by Rom Harper
The Distinctiveness of His Birth
The Place of His Birth
The Lineage of The Messiah
The Sufferings of The Messiah
The Kingship of The Messiah
The Sonship of The Messiah
The God-Man Concept of The Messiah
During a Bible study last year, one of the Scripture verses that we had reason to look at was Luke 24: 27: ‘And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.’ A question was then raised as to what Christ would have been actually able to show His disciples in the Old Testament. We must note that the Old Testament was the only Scripture available to them at that time. Another point we should also realise is that these disciples had just lived and accompanied Christ for three years. They were eyewitnesses to His life, work, miracles, death and resurrection.
Other than Christ, beginning with Moses, it is impossible to know exactly what verse in the Scriptures He started with, to show them the things concerning Himself. But I believe He could have shown them many things, stating words similar to, ‘remember when this happened to me – here is the event documented in Scripture’, as He pointed to any number of verses throughout Scripture.
There is a great deal of information in the Old Testament about the Lord Jesus. I want to look at one segment of information which was a hot topic during His life on earth – was He the awaited Jewish Messiah or not? We will look at what are termed ‘Messianic verses’ or verses that were singled out from the Scriptures during Israel’s history, prior to the birth of Christ and pertaining to their coming Messiah. Once identifying these verses, we need to look into the records of the New Testament to see if Christ fulfilled the requirements to claim the position of Israel’s promised Messiah.
My study outline and material comes from a number of studies I have done over the years through Ariel Ministries. Bible verses quoted are from the KJV. If a passage is not printed due to space, please take the time to read it yourself, to gain a better understanding on the topic.
Looking at the subject of the ‘Messiah’ we need to know what the word actually means. The Hebrew word is mashiyach and means ‘anointed’ or ‘anointed one’. The specific practice of anointing by pouring oil on the head was used as a symbolic act for officially designating and setting apart a person for a certain public leadership function in the community. It was a one-time event much like an inauguration or ordination. Things could also be sanctified or dedicated to a special purpose for God by anointing.
Three kinds of leaders anointed for their ministries in the Old Testament were priests, kings and prophets. Priests were anointed, as seen in Exodus 28:41: ‘And thou shalt put them upon Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him; and shalt anoint them, and consecrate them, and sanctify them, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office.’
Kings and prophets were also anointed, as shown in 1 Kings 19:16: ‘And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room.’
In the New Testament the Greek word for Christ, Christos, means ‘anointed’. So we could say that ‘Christ’, is simply the Greek word for the Hebrew word ‘Messiah’.
Many Biblical characters throughout the Old Testament were anointed to one of the ministries mentioned – priest, prophet or king. In the New Testament we find that Jesus is referred to as holding all three titles or offices and I believe He is the only person to have done so. A king, as seen in Luke 19:38: ‘Blessed be the King’; a prophet, as described in Acts 3:22: ‘A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up’; and a priest, from Hebrews 7:17: ‘Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.’
The Distinctiveness of His Birth
Following the account of creation, the Old Testament continues in relation to Adam and Eve. Satan deceived Eve and caused her to rebel against the one commandment given by God. Adam followed suit and sin entered God’s creation and humanity. Mankind was now under God’s judgment. At this same time, known as the fall, God provided for future redemption. Genesis 3:15 says: ‘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.’In this verse, as God addresses Satan, we see a key point is the statement ‘her seed’or her off-spring. The statement is easy to understand in the context of Biblical teaching, it is unusual.
Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, lineage was never reckoned after the woman, but only after the man. In all the genealogies we have in the Biblical record, women are virtually ignored because they are unimportant in determining genealogy. Yet the future person who would crush Satan’s head, while only suffering a slight wound Himself, would be reckoned after a woman, not a man as normal.
Against the normal Biblical pattern we have a clear statement that the future Redeemer comes from the ‘seed of the woman’. His birth will take into account His mother’s lineage. For reasons not explained here, the father will not be taken into account and is contrary to the Hebrew Biblical view regarding genealogies.
