Ours is a splintered, fractured world, that often in its differing political parties and conflicting ethical systems and its seemingly endless variety of opinions on virtually every imaginable subject holds out little hope for ultimate meaning. And yet in the midst of undeniable diversity and the differences that so often divide us, the Bible tells us that there is a single, overarching, unitary theme and purpose and goal to all of human history and experience.
The apostle Paul touched on this in several places. Let me mention only two. In Romans 11:36 he concludes a major section of his letter with this brief doxology: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”
Paul’s point is not simply that all things are the creative product of our great Triune God. Yes, all things, everything, came “from him.” He is the originating cause of everything that is. But Paul also tells us that everything that is, continues to “be”, continues to exist, and is sustained in being “through him.” He is the only reason there is something rather than nothing. But it is the final prepositional phrase that staggers the minds and imagination of us all. Everything that is, everything that continues to be, is “to him.” It exists to honor and glorify him. He is himself the purpose of his creative and providential activity.
This is much the same thing that Paul said in Colossians 1:15-17. There he speaks specifically of God the Son, the second person of the Triune Godhead:
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
There it is in black and white: all things were created “for him.” Jesus Christ is the purpose of everything that exists.
I could cite numerous other biblical texts that make the same point. And that point is that in everything God does, whether in the OT or the NT, is intended to point to Jesus. He is the point of it all. He is the purpose, the goal, the aim, the pinnacle of all that God says and does.
All of you, I’m sure, are aware that Jesus himself declared that he was the center and the focus and the substance of all of Scripture. As he walked the Emmaus Road with his disciples after the resurrection, he lovingly rebukes them for failing to understand that everything written about him “in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44).
Some people are skeptical when they hear someone say, as I am saying, that all of Scripture, indeed all of human history, is about Jesus. They think this will lead to superimposing on biblical texts and stories an artificial principle that will distort what the Bible is actually saying. I couldn’t disagree more.
The Son of God, second person of the Trinity, is present from the very beginning of human history. He is prefigured and prophesied, symbolized and typified, on almost every page of the Bible. Just a few examples (that I will combine to make ten) should suffice.
(1) No sooner had Adam and Eve fallen into sin than God gives this promise. In declaring judgment on the serpent, he says: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15). Jesus is himself the offspring or seed of the woman who will ultimately destroy Satan and all his works.
(2) Jesus is himself the consummate ark in which God’s people are preserved from the waters of judgment and death.
(3) When Abraham was told to take his son, his only son, Isaac, and offer him as a sacrifice on the mountain, Isaac was the one who, like Jesus, carried the wood on his back to the place of sacrifice. He did this all the while Abraham knew that he would receive his son back from death. So too with Jesus and his resurrection.
(4) The ladder that Jacob saw in a dream that bridged the gap between heaven and earth, on which angels ascended and descended, was none other than the Son of God himself.
(5) Virtually everything in the life of the patriarch Joseph was a type or foreshadowing of the life and experience of Jesus. The life of Moses clearly was a prefiguring of Jesus. Just as the new-born Moses had to be delivered from the murderous plans of Pharaoh, so the infant Jesus was delivered from the murderous intent of Herod. We are told in Hebrews 11:26 that the Lord, whose beauty and glory, motivated Moses to say No to the treasures of Egypt, was none other than the pre-incarnate Son of God.
(6) The Passover lamb, whose blood was shed to avert the devastation of the angel of death, was clearly predictive of Christ our Passover, whose blood is the only hope for deliverance from a well-deserved wrath. The exodus of Israel from physical slavery in Egypt is repeatedly portrayed in both Old and New Testaments as symbolic and prophetic of the deliverance of God’s people from spiritual slavery to sin. And who was it that actually delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt? We are told in Jude 5 that “Jesus . . . saved a people out of the land of Egypt, . . . and afterward destroyed those who did not believe.”
(7) It was God the Son, the pre-incarnate Christ, who appeared in the burning bush. Jesus himself tells us in John 6 that the manna that sustained Israel in the wilderness was typological of him, the true manna that comes from heaven. Paul says explicitly that the rock from which the people of Israel drank “spiritual” water was none other than Christ himself (1 Cor. 10:4).
All of you are aware, I’m quite sure, that every sacrificial offering as outlined in the book of Leviticus had Jesus, the true Lamb of God, explicitly in mind. The high priest of Israel foreshadowed Jesus, our great high priest, who even now intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father in heaven. Virtually every article of furniture in the tabernacle and later in the temple was a picture of the coming Christ. In fact, the temple, in which God’s glory was made manifest, was not an end in itself, but pointed to the true temple of God, Jesus Christ. For as John tells us, “the Word became flesh,” and literally “tabernacle among us” (John 1:14).
(8) Space does not allow me to pause and take stock of the number of psalms that speak of the coming, suffering Messiah. The true wisdom of God that is described in detail in the book of Proverbs is found in its consummate embodiment in Jesus. The suffering servant of Isaiah 53 is, of course, Jesus. It was God the Son, the pre-incarnate Christ who walked with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace and preserved them alive. It was God the Son, the pre-incarnate Christ, who appeared as the Son of Man in Daniel 7 to whom dominion and sovereignty was given.
(9) Jesus tells us in John 8:56-58, in his dispute with the Pharisees, that the great “I am” in whom Abraham believed and rejoiced was Jesus himself. In John 12 we are told that the Lord of glory, whose train filled the temple, the Lord on his throne, before whom angels knelt in reverential fear, the very glory that caused Isaiah in Isaiah 6 to see his sin and tremble in fear, is none other than the pre-incarnate Christ. John says this explicitly in 12:41 of his gospel: “Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory [i.e., the glory of Jesus] and spoke of him.”
(10) The Sabbath ordinance in the 10 commandments finds its consummate fulfillment in Jesus, for in him we find spiritual rest from all our works and our efforts to justify ourselves in God’s sight. And we clearly see in the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness that he is in fact the “true Israel,” the true son of God, who faithfully fulfills in his life and ministry what the OT nation failed to achieve. Is it any wonder that we read in 1 Peter 1:10-12 that the OT prophets inquired “what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories”?
And if anyone is left to wonder whether or not Jesus is the focus of not merely the NT but also of the OT, one need only read the book of Hebrews where we see over and over again that everything that preceded his coming was not simply old history but prophetic and typological of who Jesus was and what Jesus would accomplish.
You may think I’ve said a lot in these few paragraphs, but I assure you that I’ve barely scratched the surface of what may be said from Scripture about the purpose of Scripture.
All of us want to be able to read the Bible in a meaningful and life-changing way. But there is no hope that such will ever happen until we begin to understand how the OT narratives and the Levitical code and the rituals of sacrifice and the individuals whose names we all know and virtually everything else in the Prophets and in the Wisdom literature all find their consummate fulfillment in Jesus.
That is why Paul can say with unwavering confidence: “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him (that is, through Christ) that we utter our Amen to God for his glory” (2 Cor. 1:20).
Can there be any doubt, then, that Paul spoke truth, when he said that “all things were (not only) created through him [but also] for him”? Jesus Christ is the key, the center, the consummate focus of all of Scripture. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen!