Reading a story backwards would be confusing. The characters would seem to unlearn information as you read from the end to the beginning. The denouement would all but disappear, as the story, read in reverse, unravels instead of coming together.
Read from end to beginning you may think Little Red Riding Hood wanted to be eaten by the wolf, or that Lois Lane always knew that Clark Kent was Superman, but just didn’t like to talk about it.
Just as silly is when people read the Bible from end to beginning, teaching that everyone in the Old Testament was looking forward to the cross.
They think that Abraham believed in Christ when he offered up his Son on the altar, or that those under Moses’ law thought of the future Christ every time they offered an animal sacrifice. But this is reading the Bible backwards reading the end back into the beginning.
Read properly from beginning to end, it becomes clear that God reveals his will progressively, and that no one was looking forward to the cross for salvation, because it was hid in God until it was time to make it known.
Did They See It?
It is not true that everyone in the Old Testament was looking forward to the cross, because no one knew about it. They cannot look forward to what they did not know.
Job asked, “how should man be just with God?”, not kowing anything about the cross of Christ (Job 9:2).
Moses did not even know God’s name (Exo 3:13).
David knew God had forgiven him, but did not know how, pleading for God’s mercy instead of pleading the cross (Psalm 51:1).
Isaiah, Jeremiah, Malachi, and Daniel all prophesied of the coming Messiah, but none of them understood what the prophecy meant when it spoke of the sufferings of Christ.
“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
The Missing Cross in Jesus’ Ministry
John the Baptist’s daddy, Zachariah, said Christ had come to deliver the nation “out of the hands of our enemies” and never once mentions the cross (Luke 1:71-74).
When John the Baptist identified Jesus as the Lamb of God, it was after the Lord’s water baptism for the remission of sins, of which Christ had none. What a strange saying if John the Baptist truly meant by his cry, “Here is the man who is going to die!” Instead of good news, that would be terrible news!
Peter took it as bad news when Jesus told him plainly he would die.
The first time Jesus communicates his death it was privately to his disciples in Matthew 16:21. Peter rejects the Lord’s seemingly pessimistic prophecy and tells him he will not die on his watch (Matt 16:22).
Peter was not looking forward to the cross, he was trying to prevent it! If Peter were looking forward to the cross shouldn’t he have rejoiced in the cross like Paull?
“God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” – Gal 6:14
It is clear that Peter nor any of the twelve disciples understood what Christ meant when he spoke of his death to them in private (Mark 9:32; Luke 18:34).
“But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not: and they feared to ask him of that saying.” – Luke 9:45
Don’t Read the End Back into the Beginning
If we read the Bible from beginning to end, and not backwards, it becomes clear that no one before the cross was looking forward to the cross. We cannot read back into the Old Testament what had not yet been revealed.
God had secretly purposed to provide salvation for all men at all times through the cross, but the mystery of that cross was kept secret since the world begin. This is exactly what we read in Paul’s epistles to whom the mystery preaching of Christ’s cross was revealed.
“Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest…” – Romans 16:25
That they truly needed the cross is evident, and now that the mystery of the gospel has been revealed, we can see God preparing for the cross in types and shadows in the Old Testament, but no one then living understood it nor looked forward to it.
The men of faith in the Old Testament were hoping for salvation from God through his mercy, but they could not see the good news of the cross of Christ. It is only after the revelation of the mystery that we now know what had been hid in God since the world began, and look back to see how God could justify sinners.