51 And behold, p the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And q the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of r the saints s who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into t the holy city and appeared to many. 54 u When the centurion and those who were with him, v keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, w "Truly this was the Son 9 of God!"
Matthew 27:51 - 54
ESV - 51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.
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1 Corinthians 15:51-54 describes a metamorphosis that all saints/believers will experience at the Lord's return. This is not just a resuscitation but a transformation. Philippians 3:21 " Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself." This is not stated concerning those that arose during the crucifixion. Consider Lazarus in John 12, the young girl in Mark 5:41, the young man in Mark 7, Dorcas/Tabitha in Acts 9. These were not given glorified, resurrection bodies as described during the future resurrection. Without scriptural evidence otherwise they presumably died again. As with many miracles performed by the Lord and later by the apostles, these were proof, authentication and verification, a sign. John summarizes best in 20:31 " But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name."
Matthew 27: 53 specifically states that these saints came out of their tombs "after his resurrection." The centurion certainly experienced the earthquake and the darkness, but nothing indicates he saw the saints appearing to many in Jerusalem after their tombs were opened. For that era his exclamation "Truly this was the Son of God!" is highly reasonable simply based on the earthquake and darkness.
If you read carefully, you will see that the earthquake opened the graves, marking the first fruit, but the OT saints did not come out until Our Savior did. He then took them with him and presented them along with himself to His Father as "the first fruits of the dead". The "thief on the cross" may have been with them. If the appropriate comma is added, you will see that he had been told on the crucifixion day that it would happen, but the timing was not specified.
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