And the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the tombs were opened; and many bodies of the saints that had fallen asleep were raised; and coming forth out of the tombs after his resurrection, they entered into the holy city and appeared unto many.
THE sign of the rent veil had not only illuminated the temple, but had also illuminated everything which lay outside of it, and had prophesied concerning it. Nor had it merely affected the living, but it had also prophesied concerning the dead. It had prophesied about the relationship existing between the shadow-service of the past, and the future of the church. Is it any wonder, then, that this sign of the rent veil is accompanied by movements of nature, and by a prophecy which arises from the church of the advent coming up from the past, in order to establish a relationship between the past and the future, and in order to point out the Christ as the One in whom this relationship is established.
A sign is performed in nature; and a voice arises from the church of the advent. Come, see it, and hear it.
When Christ died the earth quaked. As a result of that the rocks were rent. Naturally, this last sign was limited to the vicinity of Jerusalem. For that reason we also believe that the quake was restricted to this neighborhood. We noted on a previous occasion that the Greek word which is translated “earth” here can also mean “country” or “area.” Hence we accept for the reasons previously given (see page 387). that the earthquake was also limited to this environment. By this we do not mean to deny that for the people living here the quake spoke a language of a general character.
After all, every earthquake is regional. But wherever the atmosphere was tense because of expectations for the future, such a regional earthquake always was regarded as a sign of universal significance. The same holds true now. Hence the whole significance of the earthquake is not contained in the thought that it was a “gesture of mourning” on the part of nature because of the death of Christ. That does not explain the phenomenon entirely any more than the three hours of darkness sometime before can be explained completely as such a “gesture of mourning.” No, again we must think of a proclamation of God, a proclamation which God is giving the people of revelation. Especially when we relate this earthquake to the destruction of the temple (to which our preceding chapter was devoted) does it take on a prophetic significance in the minds of an expectant people. God addresses the Jews in their own language. The earthquake served as a woe which heralded an advent, as a sign of the coming day of judgment, as a sign of the coming of God with eschatological intent. God took this means to say to Israel that Golgotha was not a forgotten little place in which a certain case of a certain Nazarene had been executed; but that His death is a sharply accentuated moment in the day of the Lord, and a beginning of the last judgment. An earthquake always serves as a catastrophe of the last day in all advent-prophecy. This goes to prove once more that Golgotha is indeed a place of judgment, and that it was not an exaggeration but a declaration of the truth when we chose in this book to relate the events to catastrophes of judgment. This catastrophe points out the attitude we must take. We must look here for an extreme act of judgment.
The second sign is connected with the earthquake. This second sign is a cry rising from the coming church of the dead. The graves were opened, and many bodies buried in them were laid bare. If we choose, we may regard this as a natural result of the earthquake. However, we may not take this attitude inasmuch as we are told that many of the dead were aroused to life, that they stepped out of the grave, and appeared to many in the holy city. We cannot doubt that the reference is to a definite resurrection from the dead of these people, inasmuch as the earthquake is not a “natural” phenomenon of nature but must be regarded as a sign, we can say that this whole complex of events is to be characterized as a miracle.
Yes we see people rising from their graves. Hades opens itself and makes a statement. Christ enters into Hades. He enters into the realm of the dead, but in the same moment the mouth of Hades opens and the dead make their appearance and begin to speak.
They arise for the sake of Christ. We understand that at once. That in itself is a glorious message. Irrespective of what they wish to say or not to say, what they wish to do or not to do, the fact that human beings come for the sake of Christ at this time is already a happy message. We know that the angels do very little in the history of the passion of Christ. The angel who did come to Gethsemane was the last one. Recall the host of angels who came on Christmas eve and it strikes you as worth remarking that the angels had a very little share in the passion of Christ. But now, although the angels do not appear, men rise up to prophesy, and to point to the Christ. Plainly, this is progress. For it is good when angels speak to men, but it is better when men themselves point their finger in the direction of Christ. We know that salvation is not for the angels, but for men. A servant is much, but a son is more. The angel is the servant, but man is the son in the house of God. Yes, indeed, God has made progress. True, He has not yet reached the point He wants to reach, for the messengers of the day are but the people of Hades. And God prefers preachers who are the stalwart fishers of flesh and blood, He prefers the workaday people of Corinth to the people of Hades; for no one preaching in the busy market-place of life, can constitute a more effective proof of His power than these. Be that as it may, these are people, these sons of Hades. Inasmuch as they rise from the dead, they are the first fruits of the power of Christ. Is not this glorious? Now men refuse to be pushed off the stage. That much Christ has achieved. The angels can come later on the feast of the Passover. Our text tells us already that the announcement of the Passover by the angels presently will be accompanied by an announcement from men. We read that after His resurrection they appeared unto many.
