The Messianic Promise
II - The Messianic Promise introduction. Abstract
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This work contains an explanation as to what the word Messiah means, what it implies, an overview of the prophecies given by the prophets, a summary of the prophesies given, as well as their relevance to emergence of Jesus the Messiah. This work also contains a comparative analogy between the teachings of Christ and the ten commandments issued out by Moses, and of course some explanation concerning those teachings. Lastly, important biblical passages are also incorporated on this work as references for the analogies made for easier reference to the written word.
Despite their great antiquity, the Old Testament prophecies have in no way lost their actuality. They help the believing person to understand their faith more deeply and fully. To the unbelieving person, they serve as proof of the existence of God and His participation in human life. Just the fact that the prophets could prophesy the occurrences of the future, with such accuracy and with such detail, hundreds and thousands of years in advance, gives witness that God spoke through them. There is throughout the Old Testament, on every page, a divine watermark revealing in advance the nature of Israel’s coming Messiah. The Old Testament might appear to be just God’s message to the Jewish people and an account of their history. But it is much more than this. There is something which is part of the very texture of the Old Testament and which cannot be removed without destroying the book as a whole. Simply stated, it is the fact that we have the life history of Jesus written centuries before he was born.
It seems to be a matter of great regret that the supposed recipient of Jesus’ teachings and offered salvation did not heed his call. It is undeniable that the remnant of the Israelites was initially intended to receive the teachings of the Messiah, but they rejected this when they crucified Jesus and persecuted his followers. The loss of one became the gain of another. This rejection made by God’s chosen people became the key for the salvation of the Gentiles. There have been described in the Old Testament 300 prophecies of the first coming of the Messiah and 500 of the second coming, all of them made hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus and fulfilled to the letter in Jesus Christ, the Messiah. According to Bishop Mileant, the Old Testament books are filled with prophecies about the Messiah and His blessed Kingdom. The goal of the Old Testament prophecies was to prepare the Jews, and through them all of mankind, for the coming of the Savior of the world, so that when He came, He could be recognized and they would believe in Him. Yet, the task of the prophets was difficult for several reasons. First of all, the Messiah was to be not only a great person, but at the same time God, or — the God-person. For this reason, the prophets were faced with the task of revealing the Godly nature of the Messiah, but in such a way, that it did not give rise to polytheism, to which ancient people were so prone, Jews included. For Jesus himself, these scriptures explained the reason for his birth, the work he was to accomplish, and the glory in store for him, and for all who come to God through him.
In an article written by Long, the word “messiah” (meshiah) — is from the Hebrew and means “anointed,” i.e. anointed by the Holy Spirit. In the Greek translation it is written “Christos.” In ancient times, the anointed were called kings, prophets and High Priests, because during their ordination to these positions holy oil was poured on their heads, as the symbol of the grace of the Holy Spirit, which they received in order to successfully execute the responsibility placed on them. In the capacity of a proper name, the prophets always related the word “Messiah” to the certain Anointed of God, the Savior of the world. We will use the name Messiah, Christ and Savior alternately, having in view One and the same Being.
IV. The Messianic Prophesies
In the Old Testament books, several hundred prophecies about the Messiah and His blessed Kingdom can be found. They are scattered throughout almost all the books of the Old Testament, beginning with the Five Books of Moses and ending with the last prophets Zachariah and Malachi. The Prophet Moses, King David, the Prophets Isaiah, Daniel and Zachariah wrote the most about the Messiah. We will mention only the most important prophecies, and along the way will stress those main thoughts which are touched upon by them. Setting these prophecies, for the most part, in chronological order, we shall see how they gradually revealed to the Jews newer and newer facts about the coming Messiah: about His God-person nature, about His character and course of action, about many details of His life. Sometimes, the messianic prophecies consisted of symbols and allegories.
The record of messianic fulfillment that appears in the New Testament presumes a prior revelation of prediction in the Old Testament. In like manner, the use of the term “Messiah” (as well as the concept of the Messiah) reflects the development of the messianic idea expressed in seminal form in the Torah and Writings and expanded in the Prophets in accord with the hermeneutical principle of progressive revelation.
Our foreparents, Adam and Eve, heard the first prediction of the Messiah in Eden, right after their savoring of the forbidden fruit. Then God told the devil, who had taken on the appearance of a snake: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise [destroy] thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel” (Gen. 3:15). With these words the Lord passed judgment on the devil and consoled our foreparents with the promise that at some time a Descendant of the Woman will strike the “head” itself of the snake-devil, who tempted them. The nomenclature of the Messiah as the “Seed of the Woman,” which points to His extraordinary birth of a Woman, Who will conceive without the participation of a man. According to the translations of the Targums of Onkelos (a number of translations or paraphrases of the various divisions of the Hebrew Old Testament in the Aramaic language) and of Jonathan, the Jews always considered the prophecy of the Seed of the Woman as pertaining to the Messiah.
