Jesus and the Old Testament

As Christians read the Bible,, a key principle to recognize is that the Old Testament points forward to and tells us about Jesus. Why do I say that? Well, because Jesus said it! An important passage on this point is John 5 as Jesus says in v. 39, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,” and later in v. 46, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me” (ESV). Similarly, in Luke 24:44-45 we read that  “Jesus said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures" (ESV).

These verses show us the Old Testament points to Jesus, but we still might ask, “how?” What might come to mind first are the Old Testament prophecies and predictions about what the Messiah would be like. Those are certainly important, but they are not the only ways the Old Testament points to Jesus. Another way Christians have seen Jesus in the Old Testament is through what is called typology - figures and themes in the Bible that point forward to Jesus. Three of the most notable examples of typology are the offices of prophet, priest, and king. We see these three types of figures in the Old Testament, and theologians have long noted how they point us forward to the work of Jesus because he performs the same roles and functions. Perhaps the most concise but thorough explanation of how Jesus performs the work of these figures is found in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, a Question and Answer document written by Reformed church leaders in 17th century England.

23. What offices doth Christ execute as our redeemer? Christ, as our redeemer, executes the offices of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king, both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation.

24. How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet?  Christ executes the office of a prophet, in revealing to us, by his word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation.

25. How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?  Christ executes the office of a priest, in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God; and in making continual intercession for us.

26. How doth Christ execute the office of a king? Christ executes the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.

Therefore, when we see prophets, priests, and kings, we see Jesus. Like the prophet, Jesus shows us the will of God and His plan for our salvation. Like the priest, Jesus make the sacrifice that we need to be right with God, and he prays for us. Like the king, Jesus rules over us and defends us, defeating those who oppose him and those who oppose us.

These three figures - prophet, priest, and king - point us forward to Jesus’s ministry, but they also point us toward the need for Jesus to come. The kings of Israel - even the best - did not rule well and we need a better ruler. The priests of the Old Testament had to offer their own sacrifices, and the sacrifices they offered could give us true forgiveness. The prophets revealed God’s Word but couldn’t get people to obey it.

Take to heart Jesus’s words that the Old Testament points to him; we do not find eternal life by reading, but by grasping Jesus by faith. Reading His Word, both the Old and New Testaments, should push us to place our faith in Him alone.

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