The Old Testament Regarding
Bishop Alexander (Mileant).
The central theme of the Old Testament Holy Books is the coming of the Messiah and the establishment of the Kingdom of God among people. We gathered herein the main Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah, the Savior of the World, with the aim of discussing their contents and to show how they were fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ and in the New Testament Church.
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. For the Jews who acknowledge God and seek the truth, we hope this booklet will help them to understand more clearly the Holy Writings of their great ancestors and to see Who, in accordance with the prophets, is their long-awaited King and Savior.
Besides that, the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies in the Lord Jesus Christ, as we shall see, precludes any possibility of another messiah. There could only be one True Messiah He Who has already come. All other pretenders to this title, in the past and in the future, are impostors, frauds and “wolves in sheeps’ clothing.” The last false-Messiah, who will come prior to the end of the world, will be the Antichrist. In accordance with the prophecies of the ancient prophets and apostles, many people will come to believe in him, as an ingenious leader and a “Savior” of mankind. But he will bring only grief and destruction to the world.
Survey of the
The Old Testament books, as we shall see, 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.
Secondly, the prophets had to show that the work of the Messiah would consist not only of the external improvements of living conditions: in the abolition of illness, death, poverty, social inequality, crime and so forth. The goal of His coming into the world in the first place was to help people rid themselves of inner evils — sin and passions — and to show the way to God. Truly, physical evil is only the result of moral evil — sinful deprivation. Why even a wound cannot be healed by applying grafted skin to it, before the infection is cleaned out. For this reason the Messiah would have to begin the act of salvation of people by destroying evil at its very root — in the soul of the person. Without this no external, artificial or compulsory changes in living conditions could bring happiness to humanity.
However, spiritual rebirth is impossible without the free will and active participation of the person himself. From this stem all the difficulties of the Messiah’s task: a person must be saved through his own voluntary participation! Since the person is presented with the freedom to choose between good and evil, then it follows that universal happiness is not feasible, as long as the righteous and sinners coexist. In the end there must come a selection between one or the other. Only after God’s interference in the fate of humanity by universal judgment and selection, can a new life begin for the spiritually reborn, in which happiness, peace, eternal life and other blessings will reign. The Old Testament prophecies encompass all the facets of this long and complex spiritual-physical process associated with the coming of the Messiah.
Of course, the majority of people during the Old Testament times could not ascend to a clear understanding of the purpose of the coming of the Messiah. For this reason God, through the prophets, gradually revealed to people the identity of the Messiah and the order of His Kingdom, in accordance with the degree to which people, using the spiritual experience of past generations, reached a higher spiritual level. The period of messianic prophecies encompassed many millennia — beginning with the foreparents Adam and Eve and extending to times close to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the beginning of our era.
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. We will discuss these during the examination of the prophecies.
Often the prophets in their prophetic visions compound events that may be separated one from the other by many eras and even millennia into one picture. Those reading the prophets’ writings must become used to seeing these events in such a multi-era perspective, in which the beginning, middle and end of a long and complex spiritual process are shown simultaneously.
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.
in the Books of Moses
The Prophet Moses, living 1500 years before the birth of Christ, recorded in his books the most ancient prophecies about the Savior of the world, which in the course of many millennia were kept through the oral legends of the Jews. 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. But along with this, the woman’s Descendant Himself will suffer from the snake, who will as if “bruise his heel,” i.e., will cause Him physical suffering. Noteworthy also in this first prophecy is 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. Here the absence of a physical father is significant considering in Old Testament times descendants were always identified paternally, not maternally. The given prophecy about the extraordinary birth of the Messiah is supported with a later prophecy of Isaiah (7:14), which we will discuss further on. 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. This prophecy about bruising was fulfilled, when the Lord Jesus Christ, having suffered on the Cross with His body, defeated the devil — that “old serpent” (Rev. 20:2) and took away from him any power over the human race.
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).
In the original text of this prophecy the word “Seed” stands in the singular, thus indicating, that in this promise the question is not about many, but about one definite Descendant, from Whom the blessing will extend to all people. The Jews always attributed this prophecy to the Messiah, understanding it, nevertheless, in the sense that the blessing must extend mainly on the chosen people. In the sacrifice, Abraham was the prototype of God the Father, and Isaac — of the Son of God, who would suffer on the cross. This parallel is mentioned in the Gospel, where it is said: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The importance of this prophecy about the blessing of all nations in the Descendant of Abraham is evident from the fact, that God confirmed His promise with a vow.
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). According to the translation of the 70 interpreters this prophecy has the following alternative: “until comes He, to Whom it is given (determined) to come, and He will be the hope of nations.” 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 word Shiloh (Conciliator) reveals a new feature in the characterization of His activities: He will eliminate the enmity between people and God, arising as a result of sin (the Angels sang about this elimination of hostility between heaven and earth when Christ was born: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth PEACE, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14).
The Patriarch Jacob lived more than two thousand years before the birth of Christ. From then on the tribe of Judah was King David, the descendant of Judah, living more than one thousand years before the birth of Christ. From then on, the tribe of Judah had its kings, then, after the Babylonian captivity, its leaders right up to Herod the Great, who ascended the throne in Judea in 47 B.C. Herod, being the son of the Idumean Antipater, was the first foreign king over the Jews. During his time the tribe of Judah completely lost its self-governing status and Jesus Christ was born as predicted.
It would be fitting at this point to mention an historical fragment found in Mishnah, one of the oldest parts of the Talmud, where it says that the members of the Sanhedrin [in 30 AD, when the right of criminal justice was taken from them, more than 40 years before the destruction of the temple], clothed in rags and tearing at their hair, cried: “Woe to us, woe to us: long has the king from Judah been impoverished, but the promised Messiah has not yet come!” Of course, they expressed themselves this way because they did not recognize in Jesus Christ that Peacemaker, whom the patriarch Jacob had prophesied.
It should be stressed that because two millennia have passed since the tribe of Judah has lost all its civil authority and the Jews as a tribal entity have long intermixed by blood with other Hebrew tribes and even other nations, to apply the given prophesy of Jacob to any new candidate to the messianic title — is utterly impossible.
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. At that time the princes of Moab invited the prophet Balaam to curse the Hebrew nation, which threatened to invade their land. The princes hoped that this curse by the prophet would help them defeat the Israelites. The prophet Balaam, looking on the approaching Hebrew people from a hill, in a prophetic vision also saw afar the distant Descendant of this people. In spiritual ecstasy, instead of a curse, Balaam exclaimed: “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. In this way, the present prophesy of Balaam supplements the more ancient prophesy of the bruising of the head of the snake (Gen. 3:15). He will bruise not only the “serpent,” but also his servants.
The prophesy of Balaam about the Star from the tribe of Judah gave birth to the conviction, among the Israelites (as well as the Persians, from whom came the wise men of the Gospel), that the coming of the Messiah will be prefaced by the appearance of a bright star in the sky. Such an unusually bright star, as we know, truly began to shine in the sky not long before the birth of Christ.
The fifth and last prophecy about the Messiah, which we find in the books of Moses, is said by God to the prophet Moses himself, when the earthly life of this great leader and lawgiver of the Hebrew nation was coming to its close. The Lord promised Moses, that at some time He will raise up to the Hebrew nation another Prophet, similar to him in significance and spiritual strength, and the He (God) will speak through the lips of this Prophet. “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). The postscript, made at the end of the book Leviticus by the contemporaries of Ezdra more than 450 years B.C., bears witness to the fact that, among the many prophets with which the Hebrew nation abounded during the course of its many-centuried history, not one prophet could be found comparable to Moses. It follows, then, that the Hebrew people from the time of Moses expected to see in the person of the Messiah the greatest prophet-lawgiver.
Ralbag (Gersonides, ancient rabbinik literature) comments on the above text: “A prophet from the midst of thee. In fact the Messiah is such a Prophet... “
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. This information was passed on to many heathen nations from the Hebrews, the Hindus, Persians, Chinese, and later — the Greeks. It was passed on in the form of folk tales and legends. True, with the passing of ages the notion of the Savior of the world among the heathen peoples became dulled and distorted, but still the unity of the origin of these legends is certain.
of King David
After the death of Moses and the occupation of the Promised Land by the Jews, the prophecies about the Messiah disappear for many centuries. A new series of prophecies about the Messiah arise during the reign of David, a descendant of Abraham, Jacob and Judah, who ruled the Hebrew nation more than 1000 years BC. In these new prophecies the Kingly and Godly qualities of Christ are revealed. The Lord promises David through the lips of Nathan to establish an eternal Kingdom in the Personage of His Descendant: “I will establish his throne for ever. I will be his Father, and he shall be my Son” (1 Chron. 17:12-13).
This prophecy about the eternal Kingdom of the Messiah is paralleled by a series of prophecies, which should be discussed more thoroughly. In order to understand and to properly assess the meaning of these prophecies, it is necessary to at least briefly familiarize oneself with the life of King David. King David, having been anointed by God as a king and prophet, was the prototype of the Higher King and Prophet — Christ.
David was the youngest son of the large family of the poor shepherd Jesse. When the God-sent prophet Samuel came to the house of Jesse, in order to anoint the king for Israel, the prophet thought to anoint one of the older sons. But the Lord revealed to the prophet that the younger son, still a young boy, David, is chosen by Him for this high service. Then, in obedience to God, Samuel pours the holy oil on the head of the youngest son, thus performing the anointment to the throne. From that moment, David became the Anointed of God, the messiah. But David did not immediately set about to actually govern. A long road of ordeals and unfair persecution lay before him, put forth by the then King Saul, who had a deep hatred of David. The reason for this hatred was jealousy, because as a boy David defeated the previously unbeaten Philistine giant Goliath with a small rock and thus gained victory for the Hebrew army. After this the people said: “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Sam. 18:7). Only his strong faith in God the Intercessor helped David endure all the many persecutions and dangers to which he was subjected by Saul and his servants in the course of almost 15 years. Often, when wandering for months in the wild and impassable desert, King David would pour out his grief to God in inspired psalms. With time, the psalms of David became an essential element and an embellishment of both the Old Testament, and later in the New Testament religious services.
