The IDENTITY of JESUS: Who is Christ?
A) The REALITY of the PICTURES: Who is Jesus? He's the reality that all the pictures of the old covenant had pointed to. Jesus is the Greater Adam. For as all in Adam die on account of his sin, so too all in Christ shall live on account of His righteousness. For whereas Adam was tempted and fell, Christ in the wilderness was tempted and stood. For as the first Adam brought ruin upon the world, the second Adam has wrought redemption. Jesus is the Greater Noah. For as Noah's entire family was saved from judgment in and through and because of Noah, so it is with Christ. And just as God appointed Noah to be the founder of a new humanity, so that, all who were safe with him in the ark would afterwards inherit a new and purified earth, so it is with Christ. Jesus is the Greater Isaac. For just as Isaac was the long-awaited child of promise; and just as his birth was miraculous, so it was with Christ. And indeed, as Isaac, in obedience to his father's command, submitted to climb the hill with the wood on his back, in order to do his father's will, so did Christ. Jesus is the Greater Joseph. For as he was the unique, beloved son of his father; and yet because of this, his own brothers were jealous of him and hated him, and sold him into the hands of the Gentiles, so it was with Christ. And being falsely accused, he suffered, though he had done no wrong; and yet after his sufferings, he was highly exalted and given all authority and honor and dominion, so that before Joseph every knee did bow, just as it shall be with Christ. Jesus is the Greater Moses. For he was born the child of a slave though he himself was free from the slavery of his brothers, as it was with Christ. And as he forsook a palace in order to free his people from their bondage, so did Christ. But even so, his own kinsmen failed to realize God had chosen him to grant them deliverance. In time though, God redeemed His people through him, and raised him up as their mediator, and spoke only to His people through him, just as with Christ. Jesus is the Greater Joshua. For they share the same name, “the Lord saves”; and it's no wonder; for if Moses pictured Christ in his redeeming Israel from bondage, Joshua pictured Him as their victorious warrior who gave them possession of the land. Jesus is the Greater David. For as the first king of Israel failed, there was need for another who would do all God's will. Like David, Christ is the shepherd king of Israel; whose sufferings came before glory; who wore a cross before a crown.1
B) The FULFILLMENT of the PROMISES: The old covenant pictured Christ over and over again in his birth and death, in his sufferings and exaltation, and in his covenantal headship for His people. But there wasn't just pictures of Christ throughout the old covenant—there were also promises.And just as Christ is the reality of the pictures, He's also the fulfillment of the promises.
Jesus is the seed of the woman. After Adam's sin, God drew near and made a promise to the man and the woman in Genesis 3:15. From the woman, Eve, would come a descendant who would deal a death blow to the snake, though he himself would be struck by the serpent in the process. It's the first gospel promise; God would send a Messiah into the world who would destroy the snake and his work. He would be bruised, yet He will conquer. The first Adam had failed, but God would send a second. There was now enmity between God and man. As a result of Adam's sin, spiritual death was unleashed into the world; the snake and man were now united against their Creator. But through the seed of the woman God would reconcile man to himself—putting the enmity back between the woman and the serpent.
Jesus is the seed of Abraham: In Genesis 12,God called Abraham to leave his country, his relatives, and his father's house, in order to journey to the land which He would show him. At the same time, God also made several promises to him; and among those promise, the Lord told him: “And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3). What did it mean that all nations would be blessed “in” Abraham? Thankfully, God later clarifies the meaning when He comes to Abraham again and tells him in Genesis 22,“In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed. . .” (v18). God's blessing would come to the nations through the seed of Abraham; that is, only through a very special and particular descendant of Abraham. And it's Jesus. Jesus is the seed of Abraham through whom God's blessing of salvation comes to the nations. If Christ's genealogy in Luke emphasizes the fact that He is the seed of the woman as “the son of Adam” (3:38); then Matthew's genealogy seeks to emphasize the fact that Jesus is also “the son of Abraham” (1:1). Abraham's special “seed” is Christ.
