When a person dies, the dead body is wrapped in some clothes before being buried. These clothes are called grace clothes or burial shrouds. They are burial garments that cover dead bodies before interment. The use of grave clothes can be traced to ancient times when they were essential for funerals. Beyond their physical use, graveclothes have several spiritual significances.
Spiritually, grave clothes could mean death, both physically and spiritually, and sin. It could also represent bondage or being under subjection. Biblically, graveclothes can be a representation of the authoritative and transformative power of God.
The Bible records several mentions of grave clothes alongside their spiritual significance in our lives. Each of these mentions grants us an understanding of what graveclothes connote in our spiritual lives.
What Does The Bible Say About Graveclothes?
Almost everywhere, graveclothes appear in the Bible and have a theme of sadness, death, or bondage. One of the most popular records is that of Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, found in John 11. According to the Bible, Lazarus had been sick, died, and was buried for four days before the arrival of Jesus. Jesus, upon arrival, asked to be shown where the dead man was kept and then commanded the people to roll the gravestone away. When Jesus called Lazarus from the dead and out of the grave, he was still covered in grave clothes. Christ’s next instruction to the people was for them to lose him and let him go.
From this passage, we can see God’s transformative power in action and agree that it is limitless. Even though Lazarus was dead and bound by grave clothes, the power of God still brought him back to life, thus defying the present circumstances. Similarly, when you come to Jesus for salvation, you will be freed from the chains of sin and death. Not only would you no longer be bound, but just like Lazarus, you will be offered a new life in Christ Jesus. This notion is emphasized in Romans 6:23, which states:
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.“
Also, the account of the resurrection of Jesus sheds light on the meaning and significance of grave clothes. After the death of Jesus, Mary Magdalene went to His grave and found it empty with the stone rolled away. Later, when his disciples visited his tomb, they found the graveclothes but not his body. The graveclothes left behind remind us of His promise of eternal life and that our story does not end with death. Jesus showed that anyone who trusts and believes in Him could have eternal life beyond death.
What Do Grave Clothes Mean Spiritually?
The idea of wrapping a dead body in grave clothes is to keep it from decaying quickly. However, when considered from a spiritual angle, graveclothes represent bondages, restrictions, and limitations that keep us away from the plan and will of God for our lives. It can also mean sin designed to make us spiritually dead and stop us from being partakers of the promise of eternal life in Jesus Christ.
Spiritually, the concept of grave clothes has several symbolisms. Firstly, it represents the victory and power of Jesus over sin and death. Jesus died, was buried, and resurrected on the third day, leaving no body and only the graveclothes behind. By leaving the graveclothes in the tomb, Jesus dropped his human body and took on a new resurrected body as a reminder that He has above all things, including death. Jesus did not just do this but also promised this reality to all who love and believe in Him.
Moving on, grave clothes also speak significantly of the divine nature of Jesus. When He resurrected, His physical body did not rise with Him, but rather he transformed into a glorious supernatural body boldly testifying of His divinity and supernatural origin. He subdued death and revealed His spiritual body at the resurrection.
Finally, Paul, in his letter to the Colossian Church, explains graveclothes as the old man or self, which we all need to put off. In Colossians 3:8-10, Paul stated thus:
” You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”
In this passage, Paul advises us to put away our old sinful nature depicted as graveclothes and embrace the new man in Christ. For this to happen, we must submit ourselves to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to transform us. If we fail, we will remain under the bondage of man’s sinful nature and deeds.
How to Put Off Graveclothes
Graveclothes symbolizes the bondage of sin and death. As such, we are commanded to put off grave clothes in our walk with Christ. Until we put them off, we will never be able to please God, as the works of the flesh will still be manifested in us. Taking off grave clothes is a gradual process; below are a few steps you can take.
- Understand your identity in Christ
Upon receiving salvation, we are no longer meant to possess the sinful nature of man but rather the new man that was promised in Christ. So the first step to living this reality is to understand that you are now a new person in Christ. Paul affirms this in 2 Corinthians 5:17, which declares:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!“
Once you carry this consciousness, it becomes easy for your life to conform to that of a new man in Christ.
- Actively strive to become like Christ
Living the life of a new man in Christ does not come easy or naturally, as your flesh is designed to rebel against it. However, with discipline, hard work, and conscious effort, you can live above the lusts of this world and be righteous and holy. Also, you should be conscious and vigilant of moments when you deviate so that you can intentionally return to the path of righteousness.
- Surrender yourself to the Holy Spirit
One thing is certain; a transformed life cannot exist without the help of the Holy Spirit. To put off grave clothes and live a life free from sin and death, you should submit yourself to the Holy Spirit. You can do this by constantly aligning your thoughts, desires, and actions with His will and plan and leaning on Him for help.
More than the clothes wrapped over dead bodies, grave clothes spiritually signify death, sin, and bondage. On the flip side, the resurrection of Jesus and His leaving His graveclothes behind testifies to His power over death, which is ultimately available to all who believe and trust in Him.
However, to access this new life in Christ, you should put off the sinful nature of the flesh, which you can do by actively striving to live like Christ and total submission to the Holy Spirit.