What Are Grave Clothes Symbolic Of In The Bible?
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What Are Grave Clothes Symbolic Of In The Bible?

Grave clothes, also known as burial shrouds or linen clothes, are mentioned several times in the Bible in reference to burials and resurrections. They hold deep spiritual symbolism and significance. In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore the meaning behind grave clothes based on their appearances in key biblical passages.


Grave clothes were strips of linen or cloth that were wrapped around the body of a deceased person before burial. The Bible mentions them specifically in the accounts of Lazarus and Jesus after their resurrections.

Let’s look at the key symbolic meanings behind grave clothes in the Bible:

  • They represent death and mortality
  • They point to the transforming power of resurrection
  • They affirm Christ’s victory over death
  • They showcase God’s miraculous glory
  • They remind us of our freedom in Christ

By exploring the context around biblical references to grave clothes, we can unearth powerful truths concerning life, death and eternal life. Keep reading as we dive deeper into this rich biblical symbolism.

Grave Clothes Represent Death and Mortality

One of the clearest symbolic meanings behind grave clothes is that they represent death and mortality. When Lazarus became ill and died in John 11, his sisters Mary and Martha “bound him hand and foot with graveclothes” (John 11:44 NKJV). The binding of Lazarus in grave clothes pointed to the reality that he was now dead and awaiting burial.

These clothes signified his mortality and served as a visual reminder that his earthly life had ended. Likewise, when Jesus was crucified and buried, He was “bound in the grave clothes” (John 20:5, 7 NKJV). The clothes wrapped around Christ’s body marked His physical death.

In this way, grave clothes were a powerful symbol of death every time they appeared in Scripture. Their very presence pointed to the mortality of the wearer and the finality of earthly life coming to an end.

They Point to the Transforming Power of Resurrection

At the same time, the mentions of grave clothes in the resurrection accounts of Lazarus and Jesus also symbolize something else entirely – the incredible power of resurrection.

When Jesus cried, “Lazarus, come forth!” the man who had died “came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes” (John 11:43-44 NKJV). The fact that Lazarus came out of the tomb still wrapped in his burial clothes powerfully symbolized his transition from death back to life.

These clothes of mortality were still on him as he walked out of the tomb, perfectly whole and miraculously alive again. In this way, the grave clothes pointed to the transforming, life-giving power of resurrection.

We see the same symbolism when Peter runs to the empty tomb of Jesus and sees the linen clothes lying there (Luke 24:12). The presence of the grave clothes continues to mark Christ’s death, but their collapsed form and the empty tomb signal His triumph over that death.

The grave clothes represent resurrection life bursting forth, a glorious transition from death to new life. As Lazarus and Jesus emerge from these vestiges of death, the grave clothes remind us of the hope and deliverance found in resurrection.

They Affirm Christ’s Victory Over Death

One of the most prominent symbolic meanings of the grave clothes after Christ’s resurrection is that they strongly affirm His victory over death.

When Peter saw the linen clothes lying in the empty tomb, John says “he saw and believed” (John 20:8 NKJV). In that moment, Peter realized that the collapsed form of these grave clothes were evidence that Christ had victoriously risen from the dead.

The Bible says the face cloth from Jesus’ head was folded up and lying separate from the other clothes (John 20:7). If someone had stolen Christ’s body, they would not have meticulously folded this cloth. The order and placement of the grave clothes affirmed that supernatural resurrection had taken place.

This miraculous scene with the grave clothes was physical proof that Christ had conquered death itself and come back to life. The clothes once worn in death were now an emblem of Christ’s triumph over the grave through His resurrection.

They Showcase God’s Miraculous Glory

The grave clothes in Lazarus’s resurrection account also hold symbolic meaning in what they showcase about God’s glory and power.

When Lazarus stumbled out of the tomb covered in his grave clothes, it put God’s miraculous glory on full display. The visible proof of the shrouds of death on Lazarus amplified the impossibility of what Jesus had just accomplished.

This memorable,visual juxtaposition made the miracle even more stunning, bringing immense glory to God. It fueled belief that Jesus was the Son of God as the people “saw the things He did” (John 11:45 NKJV).

The Bible says when Lazarus came forth, Jesus told the people, “Loose him, and let him go” (John 11:44 NKJV). As the witnesses unwrapped the grave clothes from Lazarus’ body, they were removing visible reminders of death. This further magnified God’s glory in that death had been fully conquered and reversed.

They Remind Us of Our Freedom in Christ

One final symbolic meaning of grave clothes in Scripture is that they remind us of the freedom we have in Christ. Colossians 2:20-22 draws a parallel between grave clothes and Christian freedom from legalism.

Just as Lazarus walked forth in grave clothes after being unbound by resurrection power, believers have been freed from the restraints of legalistic religion. Through Christ we have “died with Christ from the basic principles of the world” and have been made alive in Him (Colossians 2:20 NKJV).

Therefore, submitting again to legalistic rules would be like re-binding ourselves in grave clothes. As Lazarus was freed from the clothes of death, we are freed by Christ from religious rituals that cannot bring life. What powerful imagery of the liberty we find in the gospel!

Key Takeaways

To recap, here are some key symbolic meanings behind the grave clothes mentioned in the Bible:

  • They represent death and mortality
  • They point to the transforming power of resurrection
  • They affirm Christ’s victory over death
  • They showcase God’s miraculous glory
  • They remind us of our freedom in Christ

The vivid accounts of resurrected men emerging from these shrouds of death teach us so much. We have hope beyond the grave because of Christ who conquered death once for all. And as believers, we walk in newness of life and freedom from sin. May the truth about grave clothes spur us to worship the Lord Jesus as our risen King!

Lazarus Raised from the Dead (John 11:1-44 NKJV)

Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.”

4 When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. 7 Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”

8 The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?”

9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.”

12 Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” 13 However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.

14 Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.”

16 Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”

17 So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away. 19 And many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.

20 Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. 21 Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

28 And when she had said these things, she went her way and secretly called Mary her sister, saying, “The Teacher has come and is calling for you.” 29 As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly and came to Him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was in the place where Martha met Him. 31 Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying, “She is going to the tomb to weep there.”

32 Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. 34 And He said, “Where have you laid him?”

They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.”

35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!”

37 And some of them said, “Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?”

38 Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”

Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.”

40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”

The Empty Tomb (John 20:1-9 NKJV)

Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”

3 Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. 4 So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. 5 And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. 9 For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.


The grave clothes found in the tombs of Lazarus and Jesus hold deep symbolic significance about the transforming power of resurrection. As we reflect on their meaning, these remnants of death that give way to new life instill awe and hope within us. Christ has conquered the grave, granting us freedom and life everlasting for all who believe. May we walk in the glorious freedom and victory that is ours as followers of the Risen King!

Pastor Duke Taber
Pastor Duke Taber

Pastor Duke Taber

All articles have been written or reviewed by Pastor Duke Taber.
Pastor Duke Taber is an alumnus of Life Pacific University and Multnomah Biblical Seminary.
He has been in pastoral ministry since 1988.
Today he is the owner and managing editor of 3 successful Christian websites that support missionaries around the world.
He is currently starting a brand new church in Mesquite NV called Mesquite Worship Center, a Non-Denominational Spirit Filled Christian church in Mesquite Nevada.