Old Testament Christology

The Greek term "Christos" is purely equivalent to the Hebrew "Messiah," signifying "Anointed One."

The name of Jesus and His title are inseparable. Being thus denominated, Jesus, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world, is the first and principal object of the Old Testament prophecies; He is therein prefigured and promised; expected and desired by the patriarchs; the hope of the Gentiles; the glory, deliverance and consolation of Christians.

The name Jesus, or, as the Hebrews pronounce it, Jehoshua, or Joshua, signifies the Saviour, or the Lord the Saviour. The name applies, in the full force of its signification, to Jesus of Nazareth, who saves His people from sin, death and hell. He is called Christ, or anointed, because He is consecrated by God to His mediatorial office.

In the Old Testament Christ is revealed as the coming God-man, having a most excellent character, about whom all the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets speak, as He himself affirmed (Luke 24:27; John 5:46). In a very real sense, the Old Testament is full of Christ, though oftentimes in a veiled form. But with the full light of the New Testament, by His appearing, then we can read the Old Testament and cannot but be impressed and edified as we see Him there depicted in all His richness. Though the Son was incarnated at least 4,000 years after the Fall, yet all of God's elect knew about Him, trusted in Him, endured reproach for His sake (Hebrews 11:25,26), looked forward for His day (John 8:56), and were justified by Him just as the New Testament saints are (Romans 4:24,25). God's people throughout the ages were dependent on the promised Messiah.

As the Westminster Confession puts it: "Although the work of redemption was not actually wrought by Christ till after his incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefits thereof, were communicated unto the elect in all ages successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices, wherein he was revealed and signified to be the Seed of the woman, which should bruise the serpent's head, and the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world, being yesterday and to-day the same, and for ever" (Ch.8:VI).

A brief look at the various sections of the Old Testament will confirm how valid this affirmation is. The Son appears in numerous prophecies. All prophets before His incarnation were speaking on His behalf; Christ was speaking in and through them.

Before Christ actually clothed Himself with our nature, He made certain appearances (theophanies) in visible form (for instance, Genesis 16:7; Exodus 32:34; 33:14; Joshua 5:13-15).

He is presented to the faith of His people typologically. An impression of Him is made by certain persons (for instance, Adam; Melchizedek), events (for example, anointing to office of prophet, priest and king), institutions (for instance, the seven annual feasts of Israel), places (for example, the tabernacle and the temple) and also objects (the ark, the altar of burnt-offering, and the brazen serpent).

The poetical books are replete with Christ in various ways and means. The Psalms, for instance, are only exhausted when seen as referring to Christ. Though not mentioned by name, His glorious person and work saturate the Songs of worship. Proverbs, which at first glance seems to be a purely ethical book, delineates Christ too (see esp. 8:21-31 and 9:1-12).

If we do not see the golden thread through all the Bible, marking out Christ, we read the Scripture without the key. The Canticle expresses His love for the Church and the response of the bride to the heavenly Bridegroom.

The prophets also saw His glory and spoke of Him (cf. John 12:41). Isaiah reaches such poetic heights in speaking of Christ that he is commonly known as the Evangelical Prophet. He refers to the universal dominion of Christ, the fruits of His reign and His ultimate victory. He is said to establish His kingdom through voluntary suffering and death (chapter 53). In their own ways, the other prophets speak of the Christ, as Peter affirms that they do (Acts 3:22-25).

Jeremiah presents Him as the Lord our Righteousness (23:6); and Ezekiel adapts and develops the theme as the Spirit addresses new circumstances. Christ is described magnificently in chapter 1, and later on as the Good Shepherd (34:23,24, with John 10). Daniel's prophecy is shot through with divine sovereignty. The Son of Man (7:9-14) is none else but Jesus, who is given an everlasting kingdom of righteousness and holiness.

The minor prophets are certainly not lacking in their reference to Christ. Even Jonah, which is a pure historical account, is not devoid of its Christological character. For Jonah himself is a type of Christ (Matthew 12:39). Others, such as Micah, were privileged to give particular details about His coming, such as His birthplace (5:2).

With Zechariah the penultimate prophet comes a spate of Christological predictions. Jesus is variously described as the Source of His people's strength (12:8), the Angel (Malak, Messenger) of Jehovah (12:8,10; 13:7), God's Fellow (13:7), rich in salvation (9:9,10), high priest and king (6:9-15), the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness (13:1), and as the One pierced by His own people (12:10).

Malachi predicts that the results of His coming will be world-wide acknowledgement of Him (1:11), and great blessings for His people (3:10-12).

As the body without the spirit is dead, so the Old Testament is meaningless without Christ therein presented. He being the principal subject, the Old Testament is ever fresh and living because it presents us with the Living Word, who in the fullness of time was made of a woman (Galatians 4:4) "for us men and for our salvation."

Christ in Genesis

Christ is in all the Scriptures. We may discover a relationship therefore between events (Creation, Fall, Flood, Babel Crisis) and characters (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph) in Genesis to our Lord Jesus Christ.


