Four ways the Old Testament points to the Gospel
Living in light of the New Testament, it is sometimes difficult to understand what God was doing in the Old Testament. How was He preparing the world for the coming of the gospel? Should we be able to “see” Jesus in every page from Genesis to Malachi? Is the New Testament just a big 180 from God’s plan, or does the Old Testament naturally lead to the New?
As I have reflected on this, I have observed that there are four 4 key ways the Old Testament points to the gospel of the New Testament:
1. By SHOWING it.
God does not change and so, although the good news about Jesus has not yet been revealed, the principles of the gospel are there in the Old Testament. People are still saved only by grace through faith, not by works. So the Old Testament can show us God and His character, and his gospel message of mercy in the face of judgement.
(1 Timothy 3:15, Galatians 3:1-9)
2. By FORESHADOWING it.
The Old Testament is filled with characters, rituals and events that are revealed to being “types” or “shadows” of the reality that is to come in Christ. Think of the kingship of David, the sacrificial system and the redemption of the Israelites from slavery through the sacrifice of the Passover lamb. This foreshadowing can be more cryptic, but the New Testament illuminates for us where to see them.
(Colossians 2:16-17, Hebrews 10:1-14)
3. By PROMISING it.
God promises, through the prophets, the coming of the Messiah and the good news. This is much less cryptic or subtle. In fact, at times God directly tells us exactly what He plans to do. He tells us He will give us a New Covenant. He tells us He will send the Messiah. He tells us He will establish the Kingdom of God that will last forever. The exact shape of what the coming of the Messiah would look like was only fully understood when Jesus arrived, but he arrived to a Jewish community that had expectations based on what God had promised. Scattered through the Old Testament the prophesies promising the gospel are there and they are many.
(2 Corinthians 1:20, Luke 24:25-27)
4. By NEEDING it.
The Old Testament also expresses the dilemma or the “bad news” that the good news would come to solve. It displays the problem of sin, the reality of judgement, the brokenness of life, the hardness of our hearts, the inability of humans to fulfil the law, the distance of God and the need for reconciliation. The Old Testament at times simply leaves us with a vacuum that creates the longing and the thirst for something better, even if it doesn’t always tell us what that better will be. The Old Testament shows us our need and the New Testament reveals Christ as the satisfaction of that need.