Christ in the Old Testament By Rudolph P. Boshoff

1.1 Background

There has been an increasing trend in Christian Scholarship that the Old Testament Scriptures is not a central revelation of Jesus Christ or His divinity. Marcus Borg (2000) evidently finds Jesus to be a sage but not a divine and Bart D. Ehrman (Bird 2014) speculates what it meant when we spoke of Jesus as being Lord over all.

Some evangelical Scholars have been of the opinion that the very central focus of the Old Testament was essentially Jesus Christ. In this study I will show that Scholars affirm how Jesus was significant to the Old Testament context and then press on to look at two key Scriptures that would affirm that very fact. In conclusion, we will show that the story of God was indeed the story of the revealed Jesus Christ. 

 

1.2. Objective and Key Questions

The primary objective in this paper will be to explore the Old Testament references to Jesus Christ. I shall attempt to answer three key questions:

 

  1. What have theologians, both historical and contemporary, taught about Jesus Christ in the Old Testament?
  2. What does Scripture teach about Jesus Christ in the Old Testament?
  3. Based on the evidence of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament, who is he?

 

2. A review of Christian scholarship on the person of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament.

2.1 Introduction

In this chapter, I will show what prominent Christian Scholars believe about the person of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Old Testament. Norman Geisler (2002:7) emphatically states that Christ is the thematic unity of the whole of Scripture and revelation. Even though this chapter will focus solely on how  Christian Scholars evaluate the reality of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament, we recognize that Jesus claims unambiguously that He is the central message of the whole sweep of the Old Testament (Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:39; Hebrews 10:7; Matthew 5:17). This is the central focus that preoccupies these scholars and they look at language, imagery, categories, and the text to answer these questions surrounding prophecy, typology, and Theophany.    

 

2.2 Defining Major Scholarly Views

(a)  Jesus as promised Messiah in Old Testament prophecy.

“Jesus as the coming Messiah” – Richard N. Longenecker (2001:7-8) points to the earliest Jewish Christian community was convinced of the fact that Jesus Christ was the long expected Jewish Messiah. It is important to note that this was a political and nationalistic expectation where Jesus would have been the coming redeemer of the nation of Israel that would rival and ultimately overthrow the then current political system of Rome. There was therefore a prevailing eschatological expectation that was imbedded in the Jewish expectation in where this Messianic figure would ultimately inaugurate the final age and be the deliverer and King for God’s people as the Anointed One (Dan.9:25-26a). Haasbroek (2004:37-38) mentions that this Messianic King’s foundational task would be to restore what Adam lost and He would ultimately bring back creation and God’s people to their intended glory. The Messiah is therefore an actual individual that would be raised by God to a place of pre-eminence with the task and vocation to accomplish this task (Isa.53:4; Luke 2:11). Haasbroek (2004:39-40) points to that fact that Jesus was recognized by His own disciples to be this Messianic figure and the ultimate fulfilment of Gods promise (Matt.16:16; Mark 8:27-31; Joh. 1:41, 11:27).

 

“The Messiah as the preexistent One” – Aquila H.I. Lee stipulates another dimension that is important to our understanding of the Jewish Messiah (2005:100-102). She mentions that that coming Messiah was preexistent. Now this might seem like a foreign idea to contemporary Judaism and the current expectation of the Messiah, but she shows emphatically that there was a common understanding for this to be a reality. Even though some scholars (Dunn 1992:72) hold that there was no conception of a preexistent Messiah prior to the Similitudes of Enoch, Lee notices that the Messianic King was seen as a manifestation and embodiment of a Spirit sent by God. William Horbury (1998:108) urges that the descriptions of this Jewish Messiah were not incompatible with his humanity or position as king and that the portrayals consistently revealed in the Old Testament Scriptures shows the Messiah amongst the ancient Jews as preexistent (Isa.9:5, Mic.5:1). He then (Horbury 1998:169-191) infers from a number of texts from the Septuagint (nl. Pentateuch, Prophets, and the Psalms) that the Messiah was preexistent. He mentions that the Messiah was (a) light: Isaiah 9:1, 5; (b) a divinely sent Spirit: Amos 4:13; Lamentations 4:20; (c) had an angelic character, star: Numbers 24:17, Isaiah 11:1-2; (d) was endowed with the title ‘anotle’: Zacharias 6:12; and was in existence prior to the creation of heavenly bodies: Psalm 72:5, 17; Psalm 110:3).   

 

“The Messiah as Divine regent” – The Messiah was not only held to be the eschatological fulfilment of the Jews or preexistent in early Jewish thought, but the expectation was also that He would be ultimately divine. James H. Charlesworth (1988:132) shows that Jesus refers to God as ‘Abba’, which is deduced from the Aramaic noun, “The Father” (3 Macc.6:3, 8). Jesus implicitly announce that he is not just referring to God as ‘ābînû’ (m.Yom 8.9), which would have been a generic reference to God as the One ordering all of Creation, but, Jesus alludes to God as the actual base of His own self-identity. Even though rare in ancient Judaism, Jesus Christ hyphenates a transcendent quality of Sonship that implicitly reveals the true nature of Him as the expected Messiah. Charlesworth wants us to notice that it is important to note that Jesus did not proclaim ‘Himself’ but rather calls attention to the dawning of God’s ultimate rule and we should be cautious to infer from the Gospels that it readily seeks to identify Jesus as god explicitly in His own self-understanding (1998:135). This is not a point I agree with that we will look at again in chapter 4 of this paper where I will show that even though the authors had a primary concern to show how Jesus fulfilled His demanded function, he was still revealed as divine. The gospels seek to describe a functional revelation of Christ as well as an ontological revelation of Jesus Christ.           

