"THE BOOK OF DANIEL" The Vision Of The Time Of The End - III (11:36-12:13) INTRODUCTION 1. We have been studying the final vision recorded in the book of Daniel... a. Depicting what will affect Daniel's people (i.e., Israel)- Dan 10:14 b. Describing events "in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come" - Dan 10:14 c. Its words were closed and sealed "till the time of the end"- Dan 12:9 -- For such reasons this vision has been called "The Vision Of The Time Of The End" 2. In the introductory remarks of the vision, there is a glimpse of spiritual warfare... a. Angelic forces withstanding each other - Dan 10:13a,20 b. Angelic forces helping each other - Dan 10:13b,21; 11:1 -- Such forces affecting the nations of Persia and Greece 3. As the vision unfolds, a series of future conflicts involving nations is described... a. Between the Persians and the Greeks - Dan 11:2-4 b. Between kings of the South (Egypt) and kings of the North (Syria) - Dan 11:5-35 1) In this conflict, Israel would be caught in the middle 2) Israel would suffer extreme blasphemies by one Syrian king (Antiochus Epiphanes) 4. Beginning with Dan 11:36, there is a large diversity of opinion... a. Regarding the identity of the king described in Dan 11:36-45 b. The time in which events described in Dan 11:36-12:13 would be fulfilled [As with any difficult portion of Scripture, especially one involving prophecy, dogmatism should be avoided. In this study, our final one in this series of lessons on the Book of Daniel, I shall offer what I believe is a plausible explanation of the text...] I. THE IDENTITY OF THE KING AND HIS TIMES A. THREE DIFFERENT VIEWS... 1. The king is Antiochus Epiphanes of Syria a. The vile and blasphemous ruler described in Dan 11:21-35 b. The time of his persecution would therefore be 169-167 B.C. c. The time of the Maccabean revolt -- This view is espoused by Albert Barnes in his commentary 2. The king represents the Roman emperors a. Who persecuted Christians in the early years of the church b. The time of this persecution would therefore be 60-313 A.D. -- This view is proposed by Robert Harkrider in his workbook 3. The king represents the Anti-Christ a. A future ruler still to come b. The time of this persecution would be shortly before the return of Christ -- This view is held by pre-millennialists, but also by some amillennialists (e.g., Edward Young) B. ANTIOCHUS EPIPHANES SEEMS A LIKELY CHOICE... 1. The allusion in previous verses is undoubtedly to Antiochus Epiphanes 2. There is no indication in the prophetic narrative of any change; notice... a. "Then the king shall do..." - Dan 11:36 b. "At the time of the end the king of South shall attack him..." - Dan 11:40 c. "At that time Michael..." - Dan 12:1 d. "And at that time your people shall be delivered..."- Dan 12:1 3. A sudden transition, with no given indication, is not in accordance with what is usually found in prophetic writings (Barnes) 4. The word "king" is never applied to Antichrist (if there in fact be "the Antichrist", as the Bible speaks of many antichrists - 1Jn 2:18,22; 4:3; 2Jn 7) 5. The description that follows can easily be applied to the person and times of Antiochus Epiphanes [This is not imply there is no difficulty with applying this passage to Antiochus Epiphanes and his times, but I believe it possesses fewer difficulties than alternative views. Now let's consider what is described to come...] II. THE EVENTS AT "THE TIME OF THE END" A. THE BLASPHEMY OF THIS KING... 1. He shall magnify himself above every god - Dan 11:36-37 a. Speaking blasphemies against the God of gods b. Prospering till the wrath that has been determined is done (suggesting that this was allowed by God as part of divine judgment against Israel) - cf. Dan 11:35; as with the case of Assyria and Israel, Isa 10:5-12 c. He shall not regard the god of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor any god 2. He shall honor a god of fortresses - Dan 11:38-39 a. A god which his fathers did not know (some suggest the Roman god Mars, or Jupiter) b. He shall act against the strongest fortresses with this foreign god, rule over many and divide the land for gain -- In his commentary, Albert Barnes explains how this could apply to Antiochus B. THE CONQUESTS AND END OF THIS KING... 1. The king of the South (Egypt) shall attack him - Dan 11:40 a. Note that this will occur "at the time of the end" b. This may help pinpoint the meaning of the "latter days" of Dan 10:14 2. The king of the North (Antiochus