[ Author: Kathy Petersen ]
Who was the mediator before Jesus? What did people believe before Jesus? If, before Jesus’s earthly ministry belief in Jesus wasn’t necessary, why is it necessary now?
The truth is, it was still believing in Jesus. We see that the Messiah (though not by that name) was first promised just after the Fall of Adam, in Gen. 3:15 — the one who would be of the seed of the woman who would crush the serpent’s head.
Those who believed that would technically believe in Jesus, though obviously in a very primitive form, not in the fullness that we see in the Gospels. Ultimately, it is believing in what God said, in what God promised, which is believing in God Himself.
Looking to the promise
Also at the time of the promise of the One who would crush the serpent’s head, the sacrificial system was instituted, with the person offering the sacrifice asking for God to transfer the animal’s innocence to himself while transferring his own guilt to the animal. Immediately after the Fall, not only did God promise the Seed that would crush the serpent’s head, but He also made coats for Adam and Eve.
We are not told the type of animal that was killed to cover their nakedness (which signified their sin, since they only realized they were naked when they sinned), but the presence of coats required an animal to die. We see that it was maintained, because Abel offered an animal sacrifice that was pleasing to God. That first sacrifice (as well as all after it) also looked forward to Jesus Christ, the ultimate sacrifice. So the mediator was still Jesus, but the Redeemer in promise and in prospect, not in reality. In OT times they saw only the shadow of Jesus, in the form of animal sacrifice.
The NT uses the terminology “types and shadows” for a reason. The OT had (and showed) shadows; the NT has (and shows) the reality.
A shadow of things to come
Think of when you’re walking in the sunlight and you see shadows on the ground. Your shadow shows your shape, and others can see your shadow and can see certain things about you, but can’t see the fullness unless they see the real thing. In the analogy, the shadow might show that you’re wearing pants or a skirt or a hat, but the person who saw only the shadow couldn’t tell what color they were.
In OT times, they could see only the shadow, but because they had the shadow, they knew the reality existed, and they believed that. [It would be an odd thing, indeed, for your shadow to exist but you didn’t exist; or maybe to do a Peter Pan thing, and for your shadow to be one place far separated from your body.]
Seeing the shadow and believing in the reality behind the shadow, is not believing in a different Jesus, just as seeing the shadow outline of a building or a mountain causes you to know that the real object that casts the shadow is there, even if you can see only the shadow. When the Old Testament saints believed in the future Promised One, it was still believing in the same Jesus, even if they couldn’t see, understand, or know all about Him (because it’s just a shadow they saw, and not the reality).