The Old Testament Presents... Reflections of Christ
by Paul R. Van Gorder
The careful reader of the sacred Scriptures recognizes immediately that the prophetic books of the Old Testament are not arranged in chronological order. Sixteen ''holy men of God'' were chosen to speak ''as they were moved by the Holy Spirit'' (2Peter 1:21). Their writings come at intervals covering a period of nearly 500 years.

Isaiah, whose name means ''salvation of the Lord'' or ''the Lord will save,'' is prominently placed at the beginning of the section. He is often called the prophet of redemption.

The prophecies of Isaiah were delivered during the reigns of four kings of Judah: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (Isa 1:1). He spoke primarily to Judah prior to the exile. In the opening verse, he stated that he was about to relate a vision he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. He meant precisely that. It was not a vision about the church, but about Judah and Jerusalem. Great principles can be learned from God's dealings with men of old that apply to people of all ages. The mystery of Christ and His church, however, was not revealed to the Old Testament prophets.

One Bible scholar has suggested that chapters 1 through 39 breathe with the Old Testament spirit of judgment and warning, and chapters 40 - 66 breathe with the New Testament spirit of grace and peace.

Dr. James H. Brooks, noted student and teacher of the Word of God,
suggested the following divisions for Isaiah's prophecy:
  1. The Sore Punishment of the Jews (ch. 1-12)
    Though the theme is of harsh judgment, Isaiah also spoke of certain restoration and songs of joy at the second coming of Christ.
  2. The Burden of Seven Gentile Nations (13-27)
    These people would never have been mentioned by the Spirit except for their connection with God's covenant people. These nations will reappear, though under new names, at the high point of Jewish history, when the promised coming of their Messiah takes place.
  3. Israel More Guilty than the Other Nations (28-35)
    She would experience God's wrath as a people more advantaged because of their chosen status. The second coming of Christ will end the punishment.
  4. An Historical Interlude (36-39)
    This is the third recital of events that occurred during Hezekiah's reign [the other accounts are in 2Kin 18-20 and 2Chr 29-32]. It presents, in type, Israel's deadly spiritual sickness, the appearance of Antichrist, and the miraculous deliverance of the Jews, accomplished by the second coming of Christ.
  5. God's Controversy with Israel because of Her Idolatry (40-48)
    This section contains another promise of the return of Christ, but it ends with these gripping words: ''There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked'' (48:22).
  6. God's Sharp Controversy with Israel for Rejecting Christ (49-57)
    Once again, the section includes a promise of the second coming, but it ends with the harsh words: ''There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked'' (57:21).
  7. A Beautiful Description of the Second Coming of Christ (58-66)
    Christ will return at the very moment of Israel's worldliness, and hypocrisy, and defilement. The section ends, however, with this emphatic warning to unbelievers: ''...their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorrence unto all flesh'' (66:24).
To give the story of Christ in Isaiah in one brief chapter [of Paul Van Gorder's book] is nearly impossible. None of the other prophets was permitted to see as much about Christ as Isaiah did. The secret of the whole book is found in chapter 6.
It was the year that King Uzziah died. To get the setting, read 2Kings 15 [where, Uzziah is called 'Azariah']. Uzziah had been a good ruler, and Isaiah thought very highly of him. But one day ''the Lord smote the king, so that he was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a separate house'' (2Kings 15:5). The prophet Isaiah was dejected. Then came an earthquake, and God permitted him to see One greater than Uzziah. Every child of God needs to catch the vision of what Isaiah saw that day.
  1. His own unworthiness (Isaiah 6:5).
    This is the first essential. No one can be of service to the Lord, until he comes to the end of himself.
  2. The need of the world (v.5).
    The prophet was devastated when he saw himself and the people of ''unclean lips'' about him. His eyes were opened to the need of the world [ie., for salvation and cleansing from sin].
  3. The sufficiency of Christ (v.5).
