Christ in the Old Testament
By Milburn Cockrell
The Lord Jesus Christ appeared to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus and spoke to them about the prophecies about Himself in the Old Testament. Luke 24:25- 27 relates: “Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”
These words from the Savior Himself show that the Old Testament was concerned with the Person and work of the Messiah. There were revelations of Him scattered throughout all the Old Testament Scriptures which testifies of Him (John 5:39). The law, the psalms, and the prophets bore witness to the coming Messiah. Those who ignore or play down the Old Testament miss much valuable information about the Person and work of Jesus Christ.
TITLES OF CHRIST
The titles given to Christ constitute an important aspect of the total revelation of Christ’s person. Some of these have to do with His preincarnate state; others with His incarnate state.
A comparison of the Old Testament and the New Testament passages proves that Jesus Christ is the Jehovah of the Old Testament. While this title belongs equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit and the Trinity as a whole, we cannot fail to see that in most cases it is applied to Jesus Christ. Those Scriptures which link Christ with Jehovah prove beyond any question the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, especially since Jehovah is never applied to any but God in the Old Testament.
Those of us who read the King James Version never see the word “Jehovah” very much. The translators of our version translated the Hebrew “Yahweh” by the word “LORD.” They always spelled the word in capital letters. Thus when we see LORD in the Old Testament, we know the reference is to Jehovah. The American Standard Version more properly translates the word “Jehovah.” When the New Testament writers quoted the Old Testament passages containing the word “Jehovah” they used the Greek word “kyries” which means “Lord.”
In Zechariah 12:10 Jehovah speaks: “They shall look upon me whom they have pierced.” Revelation 1:7 describes Christ in this manner. In Jeremiah 23:6 it is written: “THE LORD ( Jehovah) OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” In I Corinthians 1:30 Christ is made the believer’s righteousness. We hear Jehovah say: “I am the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he” (Isa. 41:4). In Revelation this is said of Christ (Rev. 1:8, 17; 22:13, 16). Compare Psalms 68:18 with Ephesians 4:8- 10, and also Isaiah 8:13-14 with I Peter 2:7-8.
We are distinctly told in Malachi 3:1 that Jehovah will come to His temple. The New Testament reveals that Christ is the Jehovah of the temple (Luke 19:46). The temple could not be Christ’s unless He is the Jehovah of the Old Testament. The Sabbath was Jehovah’s day (Ex. 20:10-11). Christ styled Himself: “Lord ( Jehovah) of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28).
There is also abundant evidence in the Old Testament that Christ was called “Elohim,” the Hebrew word for “God.” In Isaiah 40:3 Christ is spoken of as Jehovah and Elohim, or Lord and God. In Mark 1:1-3 this verse is quoted and applied to Christ. This expressly teaches Elohim in the Old Testament is God in the New Testament. In the New Testament Christ is called “theos” which is the Greek word for “God.” If Christ is the Elohim of the Old Testament, then He is seen in Genesis 1:1 as the God of creation, for God in this verse is Elohim.
Various other names are applied to Christ in the Old Testament. He is called Ancient of Days (Dan. 7:22), Branch of Righteousness ( Jer. 33:15), the Root of Jesse (Isa. 11:1), Child (Isa. 9:6), Desire of all Nations (Hag. 2:7), Immanuel (Isa. 7:14), Everlasting Father (Isa. 9:6), Commander (Isa. 55:4), Counsellor (Isa. 9:6), King of glory (Ps. 24:7, 10), King of Zion (Ps. 2:6), Redeemer ( Job 19:25), Righteous Branch (Jer. 23:5), Righteous Servant (Isa. 53:11), Seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15), Shiloh (Gen. 49:10), Son of God (Dan. 3:25), Star out of Israel (Num. 24:17), Sun of righteousness (Mal. 4:2), Sure Foundation (Isa. 28:16), Tried Stone (Isa. 28:16), and Wonderful (Isa. 9:6).
ANGEL OF THE LORD
One of the most significant titles given to Christ in the Old Testament is the Angel of the Lord. A study of the passages where this title is found will convince one that the Angel of the Lord is the Lord Jesus Christ.
I myself am convinced that every theophany was really a Christophany in the Old Testament. I hold this view because of two statements in the Gospel of John. The first is found in John 1:18: “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” The other is found in John 5:37: “And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.”
