In these uncertain days, the Bible gives us great comfort and encouragement, for it tells us there is hope.
The first reference to this HOPE is found in Acts 2:26, and is actually a quotation from Psalm 16:9. In Acts 2, Peter is explaining to the crowds gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost, that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, and they should not be surprised for the Scriptures had prophesied this would happen.
“Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; moreover my flesh also will rest in hope.”Acts 2:26 [NKJV]
It is fitting that this first reference to HOPE, the beginning of our study, should be focused on the resurrection of Christ Himself, for truly this is, beyond a shadow of doubt, the beginning of hope. Consider the words of the Apostle Paul in that great chapter of resurrection:
‘If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.’1 Corinthians 15:19,20 [NKJV]
In this passage, Paul is building a case for the reality of a resurrection hope. We shall deal with this chapter in detail in a later post, but for now I just want to emphasise this particular point that Paul is making. If the Christian doctrine of a hope of a resurrection from the dead is ‘pie in the sky’ – a mere fairy tale invented by men to soothe us in our day of trouble – and has no physical reality, then we as Christians are to be pitied for our foolishness. ‘But‘ – I love that word, for it expresses a certainty of hope contrasting with the uncertain word ‘if‘ at the start of v19. Paul wants us to have confidence – a certain hope – in a future, physical resurrection to eternal life because we look back to the reality of Christ’s resurrection.
It is this reality that Peter places as the centrepiece of his Pentecostal sermon – Christ is risen – and if today we look back 2000 years to this reality, Peter was asking his hearers to look back a further 1000 years to the days of their great King David, and consider the prophetic Scripture recorded by David in Psalm 16.
Before we go on, we need to understand an important aspect of prophetic Scriptures, and it is characterised in the phrase ‘now and not yet’. This means that many of the prophetic Scriptures have some limited fulfilment in the day they were given, but then they point forward to a future time of complete fulfilment.
This is true of Psalm 16. In a limited way, these words are expressive of David’s hope of resurrection. David begins the Psalm praying for God to preserve him from his enemy, and then considers the reasons why he can trust in the LORD. He thinks of how the LORD has been good to him (v2-6), guided him (v7,8) in his life so far, and then looks yonder to a day when the LORD has promised to bring him to glory (v9-11). The evidence given by the first two reasons gives David the confidence to trust in the LORD for the third future aspect.
Thus, he says, even if my enemies kill me, they have not been victorious over me; I have not lost. David understood that ‘it was not the end. Jehovah would not abandon His servant David forever in that grave-land of the departed. He could rest in this assurance, that there would be a resurrection of the body and that one day there would be pleasure at God’s right-hand’ [Jim Flanigan, WTBT pg63]. He could rest in hope.
But, this Psalm seems to go beyond David, for it speaks of a ‘Holy One‘ who would not ‘see corruption‘.
‘For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.’Psalm 16:10 [NKJV]
First the Holy One. This particular Hebrew word, in the 2nd person form, is only used in one other reference (Deuteronomy 33:8) where it refers to the High Priest of Israel as the LORD’s Holy One. In Psalm 16, it is the King that we have been considering. Both these offices – Priest and King – were messianic offices, with both Aaron and David being anointed into their office. So, while the general word is often used to refer to a saintly or godly person, when used in the 2nd person – ‘Your Holy One’ – it refers to a Messiah figure.
David was a Messiah-type figure, so why could this verse not refer simply to him? Why give it prophetic status? The answer comes in the reference to ‘corruption’, and Peter actually addresses this in Acts 2, showing clearly that David’s body did ‘see corruption’.
“Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.”Acts 2:29 [NKJV]
Therefore, the words of Psalm 16:10 must be referring to a greater than David, and the Apostle Peter concludes that Jesus Christ is the One who completely fulfils these words. He is truly the ‘Holy One’, who in His life demonstrated that He was sinlessly pure. Because He was without sin, death had no claim upon Him, but He gave Himself voluntarily into the hands of wicked men, and allowed them to nail Him to the cross. Then, at the appointed hour, ‘when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice (‘It is finished!’ John 19:30), He said “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit”. Having said this, He breathed His last.’ [Luke 23:46]
Here we see the fulfilment of those words of HOPE which we began with: ‘my flesh also shall rest in hope‘.
There was a serenity to His passing into death, because our Lord Jesus Christ had a confident hope of resurrection. For him, that hope was not some flight of fancy, but based in the prophetic Scripture of a faithful God who has shown Himself able time and time again to bring life out of death.
His body was then taken down from the cross by Joseph of Arimethea and Nicodemus, and placed in a new tomb which was sealed and guarded until ‘the third day’ when He was ‘raised up’, and there was nothing that the seal or the guard could do to stop Him. In all of this there was no corruption in Him: soul, spirit and body, and as Peter concludes his message on that Day of Pentecost by declaring:
“God has made that same Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”Acts 2:36 [NKJV]
The people responded with a question: “What shall we do?”, and Peter told them they must repent of their sin, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and then follow His footsteps and in obedience to His Word, get baptised.
What will you do? If you do what the Jewish hearers did on that Day of Pentecost and receive the Word, then you too can say, “my flesh also shall rest in hope“.