Upon being enthroned in Jerusalem after the death of Saul, king David became the most outstanding king ever to rule Israel. He had combined within himself many valuable qualities: love for the people, fairness, wisdom, courage, and, most importantly — a strong faith in God. Before deciding any state question, King David always zealously prayed to God, asking for understanding. The Lord always helped David and blessed his 40-year reign with major successes, in both internal and external politics.
But David did not evade severe ordeals. His deepest grief was the military uprising, headed by his own son Absalom, who wanted to become king before his time. In this instance, David experienced all the bitterness of villainous ingratitude and treachery among his subjects. But, as before with Saul, faith and hope in God helped David. Absalom died ingloriously, although David tried to save him by all means. He also forgave the other mutineers. Afterward David clearly portrayed his enemies’ senseless and insidious revolt in his Messianic psalms.
While attending to the material well-being of his people, David imparted great meaning to its spiritual life. Often he headed religious holidays, bringing sacrifices to God for the Hebrew people and putting together his inspired religious hymns — psalms. 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).
What is most remarkable in this psalm is the truth, revealed here for the first time, that the Messiah is the Son of God, the Hill of Zion, on which stood the temple and the city of Jerusalem, symbolizing the Kingdom of the Messiah — the Church.
David writes more about the Godliness of the Messiah in several subsequent psalms. For example, in the 45th psalm David, addressing himself on the coming Messiah, cries out:
“Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the scepter of thy kingdom is a right scepter. Thou lovest righteousness and hatest wickedness. Therefore God, thy God has anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows” (verses 6-7).
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).
Psalm 40 points out the insufficiency of Old Testament sacrifices for redemption (forgiveness) of human sins and bears witness to the impending sufferings of the Messiah. In this psalm the Messiah Himself speaks through the lips of David:
“Sacrifice and offering thou (God the Father) didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the scroll of the Book (in the pre-eternal determination of God) it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God” (verses 6-8).
A separate chapter will be dedicated to the redeeming sacrifice of the Messiah. Here we will only mention that, in accordance with the 110th psalm, the Messiah is not only the sacrifice, He is the Priest offering the sacrifice to God — Himself. In the 110th psalm are repeated the main thoughts of the 2nd psalm about the Godliness of the Messiah and the hostility against Him. But several new pieces of information are added, for example, the birth of the Messiah, the Son of God, which is portrayed as a pre-eternal occurrence. Christ — is eternal, as is His Father.
“The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool... from the womb of the morning: thou has the dew of thy youth. The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” (As explained by the Apostle Paul, Melchizedek, about whom it is written in the book Genesis 14:18, was the prototype of the Son of God, the eternal priest, see Hebrews chapter 7).
Psalm 72 presents itself as a hymn of praise of the Messiah. In it we see the Messiah in His full glory. This glory will be realized at the end of the times, when the Messianic Kingdom will triumph and evil will be destroyed. Here are several verses from this joyful psalm.
“Yea, all the kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him. For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper... 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” (Ps. 72:11-12, 17).
The Kingdom of the Messiah will be discussed more in depth in the appendix. For now, so that the reader may have an idea how vast and detailed are the prophecies about the Messiah in the psalms, we will cite a list of these prophecies in the order of their content: 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 order to understand the prophetic psalms one must remember that David, like other great righteous men in the Old Testament, represented the prototype of Christ. For this reason often, when he writes in the first person, as if about himself, for example, about sufferings (Psalm 22), or about glory (about the resurrection from the dead in Psalm 16), they refer not to David, but to Christ. The 16th and 22nd psalms will be studied in more detail in Chapter 5.
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.
As we mentioned earlier, the Old Testament prophets had the immense task of keeping the Hebrew nation believing in One God, and to prepare the foundation for faith in the coming Messiah as a Being who had, besides the human, also a Godly nature. The prophets had to speak about the Godliness of Christ in such a way that it would not be understood by the Jews in heathen terms, that is, as polytheism. For this reason the Old Testament prophets revealed the secret of the Godliness of the Messiah gradually, in keeping with the measure of belief in One God instilled in the Hebrew nation.
King David was the first to prophesy about the Godliness of Christ. After him there began a 250 year lull in prophecies, and the prophet Isaiah, living over seven centuries before the birth of Christ, began a new series of prophecies about Christ, in which His Godly nature is greatly manifested.
Isaiah is the most outstanding prophet in the Old Testament. The book written by him, includes such a great number of prophecies about Christ and about occurrences in the New Testament, that many call Isaiah the Old Testament Evangelist. Isaiah prophesied within the bounds of Jerusalem during the reign of the Judean king Ozziah, Ahaz, Hezekiah and Manasseh. The defeat of the Israeli army occurred during Isaiah’s lifetime in 722 BC, when the Assyrian king Sargon took the Hebrew nation occupying Israel into captivity. The Judean empire existed another 135 years after this tragedy. The prophet Isaiah suffered martyrdom during the reign of Manasseh, being sawed in half with a wooden saw. The book of the prophet Isaiah is noted for elegant Hebrew and possesses high literary merits, which is carried over even in translations of his book into different languages.
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. Just the opposite, the design of the enemies will not come to pass, and one of the descendants of Ahaz will be the promised Messiah, Who will be born miraculously from a Virgin. As Ahaz was a descendant of King David, the present prophecy confirms the previous prophecies that the Messiah will arise from the line of King David.
In his following prophecies Isaiah reveals new details about the miraculous Child, who will be born from a Virgin. Thus, in his eighth chapter, Isaiah writes that the people of God should not fear the intrigues of their enemies, because their plans will not be realized: “Take counsel together, and it shall come to naught; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us (Immanuel)” (Isaiah 8:10). 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). The name Immanuel, as well as the other names given here to the Child, do not appear as proper names, of course, but indicate the characteristics of His Godly nature.
Isaiah predicted that the Messiah will teach in the northern sections of the Holy Land, in the boundaries of the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali, which was called Galilee:
“Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the Land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined” (Is. 9:1-2).
This prophecy was mentioned by the Evangelist Matthew, when he described the sermon of Jesus Christ in this part of the Holy Land, which was particularly ignorant religiously (Mt. 4:16). In the Holy Writings light is the symbol of religious knowledge, truth.
In later prophecies Isaiah often calls the Messiah by yet another name — Branch. This symbolic name confirms earlier prophecies about the miraculous and unusual birth of the Messiah, specifically, that it will occur without the participation of a man, similar to how a branch, without a seed, is born directly from the root of the plant. “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse (so was called the father of David) and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord” (Is. 11:1). Here Isaiah predicts the anointment of Christ with the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, that is, with the full grace of the Spirit, which came about in the day of His baptism in the river Jordan.
In other prophecies, Isaiah speaks of the deeds of Christ and His qualities, in particular, of His mercy and meekness. The prophecy presented here gives the words of God the Father: “Behold My servant, whom I uphold; Mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put My spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street... A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench” (Is 42:1-3). These last words speak of the great patience and condescension to human weakness, with which Christ will treat repentant and destitute people. A similar prophecy Isaiah pronounced somewhat later, saying from the name of the Messiah: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; because the Lord hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek;’ he hath sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound” (Is. 61:1-2) These words precisely determine the goal of the coming of the Messiah: to heal the spiritual ailments of people.
Besides spiritual ills, the Messiah had as His task the healing of physical infirmities, as Isaiah predicted: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert” (Is. 35:5-6). This prophecy was fulfilled when the Lord Jesus Christ, teaching the Gospel, healed thousands of people of myriad illnesses, those born blind, and those possessed. With His miracles He certified the truth of His teachings and His Oneness with God the Father.
By God’s plan, the salvation of people should have been realized in the Kingdom of the Messiah. This blessed Kingdom of the faithful was sometimes compared by the prophets to a harmonious building (see the appendix for prophecies about the Kingdom of the Messiah). The Messiah, being, on the one hand, the founder of the Kingdom of God, and, on the other hand, the foundation of the true faith, is called the Stone by the Prophets, that is, the foundation, on which the Kingdom of God is based. This symbolic nomenclature of the Messiah is found in the following prophecy: “Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not act hastily” (Is. 28:16). Zion was called the mountain (hill), on which stood the Temple and the city of Jerusalem.
It is remarkable that, in this prophecy the importance of FAITH in the Messiah is emphasized for the first time: “He that believeth shall not act hastily!” In the 118th psalm, written after Isaiah, this Stone is mentioned: “The stone which the builders (masons) refused is become the head stone of the corner (cornerstone). This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes” (Ps. 118:22-23, see also Mt. 21:42). That is, notwithstanding that “builders” — people, standing at the helm of power, rejected This Stone, God still placed Him as the foundation of the blessed structure — the Church.
The next prophecy supplements previous prophecies, in which it speaks of the Messiah as a Conciliator and a source of blessing not only for Jews, but also for all nations: “And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give Thee for a light to the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be My salvation unto the end of the earth” (Is. 49:6).
But no matter how great the spiritual light emanating from the Messiah, Isaiah foresaw that not all Jews will see this light by reason of their spiritual callousness. Here is what the prophet writes concerning this: “Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed” (Is. 6:9-10) By reason of their focus solely on earthly well-being not all Jews recognized their Savior in the Lord Jesus Christ, promised by the prophets. As if foreseeing the lack of faith of the Judeans, King David, having lived before Isaiah, in one of his psalms called to them with these words: “To day if ye will hear his(the Messiah’s) voice, Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness” (Ps. 95:7-8). That is: when you hear the sermon of the Messiah, believe in His word. Do not persist, as did your ancestors under Moses in the desert, who tempted God and grumbled against Him (see Exodus 17:1-7), “provocation” means “reproach.”
