Jesus taught his disciples that it was necessary for him to suffer, be rejected by the religious leaders, to die, be buried and then he would rise again on the third day. That resurrection is not a clear theme in the Old Testament is inaccurate. We see that Hosea made reference to it clearly. Hosea 6:1-2 says, “Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.” There are many other allusions to a “third day” resurrection in the Old Testament as well. It seems that some in Jesus day understood the idea. The religious leaders understood this because they posted guards at Jesus’ tomb to be sure his body didn’t disappear by any means on the third day. They knew this would create a movement furthering the contention that Jesus was the Messiah promised in the Old Testament. Cleopas and his friend understood the Old Testament prophecy concerning a third day resurrection also it appears. When they were describing the situation that had taken place in Jerusalem surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus they said, “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive.” The two disciples on the road to Emmaus said that when Jesus opened their eyes to understand the Scriptures, their hearts burned within them. Later, Jesus appears to the disciples and says, “…everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

Jesus interpreted the prophets as being about himself. The Prophet Joel was one that focused on “The Day of the Lord.” He was speaking of the day of Jesus death on the cross where the sins of the world were placed upon the back of the Son of God on the Cross. Joel 2:31 says, The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.” Luke and Matthew say pretty much the same thing that Mark says when describing the scene of Jesus’ death on the cross. Mark 15:33 says, “And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.” The day of the Lord, according to Joel 2:32, continued and “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.”

According to Jewish tradition it appears that the “corruption” of the body takes place by the fourth day. This might help us understand Martha’s argument with Jesus in John 11:38 that Lazarus’ has been dead for “four” days and that corruption has already taken over his body. She told Jesus that by this time his body “stinks.” This might also help us understand why resurrection for the Messiah had to take place on the third day. Even the Psalmist says such in Psalm 16:10. It reads, “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.” Every part of the Old Testament is about Jesus. He’s the complete fulfillment. This is what Gage means when he writes, “All of these events (Old Testament) constituted the Day of the Lord, making the “third day” the eschatological day of the victory of God against his enemies, as foreseen by Moses and the Prophets of Israel.”1

1 Warren Austin Gage, Milestones to Emmaus: The Third Day Resurrection in the Old Testament (Fort Lauderdale, FL: Warren A. Gage, 2011), 4.