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Verses 52-53

Matthew 27:52-53. And the graves were opened Some of the tombs were shattered and laid open by the earthquake, and doubtless continued open all the sabbath, since the law would not allow of any attempt to close them on that day: but the dead bodies which were in them did not come to life till Christ’s resurrection had taken place, as is implied in the next clause, for he was the first-born from the dead, Colossians 1:18; and the first- fruits of them that slept, 1 Corinthians 15:20. And many bodies of the saints which slept The bodies of many eminently holy persons; arose and came out of their graves Or tombs, while they remained unclosed; after his resurrection Probably immediately after it; and went into the holy city That is, Jerusalem, called the holy city, on account of the temple and its worship; and appeared unto many Who knew them; thus attesting the truth of that most important event, Jesus’s resurrection, and declaring their own rescue from the grave, as a kind of first-fruits of his power over death, which should at length accomplish a general resurrection. It is and must remain uncertain who these saints were that had now the honour of being the first-fruits of Christ’s resurrection. Mr. Fleming thinks, that they were some of the most eminently holy mentioned in the Old Testament; and that they appeared in some extraordinary splendour, and were known by revelation to those to whom they appeared, as Moses and Elijah were to the disciples at the transfiguration. But Mr. Pierce, Dr. Macknight, and many others, think it more probable that they were persons who had died but lately, perhaps, such as had believed on Christ, and were well known to surviving disciples. Whoever they were, their resurrection was a most extraordinary event, and doubtless was much spoken of in Jerusalem among those to whom they appeared, and other well-disposed persons to whom they mentioned it. It is not improbable that Christ’s prophecy, recorded John 5:25, referred to this event, and thereby received its accomplishment, being distinguished from the general resurrection predicted in Mat 27:28-29 of that chapter. As it is only said, these saints appeared to many in Jerusalem, but not that they continued with them, it is probable that as they were undoubtedly raised to immortality, they attended their risen Saviour, during his abode on earth, and afterward accompanied him in his ascension, to grace his triumph over death and the grave, and all the powers of darkness, Ephesians 4:8; Colossians 2:15. Thus, as the rending the veil of the temple intimated that the entrance into the most holy place, the type of heaven, was now laid open to all nations, so the resurrection of a number of saints from the dead demonstrated that the power of death and the grave was broken; that the sting was taken from death, and the victory wrested from the grave; and if they ascended with him too, it was thus shown that the Lord’s conquest over the enemies of mankind was complete, and not only an earnest given of a general resurrection of the dead, but of the kingdom of heaven being opened to all believers.

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