When it comes to the Bible, being dead can refer to two different things: a dead physical body or a dead spirit. Let’s understand how the dead died and how they resurrect.
The resurrection of a dead spirit
Main reference: Ez 37:1-14 (prophecy)
In Ezekiel 37, God’s spirit comes to the son of man and leads him to a valley full of dry bones. God asks the son of man, “Can these bones live?”, and the son of man responds, “O Sovereign Lord, you alone know,” (Ez 37:1-3). The son of man prophesies again and the bones come together, bone to bone. Tendons and flesh appear and skin covers them, but they have no breath (Ez 37:4-8). Then, God uses the son of man to prophesy to the breath, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain.” When the breath enters them, they come to life and stand to become a huge army (Ez 37:9-10). Again, God uses the son of man to prophesy, “O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them and I will put my Spirit in you and you will live,” (Ez 37:11-14).
The bones begin to rattle when they hear the son of man prophesy God’s words. Tendons and flesh appear, and the breath of life enters them. Graves are opened and the formerly dead emerge alive. This is what happens when God puts his life-giving spirit into people’s hearts. This is the resurrection of the dead that occurs through God’s word, but this is a prophecy that finds its fulfillment in the future. Let’s read the words of Jesus that describe how it will be fulfilled.
The fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy
Main reference: Jn 5:24-29 (fulfillment)
Jesus did what he sees his Father doing (Jn 5:19). By speaking God’s words on God’s behalf, Jesus became God’s counselor (Jn 14:24; Jn 17). Jesus is also our counselor since he speaks on our behalf before God (1 Tm 2:5; 1 Jn 2:1). As the counselor, Jesus said the following:
“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” (Jn 5:24-29)
At the time of the first coming, Jerusalem was like the Garden of Eden in Genesis. The serpent-like Pharisees (Mt 23) represented death and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Jesus, as the counselor of God, represented life and the tree of life (Jn 14:6). Jesus became life when God, who is life, gave it to him (Jn 5:26). Crossing over from death to life meant moving out from under the Pharisees to Jesus. The graves Jesus mentioned in Jn 5:29 were figurative for the synagogues of Physical Israel, and the dead bodies inside those graves were people with dead spirits.
The spirits of those dead people came to life when they heard the words of the son of man. God’s son Jesus was speaking on behalf of God and his words were the breath of life for people’s spirits. When a man resurrects and emerges from the grave, his spirit lives again. Ezekiel 37 was fulfilled at the time of Jesus because the people of Israel were spiritually reborn and given the holy spirit of God.