SEEMS TO ME: OLD TESTAMENT CHRISTOPHANIES ARE WRONG
Brian and I have talked about the Bible at length for years. One of the items he and I do not necessarily agree on is the interpretations of “Christophanies” in the Old Testament. “Christophany” is definitely a Church word… it means “a manifestation of Jesus.” In my mind it means, “sticking Jesus where He doesn’t belong.” The exception to this definition would be a passage like Acts 9 (post incarnation) where Jesus appears to Saul and knocks him straight.
I believe Jesus is God. I believe Jesus is made of the same stuff as God. I believe Jesus is eternal. I believe it is incorrect to stick Jesus in every nook and cranny in the Old Testament.
Let’s look at some Christophanies in the Old Testament:
In Genesis 3:8, God is walking around in all His glory in the Garden of Eden. It has nothing to do with Jesus Christ. Not that He wasn’t there (because He is God), but He was not outwardly expressed. God in this verse is God the Father.
Melchizedek in Genesis 14 is a human being who is Priest of God and King of Salem. His uniqueness certainly foreshadows Jesus Christ (Psalm 110:4, Hebrews 7), but it is not some apparition of Jesus speaking to Abraham. Melchizedek was a unique individual in the Old Testament meant to be a beacon to shine on Christ when He came. It is possible to be priest and king… Melchizedek did it… and we should see Jesus in such light.
Jacob becomes Israel in Genesis 32 and many see Jacob wrestling with God… and because the word “man” is used… they see Jesus. Three things. First, the being could not overcome Jacob. I will assume Jesus is an awesome wrestler because He is God incarnate and all powerful. Second, the being was “forced” to bless Jacob. Jesus willingly blesses those who follow Him (Mark 3:34, John 15:15). Third, if Jesus was a flesh-and-blood human being before being born of Mary… the New Testament lied to us that Jesus was incarnated via the virgin birth. Let’s assume the being was something other than Jesus based on these three compelling objections.
Exodus 3 finds shepherd Moses speaking with God in a burning bush. Some see Jesus inhabiting the bush as the communicator. Exodus 3:2 says clearly, “the angel of the Lord” was the being in the bush. Is Jesus an angel? Nope. No Jehovah Witness false teaching here! This angel, which appears in Genesis 16, Genesis 22, Numbers 22, Judges 2, and countless other passages, has the unique job of being the conduit for God’s voice. This angel’s presence is on Earth because if God broke into His Creation He would obliterate us all. This angel is God’s vocal representative and speaks for Him. No Jesus here or any place where this angel is present.
Joshua 5 is another place where people see Jesus appearing and taking a role in the Old Testament. The being identifies as “the commander of the army of the Lord.” Who is that? Is that Jesus? Ultimately, yes because Jesus is sovereign, but Jesus does not refer to Himself like that in any passage in the New Testament. Not once. Who is the commander of the army of the Lord? I believe it to be the archangel Michael as described in Daniel 10, Daniel 12, and Revelation 12 with those types of terms. That’s his job. Jesus need not stoop to such a low position… He is the Son.
The Book of Daniel, chapter 3, also contains a famous Christophany possibility. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are tossed in a blazing furnace for their faithfulness to YHWH. A pagan king comments that they are saved by “the son of the gods” (verse 25) as they exit the furnace not even smelling like smoke. Maybe… could this be… could this be Jesus? We might think that if we were so inclined all the way to verse 28… which says clearly is was an “angel.” Nope, no Jesus here.
Seems to me: Christophanies in the Old Testament are mis-interpretations. Does that mean Jesus never appears in the Old Testament? He sure does!
Jesus’ death is predicted in Genesis 3:15.
Jesus is the blessing that is referred to for all nations via Abraham in Genesis 12.
Jesus holds the scepter of Judah in Genesis 49.
Jesus’ miraculous birth is predicted in Isaiah 7.
Jesus’ miraculous birth is further described in Micah 5.
Jesus’ purpose was foreshadowed by Passover in Exodus 12.
There are so many prophecies which point directly to Jesus Christ and His fulfillment as the Savior. Those are the places where we find Jesus in the Old Testament. And if you want to get technical, He is also present anytime we see God the Father… because He is God. Let’s not put Jesus in places where He is not. It seems to me, it downgrades Who Jesus truly is.
Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, who died a substitutionary death to offer us life in God.