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The Old Testament in Relation to the Death of Christ

A. J. Pollock

The Old Testament is full of the death of Christ, in type and symbol and picture. No human words can fully convey how all things looked forward to that event of unparalleled significance. We behold the solemn march through the ages towards that wondrous death with deepening wonder and worship.

And just as all things looked forward to that death, so all things look backward. The death of the Lord Jesus is the moral centre of two eternities, as of all time. Never for one instant will it fade from the minds of the myriads of the redeemed throughout the unending ages.

The Apostle Peter, pre-eminent among New Testament writers for his use of the Old Testament scripture, was singularly impressed with the hope that the death of Christ gave to the Old Testament pages. He likens the Lord to

a Lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was fore-ordained BEFORE the foundation of the world ” (1 Pet. 1:19);

and tells how

the prophets... enquired and searched diligently... searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST, and the glory that should follow ” (1 Pet. 1:10-11).

The Apostle Paul, likewise, emphasizes the glory of a Saviour God. The foundation of this glory could only be laid in the death of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 3 he contrasts the law and the gospel, describing the former as a “ ministration of condemnation ”— a ministration of death,” whereas the latter is a “ministration of righteousness”—a “ministration of the Spirit.

The law had, indeed, its dignity and majesty, as witness the solemnity with which it was inaugurated at Mount Sinai, but its glory was something like that of the stars, which are eclipsed, and fade out of sight when the sun shines in all its strength and splendour. So he writes

For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth ” (v. 10).

And now for one of those surprises of Scripture which so markedly stamp the Book as divine and inspired (Gen. 2:21-25).

This first type of the death of Christ is on the side of God's glory and the fulfilment of His purposes of love, rather than on the side of man's need.

It is given before ever sin came into the world. What mind of man could ever have dreamed of that? It would be judged by men to be a fatal blot, a mistake, a blunder.

Yet so it stands in the page of Scripture, incomparably beautiful, and at once presenting the death of Christ to us in its highest aspect. Before ever sin defiled God's fair creation as far as man is concerned, before ever distance came in, or pain was felt, or groan was heard, or tear fell, or death was known, comes the archetype of the death of Christ.

Adam falls into a deep sleep, a rib is taken from his side, a woman builded, his wife presented to him—picture on the very threshold of time of God's heart yearning for a channel in which to express His love; type, indeed, of Christ and His bride, of Christ and His church—of love bestowed and reciprocated in the closest possible way. Could anything be finer?

We now come to the moment sin came into the world (chap. 3). What consequences were involved when Eve thrust out her hand to take of the forbidden fruit! Sin, sorrow, distance from God, pain, weakness, death, all came in as man fell and became a dying sinner.

But how quickly God goes after His fallen creature! How full of solicitude is the first recorded question He addressed to Adam, “Where art thou?” How quickly He hastened to bring in the remedy! For the first time actual death took place, it was not the death of the guilty sinner, but that of the innocent victims. How else were the coats of skin procured? Our guilty parents were clad in the beautiful skins of those animals that had been slain for them, foreshadowing the death of Christ for us and the fact that every believing sinner is covered before God by all the value of that atoning death. Thus early in the history of the world God would foreshadow that precious death in the aspect that gives the sinner rest and peace and standing in God's holy presence.

Chapter 4 in this opening book of the Bible brings before us Abel's offering, and Hebrews 9:4 leaves us in no doubt as to its typical meaning, and “He being dead yet speaketh.”

Noah's ark (chap. 6) also brings the death of Christ prominently into view. The root meaning of atonement is “to cover.” The word used for pitch, which was used for pitching the ark inside and out, comes from a closely allied cognate word. God told Noah that the end of all flesh had come before Him. Noah was the first to disappear, but he was covered by the ark, and thus was preserved.

In the same way, on the Passover night, the children of Israel were covered in their blood-stained dwellings (Exodus 12).

Time would fail to take up fully and in order every instance of type and shadow and picture of the wonderful death of Christ. They bestrew the sacred page as thick as leaves lie on the ground in autumn.

Take a few thoughts that rise at random. God said to Abraham:

Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah: and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of” (Gen. 22:2).

There is no need to expatiate on its meaning. It is so obvious. It lies on the surface in one sense, yet it is deep as the sea on the other. How full and tender and pathetic a picture is here presented of that death which eighteen centuries later took place in the land of Moriah on the hill called Calvary. In no other way could God's promise of life and blessing for all nations through Abraham's seed be fulfilled save through death, and that the death of the well-beloved Son. Well might the Son of God say, “Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and was glad.”

Take Psalm 22. One thousand years before that cry of unutterable anguish was wrung from the depths of the holy Sufferer's soul we read the very words, as written down by Israel's sweet Psalmist:

My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me ?” (v. 1).

The details of His death here recorded show how full was the mind of the Spirit of God concerning that which was yet future. One detail in particular here shows the omniscience of the Holy Ghost:

They pierced My hands and feet” (v. 16).

This could not be intelligible to the writer or his readers till the death of Christ explained the riddle, for crucifixion, as a punishment, was unknown till hundreds of years later, when it was introduced by the Romans.

Take another instance. When Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal he used memorable words:

And the God that answereth by fire, let him be God” (1 Ki. 18:24).

When he built his sacrificial altar, laid the wood in order, and placed the bullock in his pieces thereon, built the trench and poured twelve barrels of water, more precious than wine after the years of drought, he pictured the death of Christ in a most striking way. There was no affinity between fire from heaven and a water-saturated victims. There was no affinity between the judgment of God and the holy Saviour, nothing in Him to invite wrath, but taking the sinner's place the fire descended, and He bore the judgment, just as the fire descended on Elijah's sacrifice, consuming it, the wood, the stones, the water, the very dust—levelling all to the ground.

The burnt offering, the sin offering, the peace offering, the ashes of the red heifer, the meat offering (including the dying, but excluding the death itself), the great day of atonement—all these in various ways typify the wondrous death of Christ. The Passover, in type the blood shed for deliverance from judgment; the passage of the Red Sea, in type deliverance from Satan's power and the world; the uplifting of the brazen serpent, in type deliverance from sin and self; the passage of the Jordan, in type entrance into the purposes of God. All these take each their proper place in prophetic witness to His death.

Lawgiver, historian, judge, priest, psalmist, prophet, king — inspired penmen all — bring in, in a very full way, the death of Christ.

In connection with almost every page of the Old Testament we can imitate the example of the only man, called in Scripture an evangelist, of whom it could be said:

Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him JESUS ” (Acts 8:35).

But that “same scripture” (Isa. 53) is concerning His death! Blessed, wonderful death of our Lord Jesus Christ—very God and very Man!

To it God owes His chiefest glory, and we our every blessing. To Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

A.J. Pollock