of Christ’s resurrection, the mixture of myrrh and aloes had evidently hardened to an extent, and the grave clothes could only have been maintaining (at least after some semblance) the shape and contour of the body apart from the body being on the inside. That is, the grave clothes were “lying by themselves”; there was no body inside the grave clothes to hold them in the manner that Peter beheld. And the napkin that had been placed over His face had simply collapsed and was found lying in the place where His head had been.
To properly understand and appreciate the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, one must, in turn, have a proper understanding and appreciation of that which Peter saw when he gazed upon those empty, undisturbed grave clothes. The body had been inside the grave clothes one instance; but the next instance the body was outside the grave clothes and evidently outside the tomb (the place of death) as well, leaving the grave clothes completely empty and undisturbed, lying exactly where they had lain before Christ’s resurrection, but now empty.
Is it any wonder that Peter, seeing this scene, was astonished (Luke 24:12)? And, is it any wonder that the other disciple with Peter, seeing this same scene immediately afterwards, then believed (Luke 24:12; John 20:8)?
The body that Jesus possessed following His resurrection had capabilities that a soulical body does not have. This is the same body that Jesus possesses today — a body capable of transcending natural laws as we know them. Jesus, in His resurrection body, moved through solid objects, starting with His grave clothes (cf. Matthew 28:6; Luke 24:12; John 20:19). In this same body Jesus traveled in a manner (at the speed of thought, that which He willed) and to places (into the heavens) that a soulical body cannot travel or go (Acts 1:9; 1 Peter 3:19).
The resurrection of Christians before the Tribulation will be in spiritual bodies like the body of Christ. Christians alone possess the promise, “when He is revealed, we shall be like Him” (1 John 3:2; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:49). Christians will be raised from the dead — leaving their grave clothes behind, with their graves undisturbed — and be removed from the earth into the heavens. They will be raised in “celestial [‘heavenly’] bodies” (1 Corinthians 15:40a), for their promises and blessings are heavenly.
The resurrection of Israelites following the Tribulation though will be in soulical bodies like the body of Lazarus. Old Testament saints will be raised from the dead — evidently in grave clothes, with their graves opened — and will be placed in the land of Israel here on earth. They will be raised in “terrestrial [‘earthly’] bodies” (Ezekiel 37:1; 1 Corinthians 15:40b), for their promises and blessings are earthly.