Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | January 9, 2008

How is Christ found in the Law of Moses? (Lesson 5: Question 4 Answer)

4.  How is Christ found in the Law of Moses? 

In a follow up to our assessment of Phillip’s statement to Nathanael we will be focusing more specifically on the details of how Christ is found in the Law of Moses.  In continuing to examine this concept we will remain focused on the following verses of our text: 

43The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 

When we talk about the Law of Moses we are specifically referring to the various legislations received on Mount Sinai.  These legislations were written by Moses in the Pentateuch (first five books) and are categorized into three types of Laws moral (Ten Commandments), ceremonial (sacrificial system, worship, etc), and civil (laws governing the Theocracy).  Although, the whole of the Old Testament is sometimes referred to as the Law of Moses, in John especially, (John 10:34; 12:34; 15:25) we will maintain the distinction that is presented to us in our current text (i.e. Law and Prophets).  We should note that the scope of this entry could potentially become voluminous with the extensive examples that could be drawn upon.  As a result, for our purposes we will be limiting the scope to a few salient illustrations, specifically the temple/tabernacle, the sacrificial system and figurative messianic types.   

As we covered in this study already the word that is used in verse 14 to indicate that the Word “dwelled” or “tabernacled” comes from the same Greek root that is used in the Septuagint (LXX) translation for the Hebrew word משׁכּן (mishkân).  As Vos points out this is distinguished from the ordinary tents אהל (ôhel) that the people dwelled in, however it is significant that the covenant Lord condescended to dwell in the “abode” of His people, namely tents in the wilderness. 93 Although, we concede that the LXX was not an inspired translation of the sacred Hebrew text, the apostle John was inspired and certainly could have been authenticating this interpretation with his apostolic stamp of approval.  Thus in employing this term, he may have been hearkening back to the similarities with the LXX, which would point out to the new covenant believer etymological significance.  This significance would have provided clear allusions to conclude that the tabernacle was pointing to Christ.  Nonetheless, if there are still reservations in accepting this interpretation our Lord draws this conclusion (John 2:19-20) about Himself and His typological significance towards the tabernacle/temple.  Of course, the acute relationship between the tabernacle and temple is virtually synonymous relative to their function within the covenant community of Israel.  The only difference between the two is that the tabernacle was intended to be mobile to remain within the camp during the wanderings in the wilderness.  Of course, once the wanderings were complete then a centralized location was to be established in the promise land that culminated with the construction of the temple in Jerusalem.  Both instruments served as the dwelling place of God’s glory-Spirit here on earth.  Thus, when our Lord equates His body with the temple, as is clarified by the commentary of the apostle, He is affirming the typological significance that it possesses with Himself. 

The central element to worship in the old covenant, as prescribed in the ceremonial laws given to Moses, was the tabernacle/temple.  Moreover, the central or essential aspect of the tabernacle/temple was the shekinah glory presence of the covenant Lord that dwelled in the holy of holies.  Here the glory of the Lord dwelled with the nation of Israel, which was a privilege that eluded every other nation on earth.  This privilege of possessing the glory-Spirit of the covenant Lord within their midst had not transpired since the Fall of earth’s first federal head (Adam).  This “dwelling”, “Emmanuel”, or “God with us” would have arguably continued endlessly had it not been for the cosmic treason committed by our first father.  As a result of this appalling rebellion, sin entered the world and humanity suffered a radical corruption that made them offensive to their Creator.  It was impossible for them to remain in the presence of their “covenant” Lord, which was manifested by their exile from the garden.  In light of this unfathomable gulf that was realized between the creature and Creator due to the Fall, it was particularly significant that God condescended to dwell again with man.  This dwelling, however could not be sustained in a manner that was similar to the unmediated presence that occurred in Eden.  This was evident through the Israelites unwillingness to have the covenant Lord speak directly to them on the mountain.  The holiness of our Lord, the consuming fire (Hebrews 12:18-29), was unbearable for the people who trembled with fear in His presence.  This is indicative of the fact that sinful men after the Fall are unable to remain in the presence of the holy God without being incinerated.  The unmediated presence of God is too overwhelming and would require some form of mediation.  Thus, from that point forward the glory-Spirit presence of the covenant Lord would be isolated to the tabernacle/temple behind the curtain in the holy of holies.  Only the high priest would be allowed to enter once a year into the presence of glory-Spirit behind the curtain and not without a sacrifice to offer (Hebrews 9:7).  This function of the tabernacle/temple was a foreshadowing of the fact that the holy God could not dwell among men without being clothed in a manner to conceal the fullness of His glory.  This shadowy type looked forward to the true “dwelling”, “Emmanuel”, or “tabernacling” that would characterize the incarnation of our Lord.  Christ Himself was an anti-type (fulfillment of the type) of the tabernacle/temple when He assumed flesh and dwelled among men.  Although, the full disclosure of His glory was only seen by some, the fullness of God dwelled in human bodily form (Colossians 1:19) and His glory for the most part was concealed from all (Philippians 2:6-8).  The solution to sinful man’s inability to “ascend” into the presence of the Lord of glory was resolved in the Son of Man’s “descending” in the form of a man to reveal Himself.  The tabernacle/temple and the incarnate Lord, thus, shared in common the benefit of being the proprietary access point to the covenant Lord on earth being the “gate of heaven”. 94 Only through a representative sacrifice would sinful men be able to acquire access to heaven, which is what the tabernacle/temple looked forward to being fulfilled in Christ. 

