The Old Testament’s Perspective on Easter

By Dr. Steven Smith

All throughout Scripture you see a template of God saving, but saving out of judgment. Adam and Eve sin in the garden, and God saves them. He is actually saving them from His own judgment. You see them leaving the garden covered in skins because God took the anger that He felt toward their sin and He re-directed it toward the innocent animal. This becomes the template that will be formalized in the tabernacle of the children of Israel and later in the temple. Through those weekly sacrifices, the anger that God felt toward their sin was redirected toward innocent animals.

This is a picture of Christ. This is foreshadowing. Think of Christ stepping out of heaven, the glory and light of the Father is behind Him; and as He is starting to step out of heaven, He casts a shadow on the events that precede Him. In the same way you might see someone’s shadow before you actually see him, around every animal that was on an altar you can see an outline of the shadow of Christ who is coming.

And He did come.

Once again, we see God saving, but saving out of judgment. This was not just a man giving up his life. This was not the hapless end to a good prophet. This was the anger and the wrath that God felt toward me and my sin redirected away from me and on to God’s innocent Lamb.

All of this was predicated by the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah 53:5,6 says:

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.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

The death of Jesus Christ was not just God fixing a problem. This was an explicit fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah. Someone said it like this, here in “… the bedrock of judgment, God builds a tower of mercy.”(This phrase, along with the idea of salvation from judgment is from Jim Hamilton’s wonderful book What is Biblical Theology.  Wheaton: Crossway, 2014.)

Christ died on the cross. Yet, it was fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy that He would save us from judgment.

No one goes to heaven because God forgets their sin. They go to heaven because God remembered our sin and punished Jesus instead of us. God’s inability to forget sin speaks to the enduring power of the cross. God knows it all. He sees it all. Yet, He punishes Jesus instead of us.

This is what Isaiah saw years before Christ. This is why we celebrate the Passion Week and Easter.

Dr. Steven Smith is Vice President for Student Services and Communications at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. This article first appeared on Steven Smith’s blog. Follow Dr. Smith on Twitter @StevenWSmith.