[Updated with an addendum -- 25 July,
Q. Bro. Gan, regarding the events that took place on the day of Christ’s
resurrection, could you please provide some enlightenment as to the
timing of the resurrection and ascension of the Old Testament
A. Harmonizing the narratives of the resurrection of Christ and His
post-resurrection appearances and all the events that took place on
that day has proven a challenge to many Bible scholars. Bible
skeptics love to take potshot at it, trying to discredit that the
Scripture is in-breathed of God, and therefore one cannot rely upon
the Bible. Let us be reminded that God could have all four
Gospel writers record all the events exactly the same way but would that
prove the skeptics wrong? Or would that prove the skeptics are right
that the Gospel writers were in cahoots?
All four Gospel
writers were under the inspiration of the Spirit of God to write the
Gospel depicting the four aspects of the Life of Jesus Christ.
Matthew writes his gospel account to give us the view of Jesus as
the King. Mark shows Christ as a Suffering Servant of God
sent to pay a ransom for our sin. Luke depicts the Humanity of
Christ whereas John depicts His Divinity.
Taking all events
into account, the chronological order that took place would be as
1. Not less
than 3 women, including Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James,
and Salome, go to the tomb (Matt.28:1; Mark 16:1-2; Luke 24:1,10;
It is possible
that they go not as a group but as two separate groups and meet at
the tomb at slightly different times. [Note: Being that the tomb
belonged to a rich man, Joseph of Arimathaea, the area of the garden
and the tomb must be a fairly large area, near the area of
crucifixion (John 19:41).] Take note that Mary Magdalene is especially singled out by all the Gospel writers regarding this
2. As the
women make their way to the tomb, an angel of God descends from
heaven and rolls the stone away. The earth quakes and the guards
faint. The angel sits on the stone (Matt.28:2-4).
3. Arriving at the tomb and finding it empty, Mary Magdalene immediately
runs to tell the disciples (John 20:1-2). The other women remain
Mary Magdalene runs off to find Peter and John, the women, still at
the tomb, see two angels. An angel shows them the empty tomb and
tells them that Jesus Christ has risen. The angels then instruct
them to tell the disciples to go to Galilee (Matt.28:5-7; Mark
16:2-8; Luke 24:1-8).
Magdalene returns with Peter and John just as the women set off to
find the disciples to give them the instruction. She stands
somewhere outside the tomb and weeps while the two disciples go in
to see for themselves the empty tomb. After that Peter and John
return to their home (John 20:2-11).
alone weeping, Mary stoops down and looks into the tomb. She sees
two angels sitting where Jesus had lain, one at the head and the
other at the feet. They question her. She replies, and as she turns
around, she sees Jesus. Thinking that He is the gardener, she pleads
with Him for the Body of Jesus. Then Jesus calls her name. Mary
recognizes Him. She responds and reaches out to touch Jesus Who
quickly cautions her saying, “Touch
me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my
brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your
Father; and to my God, and your God.”
Then Mary leaves to tell the disciples (John
Now, this is the
verse (John 20:17) most Bible believers have overlooked. They missed
this “ascension” of Christ in which He must first present Himself
pleasing before the Father. Most Christians believe that there is
only one ascension of Christ, and that it took place right after he
had spent 40 days with His disciples following His resurrection
(Acts 1:1-5,9). However John’s Gospel stipulates clearly Christ’s
very words that He must not be touched by a human until He goes up to
see His Father, our Father, His God, our God.
The answer lies
in the fulfillment of the sacrifice carried out on the Day of
Atonement (as recorded in the Book of Leviticus chapter 16)
being the type of
the one great propitiation. On that day, it was the one day of the
year that the high priest was allowed to go into the Holy of Holies
to sprinkle blood before the presence of God to cover the sins of
the people. The high priest was the only one who could do it – slay
the bullock, take its blood and enter into the Holy of Holies.
As much as Christ was the Passover Lamb whose blood provided a
covering such that Death had to pass over us, He also was as the
High Priest who slain the young bullock and took its blood into the
Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle and sprinkled it upon the Mercy
Seat before the presence of Yahweh.
Yes, alone and unassisted, the atonement had to be made by a
solitary high priest.
“And there shall be no man in the
tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement
in the holy place, until he come out, and have made an atonement for
himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of
(Lev.16:17). Truly, the one who could make an
atonement is Christ, He alone. As a High Priest, Jesus laid down
His life. He was the sacrificial young bullock. He took His own
blood and went up in to the Holy Presence of Yahweh. And there He
presented it before His Father, after which He came back out to
where He first entered in.
But how long did it take our Lord to ascend and come back
down? It certainly did not take him long, not even many minutes.
