Should Christians pray for recently deceased people to be raised from the dead? Are such Christians being delusional? Or do they really know what they’re talking about? Honestly, if you ask me, I believe raising the dead should be normal Christianity.
Do Christians Still Raise the Dead?
The Bible contains plenty of examples of prophets, Jesus, and various New Testament believers raising the dead. I have no reason to disbelieve these testimonies. Such activity happened often enough in Scripture to tell us that it shouldn’t surprise or spook us. But what I want to focus on here is more about present-day testimonies of raising the dead — and there are many.
Respected theologian Craig Keener, in his scholarly 2-volume set Miracles (2011) shares 29 pages of modern-day, documented dead-raisings on multiple continents (including extensive footnotes). He also provides strong argumentation for believing most, if not all, of these accounts.
In his book MegaShift (2005), the late author Jim Rutz documented hundreds of dead-raisings across 52 different nations, and that was just in the previous 25 years.
In my travels around the world, I’ve come to know several people who have raised the dead in Jesus’ name. A few of them have witnessed hundreds of dead raisings. Three of the people I know were current or former medical professionals who know how to identify death. They knew what should have worked medically (but didn’t) and what certainly should not have worked (but did in Jesus’ name).
And most exciting to me are the handful of people I’ve met who have themselves been raised from the dead. Their testimonies are powerful and compelling.
There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus still raises the dead.
Why Does God Raise the Dead?
Ecclesiastes says there is a time to live and a time to die (3:2). It also warns against being foolish and asks, “Why die before your time?” (7:17). So while there is indeed a time to die, it is also possible to die prematurely.
If people only ever died when it was their time to die, then why did Jesus raise the dead? If those people were supposed to be dead, then Jesus would have been going against the Father’s will to raise them. Rather, Jesus said He only did what He saw His Father doing and added, “Just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom He is pleased to give it.” (John 5:19-21)
According to 1 Corinthians 15:26, death is an enemy of God. I believe it ought to be treated as such. If God was a fan of death, then He wouldn’t have sent Jesus to give us eternal life. Ezekiel 18:23 and 33:11 both tell us that God does not delight in the death of the wicked. Similarly, the death of the righteous is costly and of great consequence in His sight (this is the meaning of the word “precious” in Psalm 116:15).
Therefore, if God doesn’t like when the wicked die or when the righteous die, I have to conclude that He doesn’t like when anyone dies. Again, death is an enemy of God.
For this reason, as far as we know from Scripture, Jesus upset every funeral He ever attended during His ministry, including His own.
Should this be “Normal Christianity?”
The entire Christian faith is built on the idea that a crucified man was raised from the dead. Raising the dead ought to be one of the easiest things for us to comprehend as believers. It’s the foundation of our faith!
The same Jesus who always treated death like an enemy also sent out His disciples with a command to “raise the dead” (Matthew 10:8). Notice: Not some of the dead or certain dead but the dead, without exception.
Sure, this was a command to His twelve disciples, but do you know what else He commanded those same disciples? He commanded them to make new disciples and teach them to obey “everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). In other words, if it was a command to the disciples, it is a command to us. The same Jesus who commanded us to love our enemies also commanded us to raise the dead.
Until the time that our “final enemy” (death) is fully overthrown, it’s a reality we’ll have to deal with here on this earth (1 Corinthians 15:26; Hebrews 9:27). And there is no doubt that God–in Scripture–has allowed this enemy to roam free as an unwitting pawn from time to time to accomplish greater purposes (for example, Exodus 12:23). But that doesn’t mean we should always assume God is the one who “took someone home” or that He approved of the death.
Some of us are quicker to “accept what happened” than we are to accept what is available. It’s not easy to live with extreme hope and to risk being let down, but it’s right.
Personally, I lay hands on the deceased at every open-casket funeral I attend, and I command them to wake up in Jesus’ name. So far it hasn’t happened, but I guarantee it’s more likely to happen for me than for someone who never tries. Some of us need to rethink our priorities and start treating death like the enemy it is.
How Do You Raise the Dead?
The simple answer is: You don’t! Jesus does. But Jesus lives in us, and we are invited to minister in His name with all His love, compassion, authority, and power.
Every person I know who has raised the dead says it’s no more difficult than healing ministry. The same way we minister healing through no personal striving or merit, so the dead are raised. It’s the power and authority of Jesus that does all the work. We don’t have to be mature enough, good enough, educated enough, or qualified enough in any way. We simply need to believe the One who gave us the command, letting His Spirit do His work as we make opportunities.
In Matthew 10:8, Jesus commanded, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” In other words, it all works the same: freely giving what we have freely received. Remember what Jesus said in John 5:21–“For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.” As sons and daughters of God, we too are invited to “give life” in His name. Remember, Jesus said, “…As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). Our mission is a continuation of His mission.
Jesus promised that those who believe in Him would do the same works He was doing, plus greater (John 14:12). Everyone wants to debate what Jesus meant by “greater works,” but I say let’s start with the “same works” He promised. And one of those works is raising the dead.
All of us have lost people dear to us, and all of us have believed for certain miracles that we didn’t see happen. None of those things should change our minds about the character of God. He is relentlessly good–full of compassion and abounding in love.
And He still raises the dead.