You probably don’t need to be told that the New Testament is about Jesus. Everyone knows that, don’t they? But what about the Old Testament? Can one truthfully say that the whole Bible is about Jesus?
The answer in a word is yes! But don’t just take my word for it, take Jesus’ words to the Pharisees regarding the Old Testament Scriptures in John 5:39. There Jesus declared, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” These words were spoken in reference to the Old Testament, which was the only Scriptures written at the time. In this verse, Jesus emphatically declares that the whole Old Testament is about Him!
This message is the fourth in a series of six that seek to develop this summarizing sentence about the Bible:
The Bible is the story of a God who makes a special promise about a special person who creates a special people to live in a special place with Him forever.
The focus of this message is on the third part of that sentence: “The Bible is the Story of a Special Person.” In this morning’s message we will show that the Bible is the story of a special person who is revealed predictively, pictorically, preincarnationally and preparatively.
Bryan Chapel has written in his great book titled Christ-Centered Preaching that:
In its context, every passage possesses one or more of four redemptive foci. Every text is predictive of the work of Christ, preparatory for the work of Christ, reflective of the work of Christ, and/or resultant of the work of Christ (p. 275).
Most of us don’t have trouble seeing how the New Testament is about Christ, but we do have trouble seeing how the Old Testament is about Christ. For this reason, we will spend our time in this message focusing on how Christ is revealed in the pages of the Old Testament. I believe that there are four primary ways in which Christ is revealed in the Old Testament. The Bible is the story of a Person (Christ) who is revealed predictively, pictorially, preincarnationally and preparatively. But before we seek to unfold each of these in turn, let’s turn to a passage in which Christ shows that the Old Testament is all about Him: Luke 24:25-27, 44-49.
Luke 24:25-27 Then He said to them, foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! (26) Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” (27) And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
Luke 24:44-49 Then He said to them, are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” (45) And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. (46) Then He said to them, it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, (47) and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (48) And you are witnesses of these things. (49) Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”
This text, along with John 5:39, reveals Jesus own hermeneutic of the Old Testament. He saw that it was all about Him! The following is an attempt to show how that is the case.
I. The Bible is the Story of a Special Person Who is Revealed Predictively.
This theme was thoroughly developed in the previous message as Christ was seen to be prophesied as the fulfillment of the promise of the “Seed of the woman,” “Seed of Abraham,” and “Seed of David.”
The first gospel promise is given all the way back in the third chapter of the Bible in Genesis 3:15, where God told the Serpent that one day the Seed of a woman would bruise the head of the Serpent. This prophecy is shown to be fulfilled in the victory won over Satan on the cross according to Hebrews 2:14 and 1 John 3:8.
This first gospel promise was expanded upon to Abraham who was told first in Genesis 12:1-3 that he would become a great nation through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed, then in Genesis 22:18 that this promise would be fulfilled in his Seed. Paul in Galatians 3:16 explains that Christ fulfills this promise as the Seed of Abraham by blessing all those from every nation who put their trust in Him.
The promise to Abraham is repeated to Isaac and Jacob before Jacob (on his death bed) blesses Judah with a prophesy that the deliverer would come from his family as a Lion with a ruling scepter (Genesis 49:8-10)! In King David there is a finally a descendent of Judah ruling God’s people, but he is not the ultimate fulfillment of this promise for God tells him (through the prophet Nathan in 2 Samuel 7) that one of David’s Seed would rule forever and would be called Son by God!
The Old Testament prophets Isaiah and Micah expanded on this prophesy. Isaiah shows that the Seed of David would be born of a virgin and be called “Immanuel” which is interpreted “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14). Isaiah also declares that a child will born who will be called “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.” His kingdom would never end and He would sit on His ancestor David’s throne forever (Isaiah 9:6-7). Micah provides the detail regarding where this great King will be born (in Bethlehem) while also providing a description of this King as being the One “whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2).
Thus we see that across the pages of the Old Testament this special Person is prophesied, promised, predicted and proclaimed. The One who was foreknown is foretold. The Bible is the story of a special Person!
II. The Bible is the Story of a Special Person Who is Revealed Pictorially.
But not only is Christ foretold predictively in the Old Testament, He is also foreshadowed pictorially. There are many pictures of Christ in the people, events and ceremonies of the Old Testament. It is easy to get carried away with what is called “typology” and force things upon the text which are not there. We must always understand the original historical setting of the text under consideration without minimizing its ultimate New Testament fulfillment.