Genesis does not give the answer as to why the Redeemer was labeled ‘the seed of the woman’ – this would come later in Isaiah. Isaiah 7:14: ‘Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.’ Centuries later we see the Prophet Isaiah explaining the meaning and reason why the Messiah would be reckoned only after the seed of the woman. The very fact that the person spoken of in this passage is described as a sign, points to some unusual circumstance regarding the birth. In other words the birth could not be normal, for that would not fulfil the requirement of the word ‘sign’. It had to be unusual in some way, perhaps miraculous, or at the very least attention-getting.
Note: A special birth was not new to Israel; the very existence of the Jewish people was derived from a sign of a birth. The Scriptures are quite clear in Genesis 18 that both Abraham and Sarah were beyond the point of bearing children. This sign of Sarah giving birth was confirmation that God would keep His covenant with Abraham and would make a great nation from him. A year later the birth of Isaac occurred; it was the sign needed to authenticate the covenant. The birth of Isaac was a miraculous birth. As stated, the birth of the son in Isaiah 7:14 was also to be a sign, this time nothing to do with the age of the mother but that the son would be born of a virgin.
There is some conflict concerning this verse by some commentators and modern rabbis where they claim the Hebrew word used for virgin in this verse, almah, does not mean ‘virgin’ but ‘young woman’. But what they fail to explain is how this would be used as a sign. A young woman giving birth to a baby is hardly unusual; in fact it happens all the time.
The explanation of Genesis 3:15 is that the Messiah would be reckoned after the seed of the woman because He would not have a human father due to His virgin birth, meaning also His lineage could be traced only through His mother. The Messiah would enter the world by means of a virgin birth.
Now we move to the New Testament to see if Christ fulfilled these Scriptures that would point to His claim of the awaited Jewish Messiah. Luke 1:30,31: ‘And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call His name JESUS.’ In this verse we see that Mary, a woman, would conceive and bare a child. Luke 1:34: ‘Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?’Evidence is now shown that she is a virgin. Matthew 1: 22,23: ‘Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.’ The Gospel of Matthew ties this event in with the Old Testament prophecy.
Note: The Greek word for virgin, parthenos can only mean a virgin, not just any young maiden but one who has not had intercourse with a man. The name Jesus, pronounced Yesouse from the Greek or Yeshua from Joshua in Hebrew means ‘Jehovah is salvation’. The conclusion for this first point is that the virgin birth of the Messiah, hinted at in Genesis 3:15 and later developed in Isaiah 7:14, is viewed by the gospels as being fulfilled in the birth of Jesus. These are more of his credentials.
The Place of His Birth
In the Old Testament the birthplace of the Messiah was prophesied in Micah 5:2: ‘But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.’ The verse is self-explanatory and carries far less disagreement among orthodox rabbis, as the general accepted meaning of the verse is that the Messiah will originate from Bethlehem.
In the New Testament we find in Luke 2:4-7: ‘And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.’ Although His parents lived in Nazareth, Christ’s birthplace was Bethlehem, fulfilling the prophecy of Micah 5:2 which declared that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
The Lineage of the Messiah
Another uncontested point in Judaism is that the Messiah would be a descendant of King David. From this we get the rabbinical description of the title, ‘Messiah, the son of David’. Thus meaning He had to also come via David’s father, Jesse. Isaiah 11:1 reads: ‘And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots.’ Isaiah 11:10 says: ‘And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and His rest shall be glorious’. Ensign means a ‘sign’ or ‘banner’ or ‘something lifted up’.
Jesse was the father of David, thus, these passages show that the Messiah will come from the House of David. To this, all Orthodox Judaism agrees. There are many more passages, some of which we will get to later, but these two get the point across.
In the New Testament, we will look at the genealogy of Jesus. In Luke 3:31,32 we come across the two names mentioned in the above Old Testament Scriptures now speaking of Christ’s lineage: ‘which was the son of David, which was the son of Jesse.’ Also in Christ’s genealogy found in Matthew 1:6: ‘And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias.’
