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How to Find Jesus in the Old Testament

finger held to open Bible at a place where Jesus is mentioned in the Old Testament

When Does the Bible Start Talking about Jesus? “In the Beginning . . . ”

We often read our Bibles as if Jesus made his first appearance in this world as a baby in the New Testament. But did he first appear in the book of Matthew? Or is Jesus in the Old Testament too?

The Bible’s witness to Jesus did not begin in the Gospels. In fact, a common thread runs throughout the pages of our Bibles from the beginning of Genesis to the last page of Revelation: Christ.

And for many people, realizing Jesus did not enter the biblical narrative in the book Matthew is the hinge that opens up their Bibles and turns the pages from black and white to technicolor. It takes a bit of digging and an understanding of some basic theological concepts, but it’s well worth the effort—and might just change how you read and study your Bible.

Journey through the Old Testament with us, or skip ahead to any section on this page:

Can We Really Find Jesus in the Old Testament’s Pages?

Yes—he’s all over the place. In fact, more than once Jesus opened what we know as the Old Testament (it was the only Scripture that existed then!) to show his disciples passages that pointed to him. But that’s just the beginning.

New lenses for the old, old story

After Jesus’ resurrection, two of his disciples, despondent over Jesus’ recent crucifixion, were walking on a dusty road to a town outside of Jerusalem called Emmaus. Unbeknownst to them, the resurrected Christ joined them on their journey—and soon they were telling this man they did not recognize their story.

At this point, Jesus begins to readjust their focus. Luke 24:27 says that “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself,” and later in verse 44, “‘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’” (emphasis added).

Jesus didn’t start explaining how he was their long-awaited King and Messiah by pointing to the New Testament—it had not yet been penned. He started at the beginning, “with Moses and all the Prophets,” in Genesis. It’s why Jesus said the Old Testament Scriptures “testify of me” and that if the people believed Moses, they “would believe me; for he wrote about me” (John 5:39, 46, emphasis added).

Beginning with Moses . . . in the book of Matthew

The first 18 verses in the book of Matthew also confirm Jesus was present in Genesis—verses that appear to be a long and uninteresting genealogy. But as Christopher J. H. Wright says in Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament, we’ll never really understand Jesus unless we see him through the broader narrative:

We will only understand Jesus properly if we see him in the light of this story, which he completes and brings to its climax. So when we turn the page from the Old to the New Testament, we find a link between the two, which is more important than the attention we usually give it. It is a central historical interface binding together the two great acts of God’s drama of salvation. The Old Testament tells the story [that] Jesus completes.

Consider Matthew 1:1: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” In just 15 words, we learn that Jesus was Jewish, that he was a real man who lived at a specific time in history, and that he descended from the royal line of King David. Perhaps most importantly, Matthew includes Jesus’ relation to Abraham. Any first-century Jewish person would have known the phrases “son of David” and “son of Abraham” hinted at their coming King and Messiah, whom God said in Genesis 12:1–3 would come from Abraham’s family line: “In you [Abraham] all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (v. 3; see also 18:17–18; Acts 3:24–26).

Then, in the first words of verse 18 immediately following that genealogy, Matthew says those centuries of preparation for the Messiah are complete, “the end of the line,” according to Wright:

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way . . .

Israel’s Messiah had come. But his birth is not the end of the story. As Wright says, Jesus is “the end of the beginning, but he is also (looking forward to) the beginning of the end.” We shouldn’t be surprised that God revealed his plan of redemption in Genesis—in fact, he told us so:

I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. . . . My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” (Isa 46:10 NIV, emphasis added)

God’s Messiah is present in the Old Testament “from the beginning” confirmed in the first words of the New Testament. In Jesus in the Bible, Kenneth Boa writes that though the word “Messiah” is not used until much later in Scripture, God begins hinting at a Savior sent from heaven who would “undo the terrible effects of Adam’s choices” in the book of Genesis. Boa writes:

As Genesis unfolds, this deliverer, whom we know as Christ, is said to somehow be the offspring of Eve (3:15). He will come, ultimately, from the line of Seth (4:25). He will be the son of Shem (9:27), the descendant of Abraham (12:3), of Isaac (21:12), of Jacob (25:23), and a member of the tribe of Judah (49:10).