 

“The Messiah as the Only King” – Another aspect that is important is that the Old Testament depicts God to be the Only King and desires universal divine rulership (Psa.145:10-13; cf. 93; 96; 97; Isa.33:22, 52:7). Prolific scholar N.T. Wright (1992:302-307) mentions that there is only One King over all of Creation and that is Yahweh our God (hegēmon depotes). Even though there are kings that are functioning on earth, the kingdom of God, historically and theologically considered, is essential to Israel expectation in their hope that Israel’s god is the only King. The idea of Israel’s God becoming King in the unfolding historical expectation and stipulated traditions is seen manifest in the coming of the Messiah (Wright 1992:307-309). God’s kingdom is fully revealed in the coming of the Messiah inaugurating the Kingdom rule (Psa.110, Isa.9:6) and we clearly notice this is the exact reality of the coming of Jesus Christ in the New Testament (Matt.1:23, cf. Isa.7:14). The coming of Jesus Christ is also the eschatological fulfilment of Israel’s messianic hope and expectations but more so, Gods coming to His people (Wright 1992:310). Richard Bauckham (2008:109) affirms Wright’s point in that early Jewish Israel understood the uniqueness of God to be both the only sovereign Ruler of all things but also the only Creator of all things. In early Christology the Messiah is seated on the divine throne itself exercising divine sovereignty over all of the cosmos (2008:21-22) participating in the unique activity of creation (2008:26).   

 

“The Messiah as the coming Lord” – Stemming from the above-mentioned perspective of Yahweh returning to earth Michael F. Bird (2014:52) writes that Jesus without a doubt knew Himself to be divine. He adds that Jesus as Messiah was conscious that in him the God of Israel was finally returning to Zion to renew the covenant and to fulfil the promise Yahweh made to Israel about a new Exodus. The Isaianic declarations emphatically states that Yahweh will return and rule in Zion to judge Israel’s enemies and to dwell amongst His people (Isa.40:3, 52:7-10).  Bird (2014:55) shows that these motifs are not isolated speculations but also evident in other prophetic books that exemplify the end of Israel’s exile entering a new Exodus where Yahweh will return to Zion to judge Israel’s enemies and dwell with His people (Ezek.34:7-16, 22-24). Jesus fulfils in all these expectations and even believes within Himself that He is finally Yahweh returning to Zion and scriptures like Luke 19 in the New Testament affirms that Jesus as Messiah (Luk19:38, cf. Psa.118:26) is Yahweh returning to Zion (Bird 2014:57). Let us now look at Old Testament typology and the reality of Christ revealed by it.              

 

(b) Jesus in Old Testament typology.

Patrick Fairbairn (1969:42-43) describes typology as the dramatic unity of Scripture by looking at Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament Christian faith foreshadowing God’s revelation in Jesus Christ.  John Walvoord (1969:63) adds to the fact that typology is concerned with (1) typical people; (2) typical events; (3) typical things; (4) typical institutions; and (5) typical ceremonies. Walvoord (1969:64) mentions five points to describe how Jesus fulfils Old Testament typology and we will reflect just on a few of these:

 

(1) Typical people.

Aaron – Aaron was a type that revealed the Christ in the function of His humanity and priestly work. Aaron was man and Christ was truly man acquainted with our human weakness to identifying with us and being our intercessor. As Aaron Christ would become the perfect mediator that would aid all humankind in their stance before the God of Israel. Even though Aaron’s extent of ministry was solely to the nation of Israel, Jesus in the full extent of His grace became the intercessor to all those who are His. The Book of Hebrews gives a clear indication that Aaron was a type of Christ. Aaron was appointed to a Sacred office as Christ to His Priesthood (Heb.5:4-6) and represented ministry in the earthly realm as Christ would be appointed to the heavenly (Heb.8:1-5). Aaron’s duty was to administer the old Mosaic covenant but Jesus would minister the new covenant sealing it in His blood (Heb.8:6). Aaron had to sacrifice as a daily institution but Jesus would offer sacrifice once and for all in His blood (Heb.7:27).

Abel – Walvoord (1969:64) mentions as Abel was slayed for his righteous sacrifice because of the jealousy of Cain, so Christ was slain for the world, because of His righteousness proclaiming the new promise by the religious Jews. The reason God ultimately accepted the sacrifice of Abel was because he offered a sacrificed by faith (Heb.11:4) and so Christ’s sacrifice was accepted. Abel believed what was revealed concerning the sacrifices and offered a lamb as a blood sacrifice in contrast to Cain’s bloodless offering. Abel is therefore a type of Christ in life as a shepherd as well as his manner of sacrifice foreshadowing the necessity of His death. Jesus Christ is presented as the true Shepherd who made a blood sacrifice to God in obedience to the legal requirements of God.    

Adam – Walvoord (1969:64-65) says that both Adam and Christ entered into creation through a special act of God absolutely sinless acting on behalf of those whom God considered in them representatively (Rom.5:14). Adam is the head of the Old Creation but Christ of the new Creation. Adam was disobedient by Christ is contrast as the one who remained obedient to death (Rom.5:12-21). The very terms “first Adam” and “last Adam” are applied to Adam and Christ representing the first representative of God on earth and the future representative of God both in heaven and earth (1 Cor. 15:45-47). There is also a reference to Adam being the husband of Eve as a type of the bridegroom in relation to the Church as the bride.

