Messiah’s Resurrection Foretold in The Old Testament
The Old Testament declares the bodily resurrection of Christ. This doctrine is normally understood because of New Testament teaching. What is not commonly understood is that the Old Testament substantiates this same truth. Many centuries ago, Augustine said that the Old Testament is revealed in the New, and the New Testament is concealed in the Old. Implied in this statement was the fact that God’s revelation was progressive. God revealed Himself and His redemptive plan for humanity throughout a period of 1,500 years.
This disclosure was divulged to man precept upon precept, building block upon building block, until God reached the point of unfolding all that man needed to know and understand about the Sovereign of the universe.
Much of the ambiguity surrounding the earlier revelation given by God through “shadows” and “types” in the Old Testament has been replaced with knowledge and understanding in the fulfillment of those “shadows” and “types” in the New Testament.
Conversely, almost all the doctrines which are presented in the New Testament were not merely new revelations of God; rather, they were expounding upon those same doctrinal truths which were not fully understood by Israel’s ancient prophets. Such is the case with the physical, bodily resurrection of the Messiah.
The Old Testament Prophecies The Resurrection of the Messiah
Then he [Jesus] said unto them, O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them, in all the scriptures, the things concerning himself. Luke 24:25-27
Centuries before Jesus stepped upon the scene of human history, the prophets of old penned, under the inspiration of God, the miraculous, life-transforming event of Messiah’s resurrection. Psalm 16 and Isaiah 53 were presumably two of those Scriptures to which Jesus made reference that notable day on the road to Emmaus to two despondent disciples.
King David, in the middle of his prayer declaring the trustworthiness of God, prophesied the future resurrection of the Messiah (Ps. 16). It is not uncommon to find in the Hebrew Scriptures prophetic utterances which were not totally compatible with the historical situation of the day in which they were written. Instead, they insist upon a future realization. Just such a prophecy is found in Psatm 16:8-10:
I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth; my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in sheol, neither wilt thou permit thine Holy One to see corruption.
In verse 10, the language which the psalmist employed can only refer to the Messiah. It is He alone, and not David, who is referred to as the “Holy One”. It is the Messiah alone, and not David, who will not undergo physical corruption because He will not remain in sheol (grave). The magnitude of this prophetic statement was so great that it was at the heart of the message communicated to the Jewish community in Jerusalem by the Jewish apostle, Peter, in the first century just following the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. It literally became the foundational truth by which thousands of Jewish people on that very day recognized the messiahship of Jesus (Acts 2:22-36).
An equally striking passage in the Old Covenant comes to light in Isaiah 52 and 53. The Prophet Isaiah vividly detailed, in capsule form, 700 years beforehand, the ministry of the Messiah. One of the most heart-rending portions of the Word of God is found in these 15 verses of Isaiah 52:13 through Isaiah 53:12. As few other portions of the Word of God, Isaiah pulis back the curtain to unveil the anguish involved in the substitutionary suffering of the Messiah for the sins of the world.
What is germane to this discussion is the victorious resurrection of the Messiah which appears in verse 10:
Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief. When thou shaft make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shaft prosper in his hand.
Keeping within the context, the resurrection of the Messiah once again is foretold — “. . . he shall prolong his days . . . ” The Messiah is not only seen in His death, but is shown to be alive after His death.
The Old Testament Demands the Resurrection of the Messiah
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with justice and with righteousness from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. Isaiah 9:6, 7
The Scriptures are replete with God’s revelation concerning a future day when the Messiah will reign and rule as King of kings, and Lord of lords. In that day He will sit upon His rightful throne of David in Jerusalem. In order for God to be true to His Word. He must bring forth the Messiah from the grave.
For centuries men have thirsted after a utopian society — an era when peace, righteousness, justice and equity would exist for all mankind. Men have feverishly endeavored to purge the world of war, famine and sickness — but these things continue nonetheless.