Some see a type in every detail of the Old Testament. This makes for exciting preaching, but I think many times meaning is read into the text which was not intended either by the human author or the Holy Spirit! Others only interpret as types those persons, events or ceremonies which are specifically explained as such in the New Testament. This is clearly the safest method of interpretation, but I don’t believe that we must restrict ourselves to the types interpreted in the New Testament. Instead, I think that the types defined in the New Testament are not an exhaustive, but a representative list. In other words, the examples given in the New Testament show us how we can interpret people, events and ceremonies in the Old Testament in a responsible way.
While I believe one may responsibly see types of Christ in passages that are not explicitly interpreted as such in the New Testament, in this message I will restrict myself to those pictures of Christ in the Old Testament which are verified by the inspired authors of the New Testament. For the sake of time, I will list the Old Testament person, event or ceremony with its original reference and New Testament fulfillment.
Adam is a type of Christ who is called “the last Adam” in 1 Corinthians 15:45 which states: “And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” Likewise, Paul in Romans 5:12-21 contrasts the work of Adam bringing death into the world through sin with the work of Christ which has brought life into the world through righteousness.
Melchizedek was also an individual who was a type of Christ. His ministry pictured Christ’s ministry as both priest and king (Genesis 14:18-20). The fact that Melchizedek’s birth and death are not recorded in Scripture make him an excellent type of Christ according to Hebrews 7.
In Genesis 28, Jacob’s ladder with angels ascending and descending typifies Christ who brings communication from the Father and provides access to heaven for those who believe. Jesus said to Nathaniel in John 1:51, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
Moses is a type of Christ in that he was the mediator of the Old Covenant, and Christ is the mediator of the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:6, 9:15, 12:24). Moses himself also predicted that one day God would send a Prophet like him to whom the people would actually listen (Deuteronomy 18:15). This was fulfilled in Christ whose life in many ways parallels the life of Moses (compare the beginning chapters of Exodus and Matthew).
In Exodus 16, the manna provided for the Children of Israel in the wilderness typified the Christ who was “the true Bread from heaven” (John 6: 32). In Exodus 17, the water from the rock in the wilderness typified the life giving water provided by Christ (John 4:14 and 1 Corinthians 10:4).
The tabernacle and many of its furnishings described in Exodus 25-40 were also types of the Christ who “dwelt among us” (John 1:14) and who is the reality to which the shadows pointed. According to the author of Hebrews, Christ was also typified by the priest offering the sacrifice, the place of sacrifice “the mercy seat” and the sacrifice itself!
On the Day of Atonement two goats were brought by the High Priest before the tabernacle. One was slaughtered and its blood was placed on the Mercy Seat by the High Priest. This typified the sacrifice of Christ whose blood, according to Hebrews 9:11-12, was taken by our Great High Priest Jesus into the Most Holy Place for our eternal redemption. The second goat also typified Christ. It was called the Scapegoat. The sins of the people were confessed over this goat and then it was taken out into the wilderness and lost signifying that the sins of the people had been taken away. This is what John the Baptist mean when he said in John 1:29, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
The Passover Lamb also typified the sacrifice of Christ as a spotless lamb without any broken bones that was slain as a means of saving life (1 Corinthians 5:7).
The brazen serpent of Numbers 21 which was lifted up in the wilderness to bring physical healing from a snake bite was a type of the lifted-up Christ who would provide spiritual healing from the effects of sin. Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3:14, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
III. The Bible is the Story of a Special Person Who is Revealed Preincarnationally.
The Bible is not only the story of a special Person who is revealed predictively and pictorially, He is also revealed preincarnationally! What I am referring to here are the times in the Old Testament (before the Incarnation) when the second person of the Trinity, God the Son, appeared in human form. These are some times called Christophanies.
Abraham experienced Christophanies on several occasssions (Genesis 17, 18, 22). Hagar saw a Christophany in Genesis 16. Jacob wrestled with a Christophany in Genesis 31. Balaam’s donkey first, and then Balaam himself saw a Christophany in Numbers 22. Joshua saw a Christophany revealed as the “Commander of the army of the LORD” in Joshua 5. Gideon saw the second person of the Trinity as a Christophany in Judges 6, as did Samson’s parents in Judges 13. The 3 Hebrew children experienced one in the fiery furnace of Daniel 3.
