I grew up in a liturgical church, and we recited the Apostle’s Creed each Sunday morning. Perhaps like many who grew up at MBBC saying the Creed each week, the words flowed freely from my mouth and memory long before they were translated to my heart. I can still remember the morning that the Holy Spirit awakened me to the words “resurrection of the dead” at the very end of the Creed. After the service, I met my pastor in the narthex and asked if that meant what I thought it might…that perhaps believers would be resurrected just as Christ had been. His confirmation of my wild conclusion astounded me.
The doctrine of resurrection is not only a New Testament theme; it is present throughout Scripture in powerful texts such as this (Isaiah 26:19). In fact, these verses and other similar passages helped many in Jesus’ day to make sense of Easter morning.
For the people of Isaiah’s day, this text could have been understood in a couple of different ways. As with much prophetic literature, there is often a near fulfillment, and a fulfillment that will take place far into the future. It well may be that these verses had both near and far implications: a promised return from exile,which would have been a type of metaphorical resurrection, and the literal resurrection of the dead at the return of Christ far into the future.
One thing is clear: these verses would have brought great hope to the people of Judah. God’s faithfulness to His people was like a rock (Isaiah 26:4), and He would indeed bring them peace (Isaiah 26:12). This peace would come through God’s judgment upon the wicked nations of the earth (Isaiah 26:9, 14). This passage should also bring us great confidence as believers. We can be assured that the evil in this world will be judged and God’s people will ultimately prevail. Not even death has power over God’s people. The reality of the future resurrection should cause us to be people of irrepressible hope!
Isaiah 26:7-21 (ESV):
The path of the righteous is level;
you make level the way of the righteous.
8 In the path of your judgments,
O Lord, we wait for you;
your name and remembrance
are the desire of our soul.
9 My soul yearns for you in the night;
my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.
For when your judgments are in the earth,
the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.
10 If favor is shown to the wicked,
he does not learn righteousness;
in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly
and does not see the majesty of the Lord.
11 O Lord, your hand is lifted up,
but they do not see it.
Let them see your zeal for your people, and be ashamed.
Let the fire for your adversaries consume them.
12 O Lord, you will ordain peace for us,
for you have indeed done for us all our works.
13 O Lord our God,
other lords besides you have ruled over us,
but your name alone we bring to remembrance.
14 They are dead, they will not live;
they are shades, they will not arise;
to that end you have visited them with destruction
and wiped out all remembrance of them.
15 But you have increased the nation, O Lord,
you have increased the nation; you are glorified;
you have enlarged all the borders of the land.
16 O Lord, in distress they sought you;
they poured out a whispered prayer
when your discipline was upon them.
17 Like a pregnant woman
who writhes and cries out in her pangs
when she is near to giving birth,
so were we because of you, O Lord;
18 we were pregnant, we writhed,
but we have given birth to wind.
We have accomplished no deliverance in the earth,
and the inhabitants of the world have not fallen.
19 Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.
You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
For your dew is a dew of light,
and the earth will give birth to the dead.
20 Come, my people, enter your chambers,
and shut your doors behind you;
hide yourselves for a little while
until the fury has passed by.
21 For behold, the Lord is coming out from his place
to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity,
and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it,
and will no more cover its slain.