The Suffering Messiah
Cleansing sacrifices occupied the central place in the religious life of the Hebrew people. Every orthodox Hebrew knew from childhood the law that sin can be ironed out only through a redeeming bloody sacrifice. All the high holy days and family events were accompanied by sacrifices. The prophets did not explain wherein lay the cleansing power of the sacrifice. However, from their predictions about the sufferings of the Messiah it is apparent that Old Testament sacrifices pointed to the great expiatory Sacrifice of the Messiah, which He was to bring for the remission of the sins of the world. From this great Sacrifice the Old Testament sacrifices drew their meaning and strength. The internal connection between sin and the subsequent sufferings and death of a person, as well as between the voluntary sufferings and subsequent salvation of people — to this day is not completely understood. Here we will not attempt to explain this inner bond, but will dwell on the actual predictions about the Messiah’s forthcoming sufferings for our salvation.
The most vivid and detailed prediction about the sufferings of the Messiah is the prophecy of Isaiah, which occupies one and a half chapters of his book (the end of the 52nd and all of the 53rd). This prophecy contains such details of the sufferings of Christ, that the reader gets the impression that the prophet Isaiah wrote it at the foot of Golgotha, even though, as we know, the prophet Isaiah lived over seven centuries BC. We present here this prophecy.
“Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked; But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You 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. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors” (Is. 53:1-12).
The introductory phrase of this prophecy (who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed) witnesses the extraordinary nature of the described event, demanding considerable willful effort on the part of the reader in order to believe it. Truly, the previous prophecies of Isaiah spoke of the greatness and glory of the Messiah. The present prophecy speaks of His voluntary humiliation, suffering and death! The Messiah, being completely clean of personal sins and holy, endures all these sufferings for the cleansing of human lawlessness.
King David also described the sufferings of the Savior on the Cross very vividly in his 22nd psalm. Although the speech is in the first person in this psalm, King David could not write about himself of course, because he did not bear such sufferings. Here he, as the prototype of the Messiah, prophetically attributed to himself that, which in fact referred to his Descendant — Christ. It is remarkable that several of the words of this psalm were repeated precisely by Christ during his crucifixion. We present here several phrases from the 22nd psalm and the parallel Gospel text:
7th verse: “All that see Me laugh Me to scorn,” compare to Mark 15:29.
16th verse: “They pierced My hands and My feet,” compare to Luke 23:33.
18th verse: “They part My garments among them, and cast lots upon My vesture,” compare to Matthew 27:35.
8th verse: “He trusted on the Lord that He would deliver him: let Him deliver Him.” This phrase was repeated word for word by the High Priests and the scribes, Gospel of St. Matthew 27:43.
1st verse: “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” — so exclaimed the Lord before His death, see Matthew 27:46.
In addition, the prophet Isaiah wrote the following details about the sufferings of the Messiah, which were also fulfilled precisely. The speech is in the first person: “The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary... I gave My back to the smiters, and My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not My face from shame and spitting. For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be disgraced” (Is. 50:4-7), compare to Matthew 26:67.
In the light of these prophecies about the sufferings of the Messiah, the ancient enigmatic prophecy of the patriarch Jacob becomes comprehensible, as told to his son Judah, which was already partially mentioned in the second chapter. Here we give the prophecy of Judah fully: “Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. Binding his donkey unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes” (Gen. 49:9-11). In this prophecy the Lion with his greatness and power symbolizes the Messiah, Who was to be born of the tribe of Judah. The question of the patriarch about who will raise the sleeping Lion, allegorically refers to the death of the Messiah, named in the Holy Scriptures “the Lion of the tribe of Juda” (Rev. 5:5). The following prophetic words of Jacob about the cleansing of the raiments in the juice of the grapes also speak about the death of the Messiah. Grapes are the symbol of blood. The words about the female donkey and the ass’s colt were fulfilled, when the Lord Jesus Christ before His sufferings on the cross, sitting on an ass’s colt, rode into Jerusalem. The prophet Daniel also prophesied about the time when the Messiah was to suffer, as we shall see in the next chapter.
The prophecy, no less definite, of Zechariah, living two centuries after Isaiah (500 years BC), should be added to these ancient affirmations about the sufferings of the Messiah. In the third chapter of his book the prophet Zechariah describes the vision of the great priest Joshua, dressed at first in bloody, then later in light vestments. The clothing of the priest Joshua symbolizes the moral condition (state) of the people: at first sinful, then later — righteous. In the vision described there are many interesting details relating to the sacrament of redemption, but we will here present only the concluding words of God the Father: “For, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH. For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes; behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the Lord of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day... and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son... In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness” (Zech. 3:8-9; 12:10-13:1).
The name Branch we have already seen in the Prophet Isaiah. It refers to the Messiah, as does the symbolic naming of Him as the (corner) stone. It is noteworthy that, according to the prophecy, the forgiveness of the sins of the people will occur in a single day. In other words, one particular Sacrifice will perform the redemption of sins! The second part of the prophecy, found in the 12th chapter, speaks of the sufferings of the Messiah on the Cross, of His being pierced by a spear, and of the repentance of the people. All these events did take place and are described in the Gospels.
No matter how difficult it was for the Old Testament person to rise to the belief in the necessity of these expiatory sufferings of the Messiah, still, several Old Testament Judean writers correctly understood the prophecy in the 53rd chapter of the book of Isaiah. We present here valuable thoughts on this subject from ancient Hebrew books. “What is the Name of the Messiah?” is asked in the Talmud, and the reply is: “The compassionate one, as it is written “These sins of ours He carries and feels compassion for us” (tractates (Massektoth), Talmud Babli. In another part of the Talmud it says: “The Messiah takes unto Himself all the suffering and torture for the sins of the Israelites. Had He not taken unto Himself this suffering, then not one person in the world could have stood the unavoidable execution as a consequence for breaking the law” (Jalkut Chadach, fol. 154, col 4, 29, Tit). The Rabbi Moshe Goddarshan writes in the Midrash (the book, interpreting the Holy Scripture):
“The Holy and Blessed God made the following agreement with the Messiah, saying to Him: Messiah My Righteous One! The sins of the people will be imposed upon you as a heavy yoke: Thine eyes shall see no light, Thine ears shall hear terrible curses, Thy mouth shall taste bitterness, Thy tongue shall cleave to Thy throat… and Thy soul shall succumb from anguish and gasping. Are You reconciled to that? If You accept to take upon Yourself all these sufferings: very well then. If not, then I shall this minute annihilate mankind — sinners. To this the Messiah answered: Lord of the universe! I gladly accept all these sufferings on one condition, that Thou shall resurrect from the dead during My time, beginning with Adam and to this day, and shall not only save only them, but also all those that You had planned to create and have not created as yet. To that the Holy and Blessed God answered: yes, I agree. In that instant the Messiah gladly took upon Himself all the suffering as it was written: “He was tortured, but suffered willingly… as a sheep led to slaughter” (from discussions on the book of Genesis).
These testimonies of orthodox Hebrew experts of the Holy Scriptures are valuable, because they show how great a significance the prophecy of Isaiah had for strengthening faith in the power of the sufferings of the Messiah on the Cross to bring salvation.
of the Messiah
However, in speaking of the necessity and salvation due to the Messiah’s suffering, the prophets also predicted His resurrection from the dead and His subsequent glory. Isaiah, describing the sufferings of Christ, concludes his narration with the following words: “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. He shall see the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied: by His knowledge shall My righteous servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities. There will I divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong” (Is. 53:10-12). In other words, the Messiah after death will come to life, in order to head the Kingdom of the righteous and will be morally satisfied with the results of His ordeals.
King David also predicted the resurrection of Christ in his 16th psalm, in which in the voice of Christ it says: “I have set the Lord always before me: because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16:8-11). In the prophet Hosea there is a mention of a three-day resurrection, although the wording in this prophecy is in the plural: “Come and let us return unto the Lord: for He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten, and He will bind us up. After two days will He revive us: in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight” (Hosea 6:1-2, see 1 Cor. 15:4).
Besides the direct prophecies about the immortality of the Messiah, in fact, all those places in the Old Testament, in which the Messiah is called God, attest to this (for example in Ps. 2, Ps. 45, Ps. 110, Is. 9:6, Jer. 23:5, Mic. 5:2, Mal. 3:1). God by His very essence is immortal. The immortality of the Messiah can also be concluded after we read the predictions of His eternal Kingdom (for example in Gen. 49:10; 2 Sam. 7:13; Ps. 2, Ps. 132:11; Eze. 7:27; Dan. 7:13). For an eternal Kingdom presumes an eternal King!
In this way, summing up the contents of this chapter, we see that the Old Testament prophets very definitely spoke of the expiatory sufferings, death, and then — of the resurrection and glory of the Messiah. He was to die for the redemption of human sins and rise to head the eternal Kingdom of those He saved. These truths, first revealed by the prophets, later formed the basis of the Christian faith.
The Patriarch Jacob, as we showed in the second chapter, coincided the times of the coming of the Conciliator with the time that the descendants of Judah would lose their political independence. The time of the coming of the Messiah was defined more precisely by the prophet Daniel in his prophecy of the seventy weeks.