Many times these preincarnate appearances of Christ in the Old Testament are referred to as “the Angel of the LORD.” But in each of the Christophanies the term “Angel” is used in regard to his office as messenger and not as to his nature. If you study the context of each of these references you will find five common characteristics of these appearances which indicate that the “Angel of the LORD” is none other than the Son of God in a preincarnate form. The following list is from James Borland’s excellent study titled Christ in the Old Testament (pp. 43-44). He writes that in these passages we see the “Angel of the LORD”:
1. Being Spoken of as God
2. Bearing the name of Jehovah
3. Speaking as God
4. Possessing Divine Attributes
5. Receiving Worship
But what was the purpose of these preincarnate appearances of Christ? Borland once again is helpful as he provides the following list of possible purposes for the Christophanies of the Old Testament (pp. 102-111):
1. To Reveal Himself in a Personal and Visible Manner
2. To Meet the Needs of Individuals
3. To Accomplish God’s Plan of Progressive Revelation
4. To Predict and Anticipate Christ’s Incarnation
5. To Connect God’s Work in the Old and New Testaments
6. To Reveal God’s Soteriologic and Theocratic Programs
7. To Intimate Christ’s Deity and the Trinity
The Bible is the story of a Special Person who is revealed predictively, pictorially and preincarnationally!
IV. The Bible is the Story of a Special Person Who is Revealed Preparatively.
The Bible is not only the story of a special Person who is revealed predictively, pictorially and preincarnationally. He was also revealed preparatively! What I mean is that there are passages in the Old Testament which neither reveal Christ predictively, pictorially nor preincarnationally, yet they still reveal Christ by preparing for His coming. Everything else in the Old Testament falls in this category. Even passages which have no explicit reference to Christ still point to Him by revealing something about man and/or God which provides and/or requires the person and work of Christ. According to Bryan Chapell there are two questions which we can ask of any text which will “actually place every biblical text within a redemptive context” (p. 277). These questions will allow us to treat Scripture as Jesus treated it, as about Himself. The questions are: “What does this text reflect of God’s nature that provides the ministry of Christ; and/or human nature that requires the ministry of Christ?” (Ibid.)
Let’s try out this theory using a couple of familiar stories from the Old Testament as examples. First, let’s consider the account of Genesis 6-9 of Noah, the Flood and the Ark. Contrary to popular opinion this story is not a cute and cuddly story about a floating zoo. It is the story of God’s judgment upon a sinful world! Do you realize this story is about God wiping out the entire human race, save one family, because of sin! Can we see Christ in this story? We don’t have to do it as many have by seeing the Ark as a type of Christ (though I think this can be done in an appropriate way). We can see Christ on a much more basic level as we see the character of God as so holy that sin must be punished. It is this attribute of God that made the cross of Christ a moral necessity for God if He ever was to be able to forgive our sin. Sin must be punished and the story of Noah’s ark shows this in vivid detail. But this story also shows the grace of God as one, Noah, is described as: “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.”
Let’s consider the book of Judges for a moment. Can we find Christ there? Well, there are a couple of Christophanies in the book of Judges (Gideon, ch. 6 and Samson’s parents in ch. 13). But on a more basic level, we see the repeating cycle of rebellion, retribution, repentance, and restoration in Judges 2:10-19 and 3:7-11. Here we see God as both punishing sin and providing salvation. These seemingly contradictory themes which can be traced all the way through the Old Testament are only ultimately brought together on the cross of Christ where in the words of the psalmist: “Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed.” Psalm 85:10
It is no wonder that Jesus could take as His text the entirety of the Old Testament and declare that it was all about Him in Luke 24:27 and 44. But, not only is all of Scripture centered around the person of Jesus Christ so is this entire universe. Paul teaches in Colossians 1:15-22 that Jesus is:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. (16) For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. (17) And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. (18) And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. (19) For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, (20) and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. (21) And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled (22) in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.
But not only so, He is also the one who alone has the authority to grant eternal life or sentence to eternal death. Hear Jesus’ words in John 5:21-30,
For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. (22) For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, (23) that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. (24) “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. (25) Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. (26) For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, (27) and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. (28) Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice (29) and come forth–those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. (30) I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.
Finally in Acts 17:30-31 Paul states:
Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, (31) because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
This preeminent Christ of Scripture is also the Christ of the Cosmos! Every knee will bow to Him (Philippians 2:9-11), either in this life or at the judgment when it will be too late! Have you bowed to the Lord Jesus Christ?