The One to Whom All the Prophets Bore Witness
1. What do the facts about Jesus’ prehuman existence show as to his relationship with Jehovah?
“THE Father has affection for the Son and shows him all the things he himself does.” (John 5:20) What a warm relationship the Son enjoyed with his Father, Jehovah! The closeness of that relationship began at the time of his creation, countless millenniums before his human birth. He was God’s only-begotten Son, the only one created directly by Jehovah himself. Everything else in heaven and on earth was created by means of that dearly loved firstborn Son. (Colossians 1:15, 16) He also served as God’s Word, or Spokesman, the One through whom the divine will was communicated to others. This one, the Son that God was specially fond of, became the man Jesus Christ.—Proverbs 8:22-30; John 1:14, 18; 12:49, 50.
2. To what extent have Bible prophecies referred to Jesus?
2 Before God’s firstborn Son was miraculously conceived as a human, scores of inspired prophecies were recorded about him. The apostle Peter testified to Cornelius: “To him all the prophets bear witness.” (Acts 10:43) The role of Jesus was featured in the Bible to such an extent that an angel told the apostle John: “The bearing witness to Jesus is what inspires prophesying.” (Revelation 19:10) Those prophecies clearly identified him as the Messiah. They drew attention to various roles he would play in fulfilling God’s purposes. All of this should be of keen interest to us today.
What the Prophecies Revealed
3. (a) In the prophecy at Genesis 3:15, who is represented by the serpent, “the woman,” and the ‘seed of the serpent’? (b) Why would the ‘bruising of the serpent in the head’ be of great interest to Jehovah’s servants?
3 The first of such prophecies was spoken after the rebellion in Eden. Jehovah said to the serpent: “I shall put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise you in the head and you will bruise him in the heel.” (Genesis 3:15) That prophecy was really addressed to Satan, the one represented by the serpent. “The woman” is Jehovah’s own loyal heavenly organization, which is like a faithful wife to him. The ‘seed of the serpent’ includes all angels and humans who manifest the spirit of Satan, those who oppose Jehovah and His people. The ‘bruising of the serpent in the head’ means the eventual destruction of the rebel Satan, who slandered Jehovah and brought great grief to mankind. But what is the identity of the principal part of the “seed” who would do the bruising? For centuries, that remained a “sacred secret.”—Romans 16:20, 25, 26.
4. How did Jesus’ ancestry help to identify him as the promised Seed?
4 After some 2,000 years of human history, Jehovah provided further details. He indicated that the Seed would appear in the family line of Abraham. (Genesis 22:15-18) However, the line leading to the Seed would depend, not on fleshly descent, but on God’s choice. In spite of Abraham’s love for his son Ishmael, born to Hagar, Jehovah said: “My covenant I shall establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you.” (Genesis 17:18-21) Later that covenant was confirmed, not to Isaac’s firstborn son, Esau, but to Jacob, from whom the 12 tribes of Israel descended. (Genesis 28:10-14) In time, it was indicated that the Seed would be born in the tribe of Judah, in the line of David.—Genesis 49:10; 1 Chronicles 17:3, 4, 11-14.
5. When Jesus began his earthly ministry, what made it evident that he was the Messiah?
5 What other clues were given as to the Seed’s identity? Over 700 years in advance, the Bible named Bethlehem as the place of the human birth of the promised Seed. It also revealed that the Seed had already existed “from the days of time indefinite,” since the time he was created in heaven. (Micah 5:2) The exact time of his appearance on earth as the Messiah was also foretold, through the prophet Daniel. (Daniel 9:24-26) And when Jesus was anointed with holy spirit, actually becoming Jehovah’s Anointed One, God’s own voice from heaven clearly identified him as His Son. (Matthew 3:16, 17) The Seed was revealed! Thus, Philip could say with conviction: “We have found the one of whom Moses, in the Law, and the Prophets wrote, Jesus.”—John 1:45.
6. (a) According to Luke 24:27, what did Jesus’ followers come to realize? (b) Who is the principal part of the ‘seed of the woman,’ and what is meant by his bruising the serpent’s head?
6 Thereafter, Jesus’ followers came to realize that literally scores of prophetic references to him had been woven into the inspired Scriptures. (Luke 24:27) It became even clearer that Jesus is the principal part of the ‘seed of the woman,’ the one who will bruise the head of the serpent, crushing Satan out of existence. By means of Jesus, all of God’s promises to humankind, all the things for which we earnestly long, will be brought to fulfillment.—2 Corinthians 1:20.
7. In addition to the identity of the One referred to in the prophecies, what else is it beneficial to realize?
7 How should knowing this affect us? The Bible tells of an Ethiopian eunuch who had read some of these prophecies about the coming Redeemer and Messiah. Puzzled, he asked the evangelizer Philip: “About whom does the prophet say this?” But the eunuch did not let the matter rest when he received the answer. After listening carefully to the explanation that Philip gave, the man realized that appreciation for this fulfilled prophecy called for action on his own part. He understood that he needed to get baptized. (Acts 8:32-38; Isaiah 53:3-9) Do we respond similarly?
8. (a) What did Abraham’s attempt to offer up Isaac foreshadow? (b) Why did Jehovah tell Abraham that all nations would bless themselves by means of the Seed, and how does this apply to us today?