In both the lineages given in the verses above, it is stated that Jesus is from the line of Jesse or ‘root of Jesse’ as the Old Testament puts it. Once again prophecy from our earlier Scriptures, Isaiah 11:1 and 11:10, is fulfilled in Jesus.
The Sufferings of the Messiah
That the Messiah would suffer and die was something upon which all early rabbis agreed. They referred to the suffering Messiah as ‘Messiah, the son of Joseph’, making Him distinct from ‘Messiah, the son of David’. Isaiah chapter 53 (please read) is one section of Scripture that deals with this Messiah. To summarise the passage we find that, concerning His humanity, there was nothing special about Him; He would be despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. This Messiah would be bearing the people’s grief while they thought He was being punished for His own sins, but the people would eventually realise that He was wounded not for His own transgressions but for theirs. Jehovah had laid their iniquity on His servant.
This Messiah humbly and silently submits Himself to unjust treatment, His death sentence was unjustly pronounced in a court of law and He was taken and killed. He was assigned a criminal’s grave, yet He would be buried in a rich man’s tomb. It pleased Jehovah to bruise Him and make His soul an offering for sin and the pleasure of Jehovah will prosper in His hand. Isaiah 53:10 reads: ‘Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.’
How can Jehovah make this Messiah, His servant, a sacrifice for sin (die) but then say His pleasure will prosper in this servant’s hand? Perhaps this servant won’t stay dead. Please read Psalm 22:1–21, a psalm of David. This psalm is another passage dealing with the suffering of the Messiah and, in summarising this passage, we find that the Messiah is forsaken by God, is ridiculed and tormented by the people and His clothes are gambled away by His tormentors. He suffers such agony that all His bones come out of joint, His heart breaks and His hands and feet are pierced. This Psalm is similar to Isaiah 53 but provides more detail as to the type of suffering and agony that this Messiah must undergo.
The early Rabbis understood this passage to refer to ‘Messiah, Son of Joseph’. He was named this after Joseph the Patriarch who suffered at the hands of his brethren. There are many Scriptures in the New Testament that describe what Christ went through in the events mentioned in the above passages. I believe these passages describe the death, sufferings and resurrection of Jesus Christ, more than any other section of Scripture. The events of what is called the ‘Passion of Christ’ (His torture and death) can be read in Matthew 27: 28–50, Mark 15:16–37, and Luke 23:26–46.
Due to space, I will summarize this event below but please take the time to read those passages for yourself. The death of Jesus Christ is seen by the New Testament writers to be the fulfilment of all the factors regarding the death of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22. Just as the suffering of the servant ended in death after scourging, mockery and crucifixion, so too, Jesus died. Just as the Suffering Servant was treated as a criminal and died a criminal’s death, so too Jesus, by dying a death of crucifixion, died a criminal’s death along with other criminals.
Jesus underwent two trials. The first was a religious trial where He was condemned on false charges of blasphemy and sentenced to death. The second was a political trial by the Romans on false charges of fermenting rebellion against Caesar. Again He was sentenced to death and underwent the Roman type of torturous death. Although, like the suffering servant, He was assigned a criminal’s grave, He was nevertheless, buried in a rich man’s tomb.
A final verse that sums up the situation well is 2 Corinthians 5:21: ‘For He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.’
We find the New Testament adequately covers the point that Jesus Christ is portrayed as the Messiah of the Old Testament with regard to His suffering and death.
The Kingship of the Messiah
As well as the Suffering Messiah, other Old Testament passages speak of another kind of Messiah. Not a sufferer but a conqueror, not a dying Messiah but a reigning one. The rabbis called this one ‘Messiah, the son of David’. Most of what is said about the Messiah in Moses and the prophets revolves around the Messiah’s coming to bring peace and to establish the Messianic Kingdom in Israel.
Please read Isaiah 11:1–10. This describes a different Messiah when compared to the last one we read. Both ancient and modern rabbis agree that this passage speaks of the coming ‘Messiah’ and Messianic age. The picture we get here is of a reigning Messiah who brings peace and prosperity to the entire world; peace extends down to the animal kingdom; the wicked are removed in judgment; and differences between the nations are settled by the Messiah’s authoritative word. The knowledge of the God of Israel spreads until it covers the entire world. The entire world will also have an intimate knowledge of the God who created it.
