Christ in the Old Testament

The veil is removed.

The Jewish religious leaders of New Testament times had devoted their lives to studying the Old Testament. In many cases, their motives were noble—a desire to please God and even a desire to gain eternal life. But, however commendable their motives, they had missed the main point, and, one day, the Main Point stood before them and said, “You search the Scriptures because in them you think you have eternal life; it is these that bear witness of Me” (Jn. 5:39).

These words speak to us, too. Do we see Christ as we read the Old Testament? Here’s where to look.


To begin with, we see Christ in Old Testament prophecy. As we read these prophecies, we discover that they focus not so much on future events as they do on a Person. Events are only significant insofar as they speak of Him. (This is why the Bible ignores so much that the world considers crucial yet details events that the world dismisses.) All of history is with a view to gathering all things together in Christ (Eph. 1:10), and, in Old Testament prophecy, we see how God has been inexorably moving world events toward that end.

Prophecies about the coming Messiah are found throughout the Old Testament, not simply in the Prophets. From the Seed of the Woman (Gen. 3:15) to the Sun of Righteousness (Mal. 4:2), all the Old Testament writers give us glimpses of the Coming One.

Old Testament prophecies largely fall into two categories: prophecies about Christ’s first coming as the suffering Messiah and prophecies about His second coming as the reigning Messiah. In the first category, we have prophecies concerning His birth (Isa. 7:14; Mic. 5:2), early life (Hos. 11:1), character (Isa. 42:1-4), ministry (Isa. 61:1-3), triumphal entry (Zech. 9:9), rejection (Isa. 53:3-4), betrayal (Zech. 11:12-13), crucifixion (Ps. 22), resurrection (Ps. 16:10), and ascension (Ps. 68:18). In the second category, we have prophecies about the tribulation (Isa. 24), Christ’s return (Zech. 14:3-8), His judgment (Ezek 20:34-38), and His rule (Ps. 72). Messianic Psalms are a special type of Old Testament prophecy rich in teaching about the Lord Jesus (e.g. Ps. 2, 24, 110, etc.).

Together, all of these Old Testament prophecies provide us with a portrait that proves that the Lord Jesus is the Messiah and reveals His glories to His people.

The Angel of the Lord

We also see Christ in the Old Testament in the appearances of the Angel of the Lord. Just as God has many sons but there is only One who is called the Son of God, so also the Lord has many angels, but there is only One who is called the Angel of the Lord. Time after time, we see the Angel of the Lord identified as God Himself. When the Angel of the Lord spoke to Hagar (Gen. 16:7), we are told that “she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her” (v.?13). When the Angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in the burning bush (Ex. 3:2), we read that it was God who was in the bush (v.?4). Truly this angel is “the Angel of His presence” (Isa. 63:9).

So we see that the Angel of the Lord is God, but how do we know that He is God the Son? To begin with, we see He fills the same submissive role as the Son (Ex. 23:20; 1 Chron. 21:9-17). Secondly, appearances of the Angel of the Lord ceased as soon as the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Thirdly, the Angel of the Lord claims one of the names of Christ: Wonderful (Jdg. 13:18; Isa 9:6).

Lastly, appearances of the Angel of the Lord are manifestations of God, and it is always the Son’s role to manifest the Godhead to men (Jn. 1:18; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3).

Therefore, we can learn of Christ through His preincarnate appearances as the Angel of the Lord. Each such appearance is a picture of His work today. He is still “the God who sees” (Gen. 16:13), the One who has been sent “before you, to guard you along the way, and to bring you into the place which I have prepared” (Ex. 23:20), and the Angel who has redeemed us from all evil (Gen. 48:16).

The Lord

Thirdly, we learn about Christ in the Old Testament as we learn about the God of the Old Testament. The Bible could not be clearer about the undiminished deity of Christ. He is “the Mighty God” (Isa. 9:6) and “in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col. 2:9). As we learn about the Lord in the Old Testament, we’re learning about God the Son just as much as we are about God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. In fact, the New Testament is full of parallels where Old Testament teaching about Yahweh is applied to Christ.

