How is Jesus the hero of the Bible?

The opening line of Scripture introduces us to its Hero, God, who is revealed throughout the rest of the pages of Scripture. In the closing line of the New Testament we are reminded that our hope is in “The grace of the Lord Jesus”. Thus, the written Word of God reveals to us the incarnate (“in human flesh”) Word of God, Jesus Christ. Without the written Word, we cannot rightly know the incarnate Word.

The Old and New Testament are about Jesus Christ – anyone can read the Bible, but only someone who reads it in the Spirit comes to this rightful conclusion. Some prefer the New Testament to the Old Testament because they wrongly believe that only the New Testament is about Jesus. However, Jesus himself taught that the Old Testament was primarily about him while arguing with the theologians in his day. In John 5:39-40 Jesus says,  “You search the Scriptures [Old Testament] because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” The Bible is not just principles to live by, but a Person to live with.

Following his resurrection, Jesus opened the Old Testament to teach about himself: “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” [FOOTNOTE: Luke 24:27.] Likewise, in speaking to his disciples, Jesus said, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” [FOOTNOTE: Luke 24:44.] We then read that he “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” [FOOTNOTE: Luke 24:45.] Jesus’ own words about himself as the central message of the Old Testament are pointedly clear. He said in Matthew 5:17-18, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Jesus repeated this fact throughout his ministry by saying he “fulfilled” particular Scriptures. [FOOTNOTE: E.g., Matt. 26:56; Luke 4:20–21; 22:37.] To correctly interpret Scripture you will need to connect its verses, concepts, and events to Jesus.

The Old Testament predicts the coming of Jesus in a variety of ways to prepare people. The New Testament reflects back on the life of Jesus, particularly in the four Gospels, and reports the results of Jesus’ life and ministry, particularly in the Epistles.

The Old Testament uses various means to reveal Jesus, including promises, appearances, foreshadowing types, and titles. First, the Old Testament teaches about Jesus in the numerous prophetic promises given about him. More than one-quarter of the Old Testament was prophetic in nature, promising future events. No other world religion or cult can present any specific prophecies concerning the coming of their prophets. However, in the Old Testament we see hundreds of fulfilled prophecies extending hundreds and sometimes over a thousand years into the future, showing God’s foreknowledge of and sovereignty over the future.

Second, the Old Testament teaches about Jesus through appearances that He makes before His birth, also called Christophanies. Examples include walking with Abraham, wrestling with Jacob, appearing to Moses, joining Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace, and calling Isaiah into ministry. [FOOTNOTE: Genesis 18; cf. John 8:56; Gen. 32:30; Ex. 3:2–6; cf. John 8:58; Dan. 3:24–25; Isa. 6:1–5; cf. John 12:41.] Other examples may include “the angel [messenger] of the LORD,” who is sometimes identified as God. [FOOTNOTE: Judg. 6:11–21; 13:22.] This angel provided the sacrifice in Isaac’s place and spoke and journeyed with Moses. [FOOTNOTE: Gen. 22:9-14; Ex. 3:14; 23:20–21; cf. John 8:56–59.]

Third, types are Old Testament representative figures, institutions, or events that foreshadow Jesus. Examples include Adam, who foreshadows Jesus the second Adam; the priesthood, prefiguring Jesus as our high priest; David and other kings, prefiguring Jesus as the King of kings; Moses and the prophets, prefiguring Jesus as our ultimate prophet; animal sacrifices, prefiguring Jesus as the sinless Lamb of God slain for our sins; the temple, prefiguring God’s presence dwelling among us in Jesus; shepherds reminding us sheep that Jesus is our Good Shepherd; judges, foreshadowing Jesus as the final judge of all people; and many others, such as Jesus the true bread, true vine, and true light.