Epiphanes) will respond and overwhelm the countries - Dan 11:40-43 a. Entering the "Glorious Land" (Israel) b. Overthrowing many, while Edom, Moab and Ammon will escape c. Egypt will not escape, even Libyans and Ethiopians will submit 3. He shall come to his end - Dan 11:44-45 a. News from the east and north will trouble him (from Persia) b. He shall proceed to destroy and annihilate many, planting his tents between the seas and the glorious holy mountain (Mt. Zion, Jerusalem?) c. Yet he shall come to his end, no one helping him (Antiochus died in 163 B.C. of a terrible disease) -- Again, Barnes relates in detail how these events could refer to Antiochus C. THE ULTIMATE VICTORY OF DANIEL'S PEOPLE... 1. To occur "at that time" - Dan 12:1 a. To be assisted by "Michael...the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people" - cf. Dan 10:13,21 b. In a time of a trouble not seen before c. Deliverance of Daniel's people "at that time" 1) I.e., the time just previously described 2) I.e., the time of the conflict involving Antiochus Epiphanes 2. Many who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake - Dan 12:2 a. Some to everlasting life b. Some to shame and everlasting contempt -- Note that this is not likely the physical resurrection of the dead, for then "all" (not "many") shall be raised - Jn 5:28,29 3. Those who will shine at this time - Dan 12:3 a. The wise will shine like the brightness of the firmament b. Those who turn many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever and ever -- Using the figure of the resurrection, this may depict the Maccabean revolt when the Jews came out of caves and mountain hideouts to resist Antiochus - cf. Dan 11:33-35 D. FINAL INSTRUCTIONS AND ANSWERS GIVEN TO DANIEL... 1. Shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end - Dan 12:4 a. Perhaps what is meant is to stop writing, and secure what he has written b. Compare this with Dan 8:17,19,26 1) Both visions (Dan 8, 10-12) were to be sealed up 2) Both pertained to many days in the future 3) Yet both visions were fulfilled within 200-400 years c. Contrast this with Rev 22:10 1) The vision of the Revelation was not to be sealed, for the time was at hand 2) How then the explanation of some that the events of Revelation have yet to begin, nearly 2000 years later? 2. Two final questions answered a. One question overheard by Daniel - Dan 12:5-7 1) Daniel saw two others, one on each side of a river bank 2) One asked the man clothed in linen (cf. Dan 10:5-6) above the river: "How long shall the fulfillment of these wonders be?" 3) The answer: "...a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished." a) The "time, times, and half a time" (3 and a half years, 42 months, 1260 days) is commonly used to describe a definite, marked, period of tribulation - cf. Dan 7:25; Re 11:2,3; 12:6,13-14; 13:5 b) When the persecution has accomplished its purpose, then the things described will take place b. The question asked by Daniel - Dan 12:8-13 1) Not understanding, Daniel asks: "...what shall be the end of these things?" 2) Daniel is first told: a) To go, for the words are closed and sealed till the time of the end b) That many shall be purified, and the wise shall understand - cf. Dan 11:33-35 c) That the wicked shall do wickedly, and not understand - cf. Dan 11:32 d) That there will be a period of "1290 days" beginning from: 1/ The time the daily sacrifice is taken away - cf. Dan 11:31 2/ The abomination of desolation is set up- cf. Dan 11:31 e) Those who wait and come to "1335 days" will be blessed -- Whether literal or figurative, these numbered days appear to apply to the period of the Antiochian persecution (ca. 168 B.C.) 3) Daniel is then told: a) To go his way till the end b) For he shall rest and arise to his inheritance at the end of the days -- This "end" or "end of the days" may refer to the actual resurrection on the day of Judgment, not "the time of the end" spoken of throughout this vision CONCLUSION 1. We have seen that "The Vision Of The Time Of The End" describes events that would... a Affect Daniel's people (i.e., Israel) - Dan 10:14 b. Take place "in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come" - Dan 10:14 c. Occur in "the time of the end" - Dan 11:35,40; 12:4,9 2. From the context, "the time of the end" likely refers to the closing days of God's dealings with Israel as His covenant nation; i.e.,... a. The inter-testamental period between Malachi and Matthew b. The period involving the Greek-Persian