When Aaron, the high priest, took the blood into the Holy of Holies,
he did not dilly-dally in that place. He sprinkled the blood on the
Mercy Seat and came right back out. The occasion was extremely
serious and nothing was done for granted.
Now, with this revelation we can see the events continue as
Magdalene goes off to tell the disciples that she has seen the Lord
(Mark 16:9) and Christ goes up (ascends) to His Father, His God, and
then comes right back down again.
then the guards, having roused themselves, report the empty tomb to
the authorities, who bribe the guards to say that the disciples have
stolen the body (Matt.28:11-15).
meets the women who are on their way to tell the disciples the news
the angel has given them. Jesus greets them. They draw near and hold
His feet and worship Him. (Note:
Jesus could now be touched.) Jesus comforts them and reaffirms the
instruction that the angel has given them (Matt.28:8-10).
10. It is at this time that the Old Testament saints resurrect, and many
go into the city of Jerusalem and appear to many (not all) of the disciples
A note about
Matthew 27:50-54: The word
appears very frequently in the New Testament. This conjunction has
many readers confused because of the way the Scriptures were
translated and marked off into verses for ease of locating
particular words or texts. The original written manuscripts is
Greek. It did not separate words and it used no accent and
punctuation marks. Even Luke 23:44-47 appear ambiguous and
contradictory when compared to Matthew 27:50-54. Nevertheless the
proper readings of the texts of the two passages are as follow:
27:50-54: After Jesus yielded up His spirit, there was an
earthquake. At the same time the veil of the temple in Jerusalem
was rent in two from top to bottom. Fear came upon the centurion
and those watching the crucifixion. After the resurrection of
Christ (on the third day), the graves were opened. [Remember
there was also an earthquake when an angel descended to roll
away the stone of the sepulcher (Matt.28:2-4).] The saints of
old resurrected and many of them went into the city of Jerusalem
and appeared unto many of the Disciples of Christ.
Magdalene and the women meet the disciples and relate to them what
they have seen and heard (Mark 16:10-11; Luke 24:9-11; John 20 18).
the same day, Jesus appears to Peter (Luke 24:34 cf. 1Cor.15:5).
the late afternoon, Jesus joins Himself to Cleopas and another
disciple who are on the road to the village of Emmaus, a distance of
about 12 kilometres from Jerusalem. As evening shadows fall, they sit
down to dine. Jesus breaks bread and the disciples recognize Him.
They immediately return to the city and report the event to the
Eleven and others who are with them that evening (Luke 24:13-35).
in the night, Jesus appears to the disciples in a closed room.
Thomas is missing (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-25).
8 days, Jesus appears again to His disciples in the same closed
room; this time Thomas is present (John 20:26-31).
Following that and over a period up to 40 days since His
resurrection, Jesus appears a few more times to His disciples – to
seven disciples by the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-25); to about 500
disciples in Galilee and to His half-brother James
Jesus is with the disciples, He commissions His disciples. Jesus
teaches His disciples the Scriptures and promises to send the Holy
Spirit (Matt.28:16-20; Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:4-5).
40 days Jesus ascends into heaven (Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:6-12). It
is apparent that as He ascends, He takes the resurrected Old
Testament saints up with Him for they are no longer the captivity of
the Prince of darkness who has hold them in Sheol. By the power of
His resurrection from the dead, these saints are now Christ’s
captive. Jesus sets them free into Paradise as He ascends to sits in
His Father’s Throne (Eph.4:8; Matt.27:52-53; Rom.1:4).
23:44-47: From about the sixth hour until the ninth hour there
was darkness over the land because the sun was darkened. And the
veil of the temple was rent in the midst as Jesus gave up His
spirit crying, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit”.
The centurion, seeing what took place, glorified God saying,
“Certainly this was a righteous man”.
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Points 13, 14 and 15 need a little
more explanation as there are Christians who feel that Luke made a
mistake in his record. The alleged ‘mistake’ is the phrase “the
eleven” (Luke 24:33). Luke stated that two disciples returned
to Jerusalem after their meeting with the Lord. (Jesus had many
other disciples beside the twelve whom He called at the
beginning of His ministry.) They “found the eleven gathered
together, and them that were with them” and gave an account to
all present of the event that took place; and as they were speaking
Jesus appeared in the midst of them (Luke 24:36). It is these four
verses (Luke 24:33-36) that some Christians believe Luke made the
mistake of stating “the eleven” instead of just ten
since Thomas was not present according to John’s account (John
The misunderstanding arises on two
counts. Firstly, the closing account of Luke is truncated. (So are
those of Matthew and Mark, though their account differs; they viewed
Christ from different perspectives.) The sweeping mention of
Christ’s visitation after His resurrection and then His Ascension,
and coupled with the use of the word “and” at the beginning
of almost every verse, gives an impression that all the events took
place in that one evening through to the next day; after which
Christ ascended to the Heaven. The word “and” (Heb: vav;
Grk: kai) in the Scripture is not necessarily, and always, a
conjunctive word, per se. The word
has the form of a hook. It literally hooks the words of God
together (as one would hook pieces of curtain together to form a
continuous length). That is the reason why we see that a line of
scripture always begins with the letter VAV
(For more understanding, read:
IT IS FINISHED.)
