Question: According to Acts 26: 23 and other Scriptures, Jesus was the first one to be resurrected from the dead, but how can we harmonize this with the fact that there are several instances in the Bible of individuals being raised from the dead before Jesus’ resurrection?
Answer: There are six cases in the Bible of individuals who were miraculously recovered from actual death (not merely clinical death) by God’s power exercised through man before Jesus’ resurrection: (1) the widow of Zarephath’s son (1 Kings 17: 17-24); (2) the Shunammite’s son (2 Kings 4: 18-37); (3) the dead Moabite robber (2 Kings 13: 21); (4) the widow of Nain’s son (Luke 7: 11-15); (5) Jairus’ daughter (Luke 8: 49-56); and (6) Lazarus (John 11: 11-44).
The Scriptures plainly teach that no one could have been resurrected from the dead before Jesus was resurrected. He was “the firstborn from the dead,” “the first one that should rise from the dead,” “the firstfruits of them that slept” (Colossians 1: 18) (Acts 26: 23) (1 Corinthians 15: 20).
The six individuals mentioned in the first paragraph were miraculously awakened temporarily from the sleep of death, but they were not resurrected. They were merely reanimated, soon to die again. After being awakened they were still under the death sentence, and merely experienced a prolongation of their dying existence, and then went down into the death state again. They were not given new bodies and raised up out of death and its curse to perfection of life, into a condition in which if they remained obedient to God they would never die again (Luke 20: 35, 36) (John 11: 25, 26).