and Egyptian-Syrian conflicts -- Which is how the phrase is used in "The Vision Of The Ram and The Goat" that depicts many of the same events - cf. Dan 8:1-27 (esp. 17,26) 3. As we conclude our study of the Book of Daniel, we have found it to be a book that... a. Strengthens faith in God and His Word through its fulfilled prophecies 1) Describing the rise and fall of world empires - Dan 2,4-5 2) Foretelling the establishment of God's everlasting kingdom - Dan 2,7,9 3) Depicting the events to befall the people of Israel - Dan 8,9, 10-12 b. Inspires faithfulness to God through its examples of dedicated faith and service 1) Of Daniel - Dan 1,6 2) Of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego - Dan 3 While there is certainly much in this book that challenges our understanding, may we never neglect to mine its spiritual treasures preserved for the people of God: "For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." - Ro 15:4
"THE BOOK OF DANIEL" The Vision Of The Time Of The End - II (11:2-35) INTRODUCTION 1. In the tenth chapter, we saw the beginning of the final vision recorded by Daniel... a. A vision that pertains to what will affect Daniel's people (i.e., Israel) - Dan 10:14 b. Describing what will occur "in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come" - Dan 10:14 c. Its words were to be closed and sealed "till the time of the end" - Dan 12:9 -- For such reasons this vision has been called "The Vision Of The Time Of The End" 2. In the introductory remarks of the vision, we were given a glimpse of the spiritual warfare that was going on "behind the scenes"... a. With angelic forces withstanding each other - Dan 10:13a,20 b. With angelic forces helping each other - Dan 10:13b,21; 11:1 [Beginning with Dan 11:2, "The Vision Of The Time Of The End" begins in earnest. The "glorious man" proceeds to tell Daniel what will happen "in the latter days" (Dan 10:14), beginning with...] I. THE PERSIAN-GREEK CONFLICT A. FOUR PERSIAN KINGS WILL ARISE... 1. Three more kings will arise in Persia, and then a fourth - Dan 11:2 a. The fourth shall be far richer than them all b. By his strength and riches, the fourth shall stir up all against Greece 2. As confirmed by history, these kings who followed Cyrus(Dan10:1) were: a. Cambyses b. Smerdis c. Darius Hystaspis (Darius the Great) d. Xerxes (called Ahasuerus in the book of Esther - Es 1:1) B. A MIGHTY GREEK KING SHALL RISE AND FALL... 1. A mighty king shall arise - Dan 11:3 a. He shall rule with great dominion b. He shall do according to his will -- This was Alexander the Great 2. His kingdom shall be broken and divided into four pieces - Dan 11:4 a. This was also prophesied in Dan 8:21-22 b. The kingdom will not be given to his posterity, nor will the dominion be as great c. As confirmed by history, Alexander's empire was eventually divided between his four generals after he died in 323 B.C. 1) Seleucus I - who began the Seleucid (Syrian) empire, from Turkey to India 2) Cassander - who took over Macedonia (Greece) 3) Lysimachus - who took Thracia (between Greece and Turkey) 4) Ptolemy I - who ruled over Egypt [At this point, the "glorious man" begins to describe an extended conflict between "the kings of the North" and "the kings of the South" which will have a big impact upon the people of Daniel (Israel)...] II. THE EGYPTIAN-SYRIAN CONFLICT A. THE CONFLICT WILL BEGIN... 1. The "king of the South" will gain in strength - Dan 11:5a a. This king is Ptolemy I b. Who ruled Egypt (306-284 B.C.) 2. As well as "one of his princes", who will gain power over the other - Dan 11:5b a. This is thought to refer to one of Alexander's princes (generals) b. In which case it is Seleucus I, who ruled Syria (312-280 B.C.) -- Caught in the middle between Syria and Egypt, Israel will bear the brunt of much of the conflict between these two empires B. THERE WILL BE A FAILED ALLIANCE... 1. The "daughter of the South" will go to the "king of the North" - Dan 11:6a a. The event occurred in the reigns of Ptolemy Philadelphus (284-246 B.C.) and Antiochus Theus (261-246 B.C.) b. Berenice, daughter of Ptolemy Philadelphus was given to Antiochus, upon the condition that Antiochus divorce his wife Laodice c. Hoping to make peace between Egypt and Syria 2. But the "daughter of the South" will not retain her authority - Dan 11:6b a. Two years after the marriage, Berenice's father (Ptolemy Philadelphus) died b. Antiochus put her away and restored his first wife Laodice c. Laodice killed Antiochus, and Berenice fled, but was later put to death along with her children and attendants C. THE SOUTH WILL RISE IN ANGER... 