Q. I was reading the end of the Gospel of Matthew today and came across verses, Matthew 27:51-53, that I’ve read several times but I’ve never heard any teaching on them; other than the veil being torn to show that God is now accessible to any who would seek Him and not just the “priests”. I just think the whole concept of the last two verses is very intriguing and the implications for what this resurrection could mean as it relates to the dead in Christ raising first as mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 4:16. Can you expound upon these verses and offer any insight?
A. The temple curtain was actually a large woven tapestry, nearly 40 feet tall and quite thick in places. The fact that it tore from top to bottom means that the Lord did this to show that with His death the way to His throne was now open to all.
The tombs breaking open and people coming back to life is a fulfillment of the so-called Wave Offering of the Feast of First Fruits (Lev. 23:9-11). The Sunday after Passover is when this feast is celebrated, and of course to us it’s Resurrection Morning. At sunrise on First Fruits the priests dedicated the grain harvest to the Lord by waving a sample of the sheaves of grain before the altar in the Temple. As they were doing this, Mary and the other women were discovering the empty tomb.
The dead who came out of their graves had been in Paradise waiting for their Redeemer to come and escort them to Heaven, since until His blood was shed no one could gain admittance there. They are the sample of the harvest of souls, the Wave Offering of the First Resurrection. When Jesus ascended to Heaven they went with Him (Ephes. 4:8).