Was there a resurrection before Christ?
In order to answer this question it is probably best to begin with the Fall and its consequences. When Adam and Eve partook of the fruit of “good and evil” there were two main consequences that resulted from this decision: 1) Physical death and 2) Spiritual Death. Our mortal frames are now subject to physical death, simply meaning that we will all die. The only person who could over come physical death is Jesus Christ and his atonement.
Physical death is our immortal spirits being separated from our mortal bodies. Resurrection is the immortal spirit combining with an immortal body never to be separated again. In light of this, our Savior was the first person to be resurrected — the combining of our immortal spirits with an immortal glorified body. We can read the following on the Church’s website, “The Savior was the first person on this earth to be resurrected. The New Testament contains several accounts testifying that He rose from the tomb (see Matthew 28:1–8; Mark 16:1–14; Luke 24:1–48; John 20:1–29; 1 Corinthians 15:1–8; 2 Peter 1:16–17).” (Source)
In some circles I have heard people declaring that Lazarus was resurrected. Lazarus was brought back to life keeping his mortal body combined with his immortal spirit. Lazarus ended up dying at some point later in life. He was raised from the dead, not resurrected.
I have also heard from other circles that John the Beloved and the three Nephites were all resurrected. This isn’t the case either. Their bodies have been changed such that they are immortal and will not taste of death as we know. They will be similar to those in the millennium. They will eventually be resurrected such that their spirit will be combined with a glorified immortal frame (body), as of right now, they have no glory and are not resurrected.
I also have heard of people using this scripture to specify that people were resurrected before Christ, “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” (Matthew 27:52-53) These verses of scripture some have said, “See, before Christ’s resurrection people came out of their graves”! But, I am not sure why they miss this important part “after his resurrection.” It wasn’t until after his resurrection that the graves were opened, and these saints which slept arose.
I finish this question with the following thoughts from servants of the Lord:
“The possibility that a mortal who has died will be brought forth and live again in a resurrected body has awakened hope and stirred controversy through much of recorded history. Relying on clear scriptural teachings, Latter-day Saints join in affirming that Christ has “broken the bands of death” (Mosiah 16:7) and that “death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54; see also Mormon 7:5; Mosiah 15:8; Mosiah 16:7–8; Alma 22:14). Because we believe the Bible and Book of Mormon descriptions of the literal Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we also readily accept the numerous scriptural teachings that a similar resurrection will come to all mortals who have ever lived upon this earth (see 1 Cor. 15:22; 2 Ne. 9:22; Hel. 14:17; Morm. 9:13; D&C 29:26; D&C 76:39, 42–44). As Jesus taught, “Because I live, ye shall live also”” (John 14:19). (Dallin H. Oaks) (emphasis mine)
“By His Atonement and Resurrection, Jesus Christ has overcome all aspects of the Fall. Physical death will be temporary, and even spiritual death has an end, in that all come back into the presence of God, at least temporarily, to be judged. We can have ultimate trust and confidence in His power to overcome all else and grant us everlasting life.” (Elder D. Todd Christofferson)
“I should like on this afternoon before Easter to testify concerning the surety of hope all disciples may have through the resurrection of the Christ. The resurrection of Jesus is one of the greatest messages of all Christianity. It is a divine gift of the Atonement for all mankind. The idea that one who has died can live again was so unprecedented, so foreign to all human experience, that even the Apostles, who had been told it would happen, could hardly believe it.” (James E. Faust)
“When we speak of Jesus being resurrected, we mean that his premortal spirit, which animated his mortal body from his birth in the manger until he died on the cross, reentered that body; and the two, his spirit body and his physical body, inseparably welded together, arose from the tomb an immortal soul.
Our belief is, and we so testify, that Jesus not only conquered death for himself and brought forth his own glorious resurrected body, but that in so doing he also brought about a universal resurrection. This was the end and purpose of the mission for which he was set apart and ordained in the great council in heaven, when he was chosen to be our Savior and Redeemer.” (Marion G. Romney)
I know as these brethren know, that without Jesus Christ there would have been no “victory over death,” and there would have been no resurrection without Him. He is risen, and he was the first fruit to rise. In death we follow him, and with resurrection we follow him.