Ezekiel 37:1-2 The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry.
In what seems to be a vision, Ezekiel was transported by the Spirit to a valley full of bones, a great many bones. It may have been a battle scene in which everyone died and no one was left to bury the dead. The prophet did not view the scene from a distance, but was escorted throughout the valley by God himself. The fact that the bones were very dry shows they had been dead for some time.
Ezekiel’s valley of death is a place of despair. All the dreams and aspirations of the deceased had come to nothing. Once young and full of potential, they were now a bony shadow of their former selves. Their tender flesh was eaten by birds until nothing was left but bones. Here we see ourselves as well. Not today, perhaps, but eventually. Life as we know it comes to an end.
Ezekiel 37:3 He asked me, Son of man, can these bones live? I said, Sovereign Lord, you alone know.
The prophet may have considered a few accounts of someone coming back to life. Elijah raised the son of a widow (1 Kings 17:21-22). Elisha raised the son of a Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4:34-35). And when a corpse was placed in Elisha’s tomb, he stood up on his feet (2 Kings 13:21). But these had only died recently, and their bodies were still in tact. Did God have the power to raise a valley of bones that were dry as dust?
Ezekiel 37:4-6 Then he said to me, Prophesy to these bones and say to them, Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life.
This reminds us of the creation of Adam. Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being (Genesis 2:7). Likewise, [God] gives everyone life and breath and everything else (Acts 17:25), said Paul. Since God is the source of life he is able to create it, and even recreate it. This is good news for the believing dead.
Ezekiel 37:7-8 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
As the prophet spoke God’s word, the bones began to assemble before his eyes. Other parts were added until a vast number of bodies were in tact. But they were not breathing.
Ezekiel 37:9 Then he said to me, Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.
When the breath of God entered the bodies, they came to life and stood on their feet—a vast army (Ezekiel 37:10). In his vision, Ezekiel witnessed a resurrection from the dead. Death had been defeated by the power of God.
This idea is not highly developed in the Old Testament, but it does appear occasionally. [A]fter my skin has been destroyed . . . in my flesh I will see God (Job 19:26), said Job. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake (Daniel 12:2), wrote Daniel. [Y]our dead will live, Lord; their bodies will rise (Isaiah 26:19), wrote Isaiah. And, I will deliver this people from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death (Hosea 13:14), wrote Hosea. It may be hard to imagine, but God is planning a resurrection.
Ezekiel 37:11-12 Then he said to me: Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off. Therefore prophesy and say to them: This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel.
God’s people were in exile, far away from the Promised Land. The temple was destroyed, and the city was in ruins. God’s people were dying outside the Promised Land without any hope for the future. Then God declared that he would raise his people from the dead, and bring them back to the Promised Land.
We too will be raised, not to live on a cloud, but on a renewed earth. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised (1 Corinthians 15:52), wrote Paul. And we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth (2 Peter 3:13), wrote Peter.
After God made the world, he paused to admire his work, and pronounced it very good (Genesis 1:31). This included Adam and Eve, and the soil from which they came (Genesis 2:7). Sin made a mess of things, but it will not have the last word—God is reversing the curse.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5), said Jesus. The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever (Psalm 37:29), wrote David. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1), wrote John. God will raise his people from the dead to live on a new earth forever. This is his promise to every earthling who believes in Jesus Christ.
Ezekiel 37:13-14 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.
This is hard to believe, but God has given proof that he will do it, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul called Jesus the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Corinthians 15:20). Firstfruits were harvested early and were a sign of the greater harvest to come. By raising Jesus from the dead, God has assured us that we will be raised as well. [I]f the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies (Romans 8:11), wrote Paul.
Most of us struggle with our mortal bodies for years. In the beginning, perhaps, they were healthy and strong, but then we begin to decline. Good health, as we know it, is only dying slowly. But thankfully, it will not always be this way.
In the age to come our bodies will be raised with a glory we cannot imagine. Jesus will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body (Philippians 3:21), wrote Paul. Most people never have a glorious body in this age. But in the age to come, all God’s people will have a glorious body that will never grow old or die. Ezekiel caught a glimpse of this many years ago.
Reflection and Review
What does the resurrection tell us about the age to come?
How do we know that God will raise the dead?
How will our bodies be different in the age to come?