The question arises, “How do we interpret the Old Testament in such a way that we find Christ in it?” In some ways, the question is a little bit of a misnomer because it gives the indication that Christ is hidden in the Old Testament and must be discovered under the rocks of the ancient Near Eastern setting that we find there. I like to think about it in another way, starting with the Old Testament itself. What I would like to highlight is that in the Old Testament you really do find a constant forward looking, a teleological approach to how God is doing the work of redemption.For the Apostles it is not a problem of finding Jesus, it is not finding Jesus.
Think about the story of Abraham, of course. The promises to Abraham are not promises that will be realized in his lifetime, but they are future oriented. When you read the Old Testament, you realize that it is a story that has not been completed. As the curtain closes on the Old Testament, these questions are left unanswered: how God’s wrath will be satisfied, how his people will be truly restored, how new creation will come to the earth like the prophets talked about it. It is with those questions ringing in our ears that the curtain on the New Testament opens and there is a declaration, now, of a new king, of a redeemer, of a messiah: Jesus Christ.
Why should we be concerned with how Christ is taught, how Christ is revealed in the Old Testament? First and foremost, we should be concerned about that because as soon as our Lord is resurrected, as soon as he emerges from the tomb and the disciples encounter him on that road to Emmaus, that is all he wants to talk about. That is his primary concern.
How do Moses, the Pentateuch, the prophets, the writings, the Psalms, the writings that come after them, and the Hebrew canon anticipate and reveal and speak to the person of Jesus Christ? I think that for the Apostles and the New Testament writers, the person of Jesus, the resurrected Christ, looms so largely in their interpretive hermeneutical imagination that they cannot help but find Jesus throughout the Old Testament.
For them, it is not a problem of finding Jesus, it is not finding Jesus. How do we not see him in the Old Testament? He is, to quote Paul, “The only person in whom the fullness of deity dwells bodily.” As we go back and read the Old Testament in the redemptive historical plans that Yahweh and Elohim of the Old Testament have for his people, we cannot help but find Jesus himself being anticipated, being promised, being hinted at, being adumbrated, and being prophesied about. The Old Testament is full of revelation of the second person of the Trinity.In the Old Testament you find a constant forward looking to how God is doing the work of redemption.
I would encourage you, as you are reading your Old Testament, to not just look for a substitutionary atonement, though that is a major theme that we do see anticipated in the Old Testament. Look for Christ in all his aspects as a mediator. How is he a messiah, Davidic king, coming to restore the kingdom of God? How is he a priest who offers the better sacrifice, the one that does not have to be repeated ever again? How is he the sage who is wiser than Solomon? When we read the Old Testament, in terms of the fullness of the role and the nature of Christ, it gives us a rich, multifaceted, interpretation of the Old Testament that resist repetition. It resists over simplification but opens our eyes to the richness of the gospel that we have received Jesus Christ.