Prophecies about Jesus

According to the Lexham Bible Dictionary (LBD), a prophecy is “an oral, divine message mediated through an individual that is directed at a person or people group and intended to elicit a specific response.” Prophecies can predict or foretell future events or admonish (sometimes these two overlap).

The Old Testament is packed with prophecies about Jesus. Some scholars—like John F. Walvoord in Every Prophecy about Jesus—say there are hundreds of prophecies related to the coming Messiah! Mathematician Peter Stoner states that one person fulfilling just eight of these prophecies is one in 100,000,000,000,000,000. The probability of one person fulfilling all of the prophecies about Jesus the Old Testament? A lot more zeros.

Here’s just a smattering.

The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem

“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” (Mic 5:2)

See: Matthew 2:1–7; John 7:42; Luke 2:4–7

The Messiah would be from the tribe of Judah

“The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” (Gen 49:10)

See: Matthew 1:1–6; Luke 3:31–34

The Messiah would enter Jerusalem on a colt

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zech 9:9)

See: Matthew 21:6–11

The Messiah would be betrayed by a friend

“Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.” (Ps 41:9; see also Ps 55:12–14)

See: Matthew 10:4; 26:49–50; John 13:21

The Messiah would be crucified—his hands and feet pierced

“For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet.” (Ps 22:16)

See: John 19:28

The Messiah would be raised from the dead

“For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.” (Ps 16:10; see also Isa 53:9–10)

See: Matthew 28:1–20; Acts 2:23–36; 1 Cor 11:4–6

What Typology Is and Why It Matters

Throughout the Bible, pictures, patterns, and symbols “foreshadow” or point to New Testament truth and knit the salvation narrative together. This is called “typology.”

Lexham Bible Dictionary (LBD) defines “typology” as “A literary hermeneutical device in which a person, event, or institution in the Old Testament is understood to correspond with a person, event, or institution in the New Testament.” The word comes from the Greek word τύπος (Typos), according to LBD, which refers to making an image on a coin or statue but can also be translated as “example.” The New Testament communicates this idea with other words, like “shadow” (see Exod 8:5; Colossians 2:16–17; Heb 10:1).

It’s one way God as master storyteller connects the Old and New Testaments to help us understand who Jesus is—and that he is present from the beginning—says Christopher Wright in Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament.

More simply, typology is like visual theology, or what David Murray calls in his book Jesus on Every Page, “picture-ology.” Just as photographs help us remember and learn from the past but also help us look forward with hope for what’s to come, Murray says typology helps us see God’s faithfulness to his promises in the past and be assured of what he tells us is ahead.

These Old Testament “types” refer to people, objects, events, and institutions also found in the New Testament through corresponding “antitypes” (from the Greek prefix anti-, meaning “corresponding” or “opposite”).

Finding Jesus in Old Testament Pictures and Patterns

People

Jonah

God told Jonah to go to the gentile Assyrian nation of Nineveh and call the people to repentance (Jonah 1:1; 3:1–2). He initially rebelled, hopped on a ship to Tarshish, was thrown overboard by shipmates (1:12), and was swallowed by a great fish for three days (2:1). On the third day, Jonah was “resurrected” and spit out, and he continued on his mission to call the Assyrians to repentance and salvation. Jesus was called to preach the kingdom of God to both Jews and gentiles, was entombed and resurrected to life on the third day (Matt 17:23; see also Matt 20:19; 28:1–10; Mark 9:31; Luke 11; and others), and commissioned his disciples to continue preaching repentance and salvation.

