Resurrection Hope in the Writings

Daniel Titus
Saturday, March 30th 2024
Bright pink and green roses with the word resurrection repeated three times.

“And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2). As with many quotations from the later half of the book of Daniel, this verse sounds like it could have been taken straight from the book of Revelation instead. What great resurrection hope this must have provided Old Testament believers! Their Scriptures assured them of the physical life to come after death. But was this late prophecy all that the Writings had to offer? Or did the final section of the Tanakh have more to offer by way of resurrection hope? This series has shown that, through the Law, the Old Testament saints met the Lord of the resurrection. In the Prophets, they heard of the power of resurrection. Now, as the capstone, the Old Testament saints rejoice in the hope of resurrection in the Writings.

Rejoicing in the Hope of Resurrection in the Writings

Though the Writings come in the middle of modern versions of the Old Testament, this section was originally placed at the end. As Ched Spellman says, “The Writings represent a shift from prophetic commentary to poetic commentary on that which came before it. It is no surprise that the hope of resurrection is seen most clearly in this section of the Tanakh. The authors and actors rejoiced in the hope of resurrection in persecution, sorrow, and gladness, knowing there was more than this life.

Hope in Persecution

The Writings contain several real-life narratives of the people of God enduring hardship and persecution. Though these stories each have their own themes, a common thread among them is the hope for a future return beyond the grave. The story of Ruth begins with Naomi suffering famine and the loss of her husband and two sons. Yet, in the end, she was not left without a redeemer, and the Lord was said to restore her life (Ruth 4:15).

Esther tells of an edict that spelled certain death for the Jews. Esther herself needed to go before the king unsummoned. For this “there [was] but one law—to be put to death” (Esther 4:11). Yet, the king looked favorably on her and saved her from death. Likewise, in the face of destruction, the Jews gained mastery over their enemies.

Daniel recorded his own capital punishment. He was thrown into a pit to be devoured by lions. The next day the king asked, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions” (Dan. 6:20)? The king's question strikes a strong chord, and the answer, of course, was in the affirmative. God was able to deliver from the pit of death.

This is seen even more clearly in another narrative from Daniel. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow before an idolatrous image. Again, the penalty was death. And again, the king asked a perceptive question. “Who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands” (Dan. 3:15)? The boys' answer shows so clearly that Old Testament saints rejoiced in the hope of resurrection in the face of persecution. “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king” [emphasis added] (Dan. 3:16–17).

It is also in the book of Daniel that the Old Testament offers perhaps the clearest statement on the resurrection. As one untimely prophesied, this eschatological statement comes in the prophetic section of this book of the Writings. “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2). This passage is no doubt what Jesus had in mind when he taught the same thing in the New Testament. “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25:46). Old Testament saints had the hope that if they slept, they would awake to everlasting (or eternal) life.

Hope in Sorrow

These stories from the Writings only illustrate the hope of resurrection implicitly. However, at least one narrative in the Writings addresses the issue directly. Job suffered real loss. He lost his children, his possessions, and his health. How could he endure such loss? Such suffering? Job answered the question himself. “For I know that my Redeemer lives, / and at the last he will stand upon the earth. / And after my skin has been thus destroyed, / yet in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25–26).

This statement is rich enough to look at more thoroughly. First, Job believed that he had hope rather than despair—his Redeemer lives. Secondly, the redemption for which he hoped was in the future rather than in the present—his Redeemer will stand on the earth at the last. Thirdly, this redemption was both physical and ultimate—he will, in the flesh, see God himself. Fourthly, and most importantly for this discussion, this physical redemption would take place after death—after his skin had been destroyed. These last two points are imperative. Job’s hope was for physical life after death. This is not merely spiritual, disembodied life after death. This is a restoration of a physical, bodily life sometime after death.

In the face of sorrow, Job had hope of a physical resurrection. And it seems the Lord did not disappoint. “The Lord restored the fortunes of Job … And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10). Yet, verse 13 shows that the Lord gave the same number of children as compared to Job 1:2. Why did Job not have double the children? Commentators like R. L. Alden say, “The answer is that he did: the first set, to be reunited with him when he died.” In a greater sense, they would be restored to him in the resurrection.

Hope in Gladness

Saints had hope of resurrection amid both persecution and sorrow. Surely, this led to hope in gladness. Such a reality is shown in the Writings as well. Though the psalms are replete with examples, this article will focus on just one. Psalm 16 begins with David crying out to the Lord to preserve him. He took refuge in the Lord and set the Lord before him always. Thus, he sang.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Ps. 16:9–11).

While it is true that deliverance from Sheol may be tantamount to saying “for thou wilt not leave my soul in hell” (Ps. 16:10), the context rules out taking this interpretation minimalistic—saying that there is no resurrection (1 Cor. 15:12). Firstly, to envision a pit of corruption for the damned presupposes an existence of some kind after death. Beyond this, David foresaw a joyful life after death—one that lasts forever in the Lord’s presence. It should also be noted that this joyful life after death is untainted by the corrupting effects of death. Is this not the rejoicing of one who has glad hope of resurrection life? So we see that Old Testament saints rejoiced in the hope of resurrection throughout the Writings.


Through the Law, the Old Testament saints were introduced to the Lord of the resurrection, and they were conscious of that hope. Through the Prophets, Old Testament saints heard of the power of God’s resurrection, and they responded with belief. Through the Writings, we see Old Testament saints rejoice in the hope of resurrection to come, despite their circumstances. New Testament saints have all the more assurance that trials will come and all the more assurance that Christ will overcome every adversity (John 16:33). They have all the more reminders that they will die and all the more reminders that Christ will save upon his return (Heb. 9:27–28). They have all the more knowledge about falling asleep in Christ and all the more reason to rejoice in the hope of the resurrection (1 Thess. 4:13–16).

These truths are meant to encourage believers today, and Christians need to look no further than Old Testament saints to see what it looks like to rejoice in resurrection amid despair. In the darkest of psalms, the author asked, “Do you work wonders for the dead? / Do the departed rise up to praise you” (Ps. 88:10)? What answer did this Old Testament believer give? One with the same confidence that New Testament believers must have as well, confessing, “But I, O Lord, cry to you; / in the morning my prayer comes before you” (Ps. 88:13). The Lord does work wonders for the dead, and the departed will rise up to praise him in the morning of the resurrection.


  • All Scripture citations in this work are taken from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016) unless otherwise noted.

  • Jeremy M. Kimble and Ched Spellman, Invitation to Biblical Theology: Exploring the Shape, Storyline, and Themes of Scripture (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2020), 165.

  • R. L. Alden, The New American Commentary, vol 11, Job: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 413.

  • The Holy Bible: King James Version., electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. (Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995), Ps 16:10.

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Daniel Titus
Daniel Titus is an elder at Flint Reformed Baptist Church and an MDiv student at Reformed Baptist Seminary. Daniel and his wife Amy Lynn have three boys, and their family has a heart for helping those involved in foster care.
Saturday, March 30th 2024

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

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