Is Jesus Christ the Promised Messiah?
Regardless of race, nationality or religion, this question affects your happiness—indeed, your everlasting destiny.
KNOWING the identity of the promised Messiah is not some trivial matter. It is absolutely vital. The Hebrew Scriptures not only tell us why this matter is so important but they fix the Messiah’s identity beyond any question of doubt.
Before examining the Scriptural testimony, there is the question: What does the word “Messiah” mean? Messiah means “the anointed one.” At Daniel 9:25 the Hebrew word mashíahh is translated “Messiah” in the King James Version, and the translation by The Jewish Publication Society of America renders it “one anointed.”
There are many different ideas as to Messiah’s identity. In Christendom millions of persons believe that the Messiah has already appeared in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Some Jews believe Messiah to be the new nation of Israel; and in his book What the Jews Believe, Philip Bernstein says: “The Orthodox still believe in the coming of a personal Messiah, and pray each day for his advent. A large segment of the liberal Jewish community has discarded the notion of a single messianic personality who is to save mankind. . . . In its place they affirm their faith in a messianic era which is to be achieved by the co-operative efforts of good men of all nations, races and religions.”
The Hebrew Scriptures clear up all misunderstanding and doubt as to Messiah or the “anointed one.” An anointed one is one clothed with authority from his superior to act. The Messiah is the One anointed by God; the One whom God has anointed to deliver obedient mankind. Early in mankind’s history God gave a basis for hope in a coming Deliverer, one who would crush the head of the Serpent, Satan the Devil. This promise is found at Genesis 3:15, in God’s declaration 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.”
Later prophecies became more specific as to how the Deliverer would come. God promised that through Abraham great blessings would result: “By means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves.”—Gen. 22:18.
One who could deliver all obedient mankind would be a ruler or king indeed. A king in ancient times carried a scepter, a rod that was a symbol of royal power. The promised Deliverer must have kingly power, for God foretold in the prophecy spoken through Balaam: “A star will certainly step forth out of Jacob, and a scepter will indeed rise out of Israel.”—Num. 24:17.
The prophet Daniel shows that the kingdom the promised Ruler receives is a heavenly one: “There came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion.”—Dan. 7:13, 14, AS.
By means of this heavenly kingdom the promised King is to bring blessings to “all nations of the earth.” The promised Ruler delivers God’s people everywhere by destroying their enemies, including the wicked nations of the earth. So the promised King is to do a nation-smashing work, as the psalmist foretold: “You will break them [the nations of the earth] with an iron scepter, as though a potter’s vessel you will dash them to pieces.”—Ps. 2:9.
What peaceful, happy conditions the rule of God’s Anointed One will bring to the earth! No wonder—the promised King is foretold by Isaiah to be the “Prince of Peace”! (Isa. 9:6) “In his days the righteous one will sprout,” foretold the psalmist, “and the abundance of peace until the moon is no more. And he will have subjects from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.”—Ps. 72:7-9.
With so many vital reasons for knowing the identity of the One whom God anoints as King, let us now see how the Hebrew Scriptures fix his identity, thus enabling us to answer the question: Is Jesus Christ the promised Messiah?
HIS ANCESTRY AND BIRTHPLACE
The royal Ruler to whom mankind must be obedient would come from the tribe of Judah. Jacob foretold this: “The scepter will not turn aside from Judah, neither the commander’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him the obedience of the people will belong.”—Gen. 49:10.
Not only must the promised King and Deliverer come from the tribe of Judah but he must also be a descendant of King David, just as God said to David through the prophet Nathan: “I shall certainly raise up your seed after you, which will come out of your inward parts, and I shall indeed firmly establish his kingdom. He is the one that will build a house for my name, and I shall certainly establish the throne of his kingdom firmly forever.”—2 Sam. 7:12, 13.
Moreover, as another positive identifying mark, the One whom God would anoint as Ruler must be born in David’s city, Bethlehem, just as the prophet Micah foretold: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephrathah, which art little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall one come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting. And he shall stand, and shall feed his flock in the strength of Jehovah, in the majesty of the name of Jehovah his God.” (Mic. 5:2, 4, AS) Such promises as this of God’s anointed Ruler, a personal Messiah to come, make it clearly evident that the Messiah is not a nation or a cooperative effort among nations.
NATURE OF HIS WORK
Before receiving his heavenly kingdom, the promised King would make an earthly appearance. On earth he would do a special work. The prophet Isaiah foretold that the promised One would do a preaching work: “The spirit of the Lord Jehovah is upon me, for the reason that Jehovah has anointed me to tell good news to meek ones.” The promised Messiah would “call out liberty to those taken captive and the wide opening of the eyes even to the prisoners” and also “call out the year of good will on the part of Jehovah and the day of vengeance on the part of our God.”—Isa. 61:1, 2.
So the promised Anointed One must be a prophet to whom men must listen. Moses foretold this coming Prophet. “Jehovah said to me,” wrote Moses at Deuteronomy 18:17-19, “‘A prophet I shall raise up for them from the midst of their brothers, like you, and I shall indeed put my words in his mouth and he will certainly speak to them all that I shall command him. And it must occur that the man who will not listen to my words that he will speak in my name, I shall myself require an account from him.’”