Moses

Moses was a “type” of prophet and leader of Israel ultimately fulfilled in the “antitype” of Jesus (see Deut 18:15; Heb 1:1–2:4).

David

King David was a shepherd-king (type) who ruled with justice and righteousness, like Jesus (see Isa. 9:6–7; Jer 23:5; John 10).

Adam

Paul says Adam is “a type of him who was to come” (type; Rom 5:14). Both Adam and Jesus entered the world as sinless men. But while Adam is the head of the old creation (type), Boa says Christ is the head of a new creation (antitype). It’s why Paul could declare in 1 Corinthians 15:45, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”

Other people in the Old Testament that reveal Jesus: Noah, Job, Melchizedek, the angel of the Lord, the judges, Joseph, Solomon, Elijah, the King of Isaiah’s temple vision

Events

Noah’s flood

The flood (type) prefigured baptism (antitype; see 1 Pet 3:20–22). But according to Jesus, it also foreshadows the final judgment, comparing the days before his return (Matt 24:37–41) to “the days of Noah.”

The sacrifice of Isaac

Genesis says Isaac was Abraham’s “only son” (21:3; 22:2; see also Matt 1:1) whom Abraham obediently offered as a sacrifice to God in the land of Moriah (22:2). Isaac carried the wood for his own sacrifice (22:6), was “bound” on the wood he carried (22:6, 9), and was “given back” to his father on the third day (22:4). Isaac foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus (the antitype; see Matt 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:33; John 11:50; 19:17–18), who was God’s “only son” (see John 1:14, 18, 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9), the “son of Abraham” (Matt 1:1). Jesus was also sacrificed in the land of Moriah in Jerusalem (Matt 16:21–23) on wood he carried (the cross; see John 19:17) and was resurrected on the third day (Matt 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; Mark 9:31; 10:34; Luke 9:22; 18:22; 24:7, 44-47; Acts 10:40; 1 Cor 15:4).

Other events that reveal Jesus: the exodus, the Feasts of the Lord

Objects

Tabernacle

The tabernacle was the earthly place where God dwelt while the Israelites wandered the desert (type; Exod 25:8–9), where all sacrifices took place, and where the sinner could approach God through the high priest as mediator. But this portable tent only symbolized God dwelling amid his people. The writer of Hebrews called the tabernacle “a copy and shadow of the heavenly things” because God had said to Moses, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain” (8:5). The tabernacle reminds us Jesus fulfilled the role of mediator between God and man (antitype; see also the Feast of Tabernacles below).

Manna and water from the rock

God sustained his people with manna (the bread from heaven) and water (Exod 15–18) as they wandered the desert (type), but these merely foreshadow the true Bread of Life and Living Water—Jesus, who alone can quench one’s spiritual hunger and thirst forever (John 6:31–35, 48–63; 1 Cor 10:3–4; again, see also the Feast of Tabernacles below).

Solomon’s Temple

After Moses brought the people through the Red Sea, God instructed them to build a sanctuary in the “place that the Lord your God will choose” (Deut 12:10–18; see also 1 Kings 6:1–38; 2 Chron 3:1–14). Initially, this was the tabernacle in the desert (see above), but Moses’ words pointed to a permanent sanctuary King Solomon, David’s son, would build once Israel was safe from her enemies, located on Mount Moriah in Zion (Jerusalem; see 2 Chron 3:1). Solomon’s Temple (also known as the first temple) was the literal place God’s presence would dwell, where he would “sit enthroned” (Ps 132:13–14). However, this temple was only the shadow of a spiritual, heavenly temple, spoken of in both the Old and New Testaments (Exod 24:9–10; Ps 11:4; 23:6; 27:4–6; 138:2; Isa 6:1–5; Ezek 1:1–28; Heb 9:1, 11). God’s dwelling place—the spiritual, eternal temple—is in “heaven itself” (Heb 9:24). Jesus referenced his body as the temple in John 2:19, and Paul said that ultimately, God’s temple is his people (1 Cor 3:16–17).