1. A "branch of her roots" will come with an army - Dan 11:7 a. This was Berenice's brother, Ptolemy Euregetes (246-221 B.C.) b. Who failing to save his sister, attacked Syria to avenge her death 2. The avenger (Ptolemy Euregetes) will succeed - Dan 11:8 a. Euregetes took their gods, princes, and precious articles to Egypt b. Euregetes ruled longer than the next Seleucid king, Seleucid Callinicus (246-226 B.C.) D. THE CONFLICT WILL ACCELERATE... 1. The "king of the North" (Seleucid Callinicus) will try to invade the kingdom of the South - Dan 11:9-10 a. He does not succeed, though his sons (Seleucid Ceraunus and Antiochus the Great) shall stir up strife b. One son in particular, Antiochus the Great (225-187 B.C.), does succeed in overwhelming Egypt (actually, regain Syrian land taken by Egypt) 2. The "king of the South" will respond in rage - Dan 11:11-13 a. This king of Egypt is Ptolemy Philopator (221-204 B.C.) b. Angry that Antiochus the Great regained control of Syrian territory, he gathered a great army and defeated Antiochus at Raphia c. His victory was short-lived, for Antiochus returned with a better-equipped army in 203 B.C. 3. Others will contribute to the war against the South- Dan 11:14 a. This included Philip, king of Macedon, who aligned with Antiochus b. Also some violent Jews, prompted by what they perceived as the fulfillment of the vision, but they shall fall 4. The "king of the North" shall prevail against the South, but then fall - Dan 11:15-19 a. Again, this is Antiochus the Great 1) The forces of the South were not able to resist him 2) He stood in the "Glorious Land" (Israel) with destruction in his power b. He tried to strengthen his kingdom by giving his daughter in marriage 1) His daughter Cleopatra, given to Ptolemy Epiphanes (204- 180 B.C.) 2) But she came to favor the purposes of her husband rather than her father c. Antiochus then turned his attention to the coastlands (Mediterranean) 1) Making war with the Romans 2) But was defeated by Scipio Asiaticus, a Roman military leader d. Defeated by the Romans, Antiochus the Great returned home and died soon after [At this point our attention is focused on one leader of the Seleucid (Syrian) empire, who would have a powerful impact upon the people of Daniel, Antiochus Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.)...] III. THE RISE OF ANTIOCHUS EPIPHANES A. PRECEDED BY A TAX COLLECTOR... 1. One who will impose taxes on the "glorious kingdom" (Israel?) - Dan 11:20 a. This is Seleucus Philopator (187-175 B.C.) b. Oldest son of Antiochus, and his immediate successor 2. Whose reign will be short-lived a. Compared to his father, who reigned thirty-seven years b. Who died, not in battle, but was poisoned B. THEN WILL COME A VILE MAN WITH NO HONOR... 1. Held in contempt, the people will not give him honor- Dan 11:21 a. His official name was Antiochus "Epiphanes" (the Illustrious) b. His people refereed to him as Antiochus "Epimanes" (the Insane) 2. He shall take the kingdom peaceably, but with intrigue- Dan11:21-24 a. This may refer to his dealings with the Egyptians (or perhaps Israel) b. After making a league with them, he will act deceitfully and become strong with a small number of people c. Through peaceful means he will plunder the riches places of the province 3. He will provoke the "king of the South" - Dan 11:25-28 a. Two times Antiochus invaded Egypt b. The Egyptian king, Ptolemy Physcon, sought to oppose him, but was betrayed by his own people c. Both kings were deceitful liars, but their plotting was subject to the times and manner appointed by God d. On his return home, Antiochus passed through Israel, and was moved against the holy covenant (the institutions of the Law of Moses) C. HE WILL BRING BLASPHEMIES AGAINST ISRAEL... 1. Once again Antiochus Epiphanes will head toward the South - Dan 11:29-30a a. This was his third invasion b. But he was not as successful as before c. For Roman ships from Cyprus (Kittim) threatened reprisal 2. Frustrated, he will take out his rage against "the holy covenant" - Dan 11:30b-32a a. By showing regard for those who forsake the holy covenant b. By defiling the sanctuary fortress (i.e., the temple) c. By taking away the daily sacrifices d. By placing there "the abomination of desolation" e. By flattering those who do wickedly against the covenant 3. In the years 169-167 B.C., Antiochus Epiphanes: a. Took the city of Jerusalem and plundered the temple b. Commanded the Jews to worship the Greek idol which he set up in the temple c. Put an end to daily sacrifices and polluted the altar by offering swine flesh on it d. Forbid circumcision, the observance of the Sabbath, and possession of a copy of the law D. THOSE WHO KNOW GOD WILL RESIST VALIANTLY... 