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“Open your graves”

May 25, 2006

This New Testament Theology class has got me thinking quite a bit. Latest ponderance:

Ezekiel 37:11-14

Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished We are completely cut off.’

“Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel.

“Then you will know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people.

“I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken and done it,” declares the LORD.'”

So right in the middle of Ezekiel 37 (the Valley of Dry Bones passage), there is this prophecy about raising Israel up out of their graves. Makes sense in terms of placement since this passage is all about God restoring the house of Israel (and Judah), making a new covenant of peace with them and giving them their Davidic king. The chapter later goes on to have God say that He will set His presence in their midst in a new way (which fits that the body of Christ is a temple…) Especially given the remainder of Ezekiel which describes a rebuilding (the final rebuilding) of the temple, which we ultimately see filled in the new Jerusalem of Revelation 21 and 22. A type of restoration/resurrection just seems to fit well. Also, the church becomes the true Israel (could be a whole separate post, just roll with me for this one; first piece of evidence is the body of Christ being a temple…) so the part about the Spirit being put in us mixes nicely with Acts 2 and the fulfillment of the Joel 2 prophecy.

So with that in mind, we come to Matthew 27:50-54, a passage that has always fascinated/confused me:

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.

And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split.

The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised;

and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.

Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

So Jesus Messiah just gave up his life on the cross, the veil is torn. So again we’ve moved back to discussion of a temple. And in this case, the earthly Jerusalem temple has just become null and void; the separation of God from man is broken.

We then move to one of the weirdest thoughts/sights in the NT. A bunch of dead folk coming up out of their tombs and walking through the city. I’m sorry, but my mind just jumps to some cheesy 50s movie about the night of the living dead or something.

I’ve always wondered why on earth Matthew included those two verses at all, but especially when he does. But I think it makes sense now. Aside: the word for ‘open’ in Ezekiel 37 in the Septuagint is the same Greek word that Matthew uses in ch. 27.

Plus (just talked with a buddy here at work and he saw something I didn’t), Ezek 37:14 says “‘Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken and done it,” declares the LORD.'”

The “done it” part relates to the last verse of Psalm 22, verse 31:

They will come and will declare His righteousness
To a people who will be born, that He has performed it.

That word for “performed” is the same Hebrew word as “done” in Ezekiel 37:14. And Psalm 22 is one of the most easily recognizable Messianic psalms. So it makes even more sense why Matthew would want to bring up that part of Ezek 37 when he does.

We’ve got ourselves a literal fulfillment of Ezekiel 37.

What do you think?

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