QUESTIONS & RESPONSES
07/28/13b How do you understand Matthew 27:52-53? (the mass resurrection)
07/28/13a We worship the Father, but do we pray to Jesus or the Father?
On July 28, 2013, we received the following comment and inquiry:
“Do you have a thought on Matthew 27:52 and 53? As a Witness I never saw this.”
To the author, thank you for your email. It is not our intention to answer every question one may have about the Bible. We like to focus our ministry on matters of sonship with God, the brotherhood of man, and the heavenly hope. However, the scriptures you refer to have a bearing on things heavenly so we will provide our thoughts.
Let’s look at the scriptures you refer to in context. Here is what they state:
“Again Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and yielded up [his] spirit. And, look! the curtain of the sanctuary was rent in two, from top to bottom, and the earth quaked, and the rock-masses were split. And the memorial tombs were opened and many bodies of the holy ones that had fallen asleep were raised up, (and persons, coming out from among the memorial tombs after his being raised up, entered into the holy city,) and they became visible to many people. But the army officer and those with him watching over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things happening, grew very much afraid, saying: “Certainly this was God’s Son.”
- Matthew 27:50-54
We can see how these verses raise many perplexing questions. They seem to indicate that immediately after Jesus’ death, there was a physical resurrection of people who walked out of the grave sites and into Jerusalem, and that many people saw these walking resurrected ones. But taking this in context with the rest of the Christian writings, we know that is not what is being conveyed.
First, we can assume that the resurrections referred to occurred, not at the time and location of Jesus’ death, but at the memorial tombs because they could not occur until after Jesus had been resurrected.
“[T]hat the Christ was to suffer and, as the first to be resurrected from the dead, he was going to publish light both to this people and to the nations.”
– Acts 26:23
Second, the resurrection of the dead is a raising to spiritual life.
“So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption, it is raised up in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised up in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised up in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised up a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual one.”
– 1 Corinthians 15:42-44
And third, we know Jerusalem was not considered to be a ‘holy city.’
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the killer of the prophets and stoner of those sent forth to her,—how often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks together under her wings! But you people did not want it. Look! Your house is abandoned to you.”
– Matthew 23:37-38
Based on these conclusions, we will share with you what we believe the verses are conveying.
It appears that the writer is giving some information and then supplementing that information with other events that are used to explain the impact of the original event. Specifically, the writer is speaking about Jesus’ death and explains that an earthquake occurred shortly after he expired. The writer then adds some supplemental information when he explains the later-discovered impact the earthquake had, i.e., it caused some memorial tombs to split open. This event is then used as part of the writer’s evidence confirming that a mass resurrection took place. Then the writer returns to his original event, the death of Jesus, when he describes how the army officer, standing near Jesus at his death, reacted to the earthquake.
Hence, we believe the writer is telling us that Jesus’ resurrection was followed by a resurrection of those who were sleeping in death up until that time, possible as far back as the days of Adam. When the verse says “they became visible,” it reminds us of the body Jesus had when he was resurrected – the body was invisible, but it could become visible at will. Then those who were resurrected eventually entered into the ‘holy city’ in heaven, New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2), though, of course, that part was conveyed to the writer in some manner other than by sight, since human eyes could not have seen this event. It is much like what Paul wrote when he said ‘Christ entered into a holy place to appear before the person of God.’ (Hebrews 9:24) Paul did not witness this event, but it was made known to him in some other manner. And finally, before the resurrected ones ascended to heaven, many people were granted a glimpse of this mass resurrection as a witness that such a resurrection had occurred. Matthew made a written record of it.
We want to emphasize that this is how we understand these verses. There may be other ways to understand them and, if they are consistent with the rest of the Christian writings, would be just as much a possibility, and equally as valid, as is our understanding. Whatever its true and actual meaning, this is an interesting scriptural reference that will likely give rise to much conversation and conjecture until the matters are further revealed to mankind either during our earthly sojourn or when we attain to our places in heaven.
On July 28, 2013, we received the following comment and inquiry:
“When you pray is it to our older brother Jesus or the Father? I understand that the Son can and does send the helper and that worship goes only to the Father. I have read each of the articles but still I still find myself praying to Jehovah almost entirely?”
To the author, thank you for your email. We know that others are likewise confused about this subject matter. The problem is that many do not understand Deity, or more specifically, the unity of Deity. It is our intention to write an article on that subject this year which we believe will provide a great deal of clarity. However, whether one understands Deity or not, the answer is ultimately the same: We can pray directly to Jesus, or to the Father ‘in the name of Jesus.’ The important thing is that we recognize the authority of Christ Jesus when we pray. Jesus said:
“Also, whatever it is that you ask in my name, I will do this, in order that the Father may be glorified in connection with the Son. If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.”
– John 14:13-14
Of course, ‘the name of Jesus’ is not a talisman that we can recite by rote as if it has some magical power. It is the person who carries the name that has the power. Jesus’ authority is real and deserving of conscious respect and honor.
“And, look! they were bringing him a paralyzed man lying on a bed. On seeing their faith Jesus said to the paralytic: ‘Take courage, child; your sins are forgiven.’ And, look! certain of the scribes said to themselves: ‘This fellow is blaspheming.’ And Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said: ‘Why are you thinking wicked things in your hearts? For instance, which is easier, to say, Your sins are forgiven, or to say, Get up and walk? However, in order for you to know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins—‘ then he said to the paralytic: ‘Get up, pick up your bed, and go to your home.’ And he got up and went off to his home.”
– Matthew 9:2-7
“For this very reason also God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every [other] name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”
– Philippians 2:9-11
When we pray to Jesus, it is the Father who is glorified. There is no rivalry between the two. Jesus and the Father are one – wholly united in purpose. Jesus said: “The Father and I are one.” (John 10:30) So we can in confidence leave our prayers at Jesus’ feet and know that they will be heard.
“I make request, not concerning these only, but also concerning those putting faith in me through their word; in order that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in union with me and I am in union with you, that they also may be in union with us, in order that the world may believe that you sent me forth.”
– John 17:20-21
This is the Father’s will:
“While he was yet speaking, look! a bright cloud overshadowed them, and, look! a voice out of the cloud, saying: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved; listen to him.”
– Matthew 17:5
We can also look to this scripture for some direction:
“In like manner the spirit also joins in with help for our weakness; for the [problem of] what we should pray for as we need to we do not know, but the spirit itself pleads for us with groanings unuttered. Yet he who searches the hearts knows what the meaning of the spirit is, because it is pleading in accord with God for holy ones.”
– Romans 8:26-27
Here, we learn that sometimes we may pray without using words at all, yet our prayers will reach their proper destination. Consider this:
The Father is a God of order. (1 Corinthians 14:33) So there is a certain methodology to His ways. There is so much about heavenly operations that is unrevealed. But we are certain that once they are revealed, many of those ideas will be logical and reasonable to the human mind. So let us speculate for a moment. We know there are radio and broadcast circuits through which we communicate with one another. We believe there are likewise spirit circuits through which divine communications travel and by which we are drawn to the Father. (John 6:44) We believe our prayers ‘made in accord with God’ travel such a circuit and reach their ultimate and appropriate destination. They are not lost in the ethers.
And finally, the Father remembers we are dust (Psalms 103:14) and He will not punish us for not fully understanding his ways. (1 Corinthians 2:16) Thus, there is no reason for alarm or great concern. The key is to pray with a whole soul and a pure heart (Matthew 22:37) and if you are confused, let the spirit plead on your behalf. If you approach your prayers with these thoughts in mind, you will always gain the right listening ear.