Q&A: Resurrection of Old Testament Saints

QWhen are the Old Testament saints raised? At the rapture or the appearing of Christ?

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AThis question is hotly debated among Christians. However, a review of several scriptures will settle this issue, and show that Old Testament saints will be raised at the rapture along with the Church.

First, Hebrews 11:40 says, “God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” This hints that the Old Testament saints will be “made perfect” (glorified, including raised bodies) at the same time as Christians who have died. By comparing with 1 Thessalonians 4, we know this will take place at the rapture.1

Second, 1 Corinthians 15:23 says, “But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” In 1 Thessalonians 4 it is “the dead in Christ”, which would be Christians strictly. But in 1 Corinthians 15, it is “they that are Christ’s”, which is broader, including all those of faith who have died. Of course, we must couple this with 1 Thessalonians 4 to see that the resurrection of 1 Corinthians 15 takes place at the rapture.2

In this case Old Testament Saints would be part of the “twenty-four elders” in Revelation 4-22, who witness the judgments of the earth from heaven, seated around the throne of God.

A common passage some would use to show that Old Testament saints are raised at the appearing would be Daniel 12:2; “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame, to everlasting contempt.” However, I believe this is rather a reference to the national resurrection of Israel, similar to Ezekiel 37, the ‘valley of dry bones’. It is not talking about the bodily resurrection of Old Testament saints.

  1. To see where brethren writers taught this, see William Kelly’s exposition of Hebrews. “…before the Lord comes, when we and all the O.T. saints shall be perfected in the likeness of His body of glory, and go to meet Him on high.”
  2. To see where brethren writers taught this, see Darby’s lectures on the second coming of Christ. “…those saints who are dead must be raised for that. When I say “saints,” I mean all the saints, those of the Old Testament, as well as those under the New Testament, dispensation.”

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