Other objects that reveal Jesus: articles in the tabernacle (like the veil and the table of shewbread), the Rock in the wilderness, the burning bush, the temple, the ark of the covenant, the Mercy Seat, Moses’ staff

Institutions

The sacrificial system

God required the Israelites to perform regular sacrifices ( type) to cover sin and receive forgiveness (see Lev 4:20). But these sacrifices only reminded people of their sin and temporarily covered it—they did not remove sin permanently (9:10). The writer of Hebrews calls this Old Testament system a mere shadow of the reality found in Christ (antitype; Heb 10:1; see also the Day of Atonement below). Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice cleansed the conscience from sin (10:12) and removed it “as far as the east is from the west” (Ps 103:12).

Hundreds of other shadows of Jesus are sprinkled throughout the Old Testament and find their fulfillment in the New. These types and antitypes of Christ help us see the “link” between both Testaments and that Messiah Jesus was indeed present from the first words of Genesis.

Best Commentaries on Jesus in the Old Testament

Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Complete Set Updated Edition (ACCS) (29 vols.)

Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Complete Set Updated Edition (ACCS) (29 vols.)

In the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (ACCS), the vast array of writings from the Church Fathers—including many that are available only in the ancient languages—have been combed for their comments on Scripture. From these results, scholars with a deep knowledge of the Fathers and a heart for the Church have hand-selected material for each volume, shaping, annotating, and introducing it to today’s readers.

Level: Intermediate
Type: Expository
Perspectives: Patristic

Learn more

Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament

Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament

In this volume, G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson bring together a distinguished team of scholars to isolate, catalog, and comment on both the obvious Old Testament quotations and the more subtle allusions found in the New Testament. The result is a comprehensive commentary on the Old Testament references that appear from Matthew through Revelation.

Level: Intermediate
Type: Technical
Perspectives: Evangelical, Reformed

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Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament

Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament

In Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament, Christopher J. H. Wright traces the life of Christ as it is illuminated by the Old Testament. He describes God’s design for Israel as it is fulfilled in the story of Jesus—and according to V. Philips Long, “shows how Jesus himself and the New Testament writers understood and explained his identity, mission, and significance in the light of the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures.”

Level: Basic
Type: Technical
Perspectives: Evangelical, Conservative, Anglican

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Discontinuity to Continuity: A Survey of Dispensational and Covenantal Theologies

Discontinuity to Continuity: A Survey of Dispensational and Covenantal Theologies

In Discontinuity to Continuity, Benjamin Merkle seeks to shed light on key issues in the debate between covenant theological systems and dispensationalism. More light than heat, Merkle’s book will help readers of various persuasions reason with one another around the Scriptures.

Level: Advanced
Type: Technical
Perspectives: Evangelical, Conservative

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Interpreting the Old Testament Theologically: Essays in Honor of Willem A. VanGemeren

Interpreting the Old Testament Theologically: Essays in Honor of Willem A. VanGemeren

Two questions drive the essays in this volume—a tribute to Willem A. VanGemeren—as they address the topic of reading the Old Testament theologically.

  • Christology. If the Old Testament bears witness to Christ, how do we move from an Old Testament text, theme, or book to Christ?
  • Ecclesiology. If the Old Testament is meant to nourish the Church, how do Scriptures originally given to Israel address the Church today?

Contributors share a conviction that Christians must read the Old Testament with a theological concern for how it bears witness to Christ and nourishes the Church while not undermining the basic principles of exegesis.

Level: Advanced
Type: Technical
Perspectives: Evangelical, Conservative

Learn more

Jesus in the Old Testament Feasts

The word “feast” in Hebrew is mo’ed, which means “an appointment.” These feasts were, according to the Lexham Bible Dictionary, “regularly occurring community events that recognized God’s work and presence with his people” and “celebrations of divine provision or protection.” Leviticus 23 lists seven feasts: Sabbath, Passover, Firstfruits, the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles (see also Num 28–29 and Deut 16). Of the seven feasts, Passover, the Feast of Weeks, and Tabernacles required every male Israelite to travel to Jerusalem to worship at the temple and were called “pilgrimage feasts.”

