Resurrection | Introduction and the Old Testament

Kirk E. Miller February 12, 2013 Last Things, Salvation, Theology No Comments


The following belongs to a series entitled “An Introductory Biblical Theology of Resurrection.” Read other posts belonging to this series here.



The resurrection is at the heart of the Christian faith. Therefore, a Biblical and redemptive-historical understanding of the resurrection is invaluable. This series seeks to present a concise and introductory Biblical theology of resurrection by systematically tracing its theme throughout the canon, beginning with the Old Testament, moving to the Synoptics, continuing with John’s Gospel, looking at Acts, examining Paul’s theology, and concluding with a brief look at resurrection in Hebrews, 1 Peter, and Revelation.

The Old Testament

The Old Testament’s teaching on the resurrection is certainly not as prominent as the New Testament’s,[1] but the seedbed for a more developed theology, and the already existent belief in a resurrection, is certainly present. Israel’s hope in a resurrection is no doubt rooted in her covenant God, who is God of the living, not the dead (; cf. ; ; ). The author of Hebrews states that Abraham considered God able to raise his son Isaac back to life after what would have been his death (). And that belief was accurate, for God uses both Elijah and Elisha to raise individuals from the dead.[2] While Job sees no evidence for a reversal of death within this present world order (),[3] may contain a possible reference to hope beyond the grave.[4] Likewise, the blessings obtained by the Suffering Servant in seems to allude to His subsequent resurrection.[5]

More explicitly, Isaiah states that under the Lord’s future reign, “He will swallow up death forever” ().[6] In that day, the people of Judah will sing, “Your [YHWH’s] dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.” Isaiah paints a picture of the dead awakening and the earth giving birth (a picture of life) to the dead. states that after a time of unparalleled trouble (12:1) many will be resurrected, some to everlasting life and others to eternal torment (“contempt,” cf. ).

In , the prophet Ezekiel experiences a vision in which he sees a valley of bones (corpses) revived to life once again (1-10). The Lord provides the interpretation: the bones are Israel and the revivification is Israel’s resurrection. As , and the overall context of 36:22-37 show, this future corporate resurrection is tied up with restoration to the land, the reign of a Davidic king, the cleansing of Israel’s uncleannesses and idolatry, the establishment of a new covenant, and the pouring out of the Spirit to cause obedience. One could rightly call it, “the hope of Israel” (cf. ).

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[1] By in large, the OT’s hope concerning death consists of a hope of being delivered from it, that is, to avoid experiencing it prematurely.

[2] 1 Kg 17:17-24; 2 Kg 4:18-37; cf. 2 Kg 5:7. At one point God even uses Elisa’s dead bones to raise another man back to life ()!

[3] John E. Hartley, The Book of Job (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988), 234.

[4] This text is notoriously difficult to interpret. “Redeemer” in most assuredly refers to YHWH (Robert Alden, Job [ed. E. Ray Clendenen; The New American Commentary; Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993], 168; Francis I. Andersen, Job: An Introduction and Commentary [Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1976], 194.) Job may be referring to a hope of vindication in this life (Tremper Longman III, Job [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012], 261; Hartley, Job, 234) or in a post-death disembodied state (see the alternative translation listed in New Revised Standard Version’s footnote). Or possibly, Job may be alluding to an undeveloped hope beyond death (Anderson, Job, 194).

[5] Edward J. Young, The Book of Isaiah: Through 66 (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972), 355–356.

[6] All scriptural citations are from the English Standard Version.

And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. (ESV)

29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” (ESV)

26 And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.” (ESV)

37 But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. 38 Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.” (ESV)

19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. (ESV)

10 But a man dies and is laid low;
man breathes his last, and where is he?
11 As waters fail from a lake
and a river wastes away and dries up,
12 so a man lies down and rises not again;
till the heavens are no more he will not awake
or be roused out of his sleep. (ESV)

25 For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth. [1]
26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in [2] my flesh I shall see God, (ESV)


[1] 19:25 Hebrew dust
[2] 19:26 Or without

10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief; [1]
when his soul makes [2] an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. (ESV)


[1] 53:10 Or he has made him sick
[2] 53:10 Or when you make his soul

He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken. (ESV)

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (ESV)

24 “And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.” (ESV)

The Valley of Dry Bones

37:1 The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; [1] it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath [2] to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, [3] and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on 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 on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”

I Will Be Their God, They Shall Be My People

15 The word of the Lord came to me: 16 “Son of man, take a stick [4] and write on it, ‘For Judah, and the people of Israel associated with him’; then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph (the stick of Ephraim) and all the house of Israel associated with him.’ 17 And join them one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand. 18 And when your people say to you, ‘Will you not tell us what you mean by these?’ 19 say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am about to take the stick of Joseph (that is in the hand of Ephraim) and the tribes of Israel associated with him. And I will join with it the stick of Judah, [5] and make them one stick, that they may be one in my hand. 20 When the sticks on which you write are in your hand before their eyes, 21 then say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land. 22 And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. And one king shall be king over them all, and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms. 23 They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. But I will save them from all the backslidings [6] in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

24 “My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes. 25 They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children shall dwell there forever, and David my servant shall be their prince forever. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land [7] and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. 27 My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.” (ESV)


[1] 37:1 Or plain; also verse 2
[2] 37:5 Or spirit; also verses 6, 9, 10
[3] 37:7 Or an earthquake (compare 3:12, 13)
[4] 37:16 Or one piece of wood; also verses 17, 19, 20
[5] 37:19 Hebrew And I will place them on it, the stick of Judah
[6] 37:23 Many Hebrew manuscripts; other Hebrew manuscripts dwellings
[7] 37:26 Hebrew lacks in their land

12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel.

Ezekiel 37:14
<< Ezekiel 36 | Ezekiel 37 | Ezekiel 38 >>

14 And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.” (ESV)

20 For this reason, therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain.” (ESV)

20 So Elisha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. 21 And as a man was being buried, behold, a marauding band was seen and the man was thrown into the grave of Elisha, and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet. (ESV)

25 Then Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz took again from Ben-hadad the son of Hazael the cities that he had taken from Jehoahaz his father in war. Three times Joash defeated him and recovered the cities of Israel. (ESV)

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Christ follower. Husband. Grad student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Aspiring professor/elder and writer. Youth leader at Lake Drive Baptist Church in Milwaukee, WI. [Disclaimer: While all authors are required to sign our creed before writing, the views expressed by each individual author do not necessarily reflect the views of every writer at The127Project.]