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Is Jesus in the Old Testament?


Lisa Loraine Baker


The Bible is God’s Word that He breathed out to us (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Jesus, God the Son (John 10:30), assured us that His Word would endure: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33). His story is woven throughout Scripture because all of it is about Jesus. All of it.

We can look at any book in the Bible and read either a whisper or a shout about Jesus (sometimes both). He may be found in the Old Testament and the New.

Does the Old Testament Talk about Jesus?
We need the whole Bible to understand Jesus, its Author. One can look at Genesis 1:1, compare it to John 1:1 and see Jesus in the opening of the Old and New Testaments. He is the Word, and all things were made by and for Him (Colossians 1:16-23).

Further references to Jesus abound in the Old Testament in the form of Pre-Incarnate Theophanies, types, and prophetic utterings.

1. Pre-Incarnate Theophanies (Old Testament appearances of God the Son):

In Genesis 18, a man identified as the Lord appears to Abraham with two companions. The two companions were angels who went on a mission to Sodom and Gomorrah. The Lord talked with Abraham about what was coming to those cities, and how Abraham’s wife Sarah would have a son.

Another stunning Old Testament appearance of Christ is seen in Daniel 3:24-25. King Nebuchadnezzar has Daniel’s three friends bound and thrown into a fire heated seven times hotter than normal (Daniel 3:19). The king observed a fourth man in the fire alongside the three men, one who looked like “a son of the gods” (Daniel 3:25). This fourth “man” is most likely Jesus.

2. Types (symbols, a foreshadowing, or something that typifies something or someone else):

In Genesis, Joseph is seen to be a type of Christ because, as theologian Greg Stiekes expounds, “Joseph serves as a type of the work of Christ because he saved his people and brought them into unity with one another.” Noah is a type of Christ, for he can be considered a “second Adam.” He was righteous, blameless, and walked with God. Noah and his seven family members were the only survivors of the Great Flood (Genesis 7:1), and God gave Noah “re-creation” orders.

3. Prophetic Utterings (Prophecies of Jesus spoken by Old Testament prophets):

Jesus fulfilled over 300 specific Old Testament prophecies. In terms of proof that Jesus is who He said He is, this is overwhelming. Isaiah is probably first on many people’s lists of Old Testament prophets who prophesied about Jesus. He wrote of Jesus’ birth in Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6-7, and Matthew 1:23 corroborates this prophecy. The harrowing words of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 describe the life and death of our Savior in vivid detail.

Jesus as Redeemer and crusher of Satan is prophesied in Genesis 3:15 (cf. Romans 16:20).

John the Baptist is often called the last of the Old Testament prophets, even though we read his account in the New Testament. Jesus declared John the Baptist was the greatest human (Matthew 11:11), and it was John who broke the four hundred years of silence that ensued after Malachi’s oracle. Luke 1:76-79 gives us the beautiful words of John’s father as he blessed his newborn son.

What Does Deuteronomy Say about Jesus?
Not only did Jesus’ followers associate him with the Old Testament teachings about the Messiah; he confirmed that he was who the Old Testament writers had spoken about. In John 1:43-45, Philip told Nathanael, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” In Luke 24:27, following his resurrection, Jesus met two disciples who were walking to Emmaus, “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”

Deuteronomy is an especially helpful example, because Jesus quoted from the book of Deuteronomy more than the other Old Testament books. The New Testament quotes Deuteronomy some ninety times.

Jesus is foreshadowed through Moses in Exodus and Deuteronomy, serving as a type of Christ before he came. Furthermore, several passages indicate Jesus’ coming.

For example, Jesus is indicated in Deuteronomy 18:15-18 when Moses spoke to the people. He told them the LORD God would raise a Prophet (like Moses) for them from their midst. They were to listen to Him as their Lord. What He said would be directly from God, and He would do as the Lord commanded Him (see John 14:31).

Another passage, in the middle of Moses’ commandments about laws and punishments for disobedience, is even more telling.

Does Deuteronomy Prophecy How Jesus Will Die?
Deuteronomy 21:22-23 describes a punishment for wrongdoing that also seems to be a foreshadowing of how Jesus would die. The Case for Christ Study Bible posits the following:

“Hidden in Deuteronomy is yet another prophecy about the Messiah; it predicts the way in which the Savior would die and the length of time he would remain on the cross.

Deuteronomy 21:22-23 says that God cursed any man executed for breaking one of God’s commands. His body hanging on a pole was a public display of judgment. Jesus took on this curse for all of humanity when he died on the “cross” (1 Peter 2:24), fulfilling the prophecy in Deuteronomy 21:23. The apostle Paul reiterates this concept in Galatians 3:13.

Deuteronomy 21:23 also commanded that the offender’s body not be left on the pole overnight, and as we know from the Gospels, Jesus’ body was taken down and placed into the tomb before nightfall (see Matthew 27:57, Mark 15:42).” — Excerpted from the NIV Case for Christ Study Bible by Zondervan. Used with permission.

While Moses was a type of Christ, this passage is closer to prophecy. A biblical prophecy is a divine prediction (oracle) given by the Lord to one of His prophets (e.g., Isaiah, Malachi, Zechariah, etc.) That which is from the Lord will find fulfillment (Deuteronomy 18:22; Lamentations 3:37). Anything which does not come to pass is not from the Lord.

Since we know Jesus is seen throughout Scripture, it makes sense that this passage in Deuteronomy is prophetic. Jesus took on all of humanity’s sins—past, present, and future ones. He did hang on the “tree” of the wooden cross. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea removed His body from the cross on the same day he was crucified and died. And yes, they buried Him. Jesus lamented the cup of God’s wrath He was to “drink” that day (Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42), being in the place of the “accursed.”

The passage in Deuteronomy 18:15-18 is also prophetic because Jesus was (and is) Prophet (John 6:14), Priest (Hebrews 3:1), and King (Revelation 19:16).

What Can We Learn from Jesus Being Mentioned in the Old Testament?
We learn a very clear lesson from the many Messianic prophecies in Deuteronomy and other Old Testament books: the Bible is all about Jesus. There is no denying He is the One who redeems humanity from the curse (Genesis 3:14-19). The references to Jesus throughout the Bible are called “The Scarlet Thread,” which traces the story of salvation from Genesis to Revelation. Jesus is the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament—the One who came and was and is to come.

Some people dislike reading the Old Testament, thinking it presents God as cruel. While God’s love may be easier to see in the New Testament, we must read God’s whole Word to understand Him. Looking at passages like this one, we see how it all fits together. God is perfect and holy. His plans and timing are not ours, and we can trust Him. Theologians have a great saying: The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed, and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. We will miss so much of the glory and beauty of Christ if we forego the reading and study of the Old Testament. When 2023 begins, let’s try to find a reading plan that encompasses the whole Bible and, as we begin, pray for the Lord to reveal His perfect and holy nature to us.

Matthias David
Matthias David
Working in His vine, as He does even more at mine.


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