Editor’s Note: The following post is taken from Five Views of Christ in the Old Testament edited by Andrew King and Brian Tabb. Copyright © 2022 by Zondervan. Used by permission of Zondervan. harpercollinschristian.com
My redemptive-historical, Christocentric approach identifies at least seven possible ways of faithfully magnifying Christ in the Old Testament. All seven principles assume that we are reading the Old Testament through the lens of Christ, for only in him are we empowered to see, live, and hope as God intended from the beginning.13
1. See and Celebrate Christ through the Old Testament’s Direct Messianic Predications (P1)
Christ fulfills the Old Testament as the specific focus or goal of direct messianic predictions and redemptive-historical hopes. The Old Testament contains many explicit and implicit predictions.14 For example, Peter agrees that Isaiah’s words directly predict the Messiah: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds we have been healed” (1 Pet 2:24 ESV; cf. Isa 53:5).
2. See and Celebrate Christ through the Old Testament’s Salvation-Historical Story and Trajectories (P2)
Scripture’s entire story line progresses from creation to the fall to redemption to consummation and highlights the work of Jesus as the decisive turning point in salvation history (cf. Luke 16:16; Gal 3:24– 26). Five major covenants guide this story line, each of which finds its terminus in Christ (Adamic/Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, David, new).15 Furthermore, various themes develop or progress as God gradually reveals more of himself and his ways, including covenant, God’s kingdom, law, temple and God’s presence, atonement, and mission. Christ fulfills all of the Old Testament’s salvation-historical trajectories.
3. See and Celebrate Christ through the Similarities and Contrasts of the Old and New Ages, Creations, and Covenants (P3)
Jesus’s saving work creates both continuities and discontinuities between the old and new ages, creations, and covenants. For example, while both the new and old covenants contain a similar structure (i.e., God redeems and then calls his people to obey), only the new covenant supplies free- dom from sin and power for obedience to all covenant members; the old covenant did not change hearts (Deut 29:4; Rom 8:3). Similarly, whereas Adam disobeyed and brought death to all, Christ obeys and brings life to many (Rom 5:18–19). Whereas access to Yahweh’s presence in the temple was restricted to the high priest on the Day of Atonement, Christ’s priestly work opens the way for all in him to enjoy God’s pres- ence (Heb 9:24–26; 10:19–22). These kinds of similarities and contrasts between the old and new ages, creations, and covenants encourage a messianic reading of the Old Testament within the redemptive-historical approach.
4. See and Celebrate Christ through the Old Testament’s Typology (P4)
The author of Hebrews said the Old Testament law was “a shadow of the good things to come” (Heb 10:1), and Paul spoke similarly (Col 2:16–17). In the New Testament, these anticipations and pointers are called “types” or “examples” (Rom 5:14; 1 Cor 10:6) that in turn find their counter in Jesus as their ultimate realization. God structured the progressive development of salvation history in such a way that certain Old Testament characters (e.g., Adam, Melchizedek, Moses, David), events (e.g., the f lood, the exodus, the return to the land), and insti- tutions or objects (e.g., the Passover lamb, the temple, the priesthood) bear meanings that clarify and predictively anticipate the Messiah’s life and work.
5. See and Celebrate Christ through Yahweh’s Identity and Activity (P5)
When we meet Yahweh in the Old Testament, we are catching glimpses of the coming Christ. Recall that Jesus said that “no one has ever seen God” the Father except the Son ( John 1:18; 6:46), but that “whoever has seen me has seen the Father” ( John 14:9 ESV). Minimally, this means that those who saw God in the Old Testament enjoyed preliminary and partial glimpses of his glory (Exod 33:18–23). It also may imply that, at least in some instances where Yahweh becomes embodied in a human form in the Old Testament, we may be meeting the preincarnate Son (e.g., Gen 18:22; 32:24–30; Josh 5:13–15). Additionally, since the New Testament identifies Jesus with Yahweh (cf. Phil 2:10–11; Isa 45:23), when we hear God speaking or acting in the Old Testament as the object of people’s faith, we are seeing the very one who would embody himself in the person of Jesus (see, e.g., Heb 11:26; Jude 5).
6. See and Celebrate Christ through the Ethical Ideals of Old Testament Law and Wisdom (P6)
The Old Testament’s laws and wisdom provide fodder to magnify Christ’s greatness. The Mosaic law pointed to the importance for Christ in the way it identified and multiplied sin (Rom 3:20; 5:20), imprisoned the sinful (Gal 3:10, 13, 22), and showed everyone’s need for atonement. The law by its nature, therefore, predicted Christ as “the end of the law” (Rom 10:4 ESV).
Moreover, as God’s word was made flesh, Jesus manifests in his person the essence of every ethical ideal aligned with Yahweh’s revealed will, and he then imputes this perfection to believers (Rom 5:18–19; cf. Phil 3:9). When you observe how the Old Testament law and wisdom express ethical ideals, know that the justifying work of the divine Son fulfills them all.
7. See and Celebrate Christ by Using the Old Testament to Instruct or Guide Others in the Law of Love (P7)
Jesus came not “to abolish the Law or the Prophets . . . but to fulfill them” (Matt 5:17), and the way he fulfills the various precepts guides our pursuit of love. While old covenant instruction no longer bears direct authority in the Christian’s life, it still indirectly guides us when read through the mediation of Christ (2 Tim 3:15–16). Through Christ, the very texts that used to condemn now lead us in a life of love, and God empowers such love (Rom 13:8–10) by changing our hearts and filling us with his Spirit (Ezek 36:27; Rom 2:26, 29). The Old Testament helps guide our Christian obedience, and every step of this obedience magnifies Jesus’s sanctifying work.
- For more on these seven areas, see Jason S. DeRouchie, “Question 3: How Does Biblical Theology Help Us See Christ in the Old Testament?,” in DeRouchie, Martin, and Naselli, 40 Questions about Biblical Theology, 41–47.
- For a few examples, see Gen 22:17–18 with Gal 3:8, 14; Ezek 34:23 with John 10:16; Micah 5:2 with Matt 2:6.
- See Jason S. DeRouchie, “Question 22: What Is a Biblical Theology of the Covenants?,” in DeRouchie, Martin, and Naselli, 40 Questions about Biblical Theology, 215–26.