Many questions can be asked in this connection which are difficult to answer. The first question probably will concern just who are meant by those who were raised from the dead. Without resorting to guesswork, or without immediately looking for “striking names,” as those do who immediately think at least of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, of Moses and Job and others, we certainly may take it as a fact that these are people who died comparatively recently. They were still in the grave; and those graves were not very old. If they had been graves containing historical personages, these would very likely have been indicated by name. More over, the fact that they are designated as saints points to the truth that when they made their appearance they were immediately recognized. To this we must add the indication that they made their appearance in the holy city of Jerusalem. That also suggests that they have been dead hut a comparatively short time. For this would give their appearance a more convincing character. Men must have been struck by the fact that many dead were exposed, but that only saints, generally acknowledged saints, were raised to life. God Himself had made the decision. The Nazarene was given a good witness by the church of the advent, a cloud of witnesses taken from the “remnant” after the election of grace, from the “remains,” the best of the people. Hence it was not without reason that we spoke of the church of the advent. And if we may be allowed a guess for a moment we would ask: Were these perhaps not those members of the church of the advent who in these last trying times were looking for “the consolation of Israel”? For these had placed their own fellowship of faith overagainst the ideals of the political anticipators of the Messiah. Simeon and Anna. Zacharias and Elizabeth, are typical representatives of this “remnant of election,” and the name “saints” points in the same direction. And the question concerns the problem of whether these dead, having returned to life, looked over the situation and knew what had happened to Christ We refuse to guess, but we do want to ask: What can be said against the supposition. Even though, according to the text, their appearance is to be taken as an appearance to the eye rather than as an address to the ear, the mere fact of their “appearance” indicates that, they had a message. And is it conceivable that they themselves were ignorant of the content of this message? Surely they were saints whose hearts burned within them because of the messianic problem. Can it be that the spiritual world had not felt the shock caused by the death of Christ? Was their return to the life of earth not a result of a command of God, and can we, then, believe that they were silent about what He wanted? Samuel knew of Saul, and Moses and Elias knew of Christ when they had to return to the earth for a time bearing a special message. Hence it is quite possible that these delegates from Hades were also familiar with the situation. It is possible, and it is probable. The fact that they, even though it was Friday evening when they were recalled to life, made their appearance in the city on Sunday morning after Christ had arisen, also suggests this conclusion.
 Emphanizoo means: to make apparent. This in itself, therefore, does not constitute evidence of the fact that this was an appearance of people resurrected from the dead. But the connection of this verb with the subject “bodies,” not persons who had entered the holy city before, proves definitely that we must think of a public manifestation of people who have been raised from the dead.
 The words “after His resurrection” must not be related to the words “came out of the graves,” but to the “went into the holy city.” See Zahn Ev. Matthew , 3 rd edition, p. 715.
Even though there are questions which we cannot answer, what we know suffices to build up our faith.