The second prophecy about the Messiah is also found in the book of Genesis and speaks of the blessing, which will extend to all people from Him. This is spoken to the righteous Abraham, when he, through his willingness to bring his only son Isaac as a sacrifice, revealed his extreme devotion and obedience to God. Then God through an Angel promised to Abraham: “And in thy Seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice” (Gen. 22:18).
The third prophecy about the Messiah was pronounced by the patriarch Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, when before his death, he blessed his 12 sons and predicted the future fate of his descendants. For Judah he predicted: “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come, and unto him shall the gathering of the people be” (Gen. 49:10). Here the scepter symbolizes power. This prophecy states that the descendants of Judah will have their own leaders and lawgivers until the time when the Messiah-Shiloh (Conciliator) comes.
The next prophesy about the Messiah represented as a “Star” rising from the descendants of Jacob, was pronounced by the prophet Balaam, a contemporary of the prophet Moses, more than 1500 years BC. “I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth” (Numbers 24:17). The symbolic naming of the Messiah: as a star and sceptre point to His guiding and hierarchical significance. Balaam foretells the defeat of the princes of Moab and the descendants of Seth in an allegorical way, having in mind here the defeat of the powers of evil, taking up arms against the Kingdom of the Messiah.
Another prophesy was made by the prophet Moses himself, when the earthly life of this great leader and lawgiver of the Hebrew nation was coming to its close. The prophesy God wanted Moses to tell was spoken in this exact manner: “I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren and will put My words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command Him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him” (Deut. 18:18-19).
To sum up the aforementioned prophecies recorded by Moses, we see, that long before the formation of the Hebrew nation, still in the patriarchal time, the ancestors of the Jews knew many valuable and essential facts about the Messiah, in particular: that He will defeat the devil and his servants, will bring a blessing to all nations; He will be the Peacemaker and Leader, and His Kingdom will be eternal.
King David, the greatest and noblest king when the kingdom of Israel was still united was also noted to have received a prophesy concerning a Messiah. This was recounted to him by the prophet Nathan, King David was given a promise by God that from his seed shall come a great king, who shall be the cause of deliverance of his people. Being a king and a prophet, and also to a certain extent a priest, King David became the prototype (a model), as a precursor of the greatest of Kings, Prophet and High Priest — Christ the Savior, the descendant of David. The personal experience of King David, and also the poetic gift with which he was endowed, gave him the opportunity to describe the character and feat of the coming Messiah in a whole row of psalms with unprecedented clarity and vividness. For example, in his 2nd psalm king David foretells the enmity and uprising against the Messiah on the part of his enemies. This psalm is written in the form of a discussion among three entities: David, God the Father, and the Son of God, anointed by the Father to the Kingdom. Here are the main excerpts from this psalm: King David: “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed.” God the Father: “Yet have I set My king upon my holy hill of Zion.” The Son of God: “I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto Me, Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten thee.” King David: “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way” (verses 1-2, 6-7 and 12). Revealing the difference between Faces in God, between the God anointing and the God anointed, the given prophecy laid the foundation for faith in the Triad (having three-hypostatic Persons).
There have been other prophecies about the Messiah in the psalms in the order of their content, these are the following: About the coming of the Messiah — psalms 17, 49, 67, 95-97. About the Kingdom of the Messiah — 2, 17, 19, 20, 45, 65, 72, 110, 132. About the priesthood of the Messiah — 110. About the sufferings, death and resurrection of the Messiah — 16, 22, 31, 41, 41, 65, 68, 98. In psalms 41, 55 and 109 — about Judas the traitor. About the ascension of Christ to Heaven — 68. Christ — the foundation of the Church — 118. About the glory of the Messiah — 8. About the last judgment — 97. About the inheritance of the righteous eternal peace — 94.
In this way, the messianic prophecies of David, recorded in his God-inspired psalms, laid the foundation for faith in the Messiah as a true and coexistent Son of God, King, High Priest and Expiator of Mankind. The influence of the psalms on the faith of the Old Testament Jews was particularly great, thanks to the wide use of psalms in private life and religious services of the Hebrew people.
The prophet Isaiah wrote about the human nature of Christ, and from him we learn that Christ was to be born in a miraculous fashion from a Virgin: “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call his name Immanuel,” which means: God is with us (Isaiah 7:14). This prophecy is told to King Ahaz with the aim of convincing the king that he and his house will not be destroyed by the Syrian and Israeli kings. In his following prophecies Isaiah reveals new details about the miraculous Child, who will be born from a Virgin. In the next chapter Isaiah speaks of the characteristics of the Child Immanuel: “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” (Is. 9:6).
This allegorical portrayal of the Messianic kingdom is repeated with new details in a vision of the prophet Daniel. In his prophecy, besides a mountain, he speaks of a stone, which tore itself from the mountain and destroyed the image (idol) standing in the valley. The stone, as we have already explained, symbolizes the Messiah. Here is the description of the vision:
“The stone cleaved from the mountain without the help of hands, it hit the idol’s iron and clay feet and shattered them. Then, everything broke into pieces: iron, clay, copper, silver and gold became as dust on the summer threshing floors, and the wind scattered them, and no trace was left of them, but the stone having shattered the idol became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.”
