Lifesize model of the Biblical Tabernacle in Eliat, Israel
Jesus in OT is one of the 4 views of Christ that one needs to have to understand Jesus fully. Just knowing Jesus in the Gospels is not enough. More about these 4 views at Why I write.
Most believers today believe that in Old Testament Jews worshipped Father God whereas in New Testament we worship God through Jesus. This is a falsity. There can be nothing further from the truth.
Salvation of mankind from the the beginning has been through the Messiah and believers waited for him till he came. So, every book of the Bible from Genesis to Malachi is about Christ. As Pastor Carter Conlon said once, The Gospel was first preached in Genesis 3, speaking of the seed of the woman, who would come to save mankind and the first lamb sacrificed in Gen 3, as a pointer to Christ. All prophets from Abraham, Moses, Samuel. David, Isaiah and Jeremiah spoke of Christ and the cross.
(Mashiach is Jewish word for Messiah, Christ in Greek. Both words mean the Anointed One.
In this article I use the words, Christ, Messiah, Jesus interchangeably for us to break the
mind-set and bring home the point).
Here we will give you 7 lenses through which you can see Jesus in the Old Testament.
Theophany is God appearing in a physical form. Any place in the OT where you see a man appearing and being called Jehovah, he is Jesus Christ. (Jehovah is rendered as LORD in KJV, NKJV, NIV etc). So, one man called Jehovah and two angels come to Abraham’s house and have lunch with him in Gen 18 – that is Jesus. He enjoys Abraham’s hospitality, prophecies over the family, promises a son to the old couple. He then hears Abraham’s intercession for cousin Lot, goes to Sodom destroys it (Gen 19) and goes back to Heaven. What a day trip for Jesus!
Jesus and two angels meet Abraham
After the lunch meeting, Jesus tells Abraham, that the cry of the city Sodom is very great and he had come down to see if it was true or not. (Gen 18:20-22). The next chapter tells us that, “The LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven (Gen 19:24). Here there are two Jehovahs in this verse. One Jehovah (LORD) is on earth and the other Jehovah (LORD) is in Heaven, and the Jehovah on earth rains fire from the Jehovah in Heaven upon Sodom and destroys it. I still remember a Billy Graham sermon where he explains that Jesus has been coming to the earth again and again through the OT and quotes this verse as proof. In the above verse we can see that the Jehovah on earth is none other than Christ Jesus. In the New Testament Jesus tells the Pharisees, that Abraham rejoiced to see him. Then the Pharisees mock Jesus saying, you are not yet 50 years old and you have met Abraham? (John 8:56,57)
Fast forward a bit, here is Jacob alone by the ford of Jabbok. That night, he sends his entire family over the brook. Next morning he is supposed to meet Esau, and Jacob fears for his very life, and is praying to God for mercy. That night a Heavenly man comes down and wrestles with him. He deals with Jacob’s craftiness, breaks his thigh, hears his prayer, blesses him and renames him Israel. And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” Gen 32:28,30. (NKJV). So, the very name of the country Israel is proof that Jesus came to the earth. Gen 32:24-32). This man from Heaven is none other than the Messiah (Jesus). Jacob calls him the Shepherd and Cornerstone of Israel. (Gen 49:24).
Lets skip a few generations. Joshua leads the children of Israel over Jordan into the Promised land. Here Joshua is standing by the huge walls of Jericho and wondering how to begin the war. Then suddenly God appears to Joshua by the walls of Jericho, He reveals himself as the Captain of the host of the LORD (v14 KJV). (Commander of the army of the LORD says NIV). That is Lord Jesus himself (Josh 5:13-6:5). Like this there are various instances (Hagar, Gideon, Manoah etc). Lack of space prevents me from going into all of those.
Also, it is an incredible rarity for God the Father to manifest himself on earth. As the Jews of old believed, if God manifests himself we are dead in no time. And as Jesus taught us, spirits do not have flesh and bones (Luke 24:39), so all through the Bible, Father remains Father and Jesus remains Jesus.