Christ's relationship to creation is that of the firstborn (prototokos) over all of it (see Colossians 1:15). In thus designating him, Paul is not intimating that the Son was the first created being. In the Old Testament, a firstborn son would be the principal heir of an estate (Deuteronomy 21:17).

Used of Christ, the term 'firstborn' means that He has such honour and dignity, not that He was the oldest child in a family. Christ is especially loved by His Father (Colossians 1:13), and all things were created in Him, by Him, and for Him (v.16,17).

Christ is Creator, Sovereign and Owner of all things, and all things will be summed up in him at the Eschaton.


As soon as Adam apostasied from his Creator, the Son of God entered into his role as Mediator, or Second Adam. He was then promised as the seed of the woman that should eventually crush the serpent's head. As the Fall was decreed in God's wise and holy counsel, so Christ was predestined as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. What was lost and forfeited in Adam, Christ will not only regain but elevate to an even higher status. Man, as creature, was made lower than the angels, but will be higher than the angels, in that the elect will sit with Christ on his throne.

Christ's relationship to the Fall is one of Restorer and Deliverer; and also that of Judge of all sinners.


The same Hebrew terms for 'ark' and 'pitch' (with which the ark was covered) are used in Exodus 2:3 for the ark (of bulrushes) that protected Moses, whom God also used to bring forth a new humanity from a world under judgement.

The Lord uniquely specified the design for the building of the ark, the Exodus tabernacle and Solomon's temple. The ark preserved Noah's covenant family through chaotic waters; the latter structures would sustain the later covenant people among the chaotic nations. When the judgement of the global flood came, God preserved his creation in miniature. God's work here was a type of Christ's work of definite redemption (e.g. Revelation 5:9, where Christ is said to have purchased not all, but some from 'every tribe and tongue and people and nation').

The parallelism is seen principally in this: those who were in the ark were preserved (saved); those outside perished. The same happens to the human race throughout history: when the flood and tempest come and the winds beat and blow against each man's house, those who are in Christ will be saved, those without Christ will be destroyed.


At Babel God confused the tongues of men and separated them, constraining them to fill the whole earth. Those ancient people wanted to make a "name" for themselves, with the connotation that they were ambitious for fame and progeny, and wanted to find significance and immortality in their own achievements.

But only God, through Christ (John 5:24) gives an everlasting name as he does shortly afterwards in calling Abraham from the midst of idolatry and giving him promises (Genesis 12:2: "I will make thy name great..."). God grants significance and name to those who magnify His name (Genesis 4:26; 12:8; Isaiah 63:12,14).


Jesus' relationship to the great patriarch is that of Lord and son. He is before him ("Before Abraham was, I am.") and after him, according to the flesh. Matthew's gospel opens by tracing Jesus' genealogy from Abraham onwards, and starts with the statement: "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham."

Abraham's hope was centred in the promised Messiah: "He (Abraham) saw it (Messiah's day) and was glad..." Christ is Abraham's greater son, through whom all believers are blessed (Galatians 3:26-29).


Having already graciously committed himself to Abraham, God tested Abraham's obedience in commanding him to offer his son Isaac on the altar. Abraham displayed his full commitment to the Lord, symbolically receiving Isaac, the child of promise, back from death (Genesis 22:1-12).

This event then typifies the death and resurrection of Christ, for Abraham had received the promise that it was through Isaac that his seed shall be called. Abraham knew that God was obliged to keep his promise, and he knew that a dead Isaac could not continue the covenant line.

Hebrews 11:19 unveils Abraham's secret: he concluded that "God was able to raise (Isaac) up, even from the dead." In God's provision of the ram the sacrifice of Christ is also typified, who died instead of the elect so that they would live (Genesis 22:13,14). "Instead of his son," signifying the substitutionary purpose of the sacrifice, and points forward to the sacrifice of Christ who died in our stead (Mark 10:45; Titus 2:14; 2 Corinthians 5:21).


In general, Abraham is the root of all promise, and the picture of the life of faith; Isaac is a type of the heavenly Man, who receives the bride Rebekkah (the elect church); and Jacob represents Israel as heir of the promises, by grace.

Though Jacob was heir of the promises, and valued God's blessing in a selfish manner, he sought it not by faith, but tried in an evil and mean way to obtain it; first in buying the birthright when his brother was at the point of death; and then, in obtaining the blessing from his father by lying and deceit; a blessing which would surely have been his in God's way if he had waited: refer to Genesis 48:14-20. Jacob being named Israel led to his descendants being called the children of Israel.

They are however frequently addressed as Jacob, or house of Jacob, as if they had not preserved the higher character involved in the name of Israel. In Jacob (and his seed) then, we see most pre-eminently the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who for his (unmeriting) people tabernacled among them, so that the promises of God, in Him, might become yea and amen.


