God’s revelation is progressive. As biblical history unfolded, God expanded and clarified more and more of who He is, of His plan for the restoration of mankind, and of the reversal of the deadly results and consequences of the sin of Adam, our first representative in the garden of Eden. That revelation is given to us through the Scriptures of the Old and the New Testaments. And though the Scriptures include sixty-six different books, these different books tell us one story.
Already in Genesis 3:15, God promised enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, but also that the seed of the woman would have the upper hand. Here the story of God’s redemptive work begins. Because of the curse of sin, God in His full mercy and grace also provided a seed of hope that in time would be revealed fully as the Son of God, Son of Man, the second Adam who perfectly kept the law and turned the curse of sin into a blessing of salvation. So, the story that began in Genesis 3 and ends in Revelation 22 has its climax in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus, in one of His last words recorded for us in Luke 24, tells us that the Law, Prophets, and the Psalms are about Him. This means that we need to interpret the Old Testament Scriptures in light of Christ. The Old Testament finds its ultimate fulfillment in the person and work of Christ. We who live in these days and times can read the Scriptures and see the full story unfolding before our eyes. We are beyond the promises, types, and shadows of the Old Testament, standing instead in the fulfillment, antitypes, and substance of the New Testament.
The temple, sacrifices, festivals, priests, prophets, and kings point to Christ and find their ultimate fulfillment in Him. For this reason, we have to read the Old Testament narratives, and all the other genres and features of it in the light of the Messiah, born of the virgin woman, as foretold in Isaiah 7:14. The story of the people of Israel is interwoven in the redemptive story of God. Throughout Israel’s history, God’s faithfulness to Israel is manifest despite their shortcomings, sins, and unfaithfulness. Israel illustrated for other nations God’s remarkable grace. God provided a great anecdote when He commanded the prophet Hosea to marry Gomer the harlot, vividly helping Israel to see their actions against their Creator. They were covenant breakers, while He was the covenant and promise keeper, and remains such also for the New Testament church. The failures of Israel did not result in their rejection. And because of that, it gives us a great hope as His church, that He will not reject us despite our failures, which are no less than those of Israel.
The scope of this article does not allow it to engage with the many parts of this whole story, but only to look at the Passover feast and the exodus of the people of Israel as one great example. Of all the Old Testament festivals, the feast of Passover is probably the most familiar to us, and for which Christ’s fulfillment is perhaps most obvious. In 1 Corinthians 5:7, Paul writes, “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” However, Passover is not only about the sacrifices but also about the exodus, which was judgment for the Egyptians and salvation for the Israelites. Similar to exile from the garden of Eden and later exiles of the northern and southern kingdoms, the exodus from Egypt included both elements of judgment and of salvation. Exile and exodus, in fact, are two of the most important motifs in the Old Testament that ultimately point us to Christ and His cross.
In the exodus, the ten plagues brought judgment and death to the Egyptians––even to Pharaoh’s firstborn son––but brought life and freedom to the Israelites. When Moses led the people through the divided sea, that great miracle displayed not only the power of Yahweh but also His covenant faithfulness—He will do whatever it takes to preserve the seed of the woman promised through the sons of Israel.
Later, as Israel continued in their idolatry and ignored the unflinching warnings of the prophets about the imminent judgment of God, His punishment eventually fell on them and they were exiled. They did not heed the strong admonition of the prophets and continued in their rebellious acts against the creator, acts that eventually led not to one but two exiles—first the northern kingdom of Israel, and then the southern kingdom of Judah. In these exiles, we see harsh judgment, but hope and eventual delivery are also present. Judgment was brought on the covenant-breaking Israel, while at the same time grace and mercy were shown by the covenant-keeping God in His promises of restoration. Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, said: “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:10–11). The exiles returned to the land, built the walls of Jerusalem and, more importantly, rebuilt Yahweh’s temple. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah help us see the restoration project and the provision of Yahweh in providing gifted people and all that was needed to complete the task. The restoration of Jerusalem and the temple, just like the vision of the dry bones of Ezekiel 37, guide and direct to the climax of God’s restoration through the promised Messiah.
Then in the fullness of time, the Son humbled Himself in the incarnation in order to bring full and eternal restoration (Phil. 2:5–11). The Son of God had a simple and humble beginning, but a great and precious end, as He provided redemption for the Father’s elect. During His public ministry, when Jesus climbed the mountain with Peter, James, and John and was transfigured, Moses and Elijah, the representatives of the Law and Prophets, appeared before Him. Luke uses the Greek word exodos when he tells us that Moses and Elijah discussed with Jesus His departure, “which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:31). Jesus died as the Lamb of God, judged by God for our sins, but also restored to life after three days, burying the curse of sin and death and carrying the full wrath of God to the grave. James Hamilton, in his book What Is Biblical Theology?, writes about the exodus, “Jesus fulfilled the promises from the Old Testament that God would redeem His people in a way that would eclipse the exodus from Egypt (e.g., Jer. 16:14–15; 23:7–8).”1 Once again, as in the Old Testament, the judgment of God was wrapped in grace and mercy. The exodus of Israel from Egypt was not only to deliver them from slavery but also to free them to worship the living God. So also, in Jesus’ exodus in Passover, He delivered us from the chains of Satan and sin and enabled us to worship God in Spirit and truth.
In Christ, the story comes to its climax. The sad and painful story that began in the garden of Eden with sin and exile finds its joyful end in the Son sitting at the right hand of God and waiting for the day that He will return and bring us to the mansions (John 14:1–3) that He has prepared for us in the heavenly Eden, with free access to the tree of life that is in the middle (Rev. 22:2). The Passover exodus of Jesus has reversed the curse and opened the entrance to life everlasting forever.
What a story, and what a great God.
- James M. Hamilton, What Is Biblical Theology? A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2014), 54. ↩︎