Here’s an article from Bible.org, written by famous New Testament manuscript expert Dan Wallace. (H/T Eric Chabot, Ratio Christi OSU)
There is a lot in this article, but I’ll just snip out one that I think is interesting.
First, what does the Old Testament say about the doctrine of the resurrection in Judaism?
The resurrection of the dead was not plainly revealed in the OT until very late in salvation history. It was not until the Jews were taken in captivity, in the sixth century BC, that this was clearly articulated. Daniel 12:1-2 is the principal text: it speaks of the resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous:
At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time; but at that time your people shall be delivered, every one whose name shall be found written in the book. 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. (RSV)
Why was it not clearly revealed till then? It was not revealed until there was a felt need for it. When the Jews had no present (because of the captivity) they had to look to the future. The revelation of the resurrection came at precisely the time when the people of God needed hope for the future.
What is significant about this is how masterful are God’s insights into human nature. In the NT era, one religious group in Palestine did not embrace the resurrection as a true doctrine: the Sadducees (cf. Mark 12:18)–that is why they were “sad, you see!” The Sadducees were in charge of the temple. They derived their income from the sacrifices. In a sense, they were the precursors to modern TV evangelists. They had it good! They were the rich aristocracy that ran the place.
Those who have it good in this life don’t often long for the next. The Sadducees illustrate this. The resurrection is a truth especially precious to those who are poor and those who are hopeless. It is precious to those who long for heaven enough that earth holds no sway over them.
Many things that I wanted to achieve in this life never happened. I wanted to do great things for God, not the least of which was getting married, having a family, getting a PhD and teaching computer science in a secular university. It seems like everything takes so long to do, and secular leftists in government keep making everything I wanted to try to do more expensive and more risky. I’ll never have enough time to do everything!
I often find myself thinking of Heaven, and having that eternal perspective on this life. On Sunday, I was on the treadmill listening to 1st Corinthians, and Paul was talking about how difficult the Christian life is supposed to be because of negative reaction from the people around you. I’m glad my salvation doesn’t depend on what people think of me, or whether I was able to get enough done for God.
Significance for apologetics
Did you know that Jesus provided the resurrection as evidence for those who were skeptical of his claims to be God stepping into history?
Here’s an article from Got Questions? on the “Sign of Jonah”, which appears in the gospels of Matthew and Luke.
The phrase “sign of Jonah” was used by Jesus as a typological metaphor for His future crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. Jesus answered with this expression when asked by the Pharisees for miraculous proof the He was indeed the Messiah. The Pharisees remained unconvinced of Jesus’ claims about Himself, despite His having just cured a demon-possessed man who was both blind and mute. Shortly after the Pharisees accused Jesus of driving out demons by the power of Satan, they said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here” (Matthew 12:38–41).
To fully appreciate the answer that Jesus gave, we must go to the Old Testament book of Jonah. In its first chapter, we read that God commanded the prophet Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh and warn its people that He was going to destroy it for its wickedness. Jonah disobediently ran from the Lord and headed for the city of Tarshish by boat. The Lord then sent a severe storm that caused the crew of the ship to fear for their lives. Jonah was soon thrown overboard and swallowed by a great fish where he remained for “three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:15–17). After the three-day period, the Lord caused the great fish to vomit Jonah out onto dry land (Jonah 2:10).
It is this three days that Jesus was referring to when He spoke of the sign of Jonah.
I often bring up the Sign of Jonah when I am dealing with Christians who don’t want to learn how to explain their faith to non-Christians persuasively. I’m glad that story is in there!
The resurrection is a very important part of the life of the Christian. I argued in this post that it makes a difference to your feelings about your own life, and it makes a difference to your case-making with non-Christians.