How was Jesus “the firstborn from the dead” when the Bible mentions others who were resurrected from the dead before Him?

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“And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Revelation 1:5).

Obviously, Jesus was not the first person to get resurrected from the Dead. In the Old Testament we know that Moses got resurrected from the dead (Jude 9) and Elijah resurrected a young boy (1 kings 17:21:22). And in the New Testament, Jesus Himself resurrected three individuals from the dead (John 11:44; Luke 7:15; Luke 5:42). So, what does this phrase mean?

The word “first” has different meanings. For example the president’s wife is called “the first lady” but that doesn’t mean she is the first lady to ever exist but rather she is “first” in rank or position. So, it is clear that in this verse the word “first” means preeminence in rank and honor. King David writes in the same manner “Also I will make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth” (Psalm 89:27).

In Revelation 1:5, Jesus is regarded as “first” in the sense that all others resurrected before and after Him gained their freedom from death only by His own victory over death. His power to lay down His life and to take it again (John 10:18) sets Him apart from all other men ever to come forth from the grave, and sets Him as the source of all life (Rom. 14:9; 1 Cor. 15:12–23; John 1:4, 7–9).

Throughout history, some have been resurrected but only Jesus can unlock the tomb “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (Revelation 1:8, 18).

Check out our Bible Answers page for more information on a variety of topics.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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