It appears to me from such Scriptures, Christ must have been the Person of the Godhead Who appeared in the different forms and shapes in the Old Testament. The Spirit and the Father did not reveal themselves in those times. It is only logical that the same Person of the Trinity should appear in bodily form in both Testaments. There is no mention of the Angel of the Lord after the incarnation of Christ. Thus the Angel of the Lord became incarnate.
When the Angel of the Lord spoke to Hagar, He was identified as the Lord (Gen. 16:6-13). The same is true in the account of the sacrifice of Isaac (Gen. 22:15-18). The terms Angel of the Lord and God are used interchangeably: “And he blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads” (Gen. 48:15-16).
It is worth noting that this Angel is revealed as a distinct Person from Jehovah which proves the doctrine of the Trinity. In Zechariah 1:12-13 the Angel of the Lord addressed the Lord: “Then the angel of the LORD answered and said, O LORD of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years? And the LORD answered the angel that talked with me with good words and comfortable words.” (Other Scriptures affirm the deity of the Angel of Jehovah without trinitarian personal distinctions ( Jud. 2:1-5; II Kings 19:35)).
Meditation upon the many Old Testament passages reveals a remarkable breadth to the work of Christ for His people. Micah 5:2 informs us that Christ, or the Angel of Jehovah, had been eternally active before His incarnation. Christ was exceedingly active in the Old Dispensation calling men to service (Ex. 3:2; Jud. 6:11-24), guiding His people (Gen. 21:17- 19; 22:11-18; 31:11; 48:15-16; Ex. 13:21; Jud. 13:3-23), judging sin (II Sam. 24:14-17; I Chron. 21:11- 30; II Kings 19:35), and executing the providence of God (I Kings 19:5-7; Dan. 3:28; 6:22). Thus we see the Angel of the Lord was engaged in the continual ministry of God to His people during these Old Testament times.
CHRIST AS THE SAVIOR
God has never had but one way of saving lost sinners. The salvation of the Old Testament is the salvation of the New Testament. The only distinction is the Old Testament presents a prospective Christ; the New Testament introduces a retrospective Christ. All salvation stems from the Son of God and His saving work on the cross.
The Lord passed over the sins of Old Testament saints (Rom. 3:24-26) with a view to Christ’s redemption (Heb. 9:15). Salvation has always been by grace through faith in all dispensations of time (Rom. 4:1-16; Eph. 2:8-9). The Old Testament saints by faith looked forward to the coming of the Seed of the woman. They believed the promises of God as far as they were revealed.
Under the legal age, God provided an outward means of manifestation of faith in the coming Redeemer. This was by annual sacrifice. These sacrifices did not save (Heb. 10:4), but they declared the faith of those who truly expected salvation by the coming sacrifice of Christ.
From the time of Adam and Eve, Abel and Job, Abraham and David, Isaiah and Malachi, there was a remnant who believed in salvation by the coming Seed of the woman. Many Old Testament saints spoke plainly about the way of salvation. Job could say, “I know that my redeemer liveth” ( Job 19:25). Jeremiah wrote: “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is” ( Jer. 17:7).
The book of Psalms often makes a reference to salvation by faith in the coming Messiah. In Psalm 2, verse 12, we are told: “Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” Psalm 37:39-40 speak in no uncertain sound: “But the salvation of the righteous is of the LORD: he is their strength in the time of trouble. And the LORD shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him.”
CHRIST IN TYPOLOGY
One finds in the Old Testament an inexhaustible supply of types of Christ. Typology contributes much to the Christology of the Old Testament. We must beware of making too little of these types. On the other hand, we must avoid making too much of them. Such persons as Adam, Abel, Aaron, Boaz, Benjamin, David, Isaac, Joseph, Joshua, Melchizedek, Moses, and others were certainly types of the Lord Jesus Christ. Such things as Noah’s ark, the rock Moses struck, the manna in the wilderness, Aaron’s rod that budded, the brazen serpent, and other things pointed to Christ. The tabernacle, the temple, the sacrifices, the priesthood, the feasts, and the cities of refuge represented Christ.
Taken as a whole, the typical ceremonies and institutions of the Old Testament had as their major theme the Person and work of Jesus Christ. They formed an important part of the progressive revelation of salvation by Christ’s redemption. These wonderful types are exceeded only by the antitype in the New Testament.