Benjamin – Benjamin foreshadowed in his two names, two aspects of the person of Jesus Christ in that He would suffer and ultimately be raised to glory. Benjamin’s mother Rachel with her dying breath named her newborn son ‘Ben-oni’, meaning “son of my sorrow.” Jacob, however, named him Benjamin, meaning “son of my right hand.” As Ben-oni, Jesus Christ is depicted as a son of sorrow to Mary (Luk.2:35) and would be subjected to suffering and ultimate death. As Benjamin, Jesus Christ would be “the Son of my right hand” to God the Father (Heb.1). Benjamin was also victorious as a warrior tribe and so Jesus would be victorious overcoming sin and spiritual death for us (Walvoord 1969:65).

David – David is most commonly recognized as a type of Jesus Christ. David is depicted as first a shepherd and then King. David was called by God and was rejected by his brethren having to face danger and threat of death by the then anointed King. In David’s exile, he took a gentile wife and later ruled over Israel in complete sovereignty and power. Jesus Christ is depicted as the great shepherd of the sheep before ascending to the throne as the Messianic King. Jesus was also called by God but rejected by the Jewish religious system and brethren, facing danger and death, because of the claims he made. Jesus also did not come just for the lost sheep of Israel but ultimately brought all those who were lost in even the gentile world unto Himself subjugating them to His rule and authority as King (Walvoord 1969:65).

Isaac– Walvoord (1969:65) mentions that Isaac is regarded as a type of the Church which composes the spiritual children of Abraham (Gal.4:28) which becomes new creatures with new natures as a result of the working of the Holy Spirit of God being redeemed from the old sinful nature [Ishmael] (Gal.4:29). Both Christ and Isaac have miraculous births anticipated in advance being the ‘only begotten’ (Joh.3:16, Heb. 11:17). The Sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis 22 foreshadows the promise of a lamb, Jesus Christ, in which He was our substitute for our sins. Genesis 24 also depicts a type of prophetic picture of the Holy Spirit securing a bride for Christ relating to all the details of the story of Isaac and Rebekah.

Joseph – Joseph’s life is paralleled as a type in numerous instances of Christ’s work and ministry, and his life is seen as one of the most compelling examples of this fact from the Old Testament. Both Jesus and Joseph were born because of special interventions from God (Gen.30:22-24, Luk.1:35). Both Jesus and Joseph were dearly loved by their fathers but hated by their brethren (Gen.37:3-4, Mat.3:17, Joh.3:35, 15:24-25). Both Jesus and Joseph were rejected as rulers over their brethren and robbed of their robes, conspired against and thrown in a pit of death (Gen.37:8, 18, 23; Matt.21:37-39, 26:3-4, 27:35-37; Joh.15:24-25. Both were sold for silver and became servants which was condemned even though they were innocent (Gen.39:4, 11-12, Phil.2:7, Isa.53:9, Matt.27:19, 24). Both Jesus and Joseph were raised from humiliation to exaltation by God, and in their exaltation, even the gentiles were blessed (Gen.41:1-45, Acts 15:14. Rom.11:11-12, Eph.5:25-32). Both finally receive recognition as savior and redeemer [Christ in the future] (Gen.45:1-15, Rom.11:1-27) being elevated to a place of honor and safety (Gen.45:16-18; Isa.65:17-25) (Walvoord1969:66-67).

Joshua – Joshua means “Jehovah saves” and is the equivalent of the Greek name ‘Jesus’. Joshua as a type signifies Christ as being a successor to Moses, Christ succeeds both Moses and the Law (Joh.1:17, Rom.8:2-4, Heb.7:18-19, Gal.3:23-25). Jesus Christ was victorious as Joshua in an area where Moses had failed (Rom.8:3-4) and both Christ and Joshua interceded for their own before God (Josh.7:5-9, Luk.22:32, 1 Joh.2:1). Joshua distributed and allotted land to his people and Jesus Christ allotted gifts and rewards to His Church (Josh.13, Eph.4:11-13) as the ruler of His Church just as Joshua was the ruler of Israel (Walvoord 1969:67).

Kinsman-redeemer – Christ is foreshadowed throughout the Old Testament as our Kinsman-redeemer. He had to be a relative related to the person or inheritance to be redeemed (Lev.25:48-49, Ruth 3:12-13, Heb.2:14-15). Jesus fulfilled this by becoming a man having the sins of the world imputed to him where redemption was accomplished by a payment of the price (Lev.25:27; Rom.3:24-26; 1 Pet.1:18-19; Gal.3:13). Walvoord adds that the entire order of redemption is a prophetic picture of Jesus Christ that would come and redeem the world through the sacrifice of Himself (Walvoord 1969:67).

Melchizedek – Walvoord (1969:68) mentions that Melchizedek (Gen.14) was a King who was blessed by Abraham with a tithe after his conquest with the Kings. So Christ is also a priest forever like Melchizedek (Ps.110:4, Heb.5-7) and he will also be the King of righteousness as Melchizedek’s name foretold bringing forth bread and wine as a sign of the new covenant of his blood.    

