Jesus’ resurrection was indeed ‘according to the Scriptures’

When we recite the Nicene Creed, we say, “On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures.” This line echoes St. Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “... that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures.” Jesus himself opens his disciples’ minds on the road to Emmaus to “understand the Scriptures” that said “... the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day” (Luke 24:45-46). Over and over again, we find emphasized that Christ’s resurrection on the third day was “according to the Scriptures.” But where does it say that Messiah would be resurrected on the third day?

If you’re looking for an explicit statement like: “It will come to pass the Messiah will rise from the dead on the third day,” you’ll never find it. The fact that Jesus needed to explain this point to his disciples shows that it wasn’t something apparent to everyone. If it is no explicit prophecy, what was it? The answer is Old Testament typology.

What is typology? When we speak, our words signify something. The word “ball,” for example, signifies a round rubbery sphere that is often used in sports. Likewise, God can communicate things on a whole different level. Because he is the Creator and His providence rules history, God can make things signify other things. Put another way, the persons, places, things and events recorded in sacred history can foreshadow future persons, places, things and events.

This is called typology, and it is used in a number of places in Scripture. For example, Paul saw the Old Testament figure of Hagar as a “type” of Mount Sinai (Galatians 4:22-26). But are there typological prophesies that point to the Messiah rising from the dead on the third day? Absolutely. Only you probably wouldn’t have seen them if someone didn’t point them out to you. Let’s look at a few.

Let’s start with the least obvious type, Genesis 1:9. On the third day of creation, dry land appears out of the watery chaos. This land will later be called in Hebrew adamah, from which Adam will receive his name (see Genesis 2:7). We know in the New Testament that Christ is the “new Adam” (Romans 5:15-21; 1 Corinthians 15:45, 47), who rose from the dead on the third day just as the Old Testament adamah rose from the water on the third day.

A stronger type is found in Genesis 22, where Abraham offers his son Isaac. One can see a series of interesting foreshadowing in this passage. Abraham is about to offer his “only beloved son” as a sacrifice (Genesis 22:2). He places the wood for the holocaust on Isaac’s shoulders (Genesis 22:6), telling Isaac that “God will provide the sheep for the holocaust” (Genesis 22:8). However, God intervenes and supplies a ram caught by its horns in the thicket (Genesis 22:13). After the three days, Abraham returns with Isaac. In the New Testament, Christ is the Father’s only beloved son, who shoulders the wood of the cross (he also has thorns on his head like the ram God supplied) and on the third day, he is alive (Genesis 22:4, cf. Hebrews 11:19).

The third type is Jonah. Jonah was thrown overboard and swallowed by a great fish. If you read Jonah’s prayer for deliverance while in the belly of the whale (Jonah 2:2-10), you’ll find that he describes his three-day ordeal as a journey into death: “Down I went to the roots of the mountains; the bars of the nether world were closing behind me forever, But you brought my life up from the pit ...” (Jonah 2:7). As Jesus points out, “Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth ...” (Matthew 12:40).

All of these types (and others as well) show that Christ’s third-day resurrection was indeed “according to the Scriptures.”

Gary Michuta is an apologist, author and speaker and a member of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Livonia. Visit his website at