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Why Jesus’ Resurrection Is Unlike Any Other in History

Lynette Kittle

iBelieve Contributors
Updated Apr 10, 2024
Why Jesus’ Resurrection Is Unlike Any Other in History

We only have to lose someone we dearly love or attend a grief-stricken funeral to grasp why the hope of resurrection after death is such a longing in so many individuals’ hearts.

Life-and-death matters aren’t easy for us to face or understand. And all though the Old and New Testaments tell the stories of individuals who were raised from the dead before Jesus, what makes His resurrection stand out like no other in history?

Christians retell year after year the story of His empty tomb and how Jesus’ death on the cross paid the debt for our sins. But do we understand why His resurrection is unlike any other person who has died and come back to life? 

Old Testament Resurrection

In the Old Testament, God instructed the Prophet Elijah to go to the widow at Zarepeth for shelter and food during a great famine in the land. 1 Kings 17:9 explains, “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.”

Still, Elijah’s stay with her didn’t start off well. In meeting her, he instructed her to use up her last flour and oil to make him a loaf of bread (1 Kings 17:7-16). Then, sometime later, the widow’s son became ill and died. “She said to Elijah, ‘What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?’” (1 Kings 17:17-18).

Hearing her words, Elijah sprang into action, carrying her son to the upper room where he was staying. Laying him on his bed, Elijah stretched out on him three times, crying out to the Lord, “Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!” (1 Kings 17:19-21).

1 Kings 17:22-23 describes what happened next: “The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, ‘Look, your son is alive!’”

“Then the woman said to Elijah, ‘Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth’” (1 Kings 17:24).

Although life returned to him, the widow’s son was not freed from facing death again later on in his life.

New Testament Resurrections

The New Testament also records people being raised from the dead. Luke 7:11-12 describes Jesus, His disciples, and a large crowd of people approaching the town gate of Nain, where they encountered a widowed mother and her deceased son exiting the city.

Luke 7:13-15 describes what happened next: “When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said, ’Do not weep.’ Then He went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. ‘Young man,’ He said, ‘I tell you, get up!’ And the dead man sat up and began to speak! Then Jesus gave him back to his mother.”

Even though raised from the dead, one day this widow’s son, too, would die again.

A Daughter Comes Back to Life

In Luke 8:49, while with Jesus, Jairus, the synagogue leader, received word that his daughter had died. ”Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”

“When He arrived at the house of Jairus, He did not let anyone go in with Him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. 'Stop wailing,' Jesus said. 'She is not dead but asleep'” (Luke 8:51-52).

But, “They laughed at Him, knowing that she was dead. But He took her by the hand and said, ‘My child, get up!’ Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat” (Luke 8:53-55).

Another remarkable story of one’s life restored, but death returned to her at a later date.

Lazarus’ Life Restored

John 11 tells the story of two sisters, Mary, Martha, and their brother, Lazarus, who fell deathly ill. “So the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick’” (John 11:3).

But by the time Jesus arrived four days later, Lazarus was dead (John 11:17). Grief-stricken, Mary fell at His feet weeping (John 11:32). 

“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 'Where have you laid him?’ He asked. ‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, ‘See how He loved him!’” (John 11:33-36).

Then Jesus told them to take away the stone (John 11:39). “So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard Me. I knew that you always hear Me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent Me’” (John 11:41-42).

“When He had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’”(John 11:43-44).

As amazing as Lazarus’ resurrection was, he returned to his earthly body and would one day experience death again.

Why Does Scripture Refer to Jesus As "the First to Rise from the Dead"?

Since the Bible records other individuals who were raised from the dead before Jesus, why does Colossians 1:18 refer to Him as the "beginning and firstborn among the dead"?

“And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy.”

As well, in Revelation 1:5, the Apostle John describes Jesus as the firstborn from the dead. In Acts 26:23, Jesus is credited with being the first to rise from the dead: “That the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to His own people and to the Gentiles.”

If others rose from the dead before Him, what makes Jesus as "the firstborn from the dead" and His resurrection different from the ones before Him? 

What Makes Jesus Resurrection Unlike Any Other in History?

Although the stories of people raised from the dead in the Bible are amazing, they all fall short compared to the miraculous resurrection of Jesus. Even though life was restored to their earthly bodies, they would die again.

Likewise, today, there are stories being shared of people who have clinically died and come back to life. Although their stories are incredible, they will one day face death again.

As the Son of God, Jesus rose from the grave victorious, overcoming and destroying death, breaking its power. He conquered death, never to face it again. Romans 6:9 explains, “For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over Him.”

Jesus’ Resurrection Defeated Death Forever

2 Timothy 1:10 explains Jesus’ victory over death, “But it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

Because Jesus, the perfect, sinless one who paid our sin debt, defeated death, it cannot ever touch Him again. Acts 2:24 describes, “But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.”

Furthermore, in the Apostle John’s vision of heaven, he describes seeing Jesus: “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead. Then He placed His right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades’” (Revelation 1:17-18). 

Jesus’ Resurrection Brings Life to the Dead 

In John 11:21-26, after Lazarus died, Jesus discussed resurrection with a heartbroken Martha. When Jesus told her he would rise again, “Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die. Do you believe this?’”

Matthew 27:50-53 describes what supernaturally took place at the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus:

“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up His spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.”

Jesus’ Resurrection Promises Glorified Bodies

Jesus is the first who rose forever freed from death, alive forevermore. He is the first to be raised to life in a glorified body. With His defeating death, we, as believers in Him, receive life everlasting. 

Jesus is called the "first fruit" in 1 Corinthians 15:20: “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

In the Old Testament, setting aside the first fruits to God as an offering consecrated the entire harvest to come. Because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, a harvest of living souls will be raised from death to life. He is our promise for glorified bodies to come.

The Apostle Paul describes what is to come for us: “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21).

We have much to look forward to for, “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory’” (1 Corinthians 15:54).

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21).

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Boonyachoat

Lynette Kittle is married with four daughters. She enjoys writing about faith, marriage, parenting, relationships, and life. Her writing has been published by Focus on the Family, Decision, Today’s Christian Woman, kirkcameron.com, Ungrind.org, StartMarriageRight.com, and more. She has a M.A. in Communication from Regent University and serves as associate producer for Soul Check TV.