I’m not very good at optical illusions. I can look at the black and white picture of that elegant lady in the feather hat for hours and not once can I get it also to look like a haggard old lady in a shawl. And do you remember that craze for pictures that were made up of thousands of little pictures? Apparently if you looked long enough, or de-focussed your eyes enough, a big picture eventually appeared from the confusion. Well I could look for hours and blur my sight until it hurt, yet still without any big picture emerging. And my annoyance only increased as everyone else got the big picture with such evident delight!

But that optical illusion illustrates one way of connecting the Old Testament with Christ. The New Testament enables us to look at the thousands of seemingly disconnected parts of the Old Testament in such a way that at last see a “big picture” of Christ emerge from it all. That’s a wonderful experience, isn’t it! And when we come across preachers and writers who are able to show how the whole Old Testament connects with Christ and climaxes in His appearing, our souls rejoice, don’t they! And it’s no optical or theological illusion either. It’s exciting truth. It’s delightful reality.

The drama of redemption
Sidney Greidanus points to how Donald Miller likens God’s design in redemptive history to a play.

As a playwright works into the earlier scenes of his play certain ideas which are only per­plexing at the time they are introduced, but which are made clear as one looks back to them from the standpoint of the climax, God was working into the earlier acts of the drama of redemption elements which, when re­capitulated in a higher key in Jesus, received a clarity which they did not have in their original setting…Because God progressively works out his redemptive plan in hu­man history, the New Testament writers can preach Christ from the Old Testament as the culmination of a long series of redemptive acts.[1]

However, sometimes in the desire to connect Old Testament history with Christ, to show that Christ is the end or the culmination of that history, the little pictures of Christ that make up the big picture can sometimes be overlooked. 

Carrots, bananas, horses
Let me go back to the optical illusion to explain what I mean. Look closely at the little pictures again. What do you see? Well usually it’s just a bunch of unrelated and irrelevant items. For example if the big picture is of George Washington, the little pictures may be images of carrots, bananas, horses, computers, books, etc. None of the small pictures on their own relate to or connect with George Washington. It’s only when they are viewed as part of the big picture that they bring us to George Washington. 

And, unfortunately, that’s how some people view and use the Old Testament. They see Christ emerge from the picture at the end of Old Testament history (and that’s good), but they do not see him in all the little pictures. They are only so many carrots, bananas, etc.

For example, some see all the Old Testament priests as pointing forwards to Christ’s priestly work; and they do that. Some see all the Old Testament kings as pointing forwards to Christ as King of all kings; and He is that. But is Christ only seen at the end of these long lines of priests and kings? Does He only emerge from the picture when we look back with New Testament eyes? Sometimes that’s the impression that’s given.

But where does that leave Old Testament believers? Did they simply put their trust in Moses’ sacrifices, Aaron’s priesthood, and David’s monarchy?

No! By faith they saw the coming Messiah pictured in the Mosaic sacrifices, Aaron’s priesthood, and David’s kingdom. They saw Christ in the small pictures. True, they only saw Him in shadow form; but shadow implies at least some light, doesn’t it!

[1] Donald G. Miller, The Way to Biblical Preaching, (Nashville, Abingdon, 1957), 134.