Question: "How many people were raised from the dead in the Bible?"
Answer: The Bible records several accounts of people being raised from the dead. Every time a person is raised from the dead, it is a stupendous miracle, showing that the God who is Himself the Source of Life has the ability to give life to whom He will—even after death. The following people were raised from the dead in the Bible:
The widow of Zarephath’s son (1 Kings 17:17–24). Elijah the prophet raised the widow of Zarephath’s son from the dead. Elijah was staying in an upper room of the widow’s house during a severe drought in the land. While he was there, the widow’s son became ill and died. In her grief, the woman brought the body of her son to Elijah with the assumption that his presence in her household had brought about the death of her boy as a judgment on her past sin. Elijah took the dead boy from her arms, went to the upper room, and prayed, “Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!” (verse 21). Elijah stretched himself out on the boy three times as he prayed, and “the Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived” (verse 22). The prophet brought the boy to his mother, who was filled with faith in the power of God through Elijah: “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth” (verse 24).
The Shunammite woman’s son (2 Kings 4:18–37). The prophet Elisha raised the Shunammite woman’s son from the dead. Elisha regularly stayed in Shunem in an upper room prepared for him by this woman and her husband. One day, while Elisha was at Mount Carmel, the couple’s young son died. The woman carried the body of her son to Elisha’s room and laid it on the bed (verse 21). Then, without even telling her husband the news, she departed for Carmel to find Elisha (verses 22–25). When she found Elisha, she pleaded with him to come to Shunem. Elisha sent his servant, Gehazi, ahead of them with instructions to lay Elisha’s staff on the boy’s face (verse 31). As soon as Elisha and the Shunammite woman arrived back home, Elisha went to the upper room, shut the door, and prayed. Then he stretched out on top of the boy’s body, and the body began to warm (verse 34). Elisha arose, walked about the room, and stretched himself out on the body again. The boy then sneezed seven times and awoke from death (verse 35). Elisha then delivered the boy, alive again, to his grateful mother (verses 36–37).
The man raised out of Elisha’s grave (2 Kings 13:20–21). Elisha is connected with another miracle that occurred after his death. Sometime after Elisha had died and was buried, some men were burying another body in the same area. The grave diggers saw a band of Moabite raiders approaching, and, rather than risk an encounter with the Moabites, they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s grave. Scripture records that, “when the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet” (verse 21).
The widow of Nain’s son (Luke 7:11–17). This is the first person Jesus raised from the dead. As the Lord approached the town of Nain, He met a funeral procession leaving the city. In the coffin was a young man, the only son of a widow. When Jesus saw the procession, “his heart went out to [the woman] and he said, ‘Don’t cry’” (verse 13). Jesus came close and touched the coffin and spoke to the dead man: “Young man, I say to you, get up!” (verse 14). Obeying the divine order, “the dead man sat up and began to talk” (verse 15). The mourning was turned to awe and praise: “God has come to help his people,” the people said (verse 16).
Jairus’ daughter (Luke 8:40–56). Jesus also showed His power over death by raising the young daughter of Jairus, a synagogue leader. The Lord was surrounded by crowds when Jairus came to Him, begging Him to visit his house and heal his dying twelve-year-old daughter (verses 41–42). Jesus began to follow Jarius home, but on the way a member of Jarius’ household approached them with the sad news that Jairus’ daughter had died. Jesus turned to Jarius with words of hope: “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed” (verse 50). Upon arriving at Jarius’ house, Jesus took the girl’s parents, Peter, James, and John and entered the room where the body lay. There, “he took her by the hand and said, ‘My child, get up!’ Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up” (verses 54–55). Jesus and His disciples then left the girl, alive and well, with her astonished parents.
Lazarus of Bethany (John 11). The third person that Jesus raised from the dead was His friend Lazarus. Word had come to Jesus that Lazarus was ill, but Jesus did not go to Bethany to heal him. Instead, He told His disciples, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it” (verse 4). A couple days later, Jesus told His disciples that Lazarus had died, but He promised a miracle: “I am going there to wake him up” (verse 11). When Jesus reached Bethany, four days after Lazarus’ death, Lazarus’ grieving sisters both greeted Jesus with the same words: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (verses 21 and 32). Jesus, speaking to Martha, promised to raise Lazarus from the dead (verse 23) and proclaimed Himself to be “the resurrection and the life” (verse 25). Jesus asked to see the grave. When He got to the place, He commanded the stone to be rolled away from the tomb (verse 39), and He prayed (verses 41–42) and “called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’” (verse 43). Just as Jesus had promised, “the dead man came out” (verse 44). The result of this miracle was that God was glorified and “many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him” (verse 45). Others, however, refused to believe in Jesus and plotted to destroy both Jesus and Lazarus (John 11:53; 12:10).
Various saints in Jerusalem (Matthew 27:50–53). The Bible mentions some people who were raised from the dead en masse at the time of the death of Christ. When Jesus died, “the earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open” (verses 51–52). Those open tombs remained open until the third day. At that time, “the bodies of many holy people . . . were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people” (verses 52–53). On the day that Jesus was raised to life, these saints were also raised and became witnesses in Jerusalem of the life that only Jesus can give.
Tabitha (Acts 9:36–43). Tabitha, whose Greek name was Dorcas, was a believer who lived in the coastal city of Joppa. Her return to life was performed by the apostle Peter. Dorcas was known for “always doing good and helping the poor” (verse 36). When she died, the believers in Joppa were filled with sadness. They laid the body in an upper room and sent for Peter, who was in the nearby town of Lydda (verses 37–38). Peter came at once and met with the disciples in Joppa, who showed him the clothing that Dorcas had made for the widows there (verse 39). Peter sent them all out of the room and prayed. Then “turning toward the dead woman, he said, ‘Tabitha, get up.’ She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet” (verses 40–41). The overjoyed believers received their friend, and the news spread quickly throughout the city. “Many people believed in the Lord” as a result (verse 42).
Eutychus (Acts 20:7–12). Eutychus was a young man who lived (and died and lived again) in Troas. He was raised from the dead by the apostle Paul. The believers in Troas were gathered in an upper room to hear the apostle speak. Since Paul was leaving town the next day, he spoke late into the night. One of his audience members was Eutychus, who sat in a window and, unfortunately, fell asleep. Eutychus slipped out of the window and fell three stories to his death (verse 9). Paul went down and “threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him” (verse 10). Eutychus came back to life, went upstairs, and ate a meal with the others. When the meeting finally broke up at daylight, “the people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted” (verse 12).
Jesus (Mark 16:1–8). Of course, any list of people raised from the dead must include Jesus Christ. His death and resurrection are the focal point of Scripture and the most important events in the history of the world. The resurrection of Jesus is notably different from other events in which people rose from the dead: Jesus’ resurrection is the first permanent return to life; everyone else who had been raised to life died again. Lazarus died twice; Jesus rose, nevermore to die. In this way, Jesus is “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). Jesus’ resurrection justifies us (Romans 4:25) and ensures our eternal life: “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19).