The topic of raising the dead is one that is found throughout the Bible. God demonstrates His power over death through accounts of people being brought back to life. When exploring what the Bible says about raising the dead, several key questions arise:
- What examples exist in the Bible of people being raised from the dead?
- What purpose did these miracles serve?
- Is raising the dead still possible today?
Examples of Raising the Dead in the Bible
There are several prominent examples in the Bible where God raised people from the dead. Some key examples include:
Elijah and the Widow’s Son (1 Kings 17:17-24)
Elijah was staying with a widow and her son during a famine. The son became ill and stopped breathing. The widow begged Elijah to help, and he prayed to the Lord. God heard Elijah’s prayer and restored the boy’s life.
Elisha and the Shunammite’s Son (2 Kings 4:18-37)
A Shunammite woman provided food and shelter for Elisha. When her only son suddenly died, she sought out Elisha. He went to her house, prayed to the Lord, and lay upon the child. The boy’s life was restored to him.
Jesus Raises Jairus’ Daughter (Luke 8:40-56)
A synagogue leader named Jairus asked Jesus to heal his sick daughter. While Jesus was on the way, Jairus was told his daughter had died. Jesus went anyway, took her hand, and told her to get up. Jairus’ daughter was raised from the dead.
Jesus Raises the Widow’s Son at Nain (Luke 7:11-17)
As Jesus approached the town of Nain, he came upon a funeral procession for a widow’s only son. Jesus had compassion on the woman and told her not to weep. He touched the coffin and commanded the young man to rise up. The man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus presented him back to his mother.
Jesus Raises Lazarus (John 11:1-45)
When Jesus heard his friend Lazarus was sick, he waited two days before going to see him in Bethany. By this point Lazarus had already died and been buried for four days. Jesus told them to roll the stone away from the tomb and called out to Lazarus. At Jesus’ command, Lazarus walked out of the tomb still wrapped in his grave clothes.
There are several other examples of people being raised from the dead in the Old and New Testaments. These miracles demonstrated God’s supreme power over life and death.
The Purpose Behind Raising People from the Dead
In each case where God raised someone from the dead, He had clear purposes in demonstrating His authority over life and death. Some of the reasons include:
- To authenticate a prophet and their message – Both Elijah and Elisha’s miracles validated their authority as prophets speaking for God.
- To show compassion – Jesus was moved with compassion and sadness at the plight of the widows who had lost their sons.
- To display God’s glory – The miracles glorified God and caused people to believe in and worship Him (John 11:4, 45).
- To demonstrate Jesus’ messianic identity – The feeding of the 5000 pointed to Jesus as the promised Messiah who provides.
The raising of the dead served to accomplish God’s sovereign plans and reveal truth about His character and authority over life and death. These stunning miracles directed people to place their faith in Him.
Is Raising the Dead Possible Today?
An important question is whether God still raises people from the dead today. The clear testimony of Scripture indicates that God certainly has the power to restore life. However, examples of resurrection miracles in the Bible appear connected to specific periods and purposes.
In the Old Testament, prophets like Elijah and Elisha performed resurrection miracles at significant moments in Israel’s history. In the New Testament, Jesus performed resurrections as a key part of His public ministry and messianic identity. The apostles also raised people, like when Peter raised Tabitha (Acts 9:36-42). Their miracles served to validate their authority during the founding of the church.
The Bible indicates that the age of miracles, including resurrections, served distinct purposes during the ministry of Jesus and the apostles. Their miracles confirmed them as spokesmen for God and helped spread the gospel in new areas. The miracles witnessed to the authenticity of their message.
While God still works in miraculous ways today, examples of Him raising people from the long dead are not readily apparent. The miracles of the prophets, Jesus, and the apostles fulfilled special purposes during a unique stage of revelation and redemption history.
However, God certainly has the power to restore life if He chooses. The Bible teaches that there is coming a future resurrection when Jesus returns. At that time, all believers who have died will be resurrected to eternal life:
Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. (John 5:28-29)
Jesus also raised the possibility that some Old Testament saints were resurrected immediately after His crucifixion:
The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. (Matthew 27:52-53)
This unusual event indicates God’s power over death. While He may still miraculously raise people today, it seems unlikely given the unique purposes of miracles in the Bible. The supreme demonstration of God’s power is the future resurrection awaiting all believers in Christ.
Can Human Beings Raise the Dead?
An important related question is whether human beings ever have the power in themselves to raise the dead apart from God. The consistent testimony of Scripture is no. Resurrection power belongs to God alone:
See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand. (Deuteronomy 32:39)
While prophets like Elijah had power to raise the dead, they were careful to acknowledge it was not through their own power but God working through them. Elijah cried out, “O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again” (1 Kings 17:21). The apostles also did not claim inherent power to raise the dead but relied on the authority given them by Christ (Matthew 10:8).
The Bible warns of false prophets and teachers who may seek to deceive people through simulated signs and miracles:
For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. (Matthew 24:24)
Raising someone from the dead today would be an extraordinary miracle requiring divine intervention. If such a miracle occurred, its purpose and origins would need to be carefully examined in light of Scripture. Any self-proclaimed faith healer claiming inherent abilities to raise the dead should be approached with extreme caution.
Practices Condemned in Scripture
While rare and miraculous resurrections are described in the Bible, Scripture soundly condemns occult practices involving supposed communication with the dead. Attempts to contact the deceased or summon departed spirits show a lack of trust in God’s sovereign power and revelation:
Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:31)
There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. (Deuteronomy 18:10-12)
Occult practices like seances, channeling, Spiritism, and witchcraft are dangerous deceptions. They reflect a desire to gain hidden knowledge apart from God. Consulting with the dead shows a lack of trust in God’s revelation and points people away from the hope found only in Christ.
Finding Comfort in God’s Power Over Death
Mourning the loss of loved ones is a sorrowful struggle people have faced since the Fall. Death’s power can leave us feeling helpless and afraid. That is why the resurrection miracles scattered throughout Scripture are so comforting and important.
While raising the dead does not appear to be ongoing today, we can find peace in knowing God has supreme power over life and death. He guarantees that one day there will be a glorious resurrection where the perishable will be raised imperishable. All who have trusted in Christ will share in everlasting life:
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)
The hope of resurrection assures us that death, while still an enemy, has been definitively defeated through Christ. We can take courage knowing God will have the final word over death, granting eternal life to all who have faith in His Son.