This also appears as a guest post on the Crossway blog this morning:
The Lord called Abraham to take his son, his only son Isaac, whom he loved, up to Mount Moriah and offer him as a burnt offering there. As Abraham left the men who were with him, he said, “I and the boy will go over there and worship and we will come again to you.” Evidently Abraham thought that after he sacrificed Isaac, God would keep the promise through Isaac by raising him from the dead—that appears to be what the author of Hebrews thought, anyway. When they got there, the angel of the Lord stayed Abraham’s hand and a ram was provided in place of Isaac.
The beloved son was offered and the sacrifice provided “on the third day.”
God brought the nation of Israel out of Egypt with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. He brought them through the Red Sea and the trackless waste to Mount Sinai, where he would enter into a covenant with the people he had redeemed for himself. Then the Lord called Moses up onto the mountain while the people waited below.
God came down on the mountain to make the covenant “on the third day.”
The Philistine king had given David refuge from Saul’s rage, granting him the city of Ziklag. When the Philistines mustered for war, David was dismissed from their ranks and returned to find his city raided, his wives and children captives. David pursued the enemy and fought to free his bride, rescuing her from the clutches of the plunderers.
David returned to Ziklag “on the third day.”
The Lord had declared to King Hezekiah that his life was at an end: Hezekiah would die. Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, and the Lord sent Isaiah to Hezekiah to tell him that his prayers had been heard, that he would be raised up, restored to life. That he would not die immediately but live.
Isaiah told Hezekiah that he would go up to the house of the Lord “on the third day.”
Hosea told Israel that when Yahweh exiled Israel it would be like a lion striking down a man. Being driven from the land, driven from the presence of the Lord, would be death to the nation. Violent death at the paws of a lion. Death, however, would not be the end.
“After two days he will revive us,” Hosea declared, “on the third day he will raise us up.”
Haman manipulated the king into decreeing a slaughter of the Jews. Meanwhile Esther, a Jew, had been raised up as queen. She had the opportunity to intercede with the king for the lives of her people.
Esther went before the king to plead for the lives of her people “on the third day.”
Jonah was commissioned to call Nineveh to repentance. He disobeyed, and it took him being cast into the great deep for the storm of God’s wrath to be stilled. A great fish swallowed Jonah, and when he called on the Lord, the fish gave Jonah back to the dry land. Then Jonah proclaimed repentance to the gentiles, and they repented.
Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the fish.
There is no prediction in the Old Testament that the Messiah would be raised from the dead on the third day, but when Paul says that Jesus “was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,” he’s not referring to a prediction. Paul is referring to the fulfillment of these patterns:
Jesus is the beloved Son and he is the substitute, fulfilling the pattern seen in Isaac.
Jesus has inaugurated the new covenant in his blood, fulfilling what took place at Sinai.
Jesus has rescued his bride, taken captivity captive, and given gifts to men, fulfilling the pattern seen in the narratives of David.
Jesus was restored to life on the third day, fulfilling what happened with Hezekiah.
The death of Jesus fulfilled the wrath of God poured out at the exile. Jesus is the man who represents the nation, struck down by the lion to be revived after two days, raised up on the third.
In a way that far exceeds what Esther did, Jesus has gone before the supreme ruler to make intercession for those who belong to him.
And like Jonah, after three days and three nights Jesus returned and called the gentiles to repentance.
All the promises are yes and amen in him, all the patterns find fulfillment in him, and all the shadowy types have their substance in him.
We confess with the saints across time and around the world: I believe in God the Father Almighty . . . and in Jesus Christ his only Son . . . on the third day he rose again from the dead . . .
He is risen!
He is risen indeed.
See Genesis 22:4 (Heb 11:19); Exod 19:11, 16; 1 Sam 30:1; 2 Kings 20:5; Hos 5:14–6:2; Esth 4:16, 5:1; Jonah 1:17; 1 Cor 15:4