Secondly, when Luke states
it may appear to readers that all the eleven disciples
were present. The usage of the term “the eleven” points to
the specific group and not necessarily of that specific number of
disciples. The term is a holdover status as a group title as is the
term “the twelve”. When the Gospel writers, and even Paul,
speak of “the twelve” they meant the group of the original
disciples. “The eleven” points to “the twelve” that
has lost one in the group. The group is then called “the eleven”.
If you look up all these terms: “the eleven”, “the twelve”,
“the eleven apostles” or “the twelve disciples” in the
Scripture, you will notice some significance. When the word
“disciples” or “apostles” is added to the term “the
eleven” or “the twelve” it speaks specifically the
exact number of them. For example: “I saw the twelve
disciples at the Temple” (counting twelve in all) versus
“I heard the twelve are gathered at Mary’s home. Let me go
and meet them” (that is, the twelve disciples may, or may not,
all be there when I meet them).
For a better understanding of the usage of the different terms,
let’s examine a few other verses from the Scripture.
Then the eleven disciples
went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed
It is all the eleven disciples, not one less.
Luk 22:14: And when the hour was
come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him.
It is an exact headcount of all
Mat 10:2-4: Now the names of the
twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called
Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John
3: Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the
publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was
4: Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also
Matthew lists exactly twelve names,
not eleven and not thirteen.
he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and
upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because
they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.
Mark very much condenses the events from the first day of the week
when Christ resurrected to when Christ gave them the great
commission. This one verse covers a period of eight days. The first
day, in the evening after His resurrection, Christ appeared to the
disciples behind closed door. But Thomas was not present. Eight days
later, Christ again appeared to them in the evening, and this time
Thomas was present. Mark briefly sums up Christ’s two meetings with
the eleven without a specific head count of the number of
disciples in each of the meetings.
And they gave forth their lots; and
the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven
With the death of Judas Iscariot, the
number “twelve” had become “eleven” because of the
shortfall of one. To bring back the number “twelve”, all
the eleven apostles gathered together to seek out one other
disciple of Christ, who is deemed worthy to be part of the inner
circle called “the twelve”. Matthias was chosen “and he
was numbered with the eleven apostles”, making a total of
Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and
said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at
Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:
standing up with the eleven” is a clear
indication that there is the total head count of twelve apostles
even though the verse states “the eleven” and not “the
eleven apostles”. Acts 2:1 verifies the fact. After Matthias was
chosen and “numbered with
the eleven apostles” (Act 1:26), “they
with one accord in one place”
at the temple area
on the Day of Pentecost.
6:2: Then the twelve
called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not
reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.
After Pentecost the twelve apostles
went about preaching the Gospel but they did not always go forth as
a whole group. Therefore “the twelve” in this verse may
or may not be a specific head count of all the apostles being
Joh 20:24: But Thomas, one of the
twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
Here John points out who Thomas was. Even though Judas Iscariot
had gone to his place in the betrayal, John distinctively points out
that Thomas, who “was not with them when Jesus came”, was
one in the inner circle of the original twelve disciples
that Jesus Christ had handpicked. Therefore, he cannot use the term
“the eleven” and record “Thomas, one of the eleven”.
In another place, John makes the same emphasis about Judas being a
part of “the twelve”:
Joh 6:71: He spake of Judas
Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him,
being one of the twelve.
There are twelve disciples, and each one is considered
one of the twelve. If James and John are the only
disciples left alive during the great persecution, we can say, in
emphasis as to who they are, thus: “James, one of the twelve,
is still alive. John, also one of the twelve, is
imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos”.
Lastly, Paul writes:
1Co 15:5: And that he was seen of
Cephas, then of the twelve:
Notice, Paul says that after Christ resurrected, Cephas (that
is, Simon Peter) was the first of the apostles to see Him followed
by the rest of the members of “the twelve”. Paul is not
saying Peter plus twelve other apostles which would make
thirteen. There is only Peter plus the rest of “the
twelve” original disciples minus Judas Iscariot.
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