Each feast (type) pointed to the work of Christ at his first coming (antitype)—and some believe they will be fulfilled more completely in his second coming.

Sabbath

Sabbaths were the most frequently observed feasts in Israel, according to Lexham Bible Dictionary. They occurred weekly, monthly, every 7 years, and every 50 years. The weekly Sabbath was a time to rest from work and remember God’s faithfulness in providing and protecting Israel. The Sabbath year required allowing the ground to rest—no fields could be planted (Lev 25:1–7). The Year of Jubilee, celebrated every 50 years, was an occasion to free slaves and cancel debts (Lev 25:8–55). Leviticus 23 lists Sabbath as the first of the seven feasts.

Each of these Sabbaths is a mere shadow of Jesus, our true Sabbath rest. In Christ, we cease trying to earn our way to God, and that is why Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28; Heb 4:1–16).

Passover/Unleavened Bread

In Exodus 12:12–13, God calls Israel to trust him by sacrificing a lamb without blemish and putting its blood on the doorposts of their homes. This act would protect them from the angel of death that killed every firstborn Egyptian son. Jesus’ life was without “blemish” or sin (see Lev. 1:10; 1 Pet 1:19), and his death on the cross as the ultimate Passover Lamb (see Lev 1:10) protected those who believe from eternal death and separation from God. This is why Paul declared that “Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us (1 Cor 5:7).

The Feast of Unleavened Bread occurred the day after Passover in the spring (Exod 13:3–10; Lev 23:4–8) and was a weeklong celebration that consecrated the coming harvest season.

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, all Israelites were required to abstain from anything with leaven (Exod 13:7; see also Exod 23:15; 34:18; 2 Chron 30; Ezra 6:22 ). Because leaven is a picture of sin in the Bible (see Luke 12:1; Mark 8:15; Gal 5:9; 1 Cor 5:6–8), Unleavened Bread pictures what immediately happened upon Christ’s death: Jesus removes the sin of all who trust him as Savior (Ps 103:2). This is why Paul could declare: “Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor 5:8).

(Note: Some scholars separate Passover and Unleavened Bread into two feasts, but others, according to Lexham Bible Dictionary, consider Unleavened Bread an extension of the Passover feast because the two are so closely intertwined.)

Firstfruits

On Passover, the High Priest marked the first sheaf of barley ready for harvest to present as an offering to the Lord for the Feast of Firstfruits (Lev 23:1–14) on the third day—a significant day in the Bible (see Jonah 1:17; Hos 6:1–2). On that day, the priest “waved” that first sheaf before the Lord; the firstfruits of the harvest meant the rest of the harvest would follow.

According to Feasts and Holidays of the Bible, Firstfruits is the most important day of the biblical year because it’s the day of Jesus’ resurrection. It’s a shadow of the reality found in Christ (Col 2:17), who “has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (see 1 Cor 15:22–23). Don’t miss that he is the first “of those who have fallen asleep”—Jesus’ resurrection also points to the promise of a future “harvest” (resurrection) of believers (John 5:28–29). Because Jesus was raised from the dead, Paul says those who trust in Jesus will be raised too (1 Cor 15:23; see also Rev 14:4).

Pentecost

Starting from the Feast of Firstfruits, God commanded Israel to count off 49 days until the day after the seventh Sabbath, day 50, called Shavuot or Pentecost (Lev 23:10). It’s also the day Jews today remember the giving of the law at Mount Sinai, when God spoke to Moses amid fire, the whole mountain shaking. In first-century Israel, Pentecost marked the end of the barley harvest and the beginning of the wheat harvest, remembered Israel’s entry into the promised land, and required firstfruits offerings, says Feasts and Holidays of the Bible. It kicked off the summer months and pointed to a future, more full fall harvest.