The Prophet Daniel wrote the prophecy of the time of the Messiah’s coming while he and other Hebrews were in Babylonian captivity. The Hebrews were led into captivity by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, who destroyed the city of Jerusalem in 588 BC. The prophet Daniel knew, that the 70 year time period of captivity predicted by the prophet Jeremiah (in the 25th chapter of his book), was coming to an end. Desiring a rapid return of the Hebrew nation from captivity to its native land and the restoration of the Holy City of Jerusalem, St. Daniel often began to ask God for this in fervent prayer. At the end of one of these prayers the Archangel Gabriel suddenly appeared before the prophet and said, that God had heard his prayer and will soon help the Hebrews restore Jerusalem. Along with this, the Archangel Gabriel announced even more glad tidings, specifically, that from the time of the issuance of the decree to restore Jerusalem, the calculation of the year of the coming of the Messiah and the establishment of the New Testament would begin. Here is what the Archangel Gabriel said to the Prophet Daniel:
“Seventy times seven “weeks” has been designated for your people and your Holy City, so that the crime might be veiled, the sins sealed and lawlessness erased so that eternal truth would be brought about and the prophet and prophecies would be sealed and the Holy of Holies anointed. Therefore know and comprehend: that from the moment that the decree is given for the restoration of Jerusalem up until the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ will be 7weeks and 62 weeks. The people shall return and streets and walls shall be rebuilt in difficult times.
At the end of the time of 62 weeks Christ shall be delivered for death, and shall no longer exist: but the city and temple shall be ruined by the people of the commander who shall come and whose end shall be as from the flood and until the end of the war there shall be devastation. During one seventh shall affirm the New Testament for many, And in the half of the seventh sacrifice and offerings shall cease, and at the entry of the sanctuary there shall be abomination and desolation and a final predestined perdition shall befall the ravager” (Dan. 9:24-27).
In this prophecy, the entire time from the decree to restore Jerusalem to the establishment of the New Testament and the second destruction of this city is divided into three periods. The time frames of each period are measured in “week” years, i.e. seven-year spans. The Hebrew word for “week” is “shavua” and literally means “seven.” Seven is a holy number, symbolically meaning fullness, completeness.
The meaning of the given prophecy is this: for the Judaic nation and for the holy city are determined 70 “weeks” (70x7= 490 years), until the coming of the Holy of Holies (Christ), who will erase lawlessness, bring eternal truth and fulfill all the prophecies. The order for the new construction of Jerusalem and the temple will serve as the beginning of these weeks, and the end — a second destruction of both. In the order of events these weeks are divided in the following manner: during the first seven “weeks” (i.e. 49 years) Jerusalem and the Temple will be rebuilt. Then, toward the end of the 62 weeks (i.e. 434 years) Christ will come, but He will suffer and will be put to death. Finally, in the course of the last “week” the New Testament will be established and in the middle of this “week” regular sacrifices in the Temple of Jerusalem will cease, and there will be abomination of desolation in the sanctuary. Then will come a people, guided by a leader, who will destroy the holy city and the Temple.
It is interesting and instructive to trace, how in fact the historical events unfolded in the time period designated by the Archangel Gabriel. The decree for the restoration of Jerusalem was issued by the Persian king Artaxerxes of the dynasty Archaemenidae in 453 BC. This momentous event is described in depth by Nehemiah in the 2nd chapter of his book. The enumeration of Daniel’s “weeks” should begin from the moment of the issuance of this decree. By the Greek method of numbering the years, this was the 3rd year of the 76th Olympiad, by the Roman method — the 299th year after the founding of Rome. The restoration of the walls and Temple was protracted for a about 40 or 50 years (seven “weeks”) because several heathen nations, living in the regions neighboring Jerusalem, hindered the restoration of this city in every possible way.
In accordance to the prophecy, the Messiah was to suffer for the cleansing of human sins in the period between 69 and 70 weeks. If one adds to the year of the issuance of the decree of the restoration of Jerusalem 69 weeks, i.e. 483 years, then this equals the 30th year of the Christian method of numbering years. It was around this time, from 30 to 37 AD, according to the prophecy, that the Messiah was to suffer and die. The Evangelist Luke writes that the Lord Jesus Christ came out to preach in the 15th year of the rule of the Roman emperor Tiberius. This coincides with the 782nd year from the founding of Rome or with the 30th year after the birth of Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ taught three and a half years and suffered in the 33rd or 34th year of our era, precisely during the time, indicated by St. Daniel. The Christian faith began to spread very quickly after the Resurrection of Christ, so that, truly, the last, 70th Week involved the establishment of the New Testament among many people.
Jerusalem was destroyed a second time in the 70th year of this era by the Roman military leader Titus. During the siege of Jerusalem by the Roman legions, complete chaos ruled this city because of the discord among the Judean leaders. As a result of this strife, religious services in the Temple were conducted very irregularly, and finally, in the Temple, as predicted by the Archangel to the prophet Daniel, reigned “abomination of desolation.”
The Lord Jesus Christ in one of His discussions reminded Christians of this prophecy and warned His listeners, that, when they will see in the Holy Place “abomination of desolation,” they should run from Jerusalem as soon as possible, because the end has come to it (Mat. 24:15). Christians living in Jerusalem did just that, when the Roman armies, due to the election of a new Emperor, by the order of Vespasian, temporarily lifted the siege of the city and retreated. For this reason Christians did not suffer during the subsequent return of the Roman army and destruction of Jerusalem and, in this manner, avoided the tragic fate of many Judeans remaining in the city. The prophecy of Daniel about the weeks comes to an end with the destruction of Jerusalem.
In this way, the coincidence of the given prophecy with the subsequent historical events in the life of the Hebrew nation and with the narration of the Gospel is astonishing.
Here it should be mentioned that the Hebrew rabbis very often forbade their fellow countrymen to count the weeks of Daniel. The rabbi of Gemar even subjected those Hebrews, who would calculate the year of the coming of the Messiah, to the following curse: “May the bones shake of those, who calculate the times… Perish all those who calculate the end, for men will say, since the predicted end is here and the Messiah has not come, he will never come!” (Sanhedrin 97b). The severity of this ban is understandable. For the Daniel weeks point directly to the time of the activity of Christ the Savior, which for those not believing in Him is unpleasant to admit.
In the Prophet Daniel we also find more prophetic evidence about the Messiah, written in the form of a vision, in which the Messiah is portrayed as the eternal Sovereign. This is written in the seventh chapter of his book. “I saw in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came 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 people, nations, and languages, should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (Dan. 7:13:14).
This vision speaks of the final fates of the world, of the termination of the existence of the earthly kingdoms, of the last judgment of the nations, gathered before the throne of the Ancient of Days, i.e. God the Father. and of the beginning of the glorious time for the Kingdom of the Messiah. The Messiah here is called “Son of man,” which points to His human nature. As we know from the Gospels, the Lord Jesus Christ often called Himself the Son of man, with this name reminding the Jews of the prophecy of Daniel (Mat. 8:20, 9:6, 12:40, 24:30 and so on).
The prophecies of the other two great prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel are found in the appendix, where the prophecies about the Kingdom of the Messiah are listed. To conclude this chapter we present only the prophecy of Baruch, pupil of Jeremiah, in which he writes of the coming of God to earth: “This is our God, and there shall none other be of in comparison him. He hath found out all the way of knowledge, and hath given it unto Jacob his servant, and to Israel his beloved. Afterward did he shew himself upon earth, and conversed with men” (Bar. 3:36-38). Unfortunately, in the times of the Babylonian captivity the Hebrew original of the prophet Baruch was lost, which is why the Greek translation of his book was placed on the list of non-canonical books. For this reason, the prophecy of Baruch does not receive the prestige it deserves among Biblical experts of other faiths.
Prophesies of the
Besides the books of the “great” Prophets to which belong the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, there are among the Old Testament Holy Books some other 12 books, i.e. of the lesser Prophets. They are called “lesser” due to the fact that their books are significantly smaller in proportion and consisting of only several chapters. Some “lesser” prophets who wrote about the Messiah were Osee, Joel, Amos and Micheas, — contemporaries of the prophets Isaiah who lived some 700 years B.C., as well as the prophets Aggeus, Zacharias and Malachias who lived following the Babylonian captivity during the 6th and 5th century B.C. During the time of the last three prophets there was a second Temple of the Old Testament being built in Jerusalem on the site of the demolished Temple of Solomon. The Old Testament Scripture ends with the book of Malachias.
The prophet Micheas wrote the well known prophecy regarding Bethlehem which was quoted by the Judaic scribes when king Herod asked them where Christ was supposed to be born. “And Thou, Bethlehem Ephrata, art a little one among the thousands of Juda: out of thee shall He come forth to Me that is to be ruler in Israel: and His going forth is from the beginning, from the days of eternity” (Micheas 5:2) Here the prophet Micheas discusses the fact that although Bethlehem was considered to be one of the most inconsequential cities of Juda, it would become worthy to be the place of the Messiah’s birth, and the reality of this event shall extend into eternity. Genesis, as we know, shows the distinctive nature of God’s essentiality. Therefore this prophecy witnesses the eternal and consequently the oneness of the Messiah with God the Father (remember that Isaiah called the Messiah “Everlasting Father” (Isaiah 9:6).
The Following prophecy of Zacharia and Amos are directed toward the last days of the earthly life of the Messiah. The prophecy of Zachariah details the triumphant entry of the Messiah astride an ass’s foal.
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion, Shout O daughter of Jerusalem: Behold your King is coming to you;…He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth” (Zach.9:9-10).
The she-ass is a symbol of peace, whereas the horse is a symbol of war. In accordance with this prophecy the Messiah was to proclaim peace to mankind — reconciliation with God and the cessation of enmity among people. The second part of the prophecy, regarding the release of the captives from the pit, foretold the release from hell of the souls of the dead as a result of the redeeming sufferings of the Messiah.
In the following prophecy, Zachariah foretold that the Messiah would be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver. In the prophecy the discourse emanates from the name of God, Who offers the Judean commanders to designate to Him a payment for all that He did for their people: “If it is agreeable to you, give Me My wages; and if not, refrain” so they weighed out for My wages thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said to me “throw it to the potter — that princely price they set on Me.” So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord for the potter” (Zach. 11:12-13). As we know from the Gospel that for thirty pieces of silver Judas Iscariot betrayed his Teacher. However Judas did not expect that Christ would be condemned to death. Having heard of this, he regretted his deed and threw away in the temple the coins that were given to him. For those thirty pieces of silver, the high ranked priests bought from the potter a piece of land for the burial of strangers, just as Zachariah had predicted. (Mat. 27:9-10).
