What does the Old Testament contribute to our understanding of the person and work of Jesus Christ? There are those who would say and teach that the OT is unnecessary regarding our understanding of the Gospel. All the church needs, they say, is the doctrine of the resurrection to truly be converted.
However, the Old Testament mightily contributes to not only our understanding of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but also to everything else which is necessary for us to believe in order to be truly converted unto salvation.
We begin with the proto-evangelion which is also known as the first gospel (Genesis 3:15). This verse is the first promise of redemption found in Scripture. Jesus is the seed of the woman (Galatians 4:4) who will destroy Satan (I John 3:8) Noah’s Ark pictures Jesus Christ as the true ark who keeps believers safe from the waters of divine judgment (I Peter 3:20-21). The ram Abraham offered instead of Isaac is a picture of substitutionary atonement which is provided solely through Jesus Christ (Genesis 22:13).
In the Book of Exodus, Jesus Christ became the fulfillment of the Passover Lamb (Exodus 12; Numbers 9:12; I Corinthians 5:7; John 1:29). He is the manna from heaven, the true bread of life (Exodus 16; John 6:32-35). He is also pictured as the water from the rock (Exodus 17:1-6; Numbers 20:1-11; John 4; I Corinthians 10:1-4).
In the Book of Numbers, Jesus is like the bronze serpent who was lifted up (Numbers 21:1-9; John 3:14). From the Book of Leviticus, Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the five major offerings (burnt, grain, peace, sin, and guilt). Jesus Christ is also the fulfillment of the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:7-10).
The story of Jonah, and his three days in the belly of the great fish, is the prophetic picture of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead (Matthew 12:39-41; John 2:18-22).
The Old Testament refers to Jesus Christ in several metaphorical comparisons. These include the following: Jesus is the rejected cornerstone (Psalm 118:22; Matthew 21:42; Acts 4:11; Ephesians 2:20). He is the shepherd of the flock who is slaughtered (Zechariah 11:4-14), the stone cut without human hands (Daniel 2:34-45), and the branch of David and stump of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1-5; Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15; Ezekiel 17:22-23; Zechariah 3:1-8; 6:12).
Jesus Christ is the millennial king (Psalm 72), and the fulfillment of the Davidic kingly line (2 Samuel 7; Jeremiah 30:1-9; Ezekiel 34:23-24; 37:24-25; Hosea 3:1-5). He is the Great Prophet (Deuteronomy 18; Numbers 24:17-19; Acts 3:22-23). Jesus is also the Son of Man (Daniel 7:13-14) who will return on the clouds of heaven (Matthew 24:30; Mark 14:62; Revelation 1:7).
Jesus is from the lineage of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; Galatians 3:16), the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10; Revelation 5:5), and the family of David (2 Samuel 7:12-16; I Chronicles 17:11-13; Matthew 1:1). He was born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) and in the tiny village of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1-6). His birth would provoke violence by His enemies (Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:16-18).
John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus, was also predicted in the Old Testament (Isaiah 40:1-4; Malachi 3:1, 4:1-6; Matthew 3:1-3, 11:10-14, 17:12-13; Luke 1:17; John 1:23). Psalm 69:1-8 predicted the Jesus’ own family would reject Him (Matthew 12:46-50; John 7:1-5).
Jesus is proclaimed to be the incarnate God (Psalm 45:1-7; Hebrews 1:8-9) and the sovereign King and Priest (Psalm 110:1-7; Matthew 22:43-44; Acts 2:33-34; Hebrews 1:3, 5:6-10, 6:20). He would also be cursed (Deuteronomy 21:22-23; Galatians 3:10-14).
Jesus’ return to earth from heaven is predicted in Daniel 9:24-27. Zechariah 9:9 predicts His triumphant entrance into Jerusalem prior to His crucifixion (Matthew 21:1-5).
The Old Testament prophesies the betrayal by Judas (Psalm 41:1-9, 55:12-14) including the amount of money involved and what was eventually done with the blood money (Zechariah 11:1-13). Also predicted was the scattering of the disciples after Jesus’ arrest and trial (Zechariah 13:1-7; Matthew 26:31-56), Jesus’ beatings and abuse in the court of the high priest (Micah 5:1; Matthew 26:67-68), by the temple guard (Mark 14:65) and the Romans (Matthew 27:27-30).
The Old Testament also previews the scene of the cross (Psalm 22) which includes the casting of lots for Jesus’ clothing (Psalm 22:18), the giving Him of sour wine (Psalm 69:21), His legs remaining unbroken (Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12; Psalm 34:20; John 19:31-36), and the piercing of His side (Zechariah 12:10).
Jesus’ resurrection is prophesied in Psalm 2:7 and 16:1-10. Psalm 109:1-8 even predicted Judas’ replacement (Acts 1:20). Psalm 68:18 refers to Jesus’ ascension.
Dr. John MacArthur states, “But nowhere in the Old Testament is the coming Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, more fully and clearly revealed than in the prophecies recorded by Isaiah. Isaiah reveals Him as the incarnate Son of God, Immanuel (7:14; 8:8); the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace (9:6); the Branch (4:2; 11:1); and most frequently the servant of the Lord (42:1; 49:5-7; 52:13; 53:11).
My conclusion is that it is ridiculous to even consider detaching ourselves from the wealth of God’s revelation contained in the Old Testament concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. May we continue to do plumb the depths of this rich testament from God.
Soli deo Gloria!