Summary: The Old Testament view of the cross of Jesus.
The cross of Christ in the Old Testament.
Today we shall look into biblical typology and see how the scriptures pictured Christ and the cross in the Old Testament.
What is typology?
A biblical "type" may be safely described as “any person, place, event or thing in the Old Testament that serves the covenantal purposes of God, in a preparatory manner, until the fulfilling all things in redemption through the "anti-type", Jesus Christ, or some particular benefit of His saving work.” The fulfillment in the New Testament is termed "anti-type"
Typology is a study of types. Etymologically the word “type” is derived from the Greek word which denotes:
(1) the impression made by a blow;
(2) the stamp made by a die—thus figure or image;
(3) an example or pattern.
The latter is the most common meaning in the Bible. It is a "type" which prefigures some future reality. In I Corinthians 10:6 this Greek word is employed to speak of certain Exodus events as a "type" of Christian life, in Romans 5:14 that Adam is a "type" of Christ, and in I Peter 3:21 a related word is used to indicate that Baptism is an "antitype" of the flood.
Genesis and The Cross
The chief scene that many of the ‘types’ in the Old Testament foreshadow is the most solemn event that has ever taken place on earth: the scene of Jesus’ death on the cross. There are quite a few examples we can study to see these types that foreshadow His life and death on the cross.
First, in Genesis 4, we see the story of Abel’s lamb as a type for the sacrifice of Jesus thousands of years later. God declares Abel’s sacrificial offering of the “firstborn of his flock” as worthy and that of Cain’s unworthy. See Genesis 4:4. Abel’s offering comes through a repentant and faithful heart, giving his best of his work from the land, while Cain’s heart is unrepentant and he fails to sacrifice his best fruits in the offering. This “firstborn” mention of the lamb is possibly a type that refers to Jesus as the “firstborn of all creation” that reconciled all things to Himself through the shedding of His blood. (Colossians 1:15) Abel’s offering signifies the individual sacrifice that Jesus made for each individual in His own sacrificial death.
Secondly, there is the identification of Jesus in the New Testament with the Old Testament remembrance of the Passover lamb. The Passover celebration was initiated with God’s rescuing the Israelites from the Egyptians by putting the blood of the sacrificial lamb over their doorposts. (See Exodus 12) When Jesus comes to earth, He identifies Himself as the Passover lamb, the ultimate and final sacrifice for the people’s sin. This sacrifice then, represents the sin of the nation atoned for via first the lamb’s sacrifice, and now, via Jesus’ death once and for all. It was revealed to John the Baptist that Jesus was the lamb, as he cries out in John 1:29 and 35, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” In the institution of the Last Supper, Jesus recognizes that He will be the final Passover lamb to sacrifice for the sins of the world, saying, “This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)
Thirdly, in Genesis 22, we have a typical scene on Mount Moriah showing Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his own son on the altar as God has commanded. God commands Abraham, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (Genesis 22:2) This scene represents a type for God giving His only son to the world for the cleansing of sin. See John 3:16.
And fourthly the Day of Atonement.(Lev. 16) The word "atonement" occurs frequently in the Old Testament and represents a key concept of OT theology. Jesus is the fulfillment of the OT, especially the human need for atonement from sins. (All the aspects of the Day of Atonement is not covered in this short note because of the lack of space.)
But what is atonement, and what does Jesus have to do with it?
Many Christians think atonement in the OT originated with the Mosaic law, but in reality we recognized our need for atonement long before the time of Moses. When Adam and Eve committed the first sin, they hid from God because they were ashamed (Gn 3:8). Rather than giving them up as hopeless, God initiated a plan of atonement whereby the ruptured fellowship between Himself and humanity could be restored. Our English word "atonement" (at-one-ment) explains well the theology behind such restoration, for it suggests that God and humanity can relationally be "at one" again.