THERE IS some confusion among  Bible teachers about when the Old Testament saints are raised from the grave and there need not be because scripture, rightly divided, is perfectly clear. When all the facts are considered there can be absolutely no doubt that the Old Testament saints rose with Christ. Lets consider the facts. 

Those who Died Before Christ Rose  from the Dead 

Before the Lord Jesus rose from the  dead Old Testament believers (saints)  went to sheol after death which  consisted of Paradise, Torment and a  “great gulf fixed” between (Luke 16:20- 

31). Sheol simply was “the world of the dead” and described the place where the souls of ALL the deceased went after death. We would not have known much about sheol if Jesus had not described it in Luke chapter 16. 

In the Old Testament sheol has been translated as hell, grave or pit but none  of these translations are adequate. 

In Psalm 16:10 there is a prophecy that  Christ would not be left in sheol and  Peter identifies (Acts 2:27) this as a  prophecy that Jesus would rise from  the dead. So Jesus went to sheol when  He died and He told the repentant thief on the cross that He would be together with him that day in Paradise. So  Paradise was in sheol

However in Luke chapter 16 Jesus indicated that sheol also had a place where unrepentant sinners went after  death and it is described as a place  of torment. Between Paradise and  torment there was “a great gulf fixed”  which the Bible elsewhere describes  as “the bottomless pit” or the abyss.  When Christ reigns for 1,000 years  Satan will be bound in the bottomless  pit (Rev.20:2) and there are fallen  angels that have been imprisoned in  the bottomless pit (Rev.9:1) who will be  released to torment men during the  Tribulation (Rev.9:1-11). 

When Jesus cast the legion of demons  out of the demoniac of Gadera they  asked that Jesus “not command them  to go out into the deep (abyss)” (Luke  8:31). The demons were fearful that  Jesus might incarcerate them in the  bottomless pit! 

Why Did Old Testament Saints go to  Paradise? 

Before Jesus died and rose from the  grave it was impossible for any man  to go to heaven. Sin had not been  atoned for before Jesus died and  shed His blood and death had not  been conquered before Jesus rose  from the dead. They offered animal  sacrifices that could never take away  sins as we read:  

“For it is not possible that the  blood of bulls and of goats should  take away sins” (Heb.10:4). 

Sin cannot enter heaven and so all  the Old Testament saints had to wait  in Paradise until the perfect sacrifice  was offered. 

Likewise nobody could be  resurrected before Jesus rose. He  was the “firstfruits of them that slept”.  

“Christ the firstfruits; afterward they  that are Christ’s at His coming”  (1Cor.15:23). 

When Christ Rose  

The day Jesus rose from the dead  there was an earthquake that opened  the sepulcres of all the Old Testament  saints so that people could see inside  where the dead bodies lay. Then on  the third day Jesus rose and AFTER  His resurrection  

“many bodies of the saints that  slept arose, and came out of the  graves” (Matt.27:52). 

It was not the bodies of many of the  saints but many bodies of saints!  All the saints arose and there were  many. It was not just some of the  saints that rose. All arose and there  were many! And these appeared to  many saints in Jerusalem.  

Which of the resurrected saints  appeared to others in Jerusalem we  are not told. In all probability it was  a limited number who had recently  died who appeared to those who  knew them as a testimony of Christ’s  resurrection. It is unlikely that those  who appeared in Jerusalem were  from ages past because nobody  would recognize them. 

Did those who rose with Christ  receive a natural body and die again.  No. This was resurrection and when  Jesus ascended to heaven from the  Mount of Olives He “led captivity  

captive”. “He that descended (into  sheol) is the same that ascended  up far above all heavens, that He  might fill all things” (Eph.4:10). All  the Old Testament saints who had  been captive in Paradise were led  in Christ’s train into heaven. Jesus,  as “the captain of their salvation”  (Heb.2:10) was “bringing many sons  to glory” just as a victorious general  would return from the conflict with  the spoils of battle. 

The Resurrection to Life 

God always intended that every soul  on earth would rise from the dead one  day. Those who are saved through  faith participate in the resurrection  to life and those who are unbelieving  are resurrected to damnation. The  resurrection to life also called the  first resurrection, is in several stages. 

The Old Testament saints have  already been raised with Christ.  Jesus indicated this was about to  happen in John 5:25. 

“The hour is coming, and now is,  when the dead shall hear the voice  of the Son of God: and they that  hear shall live.” 

This is a clear statement that the  first stage of the resurrection to life  was about to begin and when Jesus  rose He called all the believing dead  from the grave so that they heard  His voice and rose with Him. The  unbelieving did not hear His voice.  Only the believers heard His voice in  Paradise and Paradise was emptied  of all the saints. 

For forty days Jesus appeared to  many and then He ascended through  the sky to heaven, triumphantly, as  the captain of their salvation.

The Church is Raised at the Rapture 

On the day of Pentecost the Church  was born and the Jews were put  aside as God’s witness on earth until  they turn to the lord in the Last Days. 