8 Consider, too, the touching account of Abraham’s attempt to offer up Isaac, his only son by Sarah. (Genesis 22:1-18) That foreshadowed what Jehovah would do—offer up his only-begotten Son: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) This gives us confidence that just as Jehovah gave his only-begotten Son to fulfill His purpose, He will also “kindly give us all other things.” (Romans 8:32) What is required on our part? As recorded at Genesis 22:18, Jehovah told Abraham that all nations would bless themselves by means of the Seed, “due to the fact that [Abraham had] listened to [God’s] voice.” We too need to listen to Jehovah and to his Son: “He that exercises faith in the Son has everlasting life; he that disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.”—John 3:36.
9. If we appreciate the hope of everlasting life made possible by Jesus’ sacrifice, what will we do?
9 If we appreciate the hope of everlasting life made possible by Jesus’ sacrifice, we will want to do the things that Jehovah has spoken to us through Jesus. These revolve around our love for God and for our neighbors. (Matthew 22:37-39) Jesus showed that our love for Jehovah would motivate us to teach others “to observe all the things [that Jesus has] commanded [us].” (Matthew 28:19, 20) And we want to share that love with fellow servants of Jehovah by the regular “gathering of ourselves together” with them. (Hebrews 10:25; Galatians 6:10) Too, in listening to God and his Son, we should not think that they demand perfection from us. Hebrews 4:15 says that Jesus, as our High Priest, can “sympathize with our weaknesses.” How comforting that is, especially when we approach God in prayer through Christ for help to overcome our weaknesses!—Matthew 6:12.
Show Faith in Christ
10. Why is there no salvation apart from Jesus Christ?
10 After pointing out to the Jewish high court in Jerusalem that Bible prophecy had been fulfilled in Jesus, the apostle Peter forcefully concluded: “There is no salvation in anyone else, for there is not another name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved.” (Acts 4:12) Since all of Adam’s offspring are sinners, their death holds no merit that can be applied as a ransom for anyone. But Jesus was perfect, and his life had sacrificial value. (Psalm 49:6-9; Hebrews 2:9) He offered to God a ransom that exactly corresponded in value to the perfect life that Adam had lost. (1 Timothy 2:5, 6) This opened the way for us to obtain everlasting life in God’s new world.
11. Explain how Jesus’ sacrifice can greatly benefit us.
11 The ransom also opened the way for us to receive other benefits, even now. For example, although we are sinners, Jesus’ sacrifice makes possible our having a clean conscience because of forgiveness of sin. This is far more than was ever achieved for the Israelites by the animal sacrifices that the Mosaic Law required. (Acts 13:38, 39; Hebrews 9:13, 14; 10:22) However, having such forgiveness requires that we honestly recognize how much we need Christ’s sacrifice: “If we make the statement: ‘We have no sin,’ we are misleading ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous so as to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”—1 John 1:8, 9.
12. Why is water immersion an important factor in gaining a good conscience before God?
12 How can sinners express faith in Christ and his sacrifice? When people in the first century became believers, they publicly demonstrated that. How? They got baptized. Why? Because Jesus commanded that all his disciples be baptized. (Matthew 28:19, 20; Acts 8:12; 18:8) A person will not hold back when his heart is really moved by the loving provision that Jehovah made through Jesus. He will make any needed adjustments in his life, dedicate himself to God in prayer, and symbolize his dedication by water immersion. It is by demonstrating faith in this way that he makes ‘request to God for a good conscience.’—1 Peter 3:21.
13. If we realize that we have committed a sin, what should we do about it, and why?
13 Even after this, of course, sinful traits will show themselves. What then? The apostle John said: “I am writing you these things that you may not commit a sin. And yet, if anyone does commit a sin, we have a helper with the Father, Jesus Christ, a righteous one. And he is a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 2:1, 2) Does this mean that no matter what we do, if we pray to God for forgiveness, everything will be all right? Not necessarily. The key to forgiveness is genuine repentance. Help may also be needed from older, more experienced ones in the Christian congregation. We must recognize the wrongness of what was done and feel sincere regret over it so that we will make an earnest effort to avoid repeating it. (Acts 3:19; James 5:13-16) If we do this, we can be assured of Jesus’ help and of our restoration to Jehovah’s favor.
14. (a) Explain an important way in which Jesus’ sacrifice has benefited us. (b) If we really have faith, what will we do?
14 Jesus’ sacrifice has opened the way for eternal life in heaven for a “little flock,” the subsidiary part of the seed of Genesis 3:15. (Luke 12:32; Galatians 3:26-29) It has also opened the way for eternal life on a paradise earth for billions of others of mankind. (Psalm 37:29; Revelation 20:11, 12; 21:3, 4) Eternal life is “the gift God gives . . . by Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-10) If we have faith in that gift and appreciation for the manner in which it was made possible, we will make this manifest. Discerning how marvelously Jehovah has used Jesus in accomplishing His will and how vital it is that all of us follow Jesus’ steps closely, we will make the Christian ministry one of the most important activities in our life. Our faith will be evident from the conviction with which we tell others about this magnificent gift from God.—Acts 20:24.
15. How does faith in Jesus Christ have a unifying effect?
15 What a fine, unifying effect such faith has! By means of it, we are drawn closer to Jehovah, to his Son, and to one another within the Christian congregation. (1 John 3:23, 24) It causes us to rejoice that Jehovah has kindly given to his Son “the name that is above every other name [except God’s name], so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”—Philippians 2:9-11.
• When the Messiah appeared, why was his identity clear to those who truly believed God’s Word?
• What are some of the things we should do to show our appreciation for Jesus’ sacrifice?
• In what ways has Jesus’ sacrifice already benefited us? How does this help us when we pray to Jehovah for forgiveness of sins?
[Picture on page 36]
Jesus told his followers that they should teach others to observe God’s commandments