Here the idol represents earthly kingdoms. No matter how much the enemies of the Messiah would feud against His Kingdom, their efforts will not be successful. All the earthly kingdoms sooner or later will vanish, only the Messianic kingdom will last forever.
Summarizing here the given prophecies about the Messianic Kingdom, we see that all of them speak of spiritual processes: about the necessity of faith, the forgiveness of sins, cleansing of the heart, spiritual renewal, the outpouring of blessed gifts on the faithful, the knowledge of God and His law, the eternal covenant with God, the victory over the devil and the forces of evil.
V. Relationship of the New Covenant with the Decalogue
The Old testament’s ten commandments handed down by God to Moses has been summarized to only two by Christ. According to Christ the ten commandments are laws which speak of two things only in summary. The first pertaining to the love and respect which must be given to God, the second pertaining to the love and respect which must be rendered to one’s neighbor. Christ clearly stated that the original Ten could be boiled down to two. In the book of Matthew chapter 12 verses 28-31 tells us that:
28One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” 29″The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mr.12:28-31).
Jesus himself mentioned that we should “Love God with all our heart, all our soul and all our might”, and that we should also “Love thy neighbor more than we love ourselves. These two statements written in the bible embody the relationship between the Laws mentioned in the “Torahnic” scriptures and the New covenant as mentioned by the Messiah himself.
Another supposed statement in the New statement which reconciles Jesus’ teachings to the old statement is embodied in the Sermon on the Mount in Mathew 5-6-7, this statements uttered by Christ has been called the Constitution of Christianity. In this majestic passage, as in Psalm 119, the values and obligations of obedience are magnified and presented in their true perspective. The statement given by Jesus was quoted as follows : 17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practises and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven Matthew 5:17-19.
It needs to be emphasized that the end of the Mosaic law, including the Ten Commandments, does not cancel or detract one iota from the eternal moral law of God. The moral principles of the ten laws did not begin with Sinai but are as eternal and immutable as the character of God.
The Messiah was sent to Humankind to make man understand the true meaning behind the teachings of Moses. It was contended by some critics that Jesus annulled the effects of the Ten Commandments. Of course, the rationale would pretty much be subjective depending on the beliefs of the person making the evaluation. If we are going to use the context of Jesus’ teachings, it would appear that he did not break the tradition but merely interpreted it in the way it should have been. The statements he made during his Sermon at the Mount mentions that: “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (verse 19). Jesus explained the proper application of the commandment upon which the particular tradition was based. He thus fulfilled the law by restoring it to its complete original meaning and intent. Our righteousness must therefore exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees (verse 20) in that we must keep the law of God in its proper intent. To put it another way, we must keep the spirit of the law, not just the letter. This is possible only through the presence of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:7-9), which God offers upon repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38). The commandments Jesus broke were the commandments of men. When the Jews charged Jesus with breaking the Sabbath (John 5:18), they were accusing Him of violating their misguided human traditions regarding the Sabbath. The Gospel accounts contain many such confrontations during which Jesus’ conduct on the Sabbath was condemned by the legalistic scribes and Pharisees (Mark 2:23-28; 3:1-6). So which commandments did Jesus break? The answer is found in another quote from Christ Himself, recorded in Matthew 15:9: “And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” Jesus quoted this statement from Isaiah 29:13 and applied it to the “tradition of the elders” (Matthew 15:2) as taught and practiced by the hypocritical, self-righteous scribes and Pharisees who sat in judgment of Him.
As a whole, It can be said that the prophesies mentioned in the Bible in the old testament was the harbinger of good things to come, which gave hope to men during their darkest hour. It gave them the understanding that all humankind is precious to God, and that God is willing and definitely more than able to give them the promise of salvation and eternal life. It can be deduced that Jesus was sent to mankind to give hope and to tell them that God has not forgotten them and that God has a great plan for all of Humankind.
The message According to the Gospel of John was quite clear in making note of this. The word of love and salvation on the book of John stated that: 16″For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[a] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. The Belief and conviction of Man that Jesus came to this world to save humankind from evil is the thing which all Christians must accept in order for them to gain the price of salvation and eternal life.
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Price, R. (2000). The Concept of Messiah. Retrieved August 17, 2007.
Tennant, H. (2001). Christ in the Old Testament: Israel’s True Messiah.
Retrieved August 17, 2007 Christadelphian Magazine and Publishing Association Ltd.: United Kingdom. http://www.christadelphia.org/pamphlet/christ.htm
Long. G. (2006). New Covenant Theology Distinctives. Retrieved August 17, 2007.
Mileant, A. (2001). The Old Testament Regarding the Messiah.
Retrieved August 18, 2007. http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/old_testament_messiah.htm
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Retrieved August 17, 2007 United Church of God, an International Association