CHRIST’S DEATH AND RESURRECTION IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced…” -Zechariah 12:10
“…Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:” – Luke 24:46
John the Baptist wore camel’s hair and ate locusts and wild honey (Matt 3:4). And by the Spirit, John recognized the true purpose of Jesus of Nazareth from the beginning, before Jesus’ ministry had even started. John introduced Jesus to the crowds in John 1:29, saying, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” John understood. He got it.
After his resurrection, Jesus met two men on the road to Emmaus, and he expected them to already understand through the Scriptures that Christ was meant to suffer and die. “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself,” (Luke 24:26-27).
We would all have loved to be there on the road to Emmaus that day, walking with the resurrected Jesus himself as he detailed the different prophecies that concerned his death and resurrection. Still, the apostles and other New Testament writers do a good job of filling us in. The Old Testament is filled with prophecies and types of Jesus’ suffering and death and resurrection as payment for the sins of the world, and the New Testament points those out.
Simon Peter starts out on the day of Pentecost explaining that Jesus the Messiah had risen from the dead, “Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it,” (Acts 2:24). Peter then pulled from the Psalms to prove the truth of his testimony.
“For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.
“Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.” -Act 2:24-32
The sacrifice and resurrection of the Messiah are throughout the Old Testament. Psalm 22, written by King David a millennium before Christ, gives us the very perspective of the Lord hanging on the cross. It describes how the people mocked Christ (Psalm 22:7-8; Mat 27:41-43), how they cast lots to divide up his clothes (Psalm 22:18;Mat 27:35), how his bones were out of joint (Psalm 22:14), how the wicked had surrounded him and pierced his hands and feet (Psalm 22:16) – the scars of which Thomas later got to touch and feel (John 20:27). Psalm 22 ends by saying God’s righteousness would be declared to “a people that shall be born” (Psalm 22:31).
The Sign of Jonah:
The Bible is also full of types and foreshadowings. Jesus Christ is throughout the Old Testament in a variety of details. For instance, before his death and resurrection, Jesus offered simply the “sign of Jonah” as a foreshadowing of how long he would be dead.
“For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” – Matt 12:40
Isaiah 52:13-53:12 offers one of the most profound prophecies in the entire Old Testament, written over 700 years before Christ’s death and resurrection.
“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”- Isaiah 53:3-6
Some have argued that this passage refers to Israel, but in the context that explanation makes little sense. Isaiah clearly says in verse 53:8, “for the transgression of my people was he stricken.” That is, “he” stands in contrast to Israel, Isaiah’s people.
In the next verse, Isaiah says: “And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.”
It cannot be said of Israel that there was no deceit in her mouth.
On the other hand, Jesus was crucified between two thieves (Mark 15:27), and yet was buried in the grave of Joseph of Arimathaea, a wealthy man with enough standing to go ask Pilate for Jesus’ body (Mark15:43-46).
In Isaiah 53:10, we get a hint at a resurrection, because after his soul is made “an offering for sin” he will then “prolong his days.”
In the end, Isaiah says in verse 12 that God would reward this righteous servant (numbered with the transgressors, but not one himself), “he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
Our Redeemer Lives:
In the oldest book of the Bible, written even before Moses wrote the Pentateuch, Job prophesied from the ash heap where he suffered. He declared in verses 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.”
These prophecies are just the beginning, of course. Exodus 12:1-28 describes the feast of Passover. It was set up as a type of Christ, one that gave the Hebrews an understanding of the use of a perfect lamb as a sacrifice, the blood of which would protect those under it from the wrath of God, the angel of death. The Jews were to prepare for the feast by removing all leaven from their homes, symbolic of removing sin from their lives.
Paul the scholar writes in 1 Corinthians 5:7, “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.”
The Pure Spotless Lamb:
Peter describes how we are saved by “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” Just as John the Baptist understood, Jesus was the fulfillment of the Levitical system of blood sacrifice (e.g. Lev 8-9). Jesus was the true spotless lamb whose blood could take away sins. The sacrifice of bulls and goats could never take away sin, as the writer of Hebrews noted in verses 10:4-5, quoting Psalm 40:6:
“For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:”
The sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the sins of humanity was not an afterthought of God. It was always the plan from the beginning. Revelation 13:8 calls Jesus, “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
Throughout the Law and the Prophets, God revealed His eternal plan of redemption to mankind. In advance, He described the sacrifice and resurrection of the Messiah. It was a plan He had purposed before He had even formed humanity. He then accomplished it, and through Jesus Christ we have the victory now and forever.
Praise the King!
“He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it.” – Isaiah 25:8
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