The prophet Amos foretold of the eclipse of the sun, which happened during Christ’s crucifixion. “And it shall come to pass in that day” says the Lord God, That I will make the sun go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in broad daylight” (Am. 8:9). We find a similar prophecy in Zachariah: “It shall come to pass in that day that there will be no light…It shall be one day which is known to the Lord: Neither day nor night. But at evening time it shall happen that it will be light” (Zach. 14:6-9).
The oldest prophecies regarding the Messiah by the Prophets Aggeus, Zachariah and Malachias have a close bearing to the erection of the second Temple of Jerusalem. Having returned from captivity, the Jews began with little enthusiasm to erect a new Temple on the site of the ruined Temple of Solomon. The whole nation was devastated and many Jews preferred to rebuild their own homes first. It became necessary for the prophets after that time of captivity to urge the Jews toward the building of the House of God. In order to encourage the builders, the prophets said that although its outer facade ceded to that of Solomon, its spiritual meaning would by far excel it. The reason for the glory of the Temple being built will be, that it will be frequented by the Messiah. We bring here as an example to that fact the prophesy of Aggeus, Zachariah and Malachias since they supplement each other. God speaks through the mouths of prophets:
“Yet one little while, and I will move the heaven and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land, And I will move all nations, — And the Desired of all Nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts… Great shall be the glory of this last house, more than the first…” (Aggeus 2:6-7).
“Behold the Man whose name is the BRANCH, From His place He shall branch out, and He shall build the Temple of the Lord… He shall be a priest on His throne” (Zach. 6:12-13).
“Behold I send My Angel (the prophet John) and he shall prepare the way before My face and presently the Lord whom you seek shall unexpectedly come into His temple, and the Angel of the Testament whom you desire. Behold He comes, saith the Lord of Hosts” (Mal. 3:1).
God the Father calls the Messiah “The desired of all Nations,” “Branch,” “Lord” and “Angel of the Testament.” These names of the Messiah which were known to the Jews from previous prophecies bound all the numerous preceding prophecies regarding Christ into a whole. Malachias was the last Old Testament prophet. His prophecy regarding the sending of the “Angel” to prepare the path for the Lord Who was to follow shortly, ends the mission of the Old Testament prophets and begins the period of awaiting the coming of Christ.
We can only agree to the prophecy brought forth by Zacharias that the Messiah was to found the Lord’s Temple. Here the discourse is not about the founding of a stone Temple (which could not possibly hold all peoples) but of a spiritual one — Churches of the Faithful. Since God inhabits the souls of the faithful as in a Temple. (Lev. 26:12).
Coming of the Messiah
In summing up the contents of the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah, we see that the Jews, possessing such an abundant and thorough description of His character and many events of His life, could without difficulty acquire a true faith in Him. In part they should have known, that the Messiah was to have two natures: human and Divine, that He would be the greatest Prophet, King and High Priest, anointed by God (the Father) for these services, and would be a Good Shepherd.
The prophecies also attested to the fact, that the main objective of the Messiah would be the defeat of the devil and his servants, the redemption of mankind from sins, the healing of their spiritual and physical ailments and reconciliation with God; that He will sanctify the faithful and establish a New Testament, and His spiritual blessings will extend to all humanity.
The prophets also revealed many events in the life of the Messiah, specifically: He will be descended from Abraham, from the tribe of Judah, from the line of King David, will be born to a Virgin in the city of Bethlehem, will preach peace to people, heal illnesses, will be meek and compassionate, will be betrayed, condemned though innocent, will suffer, will be pierced (by a spear), will die, will be buried in a new grave, during the time of His crucifixion darkness will descend. Then the Messiah will descend into hell and will lead the souls of people from it, after which He will rise from the dead; they also predicted that not everyone will recognize Him as the Messiah, but some will even feud with Him, though without success. The result of His redemption will be the spiritual renewal of the faithful and the outpouring of the grace of the Holy Spirit on them.
Finally, the prophets determined that the time of His coming will coincide with the end of the political independence of the tribe of Judah, which will occur no later that 70 “weeks” (70x7= 490 years) after the issuance of the decree to restore the city of Jerusalem, and no later than the destruction of the second Temple in Jerusalem, that He will destroy the antichrist, that He will come again in glory. The final result of His activity will be the attainment of justice, peace and happiness.
Also, those names, which the prophets gave to Him, attest to the nature of the Messiah and the greatness of His deeds, such as: Lion, David, Branch, Mighty God, Emmanuel, Adviser, Leader of the World, Father of the future age, Conciliator, Star, Seed of the Woman, Prophet, Son of God, King, Anointed (Messiah), Redeemer, God, Lord, Servant (of God), Righteous, Son of man, Holy of Holies.
All this abundance of prophecies about Christ in the Old Testament Holy books reveal to us the great significance the prophets assigned to their mission of teaching the Jews to believe correctly in the coming Christ. In addition, the hope that at some time an extraordinary Person will come, Who will deliver people from disasters, spread from the Jews among many nations, which is why Haggai call Christ “Desire of all nations.” Truly, among many ancient peoples (Chinese, Hindus, Persians, Greeks and others), there existed a legend about the coming of a God-person into the world long before the birth of Christ. Some called Him “Holy,” others — “Savior.”
Thus the Old Testament prophets prepared the necessary conditions for the successful spreading of the New Testament faith. Truly, many ancient written monuments of the time period between 200 BC until the beginning of the 2nd century AD witness that, during that time, the Hebrew nation intensely awaited the coming of the Messiah. Among these written monuments can be mentioned the Book of Enoch, the Book of Baruch, the Wisdom of Solomon, Sibyl Oracles, the ancient parts of the Talmud, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the notes of Joseph Flavian (a Jewish historian of the 1st century of our era) and others. Quotes from these sources would require too much space. Reading these ancient written monuments, it may be concluded, that the faith of the Jews in the Messiah sometimes reached amazing proportions. Thus, for examples, several ancient writers called the coming Messiah the Son of Man and the Son of God, existing prior to the appearance of the world, king and judge righteous, rewarding the good and punishing the evil (in the second part of the book of Enoch).
The Fulfillment of the
Prophecies about the Messiah
The numbers of Hebrews that were spiritually prepared for the acceptance of the Messiah can be seen from the first chapters of the Gospel of St. Luke. There, the Holy Virgin Mary, the righteous Elizabeth, the priest Zechariah, the righteous Simeon, the prophetess Anna and many citizens of Jerusalem linked the birth of Jesus with the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies about the coming of the Messiah, of the forgiveness of sins, of the overthrow of the proud and the elevation of the meek, about the restoration of the Testament with God, about the service of Israel to God with a pure heart. After Jesus Christ began to preach, the Gospel witnesses the ease with which many sympathetic hearts of the Jews recognized in Him the promised Messiah, which they related to their acquaintances, for instance, the apostles Andrew and Philip, later — Nathaniel and Peter (John 1:40-44).
Jesus Christ declared Himself the Messiah and attributed the predictions of the prophets to Himself, for example: the prediction of Isaiah about the Spirit of the Lord, Which was to descend on the Messiah (Is. 61:1; Luke 4:18). He alluded to Isaiah’s prediction about the healing of the infirm by the Messiah (Is. 35:5-7; Mt. 11:5). Jesus praised Apostle Peter for calling Him Christ, the Son of the Living God, and promised to build His Church on faith in Him (Mt. 16:16). He told the Judeans that they should delve into the Scriptures, because the Scriptures witness of Him (John 5:39). He also said that He is the Stone, Who is to sit on the right hand of the Father, alluding to Psalm 110 (Mt. 22:44). Jesus Christ also said that He was the “Stone” cast out by the “builders,” alluding to the well-known prediction in Psalm 118 (Mt. 21:42). Before His sufferings Jesus Christ reminded His followers that “that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me” (Luke 22:37, Is. 53rd ch.). During the trial before Caiaphas, to the direct question of the high priest whether he is “Christ, the Son of God,” Christ answered in the affirmative and reminded him of the prophecy of Daniel about the Son of Man (Matt. 26:63-64, Dan. 7:13), and His acknowledgment served as the formal reason for His condemnation to death. After His resurrection form the dead, Christ reproached His apostles for being “slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken” (Luke 24:25). In a word, Jesus Christ right from the beginning of His public service, even to His sufferings of the Cross and after His resurrection, declared Himself the Messiah, promised by the prophets.
If Christ shunned referring to Himself directly as the Messiah when among people, and only cited prophecies about Him, He did this by reason of the coarse and distorted representations of the Messiah which had become established among the people. Christ in every way avoided worldly glory and interference in political life.
Due to their belittling dependence on Rome, many Jews wished the Messiah to be a mighty warrior-king, who would give them political independence, glory and earthly blessings. Jesus came in order to evince in people a spiritual rebirth. He promised heavenly blessings, not earthly blessings, as a reward for a virtuous life. This was the reason why many Jews rejected Christ.
Although the apostles before the crucifixion of Christ faintheartedly wavered in their faith in Him, after the resurrection of Christ from the dead they no longer had any doubts that He was the Messiah promised by God. After the resurrection their faith in Him was so strengthened, that they were ready to give and truly gave their lives for Christ. The apostles in their letters constantly mentioned the ancient prophecies about the Messiah in order to convince the Jews of the verity of the Christian faith. For this reason, their word, notwithstanding the disbelief and opposition mainly of the high priests and scribes, had such great success at first among the Jews, then later — among the Gentiles. Toward the end of the first century the Christian faith had spread to almost all the ends of the vast Roman empire.