Moses – Moses predicts that one will come like unto himself (Deut.18:15-19) where he foreshadows the reality of Christ. Like Moses Christ will be a redeemer and saviours (Exo.3:7-10, Acts 7:25) rejected by their brethren (Exo.2:11-15, Joh.1:11) during a period where they would be separated and redeem a quality people (Exo.2:16-21, 2 Cor.11:2, Eph.5:25-32). Both Moses and Jesus are received by Israel at their second coming (Exo.4:19-31, Rom.11:24-26) being both priests and advocates (Exo.32:31-35, 1 Joh.2:1-2) prophets (Num.34:1-2, Joh.12:29) intercessors (exo.4:19-31, Heb.7:25) and rulers and Kings (Deut.33:4-5; Joh.1:49). Like Christ, Moses died before the Israelites could enter the Promised Land. Now let us turn our attention to events that would foreshadow the coming of Jesus Christ.

 

(2) Typical events.

Clothing of Adam and Eve – In Genesis 3 we see the devastating effect of the Sin of Adam, as a result both Adam and Eve realize their nakedness and god clothes them (v/21). God clothes them because of their physical needs but there is also a deeper reality in that God was foreshadowing a promise that he would supply them complete garments of righteousness that would be wrought through the death of His provisional lamb (v/15-16) as seen throughout scripture (Walvoord 1969:69).

Preservation in the Ark – An extraordinary type is depicted in the judgement of God of humanity in a flood (Gen.6-8). Noah and his family are commanded to build an Ark as a type of refuge to the coming tides that would allow them to escape the coming wrath and destruction of God. Similarly, the arrival of the person of Christ is a sign of judgement on the wicked but secures the place of God’s people in Christ (2 Pet.2:5, 7) (Walvoord 1969:70).  

Deliverance from Egypt – Walvoord (1996:70) recognize that the entire story of Israel being delivered from Egypt being brought to the Promised Land is a type of what Christ achieved for every single believer in his or her salvation. All the elements of deliverance, the plagues, and even the Passover to the crossing of the Red Sea are connected to what Jesus achieved in and through the Cross. Israel is delivered through the same waters that killed the Egyptians; similarly, Christ suffers the death that brings forth our salvation. In the wilderness Israel receives manna from heaven (Exo.16:4) which foreshadows Jesus being the bread of life while the water from the rock speaks of Christ smitten so we can have eternal life (Exo.17:6).   

 

Entrance into the Promised Land – Israel’s crossing the Jordan with its piled up waters into the Promised Land is a shadow of the death of Christ as a means of victory. The Angel of the Lord, which is Christ in His preincarnate form, went before the Israelites and by His power; they achieve victory in their conquest (Walvoord 1969:70-71).

 

(3) Typical things.

Old Testament Sacrifices – The Sacrifices of the Old Testament are clear types of what Christ would suffer as the coming Messiah (Walvoord1969:71-72). Just to mention a few examples; Rosen (2006:32-33) indicates that the Passover lamb was to be one without blemish and we know that the New Testament text reveals the reality that Jesus was perfect and without blemish (Deut.15:21, Isa.53:7; 2 Cor.5:21, Gal.2:20, 1 Pet.1:19-20). The Passover lamb was marked for death and Christ was marked for death (Isa.53:7, 1 Pet.19-20). It was also ordained that none of the Passover lambs bones was to be broken (Exo.12:3, 5) and we recognize that none of Jesus Christ’s bones were broken (Joh.19:32-33). Israel was instructed to consume the lamb with bitter herbs (Exo.12:8) because bitterness speaks of mourning (Zech.12:10) of the firstborns that was slayed in Egypt (Exo.12). The blood of the lamb had to be painted on the doorposts and lintels (v/7) as it resembles the reality of the cross Jesus would die on.     

The Tabernacle – Louis Talbot (1942:11-12) mentions that the tabernacle was a typical presentation revealing a spiritual reality designed by the God of Israel to provide a temporary place of worship for the children of Israel in their wanderings prefiguring the person and work of Jesus Christ. The tabernacle included the service of the high priest and his sons where Jesus Christ is our faithful high priest and his believers are priests. The court and the gate prefigure Christ being the way to the Holy God and the tent of the congregation represents Him dwelling in the midst of His people. The brazen altar foreshadows the cross and the offerings upon the altar Christ as our sacrifice and the laver of brass represent Christ as our cleanser. The golden candlestick shows Christ to be the light and the table of shewbread reveals Him as the bread of life. The golden altar of incense portrays Christ as our advocate with the Father and the Ark of the Covenant and the mercy seat shows Christ as our God at the throne of grace. The Day of Atonement also reveals the cross and Christ returning into His glory. The Shekinah Glory upon the finished tabernacle reveals the favor of God on the temple and foreshadows the presence of God within the temple and Christ.

 

(c) Jesus in Old Testament Theophany.

James A. Borland (1978:9) describes a theophany as “a manifestation of God in visible and bodily form to conscious man perceptible by human senses, before the incarnation” of Jesus Christ. The validity and fact that distinguish theophanies are evident and we will look at the characteristics and facts of Theophanies in the Old Testament.

 

  • The characteristics of Theophanies in the Old Testament.

Borland (1978:17-19) mentions that it is important to recognize that Theophanies were actual and not imaginary that was initiated by God alone. In Judges 13:8 Manoah prayed; “O my Lord, let the man of God which thou didst send come again to us” and Moses inquired to God to “show me thy glory” (Exo.33:18-34:9) but the Old Testament text unanimously shows that God was always the One that disclosed Himself out of His own will. Genesis 12:7 mentions that He “appeared… and said”; “found her… and He said” (Gen.16:7-8). No human petition, prayer, technique, or formula could evoke the presence of God because God’s will revealed His essence and nature where man was the recipient of His self-revelation. Theophanies were therefore always revelatory in that it always revealed something about God or His will to a recipient (Borland 1978:20).