1. They shall be strong - Dan 11:32b-33a a. Carrying out great exploits b. Instructing many 2. When they fall, they shall receive aid - Dan 11:33b-34 a. For many days they shall fall by sword, flame, captivity and plunder b. They will receive a little help, even from many through intrigue 4. When those of understanding fall, it will be to refine them - Dan 11:35 a. To purge them, and make them white b. Until "the time of the end; because it is still for the appointed time." -- The events described here were fulfilled during the Maccabean period, which began in 168 B.C. with the revolt of Mattathias (an elderly priest) and his five sons CONCLUSION 1. Up to this point, there is little controversy over the content of the vision... a. It describes the conflict between the Persians and the Greeks, followed by the conflict between the Syrians and the Egyptians b. The latter described in detail, because Israel was caught in the middle c. Israel in particular would suffer the blasphemies of one Syrian king, Antiochus Epiphanes 2. From Dan 11:36 on, there is quite a diversity of opinions... a. Some believe Antiochus Epiphanes is still the subject b. Others suggest that a Roman emperor is being described c. Still others believe it refers to someone yet to come We shall examine the remaining portion of this chapter and the final chapter in our next study... Note: The historical information in this lesson was taken from Albert Barnes' commentary on Daniel.
"THE BOOK OF DANIEL" The Vision Of The Time Of The End - I (10:1-11:1) INTRODUCTION 1. As mentioned in previous lessons, the second half of Daniel contains four visions... a. The vision of the four beasts - Dan 7:1-28 b. The vision of the ram and the goat - Dan 8:1-27 c. The vision of the seventy weeks - Dan 9:1-27 d. The vision of the time of the end - Dan 10:1-12:13 -- In which God reveals to Daniel many things about His purpose and plan in history, regarding the nation of Israel and the everlasting kingdom to come 2. In the tenth chapter, therefore, we find the beginning of the final vision recorded by Daniel... a. A vision that pertains to what will affect Daniel's people (i.e., Israel) - Dan 10:14 b. Describing what will occur "in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come" - Dan 10:14 c. Its words were to be closed and sealed "till the time of the end" - Dan 12:9 -- For such reasons this vision has been called "The Vision Of The Time Of The End" 3. But what is meant by the expression "the time of the end"? a. Is it the end of time as we think of it, when Christ returns? b. Or does it refer to the end of God's dealings with Israel as His covenant nation? [As we seek to address this and other questions raised in this difficult portion of Scripture, we first notice...] I. THE APPEARANCE OF A GLORIOUS MAN A. THE DATE AND SETTING OF THE VISION... 1. It occurred in the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, on the 24th day of the first month (ca. 535 B.C.) - Dan 10:1,4 2. Daniel had been in mourning (fasting) for three weeks - Dan10:2,3 3. He was beside the Tigris river - Dan 10:4 B. THE DESCRIPTION OF THE GLORIOUS MAN... 1. Daniel saw a certain man - Dan 10:5-6 a. Clothed in linen, whose waist was girded with gold of Uphaz b. With a body like beryl c. His face like lightning, his eyes like torches of fire d. His arms and feet like burnished bronze in color e. His words like the voice of a multitude 2. Only Daniel saw the vision - Dan 10:7 a. The men with him did not b. They fled with great terror to hide themselves 3. The impact on Daniel - Dan 10:8-9 a. Without strength, his vigor turned to frailty (he was probably in his nineties!) b. When he heard the sounds of the man's words, Daniel was in a deep sleep with his face to the ground [The similarity between this "certain man" and John's vision of the Son of Man (cf. Re 1:12-17) have led many to wonder if this was a Christophany (an appearance of the preincarnate Christ); but he may have been only an angel. As we continue, we next read of...] II. THE CONVERSATION WITH THE GLORIOUS MAN A. THE MAN'S INITIAL WORDS TO DANIEL... 