An obvious component of the Law of Moses that pointed to Christ was the sacrifices associated with the ceremonies performed at the tabernacle/temple.  When John the Baptist announced, “Behold the Lamb of God” we were being instructed that the fulfillment of those ceremonies were going to be realized in Christ.  The primary way that these ceremonial sacrifices pointed to Christ clearly is through the principle of substitution (Genesis 22:10-14).  The animal was being slaughtered in place of the person (s) due to the necessity of the shedding of blood to atone for sin (Leviticus 16:29-34).  This slaughter manifested the gravity of sin and the necessity of God’s justice to be propitiated or satisfied.  It was not being satisfied in the offering of the animal itself (Hebrews 10:4), but was pointing to the greater sacrifice that would be fulfilled in the fullness of time (Hebrews 9:23-28).   This principle of substitution was not only signified in the slaughtering of animals, but also in the “scapegoat” ceremony (Leviticus 16:20-22).  The sins of the people were symbolically transferred to the goat that was then sent outside the camp into the wilderness.  Although these animals were typologically pointing to the substitution that Christ would perform on behalf of His people, they did not do it perfectly.  These types fell short in that the animal in all instances was an unwilling victim that was ignorant of the consequences or outcome of the ceremony it was undergoing.  Not so with our substitute who was not only an innocent victim, He willingly and obediently followed through with the vicarious atonement on behalf of His people.  He fulfilled the demands of God’s justice, propitiating the wrath that stood against our sins on the cross.  Moreover, He fulfilled the Law through perfect obedience to earn the righteousness we were hopeless to gain through the life he lived.  In this, He was the perfect substitute who allows us to be declared righteous in the presence of our holy God.  A summary of this great exchange is provided in Romans 3:21-26: 

21But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.   

This great exchange is the good news of the Gospel that Christ alone has saved us and redeemed us from the justice that we deserve. 

Another way that Christ is found in the Law of Moses is by being pre-figured in messianic types who pointed forward to the great Messiah who would deliver God’s people.  There are numerous examples that we could look to in order to convey this point.  Noah and the Ark that he constructed pointed to Christ who would deliver His people from judgment (Genesis 7).  Melchizedek, whose name means “King of Righteousness”, was a high priest of God and king of Salem (Hebrews 7).  Abraham who made intercession for Lot and appealed to the Lord that He be spared from the judgment (Genesis 18:22-33).  Joseph who was rejected by his own, sold for silver (Genesis 37:18-36), arose to prominence in Egypt (Genesis 41:38-49) and delivered Israel from death by famine (Genesis 46).  The most prominent figures of them all, however, would have to be Moses, Aaron, and David who pointed to Christ’s three-fold office of Prophet, Priest and King.  All three of these figures foreshadow the coming of our Lord in both a positive light through their triumphs and a negative light through their failures.  Moses was called to be the prophet Par excellence in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 34:10-12), a mediator to Israel (Exodus 32:11-18) and a deliverer from Egypt (Exodus 3:10-22).  Aaron was confirmed as God’s high priest (Numbers 16; Numbers 17) and was authorized to enter into the holy of holies to make atonement for the people (Hebrews 9:7-12).  David (although not specifically in the Pentateuch, but will be dealt with here) was the shepherd-king, who defeated God’s enemies (1 Samuel 17) and successfully extended the borders Israel’s dominion. He made Zion his throne and initiated the fulfillment of the scepter residing within the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10).  All of these figures point to Christ who is the ultimate fulfillment, the Seed of the woman, who crushed the head of the serpent delivering the people of God.         

In this entry we have barely scratched the surface, but have hopefully provided sufficient examples to substantiate our thesis that Christ is in the Law of Moses.  Before moving beyond this passage, we have one more consideration to examine.  Thus, in our next section we will address the portion of the Old Testament Scriptures referenced in our text by exploring how Christ is in the Prophets.

93 Geerhardus Vos (1948) Biblical Theology Old Testament and New Testaments (Banner of Truth Trust, 2000) 148-149                                                                                                                                                                                                       94 Geerhardus Vos (1948) Biblical Theology Old Testament and New Testaments (Banner of Truth Trust, 2000) 155



  1. […] revealed in the Garden (Genesis 3:15).  This unveiling was realized through the giving of the Law of Moses and subsequently through the prophecies preserved in the prophetic writing’s of the covenant […]

  2. […] reasonable to conclude that He is also alluding to His being the fulfillment of this vision and the temple […]

  3. […] the Apostles inspired interpretation of it, manifest to us that our Lord is the anti-type of the temple.  Thus, our Lord is fulfilling the purpose of the temple in being the sole access between God and […]

  4. […] 4:12) He does more than just copy the Law of God.  He is the sum and substance of all that the Law proclaimed.  In the seventh qualification Jesus fulfills completely to the extent that He received […]

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