If reading the New Testament without knowledge of the Old Testament is like watching a movie starting at the end, then reading the Old Testament, and in particular the Torah, without considering the New Testament is like watching a movie from the beginning but then walking out before the exciting conclusion of the story.
Jesus himself said he was the One whom the Torah (and the rest of the Old Testament) was pointing toward. According to the gospel of John, he tells his hearers, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (5:39–40; see also luke 24:25–27, 44–45).
How does the Torah anticipate Jesus? We will have to be selective as we answer this question.
First of all, we have seen that the Torah initiates the story of redemption. God created humanity innocent, and they enjoyed a harmonious relationship with God (genesis 1–2) until they rebelled against him (chap. 3). They lost the blessings that are the results of a healthy relationship with God.
We also saw that God does not give up on humanity but pursues them for reconciliation. A key moment was when God entered into a covenant with Abraham and promised him, “You will be a blessing . . . and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (12:2b–3).
The New Testament points to Jesus as the fulfillment of this promise. Paul comes right out and says it in Galatians 3:16, “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ.” When Paul said of Abraham that the promises were spoken to him and his seed that ultimately meant Jesus! Not only that, speaking to us through the church at Galatia, he said, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (galatians 3:28–29). We are sinners, but because of Jesus we can enjoy a blessed relationship with God.
Our second example is the exodus, where God saved his people from slavery so that they could journey to the Promised Land. Jesus saves us from bondage—bondage to sin and guilt and death. No wonder the Gospels point out how Jesus’s life and work mirror the exodus and wilderness wanderings!
Think about it. Jesus’s baptism can be compared to the crossing of the Red Sea. (First Corinthians 10:1–6 shows that the people of his day thought of the crossing as a kind of baptism.) This was followed by forty days and nights in the wilderness, where Jesus resisted the temptations to which Israel succumbed (matthew 4:1–11). These are just a few of the many parallels we could name, but they culminate with Jesus dying on the eve of Passover, the festival that celebrates the exodus. As Paul says, Jesus is our Passover Lamb (1 corinthians 5:7). He is the ultimate exodus!
Things to Keep in Mind
Hopefully now we can see just how interesting and important the Torah is to our Christian faith. It’s important, after all, to know the beginning of the story that leads to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who died on the cross for our sins. The Torah tells us about creation (who we are), the fall (why there are deep problems in God’s creation), and God’s passionate pursuit of our redemption.
Blessing is the central theme of this story.
Adam and Eve lived blessed lives, but forfeited their blessing when they rebelled against God. God chose Abraham and his descendants as the instruments through which he would bring blessing to the world. And Joseph’s life reminds us that God can use even bad things in our lives for his good purposes.
God shows his ability to save his people through the exodus from Egyptian bondage, showing us that God can save us even from the most impossible of situations. As the Israelites traveled to the Promised Land, God gave them the law not so they could earn their way into a relationship with him, but so they could live flourishing lives.
As we read these five wonderful books, we know that Jesus is the ultimate descendant of Abraham who fulfills the promise of blessing the world. He is the ultimate exodus who leads his people out of bondage to sin, guilt, and death. In the New Testament we also learn how Jesus kept the law on our behalf and suffered the penalty of the law to free us from guilt and death. The law no longer condemns us, but we can now live in a lawful way through the Spirit. Reading the Torah deepens our love for Jesus and leads us to worship him.