Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament

“The true meaning of Scripture is the natural and obvious meaning; and let us embrace and abide by it resolutely. Let us not only neglect as doubtful, but boldly set aside as deadly corruptions, those pretended expositions, which lead us astray from the natural meaning.”  — John Calvin

This is the third installment (you can read the first and second as well) dealing with the reading and interpretation of the Old Testament as Christian Scripture, and here we will look at the ways in which we can appropriately see Jesus in the Old Testament. The New Testament is clear that all of Scripture is about Jesus, see Luke 24:27, 44; 2 Corinthians 1:20; Ephesians 1:10. Before we look at the appropriate ways, we should make mention of one prominent inappropriate way, allegorizing.

Allegorizing ought to be rejected because it places meaning on the biblical text that is not there. An allegory is something that has a hidden meaning, moral or spiritual. The Reformers did away with allegorizing because there is no hidden “spiritual” meaning waiting to be discovered behind each text of Scripture, because Scripture is clear and contains a meaning apparent by a literal reading of the Bible.

The primary way we see Christ in the Old Testament is through typology. The idea of typology is that God works in recurring patterns throughout history, and past persons and events can foreshadow what is to come. In the case of Scripture, the future reality (Jesus) expresses more fully what was preceded by it in the past. In other words, the Old Testament is full of the anticipation of Christ, see 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11 and Hebrews 8:5. Paul tells us that even Adam was a type of Christ, Romans 5:14.

A great example of typology is the sacrificial system in Leviticus. Israel needed a priest to stand between them and God to sacrifice a blood atonement on behalf of their sins to appease God’s wrath. They had to do this all the time, there was no ‘time-off’ for the priests, and more and more animals had to be slaughtered. Not only this, but the priests needed a sacrifice on their behalf! This is a shadow of what is to come. The priests, and the sacrificial animals are types of Christ.

Jesus is our high priest who continually stands before the Father, He is the final sacrifice, one and done. The sinful Levitical priesthood could not stand before God ultimately, but the sinless high priest can. The blood of animals could not completely satisfy the wrath of an infinite God, but the blood of the God-man can. No one has to sacrifice on behalf of Christ because He is fully righteous.

We know that this is a typology because the letter to the Hebrews says so, “For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever” (Hebrews 7:26-28).

We should never go farther in our interpretation than the Bible does. God’s Word can, at times, seem confusing, but we must remember that our God is not one of confusion and any seeming muddiness is due to the mud in our own eyes.

I would like to recommend a book that can help us engage Jesus Christ in the Old Testament called, Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and find Christ in the Old Testament by David Murray. This book is a great addition to anyone’s study of Scripture. Get it, read it. You can find out more about David Murray’s book at the dedicated site,

Here are seven benefits to reading this book.


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