By: Steve Shirley
Most scholars agree that Jesus appeared numerous times in the Old Testament.
The terms that are used for this are either a: theophany or a Christophany.
Whenever the term "Angel of the Lord" appears it is almost always considered to be the pre-incarnate Christ.
Note: It is important to remember, however, that Jesus is not, nor ever was an angel (see Heb 1). This was simply a term used to describe "an office" He occupied. In fact, Jesus created the angels.
In addition, there are a few other places that many will agree was likely Jesus as well (i.e. Gen 18, Dan 3:24-28).
Could it be that Jesus appeared ALL THROUGH the Old Testament? That is the purpose of this study. It is my belief that He appeared many more times than most people believe or teach. Get your Bible ready, and let me show you some verses to consider.
Question: How were people saved in the Old Testament?
Many people believe that people were saved by sacrifices and keeping the law. The Bible says this is false. You can only be saved by faith and not by keeping the law (Gal 2:16)(Gal 3:11)(Rom 3:20,28)(Acts 13:39)(Phil 3:9), just like us today. They looked forward to the Messiah and his sacrifice for them, and we now look back at His sacrifice.
Many things in the Old Testament also pointed to Jesus such as: The Passover, The Tabernacle, blood sacrifices, the unblemished lamb, manna from Heaven, etc...
Consider this: What if when the Old Testament uses the word "God" or "Lord" it was referring to Jesus in the majority of cases? Could their faith and trust in Him have played a role in their salvation? Let's look at some verses to ponder.
The Bible says that no man has ever seen God (Ex 33:20)(Jn 1:18)(1 Tim 6:16) (1 Jn 4:12). As Christians, we know that Jesus is God (Heb 1:8)(Jn 1:1)(Jn 1:18) (1 Jn 3:16). In fact, many people who deny the deity of Jesus, use the verses that say no man has ever seen God, to show that Jesus could not be God since He was seen by men.
The way most explain this is to say that no man can see God in His glory or His true essence, or see His face (i.e. As God said to Moses in Ex 33:18-23) (Also see: Ex 40:35, 1 Kin 8:10-11). However, the Bible says in other places that God's glory WAS seen (Deut 5:24)(Ex 24:17)(Lev 9:23)(Num 14:22)(Num 16:19,42).
Also, God was seen face to face. In (Gen 32:24-32), Jacob wrestled with God. God told Jacob that he had wrestled with Him in (Gen 32:28), saying, "you have struggled with God." Jacob then named the place where they wrestled "Peniel," which meant the "face of God." because he said, "I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved" (Gen 32:30). (Also see Hos 12:3-4 for more on this) Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy elders of Israel also saw God in (Ex 24:9-11), yet, God "laid not his hand" upon them. We will also see, when discussing the Angel of the Lord, that others believed they had seen God face to face.
So, we have another question. How can the Bible say that no man has seen God's face or glory, and yet in another place say His face and glory HAVE been seen?
Is it possible that there could be a distinction between Jesus and the Father in this regard? Jesus appears to have made this distinction a possibility in several verses. Let's look at 3 of them: (Jn 6:46)(Jn 5:37)(Jn 1:18)
In these, Jesus is saying: "no man has seen the Father."
Clearly, men HAVE seen Jesus:
He was seen in the 40 days following His resurrection.
He was also seen in the New Testament after His ascension into Heaven.
He appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 27:23-24). (Paul called himself an apostle, meaning he had seen the risen Christ, based on this experience.)
Stephen also saw Christ in (Acts 7:38).
Let's now look at some more reasons why I see it as possible that Jesus is the God and Lord that appeared in many places in the Old Testament.
Let's begin with the "Angel of the Lord." Let's turn to (Ex 3:2,4)
Notice: (Verse #2) Angel of the Lord (verse #4) is God.
Continuing on to (Ex 3:14), we see that the Angel of the Lord told Moses His name was: I AM THAT I AM.
Now let's go to (Jn 8:58): Jesus also called Himself I AM.
It is also interesting to note some other parallels between the Angel of the Lord and Jesus.
The Bible says that the Father has assigned all judgment to the Son (Jn 5:22,27).
The Angel of the Lord carried out judgment from God (the Father?) i.e. bringing pestilence on the Israelites in which 75,000 died (1 Chr 21:15-47) (2 Sam 24:16-17) and on the Assyrians in which 185,000 died (2 Kin 19:35)(Isa 37:36).
Jesus gave prophecyto John in the book of Revelation.
The Angel of the Lord delivered prophecy to Zechariah (Zech 1:11, 3:1-6, 4:1-5, 5:10, 6:4-5, 12:8).
Jesus is pictured as carrying a sword (Rev 2:12,16)(Rev 19:15,21)
The Angel of the Lord carried a sword (Num 22:31)(1 Chr 21:16,27,30).
One of the names of Jesus is "wonderful" (Isa 9:6).
The Angel of the Lord said his name was "wonderful" (Judg 13:18)
Jesus received worship (Mt 2:2,11)(Mt 15:25)(Mt 28:17)(Jn 9:38)(Heb 1:6).
