Did People in the Old Testament Expect Jesus to Come and Die for Their Sin?

I recently had a new Christian from a home that was culturally but not religiously Jewish ask me if the people in the Old Testament expected Jesus to come and die for their sin. The rest of this blog is what I shared with him in our brief conversation as he only had a few minutes to talk.

The Bible clearly foreshadowed that Jesus would come as Servant and Messiah who would die for our sins. Perhaps the clearest Old Testament Scripture on this point is Isaiah 53:4–6, which says:

Surely he has borne our griefs

    and carried our sorrows;

yet we esteemed him stricken,

    smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;

    he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

    and with his wounds we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;

    we have turned—every one—to his own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

    the iniquity of us all.

Hundreds of years after Isaiah’s prophecy, those who witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus rightly considered him punished by God because of dreadful sin. They also rightly surmised that Jesus’ suffering was severe because of the severity of the sin for which he was being punished. They correctly saw that Jesus was being punished ultimately by God.

However, Isaiah further explains that it was not Jesus’ sin but, rather, our sin that brought the horrors of crucifixion upon him. To explain Jesus’ death, Isaiah uses the word pictures associated with the sacrifice of the Passover lamb and the first goat on the Day of Atonement. But it was a man, not a mere lamb or goat, who would shed his blood. All of these things were intended by God to prepare people for the coming and dying of His Son Jesus Christ.

Isaiah the prophet thunders that God pierced Jesus for our transgressions and crushed Jesus for our iniquity. The Lord laid our sin on Jesus, our substitute. Then the Lord crushed Jesus so we could have peace, healing, and acceptance. Isaiah saves the best news for last: Jesus was wounded for our transgressions. The bruising that he felt was the chastisement that we deserved, but it was laid upon him and not upon us because Jesus loved us enough to suffer in our place as our substitute for our sins. There are many other examples in the Old Testament, but yes God on many occasions and in many ways told those people in the Old Testament about Jesus coming and dying.

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