In the Old Testament there are numerous prophecies of the coming Messiah. Many of these predictions were fulfilled at Christ’s first advent; other prophecies await His second advent. But ultimately all prophecies will have a literal fulfillment. The Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament are legions. Space will permit me to call attention to only a few of these.
The Old Testament presents Christ in every book. In Genesis He is the Seed of the woman. In Exodus He is the Passover Lamb. In Leviticus He is the atoning Sacrifice. In Numbers He is the smitten Rock. In Deuteronomy He is the Prophet. In Joshua He is the Captain of the Lord’s host. In Judges He is the great Deliverer. In Ruth He is the heavenly Kinsman. In the six books of Kings He is the promised King. In Ezra He is the Restorer of the Temple. In Nehemiah He is the Restorer of the nation. In Esther He is the Advocate and Propitiator. In Job He is my Redeemer. In Psalms He is the Shepherd and the King. In Proverbs He is my Pattern. In Ecclesiastes He is my Goal. In the Songs of Solomon He is my Satisfier. In the prophets He is the coming Prince of Peace.
Much is written about the nativity of Christ. The Messianic line is traced from Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:15), through Seth (Gen. 4:25), through Noah (Gen. 6-9) to Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3). His lineage goes through Isaac (Gen. 17:19), Jacob (Gen. 28:14), Judah (Gen. 49:10), through Boaz, Jesse, and David (II Sam. 7:12-13). Then the accounts in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 complete what is lacking in the Old Testament genealogies.
There are prophecies about the Messiah’s birth which are very detailed. Micah 5:2 discloses that Christ would be born in Bethlehem of Judah. Isaiah 7:14 makes known He would be born of a virgin from the royal family of King David. Genesis 49:10 indicates His birth would occur before the destruction of the Jewish government. Daniel 9:24- 27 reveals the Messiah would be crucified after 483 years from the commandment to rebuild Jerusalem.
HIS PERSON AND LIFE
Old Testament predictions reveal much about the Person and work of Christ. There is evidence of His deity and His humanity. His humanity is seen from Genesis 3:15 where He is called “the seed of the woman.” His deity can be discovered from His supernatural birth in Isaiah 7:14. The same Scripture tells us He would be “God with us.” The two natures of the Messiah are seen in Isaiah 9:6 in the expressions “a child is born” and “a son is given.” This same child is called “the mighty God” in this same verse.
Prophecies in the Old Testament concern the life of Christ. These generally foretold that He would fill the threefold office: of prophet, priest, and king. Moses predicted the Messiah would be a prophet in Deuteronomy 18:15-18. His priestly office is seen in I Samuel 2:35 and Psalm 110:4. Zechariah 6:13 combines His priestly and kingly offices.
The kingly office is the most prominent in the Old Testament prophecies. It is first presented in Genesis 49:10. In Numbers 24:17 the prediction is made more definite. II Samuel 7:12-16 reveals the King will be of the house of David. Psalm 2 discloses the King Messiah will be the King of Zion. In Isaiah there are numerous verses which deal with His reign as King of Zion (Isa. 2:1-4; 4:1-6; 9:6-7; 24:23; 32:1; 49:7; 52:15). There is in chapter 11 of Isaiah a picture of the rule of the coming King. Jeremiah 23:5-6 adds light to this future kingdom and its King.
The Saviorhood of Christ is frequently presented in the Old Testament. Isaiah 53 is the classic passage on the saving work of Christ. Psalm 22 pictures His suffering and death. Zechariah 13:7 shows the Shepherd being smitten. Psalm 16:10 predicts the resurrection of Christ (Acts 13:34-37).
DO YOU KNOW CHRIST?
The Old Testament Scriptures presented Jesus Christ as the Savior of sinners. Of Timothy it is written: “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (II Tim. 3:15). The reference is to the Old Testament here, for the New Testament was not written when Timothy was only a child. Timothy could be brought to salvation by faith in Christ by reading the Old Testament, because all the prophets preached that through Christ’s name “whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43).
The New Testament was written to point sinners to salvation by faith in Jesus Christ who has already come in fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures. John 20:31 declares: “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”
Sinner, do you believe that He came and died for sinners? Have you repented of your sins which crucified the Lord of glory? If so, then you have eternal life. If not, you are spiritually dead in your sins and into Heaven you shall never enter.
Grace Bible Baptist Church
26080 Wax Road
Denham Springs, LA 70726