The Angel of the Lord (and Captain of the Host of the Lord) was worshipped (Num 22:31)(Josh 5:13-15).
As we mentioned above, several people also realized that when they had spoken to the Angel of the Lord, they had seen God, but they didn't die. Most agree these were appearances of Jesus.
(Judg 6:22-23) Gideon was afraid he would die after seeing the Angel of the Lord because he had seen God face to face.
(Judg 13:20-22) Manoah said after seeing the Angel of the Lord, "We shall surely die because we have seen God."
(Gen 16:13)(NASB) Hagar called the Angel of the Lord who spoke to her "You are a God who sees" and "Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?"
Now let's go to (Gen 22:15-17) and take a look at these important verses concerning the Angel of the Lord.
The Angel of the Lord called Himself Lord, AND swore by Himself. This is something only God can do (Heb 6:13).
If the Angel of the Lord is indeed Jesus, it means Jesus swore by Himself.
Is it then possible that when God swears by Himself in other places in the Old
Testament it is Jesus too, or is it the Father? If it is indeed Jesus, we have even
more examples of Jesus speaking in the Old Testament including:
What makes me think these verses above are Jesus as well? Let's turn to (Isa 45:21-23).
These verses tell us a LOT!
The God who is speaking is a Saviour. We look to Him to be saved.
He is called a "just" God. The word "just" is used to describe Jesus (as God) in the New Testament (Mt 27:19,24)(Acts 3:14)(Acts 7:32)(Acts 22:14) (1 Pet 3:18)(Rev 15:3).
He calls Himself "I AM."
This is the God to whom "every knee shall bow." At whom shall every knee bow? (Phil 2:10) That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in the earth, and things under the earth.
I also believe the Angel of the Lord was Jesus, who made a covenant with the Israelites, led them out of Egypt, and was with them and led them through the desert to the Promised Land. Let me show you some verses why I believe this.
(Judg 2:1)(NASB) Now the angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, "I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land which I have sworn to your fathers; and I said, 'I will never break My covenant with you,
The cloud that led them through the desert apparently was Jesus.
(Ex 14:19) And the angel of God (Angel of the Lord), which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud from before their face, and stood behind them: (We know the cloud was God based on Ex 13:21)
Jesus is also pictured as "coming in the clouds" in the New Testament (Rev 1:7) (Mt 24:30)(Mt 26:64)(Mk 13:26)(Lk 21:27).
In addition, we also have two other excellent verses from the New Testament showing that Jesus was leading the Israelites in the desert. Let's turn to these: (1 Cor 10:4)(1 Cor 10:9).
The first verse (1 Cor 10:4) refers back to the Old Testament verses found in (Ex 17:1-7) and (Num 20:2-13). Did you ever wonder why Moses was not allowed by God to go into the Promised Land? It is because the Rock, from which water came was a picture of Christ. In (Ex 17:1-7), when the people needed water, Moses was told to strike the Rock with his rod, and water would come out. In (Num 20:2-13), when the people thirsted again, God told Moses to SPEAK to the Rock and water would come out. However, Moses in his anger, struck the Rock with his rod again, instead of speaking to it as he was commanded to do. In other words, Moses had symbolically struck Jesus twice, and the Bible says we cannot do this (Heb 6:6). Notice, (1 Cor 10:4) also says the Rock followed them (in the desert). Also, "Rock" (with a capital R)is used in (Deut 32:4,15,18,30-31)(2 Sam 23:3).
The second verse (1 Cor 10:9), refers back to the Old Testament verses found in (Num 20:5-9). What this tells us, is that the Lord, who sent the fiery serpents in Numbers, was indeed Christ.
The Bible also makes it clear that the God who led the Israelites out of Egypt, was the same God who gave the laws and instructions in the Book of Leviticus (Lev 11:45)(Lev 19:36)(Lev 23:43)(Lev 25:42,53)(Lev 26:13,45). (Also see: Ps 105:43-45)
He was the God who gave the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:2)(Deut 5:6).
He was also the God for whom the Temple was built (1 Kin 8:16,21,51,53) (1 Kin 9:9)(1 Chr 6:5)(1 Chr 7:22).
It also seems a likely possibility that Jesus gave new names to four of the main Bible characters. Let's look at these:
(Mt 16:17-18) We know for certain Jesus changed Simon's name to Peter.
(Gen 32:28) Jesus changed Jacob's name to Israel. (We established earlier that He wrestled with Jesus.)
(Gen 17:5) It also seems likely. based on similar encounters with Abraham,
that Jesus changed Abram's name to Abraham (Gen 17:15) and Sarai's name to Sarah.
(More on this below)
Finally, let me give you something else to consider. Several years ago I was taught a way to witness to those who belong to faiths that deny the deity of Jesus. The Bible has a number of verses that clearly point this out, but most in these faiths have heard these verses used before, and have a ready answer to explain them away. However, there is a simple way to demonstrate the deity of Jesus, that they are not prepared to answer. The key is to show verses that describe attributes, traits, and characteristics that are assigned to God, that also apply to Jesus (i.e.as we described earlier, at the name of God/Jesus "every knee should bow").