1. A hand touches Daniel, causing him to tremble - Dan 10:10 2. The man addresses Daniel - Dan 10:11 a. Calling him "man greatly beloved" - cf. Dan 9:23; 10:19 b. For Daniel to understand, and to stand up c. For the man has been sent to Daniel -- Daniel stands up, but trembling 3. The man comforts Daniel - Dan 10:12 a. Telling him not to fear b. That he has come because of Daniel's humility, and desire to understand 4. The man explains the reason for the delay - Dan 10:13 a. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood him twenty-one days (the same time during which Daniel had been in mourning - cf. Dan 10:2-3) 1) Spiritual warfare seems to have been taking place (cf. Re 12:7; Ep 6:12) 2) The "prince" (angel?) of the kingdom of Persia had been withstanding him - cf. Dan 11:1 b. But Michael came to help him who had been left alone with the kings of Persia 1) Michael is described as "one of the chief princes" 2) Later he is called "your prince" and "the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people" - Dan10:21; 12:1 3) Jude calls him "the archangel", who contended with the devil over the body of Moses - Jude 9 -- Michael appears to have served as the guardian of the nation of Israel 5. But now the man has come make Daniel understand - Dan 10:14 a. What will happen to his people (Israel) b. What will occur "in the latter days", "many days yet to come" -- From what follows, the expression "latter days" appears to refer to the time leading up to the coming of the Messiah and into the Messianic period (Harkrider) - cf. Dan 2:28; Ac 2:16-17 B. DANIEL IS STRENGTHENED... 1. Daniel is initially speechless - Dan 10:15-17 a. With his face turned to the ground b. But one with "the likeness of the sons of men" touched his lips (some think this may have been Gabriel, who had helped Daniel before - Dan 8:16) c. Daniel can now speak, but is overwhelmed with sorrow and without strength 2. Daniel is strengthened - Dan 10:18-19 a. By the touch of the one having the likeness of a man b. By the words bestowing love, peace and courage c. Ready now to hear what he has to say C. THE MAN RESUMES HIS WORDS WITH DANIEL... 1. Though he must soon return - Dan 10:20 a. To fight with the prince (angel?) of Persia b. To deal with the prince (angel?) of Greece yet to come 2. Yet he will tell Daniel what is noted in the Scripture of Truth - Dan 10:21-11:1 a. Adding that only Michael helps him against them (the angelic princes of Persia and Greece) - cf. Dan 10:13 b. Adding that he had confirmed and strengthened him (Michael?) in the first year of Darius the Mede CONCLUSION 1. At this point (Dan 11:2), "The Vision Of The Time Of The End" begins in earnest... a. Describing what will happen "in the latter days" b. Referring to what will occur "many days yet to come" -- Which we shall examine when we resume our study in the next lesson 2. In these introductory remarks of the vision, we find a glimpse of the spiritual warfare that was going on "behind the scenes"... a. With angelic forces withstanding each other - Dan 10:13a,20 b. With angelic forces helping each other - Dan 10:13b,21; 11:1 c. With Michael introduced to Daniel as: 1) "one of the chief princes" - Dan 10:13 2) "your prince" - Dan 10:21 3) "the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people" - Dan 12:1 While there is little we truly know about this "spiritual warfare", and to what extent it may be going on today, perhaps our study will encourage us to take more seriously Paul's words: "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." "Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." - Ep 6:12-13 What are we doing to take up the armor of God, that we might be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might (cf. Ep 6:10-18)?
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016
Elisha and the Lads of Bethel
|by||Wayne Jackson, M.A.|
Q.In 2 Kings 2, forty-two boys made fun of Elisha for being bald. The prophet then called bears out of the woods to attack the boys as punishment for their disrespect. Isn’t this morally evil—for God’s representative to take vengeance on these boys for such an insignificant thing?
A.In the book of 2 Kings, there is an intriguing narrative that has generated considerable controversy. Concerning the prophet Elisha, the text reads as follows.
And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them (2 Kings 2:23-24).Atheists have appealed to this incident in an attempt to involve the Bible in moral difficulty. A careful consideration of the facts, however, will dissolve the problem.