We also see people in the Old Testament who perform various kinds of service that is analogous to the service that Jesus performs perfectly. Unlike the first Adam, Jesus Christ is the Last Adam who passed his test in a garden and in so doing imputed his righteousness to us to overcome the sin imputed to us through the sin of the first Adam. Jesus is the true and better Abel who, although he was innocent, was slain and whose blood cries out. When Abraham left his father and home, he was doing the same thing that Jesus would do when He left heaven. When Isaac carried his own wood and laid down his life to be sacrificed at the hand of his father Abraham, he was showing us what Jesus would later do. Jesus is the greater Jacob who wrestled with God in Gethsemane and, though wounded and limping, walked away from his grave blessed. Jesus is the greater Joseph who serves at the right hand of God the King and extends forgiveness and provision to those of us who have betrayed him, using His power to save us for loving reconciliation. Jesus is greater than Moses, standing as a mediator between God and us, bringing us the new covenant.

Like Job, innocent Jesus suffered and was tormented by the Devil so that God might be glorified, while His foolish friends were no help or encouragement. Jesus is a king greater than David; He has slain our giants of Satan, sin, and death, although in the eyes of the world He was certain to face a crushing defeat at their hands. Jesus is greater than Jonah in that He spent three days in the grave, not just in a fish, to save a multitude even greater than Nineveh. When Boaz redeemed Ruth and brought her and her despised people into community with God’s people, he was showing what Jesus would do to redeem his bride, the church, from all the nations of the earth. When Nehemiah rebuilt Jerusalem, he was doing something similar to Jesus, who is building for us a New Jerusalem as our eternal home. When Hosea married an unfaithful wife that he continued to pursue in love, he was showing us the heart of Jesus, who does the same for His unfaithful bride, the church.

We also see various Old Testament events preparing people for the coming of Jesus Christ. For example, in the Exodus account of Passover, the people placed blood over the doorframe of their home with hyssop (a common herb bundled for cleaning) and no one was to leave their home until the morning. Death would not come to any home marked with lamb’s blood. Peter says our salvation is given by Jesus Christ and “sprinkling with his blood.” [FOOTNOTE: 1 Pet. 1:2.]

Fourth, there are many titles for God in the Old Testament that refer to Jesus Christ as God. In Daniel 7:13–14, God is called the “son of man,” and Jesus adopted that as his favorite title, using it some eighty times in the four Gospels. Jesus is the Suffering Servant that was promised in Isaiah. [FOOTNOTE: Isa. 42:1–4; 49:1–7; 52:13–53:12; cf. Phil. 2:1–11.] Jesus is also known by many other Old Testament titles for God, including first and last, light, rock, husband or bridegroom, shepherd, redeemer, savior, and the Lord of glory. [FOOTNOTE: Isa. 41:4, 44:6, 48:12; cf. Rev. 1:17, 2:8, 22:3; Ps. 27:1; cf. John 1:9; Pss. 18:2, 95:1; cf. 1 Cor.10:4, 1 Pet. 2:6–8; Hos. 2:16, Isa. 62:5, cf. Eph. 5:28–33, Rev. 21:2.; Ps. 23:1, cf. Heb. 13:20; Hos. 13:14, Ps. 130:7, cf. Titus 2:13, Rev. 5:9; Isa. 43:3, cf. John 4:42; Isa. 42:8, cf. 1 Cor. 2:8.]

To properly understand the Old Testament, we must connect it to the person and work of Jesus. This should not be done in an allegorizing manner where arbitrary meanings foreign to Scripture are assigned to Old Testament words and images, thereby changing their meaning. Rather, the meaning of the Old Testament includes symbolism and identity that are most fully revealed in Jesus.

Unless Jesus is the central message of the Scriptures, errors abound. The most common is moralizing. Moralizing is reading the Bible not to learn about Jesus but only to learn principles for how to live life as a good person by following the good examples of some people and avoiding the bad examples of others. That kind of approach to the Scriptures is not Christian, because it treats the Bible like any other book with moral lessons that are utterly disconnected from faith in and salvation from Jesus and life empowered by the same Holy Spirit of Jesus.