Resurrections Occur in Both the Old and New Testaments
In the Bible, dead people return to life. This happens on ten occasions, with three resurrections occurring in the Old Testament and seven times in the New. Check out these stories of people supernaturally raised from the dead.
1. Son of a Widow in Zarephath
The first person the Bible records as raised from the dead is the son of a widow in Zarephath. Her boy gets sick, his illness gets worse, and he dies. The woman lashes out at Elijah, blaming him and God.
Elijah shoves aside her hurtful words. He goes to where the boy’s body lays, and he cries out to God. Three times he stretches himself over the dead body and asks God to return the child’s life. God does, and the boy’s mother affirms Elijah (1 King 17:17-24).
2. Shunammite Woman’s Son
Elijah’s successor, Elisha, also raises a boy from the dead. The boy labors in the field with his father and gets a headache. The pain intensifies, and at noon the boy dies. His mother, a Shunammite woman, searches for Elisha and tells him what happened.
He sends his servant Gehazi to go to lay Elisha’s staff on the boy to bring him back to life. Gehazi tries but is unsuccessful. When Elisha arrives, he prays to God and lays on top of the boy. The boy’s dead body begins to warm. Elisha paces the room a bit and tries again.
The boy sneezes seven times, and his eyes open. He’s alive (2 Kings 4:18–37).
3. An Unnamed Man
In one of the more bizarre resurrections, a dead man’s body is hastily thrown into Elisha’s tomb. When the dead body touches Elisha’s bones, it comes to life and stands up, very much alive (2 Kings 13:20–21).
These are the three resurrections that occur in the Old Testament, one from Elijah and two from Elisha, albeit the second one after Elisha’s death. Interestingly, when Elisha gets ready to succeed Elijah, Elisha asks for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit.
God grants it, and we see it come to pass, with Elijah raising one person to life and Elisha resurrecting two (2 Kings 2:9–12).
4. Son of a Widow from Nain
In the New Testament, Jesus goes to the town of Nain. He sees a funeral possession and stops it. He tells the grieving mother, who is also a widow, to not cry. He commands the dead boy’s body to get up. The corpse sits up and talks (Luke 7:11–17).
5. Jairus’s Daughter
Another time, a synagogue leader, Jairus, begs Jesus to come to his house to heal his sick girl. Jesus agrees but another hurting person delays him along the way. Before he can get to Jairus’s house, the girl dies. Jesus tells Jairus to not worry and believe.
When Jesus arrives, he proclaims to the mourners gathered that she isn’t dead but merely sleeping. They mock him, knowing that she’s dead. Jesus takes her hand and tells her to get up. Life flows back into her body and she stands (Luke 8:40–56).
Lazarus is sick. His sisters, Mary and Martha, send for Jesus to come heal their ailing brother. Jesus doesn’t leave right away, and Lazarus dies.
By the time Jesus shows up, Lazarus has been dead and buried for four days. After interacting with the two mourning sisters, Jesus goes to the tomb were Lazarus’s body lays.
Jesus tells them to unseal the tomb, but the people object. They worry about the stench from Lazarus’s decaying body. But eventually they roll away the stone, unblocking the entrance to the tomb. Jesus commands Lazarus to come out. Lazarus does (John 11:1–44).
7. Many Holy People in Jerusalem
When Jesus dies, the curtain in the temple rips in half, the earth quakes, and tombs crack open. The bodies of many holy people buried in the cemetery come to life. They experience resurrection.
We don’t know their names or how many there are, but their reappearance would surely have astounded everyone (Matthew 27:50–53).
This mass resurrection symbolically shows Jesus’s victory over death, confirmed by many people rising from the dead. We see Jesus raising three specific people from the dead, along with many more who had lived holy lives.
In the early church, Peter also raises someone from the dead. Her name is Tabatha, also called Dorcas, and she lives in Joppa. When she dies the people in her hometown send for Peter.
When he arrives, he kneels and prays. Then he turns to the dead woman and tells her to get up. She opens her eyes, sees Peter, and sits up. Everyone is amazed (Acts 9:36–42).
Paul raises someone from the dead too, Eutychus. As Paul speaks to the people gathered, Eutychus, who sits in a window, falls asleep, and tumbles three stories to his death. Paul rushes down and throws his arms around the young man. He proclaims him alive. Then they celebrate (Acts 20:7–12).
Jesus’s victory over death changes everything forever. By rising from the dead, he takes that power away from the devil and frees us from the grip of death (Hebrews 2:14–17).
Thank you, Jesus!
(Read about other biblical references about dead people coming alive.)
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.