The adage that the Old Testament conceals the New Testament and the New Testament reveals the Old Testament is demonstrated numerous times throughout scripture. When studying the Old Testament, it is clearly understood only by viewing it with a New Testament perspective. In the same way, Jesus hides his wisdom in parables; the Old Testament obscures a more complete understanding of Jesus. It is the New Testament in which we can view Jesus with clarity.
There are a couple of instances in the New Testament where Jesus not only confirms the veracity of the Old Testament, but he explains their meaning. In Numbers 21:8, God commands Moses to fashion a serpent out of bronze and lift it on a pole for all to see. In this example, the serpent and the wooden pole are much more than they appear. The bronze serpent is a representation of sin while the pole is an illustration of the cross. We know this because of Jesus’ response in John 3:14. He states, “…as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” This strange symbol in Numbers saves the Israelites stricken by snakes just as Jesus rescues all who believe in Him.”
Another extraordinary incident occurs in the book of Jonah. Jonah 1:17 states that Jonah was in the belly of a fish (representative of Sheol, or the grave), for three days and three nights. Jesus explains this type when he asserts, “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:40) Jonah emerged from the fish just as Jesus rose from the grave.
Perhaps the most remarkable example of New Testament knowledge hidden in the Old Testament is Isaiah 53. The entire chapter is relevant, but Isaiah 53:5 captures the essence of the cross. It reads,
“But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.”
With the understanding learned in the New Testament, it is clear that this chapter is about the crucifixion of Christ. As a matter of fact, it would be easy to assume that Isaiah 53 has New Testament roots. Written 700 years before Christ, this prophesy hides truth in plain sight. Only after the cross can one clearly understand the meaning.
These are only three illustrations tucked away in the Old Testament that are deciphered through the New Testament. If anything, the types and shadows of the Old Testament authenticate the New Testament. Likewise, the New Testament validates the Old Testament. Together, one can envisage a more complete picture of Jesus Christ.