About the Messiah
Notwithstanding the abundance of prophecies about the Messiah in the Old Testament writings, during the earthly lifetime of Christ, many of the Jews did not have the right notions about him. The reason for this was that many Jews could not rise to the spiritual understanding of the messianic prophecies, for instance, about the Godly nature of the Messiah, about the necessity of moral rebirth, about the grace of God working in the Kingdom of the Messiah
The period from the 3rd century BC to the beginning of 2nd century AD was a time of intense struggle of the Hebrew nation for its political independence. This difficult struggle and the hardships connected with it helped to develop among many Jews the hope for better times, when the Messiah will defeat the enemies of the Hebrew nation. They envisioned that with the enthroning of the Messiah glad times will begin, full of the material abundance of life. Because of such narrow national and utilitarian desires, as we have already mentioned, the Lord Jesus Christ avoided publicly proclaiming Himself the Messiah. On the other hand, He often quoted the ancient prophecies that spoke about the Messiah as a spiritual leader, and with this returned the faith of the Jews to the right path (See Matt. 26:54, Mark 9:12, Luke 18:31, John 5:39).
But the Jews, desiring to have in the Messiah a worldly king and dreaming of earthly blessings, were irritated by the meek and at times humble appearance of Jesus Christ. His teachings of meekness, of love to the enemies, about the striving for the Heavenly Kingdom — was entirely alien to them.
The Jewish leaders in the course of several years did not know how to get rid of this undesirable teacher/miracle-worker. The feared the loss of their own influence on the people, as many of the common people believed in Jesus Christ. Finally, a convenient opportunity arose when Judas, one of the 12 apostles, offered the High Priests his services and helped them deliver Jesus Christ to judgment. At the trial, though, the judges could not offer an accusation for which He could be sentenced to death. Only after Jesus answered the question of Caiaphas, whether He considers Himself the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the Living God, in the affirmative, was He accused of blasphemy. This “sin,” by law, was punishable by death. But by themselves the Jewish leaders were not allowed accomplish this sentence, since Judea was under Roman rule. As we know from the Gospel, Pilate, against his own wishes, fearing for his fate, confirmed the death sentence of the Judean leaders — the high priests and members of the Sanhedrin. Christ was crucified on the eve of the Jewish Passover in the 33rd or 34th year AD. In the face of these circumstances the Hebrew nation, represented by their leaders, rejected the God-sent Messiah.
But, by awaiting a Messiah King-conqueror, both before Jesus Christ, as well as, particularly, in the 1st and 2nd centuries after Him, there was created a convenient basis for the appearance of all sorts of self-proclaimed messiahs among the Jews. After all, that was the time, in accordance with the prophecies of the patriarch Jacob and the prophet Daniel, when the true Messiah was to come. In the history of the Hebrew nation there were nearly sixty false messiahs. They were, mainly, every possible kind of adventurer: sometimes — simply a leader of a band of robbers, sometimes — one of the more visible military leaders, sometimes — religious fanatics and reformers.
The most prominent of these false messiahs was Bar-Kochba, heading a desperate fight with Rome in 132-135 AD. He called himself the Star of Jacob (referring, probably, to the prophecy in Numbers, 24:17) and the messiah-deliverer. He possessed an iron will and managed to completely subject the Jewish population in Palestine. He was an absolute master, of the property as well as of the lives of his subjects. Jews blindly believed in his messianic calling, and were prepared to sacrifice everything in order to realize their dreams of the messianic fortunate times. But for little Judea the task of taking on powerful Rome was too great. The war ended with terrible destruction throughout Palestine. A considerable part of the population died in this war, the rest were taken into captivity and sold in the slave markets. Bar-Kochba himself died. (A writer of the second century, living in Palestine, Justin the Philosopher, relates of the brutality of Bar-Kochba during the peak of his power. He demanded of Christians that they deny Christ and disparage His name. Those who refused to do so he committed to excruciating suffering and death. He did not spare neither women, nor children, Apologia 1, par. 31).
During the course of the next centuries Jews, being scattered throughout the world, directed all their forces to preserving their Old Testament religion and nationalism. In this they succeeded. But, while not accepting Christ and His teachings, Jews deprived themselves of that which was the most valuable left them by the prophets — hope of spiritual rebirth.
After the Second World War, some Jews developed a yearning for their Messiah — Jesus Christ. Active missionaries sprung up among them, attracting their fellow countrymen to the Christian faith. The missionary work went very successfully because they resorted to the messianic predictions of the Old Testament prophets. It must be said that the Holy Scriptures, even among those Jews indifferent to God, are highly respected. This way, the writings of the prophets, notwithstanding the elapsed centuries, remain the living and functioning word of God.
It appears, that the difficult task of exposing the falsity of the approaching final false messiah — the Antichrist — will lie on these new Christians from among the Jews. This impostor, like the ancient false messiahs, will promise earthly blessings and happiness. In accordance to predictions, many will blindly come to believe in him, and he will achieve considerable political success, but not for long. Later he will die, just as did the more ancient impostors.
Christians have no need to prove that Jesus Christ is the true Messiah. Yet, acquaintance with the ancient prophecies is useful for all. This familiarity, on the one hand, enriches faith in Christ, on the other hand, offers the means of converting to faith the doubtful and disbelieving. We must be grateful to the Old Testament prophets that they so clearly and in such detail related about Christ. Thanks to them, our faith in Him is established on hard rock, and with this faith we gain salvation.
the New Testament Times
According to the prophets, the goal of the Messiah’s coming into the world was the founding of the Kingdom of God, into which a new, spiritually renewed Israel should have entered. The prophets described this Kingdom fairly thoroughly. In this article we have taken as a goal to present the prophecies relating to the Messiah, and to show how they were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. We will present the prophecies relating to His Kingdom here fleetingly, dwelling only on the main and most common qualities of this Kingdom.
When speaking of the Messianic Kingdom, the prophets portrayed it as a society of spiritually renewed people. In addition, besides the Jews, other nations were to enter into this society as well. The main distinctive feature of this Kingdom was to be the abundance of the gifts of grace within it. Receiving its beginning from the time of the Messiah’s coming to earth, in the end of the world’s existence and after the universal judgment of God of the nations, it was to be transformed in its external appearance. Then, on the new, transfigured earth, all physical distresses will disappear, and there will reign among the citizens of this Kingdom bliss, immortality and the fullness of God’s blessings. This, in a few words, is the essence of these prophecies. Now we will dwell on several particulars.
Speaking of the messianic times, the prophets pointed out, that they will be the times of a New Testament (Covenant) between God and people. As we know, the Old Testament between God and Israel was concluded in the presence of Moses at Mount Sinai. At that time, the Jews promised to fulfill the commandments written on the stone tablets, and they received the land, promised to Abraham (the Promised Land), as a reward from God. Here is what is written about the New Covenant by the Prophet Jeremiah:
“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall by my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer. 31:31-34).
The prophet Isaiah calls the New Covenant eternal: “Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David” (Is. 55:3, see Acts 13:34).
The distinguishing feature of the New Covenant, as compared to the Old, was that other nations will be called to it besides the Jews, who all together will form a new Israel, the blessed Kingdom of the Messiah. The prophet Isaiah thus wrote about this summoning of the heathen nations in the name of God the Father:
“It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth” (Is. 49:6).
A little further on the Prophet Isaiah expresses joy on this occasion:
“Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth in to singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child, for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife...For thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited” (Is. 54:1,3, see Gal. 4:27).
Here the prophet portrays the Old Testament Hebrew Church in the form of a married woman, and the heathen nations — in the form of a barren woman, who will later bear more children than the first wife. Osee also predicted the calling of the Gentiles to take the place of the Judeans fallen from the Kingdom (Os. 1:9 and 2:23). In the Old Testament period the affiliation with the Kingdom depended on nationality. In the New Testament times the necessary requirement for belonging to the Kingdom of the Messiah would be faith, about which wrote Habbakuk: “The just shall live by his faith” (Hab. 2:4, Is. 28:16).
In contrast to the Old Testament laws, written on stone tablets, the new law of God will be written on the hearts themselves of the New Israel, that is, the will of God will become an inseparable part of their being. This inscribing of the law on the hearts of the renewed Israel will be done by the Holy Spirit, of which write the prophets Isaiah, Zechariah and Joel. As we shall see, the prophets, when speaking of the grace of the Holy Spirit, often call it water. Grace, like water, refreshes, cleanses, and gives life to a person’s soul.
The prophet Isaiah first prophesied about the spiritual renewal: “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring” (Is. 44:3). In Zechariah we read: “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son...In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness” (Zech. 12:10-13:1, 14:5-9, Is. 12:3).
A commentary from Sukkah 52a (ancient Hebrew writing on Zechariah 12:10): “What is the cause of the mourning...It is well according to him who explains that the cause is the slaying of Messiah the son of Joseph, since that well agrees with the Scriptural verse, And they shall look upon me because they have thrust him through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son.”
Here, in addition, is predicted that penitent grief which the inhabitants of Jerusalem experienced after the death of Christ on Golgotha (see John 19:37, Acts 2:37). The prophet Ezekiel also wrote about the spiritual renewal:
“For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh (flesh--soft, kind). And I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them” (Eze. 36:24-27).
The next prophecy of Joel supplements the three previous predictions:
“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered” (Joel 2:28-32).
These predictions began to be fulfilled on the fiftieth day after the resurrection of Christ (see Acts 2). Compare also with Isaiah 44:3-5, Eze. 36:25-27 and Rom. 10:13. The end of the prophecy of Joel about the darkening of the sun refers to events before the end of the world.
The Messianic Kingdom is sometimes portrayed by the prophets in the form of a high mountain. This symbol, taken from the holy Mount Zion, is comparable to the Messianic Kingdom because it, like a mountain, leaning on the earth, leads people to the heights, to Heaven. Here is how the Prophet Isaiah writes of the Kingdom of the Messiah: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Is. 2:2-3). The prophets called Jerusalem not only the capital city of the Hebrew nation, but also the Kingdom of the Messiah. So, for example, Isaiah cried out:
“Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee.” (Is. 60:1-4).
