Jesus shows up often in the Old Testament—not by that name, and not in the same form as we see Him in the New Testament, but He is there nonetheless. The theme of the entire Bible is Christ.
Jesus Himself confirmed the fact that He is in the Old Testament. In John chapter 5, Jesus explained to some religious leaders who had challenged Him that the Old Testament was speaking about Him: “For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me.” John 5:46
According to Jesus, God’s work with man since time began all pointed to Him. Another time when Jesus showed that He is in the Old Testament was on the day of His resurrection. “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” Luke 24:27
Earlier, before His crucifixion, Jesus had pointed to Isaiah 53..
“Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” Isaiah 53:12
He then said…“For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end.”Luke 22:37
By some counts, more than 300 Old Testament prophecies point to Jesus the Christ and were fulfilled by Him in His life on earth. These include prophecies about His unique birth (Isaiah 7:14), His earthly ministry (Isaiah 61:1), and even the way He would die (Psalm 22). Jesus shocked the religious establishment when He stood up in the synagogue of Nazareth and read from Isaiah 61.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” Luke 4:18–21
Another way that Jesus is in the Old Testament is in the form of Christophanies—pre-incarnate appearances of the Son of God. The Old Testament uses the term angel of the Lord interchangeably with the Lord in reference to these visitations. One Christophany is found in Genesis 18:1–33 when the Lord appeared to Abram in human form. Such tangible encounters with deity are scattered throughout the Old Testament (Genesis 16:7–14; 22:11–18; Judges 5:23; 2 Kings 19:35; Daniel 3:25).
But there are even deeper ways that Jesus is found in the Old Testament. These are seen in what we call “types.” A type is a person or thing in the Old Testament that foreshadows a person or thing in the New. For example, Moses can be seen as a type of Christ. Like Jesus, Moses’ birth was significant, he confronted the evil powers of the day, and he led his people to freedom through a miraculous deliverance. The life of Joseph is another that can be seen as typical of the life of Christ.
Many Old Testament historical events double as symbols of what God would do in the future, through Christ. For example, God called Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Abraham uttered these prophetic words in response to Isaac’s question about a lamb: “And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.” Genesis 22:8
God did provide a ram in Isaac’s place, symbolizing what He would do thousands of years later on that very mountain when His own Son was offered as a sacrifice in our place (Matthew 27:33). Events surrounding the sacrifice of Isaac serve as a type of the sacrifice of Christ.
Jesus referred to another event in Israel’s history as a foreshadowing of His crucifixion. In the wilderness, the people following Moses had sinned, and God sent serpents among them to bite them. The people were dying, and they appealed to Moses for help. God told Moses to make a bronze serpent and place it on a pole. All those who looked to it would be healed (Numbers 21:4–19). Jesus alluded to this incident.. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:14–15
God’s design for the tabernacle is another way that Jesus is in the Old Testament. The altar in the courtyard symbolizes the need for Jesus’ sacrifice to atone for our sin. The laver shows Jesus as providing the water of life (John 4:14). Inside the Holy Place, the lampstand is suggestive of Jesus as the light of the world (John 9:5). The table of showbread is Jesus as the bread of life (John 6:35). In the altar of incense is seen Jesus as our heavenly intercessor, continually offering prayers for us (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). According to Hebrews 10, the veil before the ark of the covenant is a picture of Jesus’ human flesh.
“By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh” Hebrews 10:20
The Son of God is not just in the New Testament; Jesus is in the Old Testament, too. Jesus is God’s promised Messiah. From the virgin birth in Bethlehem (Isaiah 7:14; Luke 1:35; Micah 5:2), through the sojourn to Egypt (Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:14–15), to His ministry of healing and hope (Genesis 3:15; 1 John 3:8), all the way through His resurrection (Psalm 16:9–11; Acts 2:31), Jesus the Christ is the theme of both Old and New Testaments. It could be said that Jesus is the reason for the Bible. He is the Living Word. The entire Bible is a beacon that points us to God’s offer of reconciliation, the hope of forgiveness and eternal life through Hm.