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. “…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.” – Kelly, W. Exposition of Hebrews.
  2. “…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.” – Darby, J.N. Lectures on the Second Coming of Christ.

4 thoughts on “Q&A: Resurrection of Old Testament Saints

  1. Joshua


    How you do understand the following verses, that are used to support the Ressurection of OT saints at the Appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    1) Job’s hope to see the Lord when He shall stand upon the earth compared with our hope to meet Him in the air.
    “I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.(Job.19:25-27)”
    “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.( 1 Thess 4:17).”

    2) Word of the Lord to Daniel that the will stand in his lot at the end of the days ( 1290,1335 days)
    “But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.( Dan.12.13)”

    3) Though not related to ressurection, the presentation of Our Lord as Sun to Israel compared with His presentation as Day Star to the Church.
    “But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.( Mal.4.2)”
    “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: ( 2 Pet 1:19)”

    Apologies for the long comment.

  2. Joshua Stewart Post author

    These are excellent questions. I’d like to answer them one by one, if you’d have patience with me. That being said, the answer to all three questions is essentially the same. The resurrection of Old Testament saints at the rapture does not conflict with their having an earthly hope, compared to the Church’s heavenly hope. The hopes of the OT saints were delayed, so that we (NT saints) could received better hopes, and that together, we could be “made perfect”, or raised together in the glorified state (Heb. 11:39-40). The Old Testament saints, though they join the heavenly company and so inherit some of what pertains to the heavenly saints, such as reigning with Christ (Rev. 20:4), still have a somewhat different portion than the New Testament saints.

    1) It is helpful to see that Job was looking for an earthly vindication. In his wonderful declaration, he speaks of his own resurrection (in my flesh), and his kinsman-redeemer one day standing on the earth, to vindicate him after all he had suffered and been accused of. This is consistent with other Old Testament saints who had an earthly hope. For example Enoch prophesied that the Lord was coming with 10,000s of his saints… where? to the earth. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were promised an earthly inheritance and an earthly seed. This does not stop Paul from later counting Christians who believe in Jesus as the children of Abraham in Gal. 3. I do not have any difficulty reconciling the earthly hope that Job had of an earthly vindication with the truth that was later revealed through the apostle Paul, that the Saints are raised and caught up. But they will again come with Christ when he returns to the earth. I believe that is when Job’s hopes will be realized. He will see his Redeemer stand on the earth when He comes at the appearing. However, I’m sure Job will have a much greater focus at that time than his own vindication!

    2) Very interesting question. I think the verse clearly states that Daniel will participate in the day of blessing that would come at the 1335 days; i.e. the Millennial reign. To Daniel, he would only have considered this to be a promise that Israel would be restored in their land under the Messiah, and that he himself would be present for their final deliverance. In fact, this is true, and the resurrection of all those who are Christ’s at His coming will do nothing to hinder Daniel from being present on that day. Perhaps this illustrates the difference between the Church (in Christ) and the Old Testament saints who have died. They have a special interest in the earthly kingdom that they somehow retain. To further support this, consider Matt. 8:11; “many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven”. Here we have Old Testament saints that have died, been raised, and have a close connection with the earthly kingdom under the reign of Christ. Those who reign with Christ will have an administrative role in the earthly kingdom, and it would seem that Daniel, as child of Judah, will have a portion (his “lot”) at the end of the days (Dan.12.13). No doubt Daniel’s “lot” will encompass much more than what he would have understood at that time.

    3) The day star or the morning star is the hope of the Lord‘s coming for His saints, which arises in the hearts of believers. 2 Peter 1:19 explains that prophecy, which is what the Old Testament saints had, is like a lamp shining in a dark place. They only had a little bit of instruction, but in the New Testament the day has dawned. The lamp of prophecy was good, and we do well to take heed to it, but since the day of New Testament truth has come, the prophecies are confirmed and greater light is given. The effect of New Testament truth is that the hope of the Lord’s coming rises in our hearts. This is something that couldn’t be true for Old Testament saints because the day had not dawned yet. The appearing of Christ is likened to the rising sun (Mal. 4:2), and this in natural terms follows close behind the morning star. So to conclude this point, the hope of the Lord’s coming could not rise in the hearts of Old Testament saints in the same way it does New Testament saints because they did not have the revelation of it like we have in the New Testament. This presents no difficulty in reconciling the hopes of Old Testament saints with the more enlightened hopes of New Testament saints.

    Sometimes you’ll hear people say Revelation 22:16 can be divided like this: Christ is “the root and the offspring of David” to Israel, and “the bright and morning star” to the Church. But in reality both of those things are said to the seven churches of Asia. In other words, Christ having His rightful place as the son of David is as much a part of the church’s hope as the rapture. Paul’s revelation of the rapture in no way diminishes our looking for and longing for the appearing of Christ (2 Tim. 4:8).