In many respects Joseph is a striking type of the Lord Jesus. He was the beloved one of his father: this with the intimations given to him of his future position, destined for him by God in the midst of his family, stirred up the envy of his brethren and resulted in his being sold to the Gentiles: as the Lord was hated by His brethren the Jews, and sold by one of them. Joseph was accounted as dead. He was brought very low, being cast into prison, under a false accusation against him because he would not sin: his feet were "made fast in the stocks," and the iron entered his soul: in all these circumstances he was foreshadowing the Lord in his humiliation.

On the elevation of Joseph to power he was unknown to his brethren, as the Lord in exaltation is now to His brethren after the flesh. During this time he had a Gentile wife and children and became "fruitful": so while the Lord is rejected by the Jews, God is gathering from the nations a people for His name. Joseph rules over the Gentiles, as Christ is doing now.

Christ in the Psalms

Christ Himself affirmed that He is mentioned regularly in the Psalms of Israel: “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me” (Luke 24:44). He is in the Psalms:

a. As the Good Shepherd.

Psalm 78:52: "But made his own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock. And he led them on safely, so that they feared not: but the sea overwhelmed their enemies."

b. As the Rock of Ages.

Psalm 62:1-2: "Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation; he is my defence; I shall not be greatly moved."

c. As our Light and Salvation.

Psalm 27:1: "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?"

d. As the Bringer of Righteousness.

Psalm 24:5: "He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation."

From Psalms 22 and 69 we may point out many references to the sufferings of the Saviour.

1. Forsaken of God, 22:1; 22:11;

2. Not heard of God, 22:2; 69:17;

3. A reproach among men, 22:6; bearing reproach for God, 69:7, 9b;

4. Despised of the people, 22:6; shame-faced, 69:7;

5. Ridiculed and laughed at, 22:7; 69:11; 69:12;

6. His trust in God mocked at, 22:8;

7. No help from anywhere or anyone, 22:11; not pitied, 69:20;

8. Physical sufferings, 22:14; 22:16b; 69:3;

9. Encompassed by evil men, 22:16; 69:19;

10. Anguish of soul, 69:1; 69:20; 69:29;

11. Overwhelmed with sorrow, 69:2; weeping, 69:10;

12. Hated without reason, 69:4;

13. A stranger to His own brethren, 69:8;

14. Spoken against, 69:12;

15. Offered vinegar to drink, 69:21.

16. Smitten and wounded of God, 69:26.

Gracious attitudes are found in the hearts of the psalmists towards Christ:

1. The Psalmists expressed trust, a godly dependence, upon the Messiah they anticipated (Psalm 23:1-3; 31:1).

2. They also loved Him (Psalm 18:1), and consequently praised Him (Psalm 146:1; 103:1; 147:20).

3. They called upon Him, invoking His Name (Psalm 18:3,6; 20:9).

4. They rejoiced in Him, and found in Him all their good (Psalm 33:1; 32:11; 64:10; 68:3; 97:12).

5. They blessed Christ, and expressed their thanksgiving to Him (Psalm 103:22; 104:1ff.; 105:1; 106:1,2).

Different aspects of Christ's kingship are delineated by the Psalms:

1. A glorious kingship, marked by brilliance, magnificence and excellence: Psalm 24:7-10.

2. An effective kingship of judgement over His obdurate enemies: Psalm 2:11-12.

3. A gracious kingship over his elect church: Psalm 2:6; 48:2; 149:2.

4. An everlasting kingship of righteousness: Psalm 45:6,7; 10:16.

5. A sovereign and supreme kingship over the universe, His created order: Psalm 29:10; 47:2; 47:7; as well as over the spiritual realm, Psalm 95:3.

Psalm 23

"There is no difficulty in ascertaining the person here intended; for the description agrees to no other than our Lord Jesus Christ, who is at one JEHOVAH and the SHEPHERD promised to the fathers" (J.M.Mason).

In Psalm 23, the best-known hymn of confidence in Christ, He is depicted by David's pen as the Lord who exercises care and goodness, the shepherd who abundantly provides for his own. The image of shepherd is inexhaustibly rich. The shepherd:

a. stays with his flock (Isaiah 40:11; 63:9-12);

b. owns sheep who are totally dependent upon him for food and sustenance, as well as for water (v.2).

In the same way, and fulfilling this prophecy, Jesus is revealed as both the Good Shepherd (John 10:11,14) as well as the Great Shepherd of the sheep (Hebrews 13:20), who:

a. promises His continual presence with His people (Matthew 28:20; Acts 18:10; 23:11); and

b. provides them with life and nourishment (John 6:35,53-58; 7:37).

David spoke about the Lord Himself (Adonai), the supreme and only God being his all-sufficient Master. That same title, Lord, is freely given to Jesus Christ, and thus marked out as the same One about whom David sang. David spoke with confidence about his future, in perfect fellowship with His Lord, forever: exactly what Christ promises His disciples (John 14:1ff.).

David of old and we believers right now have the same Despotes over us, Jesus Christ.