One of the questions that skeptics often ask about the Gospel is “Where are all the prophecies about the Messiah rising from the dead?” This question comes from I Corinthians 15:3-4 where we read:
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
To answer this question, we could being by turning to Isaiah 26:19 where God promised Israel that He would cause His people to live again after death:
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.
This promise is repeated in Hosea 13:14, and in Hosea, the Lord indicates that He will personally attack death and be victorious over it.
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.
Then, going back to Isaiah, we find in Isaiah 53:10-12, that the Messiah would die for the people; and then, after death, His days would be prolonged, and He would be given an inheritance.
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and 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.
Isaiah 53 makes it clear that the sacrifice of the Messiah is the means by which God will personally attack death and gain the victory over it for the benefit of His people. Then, when we turn to Hosea 6:1-3, we discover that God's victory over death on behalf of His people will be accomplished in a three day period:
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. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.
This comparison of Isaiah and Hosea provides us with an Old Testament account of the Messiah dying for the sins of Israel and then rising again on the third day, but there is still a challenge that could be brought by the skeptics regarding this prophecy. When confronted with the prophecy in Hosea 6, most skeptics will claim that this passage is not talking about the Messiah but only about the people living at the time of Hosea. The answer to this challenge comes from the last verse in Hosea 5:
I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early.
This verse tells us that the victory promised in chapter six would not be provided until after the children of Israel had acknowledged their offence against God, and in the book of Daniel, God actually gave a date for when the Messiah would redeem Israel from their sins. In Daniel 9:2, we read:
In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.
This is a reference back to Jeremiah 25:11 in which God said that Israel would serve Babylon for seventy years, and in Daniel 9:4-5, we read of Daniel’s prayer at the end of these seventy years:
And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments; We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments:
Here Daniel is confessing the offence which Israel had committed against their God, and just as was promised in Hosea 5, God then began the process of redeeming Israel which would include the death and resurrection of the Messiah. In Daniel 9:25-26, God told Daniel exactly when the Messiah would come and die for the people.
Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.
The weeks here are weeks of years just like the weeks of years mentioned in Genesis 29:27, and the commandment to rebuild Jerusalem was given to Nehemiah in approximately 450 BC. Daniel wrote that there would be 69 weeks between this command and the death of the Messiah which comes to a total of 483 years. Thus when we compare Daniel’s prophecy with those of Hosea and Isaiah, we can see that God promised to send the Messiah to die for the sins of Israel and then rise from the dead three days later exactly 483 years after the command to restore Jerusalem.
When we come forward 483 years from Nehemiah’s decision to rebuild Jerusalem, we arrive at approximately AD 33 and the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, but notice what happened in Matthew 27:52:
And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
This is a direct fulfillment of Isaiah 26:19, and it shows us that the death of Jesus was indeed the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies in Isaiah, Hosea and Daniel. The Old Testament prophets promised that a Messiah would come, that He would die for the sins of the people, that He would rise again on the third day, and that He would give victory over the grave to all who would return to Him. All of these prophecies are fulfilled in Jesus Christ just as Paul said to the Corinthians.
"Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning." (Proverbs 9:9)