Christ’s Resurrection and the Old Testament? (Pt. 3)

After looking at which OT passages the early church cited in relation to the resurrection and exploring how it might more broadly fulfil the Old Testament Scriptures as they point to God’s Messiah, I want to explore with you the very question that led me to want to write this three part series. Are there hints in the Old Testament that the Messiah might rise from the dead, which can be understood as such in light of the historical reality of Jesus’s resurrection from the dead?

Here I’m not talking about allegory or stretching texts or themes too much to make them speak about something they weren’t intended to. But I do want to explore whether reading the OT through NT eyes allows us to detect some hints or clues that God may have placed in the Hebrew Scriptures for us to find in hindsight and glorify Him for seeing how He fulfils the OT in Christ’s resurrection.

Let me share just a couple of passages I’ve been excited by in thinking about this question. You may not find them as convincing as I do, but they’re certainly worth consideration.

The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Write in a book all the words that I have spoken to you. For behold, days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will restore the fortunes of my people, Israel and Judah, says the LORD, and I will bring them back to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall take possession of it.” These are the words that the LORD spoke concerning Israel and Judah: “Thus says the LORD: We have heard a cry of panic, of terror, and no peace. Ask now, and see, can a man bear a child? Why then do I see every man with his hands on his stomach like a woman in labor? Why has every face turned pale? Alas! That day is so great there is none like it; it is a time of distress for Jacob; yet he shall be saved out of it. “And it shall come to pass in that day, declares the LORD of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off your neck, and I will burst your bonds, and foreigners shall no more make a servant of him. But they shall serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them. (Jeremiah 30:1-9)

God promises here in the future, when fulfilling part of His promises to His people that they will serve Yahweh their God and David their king. While in this passage the two characters are separate, it is interesting to note that Jesus was Yahweh the God of Israel coming to dwell among His people in human flesh and was also the Davidic King God had promised to set over His people.  But what is really interesting is the idea of “raising up.”

Of course “raising up” should typically be understood in the sense of picking someone from amongst the people and elevating them to a status of leadership over their people. But some in reading this passage have wondered whether the “raising up” of David is suggestive of a resurrected David reigning over God’s people (i.e. God will raise up David specifically to reprise His role as King of Israel to fulfill the covenant promises made to him). I don’t see the need for a literal David in this passage – in fact I think it detracts from what is a clear Messianic prophecy. It is right and proper to call Jesus (as Messiah) “David” in the same sense that Jesus called John the Baptist “Elijah.” John was a new Elijah, Jesus was a new David.

King David [1]

But I do latch on the idea of “raising up” possibly being about the resurrection. My suspicion is strengthened by the Greek translation of the Old Testament (which was read and cited by the New Testament authors).
The word for “raise up” is ἀναστήσω, the exact word Jesus uses several times in John 6 to describe His raising to life of those who believe in Him and related to the verbs and nouns used for the resurrection in numerous NT passages. So while I don’t think Jeremiah or anyone reading his book prior to the resurrection would have understood this passage as speaking of the Messiah’s resurrection, I think it seems legitimate to see it from a NT perspective as a hint that God intended to raise His Messiah to life to rule over His people.

Another passage is from Deuteronomy 18. Moses says:

The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers–it is to him you shall listen– just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. (Deuteronomy 18:15-19)

MosesMoses [2]

It is clear from the NT that Jesus was the prophet like Moses promised here and that He is the one everyone must listen to in order to obey God’s will and have life. But again, the idea of raising up is presented in this passage and again the verb is ἀναστήσω, used later in the NT to speak of resurrection. And so again I find myself musing about the possibility that the OT speaks of the Messiah, both as Ultimate Prophet and Promised King, being “raised up”, because we were meant to look back and discover more hints that this was part of God’s great plan of redemption all along.

[1] Fab5669 “Statue of King David in Saverne museum, wooden statue of the 18th-century from Niederbronn (Bas-Rhin, France)” CC BY-SA 3.0 wikimedia commons.

[2] Jaimeluisgg “Moises statue at the entrance of Agricultural Resort Waters of Moses, located in Rio Azul sector, Pantoño rural settlement, Ribero municipality, Sucre state, Venezuela” CC0 wikimedia commons.


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