Centuries ago. God gave the solution to the nation of Israel in the Hebrew Scriptures. This utopia had been promised in the form of a kingdom. It would be a time when God himself, as the Messiah, would reign and rule as King of the Jews, and Sovereign over all the earth (Isa. 11:1-10).
A systematic study of the Messiah in the Did Testament reveals that there would be a specific “Anointed One” of God — God’s servant, who would come and deliver Israel. This One would be “anointed” by God to perform a specific ministry upon the earth. Down through history, many Jewish people looked for a time when they would experience peace, justice and righteousness upon the face of the earth — when they could have inner peace with God, and outer peace with man.
A most important prophetic text referring to this aspect of the Messiah’s ministry is brought to light in Isaiah’s perceptive statement as quoted above (Isa. 9:6, 7). Paramount within this revelation is the One who is introduced as none other than God in flesh, establishing and maintaining His kingdom upon the earth. He is shown to be both a human being, a descendant of the Hebrew people, and at the same time Deity, as He is a son given by God referred to as “The Mighty God . He is described as the One who will totally control human society, finally introducing righteousness, justice and peace upon the earth.
The Jewish prophet, Jeremiah, in a like manner, spoke of a future day when one born from David’s line would be king and execute justice and righteousness in the earth (Jer. 23:5, 6). It will be at this time that Israel will enjoy her long-sought-after security and peace. It is to be noted, however, that this is accomplished through the Messiah, who is traced back to the lineage of David and once again referred to as God in flesh, as He is called the “Lord our righteousness”.
The Prophet Zechariah, whom God used to reveal so much of future history, not only painted a picture of the kingly Messiah, but literally in the same breath insisted upon the Messiah’s suffering ministry as well. This dual ministry demands the resurrection of the Messiah.
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, thy King cometh unto thee; he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass. And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off; and he shall speak peace unto the nations; and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth. Zechariah 9:9, 10
The resurrection of the Messiah between these two verses is insisted upon, even though it was not stated. In verse 9, the suffering Messiah portrait reveals Him to be the One who comes in humility, lowly, riding upon a donkey, and providing salvation for His people (undoubtedly, aking reference to Palm Sunday when Jesus fulfilled this statement in minute detail). Verse 10 continues on to show the Messiah as the One who will reign and rule over the earth establishing peace. Here He is seen not as the suffering Messiah, but rather as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah — the victorious, kingly Messiah. Apart from the physical resurrection of the Messiah, there is no explanation for how He fulfills the victorious ministry of the Messiah, as described in verse 10.
One of the most astounding statements in the Bible was made when God revealed that He was the pierced One:
And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplications; and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that fs in bitterness for his firstborn. Zechariah 12:10
This prophecy was made many centuries before the crucifixion of Jesus the Messiah, and must have greatly perplexed Zechariah. To understand this significant verse in the Scriptures, it must be properly interpreted. Chapters 9, 10 and 11 look ahead to both Israel’s time of woe (often referred to as Jacob’s trouble, or Daniel’s 70 weeks) and the Kingdom period itself.
It is as the Son of God is returning to the earth to inaugurate the Kingdom and physically redeem Israel that He discloses that He will be returning as the “pierced One” who will physically reign and rule upon the face of the earth. Further, the mourning of the nation of Israel and their turning to God can only be understood in the light of their recognition of who this “pierced One” really is and their role in the past in bringing this about.
Retracing Israel’s history, beginning with the promise and prophecy of this most sought-after day in history, reveals that this kingdom or Utopian age still lies ahead.
Equally apparent is that the Messiah also must yet appear upon the earthly scene to accomplish God’s program for Israel and all of human society. In order for the Messiah, who is the “pierced One” to be back on the earth fulfilling the prophetic Scriptures, it is obvious that His bodily resurrection, after being pierced is DEMANDED.