There are many more of these as well. If these are used to describe Jesus in the New Testament, could they also be describing Jesus when they are used in the Old Testament? I believe this is quite possible, and if so we have MANY more appearances of Jesus in the Old Testament.
Jesus forgave sins: (Lk 5:20-25)(Mk 2:1-12)(Mt 9:1-8)(Lk 7:47-50)
The God of the Old Testament forgave sins: (Ex 21,22)
Jesus is the Almighty: (Rev 1:8)(Rev 4:8)
The God of the Old Testament is the Almighty: (Gen 17:1)(Gen 35:11) (Ruth 1:20-21)(Joel 1:15)(Job 22:17,23,25-26)
Note: The God Almighty gave the new names to Abram, Sarai, and Jacob.
Jesus is the first and last: (Rev 1:17-18)(Rev 2:8)(Rev 22:13)
The God of the Old Testament is called the first and last: (Isa 41:4)(Isa 44:6)
Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords: (Rev 17:17)(Rev 19:16)(1 Tim 6:14-15)
The God of the Old Testament is King of kings and Lord of lords: (Deut 10:17) (Ps 135:2-3)
Jesus is the judge: (Jn 5:22)(Jn 5:27)(2 Tim 4:1)(2 Cor 5:10)
The God of the Old Testament is the judge: (Ps 82:8)(Ps 50:6)(Ecc 3:17) (1 Sam 2:10)
Jesus is "Saviour": (Jn 4:42)(2 Tim 1:10)(Phil 3:20)(1 Tim 4:10)
The God of the Old Testament is called "Saviour" (with a capital S): (Isa 43:3,11) (Isa 45:15,21)(Isa 49:26)(Isa 60:16)
Jesus is the "light": (Jn 1:7-9)(Jn 8:12)(Lk 2:32)(Jn 12:35-36)
The God of the Old Testament is called the "light": (Ps 27:1)(Isa 60:19-20)(Mic 7:8)
Jesus is the "Holy One": (Acts 3:14)(Mk 1:24)(Acts 2:27)(Acts 13:35)(Lk 4:34)
The God of the Old Testament is called the "Holy One": (Ezek 39:7)(Hab 1:12) (Hos 11:9)(Jer 50:29)
Jesus is the Shepherd: (Jn 10:11,14)(Heb 13:20)(1 Pet 5:4)(1 Pet 2:25)
The God of the Old Testament is called the Shepherd: (Ps 80:1)(Ps 23:1)
The Bible also makes it quite clear that Jesus is the Creator of all things.
(Col 1:16) for by him (Jesus: see verses 13-15) were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in the earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.
(Jn 1:3) All things were made by him (Jesus); and without him was not any thing made that was made.
(Heb 1:10) And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands:
(Compare to Gen 1:1: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.)
In the Book of Nehemiah, chapter 9, the people of Israel offered a prayer of confession and worship to the Lord. This prayer summarizes much of what we have discussed here. I believe it ties together many of the verses that we have discussed in the early part of the Old Testament that point to Jesus. Let's start with verse #6.
(Neh 9:6) Thou, even thou, art Lord alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of
heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are within, the seas,
and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven
Note: This prayer certainly seems to start out pointing to Jesus, doesn't it?
Let's continue with the other acts of the Old Testament associated with the Creator in this prayer.
(Neh 9:7) Thou art the Lord the God, who didst choose Abram..., and gavest him the name of Abraham;
(9:8) ... and madest a covenant with him...
(9:9) and didst see the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, and heardest their cry by the Red sea;
(9:10) and shewedst signs and wonders upon Pharaoh...
(9:11) And didst divide the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on the dry land...
(9:12) Moreover thou leddest them in the day by a cloudy pillar; and in the night by a pillar of fire, to give them light in the way wherein they should go.
(9:13) Thou camest down also upon mount Sinai, and speakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, and good statutes and commandments:
(9:14) and madest known unto them thy holy sabbath (Jesus claimed He was Lord of the Sabbath Mt 12:8, Mk 2:28, Lk 6:5), and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses thy servant:
(9:15) and gavest them bread from heaven for their hunger, and broughtest forth water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and promisedst them that they should go in to possess the land which thou hadst sworn to give them.
How big of a part did Jesus play in the Old Testament? It is my belief that He played a much bigger role than most people realize or are taught. In this study, I have given verses from 28 different books of the Old Testament, from Genesis to Malachi, including the first 14 books of the Old Testament, that could possibly point to appearances of Jesus throughout the Old Testament.
There are many faiths (i.e. Muslims and Jews) that do not believe Jesus appeared at all in the Old Testament, let alone the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). What an amazing witnessing opportunity we can have if we are able to prove that Jesus was indeed the God who made a covenant with Abraham, and Jacob (Israel), led the Israelites in the desert, and appeared as God in so many other places in the Old Testament as well!