The first message which God makes known by the fact of their arising and appearing spells the word: judgment. The murderers of the Christ are being condemned in unmistakable language by the representatives of Hades. A sinister miracle had taken place. In general all the graves had indiscriminately been opened. But only certain graves proved after a while to be empty. When the time came to make a report it was noticeable that the graves of those who had been noted for their piety were the empty ones. That was worth some attention; that gave the sextons, and also governors of Jerusalem something to think about. And this restlessness on the part of the inhabitants of Jerusalem had been advisedly planned by God. It seemed as though God Himself was permitting Himself an unnecessary circumlocution such as Christ had once allowed Himself in order to preach His right as king. Certainly the miracle was being withheld terribly long. Arisen on Friday but not appearing until Sunday — surely that is rather circumlocutive. First the city is held in suspense for a day because it cannot solve the riddle, cannot tell why the graves of the pious are the ones that are empty. And then, thereafter, as a second fact, these pious persons appear in the city by way of answering their question. Thus restlessness hovered over the city; the “atmosphere” of Endor was created. God is no longer answering His people: not by dreams because the Spirit has fled; not by visions, because the prophets were dumb, and the seers blind. Restlessness feverishly perturbs the heart of all; the crowd had left Golgotha and gone home beating upon its breast. Just what is the meaning of all this? God has made a selection among the dead. The one was left lying, the other was called to life. And the one recalled to life was a typical example of the messianic expectation of redemption. It was a brother of that quiet congregation which had stood aloof from the program of violence sponsored by the Judases and the Barabbases. Only such pious people does God raise from the grave in the moment of Christ’s death. God’s selective voice is unmistakable. He has the Nazarene, that Messiah who never resorted to force, and the one who himself had also opposed Judas and Barabbas, — he has Him greeted by the covenant group of the former day. O grievous selection! God has the people who murder the Messiah contradicted by the group who expected the Messiah. This is a suggestive anticipation of the weighty chorale of Revelation 20 : “Which had not worshipped the beast lived . . . and the rest of the dead lived not again.”
 See Christ in His Suffering, chapter 7
 See Isa_29:10, and Christ on Trial, chapter 2, pp. 40-44.
Heaven is contending with the ostentatious pretensions of Abraham’s decadent people, and Hades is becoming involved in it. The saints of the last days speak for Jesus. The spirit of Samuel rises in threat above Endor-Jerusalem.
Yes, the judgment of this day is a proleptic judgment. By this selective voice of God a protest arises from the graves against the spirit which later hit upon the plan of Akeldama. Akeldama is a cemetery for “strangers.” It is an insistence upon the old Jewish pride, which holds that the nation of Israel is God’s only elect people. Overagainst this God is pointing out that upon the cemetery of Jerusalem itself two groups are distinguishable, the sons and the strangers. There are two groups: the children of the home, who may go out to meet the Bridegroom because they have the faith of Abraham, and the others, who do not have that faith, and are therefore in the last analysis barbarians and aliens to God.
 See Christ on Trial, chapter 13, p. 265 b.
 We must remember, of course, that this does not mean that the persons have already been judged (think of the massacre of the children at Bethlehem).
Yes, this wonder was a judgment. It was the last judgment performed on the public stage of Israel’s own life in the Old Covenant. For this reason alone we find it strange that Christians often give so little attention to it. Peculiar to this last wonder is the fact that it took place without any human intermediary. The Prophet of Nazareth had done so many wonders “with” His hands, eyes, and voice. Now the Prophet is gone, but the wonders continue. Surely this represents a judgment. The week of the Passion began with a persecution of the Nazarene who had raised Lazarus to life. Hardly has the Nazarene died, however, before the miracle which they had attempted to stifle becomes manifest on all sides. The sign performed on Lazarus becomes multiplied. A while ago they mocked: He saved others, but now His pretensions to a miracle-working power are gone. But that miracle-working power, to all appearance has immediately returned and takes its effect this time without a human instrument. This too is prophetic. Presently this same Christ will return from the other world, through his Spirit, Himself remaining invisible the while, and thus He will effect His former influences. Herod will have a depressing week. We observed before that he very much feared those dead who still wandered about on the earth. These he regarded as a threat to himself. But the fear of Herod will become very general today. Judgment is abroad. When those dead make their appearance in the city presently, they will judge all the rulers of the city. These have said: Surely the Messiah has not made His appearance in Jesus, for Jesus breaks down the law of Moses. But a voice is heard issuing from Hades which says: He did not come to break down the law of Moses, but to fulfill it.
 Christ on Trial, chapter 21, p. 389 b.
 The words “after His resurrection” must not be related to the words “came out of the graves,” but to the “went into the holy city.” See Zahn Ev. Matthew , 3 rd edition, p. 715.