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.”
Farther on the prophet Daniel explains this vision: “And in the days of these kings [Babylonian, later — Persian, Greek, and finally, Roman] shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever” (Dan. 2:34, 44).
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.
Sometimes, as we shall see, the prophecies about the Messianic kingdom speak of ideal living conditions on the earth, joy and bliss. Here the reader may begin to have the following doubts: are these descriptions of the Kingdom an impracticable dream? Or, maybe, the New Testament Church itself does not have the right to lay claim to the name of the Kingdom of God, since in its history there were so many deviations from that ideal which is outlined in the prophecies?
In order to correctly understand the prophecy of the Messianic Kingdom, one must remember, that often different epochs are united in them, separated one from the other by many centuries, and sometimes — millenniums. For in the Messianic kingdom the external is determined by the internal: happiness, immortality, bliss, complete harmony, peace and other blessings are not implanted forcibly and mechanically. They are the result of the voluntary inner renewal, through which the members of this kingdom must pass. The process of spiritual renewal was to begin immediately at the moment of the coming of the Messiah, but will conclude at the end of the world’s existence.
For this reason, the prophetic visions of the blessed kingdom of the Messiah encompass in one grandiose picture many eras of its existence — the times near to the prophets and to the coming of the Messiah, and, simultaneously, times far in the future, relating to the epoch of the end of the world and the beginning of a new life. This comparison of the near and distant futures in one picture is very characteristic of prophetic visions, and if one remembers this, then the reader may correctly understand the meaning of the prophecies regarding the Messianic kingdom.
In the following prophecy Isaiah writes about the joyous conditions in the triumphant kingdom of the Messiah.
“… with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked... The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the falling together; and a little child shall lead them...They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. 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” (Is. 11:4-10, see Is. 43:16-28, see Rom. 15:12).
Here the “wicked” who will be slain by the Messiah, should be understood as the last and greatest of the wicked — the Antichrist. Here are two more predictions of the great prophets, referring to this same era:
Prophet Jeremiah: “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 RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Jer. 23:5 and 33:16).
Prophet Ezekiel: “And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. And I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them.” (Eze. 34:23-24). And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them” (Eze. 37:24).
Among the Old Testament prophets, the coming Kingdom of the Messiah results in the hope of overcoming the final evil of humanity — death. The resurrection of the dead and eternal life is the final victory of the Messiah over evil. Chapters 25 to 27 in the book of the prophet Isaiah contain a song of praise of the Church to God, rejoicing over the victory over death:
“Therefore shall the strong people glorify thee, the city of the terrible nations shall fear thee. For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress...And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth...Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation. For in this mountain shall the hand of the Lord rest...Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in. Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee...Let favour be shewed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness” (Is. 25:3-10 and from the 26th chapter).
The prophet Osee also wrote about the victory over death: “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction” (Hos. 13:14). The hope of resurrection was expressed by the living in ancient times the muchsuffering Job in the following words: “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another” (Job 19:25-27).
In conclusion we will present the following prophecy, relating to the second coming of the Messiah:
“Behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came 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 people, nations, and languages, and everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (Dan. 7:13-14, see Matt. 24:30).
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. The eternal blessings — victory over death, the resurrection of the dead, the renewal of the world, the restoration of justice, and, finally, eternal bliss will come as a reward for virtue.
If the prophets, in portraying future bliss, used expressions such as wealth, abundance and similar worldly terms, they did this because the human language does not contain the necessary words to describe that blessed state in the spiritual world. It was these particular words about the external blessings, understood by some in their crude materialistic meaning, that served as the grounds for all sorts of distorted representations about the earthly messianic kingdom.
It must be said, that not only the Jews of the times of Christ incorrectly visualized the messianic times in the form of worldly well-being. Similar ideas continue to arise to this day among the sectarians in the form of, for example, the teachings of the 1000-year kingdom of Christ on earth (chiliasm). The prophets, Jesus Christ and the Apostles predicted the transfiguration of the physical world, after which complete justice, eternal life and heavenly bliss will be realized. These universally desired blessings will come only after this material world, poisoned by sins, is transfigured by the power of God into “new heaven and new earth, in which resides truth.” Then a new, eternal life will begin.
Those desiring to inherit the transfigured Kingdom of the Messiah must go to this new life by the narrow path of self-reformation, as Christ taught. There is no other way.
Without a doubt, the most important event in the life of the Hebrew nation was the exodus from Egypt and the reception of the Promised Land. The Lord saved the Hebrew nation from backbreaking slavery, gave it His Godly commandments on Mt. Zion, concluded an alliance with it and lead it into the land promised to its forefathers. All these great events in the life of the chosen people were concentrated in the holiday of Passover. In this holiday the Jews annually commemorated the innumerable blessings of God, rendered to the Hebrew nation.
Now we will contrast the Hebrew Old Testament Passover with the greatest event of the New Testament. The Lord Jesus Christ endured suffering, died on the Cross and was resurrected from the dead precisely in the days of the Hebrew Passover. This concurrence of these two utmost events — the formation of the Old Testament Israel and the founding of the New Testament Church — cannot be accidental! It shows that there exists a deep internal connection between the Paschal events of the Old and New Testament, namely: the greatest event in the life of the Hebrew nation was the prototype of the New Testament events. In order to see this spiritual connection, we will compare these events.
The Old Testament Passover
The New Testament Easter
The slaughter of the pure lamb by whose blood were redeemed the Israelite first-born.
The crossing of the Red Sea by the Jews and deliverance from bondage.
Entrance in alliance with God on the 50th day after their exodus from Egypt and reception of God’s Commandments.
Wanderings in the desert and various trials.
Partaking of the Manna miraculously sent by God.
The erection of the copper serpent, by looking at which the Jews were healed from snake bites.
The entrance of the Jews into the promised land.
The death on the cross by God’s Lamb, by whose blood are redeemed the first-born of the Christians.
Baptism frees humans from the bondage of sin.
The descent of the Holy Spirit on the 50th day after Passover, by which was established the New Testament.
A Christian’s life amidst trials and sorrows.
The partaking by the faithful of the “Bread of Heaven,” Body and Blood of Christ.
Christ’s Cross, by looking at which, the faithful save themselves from the snares of the devil.
The reception by the faithful of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Truly, the similarities are striking! The Lord Jesus Christ himself, as well as His apostles, pointed out the existence of these parallels between the Old Testament and the New Testament events connected with Pascha. This way, we see that, not only the prophets wrote about the Messiah and about the New Testament times, but the whole religious life of the Hebrew nation in the Old Testament era was most intimately connected to the matters of the Messiah. This fact indicates to us the complete spiritual unity of the New Testament Church with the Old Testament Israel. For this reason, all the prophecies in which are mentioned the names Israel, Jerusalem, Zion and so on, have a full and complete realization in the blessed Church of Christ.
The forthcoming conversion
of the Hebrew nation to Christ
As we have already written, the majority of Jews at the time of Christ did not recognize Him as the Messiah promised by God and rejected Him. They wanted as the Messiah a powerful king-conqueror, who would gain fame and fortune for the Hebrew nation. Christ, on the other hand, taught voluntary poverty, meekness, love towards ones enemies, which for many was unacceptable. With the centuries the religious attitude of the Hebrew nation changed little, and the Jews continue not to recognize Christ. Yet, the Holy Apostle Paul clearly predicted that in the last times there will be a mass conversion of Jews to Christ. This confession of Christ and faith in Him as the Savior of the world by many Jews will coincide with a drastic reduction of faith and mass digression among Christian peoples.
The prediction of St. Paul about the conversion of the Hebrew nation to faith is found in the 10th and 11th chapters of his letter to the Romans. These two chapters are penetrated with great sorrow for the religious bitterness of the Jews contemporary to him.
We will present here the most pertinent ideas in the prophecy of Apostle Paul: “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in (to the Church). And so all Israel (of the last times) shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Rom. 11:25-26). Who will be this “Deliverer” — the apostle does not define: Christ Himself, or the prophet Elias, who according to legend is supposed to come before the end of the world, in order to expose the falsity of the Antichrist, or someone from the Hebrew nation?
In the last 30-40 years there have appeared signs of the beginning of the rebirth of faith in Christ among Jews. In a whole row of large cities in the USA, missionary centers of Jewish Christians have appeared, teaching among their brothers by blood faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is very interesting and enlightening to familiarize oneself with their brochures and books on religious themes. It is apparent that the compilers of these brochures distinctly understand the Holy Scriptures and the Old Testament Jewish religion. They explain the predictions of the prophets about the Messiah and about His blessed Kingdom clearly and convincingly.
Currently, throughout the world, there are nearly 200 Messianic Jewish congregations — Christian Jews that observe their national customs. In telephone books, their communities appear under the rubric — Jewish Messianic. The following are Jewish Christian societies that are in existence: Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, the Fellowship of Jewish Congregations, International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues, Messianic Jewish Alliance of America, Jews for Jesus, The Chosen People, American Board of Mission to the Jews, and others. In confessing to the cardinal Christian dogmas, members of these congregations strive to preserve their national identity and continue to observe ancient Jewish holidays and customs, like the Sabbath (Saturday), circumcision, Pascha (Passover), and others.
Supplementary data on the Messianic movement can be found in the books Return of the Remnant by Michael Schiffman and Elliot Klayman, Lederer Publications, Baltimore, Maryland, 1992, and Messianic Jews by John Fieldsend, Marc Olive Press, Monarch Publications,1993. Some Messianic congregations are active in publishing journals and books, in which they convincingly prove — on the basis of the Old Testament prophesies — to their fellow Jews that the Lord Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah. This type of literature can be received, for example, from the publisher Jews for Jesus, 60 Haight St., San Francisco, CA 94102, tel. (415) 864-2600.
