There was an excellent question during a recent meeting of the Men's Bible Fellowship group at my church. We were looking at the importance of the resurrection of Christ and the question was raised if the resurrection of Christ was prophesied in a similar fashion as his birth. I was able to spend some time researching the question and found the answer to be quite interesting and an opportunity for my own personal growth in understanding God's Word.
In general, Christ's resurrection is not prophesied in the same way we think of many of the details of Christ's life and work, which are attested to in multiple passages in the Old Testament, amounting to dozens of prophecies.There is a very small number of clear references to Christ's resurrection in the OT, and even those are not as direct as other prophecies we are used to. However, there are numerous prophecies from the lips of Jesus in the New Testament, prior to the crucifixion, that are crystal clear.
In my personal studies, I've fallen into the habit of thinking of messianic prophecy in terms of OT predictions given hundreds of years in advance of their fulfillment. This approach is short-sighted at best. The near-term, crystal-clear predictions from Jesus of His own resurrection are solid ground to stand on and give us sure hope in the One who has conquered death and is now seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
Clear Old Testament References
I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:8-11)
Psalm 16:8-11 is the single clearest prophecy concerning the resurrection of the Messiah. It is identified by both Peter and Paul as such, in the following passages respectively:
God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him, "'I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.' (Acts 2:24-28)
And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, "'You are my Son, today I have begotten you.' And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, "'I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.' Therefore he says also in another psalm, "'You will not let your Holy One see corruption.' For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but he whom God raised up did not see corruption. (Acts 13:32-37)
Implicit OT References
The following passages may be taken as implicit references to the resurrection of Christ. "Implicit" means that the resurrection of Christ may be seen through or behind the text, but it is not spelled out in so many words. It may prove helpful to look at these verses in concert with a sound Bible commentary to help draw out the implications in each passage.
- Psalm 22:22 (referenced in Hebrews 2:12)
- Psalm 118:22-24 (referenced in Matthew 21:42)
- Isaiah 53:10
- Hosea 6:1-2
- Genesis 3:15
- 1 Samuel 2:6
Clear NT References
The following passages are clear prophecy given by Jesus prior to the crucifixion. He was no reluctant or accidental savior, but the righteous servant and Lord over all.
- Matthew 12:38-40 (the sign of Jonah)
- Matthew 16:21
- Matthew 17:9
- Matthew 17:23
- Matthew 20:19
- Matthew 26:32
- Matthew 27:63
- Mark 9:9
- Mark 9:31
- Mark 10:33-34
- Mark 14:58
- Luke 9:22
- Luke 18:31-33
- John 2:19-21
And so it occured precisely as Jesus said. The resurrection of the Savior is crucial to the Christian religion. Without it, preaching and faith are futile and we are still in our sins. But oh, brothers and sisters, the tomb is empty! There is real forgiveness to be had from the gracious hand of our God and Savior.