Is Jesus in the Old Testament?The Bible consists of 66 books written by about 40 different authors over a span of about 1,500 years. It is divided into the Old Testament, which begins with creation and follows the relationship between God and the kingdom of Israel, and the New Testament, which follows the life of Jesus Christ and foretells what is to come. All of these pieces come together to create one overarching story—God's plan to redeem His creation. In every facet of this story is the living, present Jesus Christ.
The first evidence of Jesus in the Old Testament is through some 300 messianic prophecies. The Jewish people believed that God would send the Messiah, or anointed one, who would redeem Israel. During His life on earth Jesus identifies Himself as the Messiah and fulfills the prophecies (Luke 4:17–21; John 4:25–26). Jesus told His disciples, "For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors.' For what is written about me has its fulfillment" (Luke 22:37).
Some of the Old Testament prophecies reference Jesus' birth. He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1–7; John 7:42; Luke 2:4–7). His mother would be a virgin. Isaiah said, "Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14; cf. Matthew 1:18–25; Luke 1:34). Other prophecies talk about His ministry on earth (Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 61:1). Finally, there are prophecies predicting Jesus' death and resurrection. He is innocent and yet sentenced to be crucified on the cross. His hands and His feet would be pierced, but none of His bones broken (Psalm 22; Exodus 12:46; John 19). Finally, after His crucifixion He would be raised from the dead (Isaiah 53:9–10; Psalm 2:7; 16:10; Matthew 28; Acts 2:23–36; 13:33–37; 1 Corinthians 15:3–8).
We also see Jesus in the Old Testament in various instances in which He appeared to people in a pre-incarnate form, something known as a Christophany. He is referred to as the Lord or the Angel of the Lord and appears in a human form. The angel of the Lord spoke with Hagar when she was pregnant with Ishmael (Genesis 16:7–14). The Lord met with Abraham telling him Sarah would conceive a child, and Abraham interceded on behalf of Sodom (Genesis 18). He also was seen by King Nebuchadnezzar inside the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3).
Jesus is in the Old Testament in the biblical characters and objects that foreshadow His life and work, something known as typology. Moses in many ways was a precursor to Jesus, delivering people from bondage into freedom. Other people with Christ-like stories include Joseph, Joshua, Boaz, and King David. The intricate structure of the tabernacle in the Israelite camp foreshadowed what Jesus would mean to the world. The altar in the courtyard points to His sacrifice for our sins. The laver symbolizes the living water He gives (John 4:14), and the showbread that He is the bread of life (John 6:35). The lampstand illustrates Jesus is the light of the world (John 9:5), and the altar of incense is Him interceding on our behalf (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). The veil is His human flesh which was torn in order that we may be in intimate relationship with God (Hebrews 10:20).
Specific events also represent Jesus in the Old Testament. In Genesis 22 God instructs Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac to Him as a burnt offering. Abraham obeys God and takes his son to a mountain and prepares the altar. Right as he is about to kill his son, the Angel of the Lord says, "Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me" (Genesis 22:12). God provides a ram for Abraham to sacrifice in place of Isaac and promises again to bless Abraham with descendants as numerous as the grains of sand on the seashore. This event foreshadows Jesus' death on the cross. As the Son of God, He will be the sacrifice God provides in order to atone for the sins of the world.
Everything in the Old Testament points to Jesus. The fall of humanity into sin separated us from God. Through the covenant with Abraham God built a relationship with the nation of Israel that it might be set apart from the world and ready to bring the good news of the gospel to the lost. Finally, Jesus came as the Messiah to make a new covenant providing a way for those who put their faith in Him to be with God for eternity.
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