Isaiah – The Old Testament Gospel

One of the most beautiful aspects of the Bible is its coherence. Written  over the course of some 1500 years by approximately 40 men from all different walks of life, it is amazing to see how unified the Word of God is in the message it presents. Few things exhibit this more beautifully than the way the Old and New Testament intertwine, one explaining and illuminating the other. And no single book could illustrate this better than the book of Isaiah.

Isaiah is often called ‘The Old Testament Gospel’, and for good reason. The New Testament contains approximately 85 direct quotes from or indirect allusions to this beautiful prophetic book. Many of those quotes are direct references to the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. In fact, some of our most treasured statements concerning Christ come straight from this book:

7:14 Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel.

9:6 For a child will be born for us,
a son will be given to us,
and the government will be on His shoulders.
He will be named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

11:1 Then a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him-
a Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
a Spirit of counsel and strength,
a Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.

That these verses refer to Christ is undeniable. Incidentally, Isaiah gives him the Names ‘Mighty God’ and ‘Emmanuel’, names that show unequivocally the divinity of the Son of God – and that hundreds of years before He was ever born! More beautiful than any passage, however is Isaiah’s description of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53:

1 Who has believed what we have heard?
And who has the arm of the Lord been revealed to?
2 He grew up before Him like a young plant
and like a root out of dry ground.
He didn’t have an impressive form
or majesty that we should look at Him,
no appearance that we should desire Him.

3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of suffering who knew what sickness was.
He was like someone people turned away from;
He was despised, and we didn’t value Him.

4 Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses,
and He carried our pains;
but we in turn regarded Him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
5 But He was pierced because of our transgressions,
crushed because of our iniquities;
punishment for our peace was on Him,
and we are healed by His wounds.

6 We all went astray like sheep;
we all have turned to our own way;
and the Lord has punished Him
for the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet He did not open His mouth.
Like a lamb led to the slaughter
and like a sheep silent before her shearers,
He did not open His mouth.
8 He was taken away because of oppression and judgment;
and who considered His fate?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
He was struck because of my people’s rebellion.

9 They made His grave with the wicked
and with a rich man at His death,
although He had done no violence
and had not spoken deceitfully.

10 Yet the Lord was pleased to crush Him severely.
When You make Him a restitution offering,
He will see [His] seed, He will prolong His days,
and by His hand, the Lord’s pleasure will be accomplished.
11 He will see [it] out of His anguish,
and He will be satisfied with His knowledge.
My righteous Servant will justify many,
and He will carry their iniquities.

This moving passage is a preciously exquisite expression of the suffering that Christ was to face. To find this quoted by an Old Testament prophet such as Isaiah is amazing, fantastic, and enrapturing to me. Many of us are very familiar with these passages that reference Christ. We should never become so familiar with them, however, that we lose the awe of what these verses represent and the truth they contain. He was pierced for our transgression and crushed for our iniquities! The punishment for our peace was upon Him and we are healed by His wounds! I know of few Scriptures that express more clearly the nature of the salvation bought for me and the price that was paid to make that salvation possible. More than any New Testament passage, these verses cause a song of praise and thanksgiving to rise from my lips!

Another magnificent way that Isaiah points forward to the New Testament is through eschatological prophecy. Some of this may be overshadowed by the powerful references to Christ’s first coming, but they should not be overlooked or underestimated. Familiar prophetic phrases that we all know from the book of Revelation are actually direct quotes from Isaiah. Take a look at these examples:

21:9 And he answered, saying,
“Babylon has fallen, has fallen.”

22:22 I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; what he opens, no one can close; what he closes, no one can open.

34:4 All the heavenly bodies will dissolve.
The skies will roll up like a scroll,
and their stars will all wither
as leaves wither on the vine,
and foliage on the fig tree.

These verses show that the book of Revelation has a strong correllation to the rest of the Bible. How beautiful is it to see this intriquite tapestry of Biblical truth where nothing stands on its own!The New Testament could not exist without the Old Testament and vice versa. In fact, a proper understanding of the Word of God can only be gained if a person delves and digs into the whole counsel of God, reading the Old in the light of the New and understanding the New in the light of the Old. Once we begin to divorce the two, we end up with an incomplete theology, a shallow understanding of Who God is, and an acute danger of drifting off into error. To fully understand the gospels, we need prophets like Isaiah; to truly get a grip on the book of Revelation, we need the Old Testament.

The greatness of God is seen so profoundly in the way He has put together these sacred words we call the Bible. Isaiah is a gem that leaves me wanting to read about the suffering servant over and over again. This prophet leaves me awe-struck at how many eschatological references he makes and inspires me to get an even better understanding of prophecy. The book of Isaiah is truly the Old Testament Gospel. I love it.

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