    ''For mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.'' Isaiah saw the nation in chaos and despair, but he also envisioned God's anointed One upon the throne. Worried because of the death of his beloved king, Isaiah saw beyond the present. How we all need to know that Christ is sufficient in any emergency, under any condition, at any time! The tragedy today is not a defeated Christ, but a deluded world and an anemic church. The mists of sin and worldliness have so clouded our vision that we fail to see the enthroned Christ as we really should. Christ said, ''All authority is given unto Me in heaven and in earth...'' (Matthew 28:18). Isaiah said, ''I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne...'' (6:1), and ''I heard the voice of the Lord'' (v.8). What was Isaiah's response to the vision, the cleansing, and the voice?
  4. The appropriate response (v.8).
    ''Here am I; send me.'' He surrendered absolutely to God and His service. I know we cannot standardize the experience of Isaiah and his call to serve, but like conversion, it contains all the necessary elements. The essentials in God's preparation of His man are found here. Someone said, ''God prepares a prophet; then He makes the prophet; then He breaks the mold.''
  5. The sphere to which he was sent (v.9,10).
    In an age when we are being told to think positively, Isaiah's assignment seems rather discouraging. He was sent to a people, who would hear but not understand, who would see but not perceive, whose heart was fat, whose ears were heavy, and whose eyes were shut. How about today? Perhaps at no time in history has the Christian faced more satanic opposition; never has the church been more lukewarm; and at no time has the individual believer been more pressured by worldliness. But the duty of Isaiah was plain-- and so is ours.
With this in mind, we can see why Isaiah received such a vivid revelation of the Messiah. The Christ he saw was the Christ of the Bible, not the Christ that is commonly presented by present-day philosophers and liberal theologians.
The context in which Isaiah saw Christ is clearly defined in seven aspects of the book. We urge you to use them as a springboard for a more detailed study of the revelation of Jesus Christ in this marvelous Old Testament writing.
  1. Isaiah saw Christ in His pre-existence.
    The apostle John wrote, ''These things said, Isaiah, when he saw His glory, and spoke of Him'' (John 12:41). A glorious and oft-quoted verse is Isaiah 9:6, ''For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.'' Isaiah saw Him, and heard His name.
  2. Isaiah saw Christ in His incarnation (Isaiah 7:14).
    You can't escape the necessity of the virgin birth. Who is this One, born of a virgin? Immanuel, ''God with us.'' ''Therefore, the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; behold, the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel'' (7:14) [cp. Mat 1:22,23].
  3. Isaiah saw Christ in His suffering and death.
    The 53rd chapter of Isaiah is inexhaustible in its presentation of the Lord Jesus. Each of the 12 verses finds literal fulfillment in Christ's rejection and crucifixion. Seven times we are told that He bore our sins. Isaiah saw the vicarious, substitutionary suffering of the Lord Jesus.
  4. Isaiah saw Christ in His resurrection.
    The first clause of Isaiah 53:12 indicates this. ''Therefore will I divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong...''
  5. Isaiah saw Christ in His intercession at the throne of God.
    The last clause of verse 12 relates this wonderful truth. ''He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.''
  6. Isaiah saw Christ indwelling the believer through the Holy Spirit.
    The first verse of Isaiah 55 transports you to the incident at Jacob's well in John 4, where Jesus identified Himself as the living water. ''Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come to the waters, and he that hath no money; come, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price'' (Isa 55:1).
  7. Isaiah saw Christ in His second coming.
    The 63rd chapter of this prophecy speaks of the tribulation that will occur at the close of this age. In chapter 11, and again in 65:19-25, Isaiah described the millennial reign of the Lord Jesus. The prophet even saw beyond the millennial reign, envisioning the new heaven and new earth in the eternal state.
Is it any wonder that when Philip joined the eunuch and found him reading Isaiah the prophet, Philip ''began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus'' (Acts 8:30-35). Yes, Christ and His salvation figure prominently in the prophecy of Isaiah.

See the Book Notes on Isaiah. for a verse by verse study of this book.

Return to table of contents for ''The Old Testament Presents... Reflections of Christ,''
written by Paul R. Van Gorder, Copyright 1982 by RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI.
Used by permission [within The Book from].
Further distribution is not allowed without permission from RBC.

For another brief look at this book of the Bible,
see the related chapter in Christ in All the Scriptures, by A.M. Hodgkin.

Go to The Book opening page.