These dead stand on the border-line between the old and the new covenant, and they testify in the holy city— for that is after all the first address — of the Nazarene. They testify that He is the link between the two covenants. May Endor-Jerusalem tremble now, for it has allowed itself to be infected by the insanity of Saul, and it has bitterly fought against the fulfilled David and against Jahweh. They see gods, “supernatural beings,” arising out of the earth. What do they look like? They wear the garments of prophets; the cloak of Samuel can be seen upon their shoulders. God addressed the city this last time by means of a sign which the city itself desired. Learn to tremble, thou that dost murder the kings: the destiny of the darkling, called Saul, he who has become your patron, hangs suspended over your luxurious homes and over your emptied temple. Tremble, ye brothers of “the rich man.” The rich man of the parable asked for a messenger from the dead to send to his brethren. Perhaps such a one could succeed in converting the eager heirs of his estate. Now those messengers from the dead are here. Will the late brethren of the Israel which boasts that it is rich and self-sufficient repent? Tremble, ye keepers of the Sabbath, who are spotted with blood. The last shadow-Sabbath is coming: the calm Saturday. Throughout this quiet Saturday these returned dead of the church of the advent will be silent, and pass by your city. But hardly will the Sunday have dawned, before the message of the Nazarene will receive the most real of testimonies from the world of the dead.
Thus it happens that the first Sunday of the Christian church, the first Sabbath of the New Testament, is acknowledged and kept by the dead before it is discovered and celebrated by the living, The church of the Future sent the deputation which God appointed from Hades, and the Christian Sunday-sabbath, which had already been fixed by Christ’s sixth utterance from the cross (see page 458-459), is proclaimed from heaven by means of Hades. Thus we can say that the coming of the dead is an extension of the sign which preceded it: namely, the rending of the veil in the temple.
In this miracle also, however, grace goes paired with judgment. Surely it was an instance of great grace that God still preached the Messiah to the Jews in their own language. The Jewish rabbis had taught that in the messianic era many righteous should arise from the grave; these teachers had in fact asserted that the names of certain patriarchs could be given. Now these righteous people are here. Will the Jews believe now that they are in the messianic era?
We do not wish to underestimate the power of this grace. Who can say what this sign achieved by way of preparing for the feast of Pentecost? Who knows how many among those who embraced the word then had already felt their spirits restless in them at this time because of these wonderful things? Even though the spirit of Saul may harden itself while watching the signs, God ever preserves His “remnant” his “remnant of election.” David wins broken hearts for his great Son. This was an instance of grace, for these dead who have returned to life, are the first fruits of the power of Christ, the prince of the Passover. That is why they were not allowed to appear until after His resurrection. Amazed, they escort the prince of life at a distance. Thus one of Christ’s utterances takes on a newer and higher form of fulfillment, the word which He once spoke about Abraham (and his communion of faith), who “rejoiced to see His (messianic) day, and who saw it, and was glad!”
In the persons of these who have been rescued from the grave at the cost of struggle, the power of grace comes to expression which is greater than that which Lazarus and those who formerly returned to life were ever able to show the world. All those others had been raised, we can say, as witnesses to the Passover in the confusion. Their arising was sporadic. In their case the rising was merely proleptic. It represented an anticipation of Christ’s coming victory over death. But that victory itself was not in them. They who are here, however, arise from the dead when Christ dies, and may remain here until after His glad passover day. Thus they establish a relationship between Christ’s death and resurrection, preaching the unity which exists between His state of humiliation and His state of glorification. This they do not simply as individuals, as scattered bearers of the torchlight of the Passover, but this they do as a community. They represent many saints an anthology of the church of the future.
