Raising Tabitha From The Dead: Acts 9:36-43
“36) Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which translated in Greek is called Dorcas); this woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did. 37) And it happened at that time that she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her body, they laid it in an upper room. 38) Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, having heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him, imploring him, “Do not delay in coming to us.” 39) So Peter arose and went with them. When he arrived, they brought him into the upper room; and all the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing all the tunics and garments that Dorcas used to make while she was with them. 40) But Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed, and turning to the body, he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up. 41) And he gave her his hand and raised her up; and calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. 42) It became known all over Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43) And Peter stayed many days in Joppa with a tanner named Simon.” Acts‬ ‭9‬:‭36‬-‭43‬ ‭
The event of Peter raising Tabitha from the dead greatly advanced the gospel. Verse 42 says, “And it became known all over Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.” It followed the pattern that every healing and miracle in the New Testament opened doors for the gospel and caused many to believe in Jesus Christ.
There are records of raising people from the dead in the Old Testament, during the public ministry of Jesus and in the book of Acts. Though raising people from the dead was not common in the Bible, it must be noted that Jesus came to defeat death. There are also some modern reports of people being raised from the dead through the name of Jesus Christ, but they are not easy to substantiate. Let me make a few observations about raising people from the dead.
First, someone coming back to life does not mean they are forever immortal. Death simply means the physical body is no longer able to support the soul and spirit. It ceases to function. A separation takes place between the body and the soul and spirit. The soul and spirit are eternal.
Second, according to 2 Corinthians 5:2-4, the body is like external clothing or a tent for our soul and spirit during our sojourn on earth. At the time of death, it can no longer sustain physical life. Our physical body will wear out over time or be rendered nonfunctional because of a trauma, disease or the natural aging process. The physical body is mortal.
Third, restoring life to a dead person simply means the physical body begins to function again. It is able to house the soul and spirit for a while longer. Raising someone from the dead could be looked at as a healing or restoring of the functions of the physical body.
Forth, in John 11:1-46, we have the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. According to John 11:39 he had been dead four days. That’s a long time. Jesus is greater than death. According to verse 45, as a result of this miracle, many believed in Him.
Fifth, in John 11:25, Jesus called Himself the resurrection and the life. Life and death are within the realm of His authority. This is true of both eternal life and restoring physical life to a deceased person. He is the source of life.
Sixth, in Acts 9:40, Peter knelt down and prayed and then he turned and spoke to the body of Tabitha. His praying may have been discerning God’s will for Tabitha. When his praying was done, he turned and spoke life back into her body. This miracle was done through the authority of Jesus Christ.
Seventh, at some point we will all succumb to physical death. Hebrews 9:27 says; It is appointed for men once to die and after that comes judgement. Death is universal for all people. The only exception will be those believers who are transformed immediately into their new bodies when Jesus returns. (See 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)
Eight, the eternal life to come for believers is unimaginable compared to this life. 1 Corinthians 15:20-58 describes the eternal resurrection life awaiting all believers. It is a text that always gives me goose bumps. I can only imagine.
Finally, though rare, it is within the realm of Scripture when the Holy Spirit leads to speak life back into people. However, Hebrews 11:35-40 looks at the two sides of the coin. Some women received their dead back by resurrection, but most did not accept their release because they were looking for a better resurrection.
The ultimate goal is to be safely home. If you’re not sure about your own or another persons eternal destiny, focus on reaching them now. In the case of Tabitha, her death was reckoned as premature and unacceptable by her community of believers. She left behind shoes too big to be filled. That’s why they sent for Peter. I applaud their step of faith. It is not to be viewed as an injunction to pray for all people to be raised from the dead.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global.