While celebrating Pentecost in Jerusalem 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, Acts tells us as all the disciples were together in one place (Acts 2:1–47), the Holy Spirit descended upon them in tongues of fire—the law once written on stone was now written on their hearts (Ezek 26:36; Rom 2:12–16; Heb 8:10). It was the beginning of the future harvest of believers: “Those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41).

According to Jill Shannon in her book The Prophetic Calendar: The Feasts of Israel, these four spring feasts in the Old Testament picture Jesus’ first advent—including his sacrifice, resurrection, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. In the same manner, she posits that the three fall feasts—Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles “create a stunning, three-fold revelation of [Jesus’] return.”

Feast of Trumpets

After the long, hot summer waiting for the fall harvest to begin, God commanded Israel to celebrate Yom Teruah, or the Feast of Trumpets. The feast was to occur on the first day of the seventh month, but because each new month depended on the sighting of the new moon (the darkest day of the lunar cycle when only a sliver of the moon shows), God’s people never knew exactly when this feast would occur (Lev 23:23–25) or the exact meaning—God’s only instructions were to rest and announce the feast with a blast of trumpets. Because Israel was never certain when the feast would begin—and because of the feast’s focus on trumpet blowing—some believe it points to the return of the Lord for his church (1 Thess 4:4–18; see also 1 Cor 15:52; Rev 11:15–11).

Day of Atonement

God instituted the Day of Atonement (in Hebrew, Yom HaKippurim, which means “the day of covering or concealing”) as a day, once a year, when the high priest would sacrifice animals to atone (cover) for the sins of the nation of Israel, the people, and for himself. It was the most important day on the Jewish calendar and was focused on holiness, cleansing, repentance, and redemption. Mitch Glaser writes in The Fall Feasts of Israel that it was the day when “every individual could find forgiveness for past sins and be restored to fellowship with his Maker,” but only until the following year when the sacrifices had to be repeated. The book of Hebrews tells us the “blood of bulls and goats” never did “take away sins” (Heb 10:4). Jesus, as the superior, perfect, holy High Priest (Heb 7:26–28), is the fulfillment of the Day of Atonement, the once-for-all sacrifice that didn’t just cover sin but took it away—cleansing and redeeming the sinner.

Tabernacles

In contrast to the somber Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot in Hebrew) was a feast of great rejoicing. God commanded Israel to construct and live in temporary “booths,” or “tents” for seven days to remember the time when he dwelt in the tabernacle amid his people during the 40 years they wandered the desert (Lev 23:33–43) and he provided for their needs. Because it coincided with the final fall harvest, it’s also called the “Feast of Ingathering” (Exod 23:16; 34:22). This shadow of God’s presence dwelling with man was fulfilled when God once again dwelt with man, born to Mary.

In Jesus’ time, the feast focused heavily on a “water libation ceremony” and the lighting of giant menorahs that shone from within the temple out into the streets of Jerusalem. It’s not coincidental that on the last day of this great feast—the last one before he was crucified the following spring—Jesus referred to himself as “living water” (John 7:37–38; see also Zech 14:8) and “the light of the world” (John 8:12). One day the Bible says Jesus will return to earth. His feet will touch down on the Mount of Olives, and he will battle his enemies victoriously. He will once again dwell with man, and gentiles will celebrate this feast as well (Zech 14:16).

Jesus as Prophet, Priest, and King

In addition to the overarching theme of salvation present in these feasts—and throughout the entire Old Testament—is the concept of Jesus as Prophet, Priest, and King.

The Old Testament is full of stories of prophets who called people to repentance, priests who acted as mediators between God and his people, and kings who either ruled with justice and righteousness, like David and Hezekiah, or unjustly and with evil intent, like Manasseh (Jer 15:4) and Ahab (1 Kings 16:30). Jesus is the antitype, or fulfillment, of those who reigned well.