Again, kindly read Psalm 72:1–19. This passage gives a similar picture to the Isaiah11:1–10 verses. We see the righteous reign of the Messiah, His judgment over the oppressors, the righteous shall flourish and an abundance of peace shall exist. His dominion will cover the whole earth; all kings will bow down before Him and all nations serve Him. Most importantly, verse 17 states: ‘His name shall endure forever: His name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in Him: all nations shall call Him blessed.’
We have now seen a two-fold picture presenting the Messiah, which presented a problem at that time for anyone trying to formulate what the Old Testament was saying about the Messiah. As difficult as it might seem, the prophecies and descriptions are there in Scripture.
Some verses from the New Testament, that point to Jesus as the messiah who will reign as king in the future, are: Matthew 19:28, 1 Timothy 4:1 and Acts 1:6,7. One verse that shows this Messianic title given to Christ at His birth is Luke 1:32,33: ‘He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of his father David: And He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end.’
His first coming was His unique birth into the world; His life on earth was where He subsequently went through suffering and death for the sins of Israel. He is resurrected and returns to His place in Heaven, to return again to the earth to set up the Messianic Kingdom by re-establishing the Davidic throne, and will reign over a kingdom of peace, prosperity, and security for Israel forever.
The second coming, or the return of the Messiah, are the names we call this futuristic event. This is the time that deals with His kingship. In fact, the writers of the Acts period in the New Testament were expecting this event to take place at any moment during their life-time.
The Sonship of the Messiah
Before reading further, please read Psalm 2. This psalm deals with the kingship of the Messiah, but also brings out the Messiah’s sonship with God. The words ‘His anointed’ in verse 2 are speaking of the Messiah.
Early rabbis expounded this Psalm as referring to King Messiah but modern rabbis would refer it to King David rather than the Messiah. Comparing the words of the Psalm with recorded history would exclude David as a possibility altogether.
In verse 8 of this Psalm, God tells the person to whom He is speaking, that He is turning over the dominion and the authority of the whole world to Him. King David never had this authority or dominion, so the early rabbis were correct in interpreting this Psalm as the Messiah, who is also referred to in verse 7 as the ‘Son of God’. God also warns that all must submit to the Son of God, the Messiah; those who refuse will be punished and those who take refuge or put their trust in Him are blessed.
And now to Proverbs 30:4: ‘Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? Who hath gathered the wind in his fists? Who hath bound the waters in a garment? Who hath established all the ends of the earth? What is His name, and what is His son’s name, if thou canst tell?’
In this verse, we have just read a series of six questions. The first four questions all ask the same question of Identity: ‘Who did it?’
The first question is: Who has gone up into heaven and come down?
The second question is: Who has gathered the wind in his fists?
The third question is: Who has bound up the waters in his garment?
The fourth question is: Who has established all the ends of the earth?
These first four questions asked by Solomon, indicate that the answer is very clear. When we look at the events described in the questions, it is obvious only one person could possibly do all those things: God Himself!
Now to the fifth question: What is his name?
We know that the answer is ‘God’ to the first four questions and our English Bibles have the words, God, LORD, Jehovah and Adonai printed in them. In Solomon’s time, no one really knew how to pronounce God’s name. For many centuries, they had feared taking God’s name in vain, and the pronunciation of His name had been forgotten. In Hebrew, four letters, equating to YHVH, were used when writing His name. Most Bible scholars agree that these letters refer to the Great ‘I AM’. So the answer is God, the Great I AM who did all these things.
Now, the sixth question: What is his son’s name, if you know?
This last question is really a trick question; Solomon would know at this stage of Biblical history that it would be impossible to answer. That is why it ends with the words, ‘if you know’. Up until the time of Solomon and later, His name had not been revealed, but the obvious meaning here is that this God, the Great ‘I AM’ has a son!
Note that God’s name was revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14,15. The people living during the time of Genesis knew that there was a God; they just didn’t know His name.
