The Resurrection in the Old Testament

2015.12.03 - Ricci,_Sebastiano_-_The_Resurrection_-_Google_Art_ProjectThe Sadducees harassed Jesus over the resurrection, a matter they rejected (Mark 12:18–27). They held that no more than the Pentateuch was Scripture and thus dismissed many passages on the resurrection.

Roughly 2,000 B.C., Job implied a resurrection when he stated, “And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:26). A millennium later, David implied the resurrection of Christ and prophesied, “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life” (Ps 16:10–11; cf. Acts 2:27; 13:35). He also spoke of the resurrection and claimed, “As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness” (Ps 17:15). Around this time, the sons of Korah would also say, “But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me” (Ps 49:15). Asaph likewise implied the resurrection and stated, “You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory” (Ps 73:24).

Roughly 300 years thereafter, Isaiah implied the resurrection when stating of God, “He will swallow up death forever” (Isa 25:8; cf. 1 Cor 15:54). Isaiah was then more explicit about the resurrection and prophesied to Israel, “Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead” (Isa 26:19). Isaiah also hinted at the resurrection of Jesus, stating that, though “it was the will of the Lord to crush him” (i.e., Jesus), “he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days” (Isa 53:10).

Hosea prophesied to northern Israel before it was taken captive by Assyria in 722 B.C. and gave these questions from God, implying God had power to do what He asked: “Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from Death?” (Hos 13:14; cf. 1 Cor 15:54).

Ezekiel prophesied to southern Israel before and after its captivity by Babylon in 586 B.C. and used the figure of resurrection for God’s revival of Israel, implying that God could literally fulfill the figurative action if so desired: “Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel” (Ezek 37:12; cf. 37:1–10).

Daniel likewise lived through the Babylonian captivity and had many visions while serving in Babylon. One concerned the resurrection after Israel’s “time of trouble”: “at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan 12:1–2).

The NT would certainly teach more on the resurrection, but the Sadducees were without excuse about the matter in their own day. Let us today not be like them from long ago, described by Jesus as knowing neither the Scriptures nor power of God (Mark 12:24).

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