God would declare a promise to a specific individual like Abraham (Gen.12:1-3), Hagar (Gen.16:10-12) and sometimes He would warn or judge as we see with Adam and Eve as well as the serpent (Gen.3:14-19) or Cain (Gen.4:9-12) or Sodom (Gen.18:20-21). At another time God would simply instruct like with Joshua (Josh.5:14-15) or Samson’s parents, Manoah and his wife (Judg.13:3-5). It is important to note that Theophanies were for specific chosen individuals. Many times God would appear to individuals like Adam and Eve (Gen.3:8-19), Cain (Gen.4:9-15), and Enoch (Gen.5:22, 24), Noah (Gen.6-9), and Abraham (Gen.12:1, 7; 17:1-22; 18:1-33), Hagar (Gen.16:7-11), Isaac (Gen.26:2, 24) just to mention a few (Borland 1978:21-22). Another point is that Theophanies were intermittent and did not occur with precise regularity. God appeared as He pleased and there was no hard or fast rule as to these apparitions (Borland 1978:23).

Theophanies were therefore temporal occurrences that were transitory only for a brief period. Gods preferred self-disclosure is ultimately evident in the persona and manifestation of Jesus Christ (Joh.1, Col.2:9-10) as perfect God and perfect man (Borland 1978:25). Theophanies also included auditory perception and were both audible and visible (Borland 1978:26). In Genesis 32:30 Jacob expressed amazement when he said, “I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved” and with God’s revelation of Himself at Mount Sinai (Exod.24:11) there was a very similar wonder at the actual visible and aural experience. Even though these experiences were visible and audible, they varied in form. It is a fact that God did appear (Gen.18:1, 4-8) in the semblance of human form (Gen.18; 32, Exod.24:9-11, Josh.5:13-15, Judg.13:3, 6, 8-11, 1 Sam.3:10, 21) that showed signs of change from time to time to where not even Abraham always immediately recognized his visitor from heaven (Gen.12:7, 17:1-22, 18:2) (Borland 1978:27-29).

Borland (1978:29-30) also mentions that we need to keep in mind that Theophanies were Old Testament occurrences before the incarnation of Christ. There is nothing in the New Testament similarly to these revealed experiences and we know that these appearances were related to the second person of the Trinity as revealed in the New Testament. In the next section, we will look at four Old Testament references that show these apprehensions of God the Son.

 

  • Some Theophanies in the Old Testament.

 

Jacob wrestles with God (Gen.32:24-32).

In this Theophany there is a clear identification of both the form and the person that is Jacob is encountering (Borland 1978:78). This Theophany reveals an appearance of a man and the person is a messenger of Jehovah (Hos.12:3-5). This apprehension of a man asks Jacob his name being fully aware of his promise (v/28). Walvoord (1969:52) indicates that God changes Jacob’s name to Israel, in this culture only God changed names. Jacob was so deeply impressed with this event and was assured that the ‘man’ he struggled with was the place where he saw God ‘’face-to-face’’ and he called the place ‘Peniel’ because he survived (v/30).  Jonathan Stephen (1998:141) mentions here that for Jacob this was the most critical part of his whole experience and in it, God reveals Himself to show himself faithful on Jacob’s behalf. Jacob does enquire of the man to reveal His name, but at the time, it was more then what God was willing to reveal (Stephen1998:142). 

 

Balaam the donkey, and the Angel of the Lord (Num.22:22-38).

Borland (1978:79) mentions that the messenger of the Lord stood in the path of Balaam and mentions that the donkey could perceive him but not Balaam. God opened up the donkey’s mouth (v/28) and the eyes of Balaam (v/31). Both the donkey and Balaam saw an individual who ‘stood’ with a sword ‘in his hand’. These speak of human acts that show that God seems dressed for the occasion to fit the social customs and the circumstances of the particular situation. The angel of God warns Balaam (v/22-35) and even cautions him that what he is about to do is evil in His sight (v/32). God instructs what Balaam must say (v/35) and speaks just as he heard from the man who was God (v/38). 

 

Joshua and the commander of the Lords army (Josh.5:13-15).

Even though this is the shortest theophany in the Old Testament, it is worth noting as it corresponds once more with the two previously mentioned examples that I have given. Joshua encounters a man standing with a drawn sword in his hand (v/13). Joshua immediately inquires of the man if he is for them or against them (v/13). The reply from this man is ‘neither’ (v/14) which seems a bit confusing but the then mentions that He is the commander of the Lords army. Joshua immediately bowed down with his face to the ground (v/14) worshipping asking what the Lord wants from him (v/14). As with Moses at the burning bush when He encountered God (Exod.3:1-15) the commander of the Lord’s army instructs him to take of his sandals as He was in the presence of God and the place where he was standing was sacred to which Joshua complied (v/15). Borland (1979:79) states that Joshua does not use the word ‘Adam’ but ‘Ish’, which clearly denotes a being that appears to be human but do not have a human nature. Joshua’s immediate reaction is worship to which a monotheistic Jew clearly held as only reserved to the God of Israel (Deut.6:4) but interesting to note that this theophany held both the appearance of a man and the designation of God.  