And Jesus is the seed of David. Matthew's genealogy emphasizes this too, for in the very first verse of his gospel, he writes: “The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” Christ is the seed of the woman; He is the seed of Abraham; and He's the seed of David. God made a promise to David in the context of His covenant with him in 2 Samuel 7:12-13: “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you. . .He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” We might have thought this descendant must be Solomon. But Solomon's kingdom certainly didn't last forever. No, as the prophets later help us understand, God was looking past Solomon to a greater seed of David when He made these promises to him. Indeed, this seed of David was the Messiah. And it's for this reason that Jesus is called the Son of David throughout the gospels. Christ was known as David's Son because He was being rightly identified as David's seed.2
C) The SUBSTANCE of the SHADOWS: As we've seen, Christ is pictured in various ways through God's old covenant people; and He's also promised as the seed of the woman, the seed of Abraham, and the seed of David. But apart from all these things, Christ is also typified in and through the old covenant ordinances and institutions. Paul writes to the Colossians in 2:16-17, “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.” Here, Paul is helping us understand that all the ordinances and institutions of the old covenant were meant to give us a foretaste of the person and work of Christ. In our English translation, he uses the words “shadow” and “substance”; but in the original Greek, Paul uses the terms “shadow” and “body” as he compares the old covenant to the new. The old covenant ordinances and institutions were shadows; but Christ himself is the body from which those shadows are cast. All the provisions and ceremonies of the old covenant are simply shadows of Jesus. But in the new covenant, Christ himself has come.3
Jesus is the true ark of Noah. For when God's wrath fell on all mankind, it was only those safe in the ark who were protected from judgment. Indeed, the ark saved those inside by absorbing upon itself the full force of the judgment being pounded upon it from the outside. There was only one door on the ark, and it was held open for all until the day that it was finally slammed shut; just as Christ is now freely offered—but the day is coming when the head of the house will get up and shut the door. Jesus is the true Manna from heaven, for His flesh is true food and His blood is true drink and it's He who has come down out of heaven to give life to the world. Jesus is the Rock which followed Israel in the wilderness; for indeed, when God's people disobeyed, it was the Rock that was struck with the staff of judgment instead of them, and it poured forth living waters for them and their little ones. Jesus is the Bronze Serpent in the wilderness. For as all those who were struck with the fiery serpents could look upon this sign which God himself had provided as the only cure, so too, Christ was lifted up, that all who look to Him in faith will have eternal life. Jesus is the Lamb of God. For as the sacrifices of the old covenant testified to the truth that forgiveness can only come through atonement, and as a sinner among God's people would lay his hand on the head of the animal, and slay it, and the blood would be applied to the altar, so too, Christ's blood was shed on the cross as a sacrifice of atonement. Jesus is the true Tabernacle. For He forsook the joys of heaven in order to tabernacle among us, and He has promised to set His dwelling place in our midst forever. And Jesus is the true Temple. For it's only in Him that we rightly worship God; for He himself is Immanuel, God with us. And though the temple of His body—like Solomon's temple—was destroyed; after three days it was raised up again.4
1 Roberts writes: “There were many types and shadows [in the Old Testament]. . .But this Jesus, God-man, is the truth and substance of them all. He is the true Adam that justifies and quickens all his supernatural seed, as the first Adam condemned and killed all his natural seed. He is the true Melchizedeck, first king of righteousness, and then king of Salem, that is, king of peace; without father according to his man-hood, without mother according to his God-head, without beginning of days, or end of life. . . He is the true Prophet, like Moses, to be hearkened to in all things. He is the true Joshua that brings his Israel, all true believers, into the eternal rest. He is the true Seed of David, that reigns over the house of Jacob forevermore.” (p1587). And Clowney notes: “A greater Savior was needed. That Savior, too, would come. . .a Prophet like Moses, but a better Mediator; a Priest like Aaron, but One of the royal order of Melchizedek; a King like David, but given an eternal throne. The new humanity needed to be founded by a second Adam, the descendant of the woman who would crush the serpent's head. The promise to Abraham was to be fulfilled in another Isaac, the true Seed in whom the nations would be blessed.” (p202).
