Was resurrection taught in the Old Testament or is it just a New Testament doctrine?

empty tombSome well-known Bible scholars and many Bible critics believe resurrection was not in the Old Testament (OT) or that it was mentioned very vaguely and wasn’t definitive until the New Testament (NT) because of Jesus. The term resurrection can be applied in two ways. Firstly, it can mean that someone is raised from the dead back to life with the understanding their body will die again, such as when Jesus and his disciples raised people from the dead. Secondly, it can apply to when someone is raised from the dead never to bodily die again, like the Lord Jesus and at the future judgment of the dead saints. This in no way refers to zombies (or mummies), as some have claimed, since zombies are still dead while they walk around without restored bodies, which is scientifically impossible for humans.

When people deny resurrection was OT doctrine, I’m assuming they are referring to the second scenario. However, it seems to me that the first scenario above (which occurred several times in the OT) would automatically mean the second scenario is true. Two Bible scholars have said the following about resurrection in the OT:

“Resurrection is pretty central to the New Testament, in case you haven’t noticed. Yet searching for that kind of resurrection … in the Old Testament makes you come up basically empty-handed.” Peter Enns

“… for most of the Old Testament the idea of resurrection was, at best, dormant.” Jon Paulien

According to Luke 24, when Jesus appeared to two disciples on the way to Emmaus, they spoke of Christ’s death and resurrection with disbelief. Then Jesus said,

Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory [i.e. the resurrection]? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:26-27

The doctrine of being raised from the dead was present beginning with Moses and continued through all the prophets. Jesus explained this earlier in Luke 20:37-38 when he stated, “Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living…” Moses spoke in the sense that the Lord was still continually the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as if they were considered living. This testified of his belief in the resurrection.

Hebrews 11:19 testifies that Abraham’s faith in God was so strong, he believed that if Isaac died on the altar where God told him to sacrifice his son, the Lord would raise him from the dead. Resurrection pops up in other places in the OT also, such as:

–1 Kings 17:17-24 where Elijah raises a boy from the dead.

–2 Kings 4:32-37 where Elisha raises a boy from the dead.

–2 Kings 13:20-21 where a dead body touches Elisha’s bones and comes back to life.

–Job 19:25-26, “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:”

–Ps. 16:10, “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.”

–Ps. 17:15, “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.”

–Ps. 49:15, “But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah.”

–Isaiah 26:19, “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.”

–Dan. 12:2, “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”

–Hos. 6:1-2, “Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.”

–Hos. 13:14, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.”


4 thoughts on “Was resurrection taught in the Old Testament or is it just a New Testament doctrine?

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  1. What we can be crystal clear about, is that the Resurrection of the Messiah was central to Old Testament truth.

    “Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.” 1st Peter 1v 10 – 12.

    One example of this is the 16th Psalm where David found hope beyond the grave in a Messiah whose very body would never corrupt:

    “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth:
    my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither the wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; ta thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore” v9-12

    Peter affirmed that David spoke of Christ by quoting these words on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2v24-28.

    The Bible is a beautifully woven fabric from beginning to end.

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  2. Ezekiel 37, the Valley of dry bones;
    37 The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones,

    2 And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry.

    3 And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest.

    4 Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.

    5 Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live:

    6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.

    7 So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone.

    8 And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them.

    9 Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.

    10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.

    11 Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts.

    12 Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.

    13 And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves,

    14 And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord.

    15 The word of the Lord came again unto me, saying,

    16 Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and for all the house of Israel his companions:

    17 And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.

    18 And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not shew us what thou meanest by these?

    19 Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand.

    20 And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thine hand before their eyes.

    21 And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land:

    22 And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all.

    23 Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwellingplaces, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God.

    24 And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them.

    25 And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever.

    26 Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.

    27 My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

    28 And the heathen shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.

    We can say that it is an analogy of Israel which no doubt it is, BUT I have noticed that many prophecies seem to have two fulfillings. Not only have we seen the partial analogy of the dry bones fulfilled in Israel coming back to the Land, and that would be the muscles and sinews and skin being formed on the bones, but the spirit not being in them yet (until Christ returns and the light bulb goes off in their heads Zechariah 12:10),but also, with all the earthquakes and signs in the stars and volcanoes going off and demons being unleashed in the End End Times, considering Folks resurrected out of the graves upon the death of Christ on the cross, I think there’s a good chance there will be resurrection then too-

    Rev 20;4,5 4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

    5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
    See, this is the FIRST resurrection.

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