We pray God to help the Jews see their Savior and to begin to serve Him as fervently as their glorious ancestors had served God!
a) Prophecies by content
The prophets wrote that the Messiah would have two natures: a human (Gen. 3:15, Is. 7:14, Gen. 22:18, Ps. 41:7, Dan. 7:13) and a Godly (Ps. 2; Ps., 45; Ps, 110; Is. 9:6; Jer. 23:5; Bar. 3:36-38; Mic. 5:2; Mal. 3:1), that He would be the greatest prophet (Deut. 18:18); king (Gen. 49:10; 2 Samuel 7:13; 1 Chron. 17:12-13; Ps. 2, Ps. 132:11, Ez. 37:24; Dan. 7:13) and High Priest (Ps. 110; Zach. 6:12), anointed by God (the Father) for these duties (Ps. 2, Ps. 45; Is. 42; Is. 61:1-4; Dan. 9:24-27), and will be a kind Shepherd (Ez. 34:23-24, 37:24; Mic. 5:3).
The prophecies also witness that the main role of the Messiah will be to defeat the devil and his powers (Gen. 3:15; Num. 24:17), redeem people from sin and to heal their physical and spiritual illnesses (Ps. 40; Is. 35:5-7, 42:1-12, 50:4 and the 53rd chapter and 61:1-3; Zach. 3:8-9) and to reconcile them with God (Gen. 49:10; Jer. 23:5 and 31:34; Ez. 36:24-27; Dan. 9:24-27; Zach. 13:1); that He will sanctify the faithful (Zach. 6:12), will establish a New Covenant in place of the old (Is. 42:2, 55:3 and 59:20-21; Dan. 9:24-27), and that this covenant will be for eternity (Jer. 31:31; Is. 55:3). The prophets predicted the calling of the Gentiles to the Kingdom of the Messiah (Ps. 72:10; Is. 11:1-11, 43:16-28, 49:6 and 65:1-3), the spreading of faith, beginning with Jerusalem (Is. 2:2), that His spiritual blessings will extend to all humanity (Gen. 22:18, Ps. 132:11; Is. 11:1, 42:1-12 and 54:1-5; Ez. 34:23 and 37:24; Amos 9:11-12; Ag. 2:6-7; Zeph. 3:9, Zach. 9:9-11), and the spiritual bliss of the faithful (Is. 12:3).
The prophets also revealed many particulars regarding the coming of the Messiah, specifically: that He will be descended from Abraham (Gen. 22:18), from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:9), from the line of king David (2 Samuel 7:13; 1 Chron. 17:12-13), will be born of a Virgin (Is. 7:14) in the city of Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2), will spread spiritual light (Is. 9:1-2), will heal the infirm (Is. 35:5-6), will suffer, be pierced, die, be buried in a new grave, then will rise from the dead (Gen. 49:9-11; Ps. 41:7-10; Is. 50:5-7 and the 53rd chapter; Zach. 12:10; Ps. 16:9-11), will lead souls from hell (Zach. 9:11); they even predicted, that not everyone will recognize Him as the Messiah (Is. 6:9), but that some would even feud with Him, though unsuccessfully (Num. 24:17; Deut. 18:18; Ps. 2; Ps. 95:6-8; Ps. 110:1-4; Is. 50:8-9 and 65:1-3). Isaiah wrote about the meekness of the Messiah (42:1-12).
The fruits of His redemption will be spiritual renewal of the faithful and the outpouring of the grace of the Holy Spirit on them (Is. 44:3 and 59:20-21; Zach. 12:10; Joel 2:28; Eze. 36:25). They also spoke of the necessity of faith (Is. 28:16; Hab. 3:11).
The prophets determined, that the time of His coming will coincide with the loss of the tribe of Judah’s political independence (Gen. 49:10), that this will occur no later than 70 “weeks” (490 years) after the decree to restore the city of Jerusalem (Dan. 9:24-27) and no later than the destruction of the second Temple in Jerusalem (Ag. 2:6, Mal. 3:1). The prophets predicted that He will annihilate the antichrist (Is. 11:4), will come again in glory (Mal. 3:1-2). The end result of His activity will be the attainment of justice, peace and happiness (Is. 11:1-10; Jer. 23:5).
It is noteworthy to mention the multiple details which the prophets predicted about the life of the Messiah, for example: the massacre of the infants around Bethlehem (Jer. 31:15); about the sermons of Christ in Galilee (Is. 9:1); the entrance into Jerusalem on a female donkey (Zach. 9:9; Gen. 49:11); about the betrayal of Judas (Ps. 41:10; Ps. 55:14); about the 30 pieces of silver and the purchase of the potter’s land (Zach. 11:12); about the degradation and spitting upon (Is. 50:4-11), details of the crucifixion (22nd psalm); about the numbering of the Messiah among the lawless and the burial in the tomb of the rich (Is. 53); about the darkness during the crucifixion (Amos 8:9; Zach. 14:5-9); about the repentance of the people (Zach. 12:10-13).
Also, those names which the prophets gave Him attest to the nature of the Messiah and the greatness of His deeds, by calling Him: Lion, David, Angel of the Covenant, Branch, God the Mighty, Emmanuel, Counselor, Leader of the world, Everlasting Father, Conciliator, Star, Seed of a Woman, Prophet, Son of God, King, Anointed One (Messiah), Redeemer, Deliverer, God, Lord, Servant (of God), Righteous, Son of Man, Holy of Holies.
Prophecies about the Messianic Kingdom are: cleansing from sin (Is. 59:20-21, Jer. 31:31-34, Eze. 36:24-27, Dan. 9:24-27, Zach. 6:12, 13:1), imparting to the people regarding virtue and purity of heart (Jer. 31:33, Eze. 36:27), the conclusion of the New Testament (Is. 55:3, 59:20-21, Jer. 31:31, Eze. 9:24), abundance of blessings (Is. 35:5, 44:3, 55:3, 59:20-21, Joel 2:28-32, Zach. 12:10-13), the calling of the Gentiles (Ps. 22:28, 72:10-17, Is. 2:2, 11:1-10, 42:1-12, 43:16-28, 49:6, 54:12-14, 65:1-3, Dan. 7:13-14, Aggeus, 2:6-7), the propagation of the Church throughout the world (Is. 42:1-12, 43:16-28, 54:12-14), steadfast and unconquerable (Is. 2:2-3, Dan. 2:44, 7:13, Zach. 9:9-11), the abolishment of evil, suffering (Num. 24:17, Is. 11:1-10), the affirmation of joy (Is. 42:1-12, 54:12-14, 60:1-5,61:1-4), resurrection of the flesh (Job 19:26), the abolishment of death (Is. ch 26, 42:1-12, 61:1-4, Zech. 9:9-11, Osee 13:14), knowledge of God (Is. 2:2-3, 11:1-10, Jer. 31:31-34), triumph of truth and justice (Ps. 72:1-17, 110:1-4, Is. 9:6-7, 11:1-10, ch. 26, Jer. 23:5), the glory of the Triumphant Church (Is. chs. 26-27), comparison of the Messianic Kingdom to the mountain (Ps. 2, Is. 2:2-3, 11:1-10, ch. 26, Dan. 2:35).
b) Prophecies in order of Place in Scripture
Book of Genesis
3:15 The Family of the Spouse shall crush the serpent’s head
22:18 Blessing the descendents of Abraham
49:10 Conciliator from the line of Judah
24:17 The Star of Jacob
18:18-19 A prophet similar to Moses
Job 19:25-27 Of the Redeemer who shall be resurrected
2 Samuel 7:13 and 1 Chron. 17:12-13 Everlasting Messianic Kingdom
2nd Messiah — Son of God
16th His flesh shall not see decay
22nd Messiah’s suffering on the cross
40th The Messiah came to fulfill the will of God
45th Messiah — God
72nd Description of Messiah’s glory
95th On unbelief
110th High Priest according to the order of
118th He — is the stone rejected by builders
2:2-3 Messianic Kingdom is similar to a mountain
6:9-10 Unbelief of the Hebrews
7:14 Birth from a Virgin
9:1-2 Sermon in Galilee
9:6-7 Messiah — a strong God, Father of eternity
11:1-10 On Him — the Spirit of God, about the Church
12:3 About joy and blessings
25-27ch Songs of praise for the Messiah
28:16 He — is the cornerstone
35:5-7 He shall heal all possible maladies
42:1-4 On the meekness of God’s Branch
43:16-28 Calling of the heathens
44:3 Pouring of blessings by the Holy Spirit
49:6 Messiah — a light to mankind
50:4-11 On the insults to Messiah
53rd ch. On the suffering and resurrection of the
54:1-5 On summoning the heathens into the
55:3 On the everlasting Testament
60:1-5 His Kingdom — the New Jerusalem
61:1-2 Messiah’s deeds of compassion
2:28-32 On the Gifts of the Holy Spirit
1:9 & 2:23 Summoning the heathens
6:1-2 Resurrection on the third day
13:14 The annihilation of death
8:9 On the darkening of the sun
9:11 On the restoration of David’s Tabernacle
5:2 On the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem
23:5 Messiah — a righteous King
31:15 The slaughter of infants in Bethlehem
31:31-34 Establishment of the New Testament
3:36-38 On the coming of God on earth
34:23-24 Messiah — Shepherd
36:24-27 Law of God written on hearts
37:23 Messiah — King and Good Shepherd
2:34-44 Messianic Kingdom likened to a mountain
7:13-14 Vision of the Son of Man
9:24-27 Prophecy of the seventy weeks
2:6-7 On Messiah’s visitation of the Temple
3:11 On faith
3:8-9 Sins of mankind are erased in oneday
6:12 Messiah — Priest
9:9-11 Entry of the Messiah into Jeriusalem
11:12 On the thirty pieces of silver
12:10 & 13:1 On the crucifixion of the Messiah,
On the Holy Spirit
14:5-9 Darkness during the crucifixion, and on blessings
3:1 The Angel of the Testament will arrive soon.
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