 

Gideon questions the Angel of the Lord (Judg.6:11-23).

The author of the book starts of by attributing personalized traits of a man who ‘sat under a tree’ (v/11) and in his encounter with Gideon, he calls him ‘sir’ (v/13). Clearly, Gideon at first had no idea who he encountered and in this instance thought, he was encountering an ordinary man. He carried a staff (v/21) and spoke (v/12-23) with questions that evoked a deep skepticism in Gideon’s mind (v/13). When the Lord turns to Gideon, he asks for an additional sign to confirm it is God speaking to him (v/17). Gideon brings the Lord a meal in where the Lord stretches out His staff and consumes the food with fire (v/21). Gideon mentions that he had seen the God face to face (v/22) but the Lord immediately gives him peace that he would not die because Gideon had seen him (v/23) (Haasbroek 2004:95).  

 

2.3 Summary

This chapter sets out to show what scholars reveal about what the Son of God was actively present in the combined testimony of the Old Testament. He was prophetically present in the Old Testament and we recognize that he was the fulfilment of the coming expected Messiah. He is also seen as portrayed and signified through the lives and typologies evident in all of the people, places, and prophecies. Lastly, we maintain that the Son did not just exist in the mind of the father but that He was in fact active and communicated directly with various individuals in history even before His incarnation. We can therefore affirm that the reality of the Old Testament is truly given to the Jewish people, and in retrospect for us, to come to the full understanding of the revelation of Jesus Christ who explained that all of the Scriptures evidently speaks about Him (Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:39; Hebrews 10:7; Matthew 5:17). These theological perspectives agree therefore that Jesus transcends both space and time and He seems to be the very central focus of our faith in both the Old and the New Testament. In the next chapter, we will look at a textual analysis that affirms this reality.  

 

 3. A review of Scripture on the person of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament.

3.1 Introduction

In the previous section, we affirmed a definite presence of Jesus Christ as the expected Messiah who was clearly typified throughout the Old Testament and exemplified in theophanies by scholars. Now we will turn our focus to two passages of Scripture and see how they relate to Jesus as God. 

 

3.2 An Exegesis of Daniel 7:13-14.

I have selected the Daniel 7:13-14, since it is the climax of the book where we finally have an encounter with the Son of Man, which is clearly more than just an ordinary man. It is also one of the texts in the Old Testament scriptures that emphatically situates the person of Jesus Christ in a place of clear pre-eminence and Old Testament fulfilment. It reads as follows:

 

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.”

 

(a) “There before me was one like a son of man.”

The Son of Man title existed in pre-Christian Jewish thought and resembled a transcendent redeemed figure whose coming to earth would inaugurate the end of the age (Longenecker 1970:82). This portion relates also to ore-Christian source materials in the first book of Enoch (37-71) and the fourth book of Ezra (13) and affirms the pre-Christian Jewish expectations regarding the Son of Man as the eschatological agent of redemption (Longenecker 1970:83). Hammer (1976:78) holds that this is a man that approaches the Ancient of Days (God) and he is definitely the Messiah. Gowan (2011) notes that the use of fire in this context can signify the presence of a theophany and this can also be a Semitic idiom that means ‘like a human being’ or ‘someone’ but maintains that in light of the New Testament that this refers emphatically to Jesus Christ. This would mean that even from the Enochian Similitudes we see clearly that Daniel’s ‘Son of Man’ is a transcendent and glorified redeemed figure who is exalted above all sufferings (Longenecker 1970:87). Jesus fits perfectly into these categories and the earliest Christian communities affirm that this was in fact Jesus of Nazareth (Mark 14:16-62) and His subsequent crucifixion on the charge of blasphemy by the High Priest (Mark 14:64) affirms He was perceived, yet rejected, as the coming Messiah. Longenecker (1970:92) mentions that for the first Christian community the title ‘Son of Man’ resembled Jesus as the suffering man in line with Daniel’s representation that would be glorified and return to complete the full prophetic picture. Jesus also relates to the Son of Man as being and confirms that ‘No one has ever gone onto heaven except the One who came from heaven-the Son of Man [who is in heaven].’ (Joh.3:13). Jesus clearly relates that him being the Son of man pre-existed with the Father in heaven coming down to be the agent of redemption. He even prayed in John 17:5 that the Father restore Him to the place of glory He had ‘before the world began’ [with you – Greek: ‘papa soi’]. In his exaltation, we can clearly affirm that the Son of Man seated on the divine throne itself (Dan.7:14) receives obeisance and is recognized as the unique Divine Sovereign (Bauckham 2008:171).

 

(b) “Coming with the clouds of heaven.”

In Matthews Gospel Jesus says; “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.” (Matt.24:30) He also mentions that He will ‘come with the clouds of heaven’ (ἐρχόμενον μετὰ τῶν νεφελῶν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ) in Mark’s Gospel (14:62). This passage draws from Daniel 7:13 that states; “And behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like the Son of Man.” Miller (1994:207) mentions that in the ancient world, clouds provided transportation only for deities and Jesus is clearly associating this metaphor with Himself (cf. Rev. 14:14-15). Clouds are depicted in the Old Testament as being Yahweh’s chariots (Ps. 104:3) and God even appears within a thunderstorm (Judges. 5:4). David pleads Yahweh for help, and God arrives upon the cherubim from His heavenly temple (Ps. 18:11) and Nahum (1:3) beholds clouds at the feet of Yahweh in his theophanic vision. Clouds were associated with Yahweh’s judgement (Isa. 19:1) and the prophet Ezekiel records Yahweh coming from a cloud (1:4, 28) where the temple was filled and judgement would be poured out later (10:3-4). What startled the High Priest was that Jesus dared to parallel Himself with Yahweh that would judge the nations.

