Finding Old Testament evidence of Christ is not quite as trivial as finding it in the New Testament, however it is there and its not hard to see.
Firstly, we often see what is called a theophany – a visible manifestation of God in the old testament . We also see what is called a Christophany – a visible manifestation of Christ. In fact, anytime we see a theophany we are actually seeing a Christophany. Why? John 6:45-46 says that no one has seen the Father except he who is from God. Similarly in John 1:18 we read that “no one has ever seen God”. but that “the only God who is at the Fathers side, he has made him known”. Finally we also see in John 14:8-9 that whoever has seen Christ has seen the Father. So the appearances of God in the Old Testament are actually the second person of the Trinity.
We see a number of theophanies in the Old Testament, and it is this writers opinion that each of these is in fact a visible manifestation of the Christ.
One of more frequent manifestations of the Lord in the Old Testament is the Angel of the Lord. Interestingly the root of the Hebrew word for “angel” (Gen 21:17) is an unused root meaning “to dispatch as a deputy”. In addition to being translated “angel” over a hundred times it is also translated “messenger” almost a hundred times.
We can examine each of these appearances and see that they are manifestations of the Lord, and was perceived as such by those who saw these manifestations. Specifically as we read through the account of the Angel of the Lord we can see the following that demonstrate that the Angel of the Lord was actually a manifestation of God as the angel:
- speaks as God
- identifies Himself with God
- claims to exercise the rights only God has (e.g. forgiveness, etc)
- is distinct from God
In addition to these we can see that the response of those who the angel appears to indicates that they believed the angel to the Lord Himself and often feared for their lives as a result.
Therefore as we read through the accounts of Hagar (Gen 16:7-14), Abraham (Gen 22:11-18), Jacob (Gen 31-32), Moses (Ex 3:2-12), Joshua (Josh 5:13-6:7), Gideon (Judges 6:11-22), Manoah (Judges 13:2-23) and others we see these characteristics and therefore we see that Christ – the Son of God was active before his birth in Bethlehem.
In addition to being active in the Angel of the Lord, we also see the Lord in creation. In Gen 1:1 the fourth word of “In the beginning God created…” is the Hebrew word Elohiym which is the name of God used more than two thousand times in the Old Testament. This name is a plural name, and has been taken by some (e.g. Isaac Asimov) to mean that there were multiple gods creating the cosmos.
We find that Jesus Christ was indeed active in creating the universe. John 1:3 clearly states that “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” Heb 1:2 also confirms this “… in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world”.
Not only was Christ involved in making the universe, but according to Col 1:16 “all things were created through Him and for Him”. We also find that he continues to sustain all things (Col 1:17, Heb 1:3).
We also find that Old Testament references to Messiah refer to him as eternal or everlasting, indicating that when Messiah does come, he will be the everlasting one – eternal – having no beginning or end. We find this in Isa 9:6 where we read “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given… and his name shall be called… Everlasting Father”.
We also read this in Mic 5:2 “But you, O Bethlehem Ephratha, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from old, from ancient days”. This verse was known to be a messianic prophecy even by the Jews in Jesus day (John 7:40-42) , as it was the verse that the chief priests and scribes used in Matt 2:1-6 to tell Herod where the Christ was to be born. Not only did they know where he was to be born, but that he was the one “from old, from ancient days”.
Finally, the Old Testament repeatedly calls the Messiah God, affirming that he shares the divine (including the eternal) nature of God. For example, take Isa 40:3 which John the Baptist used to refer to himself (John 1:22-23) – “A voice cries. In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God”. The word for “lord” here is hs the word YHWH, which is used 6828 times and is usually rendered Lord. However in Ex 3:14-15 it is rendered “I am”. The word is likely to be related to the verb “to be” which again stresses the eternal nature and the self-existence of God.
Thus the one who John the Baptist proclaimed was heralded by the Old Testament to be God Himself coming to his people, and who John himself also said was before him (John 1:30).
In conclusion we have seen that Jesus existed before Bethlehem and was active in the lives of people through the old testament. We have also seen that Christ created the universe, and not only this, but sustains it. Not only this but we have also seen that Jesus shares his pre-existence and eternality with the God of the Old Testament, and his Father.
As the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself (John 5:26).