QUESTION: "I have come to the conclusion that the Old Testament and the New Testament are two histories and beliefs; that the Israelites did not believe in the hereafter, and the people who believed in Jesus (the Christians of the New Testament) did. Please give me your viewpoint."
Santa Cruz, California
ANSWER: Perhaps you have assumed from Matthew 22:23 (and parallels in Mark 12:18-27 and Luke 20:27) that God had not revealed the truth about the afterlife in Old Testament times. True, in ancient days it was not made as clear as it has been today. That is why the pagans, instead of believing in the resurrection (which is what the Bible reveals) fell instead for the deception of demons which claims that death is just a change from bodily life to disembodied spirit life, and that life itself is never interrupted or ceases. And that lack of total clarity extended to the Sadducees ("which say that there is no resurrection") who rejected any and all belief in life after death (Acts 23:8).
But notice how Jesus answered them in verses 31-32 of Matthew 22: "But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." And Jesus referred directly to the Old Testament passages of Exodus 3:6, 16, etc. for his proof.
His reasoning astonished the bystanders, and completely silenced the Sadducees (see also Luke 20:37-40). It was reasoning at its best according to the then current Jewish style. God had made promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob not yet fulfilled when they died. There would have to be a resurrection from the dead and those promises fulfilled or God would not be God.
But we should never assume that the Old Testament does not contain much other proof of definite nature. Notice how often the Old Testament prophets spoke of man's resurrection back to life.
David wrote, especially speaking of Christ: "... My flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell [the grave]; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption" (Ps. 16:9-10). Christ's resurrection was a type and a forerunner of many others.
Psalms also speaks of the resurrection as an awakening, and as a morning: "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness" (Ps. 17:15). And: "Like sheep they [mankind] are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling. But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah" (Ps. 49:14-15).
Job also foresaw a resurrection: "If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time [this first life] will I wait, till my change come. Thou [God] shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands" (Job 14:14-15).
He again expressed his faith in chapter 19, verses 25 and 26: "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh [Hebrew, apart from my flesh] shall I see God."
Isaiah adds his voice: "Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead" (Isa. 26:19).
Ezekiel 37:4-6, 12 speaks of Israelites who will be resurrected to mortal life and be given a chance to be saved (people who never understood enough to have had and lost their chance for salvation).
Then Daniel says, speaking first of those who are saved and present in the first resurrection, then of those coming up in the second resurrection whose decision regarding salvation has not yet been made: "... There shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt" (Dan. 12:1-2).
Daniel himself was told he would be in that first resurrection: "But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days" (verse 13).
Now let's allow Hosea 13:14 to finish the story of God's definite and magnificent promise of a resurrection in the Old Testament: "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance [any changing of my mind] shall be hid from mine eyes."