The following question just came to my inbox:
Does Jesus Christ show up in the Old Testament? I say NO. He is a New Testament character only. Yes, predictions about a Messiah, but no Jesus. Abraham was justified due to his faith in God. There was no resurrection yet. Others insist Jesus was there. Help, please, and links if possible.
This question reminds me of an incident I experienced years ago at the annual Evangelical Theological Society meetings. The speaker in a parallel session was arguing that the angel of the Lord never refers to the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum was in the audience. After the session I asked him what he thought of the presentation. His answer was memorable: “I don’t know about his Messiah. But my Messiah appeared all over the place in the Old Testament.”
I agree with Arnold.
It is true, of course, that the name of the Messiah is not identified in the Old Testament.
But the Messiah appears often.
How do we know?
The Lord Jesus Himself said, “Abraham rejoiced to see My day” (John 8:56). Abraham was not justified by a general faith in God. He was justified by faith in the Messiah which God promised (Gen 15:6; Rom 4:3; Gal 3:6). That is why Paul and the Lord Jesus can use Abraham as an example of someone who had faith in Jesus for everlasting life.
Of course, Abraham met face to face with Jesus on multiple occasions. “The Lord appeared to Abram” (Gen 17:1). “Then the Lord appeared to him by the terebinth trees of Mamre” (Gen 18:1). “Abraham stood before the Lord” (Gen 18:22) and then bargained with Him about the people of Sodom (Gen 18:23-33).
The author of Hebrews tells us that Moses “refused to be called the son of Pharoah’s daughter, choosing rather to suffering affliction…esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward” (Heb 11:24-26). He esteemed the reproach of Christ. That is, Moses believed in the coming Messiah.
The Lord met face to face often with Moses as well. A lot. He met with Moses at the burning bush (Exod 3:2). The Lord Jesus met with Moses on Mt. Sinai. He twice wrote the Ten Commandments with His finger (Exod 31:18; 34:1; Deut 10:1-4). Moses, Aaron and his two oldest sons, and seventy of the elders of Israel “saw the God of Israel” (Exod 24:10, 11). The Lord met with Moses in the Tabernacle as well (e.g., Exod 33:11). Moses was so changed by meeting with the Lord that his face would shine after each meeting (Exod 34:29-35; 2 Cor 3:7-16), and he used a veil to hide the fading glory between meetings.
The Lord also appeared to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:8-19), the three men in the fiery furnace (Dan 3:25), Isaiah (see chapter 6), and many other Old Testament believers.
But someone might well say, “Yes, the Lord met with people during the Old Testament. But that was God the Father, not the Lord Jesus Christ.” The problem with that view is that the Lord Jesus Christ said, “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (John 1:18). If that is true, and it is, then every appearance of God in the Old Testament was an appearance of the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ. That is, all Old Testament theophanies were really Christophanies.
Clearly God met face to face with many people according to the witness of the Old Testament itself. We know that must be the Lord Jesus Christ and not God the Father who appeared, because the Lord Jesus Himself said so.