There are literally hundreds of Messianic prophecies in the OT. What it means in simple
English is this: Every prophet believed in Christ and waited for his coming. They longed for the Salvation that he would bring, in a sacrificial death for mankind’s sins. They also prophesied of His Resurrection and His reign upon the earth.
The Talmud puts it succintly,
“All the prophets prophesied only of the days of the Messiah” – Sanhedrin 99a.
“The world was made only for the Messiah.” – Sanhedrin 98b.
Peter was echoing these truths in Acts 3:24, Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that followed after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days (the days of the Messiah on earth). So the next time you read the prophets, understand that it is Jesus that they are talking about.
Let us look at a few instances of OT prophecies:
Jacob believed in Christ, and met Jesus face to face as we’ve seen earlier. At his death bed, Jacob told Judah, “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, until Shiloh comes and to Him shall the gathering of the peoples be.” Gen 49:10. Shiloh is a nickname of Jesus, or a poetic reference to Christ. The old Patriarch was telling his son Judah, in your family line the Messiah will come, to him shall all the people’s bow down. That is why Jesus is called the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the Root of David (Rev 5:5).
Let us look at David. A few years after the death of Saul, the combine tribes of Judah and Israel choose David as king. The shepherd boy and Worship leader ascends the throne and wants to build a House for God. That night God tells Nathan to go meet King David and tell him a few things. Nathan comes and tell David that God doesn’t want David to build a Temple, but his son will build it. And that in the Davidic line will the Messiah come who will build the Temple of God. Please read 2 Sam 7, this is one of the most beautiful chapters in the Bible. That’s why Jesus is called the Son of David.
Most of you read Psalms without any connection to Christ. You may do well to correct that impression, Spurgeon called the Psalms the Songs of the Redeemed. David wrote about half this Song book. In these, he speaks hundreds of prophecies about the Messiah. A few Messianic Psalms are Psalm 2, 8, 16, 22, 23, 24, 40, 45, 69, 110, etc. (I omit many here).
In particular, let us look at Psalm 22. It is the most graphic description of the Cross in the entire Bible, this is Jesus speaking in the FIRST PERSON, of his physical pain and agony on the Cross. Please study it reverentially. The post The Cross as seen by David is on Psalm 22.
Let’s move forward a few hundred years to Isaiah. He is one of the major prophets and wrote a very important book. Isaiah spoke much about the Messiah, entire chapters are about Jesus. His birth, growing up, preaching the Gospel and rejection, his suffering on the Cross and death, his Resurrection and reign. Isaiah wrote Isaiah 53 because he believed in the Cross and Christ’s work on the Cross.
We can go on about Jeremiah and the New Covenant (31:31-34), its all about Christ. This is where the New Testament (New Covenant) comes from. Then let us move on to the post-exilic prophets. Zechariah is the most Messianic book of them all. The Messiah’s estimated price of 30 pieces of silver (11:12), he being wounded, pierced and dying for our sins is written there (Chap 12, 13). And at a latter day, Jesus returning to the earth to reign and rule Israel and all nations is spoken of in Zech 14. This is a magnificent book.
All the prophets also speak of the Day of the Lord, which is the Day of Christ, (generally taken in the sense of His Judgements and rule, either in their times or when Christ returns to reign on the earth). Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Zephaniah, Malachi etc etc.
Throughout history there were leaders, kings, prophets, priests that God used to save his people. God used them as role-models in each generation, these are shadows that point to Jesus. For example, the book of Hebrews lists the various OT saints (Moses, Joshua, Aaron)– and shows how Jesus fulfilled these roles in a greater and a complete manner. These are types and shadows, whereas Christ is the substance.
A study of these kings and prophets will give us a sneak preview into the Millennial Kingdom of Christ. Studying David (Asa/ Jehoshaphat/ Hezekiah/ Josiah or Joseph or Daniel or Esther) will give you a preview of what the Son of God will accomplish when he returns to the earth and brings the Kingdom of God in its fullest to all nations.
