And behold, the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake; and the rocks were rent; and the tombs were opened; and many bodies of the saints that had fallen asleep were raised; and coming forth out of the tombs after his resurrection they entered into the holy city and appeared unto many.
Now the centurion, and they that were with him watching Jesus, when they saw the earthquake, and the things that were done, feared exceedingly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.Matthew 27:51-54 ASV
THE OPENING OF THE GRAVES OF THE RIGHTEOUS
The implication that only the graves of the righteous were opened comes from the immediate connection with what followed, the resurrection of the saints.
At first it seems those two events occurred simultaneously; but the next verse notes that it was “after his resurrection” that they actually came out of their graves and appeared in the city, thus the mention of the saints in Matthew 27:52 is for the purpose of revealing which graves were opened.
This, of course, is a great miracle of discrimination.
There is no textual evidence that the passage is an interpolation.
Accepting the amazing fact recorded here by Matthew, one naturally turns to a consideration of its meaning:
(1) It means that God knows the location of every grave where his redeemed ones are at rest. Matthew’s use of “sleep” for “death” suggests that death is a sleep only for the righteous: Death, like sleep, is only temporary and shall be followed by an awakening. Jesus used the same figure when speaking of the death of Lazarus (John 11:11).
(2) It means that all the dead shall eventually rise from the tomb; and, although this resurrection was but a few compared to the numberless millions of the dead, it is a pledge of much more wonderful things to come when “all that are in their tombs” shall come forth (John 5:28).
(3) The resurrection of the “bodies of the saints” indicates a bodily resurrection for all.
While the graves were exposed for three days and nights, a period was provided during which the identity of the graves as belonging to “the righteous” could have been made and verified.
No record is left of the awe and wonder that doubtless accompanied the events connected with so strange and supernatural a phenomenon.