Most either haven’t given much thought to or don’t understand the identity of the God who spoke to people in the Old Testament. Yet Jesus Christ clearly revealed the answer.
Many consider the God they read about in the Old Testament to be harsh and vindictive.
This view may be based on simply reading some of the well-known stories of the Old Testament. God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and destroyed the earth with a flood. He sent plagues on ancient Egypt and directed Israel to conquer Canaan through war. And He punished Israel and Judah through captivity by foreign nations. Many interpret these as the actions of a stern God of retribution and justice.
On the other hand, many see the New Testament as quite different. It tells about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who taught love toward others, showed mercy, healed multitudes of people, held children in His arms and gave His life as a sacrifice without resistance.
Comparing these examples, many have concluded that the Father was the God of the Old Testament—the God of justice and punishment. Jesus, the Son, was the God revealed in the New Testament—the God of love and mercy. Some even believe Jesus came to stand in the gap between us and the Father—essentially delivering us from His Father’s restrictive law!
But the truth of the Bible is much different.
It couldn’t have been the Father!
John revealed a surprising truth in John 1:18: “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (emphasis added throughout). Jesus also said, “And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form” (John 5:37).
These two scriptures teach us an important fact: The Father has not directly spoken to or been seen by any human being at any time.
But if we look through the Old Testament, we see many occasions when God worked directly with human beings. (Consider, for example, Genesis 2:16-17; 6:13-14; 12:1; 17:1; Exodus 3:4-6; 33:11, 22-23; Numbers 12:6-8; Deuteronomy 4:33; Jeremiah 1:4-10).
We see that a divine being in the Old Testament dealt directly with people; but according to Jesus, this divine being could not have been God the Father.
Jesus said that He came to “reveal” the Father (Matthew 11:27). By claiming to be the Son of God (John 10:36), Jesus contradicted one of the Jew’s most treasured doctrines—that God is composed of strictly one divine being. They did not understand that God is actually a family—composed of the Father and the Son (John 1:18; Romans 1:4; Philippians 2:6-11).
If the One who revealed Himself to the patriarchs and Israel in the Old Testament was not the Father—then who was He?
Jesus Christ’s preexistence
A careful study of the Bible shows clearly that the God who interacted with humans in the Old Testament was the One who became Jesus Christ.
The Bible reveals that before Jesus was born to Mary, He was the One John called “the Word” (John 1:1, 14). This title perfectly describes His function before being born as a human being. “Word” in John 1:1 is a translation of the Greek word Logos, meaning “a word” or “something said” (Strong’s Greek Dictionary). The definition includes both the thought and the spoken word.
The Word was, essentially, the being in the God family who served as the spokesman. He has always been responsible for communicating the will of the Father to human beings—during Old Testament and New Testament times
The use of Logos to describe Jesus before His human birth gives us insight into His Old Testament identity. The Word was, essentially, the being in the God family who served as the spokesman. He has always been responsible for communicating the will of the Father to human beings—during Old Testament and New Testament times. When God’s voice or revelation was given, it was through the Word—who became Jesus Christ—or an angel. The Father has never spoken directly with human beings.
Jesus Christ made His identity very clear—sometimes even to His physical detriment! In John 8 Jesus said He knew Abraham (verse 56). Since Abraham had lived and died nearly 2,000 years before, this statement offended the Jews Jesus was talking to. They considered it blasphemy that a mere man (as they viewed Him) “not yet fifty years old” had the audacity to claim He had known their patriarch Abraham (verse 57).
But Jesus’ response was even more shocking to them: “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (verse 58).
Yes, Jesus Christ claimed that He predated Abraham. But, in saying this, Jesus also gave a not-so-subtle clue about His identity that wasn’t lost on the angry Jews who surrounded Him. He referred to Himself as “I AM.” This was actually a divine title of God! When God had appeared to Moses from the burning bush, God had identified Himself as “I AM WHO I AM” and “I AM” (Exodus 3:14).
By identifying Himself as “I AM,” Jesus claimed that He had eternally existed. Christ identified Himself as the God of Abraham and Moses, and the One who led Israel out of Egypt (which is also affirmed by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:1-4).