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RESURRECTION IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  June 2, 2014 — 1 Comment
Resurrection final

The bodily resurrection of the dead to everlasting life is often deemed a doctrine of the New Testament which is absent from the Old Testament. Though it is true that the Old Testament does not touch on resurrection as much as the New, it does nevertheless affirm the resurrection. The resurrection of the dead is an important element of biblical eschatology and the Christian worldview.

Theological expectations

We should expect the resurrection of the body on important theological bases. I will summarize just three of those before I show evidence of the resurrection hope in the Old Testament.

First, God created a material world for man to dwell in (Gen 1:1–24; cp. 1:25–27). Then he formed man with a material body: “Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Gen 2:7). Man is creationally different from angels. They are spiritual beings designed for life in a spiritual world, whereas man is an amalgam of both body and soul (Matt 10:28; 1 Thess 5:23). His physical body is designed for the material world.

Second, God sent his Son into the world in a physical body: “since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same” (Heb 2:14). His corporeal presence in the material world affirms God’s creation design, leading us to see the significance of a physical body.


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Remarkable testimony of a lesbian professor who was a leading spokesperson for the feminist movement,
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Third, not only did the Son of God come into the world in a physical body, but he himself was physically resurrected. “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39). His physical resurrection was necessary for securing our full salvation, body and soul. It also anticipates our resurrection: “Now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep” (1 Cor 15:20).

Fourth, since man is a material being with a Savior sanctifying his materiality, God has promised a material new heavens and new earth as his final home. “The day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet 3:10–13).

Consequently, all orthodox eschatological positions hold to the ancient creedal formulation of the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in . . . the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.”

Exegetical observations

Again, the Old Testament does not speak as often about the resurrection as does the New Testament, but it does occasionally allude to it. I will cite just a few verses demonstrating this.

First, David is comforted by the hope of his own resurrection. “You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; / Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay” (Psa 16:10). Of course, this prophecy involves David as a type of Christ, as we see from Peter’s use of it in Acts 2:24–32. But the future antitype depends on the reality of the historical type. Here in Psalm 16 David’s resurrection effectively prophesies Christ’s.

Second, David speaks elsewhere of his resurrection hope. “As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; / I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake” (Psa 17:15). This looks to Christ in his resurrection when David will see the physical form of Christ on that day.

Third, Israel expected a resurrection. “Your dead will live; Their corpses will rise. / You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, / For your dew is as the dew of the dawn, / And the earth will give birth to the departed spirits” (Isa 26:19). Even if this refers directly to a spiritual renewal of Israel after her exile, it presents this renewal in terms of a resurrection. The physical reality is the foundation on which the spiritual truth is established.

Fourth, elect Israel’s spiritual renewal in the first century is built on the idea of the resurrection. “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt” (Dan 12:2). This appears to be speaking of the salvation of the remnant of Israel who follow Christ, as over against the non-elect who remain in their sins. (I will deal with this text in my next blog article). But again, the spiritual hope is picture in terms of a physical resurrection. Thus, physical resurrection was not an alien concept to the Old Testament.


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Conference lecture carefully focuses on key aspects of the hyperpreterism.
Deals with Luke 21:22, Eccl 1:4, the resurrection, and more.
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Fifth, Job directly declares his hope in the resurrection. “Even after my skin is destroyed, / Yet from my flesh I shall see God; / Whom I myself shall behold, / And whom my eyes will see and not another. / My heart faints within me!” (Job 19:26–27).

Conclusion

The Bible is the revelation of God given to his people — over time. Scripture represents the unfolding of God’s redemptive plan and his instructional revelation. We see growth and development within Scripture (though not contradiction). Thus, the New Testament presents us with the final stage of revelation and redemption, while presenting us with the firmest and clearest picture of the resurrection of the body. Yet both testaments testify of it!

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Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

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Ken is a Presbyterian pastor and the author or co-author of over thirty books, most on eschatology. He has been married since 1971, and has three children and several grandchildren. He is a graduate of Tennessee Temple University (B.A., 1973), Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1977), and Whitefield Theological Seminary (Th.M., 1986; Th.D., 1988). He currently pastors Living Hope Presbyterian Church (affiliated with the RPCGA) in Greer, SC. Much of his writing is in the field of eschatology, including his 600 page book, He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology and his 400 page, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (his Th.D. dissertation). He contributed chapters to two Zondervan CounterPoints books on eschatological issues: Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (edited by Darrell L. Bock) and Four Views on the Book of Revelation (edited by C. Marvin Pate). He also debated Thomas D. Ice in Kregel's The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? His books have been published by American Vision, Baker, Zondervan, Kregel, P & R, Greenhaven Press, Nordskog, Wipf & Stock, and several other publishers. He has published scores of articles in such publications as Tabletalk, Westminster Theological Journal, Evangelical Theological Society Journal, Banner of Truth, Christianity Today, Antithesis, Contra Mundum, and others. He has spoken at over 100 conferences in America, the Caribbean, and Australia. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and a Church Council Committee member of Coalition on Revival.

One response to RESURRECTION IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

  1. Good article… thanks Ken!

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