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Matthew 28:4

ESV And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.
NIV The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
NASB The guards shook from fear of him and became like dead men.
CSB The guards were so shaken by fear of him that they became like dead men.
NLT The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.
KJV And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

What does Matthew 28:4 mean?

A detachment of Roman soldiers stood guarding Jesus' tomb (Matthew 27:62–66). Their job was to keep it sealed and to prevent anyone from stealing Jesus' body. Suddenly, sometime in the early hours of Sunday morning, an angel appeared from heaven just as an earthquake took place. The angel rolled back the large stone covering Jesus' now-empty tomb and sat on it.

Roman soldiers were among the toughest men of their era. These soldiers may have been hardened by battle in any number of places around the Roman Empire. Or, they might have been relatively inexperienced. We're not sure, but we are certain that what they saw rendered them helpless. They have seen an angel from heaven, who looked like lightning dressed in the whitest of clothes.

The soldiers convulse in fear and collapse like dead men. They were not dead, merely passed out and thoroughly unconscious. Terror at seeing an angel is an almost universal response, as recorded in the Bible (Luke 1:11–13; 2:9–10; Acts 10:3–4).
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