This was a prerogative that was clearly only central to Yahweh in the Jewish understanding. Yahweh would judge the nations several times in the Old Testament from a cloud-mass (Ezek. 30:2, 34:12; Joel. 2:2; Zeph. 1:15) where His anger would become a dark smoke cloud (Isa. 30:27). France (2002:612) holds that Jesus here declares that in the metaphors ‘sitting’ and ‘coming’ Jesus is referring to one initiative and that is ‘sovereign authority’. The representation of clouds in the Old Testament was clearly connected with eschatological judgement and salvation (Isa. 4:5; Nah. 1:3). What Jesus is saying is in fact justifying the High Priest reply, because He identifies Himself with Yahweh that will stand in complete judgement of the High Priest Himself as well as the whole nation of Israel. Further, makes Himself the spiritual head of the nation of Israel because He was assuming a place of authority over the High Priest who was under the impression that He was judging Him.  Donald Macleod (1998:59) says the fact that Jesus calls for the return with the clouds of heaven is synonymous with his return to the glory of His Father and being the royal, superhuman, and divine, Son of Man clearly lends itself to the idea that He was preexistent and the divine Messiah.          

 

3.3 An Exegesis of Isaiah 7:14.

I have selected Isaiah 7:14 to show that the intention of God in the incarnation of the Messiah was so that He would be a sign of God born of a Virgin being God with us.

 

The passage reads:

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel.”

 

F. Bruce (2008:738) contends that the Prophet Isaiah was referring to a young woman (almâh) or virgin in the time of Ahaz born to his harem or even of Isaiah’s own son born to his wife (Isa.8:1-4). As for the immediate context, this Son would be a sign of God’s presence amongst the nation of Israel and there would be a future expected fulfillment in another Son (Isa.9:6). Matthew immediately mentions that Christ fulfilled this expectation and says that “the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” [Greek – ‘μεθ ἡμῶν ὁ Θεός’] (Matt.1:23) coming directly from Isaiah’s prophecy. In this book there is clear evidence of ‘’double fulfilment’’ where specific texts would be applicable to the immediate context and to a future point of time.

The Prophets Isaiah (9:6) states that ‘a Son will be given’ who will be ‘eternal father’. Oswalt (1986:247) says this phrase must not be taken lightly as this person mentioned in an ancient Near Eastern context contains a clear divine element. Some scholars might think that only an immediate fulfilment would apply to this context, but what we recognize is that Ahaz’s good son Hezekiah was already born at the time of the prophecy and he had other children as well which means that his wife would not have been a ‘virgin’ anymore. The only reasonable explanation was then to understand that this Prophecy was given with an future prophetic intent as well and the context of Isaiah clearly speaks of the Messiah as being send and commissioned by God (Isa.9:6, 11:2).

Carl Nägelsbach (1980:125) says that we should keep in mind that the title ‘Immanuel’ [אֵֽל׃] refers to the Son as a ‘type’ that points to the faithfulness of God and a pledge from God that in His Son’s visitation to His people in the person of the God-man, He would redeem His remnant. Wiersbe (2002:19) mentions that the ultimate fulfillment is of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is ‘’God with us’’ (Matt.1:18-25; Luk.1:31-35). The virgin birth is a key doctrine because Jesus is not born from sinful human flesh but He is born sinless and perfect to be the Saviour of the entire world. Brevard Childs (2001:66) shows that this name does not occur elsewhere in the Old Testament and closely only parallels a Psalm (46:8, 12) that is an expression of trust in the presence of god integral to Israel’s piety. There is a clear application evident within this given text and we can be assured that the New Testament believers had absolutely no reservations to apply this phrase to both the Old Testament context. Ahaz did not accept the sign of God’s presence amongst them and the Jews in the New Testament the sign of the Son in their presence as Immanuel God with us but Jesus bares a clear resemblance to the Messiah predicted in the book Of Prophet Isaiah and is ultimately deemed as the fulfilment of its context (Isa.40-55). 

 

3.4. Summary

This chapter sets out to show that in the Old Testament there was definitely an expectation within the Hebrew text of one to come as the Saviour of all humanity. In Daniel’s vision, He speaks of a figure that would transcend the bounds of just a normal Prophet or human being, approaching the Ancient of Days being accepted and commissioned by Him as the ruler of everything. In the New Testament, the favourite designation of Christ was to title Himself the ‘Son of Man’. Similarly, in the book of Isaiah we find the prophet speaking of events that would inaugurate the favor and direct presence of God amongst Israel. The sign will be that this child will be born from a virgin as affirmed by the voice of the Gospels in latter times. There are numerous passages of Scripture that hints and confirm the expectation of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament and the fulfilment is applied in the new.

 

4. A holistic understanding of the person of Jesus Christ revealed in the Old Testament.

4.1 Introduction

There is a clear indication from the above-mentioned chapters that Jesus was the expected Messiah that was anticipated through prophetic types within the Old Testament text, active within the world through Theophanies, clearly mentioned in the Scriptures. In conclusion, we will show how the Old Testament flows into the New seamlessly.   