From the moment Adam sinned, it was as if Christ was slain. That is why John calls him, “the lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev 13:8). Since Gen 3, when an an innocent lamb was sacrificed to make goat skins for Adam and Eve, every lamb is a pointer to the Messiah. Old Testament people were not saved by the blood of bulls or goats, but by faith in the death of the Messiah to come. Nobody can enter Heaven without believing in the Blood of Jesus, the Messiah. That’ why God says in the Psalms referring to their sacrifices, “Will I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats” (Ps 50:I3).
Ask Aaron or Moses, and they will tell you, that the lamb sacrifices are but a pointer to Christ. Take this fact away, and the goat sacrifice becomes yet another pagan ritual. It is important for Christians to have a correct view of the OT sacrifices. The post Christ in Leviticus speaks about the Day of atonement sacrifices.
All the prophets spoke of the Messiah’s death too.
Christ is our sin-offering said Isaiah (Is 53:10.)
Zechariah said, “There is a fountain filled with blood for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness (Zech 13:1).
John said, Behold the lamb of God (Jn 1:36).
Paul said, Christ our Paschal lamb has been sacrificed for us (1 Cor 5:7).
Jesus himself revealed the true meaning of the Passover at the Last supper. The Lord’s table arises out of the Passover.
Hope you will begin to see things in the right perspective from now on.
There were also hundreds of years throughout Jewish history, where there was neither a temple nor a sacrifice. Say during Captivity, or how was Joseph saved in Egypt, or how were Daniel and Ezekiel saved in Babylon, as there was neither temple nor sacrifice? – by faith in the Messiah. That is why Daniel confesses his faith in Christ and the Cross saying, and the Messiah shall be cut off, but not for his sins (Dan 9:26).
So, beloved, the entire sacrificial system points to Christ. That is why Paul speaking of the (modern) Jews said that there is a veil on their hearts today when the Old Testament is read. And when they turn to Jesus Christ, that veil is taken away. I pray that the Holy Spirit will take the veil off your hearts from now on, as you read the Old Testament (2 Cor 3:14-16).
Jesus was not yet born in the Old Testament, hence he could not be given a human name yet, because a name is given only after the child is born. But the prophets used various nicknames for the Messiah : Redeemer, Saviour, Holy One of Israel, Name of the Lord, Son of God, Lord God, Cornerstone, Shepherd, Word and at times Jesus is called the Angel of the Lord, at times LORD (Jehovah), sometimes Lord of hosts (Jehovah Sabaoth). Examine the context and discern if it is the Father or Jesus; some instances are clear, in some others it isn’t.
(When you are looking up the Names of God, go to the Preface and see what the terms
LORD, Lord, LORD God, etc mean. For example most versions use LORD (KJV, NKJV, NIV) for Jehovah, Lord means Adonai (Master). LORD God (Jehovah Elohim) is used in KJV, NJKV is rendered Sovereign LORD in NIV. Various English versions render these names differently, so you would do well to carefully understand these names from the Preface or Notes. Then it becomes more meaningful. For example Psalm 110:1 (KJV) reads, “The LORD said unto my Lord, sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool. It means Jehovah(Father God) said to Adonai(Jesus), sit at my right hand etc.
As a homework, take the Messianic prophecies and the Nicknames of Jesus in the Book of Isaiah (Holy One of Israel, Redeemer, Saviour, Messiah, Servant of the Lord, Commander, Witness etc). Underline it in your Bible in a different colour. As a help, please read the post The Gospel according to Isaiah before you begin the homework. Seen in that light, Jesus appears some 50-60x in Isaiah. The book then begins to come alive with Jesus Christ.
If you go down this route and annotate each Book carefully, Jesus appears in almost every page of the Bible. He who has ears, let him hear what the Holy Spirit is saying.
