The resurrection was clearly predicted in the Old Testament Scriptures. As well as increasing our understanding of the resurrection, this teaching provides an outstanding example of the amazing accuracy of biblical prophecy.
It’s good to be with you again as we continue to share together the rich and wonderful theme of “Victory over Death,” especially as it centers in the resurrection of Christ.
In my talk yesterday I explained three things that Christ’s resurrection means for each of us. First, it is the sure seal upon God’s offer of forgiveness and salvation. Second, it is the guarantee of our resurrection. Third, it is the goal of our Christian living.
Today I’m going to turn back for a while to the Scriptures of the Old Testament, and I’m going to show you how the resurrection was clearly predicted in those Scriptures. As well as increasing our understanding of the resurrection, this also provides an outstanding example of the amazing accuracy of biblical prophecy.
In 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, Paul states the essence of the gospel. He says this:
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures...” (NAS)
We have to understand here that “the Scriptures” means what we would call the Old Testament, since in the time of Paul’s writing the New Testament was not yet a complete or established book of Scripture. Paul says the gospel consists in three historical facts: Christ died for our sins, He was buried, He was raised on the third day. And he says the main authority for each of these facts is that they were fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy; it was according to the Scriptures. He places the authority of the Scriptures before that of the eyewitnesses of the resurrection whom he then proceeds to quote. We naturally need to ask ourselves, what Scriptures did Paul have in mind? What Old Testament Scriptures predicted the resurrection of Jesus Christ?
Before we study this however, we need to understand a principle of interpretation of Old Testament prophecy when it relates to Christ. This principle is stated in 1 Peter 1:10-12. Peter says:
“Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them [notice that phrase, the Spirit of Christ, in the Old Testament prophets] was pointing when he predicted sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven...” (NIV)
Now we need to understand this and carefully look at what Peter is saying. These prophets of the Old Testament (and David is one clear example) spoke in the first person. They said, “This or that happened to me,” but their words did not apply to themselves. Although they spoke about themselves, their words did not apply to themselves, but they applied only to Christ. In other words, they were not speaking in their own spirit or their own understanding, but the Spirit of Christ, which was in them, was speaking about things that would only be fulfilled in Christ.
Secondly, their message was not for their own generation, but for believers in the New Testament. Bear that in mind then, about these prophecies of the Old Testament. First of all, the prophets were not speaking about themselves but about Christ; secondly, their message was not for their own generation, but for us.
Now, let’s apply this principle to Psalms 16:8-11, which is a Psalm of David:
“I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the [Sheol, that’s the place of departed spirits beneath the Earth] nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (NIV)
Let’s notice some important facts about that passage. First of all, it is quoted in the New Testament, both by Peter and by Paul, and each of them applies it to Jesus, not to David. Peter points out that it could not apply to David because David had been buried and his body had decayed in the tomb, but this one of whom David is speaking, says that his Holy One would not see decay. In other words, Peter says though David spoke in the first person, as if speaking about himself, his words did not apply to himself but to Jesus the Messiah.
We need to understand that the soul of Jesus descended into Sheol, but did not remain there. He said, “You will not abandon me to Sheol.” Meanwhile His body lay in the tomb. He said, “My body will rest secure,” but it did not undergo decay. The psalmist said, “You will not let your Holy One see decay.” And then the closing verse, verse 11, speaks of resurrection: “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” This indicates that through resurrection, Christ the Messiah was to be restored to the Father’s presence.
Let’s go through that again very quickly. It was quoted in the New Testament by Peter and Paul, and by each of them applied to Jesus; it did not apply to David; it indicated that the soul of Jesus would descend into Sheol, but not remain there; that His body would lie in the tomb, but would not undergo decay; and that through resurrection, He would be restored to the presence of God the Father. We see the same principles again in Psalms 71:20-21 where the Psalmist says this:
“Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once again.” (NIV)
Again, the same principle is true. This was not fulfilled of the psalmist who wrote it. He was not brought up again from the depths of the earth; he remained buried. On the other hand, it was very exactly fulfilled in the experience of Jesus. Let’s note four successive phases: First of all, Jesus endured great and sore troubles that came upon Him through his obedience to God. Secondly, after His death on the cross, He was restored to life again. Thirdly, He was brought up from the depths of the earth, out of the grave and out of Sheol. Fourthly, He was restored to His place of honor at God’s right hand.
Let’s summarize those again:
Jesus endured great and sore troubles but He was restored to life again. He was brought up from the depths of the earth and He was restored to His place of honor at God’s right hand. Some people tell you that there is no prediction of resurrection in the Old Testament. To me, that seems to be incorrect. I cannot think of any words that could more clearly predict resurrection than the words which state that God would restore life to a man again, and bring him up from the depths of the earth. It seems to me nothing but resurrection could fulfill those words.
Let’s turn now to Hosea 6:1-3 and see what Hosea has to say.
“Come, let us return to the Lord, for He has torn us, but he will heal us; he has wounded us but he will bandage us. He will revive us after two days. He will raise us up on the third day, that we may live before Him. [Notice that phrase, ‘He will raise us up on the third day. Then verse 3:] So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth.’”(NIV)
Just notice the emphasis on the third day. The Scriptures of the New Testament attach considerable importance to the fact that it was predicted that Jesus would be resurrected on the third day. Which passage in the Old Testament predicted it? The answer is the passage in Hosea that we just read.
To understand the full meaning of Hosea we have to understand a principle. A principle of two-way identification.
First of all, Jesus identified Himself with us. He became human. He became the sinner’s substitute. He took the sinner’s place. But our salvation comes through identifying ourselves in turn with Jesus by faith, so that we share with Him the experiences that He went through. This is stated by Paul in Ephesians 2:4-6:
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ... and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places...” (NAS)
Notice that through our identification with Jesus, following His identification with us, we share three experiences. We are made alive. We are raised up, or resurrected; and we are seated in the heavenly places. We share His resurrection. His resurrection was our resurrection.
Now, let’s return for a moment to Hosea 6:3 and look again at what it says:
“So let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain, watering the earth.”
Three important points:
First of all, this revelation of the fulfillment of Hosea’s prophecy is only for those who press on to know the Lord. It’s not for those who just skim through Scripture but it’s for those who read Scripture with an open heart and mind, seeking the truth that God desires to reveal.
Secondly, it speaks then about this person who’s predicted his going forth is as certain as the dawn; the dawn, of course, follows the darkness of night. So, the comparison to the dawn speaks of the resurrection of Jesus out of the long, dark night of sin; and then it goes on:
“He will come to us like the rain...”
Now the rain in Scripture, in particular in Hosea, is a type of the Holy Spirit. So, this prophecy not merely predicts the resurrection of Jesus, but it also predicts the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Jesus was resurrected like the dawn after the darkness; fifty days later, the Holy Spirit came like the rain for the waiting disciples. So we see that Old Testament prophecy, not merely predicts events, it also reveals their spiritual significance. In other words, it does not merely predict that Jesus will rise on the third day, but it also indicates that we are identified with Jesus in His resurrection. And of course, this identification of us with Jesus is much more fully brought out in the New Testament, but it is already there in embryonic form in Old Testament prophecy.
I would like to say that there are many other examples of Old Testament prophecies of the resurrection in my book, The Resurrection of the Dead, but time prevents me from giving any more of them today. So, I’ll have to close but I’ll be back with you again tomorrow at this time. Tomorrow I’ll be dealing with the subject that always captivates man’s imagination, “What Comes After Death.”