Jesus as Prophet

A prophet acted as God’s mouthpiece. They indicted God’s people (and entire nations) for sin and called them to repentance (see Hos 14:1–2, Joel 2:13, and others) but also pronounced God’s forgiveness and pardon (Isa 40:1–2). In Deuteronomy 18:18, God told Moses, considered Israel’s greatest prophet, that he would send a greater prophet and that he would “put [his] words in his mouth” and “tell them everything I command him.” Jesus fulfilled that prophecy (see Acts 3:22; 7:37), and by the power of the Spirit, he continues to “convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment” (John 16:7–8).

Jesus as Priest

Sinful humans cannot be in the presence of a holy God. In the Old Testament, priests acted as mediators between God and his people, and through sacrifices and offerings, brought people who were far from God near (type; Lev 1–7). But the writer of Hebrews says Jesus is our mediator, our Great High Priest, who “entered once for all into the holy [heavenly] places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Heb 9:12; see also 4:14). Through his once-for-all sacrifice (Heb 7:25; 10:14), Jesus removed the chasm between God and humanity, “securing an eternal redemption” (see Heb 4:16; 9:12) and lives forever to intercede on their behalf (Heb 7:25).

Jesus as King

In ancient biblical times, earthly kings acted as judges, were warriors, and built temples. They were often known as “shepherds of the people” because they cared for the helpless. But the nation of Israel was different: God was Israel’s King—and passages like Psalm 47:67 affirm the people knew it: “Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm!” (emphasis added). Despite this, Israel demanded a king like the rest of the gentile nations (1 Sam 8:1–5), so God gave them an earthly king: Saul, followed by Solomon and then David—and many others (some good, some bad). Yet these Old Testament kings were only a shadow of Israel’s true King—Jesus, God incarnate, whose “throne is forever” (Heb 1:8; see also 1 Tim 6:15; Rev 15:3).

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12 New Testament Passages about Jesus You Can Also Find in the Old Testament

Luke 24:27

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Find this in the Old Testament: Deut 18:15; Num 9:12; Isa 7:14; 50:6; Ps 22:7–8, 14–16, 18; 41:9; 9:6–7; Mic 5:2; Zech 9:9; 11:12–13; 12:10; and others

Luke 24:44–47

Then he 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, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

Find this in the Old Testament: Isa 53:11; Psa 16:9–11; 103:12; 30:3; Zech 12:10; and others

Romans 9:7

Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”

Find this in the Old Testament: Gen 21:12

1 Corinthians 5:7

Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

Find this in the Old Testament: Exod 12:1–30

Matthew 1:1

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Find this in the Old Testament: 2 Sam 7:5–16; Isa 11:1; Jer 23:5–6; and others

John 9:5

As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

Find this in the Old Testament: Gen 1:3; Isa 9:2; Ps 36:9; 119:105

John 6:35

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

Find this in the Old Testament: Exod 16:4–21; Deut 8:3

Colossians 2:16–17

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

Find this in the Old Testament: Gen 2:2; Exod 20:8–11; Deut 5:14; Num 10:10; Neh 10:31; Isa 1:13–14; Ezek 26:1; 29:17; Hos 6:6; Hag 1:1; and others

Hebrews 10:1

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.

Find this in the Old Testament: Lev 16; 23:27–28; Psa 119; and others

Luke 4:18–20

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.

Find this in the Old Testament: Isa 35:5–10; Isa 61

John 3:14–15

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

Find this in the Old Testament: Num 21:4–19

Hebrews 5:5

For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”?

Find this in the Old Testament: Ps 2:7

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Written by
Karen Engle

Karen Engle is a copy editor for Faithlife. She has a master's in biblical studies and theology from Western Seminary and frequently takes groups to Israel.

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Written by Karen Engle