By the same token, no one knew the name of the Son of God throughout Old Testament Judaism, but they knew that God had a Son, for both David and Solomon spoke of Him. Scripture clearly portrays that both the Messiah’s sonship and kingship are related to God.
Do the Jewish writers of the New Testament see in Jesus the Messianic requirements that He is also the Son of God, as declared in Psalm 2:7 and Proverbs 30:4 above? The following two verses will suffice to show that, yes, Jesus was seen by the writers of the New Testament as the one to fulfil this element of the awaited Messiah. Matthew 3:16-17 says: ‘And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom Iam well-pleased.’
Do the Jewish writers of the New Testament see in Jesus the Messianic requirements that He is also the Son of God, as declared in Psalm 2:7 and Proverbs 30:4 above? The follow-ing two verses will suffice to show that, yes, Jesus was seen by the writers of the New Testament as the one to fulfil this element of the awaited Messiah. Matthew 3:16,17 says: ‘And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’
Luke 1: 35 says ‘And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.’
The God-Man Concept of the Messiah
Another aspect of the Messiah is a God-man concept. Some passages which deal with the kingship of the Messiah add a whole new dimension to the person of the Messiah, making Him a man and yet more than a man.
In Isaiah 9: 6,7 we read: ‘For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.’ Verse 6 declares that the Son will be born into the Jewish world and eventually control the reins of government. Verse 7 identifies Him as the Messianic descendant of David, and gives a dramatic description of His reign; it will be characterised by peace and justice. But back in verse 6, ‘Wonderful Counselor’ and ‘Prince of Peace’ can be true of a man but He is also given names that can only be true of God Himself, ‘Mighty God’ and ‘Everlasting Father’.
This new dimension, presented by Isaiah regarding the person of the Messiah, is that the Messiah had to be a man, a descendant of David, but He was to be God as well. These verses also add more information to Isaiah 7:14, which we looked at before, with a virgin conceiving a son who is given the name ‘Immanuel’.
Jeremiah 23:5,6 states ‘Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is His name whereby He shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUS-NESS.’ Here, too, a descendant of David reigns upon the throne of David, and the character of His reign is described as one of peace and security for Israel. Yet He is given the very name of God, which can only belong to God Himself; ‘Adonai Tzidkenu’, ‘Jehovah our righteousness.’ This is the YHVH, the very name that God revealed to Moses as being His personal name:‘I AM’.
We have now also observed that, as with the Sonship concept, the God-man concept is related to us through the Messiah’s kingship. Micah 5:2 says ‘But thou, Bethle-em Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.’ We looked at this verse previously in relation to the Messiah’s birthplace of Bethlehem, but Micah states further that, ‘His goings forth are from old, from everlasting.’ This individual, who is to be born in Bethlehem has His origins from eternity. Only one person is eternal from eternity past, and that is God Himself.
Micah is describing a person who, as to His human origin, is born in Bethlehem; as to His divine origin, He is from eternity, which means He is God and man at the same time. In other words, the Messiah was to be both God and Man at the same time. Does the New Testament teach the same thing about Jesus? We find our answer in the following verses all speaking of Jesus: John 1:1,2 says: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.’’. John 1:14 says: ‘And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.’ Philippians 2: 6,7 states ‘Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.’
Throughout this study of what Jesus could have shown His Disciples when expounding the things concerning Himself in the Scriptures, we have seen seven points. These points all concerned the awaited Jewish Messiah. This was only one subject out of many that the Lord could have shown His disciples.
The points we covered were:
1. The distinctiveness of His birth to a virgin as a sign or something miraculous;
2. The place of His birth, Bethlehem;
3. His lineage continuing from Jesse the father of King David;
4. The terrible sufferings He would have to go through at the hands of His people, unto death;
5. The kingship of the Messiah as a son of David and His majestic rule over Israel and the world sometime in the future.
6. His sonship to God, He is the Son of God and His name and the titles given to Him, from God Himself.
7. The God-man concept, prophesied for the coming Messiah, from the Old Testament and fulfilled in Christ Himself, in the New Testament.
He is God and He is man.