 

4.2 The Story of God as the story of Jesus.

N.T. Wright (2000:167) calls for the explicit recognition that when we start with the Old Testament Scriptures and ask ourselves what it might look like if God was to become a man, He would very much look like Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Thinking and speaking therefore of God and Jesus in the same breath are not a category mistake, but simply the realized expression of what the Old Testament predicts and foreshadows. Job (19:25-26) looks forward and says; “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God.” John (1:14) the Beloved writes; “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory.” The only truthful expression to this reality of Christ is found later in the same Gospel (Joh.20:28) when Thomas calls out to Jesus as “My Lord and my God.” [Greek- Ὁ Κύριός μου καὶ ὁ Θεός μου]. Larry Hurtado (2003:53) says the clear accommodation of Jesus as recipient of cultic worship with God is uncontested and was a major development in the practice and belief of the first Christians. When Jesus therefore affirm Himself to be “the Alpha and Omega” (Rev.22:13) we understand that He is calling on the Old Testament to affirm who He was and is (Isa.41:4, 44:6, 48:12). The very identity of Christ hinges on the fact that He was the revealed Lord Yahweh from the Old Testament. We can therefore clearly see that the Worship of God is given to Christ (Isa.45:23, Phil.2:10-11) because He reveals the works of God (Joel 2:32, Rom.10:13) and the glory of God (Exod.33:19, Joh.12:41), being judge as God (Eccles.12:14, Acts 17:31). Jesus has the highest possible position on the throne of God (Dan.4:34-35, Rom.14:10, PSa.110:1, Matt.22:44, Heb.1:3,13) being equal with God (Exod.20:3, 7; Deut.5:7,11; cf.Ps.110:1; Dan.7:13-14; cf.Ezek.1:26-28, Matt.9:3; cf.Mark2:7; 14:61-64; Joh.5:17-18; 8:58-59; 10:27-33; 19:7). Jesus Christ as Yahweh rules over everything (Isa.44:24; Jer.10:16, 51:19; Matt.11:25-27; 28:18; Luk.10:21-22; Joh.3:35; 13:3; 16:15; Acts.10:36; 1Cor.15:27-28; Eph.1:22; Phil.2:10; 3:21; Heb.1:2; 2:8; Rev.5:13) forever and ever (Ps.9:7; 45:6; Luk.1:33; Eph.1:19-21, Heb.1:8). The first Christian community who looked at the Old Testament and identified the fact that this Jesus Christ was both Lord and God gave this seamless reality. Michael J Kruger (2017:144) mentions that the first Christian community could affirm on the authority of the Old Testament that there was One God that was the sole creator of heaven and earth and the same God predicted the coming of the Messiah Jesus Christ. This Messiah was from the seed of David born from the Virgin Mary and was the creator of all things who came into the world as God in the flesh. To those who believe in Him He would grant salvation because of His suffering and vicarious death, burial, and resurrection. In addition, he will one day return visibly to judge both the living and the dead and reward those who faithfully followed Him.   

 

4.3. Summary

To understand the central revelation of the Old Testament Scriptures was to identify the person and work of Jesus Christ within the Scripture. There was no other reality evident amongst the first Christian community and to them the coming of the Jesus Christ was the ultimate eschatological reality fulfilled in the historical person of Jesus Christ. John the Beloved (1 Joh.1:1-3) writes therefore; “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us.”

 

Conclusion.

The primary objective in this article will be to explore the Old Testament references to Jesus Christ. I have contended that the Old Testament reveals a picture of Christ that shows him to be the central pericope as the Messiah, Angel of the Lord and ultimately divine. 

In Chapter 2, I indicated that scholars affirm that Jesus Christ is evident in the Old Testament through prediction or prophecy. He is also represented through the lives and reality of Israel’s everyday life and typology and ultimately was actively involved within the Old Testament through Theophanies. The scholarly consensus is that Jesus Christ was the central theme of the Old Testament scriptures.  

In Chapter 3, I looked at two passages of Scripture that clearly depicts the reality of Jesus Christ. The book of Daniel (7:13) shows Jesus to be the Son of Man Coming on the clouds of heaven. This depicts the Old Testament Christ to be both divine and seated on the throne of authority. I then looked at Isaiah’s (7:14) prophecy that Jesus would be God with us. This has a dual application in that Christ would be a sign of God’s favour and God in the flesh visible to us.

In Chapter 4 I suggest that the story of God revealed in both the Old Testament and New testament Scriptures is one where Jesus’s story is the revelation of God’s story. In effect the Bible is not just the story of man before God, but God coming to man in the person of Jesus Christ.

 

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Bird MF, Evans CA, Gathercole SJ, Hill CE, Tilling C 2014. How God became Jesus: The real origins of belief in Jesus’ divine nature – a response to Bart Ehrman. Published by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Bowman RM and Komoszewski 2007. Putting Christ in His place: The case for the deity of Christ. Grand Rapids, Michigan. Kregel Publications.

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Holmgren FC 1999. The Old Testament and the Significance of Jesus. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999.

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Hurtado LW 2003. Lord Jesus Christ. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids Michigan. 

Kruger MJ 2017. Christianity at the crossroads: How the second century shaped the future of the Church. SPCK Publishers.

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Stephens J 1998. Theophany: Close encounters with the Son of God. Day One Publications.

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__________ 2007. The Wiersbe bible Commentary on the Old Testament. David C. Cook Publishers. 

Wright NT 1998. The New Testament and the People of God. SPCK Publishers.

 

 

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