Easter in the Old Testament

By R.E. Olsen

Easter is usually observed during the month of April, and for Christians, it is a day of rejoicing. We are a people of hope, for Christ is risen, and the Church boldly proclaims this Good News to the world.

When we do an Easter Bible study, we often read much more in the New Testament since it’s there that we follow Christ and His steps.

But sometimes the question is asked, “What hope did believers have in the days before Christ?” You may wonder whether the Old Testament saints were saved or knew of the resurrection as we do.

Be assured that God had all of this planned ahead of time. So we can find Easter in the Old Testament too!

Let’s review the key passages that reveal this truth…

The customs of our Easter holiday appeared long before Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. In the very first book of the Bible, Abraham told his son that “God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:8).

In Exodus 12, God told the Israelites to sacrifice a lamb and cover their doorframes with its blood, so that the Angel of Death would “pass over” the homes of the Jewish people in Egypt and not slay the first-born of Israel. For centuries, the Jewish Passover foreshadowed the death of Jesus.

In fact, it was during the Passover celebration when Jesus was crucified at Jerusalem, symbolizing that Jesus is God’s Passover lamb. Isaiah prophesied, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7).

Easter reminds us that Christ died for our sins so anyone who believes in Him will live forever with God in Heaven. Despite his pain and suffering, Job knew it in his heart.  “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God” (Job 19:25-26).

In Psalm 16:9-11, David proclaims: “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

The prophet Isaiah predicted the coming of the Messiah about 700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ when he declared, “your dead will live, Lord; their bodies will rise” (Isaiah 26:19).

Another prophet, Daniel, said likewise: “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2).

Jesus actually referred to the Old Testament in support of His resurrection from the dead: “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” (Matthew 12:39-41).

Even before Jesus, there were resurrections in the Old Testament. Read 1 Kings 17:17-24 and 2 Kings 4:8-37.

Although the promise of Easter was fulfilled in the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ from the dead, the assurance of Easter is found throughout the Holy Scriptures. Whether one is looking backward or forward, God’s promises are equally valid for believers in every time and place.

Just as the Old Testament Scriptures served as a foundation for New Testament believers, and the Easter hope of the New Testament also lived in the hearts of Old Testament believers, the resurrection of Jesus points to the resurrection that we will experience on the Last Day.

“Christian writers from Paul to the present have seen in the message of Easter the purpose and fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. Easter, indeed, is the culmination of the Old Testament, the reason for its covenant, the message of its Mosaic law, the objective of its temple, and the fulfillment of all the hopes and aspirations of its worshippers.” ~Kent P. Jackson, professor of ancient scripture

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