Jesus Christ came to fulfill all the Old Testament prophecies. So every Apostle/NT writer quotes OT prophecies when explaining Jesus as the Messiah(Christ). Today when you see these OT verses being quoted in Gospels, Acts, Letters etc, go back and study the same verse in the OT book, and we can conclude that OT potion was about Christ.
Some of these references are direct, while the others are deduced from the context. A direct example is Heb 11:24-26, The Author summarizing the life of Moses says, “By faith Moses… chose to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin in Egypt, because he esteemed the reproach of CHRIST greater riches than the treasures in Egypt for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.” Now you know for a certainty Moses believed in CHRIST. Of course Jesus himself said in John 5:46, “Moses wrote of me”.
Let’s look at Luke 4:18,19, This is the first speech of Lord Jesus in Nazareth. He starts reading from Isaiah 61, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for He has anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor…”. And he then tells the congregation that He is the fulfillment of that scripture(v21). So Isaiah 61 is about Jesus the Messiah. (Of course it applies to us also).
We all know this phrase, “Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess to God (that Jesus Christ is Lord).”. Rom 14:11, Phil 2:10-11. Here Paul is actually quoting Isaiah 45:23. Please read the 4-5 verses before and after in all the above passages to get the full context. So now we know that Isaiah 45:21-23 is about Jesus Christ.
The next time you read an OT verse being quoted in NT, pause and see if you can find Christ. The Bible opens up to the diligent reader and the serious student, not to the flippant one who reads it like a newspaper.
In the first Century AD, (after Jesus time), the Bible was translated from Hebrew into Aramaic for common use, and these were called the Targums (Lit translations). In the public reading of scripture in the synagogues, Hebrew scriptures were read first followed by these Translations, for the common people to understand. In the Targums, there is a distinct human being who is with the Father and acts on the earth on behalf of God. Because God the Father cannot manifest Himself upon the earth, this Memra/Dabar/Word of the Lord comes to the earth, makes covenants with people, destroys sodom etc, fights their battles etc.
Basically the Memra is a mediator between God and man. (Dabar in Hebrew means Word).
The above are a few extracts from the Targums. More about the Memra and Targums can be found in various sources. I mention two articles here for further study.
We have covered 7 views of Christ in the OT. I hope that you can now see Jesus more often in the Bible and recognise him throughout scripture. Even if you set aside a point here or an interpretation there, it is absolutely clear that the whole of OT is about Jesus Christ. I pray that the Holy Spirit will show you hundreds of instances of Jesus in OT. Begin underlining some of these chapters and instances and your Bible will light up with Jesus.
In closing, a spiritual father Uncle Doug told us matter of factly one day, “I don’t know how you folks read the Bible, but if you don’t see Jesus in the portion you have read, then your Bible reading is a waste.” What he meant is, You got to see Jesus in every page of the Bible, only then it is of some benefit, else it is a waste. That word of correction shook me up and changed my perspective. Little by little, I began to see him, and underline things in my Bible, so that I now see Jesus in every page of the Bible clearly. I pray and hope that you too will be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. To see Christ is so satisfying, everything else is insipid.
(Uncle Doug is man of God who has deeply influenced my life. He is a Graduate (Math) from Harvard, worked with David Wilkerson in his early years. His teachings about Mercy are really pure, and traces his lineage to Azusa street. Rev Douglas Detert, has written a book called “A Vast Simplicity” about his faith journey, available on Amazon, kindle and hardcover editions. The book is a treasure trove of spiritual truths. He stays in Wisconsin, but travels to India yearly to teach, encourage the churches etc.)
One of the greatest Blessings is to study Jesus through every book of the Old Testament. I hope the pointers provided here will make the reader curious to pursue his own detailed study. It’s like a treasure hunt, each time you find Christ it will fill you with Joy. Its very satisfying to meet Jesus. Some more blogposts on Jesus in OT can be found on the Blog page. As a summary, I enclose the 4 posts that are part of Quick tour.
Recommended watching: Here Bible Teacher and Messianic Jew Amir Tsarfati, takes us through the OT scriptures showing Jesus.
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