A Question I Was Asked:

Where in the Old Testament is the Prophecy Which Luke Refers to in Luke 24:46?

....An atheist friend has asked me a question, and I do not know how to respond, it concerns Luke 24:44-46. Jesus speaking, "Thus it is written that the messiah would suffer and rise again on the third day." My friend says that this is not written anywhere in the old testament, and that is why it is not footnoted; any help on this would be greatly helpful.

UK Apologetics Reply:

First of all, I am bound to say that if this the best objection an atheist can come up with, it must amount to an admittance that they have no serious arguments since this is easy to solve.

Okay, let us look at this:

Luke 24:44-47 states:

44. He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." 45. Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46. He told them, "This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47. and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem."

Paul the Apostle backs this up when he states:

3. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4. that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

So there is no question at all that it is indeed 'scriptural' to say that Christ rose from the dead 'on the third day,' but where is that specific Old Testament prophecy?

It is in Hosea:

1. "Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. 2. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. 3. Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him." (Hosea 6:1-3a).

We are restored to God only because of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Only on the 'third day' - the day of the resurrection - are we 'restored' and thereafter we can 'live in His presence.' (verse 2). And that's it - that's the Old Testament reference.

Now I suppose the atheist might complain that this is not clear enough for him, or her, but since when does the Bible have to always address matters within the understanding of the sceptic, atheist, or willingly ignorant? Most Christians are able to turn to Hosea 6 to answer this question. A very few, unfortunately are left befuddled by the question, but they do not need to be.

Another Possibility...

Some believe, however, that, in Luke 24, Jesus was not necessarily referring to any single Old Testament verse, or verses, but was simply referring to the entire body of Old Testament prophecies and writings concerning His suffering, death, burial, and resurrection. There is no doubt that the phrase, "the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms," which Jesus uses (Luke 24:44), is a reference to the entire Old Testament. As we know, the Old Testament tells us many things about Jesus Christ, even referring to Bethlehem as His place of birth (Micah 5:2). Isaiah foretells His virgin birth in Isaiah 7:14, and Isaiah tells us a lot more especially through chapter 53. In fact, there are many Old Testament prophecies about Christ. Let us just remind ourselves about Isaiah 53, before we move on:

He was despised, and rejected of men; man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and as one from whom men hide their face he was despised; and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:3-5).

The rising of Jesus from the dead can also be seen from Psalm 16:

8. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 9. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, 10. because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. (Psalm 16:8-10).

Over in the New Testament, Matthew is also clear enough on the fact of the resurrection:

40. 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 12:40).

My Personal Conclusion

I don't necessarily support the idea that Hosea 6 is too vague, I consider it quite clear. As an example of the fact that prophecy fulfilments are not always crystal clear to us, we should just consider Peter's Pentecost sermon (Acts 2), during that sermon (Acts 2:16), he refers to the dramatic prophecy of Joel 2 as being fulfilled by the miracle of several nationalities being able to hear the Gospel being expounded in their own language (the original gift of 'tongues'), yet if one turns to Joel 2, the connection is not immediately obvious. Yet Peter - filled with the Holy Spirit on that momentous day - was clear on that point; who are we to argue with him?

In my opinion, Hosea 6 refers to the third day resurrection of our Lord. Nevertheless, it is admittedly usually not footnoted in Bible translations because more clarity was looked for; personally, I think that sufficient clarity was there, but maybe the translators preferred to be cautious which is understandable. But, regarding atheists picking up this point, I would simply point out that it is hardly the fault of us Christians if doubters, atheists and scoffers cannot follow good, solid Bible teaching. The substantial weight of the Old Testament fully supports the claims of Jesus and of the Apostles that prophecy was dramatically fulfilled and, yes, this included Jesus rising on the third day.

Robin A. Brace. March 5th, 2016.