Paul described this in Romans  chapter 11. Israel the natural olive  branch was plucked out of the olive  tree and the Gentiles, a wild olive  branch, was grafted in their place.  This will continue for,  

“blindness in part is happened to  Israel, UNTIL the fulness of the  Gentiles be come in and so all Israel  shall be saved” (Rom.11:25-26). 

The Gentile Church of Jesus Christ  will be complete and there will be the  Rapture of every Christian.  

“The dead in Christ shall rise  first: Then we which are alive and  remain shall be caught up together  with them in the clouds, to meet  the Lord in the air” (1Thess.4:16-17). 

The Rapture cannot include Old  Testament saints who were never  “in Christ”. The Church is the body  of Christ; a special company of  people apart from Old Testament  saints who were Israelites. In Old  Testament times when a Gentile was  saved they became a “stranger in  Israel” and worshipped the God of  Israel. In Solomon’s day there were  153,600 converts to the God of Israel  (2Chron.2:17). 

Tribulation Martyrs are Raised When  Christ Returns 

After the Rapture there will be 7  years of Tribulation when God will be  dealing with Israel and the nations to  bring Israel to acknowledge Jesus  Christ as Messiah and King and to  judge the Gentile nations. 

During the second half of the Tribulation  Antichrist will achieve universal  government and claim deity. All will  be required to receive his mark in their  right hand or in their forehead or be  put to death. Many will refuse and die  rather than be unfaithful to Christ. 

At the end of the 7 years Christ will  return in glory and will destroy the  Antichrist and all who follow him. He  will rescue all who remain faithful to the  God of the Bible. 

All who were slain during the Tribulation  will be resurrected when Christ returns.  Isaiah wrote about these: 

“Thy dead men shall live, together  with my dead body shall they arise.  Awake and sing, ye that dwell in  dust: for thy dew is as the dew of  herbs, and the earth shall cast out  the dead. Come, my people, enter  thou into thy chambers, and shut thy  doors about thee: hide thyself as it  were for a little moment, until the  indignation be overpast. For, behold,  the LORD cometh out of his place to  punish the inhabitants of the earth  for their iniquity” (Isa.26:19-21). 

And John wrote about it: 

“I saw the souls of them that  

were beheaded for the witness of  Jesus, and for the word of God,  and which had not worshipped the  beast, neither his image, neither  had received his mark upon their  foreheads, or in their hands; and  they lived and reigned with Christ a  thousand years. ” (Rev.20:4-5). 

Old Testament saints can’t possibly be  included in this resurrection because  it is exclusively for those beheaded by  Antichrist!

The Resurrection of Millennial Saints 

After Christ returns He will reign from  Jerusalem for 1,000 years when there  will be a new heaven and earth and the  former things will pass away. 

The final stage of the resurrection  to life will occur at that stage when  all the believers from the Kingdom  age will be raised or changed. John  wrote about this: 

“But the rest of the dead lived not  again until the thousand years were  finished. This is the first resurrection”  (Rev.20:5). 

All of the millennial saints will be raised  or raptured when the 1,000 years are  complete but it is only “the rest of  the dead”. It cannot include the Old  Testament saints. 

Furthermore we know that during the  millennial kingdom Old Testament  saints will be reigning on earth with  Christ. David wll be reigning over  Israel. The twelve apostles will reign  on 12 thrones over the tribes of Israel. 

Jesus said that 

“many shall come from the east  and west, and shall sit down with  Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in  the kingdom of heaven(Matt.8:11). 

If these Old Testament saints will be  in the kingdom then they must be  resurrected BEFORE the Kingdom  begins and can’t be raised at the end  of the millennial kingdom! 

Old Testament Saints Have been  Resurrected and are in Heaven  NOW 

When Jesus ascended He “led captivity  captive” (Eph.4:8) and brought “many  sons unto glory” (Heb.2:10) and Paul  describes all those NOW in heaven in  

Hebrews 12:22-24. In heaven there are  NOW angels, the “general assembly  and Church of the firstborn (Christ)”  being Christians who have died and their  souls are in heaven. But there are also  “the spirits of just men made perfect”.  These who have been made “perfect” already have their resurrection body  and can only be Old Testament saints.  Resurrection is the redemption of the  body (Rom.8:23) when we are perfect  or “complete”. Salvation is secured the  moment we believe on Christ but the  work of salvation is completed when we  are transformed into His likeness. 

These who were in heaven when Paul  wrote his epistle to the Hebrews were  already perfected and could only be Old  testament saints. 


Old Testament saints went to Paradise  after death and Paradise is now in  heaven. All Old Testament saints must  therefore be in heaven now. Jesus  was the firstfruits from the grave and  took all the Old Testament saints with  him as the spoils of conflict when He  ascended. 

Old Testament saints will be active in the  millennial kingdom and must therefore  be raised before the Kingdom is  established at Christ’s second coming.  

Old Testament saints were not  beheaded by Antichrist so could not be  among those raised at the end of the  Tribulation.  

Old Testament saints were never in  the Body of Christ and therefore could  not “sleep in Jesus” so they can’t be  raised at the Rapture. They are the  “spirits of just men made perfect” in the  “heavenly Jerusalem”. They were all  raised with Christ.


John R Ecob
John R Ecob