Thus they declare that the vengeance of God is always sweet. Their resurrection from the grave is the form God’s wrath takes against the bruised heel of the seed of the woman; but this execution of wrath is more than judgment; it is sweet, because grace is in it. They came out of the grave. And the Greek word for grave really means: memorial tablet, or monument. Their graves cried aloud: Remember that the church of the advent is sinking away in the dead. But today another voice issues from their monuments: remember that Christ Jesus on whom we hope is risen from the dead. Thus they become an honorable bodyguard for Christ Jesus. By means of their dumb gesture they manifest the lovely form of the defenseless priest-king of Zechariah 6, 9, whose image the murderers had forgotten entirely through the whole trial. This Christ is not making a triumphal entry in which He as the prince of the Passover rides on ahead and they pompously follow Him. No, every adornment is strange to Him. These people were never once seen in His company. It is true, of course, that overagainst ‘‘the Holy City” He glories in the fact that in Him the word of Isaiah spoken about the Messiah is fulfilled: The dead are raised. And in this glorying He repeats this message which He once gave to the Baptist (Luk_7:22). But now the situation is as it was then. Extending far beyond the claim that the dead are raised, His praise issues from the fact that the Gospel is preached to the poor (Luk_7:22; Mat_11:5). For this reason Christ paid no attention to the bodyguard which had been sent to Him, and did not trouble Himself for a moment about them after His resurrection. He has His trophies, but He does not put them on display. His Passover heralds do enter the holy city, but without Him. As for Himself, listen, O Jerusalem. Presently He will precede the poor into Galilee, that “backwoods” province, where the poor are weaving about in a dark land. For it is those poor who are being evangelized. That is His greatest Messianic glory: through their word others will believe in Him.
 See Christ on Trial, chapter 23, p. 429 f; Christ in His Suffering, chapters 8-9, pp. 121, 127, 128, and 137, 138.
The Priest-King manifests Himself here in His gentleness. The pagans conceive of mythological constructions, of heroes who die and carry others with them into their death. In pagan mythology the circle of death grows wider, ever wider. But this great Dead calls other dead out of the grave. In Him the area belonging to death grows smaller, ever smaller. The way of the souls maintains a living and alterable contact between “above and below.” No angels are seen ascending and descending the ladder of Jacob, but the pious souls of men are crowding out the angels of God, and pointing out the place where Jacob’s great son has laid His head. Presently they departed from the earthly life again. How? God alone knows. So much is certain: when they re-entered heaven everything there had changed. It was far more glorious than it had ever been. Up to this time the greatest glory of being there had been to lie in Abraham’s bosom. Now the greatest honor is to lie in Jesus’ bosom as a beloved disciple and to sit at His holy supper as a trusted guest.
Nevertheless this glorious miracle can achieve nothing without the Word. The old law asserts itself again: a sign cannot communicate to unbelievers, but only to believers. Do not forget that even in this astonishing miracle the offense of the cross persists, and Christ remains in concealment. We said a moment ago that God multiplied the miracle of Lazarus. Then we called it very glorious, but now we must call it very grievous. Just imagine. After that Sunday people could ask: Just who of all the resurrected ones is the one great person? When the miracle becomes multiplied it becomes common. God embarrasses the disciples when He asks them to preach Christ as the resurrected one. For everyone could say: Yes, we know, but the whole city was full of such children of wonder in those days. Why should anyone ponder further about the temple-maschil? Temples that had been broken down and restored again could be found in more than one place. Are they not all Lazaruses? Are they not all Christs?
You see that this sign also requires the Word to be appropriated in faith. It represents the beginning of the Passover; it is the overture to the cantata of the Passover, but without the Word of revelation it proves nothing. The representatives of Hades cannot convert men. Yes, a large number of dead arose in order to admonish the “brothers” of the “rich man,” but Abraham is right again. They have Moses and the prophets, and those must suffice for them.
The representatives of Hades cannot convert people, but shall we lament that fact? No, not that. On the mountain of transfiguration the last word was not addressed to the great of Sheol, or Hades, that is, Moses and Elias; that which transcended the miracles, and went far beyond the mystery of Hades was the clear call: Hear Him! More important than the wonder is the word! This is God’s final command. And he who has heard Him through the Word, has sincerely heard Him, will not look for the dead to come back, but will hear Christ prophesying in the Word, and thus by means of the power of His word will come to the confession: That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and sufferings, becoming conformed unto His death. Thus he will experience a greater grace than these first fruits of the Passover feast, for in the conformity to Christ’s death, herein his every-day life, which is speeding on and away from him without a single miracle, he will experience the power of Christ’s resurrection. And as a regenerated creature he will himself be the evidence of it. And having entered into the graves of the church of the advent, of the Maranatha-brethren, he will make his appearance in the church of the first born. And, after his own resurrection in the great and holy city he will take up his position on the pinnacles of the pearly gates and sing the passover cantata.