Did You Know Jesus Appears throughout the Old Testament?
- Jason Soroski Contributing Writer
- 2021 27 Jul
The New Testament is an invaluable treasure: the four Gospels recount the life and ministry of Christ, while the book of Acts and the New Testament letters give us a glimpse into what the early Church was like and how we should live. In the New Testament we see God fulfill his promise of a Messiah, and watch a new and wonderful covenant with all humanity begin to unfold. So now that Jesus has come, why do we need to read the Old Testament?
As absurd as it sounds, this sentiment creeps into Christian thought from time to time, and I’ve actually heard it spoken out loud. Yet the New Testament is fully dependent on the Old Testament.
The Old Testament doesn’t merely ‘lay the groundwork’ for the new, but the person of Jesus is visibly present throughout the entire Old Testament account. The ‘story of Jesus’ doesn’t start in the New Testament; it starts in Genesis 1:1 and continues through the Revelation.
In the Beginning
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” - Revelation 22:13
The entire Bible is in essence the story of God interacting with humanity through the person of Christ. Jesus is the beginning, and he was very much present at the beginning of the universe as we know it.
In the very first line of Scripture, we read the words “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” But that is God, right? Where is Jesus? The answer is revealed in the first lines of John’s Gospel, which are stunningly similar to Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). John starts off his writing with this very intentional mimic of Genesis 1, and stating clearly that Jesus is one with God the Father.
He further clarifies this in the next two verses, “2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:2-3).
The idea that Jesus was one with God and acted as the agent of creation has been a core Christian doctrine since the earlier days of the Church. Jesus made no distinction between himself and God the Father, and in doing so places himself squarely on every page of the Old Testament.
The Possibility of Pre-Incarnate Christ
There is a strong argument to be made for ‘pre-incarnate’ appearances of Jesus in the Old Testament, pre-incarnate meaning that Jesus physically interacted with people on earth long before he was born to Mary. Knowing what we know about God and how he acts through the Trinity, this does make a lot of sense.
Jesus in The Garden of Eden
We have already taken a look at how Jesus was present before Creation, but was he actively interacting with that creation early on? In Exodus 33:20, God says to Moses, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” Yet, in the Garden of Eden, we learn that God walked and conversed with Adam and Eve.
This comes after the Fall, when Adam and Eve had eaten the fruit of the tree which they were command against. Following this event, the first people heard what they knew to be the sound of God walking in the garden and hid. This is recorded in Genesis 3:8, “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden”. It could well be that this was Jesus in the garden with them; God appearing in a form which is able to be seen.
Adam and Eve were clearly familiar with the idea of God being in the Garden, and they recognized his voice when he spoke to them throughout the rest of the chapter. We have no previous documented accounts of God walking in the garden and talking with them prior to this, but this exchange reveals that there is a familiarity with both the presence of God and his voice.
They know exactly who he is and they know exactly what wrong they have done. We can only wonder what their previous conversations may have been like!
Jesus Appearing to Abraham
Did Jesus have a conversation with Abraham? Some theologians think so. In Genesis 18, we learn that “The LORD appeared to Abraham” and that this happened while “he saw three men standing nearby.” The passage then goes on to tell us that the three men ate, drank, and allowed Abraham (or one of his servants) to wash their feet. This tells us that these were clearly humans, yet Abraham continually refers to one of them as LORD. When we see the word LORD written in all caps, it represents YHWH, or Yahweh, the personal name of God that was given to Moses in Exodus 3:14-15.
The fact that Abraham uses this name is no mistake, he believes himself to be speaking with God Almighty. This is further confirmed as chapter 18 tells us that the men began making their way to Sodom (v.22), while Abraham stayed and talked with God and asked him to spare the city. This would make God one of the three men, with two going on and God, in human form, staying behind. Chapter 19 begins with two men arriving in Sodom, so this fits the idea that God appeared, in the human form of Jesus, to speak with Abraham.
God Is Capable of More Than We Could Ask or Imagine
We cannot say definitely whether this is truly Jesus appearing in the same way as he does in the New Testament, or if this is another means of God revealing himself to us. What we can say with conviction is that it is more than possible that what we see in these passages is Jesus physically appearing, and that there are several other instances that have the same feel about them.
What does matter is that the incarnation of Jesus is prophesied throughout the Old Testament, his crucifixion is foretold in the Psalms, and that every Biblical account of the Jewish people reminds us that we are in need of a new Adam, a true Savior who can destroy sin and give us hope. In Jesus we find exactly this.
It is encouraging to think that Jesus was not absent throughout Old Testament history, but active and working to bring about our salvation from the very beginning, and I do mean the very beginning!
God has existed as a trinity since before the beginning of time, with Jesus as the perfect human image of what God is like. Even then, he knew that he would one day have to enter the world in the same way that we enter it, walk among us in a new and personal way: by living a sinless human life and bringing about a new covenant that would bring our salvation.
It is difficult to understand--perhaps not even possible--but we can be assured that God is good and capable of much more than we can even comprehend.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Javier_Art_Photography
Jason Soroski is a homeschool dad and member of the worship team at matthias lot church in St. Charles, MO. He spends his free time hanging out with his family, exploring new places, and writing about the experiences. Connect on Facebook or at JasonSoroski.net.