The Old Testament Requires The Resurrection of the Messiah
For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the fatter day upon the earth; And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God, Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my heart be consumed within me. Job 19:25-27
A scriptural examination of God’s redemptive plan insists upon a bodily resurrection of the Redeemer, as well as His vicarious, substitutionary sacrifice. God’s desire and plan for humanity is for mankind to experience a personal relationship and fellowship with Him forever. Victory over sin, Satan and death must be accomplished in order to bring God’ s program to fruition. The truth of life after death in bodily form reaches as far back as the patriarch. Job, himself. He declared with a confident assurance that he would in the last day stand upon the earth, literally face to face, with his Redeemer, as quoted above in Job 19:25-27.
Several key truths had been understood by this patriarch. First, he understood that he was in need of redemption — that he must become reconciled to God. Second, that God himself was his Redeemer. (A human redeemer had to enter human history in order to pay the price for man’s redemption; hence,Job foresaw the day when his Redeemer would physically stand upon the earth.) Third, he understood that redemption meant eternal life. Fourth, and finally, this eternal life would be in a glorified, physical, fleshly body.
Eternal life in Heaven in a physical, bodily state was known centuries prior to New Testament revelation. Both Enoch and the Prophet Elijah were caught up bodily into Heaven without experiencing physical death to be with the Lord forevermore (Gen, 5; 2 Ki. 2). The Prophet Daniel prodaims the good news that there will be life after death, and that this life shall be in the flesh (Dan. 12:2). For some, it will be joyful bliss for all eternity in the presence of God, while for others it will be eternal anguish — condemned and separated from the Almighty forever. The teaching of bodily resurrection surely then is not a New Testament teaching alone, but, as has already been evidenced, appears throughout the Old Testament Scriptures.
The basis for this eternal life is built upon the redemptive act of God himself on behalf of His creation. It began as early as the fall of man as recorded in Genesis, chapter 3. Immediately after Adam had willfully become disobedient to the commandments of God, the relationship which man had with God had suffered a break and left man in a sinful state, unfit to enjoy this relationship and fellowship which God had intended.
It is in this context that a loving, merciful and kind God announced His plan of redemption for mankind. God promised that Satan, who was the deceiver of Eve, would receive his due punishment through the “seed of the woman” (God’s Messiah). Satan would receive a crushing blow to the head resulting in death. At the same time, the “seed of the woman”, who reconciles mankind to God. would suffer a heel blow resulting in victory over Satan, sin and death. This “heel blow” in contrast to the “head blow” will not be a death blow in the same sense, but rather, a wound. He would suffer physical death, but would not stay in the grave and see corruption, as already pointed out in Psalm 16. Instead, He would be victorious over sin, Satan and death by His resurrection (Gen. 3:15). If Messiah remained in the grave, then He himself was not victor over death. Then that “heel blow” as described in Genesis 3:15 was inaccurate, and the hope and assurance which the prophets of old had was misplaced. The Word of God, however, insists upon a bodily resurrection. This is so beautifully illustrated in the feasts of Israel as recorded in Leviticus, chapter 23. The feasts of Jehovah not only had an importance in the day in which they had been given to Israel, but equally as important, the Bible reveals them to be prophetic. They show forth God’s program for Israel throughout human history.
The first feast, Passover, speaks of redemption and looks forward to the Messiah Jesus as the true Passover Lamb who provides the potential for Israel and all mankind to be redeemed. The second feast, Unleavened Bread, refers to sanctification, indicating that God’s redeemed people are to live a holy life. The third feast, chronologically, is the feast of First Fruits. It reveals beautiful truth of the Messiah’s resurrection and promise that all who belong to Him will one day enjoy life eternally with God in glorified, physical bodies.
Some 3,500 years ago, Israel was to bring the first fruits of the harvest to God as a wave offering. in return, they had the assurance that God would bring forth the rest of the harvest in due time. in a similar fashion, God would one day bring His Messiah up from the grave, becoming the First Fruits of the resurrection. Those who put their faith and trust in Him would likewise be victorious over death and live eternally with God.