Exodus Part Three: Deep Dive
CHRISTOLOGY | KATIE HALDANE
As we venture through the Bible, some might find it odd that we are introducing the study of Christ (Christology) here in the Old Testament. Isn’t the first appearance of Jesus found in the New Testament? To this question, I would say ‘Maybe’! Some theologians believe that Jesus appeared as an Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament, and whether true or not we can say without a doubt that He is from beginning to end, He is the Alpha and Omega. Prophetic utterances run throughout the Old Testament and names echo that will be fulfilled in the coming Christ.
Let’s first look at the controversial topic of the Angel of the Lord. Because it can be controversial, I will present a brief summary so you can study the rest on your own if you’d like to. The Angel of the Lord is found in many Old Testament stories, including Genesis 16:7 with Sarah’s maidservant Hagar, Genesis 18 with the Three Visitors, Genesis 22 when Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac, Exodus 3:2 when the Angel appeared to Moses in the flame of fire, Judges 13:2-25 where he appeared to the mother of Samson and finally, in Daniel 3:25 in the story of Shadrah, Meschach and Abednego, with the fourth man walking around in the fire (and ‘the fourth looks like a son of the gods’!). Some theologians believe that these are appearances of God, called Theophany, and others believe that they are, in fact, appearances of Jesus Christ, a Christophany in the Old Testament. Imagine this: Jesus dropping into history to see how everything is going leading up to His coming hundreds of years later. These appearances of the Angel of the Lord only happen in the Old Testament and they stop when Jesus comes to earth in bodily form in the New Testament.
The one thing that we do know is that these were not ordinary angels, because they accept worship and accept the name ‘Lord’. When you study angels, you’ll find they are messengers from God and will not accept worship from humans, but deflect the worship back to God. Have a look at Revelation 22:8-9.
Revelation 22:8-9 And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had shown me these things. But he said to me, ‘Do not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God!’
But the Angels found in the above scriptures accept worship and identify themselves as Lord. What an incredible moment for these Old Testament people, getting to see the pre-incarnate Christ, the hope of their future, the hope of the world and encounter Him before He took the body in flesh on a permanent basis. Whatever you believe about these incredible encounters with the Angel of the Lord, I love that God intervened in people’s lives, encountering them, guiding them and directing the path of redemption for all mankind.
The other thing I want to highlight is the overwhelming amount of predictions of the coming of Jesus Christ the Messiah, who He is and what He will do which echo throughout the Old Testament scriptures. Some say there are hundreds of prophecies that point to Jesus Christ, not just typologies (people that are like Jesus found in the text), but direct promises and prophecies. The promise of a coming Redeemer starts, as we mentioned in the Snapshot, as soon as the Fall occurred in Genesis 3:15, a prophecy that a male descendant of Eve would crush the head of the serpent (Satan), Genesis 49:8-12 tells us he will be from the tribe of Judah, he would be a ‘prophet’ (Deuteronomy 18:15) and ‘king’ (Psalm 72). Isaiah 7:14, 9:6 and Micah 5:2 prophesy his birth, Zechariah 9:9 and Psalm 22: 16-18, Isaiah 53, Isaiah 50:6, Zechariah 12:10 tell us of his life, ministry and death.
Lastly in our quick study of Old Testament Christology, I want to mention Veli-Matti Karkkainen’s book Christology: A Global Introduction. In this text, Karkkainen states that there are names portayed in the Old Testament that find their fulfilment in the person of Jesus Christ. Firstly, the term ‘Christ’. Christos is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word ‘Messiah’, which literally means ‘annointed one’. Karkkainen states ‘While Christos had no special religious significance in Greek culture prior to the influence of ancient Jewish and Christian usage, it had a special religious meaning in the Old Testament. The Old Testament contains three categories of persons who are anointed with oil and appointed to a specific task: prophets, priests and kings’. He continues ‘the idea of messiahship was related to the future of Israel, her deliverance from foreign tyranny, and the introduction of a righteous rule’. Jesus fulfilled this name, not the way they thought He would but in that all power and authority was given to the Messiah, giving us freedom from all tyranny and He has righteous rule once and for all.
The next term that we find in the Old Testament fulfilled in Christ is ‘Son of God’. It’s basic meaning in the Old Testament is ‘belonging to God’, as in the case of the people of Israel (Exodus 4:22) or King David (2 Samuel 7:14). Karkkainen states that ‘the concept of sonship carries a variety of meaning, including commissioning to special work, obedience, intimate fellowship, knowledge, likeness, and the receiving of blessing and gifts’. We see this term of sonship in the Old Testament — Jesus is the Son of God fulfilled in the New Testament, a term used over 124 times, especially in the writings of Paul and Hebrews. In Romans 1:4, scripture states that Jesus had been declared the ‘Son of God’ on account of the resurrection.
‘Son of Man’ is another Old Testament term literally meaning ‘Adam’. It is used over and over again in Ezekiel and Daniel. The term is used more frequently than any other title to refer to Jesus in the Gospels.
‘Lord’ in the Old Testament was applied to God, kyrios, ‘Lord’ a highly special name and according to Jewish historian Josephus, the Jews refused to call the emperor by that name even though the emperor at that time was worshiped as a semi-god. Jesus is Lord in the New Testament, even to the point of calling Himself Lord in Mark 12:35-37.
Some other titles in the Old Testament that are conferred to Jesus in the New Testament are ‘God’, ‘Son of David’, pointing to His royal Messiah in the line of David, the premier and foremost king of Israel. Karkkainen states ‘In His person and ministry, Jesus fulfils the promises of God given to the Davidic dynasty in the Old Testament’ (2 Sam 7:12-16).
Well that is a really quick intro to Christology, I hope you have enjoyed our study of Jesus in the Old Testament. Jesus was in the beginning pre-existent and walked the journey of history to His coming in the New Testament. He is the Angel of the Lord, He is the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies, He is the Messiah, Son of God, Son of Man, Lord and King, fulfilling the names of the Old Testament and ushering in a powerful new day!