There are several resurrection stories in the Bible. We Christians tend to focus on the Resurrection of Jesus and the promise of our future resurrection.
In the Old Testament the prophet Elijah stayed with a widow in the town of Zarephath in Sidon. The widow was not an Israelite, but a Gentile. In time the son of the widow became ill and died. Elijah cried to the Lord and the boy’s life returned to him. (I Kings 17:17-24)
Later Elisha, the successor of Elijah, brought life back to the dead son of a Shunnamite woman. (II Kings 4:18-37) At the beginning of his ministry Elisha asked for, and received, a double portion of the spirit of Elijah. Elijah, you will recall, did not die but was taken to Heaven in a “chariot of fire.” (II Kings 2:11) However, Elisha did die but he was so filled with the Spirit of God that when the body of a dead man was thrown into Elisha’s tomb and touched his bones, the dead man came back to life! (II Kings 13:21)
We know that the Jews (except for the Sadducees) were looking forward to a Resurrection Day. Jesus told Martha that her brother, Lazarus, would rise again. Her response was that she expected this “at the resurrection at the last day.” (John 11:24) This was on the occasion of the raising (or resurrection) of Martha’s brother, Lazarus. It is said that Jesus called Lazarus by name and told him to “come forth” because if He had simply said “come forth”, all the dead would have followed the instruction of Jesus, God in the form of man, and would have risen from their graves.
This Jewish belief in the resurrection must be based in part on Ezekiel 37, known as the prophecy of the Dry Bones. In this prophecy the Lord shows Ezekiel a valley of scattered skeletons. In the vision the bones come together, are covered with muscle, sinew and skin; and they come to life. This is usually thought to be a prophecy of the restoration of National Israel. But it is more! If you continue reading in Ezekiel 37, the Lord plainly states, “I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them” (verse 12). For emphasis the Lord repeats this statement in verse 13.
This is not just a prophecy of the restoration of the Nation of Israel, but is a plain statement of the Lord’s intent to resurrect the people of Israel. Even Job knew of this plan. The Book of Job is considered to be the oldest book in the Bible, written even before the five books of Moses. In chapter 19:25 Job declares,
What a statement! And it was made 3500 years ago. Job was looking forward to the same resurrection as we Christians do, the “blessed hope” of the Church. That great event will be discussed next.