    1. benny

      I disagree with you, that the OT Saints are raised at His 2.coming, because Paul gives only 3 resurrections with an immortal body (1Cor 15:20+23,24). He divides 3 groups, first the first fruits that have already fallen asleep before Christ died. They are resurrected with Christ (Mat 27:52+53) and presented to the Father the next morning about 9 am at the Feast of First fruits. Then the First Resurrection Of ALL the NT Saints at the last trump (1Cor 15:51+52), the last day (Jn 6:39-54). There is a difference, the OT Saints come from Abraham’s bosom out of the earth and the NT Saints are coming from Heaven, every group belongs to their own dispensation. We cannot mix them. Dan 12:2 gives us no timing, it is a general prophesy of the raising of the dead, The unjust are not raised at His 2.coming, but at the end of the MK.
      Heb 11:40 is a strong argument, but they are redeemed with us through the sacrifice and the resurrection of Christ. When John went to Heaven, he saw the 24 elder already there, representing the congregation in the Haven of the spirits made perfect (Heb 12:23).

  3. James Ventilato

    Greetings brother,

    Let me first stipulate my profound regard and appreciation for the writings/ministry of the early Brethren, especially JND, WK, CHM, FWG, etc.

    1) Heb. 11:39-40
    I understand that this passage is taken as teaching that OT saints will not be “perfected” in glorification apart from heavenly saints in Christ; thus, by implication, the glorification of both groups must take place simultaneously, i.e., at the Rapture.

    However, we need to be careful of not extracting more out of that blessed verse than is there. First, according to the context, I take the “perfecting” of the OT saints here to refer to their finally receiving the fulfillment of their earthly kingdom promise. Second, with that in mind, the passage actually means that God planned a better (heavenly) thing for saints in Christ, so that OT saints will not come into the fulfillment of their earthly kingdom promise apart from heavenly saints. Thus it is not that OT saints will be “perfected” simultaneously with the Church’s perfection, but that OT saints will not receive the fulfillment of their earthly kingdom promise apart from the presence of the glorified heavenly Church (the heavenly Bride-Queen of Christ). Thus this passage does not actually contribute to the question of the timing of the resurrection of OT saints.

    2) 1 Cor. 15:23
    My understanding is that BOTH stages of His “Coming” (or ‘Presence’) are encompassed in the one phrase in , e.g., 1 Cor. 15:23: “For since by man came death, by man also resurrection of those that are dead. For as in [in virtue of] the Adam all die, thus also in [in virtue of] the Christ all shall be made alive. But each in his own rank: the first-fruits, Christ; then those that are the Christ’s at [or in] His coming [which covers both Rapture and Manifestation phases of His “coming”].” (1 Cor. 15:21-23)

    Thus this passage also does not, in my mind, contribute to the question of the timing of the resurrection of OT saints.

    3) Daniel 12
    This passage does indeed explicitly teach the timing of the resurrection of OT saints, or more specifically that of OT and Tribulation Jewish saints (but there is no reason to think OT Gentile and Tribulation Gentile saints would not likewise be included at this time).

    Dan. 12:1-3, 11-13
    “And at that time [#1] shall Michael [the archangel] stand up, the great prince who standeth for the children of thy people [Daniel’s people, Israel]; and there shall be a time of distress, such as never was since there was a nation until that time [the Great Tribulation, 2nd half week of the 70th week; cp. Jer. 30:7; Matt. 24:21; Mark 13:19; and cf. Rev. 3:10; Rev. 7:14]. And at that time [#2] thy people [Israel] shall be delivered, every one that is found written in the book [i.e., everyone of the godly Jewish remnant who are divinely ordained to survive the Great Tribulation so as to enter the Millennial Kingdom on this regenerated earth in their natural bodies. cf. “he who endures to the end shall be saved,” Matt. 24:13, saved or delivered alive to enter and populate/propagate within the kingdom]. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth [#3] shall awake [in resurrection], these to everlasting life [that is, the “many” here are the OT Jewish saints and martyred Tribulation Jewish saints who will inherit and enter into eternal earthly kingdom life in a resurrected, glorified state], and others [the lost OT and the lost dead Tribulation Jews, resurrected 1,000 years later; cf. Rev. 20:5; 20:11ff] to shame, to everlasting contempt. And [#4] they that are wise shall shine as the brightness of the expanse; and they that turn the many to righteousness as the stars, for ever and ever.”

    “And from the time that the continual sacrifice is taken away [at the mid-point of the 70th week, 3 1⁄2 years into the final seven-year period], and the abomination that maketh desolate set up [cp. Matt. 24:15; Mark 13:14], there shall be a thousand, two hundred, and ninety days [3 1⁄2 years of the 2nd half of the 70th Week plus 30 more days beyond]. Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and thirty-five days! [3 1⁄2 years of the 2nd half of the 70th Week plus 75 more days beyond, when the Millennial Kingdom officially commences and Israel comes into its full blessing.]. But do thou go thy way [Daniel] until the end [of your present earthly life]; and thou shalt rest [in the intermediate state], and stand [in resurrection] in thy lot [inheritance of eternal earthly kingdom life] at the end of the days [after the conclusion of the 70th Week].”

    Would love to hear your feedback.

    Yours in Him who is our Blessed Hope,


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