AN AMAZING FACT: On September 29, 2000, a 46-year-old Romanian man from the small village of Braila was placed in his coffin. At the funeral home, grieving family and friends filed past the open casket to pay their last respects. However, before he could be buried, Ionel Olteanu sprang to life and walked back home. Neighbors were shocked to see Olteanu strolling the streets of the village. Doctors who had certified Olteanu as dead aren’t sure what really happened. They speculate that he might have fallen into a temporary diabetic coma.
Did you know history is littered with frightening examples of people buried alive, accidentally and deliberately? In 1896, T. M. Montgomery, who supervised the moving of all the remains at the Fort Randall Cemetery, reported it seemed, “Nearly two percent of those exhumed appeared to be victims of suspended animation.” On the island of Iona, in the 6th century, one of St. Columba’s monks, Oran, was dug up the day after his burial and found to be alive. Legend has it when he told his fellows he had seen heaven and hell, he was promptly executed and re-interred on the grounds of heresy.
In the late 16th century, the body of Matthew Wall was being borne to his grave in Braughing, England. One of the pallbearers tripped, causing the others to drop the coffin, thus reviving the dear departed. Wall lived on for several more years, dying in 1595. He celebrated his “resurrection” every year. And in the early 17th century, Marjorie Elphinstone died and was buried in Ardtannies, Scotland. When grave robbers attempted to steal the jewelry off her body, the deceased scared the daylights out of them by groaning. The terrified robbers fled for their lives, and Marjorie revived, walked home, and outlived her husband by six years.
The Bible addresses another kind of premature burial that happens more than you think. When the apostle Paul described the meaning of baptism, he wrote, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). What dies in baptism? Paul says, “ … our old man was crucified with Him … ” (verse 6). When we are baptized without genuinely turning from our old and sinful way of life, it is as if we are being buried alive. This sinful nature needs to die “that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (ibid.). Have you been buried alive?
KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Romans 6:3