I've always found it extremely fascinating that, in Luke's Gospel, after Jesus rose from the dead, he said to his disciples that everything written in Moses (i.e., the Law [the Torah––first five books of the Bible, also known as the Pentateuch]), the prophets, and the psalms (the biggest book of the writings) must be fulfilled. Hence, everything in the Old Testament (OT), including all three sections of the OT (the law, the prophets, and the writings) must be fulfilled. Right after this, Jesus says, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead" (Luke 24:46). Wait, what? The OT foretold of the Christ's resurrection on the third day?! Indeed it did (e.g., see Acts 2:25–31; cf. Ps 16:10–11; Acts 13:32–33; cf. Ps 2:7). While I could go deep into many texts to show this, I want to touch on one possible typological connection that may point towards the resurrection of Jesus on the third day that many (including myself) may overlook (if you don't know "typology" is, see below).
I was reading some lecture notes to prepare for my OT class by my professor, Dr. Jason S. DeRouchie, and he brought up a possible connection I never saw before: Christ's resurrection and the vegetation in Genesis 1:11–13.
The aim of this post is to try to show that the creation account in Genesis 1 points to Jesus' resurrection on the third day. Indeed there are other texts that point forward to Christ's resurrection on the third day, and this may be the first in Scripture.
Before we get into the canonical connection, let's first understand typology. Typology is the study of types. For something to be a true type, there needs to be correspondence and escalation in real historical people, events, or things. Hence, there's often a pattern of similarity in the Bible that foreshadows something greater to come. For example, Adam –> David –> Jesus. All reigned and ruled as representatives, but Adam failed to defend his bride from the snake and fell in sin, and David was incited by Satan and sinned (1 Chron 21:1–8). These were shadows pointing to the real substance: Jesus, the Christ, who was perfect in our place. Simply put, typology studies patterns and promises in the Bible that find fulfillment in Christ. Types point to Christ as ultimate. For an example of a type clearly spelled out in Scripture, see Romans 5:14ff. In sum, typology traces the pattern and progression of historical, biblical events and people and finds the culmination and fulfillment in Jesus (the antitype). For a far better explanation, see chapter 8 of James M. Hamilton Jr.'s little book, What is Biblical Theology?––I heartily recommend it.
Creation Account Pointing to Christ's Resurrection?
The creation account in Genesis 1–2 is a real historical event and I think one can see that it points to Christ's resurrection––a real historical event––on the third day. Here's a short piece of content that you can mull over and chew on:
1. In the beginning of the creation account, the world is said to be without form or void and that it was covered with darkness and waters (Gen 1:2). Waters typically throughout the Bible represent chaos, judgment, and death (Gen 7–8; Matt 14:22–30; Mark 4:37; Luke 12:50; 1 Pet 3:20–21). After this, God brings about order in the world by separating the waters.
2. After the second day, God creates land to separate waters and bring order (Gen 1:9–10). Moses then writes, "'Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.' And it was so" (1:11). Here we see land arising out of water (remember, as we said, water often resembles judgment and death––especially so in baptism) and the seeds from the land sprout up plants. Often in the New Testament (NT), water baptism and seeds that sprout up vegetation are pictures that represent the resurrection (see Rom 6:4–5; Col 2:12; 1 Cor 15:35–38). Intriguing! And our curiosity begins to see a confirmation. Moses then writes, "The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day" (Gen 1:12–13).
Out of chaos and darkness and water, there comes light and land and seeds and plants/fruits and life. This lively vegetation sprouted up on the third day. Put differently, on the third day, life rose from the ground and would give sustenance for creaturely life (1:29). Likewise, in the chaos of sin and death in this fallen world, Jesus went through the bitter baptism of death (Luke 12:50) and rose to life on the third day that we may have life in him. He is the firstfruits (1 Cor 15:20–23).
I found this connection compelling and intriguing. Though I barely covered much thought here, I hope I made evident the correspondence between a facet of creation and the resurrection. The OT foretells and points to (sometimes directly) Christ's resurrection from the dead on the third day in other texts too (e.g., Hos 6:2). I think this may be a foreshadowing of Christ's resurrection on the third day.
For more on this connection see this JETS article: "Raised on the Third Day According to the Scriptures"