On Thursday afternoon of Passion week, around 3:00 pm as the Passover lambs were being slaughtered for the celebration that would begin at sunset, Jesus Himself expired upon the cross as the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. He and His disciples had celebrated the Passover the previous day, having reckoned the fourteenth of the first month to be a day earlier based on their sighting of the new moon a day earlier—a phenomenon that still happens today to Muslims determining the start of Ramadan because of the sometimes-ambiguous nature of the new moon. God in His sovereignty used this ambiguity, that would have been the source of significant controversy at the time, to allow Jesus to establish the Lord’s Supper as the new covenant in His blood as He celebrated the Passover the night before, and also be put to death as the Passover Lamb at the exact time the religious leaders were putting to death their own Passover lambs on behalf of the nation.
In yielding up His Spirit as He breathed His last, Jesus let out a great cry that was not only heard but felt as the spiritual power unleashed by His death, like the hidden force of tiny atoms, tore the veil of the temple in two, shook the earth, and split the rocks. It also opened the tombs and raised to life many bodies of the saints who had died. That these were more specifically resuscitated, and not resurrected, is clear because Scripture is clear that Jesus was the first-born from the dead never to die again, and He was not resurrected until three days later. Only after Jesus was raised from the dead with a glorified, resurrected body did such a distinction become important because prior to His resurrection any and all who were raised to life (such as the widow of Nain’s son, Jairus’ daughter, and Lazarus) would eventually have fallen again into the sleep of death, and any before the time of Christ like the Shunammite’s son in 2Ki 4:32-36 would also have descended to Sheol / Hades. Similarly, after Christ’s resurrection as the first-fruits from the dead, until the day He returns on the day of resurrection, any who have died and are perhaps raised again to physical or natural life must also fall again into the sleep of death, for flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor can the perishable inherit the imperishable (1Co 15:50); the natural body must be sown in death before it can be raised a spiritual body (1Co 15:44; cf. Joh 12:24, Phil 3:10-11). However, since the time of Christ’s death and resurrection to deliver mankind from the power of death, the souls of those who die in Christ no longer descend to Sheol while their bodies rest in the grave, but ascend to be with Christ where He ascended after descending to the lower parts of the earth to set free from death and Sheol all those who had died in faith looking forward to the promised deliverer; see Eph 4:8-10, 1Th 4:14; cf. Joh 11:25-26.
What does Matthew say that those saints did who were brought back to life by Jesus’ death? See Mat 27:53. What is meant by the holy city? See Neh 11:1, Isa 52:1, Dan 9:24, Mat 4:5. Whereas Jerusalem was set apart as the physical location upon the earth that God chose as the place for His name to dwell (Deut 12:5,11), and many godly saints over the ages dwelt there in humble faith so that for them it was the holy city of God, what had that city become to many others who persecuted the prophets and had now crucified the promised Savior Whom God had sent to deliver them from their sins? See Isa 1:10, Jer 23:14, Rev 11:8. What is the physical counterpart of that holy city of God today wherein the Lord has made His Name to dwell, and in what way has it also become to many like Sodom? See 1Co 3:16, 2Co 6:14-16, Rev 17:1-6. What is the spiritual city of God which both the true Jerusalem and Church foreshadow? See Psa 46:4-5, 48:1-8, Gal 4:25-26, Heb 12:22, Rev 3:12, 21:2-3,10. In what way then were those who were resuscitated by Jesus’ death and went into the holy city a type of all those who will be resurrected to enter the holy city of Jerusalem that is above? Cf. Rev 20:4-6. By what name is the counterpart of God’s spiritual city known that has been corrupted by the world? See 1Pe 5:13, Rev 17:5, 18:2,10,21. What must those do who would dwell in God’s holy city where He has made His name to dwell forever? See Isa 48:20, Jer 50:8, 51:6,45, Zec 2:7, Rev 18:4.
From Matthew’s description of the bodies of many saints being raised at Jesus’ death, but continuing to rest in their graves until after His resurrection to enter into the holy city, what can we conclude was the purpose of them appearing to many? What wonder and amazement would the appearance of those who were raised have caused in those who knew them—and knew they had died? In what way would that astonishment have sown the seeds of faith to believe the gospel message and its hope of the future resurrection from the dead when it was proclaimed fifty days later on the day of Pentecost? Cf. Act 2:1-7,41. Whereas the fact that they were raised would have been self-evident, would those to whom they appeared, or perhaps even they themselves, have necessarily understood with any of the spiritual clarity we now have what had happened or what was happening at the time? I.e., when God acts even in miraculous ways, is it always, or perhaps even ever, absolutely clear at the time what He is doing, or are His purposes only understood by faith, by those who seek Him in truth to know Him? Although we should expect that even on the other side of the grave faith will still be required to patiently wait upon God as He continues throughout all eternity to reveal Himself to those who love Him, what does the fact that these who remained in their graves until after Christ’s resurrection—apparently in obedience to the Spirit of God that had raised them—indicate about what death had done to their faith? In what way does taking up our cross to follow Jesus in dying to our own self-will similarly perfect our faith? Cf. Heb 12:2, Jam 2:22; contrast 1Sa 13:6-14.
The Atonement of Christ's Blood: Understanding How the Blood of Christ Saves and Reconciles us to God
- What is the relationship between Jesus’ sacrifice and our redemption, forgiveness and receiving an inheritance per the terms of the covenant / will that was effected by His death?
- From what, and to what, are we saved? Is it Jesus’ death alone that saves us? What part does His resurrection have in our salvation?
- Does the justice of God demand the satisfaction of blood before He will forgive, similar to what pagans throughout history have believed?
- What was the purpose of the Old Testament sacrifices?
- Does blood alone atone for sin?
- How does Christ’s death render powerless the devil?
- To whom was Christ’s life given as a ransom? From what are we ransomed?
- Why did Jesus not only die, but suffer and die? If all that was necessary was His shed blood, why didn’t God sovereignly ordain a more merciful death for His own dear Son?
- What is the relationship between a will or testament, and a covenant? What was willed to Jesus as an inheritance from His Father, and what was willed to us through the new testament in His blood?