2 Roberts says: “All former covenants [have] their great accomplishment in [Jesus Christ]. So that under this covenant the seed of the woman came, to bruise the serpent's head. . .the seed of Abraham came, to bless all the nations and kindreds of the earth; the great prophet, like Moses, came, to reveal completely all the blessed counsels and contrivances of God necessary to be known unto salvation; the primary seed of David came, to sit upon His throne forever; yea, now Christ, the true David, the son of the Highest came, to possess the kingdom of His father David, and to reign over the house of Jacob, the Church, forevermore.” (p1226). And again: “In this new covenant. . . we may see, this seed of the woman bruising the serpent's head (Colossians 2:14-15 with Genesis 3:15). This true Noah saving His elect remnant by water (1 Peter 3:21 with Genesis 6-7). This blessed Seed of Abraham, blessing all nations (Acts 3:25-26; Galatians 3:13-14 with Genesis 12:3). This true Prophet like Moses raised up from among the people Israel (Acts 2:22-23 and 7:37 with Deuteronomy 18:15-20). This Seed and Son of David, sitting upon His throne, and ruling the house of Jacob forever (Luke 1:31-33 with Psalm 132).” (Roberts, p1715).
3 Paul's language of shadow and body (Col. 2:17) is reflected in the KJV; special thanks to my father-in-law for pointing it out.
4 Roberts says: “The same Christ is revealed in all the covenants since the fall. They are as many cabinets one within another; but Christ the jewel within them all. All their promises lead to him, and center in him; all their commandments refer to him; all their threats drive to him; all their ceremonies typify him; all their sacraments signify him; all their ordinances magnify him. . .But in every one of them how differently is the same Christ represented.” (Preface, V.1). And again: “He is the true Passover that is sacrificed for us. He is the true bread of life, that true manna that came down from heaven whereof a man may eat and not die. He is the true Rock that affords living water indeed to his Church in the wilderness of this world. 'That Rock that followed them was Christ.' And that manna and water are called spiritual meat and drink, because they were types and sacraments representing Christ unto them. He is the True Serpent lifted up in the wilderness to heal the mortal stings of the old serpent the Devil, 'that whosoever believeth in him', looks up to him by the eye of faith, may not perish but have eternal life'. . .And what shall I say, He is the mystery and substance of all the Levitical ceremonies. . .the body and substance of the types of old. . .For those figures and types were God's way of revealing Christ unto his people, till he was exhibited.” (p1587). Again: “All passages, occurrents and events of providence towards Israel, in the wilderness, in Canaan, or in their enemies' lands, did singularly cooperate, by the wisdom, faithfulness, power and goodness of God, to the full accomplishment of this covenant, in Jesus Christ the Mediator, who was the foundation, center, and scope thereof. In the wilderness, the Pillar of cloud and fire that guided them day and night; the Manna from heaven, and water out of the Rock, wherewith they were fed 40 years together; the Brazen Serpent; the Tabernacle erected in the wilderness with the utensils thereof; Moses' mediation, and kingly government over them; Aaron's Priesthood; and their frequent Sacrifices; what were they but types of Christ, and of better things in Christ? In Canaan, the land of Immanuel, heaven was represented as prepared for them by Christ for their Everlasting Rest; their Conquering of Canaanites under Joshua, shadowed out their spiritual victories in Christ Jesus; the Temple and Sacrifices there, pointed out Christ the true Temple and Sacrifice. In Babylon, their 70 years Captivity, wherein they were as men dead and buried, and yet afterwards their deliverance, God as it were opening their graves, pointed out their natural, dead and hopeless state under sin and their supernatural recover by Christ even beyond hope. . .Thus God by all his providential dispensations took them by the hand, to lead them on to Christ; till at last John Baptist pointed out Christ in person already incarnate; 'Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world.'” (Mystery and Marrow, pp904-05).