Though the promised Anointed One would not receive his kingdom when on earth, would he yet present himself to his people as the King and Ruler foretold by the prophets? Yes, but he would do so in an entirely unexpected way. He would not then come on the clouds of heaven or to smash the yoke of Roman domination, but he would come as the prophet Zechariah foretold: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy king cometh unto thee; he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, even upon a colt the foal of an ass.” (Zech. 9:9, AS) Would this king be accepted by his own people?
MESSIAH’S REJECTION AND DEATH
Contrary to expectation, the long-promised Messiah, when appearing as a man, would be accepted by only a few. The Jewish people as a nation must reject him as being the promised Messiah, as Isaiah foretold in the fifty-third chapter of his book. “He was despised, and we held him as of no account,” foretold Isaiah. “We ourselves accounted him as plagued, stricken by God and afflicted.”—Isa. 53:3, 4.
Finally, as if to climax the utterly unexpected, God’s Anointed One must be put to death at the hands of those who rejected him. Yes, persecution and death would be Messiah’s lot “despite the fact that he had done no violence and there was no deception in his mouth.” Does Messiah resist? Said God’s prophet: “He was being brought just like a sheep to the slaughtering; and like a ewe that before her shearers has become mute, he also would not open his mouth.”—Isa. 53:9, 7.
Psalm twenty-two is another inspired account telling beforehand of the things Messiah must suffer. Read this psalm for the many specific ways Messiah must suffer. For instance, of Messiah’s executioners this psalm says: “Like a lion they are at my hands and my feet.” They even cast lots for his garments: “They apportion my clothing among themselves, and upon my garment they cast lots.”—Ps. 22:16, 18.
How disappointing all this would be to those Jews who would be looking for deliverance at the time of Messiah’s appearance! Many Jews would fail to see that the prophets foretold two comings of the Messiah, each for a separate purpose. At his first coming Messiah comes as a man; at his second coming or presence he comes as a glorious spirit creature to bring about fulfillment of the glorious prophecies concerning his everlasting rule. Many Jews would reject Messiah the man because of their thinking that he should have fulfilled those marvelous prophecies about his coming in glory at his first coming.
THREE STRIKING IDENTIFYING MARKS
It is estimated that there are three hundred or more references to the Messiah in the Hebrew Scriptures. Actually just three of them are enough to fix Messiah’s identity beyond doubt.
First, the one destined to be the promised Messiah would be born, by God’s power, of a virgin, even as Jehovah God foretold through Isaiah: “Look! The maiden herself will actually become pregnant, and she is giving birth to a son.”—Isa. 7:14.
Second, the Messiah, shortly after being put to death, would be raised from the dead by God’s power. This was foretold at Psalm 16:10: “For you will not leave my soul in Sheol.”
Third, Messiah must appear at an exact time. When? The angel Gabriel told Daniel, and this prophet tells us: “Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy. Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the anointed one, the prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks.”—Dan. 9:24, 25, AS.
So “from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem” unto Messiah the prince would be sixty-nine weeks. How long are these sixty-nine weeks? They are not weeks of days but weeks of years, in harmony with the rule “each day for a year,” often found in Bible chronology.—Ezek. 4:6; Num. 14:34 AV.
When do these sixty-nine weeks of years, or 483 years, begin counting? They begin, as Daniel said, “from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem.” When was this? History tells us it was 455 B.C. That year King Artaxerxes decreed that Jerusalem and its wall be rebuilt. This is found at Nehemiah 2:1-8. So starting with 455 B.C., the 483 years would end A.D. 29. This is the exact time for Messiah to appear. He could not appear on earth either before or after that date.
Well, then, did Messiah appear A.D. 29? Indeed he did! Luke 3:1-4 says: “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, . . . God’s declaration came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. So he came into all the country around the Jordan, preaching baptism of those repenting for forgiveness of sins.” About six months later Jesus of Nazareth came to John and was baptized, and at this baptism it was evidenced that Jesus became the Messiah, the Anointed One; for he was anointed with God’s holy spirit.—See Matthew 3:13-17, John 1:32-34 and Luke 4:17-19.
Jesus Christ alone met all the requirements fixed by the Hebrew Scriptures. He was born of the tribe of Judah, a descendant of King David. (Matt. 1:1-3; Luke 3:31, 33) He was born in Bethlehem. (Matt. 2:1, 5, 6) He was born of a virgin. (Matt. 1:22, 23) He made his entry into Jerusalem on an ass. (Matt. 21:4, 5) He was rejected by the Jewish people as a whole. (Mark 9:12; 12:10, 11; John 1:11; Acts 4:11) He was silent before his accusers; he was impaled on a stake. (Matt. 27:12-14; Mark 15:25) He was raised from the dead, there being more than five hundred witnesses of this. (Mark 16:6; Acts 2:31; 1 Cor. 15:6) Jesus was anointed as Messiah in the exact year foretold by Daniel—A.D. 29!
Jesus Christ is the Seed of God’s woman, the Seed of Abraham, the Prince of Peace, the promised Messiah. Now Messiah is King, having received the heavenly kingdom at the hands of his Father. Only those who listen to and obey Messiah’s words will survive into God’s new world, there to enjoy the blessing of everlasting life after this world and its god, Satan the Devil, are destroyed by the Seed of God’s woman. How vital to heed Moses’ warning: “Any soul that does not listen to that Prophet will be completely destroyed from among the people”!—Acts 3:23.