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Jesus Fulfills Old Testament Worship

In the Old Testament economy, God established particular means through which his people were enabled to draw near to him in worship, although since the sacrifices were not completely pure and the worshipers remained sinful, no one could enter God’s presence for free and open communion with him. Jesus enabled such communion by himself fulfilling the function of each essential OT worship element.

Jesus is the atoning sacrifice, the “lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), and the high priest who made “propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb 2:17). He is the “bread of life” (John 6:48) on the table of showbread and the “light of the word” (John 8:12), the revelation of God himself (Heb 1:2–3). He is the altar of incense, interceding on behalf of his people (Heb 7:25). And ultimately, Jesus is the temple, the embodiment of the presence of God (John 2:21) to which and through which God’s people draw near for worship.

Key events in Jesus’s life also fulfill the Old Testament feasts. Most notably, Jesus’s atoning death occurred during the Jewish observance of Passover, the feast symbolizing the deliverance of Israel from captivity in Egypt, which is why Paul would later identify Jesus as “our Passover Lamb” (1 Cor 5:7). Jesus was in the grave during the feast of Unleavened Bread, signifying his sinlessness and the atoning sacrifice for the sins of his people. He rose again from the dead on day of the feast of Firstfruits, leading Paul to later refer to Jesus as “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15:20). On the feast of Weeks, celebrating God’s provision in the beginning of harvest 50 days after Passover (thus, “Pentecost”), God began a great harvest of souls when 3,000 Jews responded to Peter’s first public proclamation of the gospel following Jesus’s ascension into heaven (Acts 2:41).

The autumn Jewish festivals will likewise be fulfilled by Christ in the future. The announcement of Christ’s second coming is frequently associated in the New Testament with the sounding of trumpets (1 Thess 4:16, 1 Cor 15:52). That coming will initiate the ultimate Day of Atonement, when the Jewish remnant will “look . . . on him whom they have pierced” (Zech 12:10) and receive him as their Messiah (Rev 7:4). In that day, Christ will once again tabernacle with his people: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Rev 21:3). In that day, “the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and it shall be lifted up above the hills; and people shall flow to it, and many nations shall come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths’” (Mic 4:1–2). When that happens, the worship of God will be preeminent in the New Jerusalem, where God’s people draw near to worship him in his temple, “the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” (Rev 21:22).

Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is Chair of the Worship Ministry Department at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.

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