Christ shares the names of Yahweh.
He is the “I AM” (Ex. 3:14 & Jn. 8:58), “the First and the Last” (Isa. 44:6 & Rev. 1:17), and “the Lord of Lords” (Deut. 10:17 & Rev. 19:16).

Christ shares the offices of Yahweh.
He is the Shepherd (Ps. 23 & Jn. 10:11; Heb. 13:20; 1 Pet. 5:4) and the King (Jer. 23:5-6; Jn. 1:49; 12:13).

Christ shares the work of Yahweh.
He is the Creator (Isa. 44:24 & Jn. 1:3), He forgives sins (Isa. 43:25 & Mk. 2:5; Lk. 5:24), and He is the object of worship (Ex. 34:14; Deut. 6:13 & Mt. 2:1-2, 11; 14:33; 28:17).

Christ shares the attributes of Yahweh.
He is unchangeable (Ps. 102:21-27; Mal 3:6. & Heb. 1:10-12; 13:8), eternal (Ps. 90:2 & Isa. 9:6; Mic. 5:2), and
omnipotent (Jer. 32:17, 27 & Mt. 28:18; Rev. 1:8).


Fourthly, the Old Testament teaches us about Christ as it teaches us His names. “His name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6).

He is the Branch who is king (Jer. 23:5), servant (Zech. 3:8), man (Zech. 6:12), and God (Isa. 4:2).

He is the God of Abraham (Gen. 31:42), the Fear of Isaac (Gen. 31:42), and the Holy One of Jacob (Isa. 29:23).

He is Immanuel (Isa. 7:14), the Messenger of the Covenant (Mal. 3:1), the Prince of Princes (Dan. 8:25), the Redeemer of Israel (Isa. 49:7), and the Light of the Gentiles (Isa. 42:6).


Finally, there are a multitude of Old Testament pictures, shadows, and types that speak to us of Christ. Of course, no picture is perfect—they are limited and flawed. But each picture reminds us of some facet of the One who is the object of His Father’s heart. What kind of pictures of Christ do we have in the Old Testament?

There are people who picture Christ:
Adam (Rom. 5:14), Melchizedek (Heb. 5:6), Isaac (Heb. 11:19), Joseph (son, servant, sufferer, saviour), Moses and Aaron (Heb. 3:1), Boaz (the kinsman-redeemer), David (the beloved shepherd-king), Solomon (the wise, glorious, rich king), and Joshua (Hebrew for ‘Jesus’).

There are institutions which picture Christ:
the priesthood (Heb. 5-8), the Levitical offerings (Heb. 9-10), and the cities of refuge (Heb. 6:18).

There are ceremonies which picture Christ:
the Sabbath (Col. 2:16f), the Passover (1 Cor. 5:7), and the First Fruits (1 Cor. 15:20).
There are objects which picture Christ: the brass serpent (Jn. 3:14), the rock (1 Cor. 10:4), the lamb (Jn. 1:29), the Ark, and the Tabernacle.


Have we ever felt that the Old Testament is unimportant for us today? Nothing could be further from the truth! It is a gold mine of revelation about our Lord Jesus Christ.

Are we intimidated by the Old Testament? Do we have trouble understanding it? Is it a closed book to us? Perhaps we’ve forgotten its Key. Focusing on Christ will open up the Old Testament to us. The Scriptures tell us that “until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ” (2 Cor. 3:14).

On the road to Emmaus, two of His disciples were privileged to walk beside Him, and their hearts burned within them as He opened the Scriptures and showed them that the Old Testament is all about Him (Lk. 24:27, 32). We may be thousands of years away from the exposition that took place that day, but the Teacher still walks beside us. He still opens up the Scriptures to reveal Himself to His disciples and, when He does, our hearts still burn within us.