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Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII


Part IX


Part V: The Trinity in the Old Testament

Chapter 3

The Appearances of the Lord Jesus in the Old Testament

     BEFORE PROCEEDING to this consideration, it is desirable to return for a moment to a statement in the New Testament in which it is said that "no man hath seen God at any time" (John 1:18). This has seemed a difficult saying to many younger Bible students who have pictured God in the Old Testament as walking and talking in a very personal way with men (Adam and Moses, for example). It is a case of an apparent contradiction, the resolution of which leads to the discovery of some wonderful truths. This verse reads, "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." Now I think the sense of this verse clearly indicates that the word "God" in the first clause is to be equated with the word "Father" in the second, so that what John is really saying is that no man had seen the Father until Jesus Christ revealed Him. It follows, therefore, that when we turn to the record of what was really the first congregational communion service, in Exodus 24:9ff., we find these words: "Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: And they saw the God of Israel . . .  And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also [or, yet] they saw God, and did eat and drink." The apparent contradiction is resolved if we understand that the God whom they saw was none other than Jesus Christ in His pre-incarnate existence.
     When the Lord Jesus appeared in the flesh, there were many who recognized Him as God. Sometimes this recognition is direct and sometimes indirect. To consider a few instances of the latter form of recognition, let us look at one passage in Mark and two passages in Luke. In Mark 5:19 and 20, we have the conclusion of the

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story of the healing of the maniac of Gadara. This man desired immediately to follow the Lord. But in verse 19 it is written, "Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee." And in verse 20 it says, "And he departed and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him." It might be argued that this is not a very clear case of identification. Perhaps the man did not know enough of God and therefore credited his healing to Jesus without thereby according Him divine honor. However, in Luke's account of the same story, the wording is elaborated a little bit, and there we find Jesus sending him away and saying (Luke 8:39), "Return to thine own house, and show how great things God hath done unto thee." Whereupon he went away and proceeded to publish throughout the whole city "how great things Jesus had done unto him."
     Now those who are tempted to suppose that truthfulness in reporting always demands the exact repetition of the exact words are apt to find it disconcerting that two people (Mark and Luke) reporting the same incident under inspiration should put slightly different words into Jesus' mouth. This brings up a very important issue in the understanding of Scripture. In spite of the fact that we are perfectly well aware of how little confidence we can put in a man's words at times simply because his words may mean one thing to us and something else to himself, we still deceive ourselves by insisting that what a man actually says is more important than what he actually means. The important thing in the Word of God is always, What does the speaker mean to tell us? And because God's thoughts are so much fuller than ours, they cannot always be expressed in a simple straightforward way. Quite often it is necessary for the same statement to be set forth in three or four different ways so that when these statements are taken together they begin to encompass what God intended to be understood. In another Doorway Paper we deal more extensively with the apparent contradictions of Scripture which are of this nature. Suffice it to say at the moment that whether Jesus actually said to this man, "Go and show what great things God hath done," or "Go and show what great things the Lord hath done" is not too important; the really important thing is that He meant both. In the mind of Jesus Christ both alternatives were synonymous. And perhaps without realizing it, the newly saved man bore witness to the fact that he perceived this by simply saying what great things Jesus had done.
     In Luke 17:16 there is a very illuminating little story. It is the

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story of the healing of ten lepers, one of whom came back to say, Thank you. Verses 15 and 16 read as follows, "and one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks." It seems to me that unless one makes the assumption that Jesus is God, the Holy Spirit would surely have made it clear that the feet were not God's feet. The fact is, they were God's feet.
     Again, in Acts 20:28 Paul addressed himself to the elders of the Church at Ephesus and said to them, "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood." The church of God, purchased with His own blood. In complete accord with this are the words of 1 Timothy 3:16 which reads, "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory." And once more in I John 3:16, it is written, "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us."
     This is not a new discovery by any means. These passages have been the delight of commentators since the days of the early Church Fathers. But what may be less well recognized is that before the New Testament was written, the ideas upon which such passages are based were already familiar to those who had only the Old Testament to guide them. Thomas could recognize his Lord and his God in Jesus Christ (John 20:28, and cf. Hebrews 1:8 and 10), but what is even more surprising is that a woman like Elizabeth was able to perceive the wonderful truth that the Child which Mary carried was to be none other than the Lord Himself. She revealed this very clearly when she greeted Mary with the words (Luke 1:43), "Whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?"
     The basis of such exclamations lay in the Old Testament. From our vantage point, with all that the New Testament has revealed, it is difficult for us to see the true significance of such an insight as that gained by Elizabeth. What were the grounds of her understanding -- a special revelation given at that moment or a Spirit-guided study of the Old Testament Scriptures? I believe personally that the latter is the explanation.
     In the first place it is quite clear that the writers of the New Testament recognized Jesus as the Creator of the universe, the God of Genesis 1:1. We have already considered John 1:1-3. It might be

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added here that in the Greek of the New Testament there are two phrases which differ slightly, but have been translated into English as though they did not. These phrases are ta panta and panta without the ta. The first of these, strictly speaking, means "the whole," i.e., the universe. The second means simply "all things," i.e., anything. Whenever the creative activity of Jesus is in view, the first phrase is found in the original. This is true of John 1:3, Ephesians 3:9, Colossians 1:15 and 16, and Hebrews 1:10. In each of these cases, therefore, the meaning is the universe. On the other hand, where Paul wrote, for example, "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:13), the word "panta" is used without the definite article "ta." The Creator of the universe is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, and so we have come in a circle and find ourselves back in Genesis in the story of creation and in His presence again, a fact made even clearer by putting the opening words of Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1 in apposition:

In the beginning God . . . (Genesis 1:1).
In the beginning was the Word . . . and the Word was God (John 1:1).

     Appropriately, therefore, when David wrote in Psalm 102:24 and 25, "I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days: thy years are throughout all generations. Of old thou hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the work of thy hands," he was addressing himself to the Son. For in Hebrews 1:10 this quotation is used, but with the substitution of the word "Lord" for "God," and with this Lord identified as Jesus Christ. In Hebrews 1:8 it is written, "But with respect to the Son, He said, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom" [my translation], a statement which is a quotation from Psalm 45:6 and 7, in which the One addressed is again identified as Jesus Christ. (1) But a reference to this psalm discloses a further wonderful fact in verse 7, in which it is written, "Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows." Here we have two Persons revealed by the phrase, "God, thy God," the identity of the second being established clearly by Hebrews 1:8 as Jesus Christ. This is analogous to John 1:1, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

1. The word "unto" in Hebrews 1:8 in the King James Version is a translation of the Greek word pros. This word may also mean "with respect to" or "with regard to," especially after verbs of saying (cf. the Greek of Mark 12:12; Luke 12:41; 18:9; 20:19; Romans 10:21; Hebrews 1:7 et al).

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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