The Signs of the Times, vol. 12


December 30, 1886

“Did the Patriarchs Know Christ?” The Signs of the Times, 12, 50.

E. J. Waggoner

A very common answer to the above question is that they did not, or that they had at the most a very limited knowledge of Christ in his work, and had no just conception of the plan of salvation. Such a position we believe to be wholly erroneous, and subversive of Bible truth. If it were so, it would show that God’s ways are not equal, and that in different ages of the world he has different ways of saving men; and still worse, the holding of such a view dishonors Christ, by virtually denying that in all things he has the pre-eminence. We therefore wish briefly to give a scriptural answer to the question. SITI December 30, 1886, page 790.1

Going back to the time of a fall we find Christ promised to Adam and Eve, as the one who should conquer sin and Satan. Said the Lord to the serpent: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15. SITI December 30, 1886, page 790.2

Some may say that this is so slight a reference to the Messiah, that the fallen pair could not possibly have derived much, if any, hope from it. We are not to suppose that the very brief record in the first three chapters of Genesis contains more than a bare outline of what the Lord spoke to our first parents. But whether this was all the information that was given them or not, it is certain that they fully understood the consequences of their sin, and knew just how they might find pardon. This we know from the fact that in process of time both Cain and Abel brought offerings to the Lord, to the latter of which the Lord had respect, while he rejected the former. Why was this difference shown? Because Cain’s offering, being only the fruit of the ground, indicated no faith in the promised Redeemer, while Abel’s offering, being of the firstling of his flock, showed faith in the Lamb of God, which alone could take away the sin of the world. SITI December 30, 1886, page 790.3

This is what the apostle Paul says in Hebrews 11:4: “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and by it he being dead yet speaketh.” That is to say that Abel’s sacrifice was the sacrifice of faith, and by it he obtained that righteousness “which is through the faith of Jesus Christ, the righteousness of God by faith.” SITI December 30, 1886, page 790.4

Coming down to the time of Abraham we find the clearest evidence of a full knowledge of Christ. The covenant that God made with him was confirmed “in Christ.” Galatians 3:17. It was therefore Abraham’s faith in Christ that was “counted unto him for righteousness.” Moreover, Abraham’s faith was so great that he was called the father of the faithful; and the highest position to which a person can attain is to be a child of Abraham. The most perfect Christians on earth only “walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.” Romans 4:12. This is because Abraham sought Christ’s day and was glad. John 8:56. He saw and understood the complete work of Christ, and being justified by faith he rejoiced in hope of the glory of God. See Romans 5:1, 2. SITI December 30, 1886, page 790.5

Still later we have the record of Moses. Paul tells us that it was his faith in Christ that led him to leave the court of Egypt. “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.” Hebrews 11:24-26. This shows only that Moses had full faith in Christ, but also that unbelievers have a knowledge of him, for if it were not so Moses could not have suffered the “reproach of Christ.” SITI December 30, 1886, page 790.6

Those Israelites who are willing also to suffer the reproach of Christ were sustained by him, for Paul says that “they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them; and that Rock was Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10:4. And this shows that the pious Jews were as truly Christians as are any people who may believe in Christ of the present time. By the sacrifices which they offered they indicated their faith in the Redeemer who was to die on Calvary, just the same as we do in the Lord’s Supper eat the bread and drink of the cup “to show the Lord’s death till he come.” To say that they did not understand Christ’s mediatorial work is to deny the Scriptures of truth. SITI December 30, 1886, page 790.7

But there were many Jews who did not believe in Christ. So there are now in the church many professed Christians who know nothing of Christ. The preaching of the cross is really foolishness to them as much as it ever was to the Greeks, although they may not scoff at it. When Christ appeared in the flesh the great body of the Jewish nation rejected him. Even so he has told us that when he comes the second time faith will be a rare thing on the earth. But we must remember that the reason why the Jews rejected Christ was because they did not believe the sacred Scriptures, just as the reason why the Son of man when he comes will scarcely find faith on the earth, will be because of the growing skepticism in regard to the Bible. Already professors of religion openly say, “Where is the promise of his coming?” To those unbelieving Jews Christ said: “Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father; there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” John 5:45-47. SITI December 30, 1886, page 790.8

Taking a more general view, we learn that not only Moses but all the prophets taught the facts concerning Christ and his work. Peter says that the prophets “prophesied of the grace that should come onto you; searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” 1 Peter 1:10, 11. And even a slight acquaintance with the prophets will serve to show that every feature in Christ’s ministry, both on earth and in Heaven, was foretold by them. SITI December 30, 1886, page 790.9

In Daniel 9:25-27 we find the time when the Messiah should appear given with the utmost exactness. Micah (chap. 5:2) told that he should be born in Bethlehem of Judea. Isaiah foretold the fact that he should be born of a virgin. Compare Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23. Zechariah foretold Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Zechariah 9:9. Daniel’s vision revealed the exact time when Christ should be crucified. Daniel 9:27. In that wonderful chapter, the fifty-third of Isaiah, the people were told of his life of humility and death of his final ignominious death; that “the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all;” that his soul was to be poured out unto death as an offering for sin, and that “with his stripes we are healed.” Moreover the fact that he should be buried with the rich, is plainly stated. David foretold the well-known incident of the crucifixion when he said by the Spirit: “They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” Psalm 69:21. He also speaks of the piercing of Christ’s hands and feet (Psalm 22:16) and prophesies of the action of the Roman soldiers in these words: “They parted my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.” Verse 18. He also understood that Christ should be born of his line, and knowing that his throne is to endure “as days of heaven” (Psalm 89:29) he prophesied of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul should not be left in the grave, and that his flesh should not see corruption. Compare Psalm 16:8-10 and Acts 2:25-31. SITI December 30, 1886, page 790.10

David also describes Christ’s ascension to Heaven after his victory over death (Psalm 24:7-10) and also declares that Christ is to sit at the right hand of God until his foes are made his footstool. Psalm 110:1. The prophet Zechariah declared that Christ was to sit as a priest upon his Father’s throne, securing, in conjunction with the Father, peace for troubled humanity. Zechariah 6:12, 13. And Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of the glorious second coming of Christ to execute judgment on the ungodly. Jude 14. SITI December 30, 1886, page 790.11

But time and space would fail to speak of all that the prophets have said concerning Christ. Let one more text suffice to cover the whole ground. The apostle Paul declared himself to be a “servant of the Lord Jesus Christ;” he gloried in the cross of Christ, and preached nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified. Christ was his constant theme, yet when he stood before Agrippa he said: “Having therefore obtain helped of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which Moses and the prophets did say should come; that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should show a light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.” Acts 20:22, 23. If the apostle Paul in all his preaching did not go outside of what Moses and the prophets had said, they certainly must have given very accurate information concerning Christ. SITI December 30, 1886, page 790.12

Who can read how Isaiah saw Christ “sitting on a throne high and lifted up,” or and how Ezekiel saw “visions of God,” or how Enoch “walked with God,” and doubt but that these men had a most intimate knowledge of Christ and his work for fallen man? And that not only they, but multitudes of others, had a knowledge of Christ, is proved by the fact that they “through faith subdued kingdoms, brought righteousness, obtained promises,” and that besides Christ there is no salvation in any other, “for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:12. W. SITI December 30, 1886, page 790.13