Can Christians raise the dead?

The Bible examples some occasions where men were used as instruments to raise the dead. Recently, the question has been discussed of whether or not Christians today can also raise the dead. There was even a church recently in California who made national news through a failed attempt to resurrect a child. No Christian questions if God can raise the dead. The discussion focuses on if believers can raise the dead through the power of the Holy Spirit.

First, the dead being raised were events that did not happen very often. Without including the resurrection of our savior Jesus Christ and the saints raised directly after the crucifixion, the biblical narrative only records 8 times where individuals were raised from the dead. These 8 accounts span 2 time periods that cover a total of 79 years of the over 4,000 years recorded in the Bible (863 BC through 812 BC, 29 AD through 57 AD). It seems improbable to make these events normative when they are a minority event and never directly stated to become ordinary. Making them common place would lower the impact and importance as will be seen in the second point. Resurrection accounts: The widow of Zarephath’s son (1 Kings 17:17–24), The Shunammite woman’s son (2 Kings 4:18–37), The man raised out of Elisha’s grave (2 Kings 13:20–21), The widow of Nain’s son (Luke 7:11–17), Jairus’ daughter (Luke 8:40–56), Lazarus of Bethany (John 11), Tabitha (Acts 9:36–43), Eutychus (Acts 20:7–12).

Second, these minority events were given for a specific purpose. These miraculous resurrections were accompanied by Elijah, Elisha, Jesus, and the apostles to prove, or certify who they were to onlookers (John 10:37-38). It gave assurance to the believers and sent judgment on unbelievers. This is true of all the rare times in Biblical history where miracles were performed through men. Note: God worked in his providence throughout the biblical narrative, but miracles are generally distinguished from providence. Providence is generally God working through natural means and miracles are typically supernatural in nature. However, there is some overlap in some events.

Third, these were generally obvious real resurrections and not resuscitations. For example, Lazarus was dead for 4 days (John 11:19). This was meant to show for certain that this was a dead man who had been brought back to life and not just a resuscitation on a hospital table (though those are also a blessing from God).

Fourth, the resurrections in the Bible were an open show to all that none could deny because there was ample proof. This was meant to shut the mouths of and procure judgment against unbelievers. Today, we have cameras all around the world in our pockets attached to our smart devices. Yet, all of the supposed resurrections have yet to be shown with proof for all of these secret events. Even the resurrection of our savior was witnessed by above 500 people who could verify the events and testify to their own death.

Fifth, Jesus told Thomas that there was coming a day in which people would believe who did not see (John 20:29). This was primarily in regards to seeing Christ physically resurrected, but also can be considered to describe the disappearing of the Apostolic gifts. The Jews required a sign, and these signs slowly were transitioned off the scene of church history after the apostles (1 Corinthians 1:22).

The resurrections given in the Bible are a wonderful testimony of the power of God. They certify the ministries of Elijah and Elisha. They show that the kingdom of God did come during the time of Christ. However, believers today are given a greater assurance. We, through faith, see Christ who ever lives as a surety of our salvation as we wait for the final resurrection and the deliverance of our bodies. We need not look for some type of misguided excitement with our physical eyes, we see Christ by faith.

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