First, the translation, “there came forth little children out of the city” (KJV) is an unfortunate rendition (cf. “young lads”—ASV, or “youths”—NIV, NKJV). The Hebrew word rendered “children” derives from na’ar—used 235 times in the Old Testament. Na’ar is a very broad root word, and can have reference to anyone from a newborn child to an adult. Further, the Hebrew word rendered “little” comes from qatan, and generally means young or small. In commenting on this term in 2 Kings 2:23, the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament remarked:
Elisha being taunted (cf. qalas, qarah) by young lads (perhaps teen-age ruffians) (II Kgs 2:23) who as members of covenant families ought to have been taught God’s law whereby cursing his servant was tantamount to cursing him and rightly punishable by death (qalal) (Harris, et al., 1980, 2:795).Obviously, therefore, the immediate context in which na’ar is used will determine the maturity of the subject so designated.
Second, the young men of Bethel mocked Elisha. The Hebrew word qalas means to scoff at, ridicule, or scorn. The term does not suggest innocent conduct. Note the Lord’s comment elsewhere: “They mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and scoffed at his prophets, until the wrath of Jehovah arose against his people, till there was no remedy” (2 Chronicles 36:16).
Too, the expression, “Go up...Go up,” is held by many scholars to reflect the wish of these young men that the prophet go ahead and ascend (as did Elijah—2 Kings 2:11), i.e., leave the Earth, that they might be rid of him! Also, the taunt, “thou bald head,” was likely a reproach. Old Testament scholar John Whitcomb has suggested that this was an expression “of extreme contempt. They were pronouncing a divine curse upon him, for which baldness was often the outward sign (cf. Isaiah 3:17a,24)” (1971, p. 68).
Third, when it is said that Elisha “cursed them,” there is no implication of profanity (as our modern word suggests), nor was this a venting of passion for personal revenge. Holy men of God sometimes were empowered with divine authority to pronounce an impending judgment upon rebellious persons (cf. Genesis 9:25, 49:7, Deuteronomy 27:15ff., and Joshua 6:26). Christ uttered a curse upon the barren fig tree (Mark 11:21) as an object lesson of the doom that was to be visited upon Jerusalem. Also, it is stated clearly that Elisha’s curse upon them was “in the name of the Lord,” meaning by “divine appointment, inspiration, authority” (see Orr, 1956, 4:2112).
Fourth, the tragedy that befell these young men obviously was of divine design. Elisha, as a mere man, would have no power to call forth wild animals out of the woods merely at his bidding. But the sovereignty of Jehovah over the animal kingdom frequently is affirmed in the Scriptures. God sent fiery serpents to bite the Israelites (Numbers 21:6); the Lord slew a disobedient young prophet by means of a lion (1 Kings 13:24ff.); yet, He shut the lions’ mouths to protect Daniel (Daniel 6:22). He prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah (Jonah 1:17), and guided one to Peter’s hook (Matthew 17:24ff.). Clearly, therefore, it was Jehovah who brought those bears out of the forest.
Additionally, if, when the divine record says that the bears “tare” the lads, it means they were killed (and not all scholars are sure that death is indicated), then it was a divine punishment. As Alfred Edersheim has written: “[I]t should be noticed that it was not Elisha who slew those forty-two youths, but the Lord in His Providence, just as it had been Jehovah, not the prophet, who had healed the waters of Jericho” (n.d., 6:107).
It is the general view of conservative Bible scholars that the young men of Bethel likely were idolaters whose reproaches upon Elisha were expressions of contempt for his prophetic office, and thus, ultimately directed at the God Whom he served. Thus, their punishment was a divine judgment intended to serve as a dramatic example in horribly wicked times.
REFERENCESEdersheim, Albert (no date), The Bible History—Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Harris, R.L., G.L. Archer, and B.K. Waltke (1980), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago, IL: Moody).
Orr, James, ed. (1956), International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Whitcomb, John C. (1971), Solomon to the Exile (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Did the Laws of Science Apply in the Beginning?
|by||Jeff Miller, Ph.D.|
It is relatively easy for the rational man to disprove the idea that matter can spontaneously generate. Of course, even intuition does not back spontaneous generation. Recall Richard Dawkins’ commentary on the matter: “Of course it’s counterintuitive that you can get something from nothing. Of course common sense doesn’t allow you to get something from nothing” (Dawkins and Pell, 2012, emp. added). It matters not how long you sit in your chair and stare at an empty desk. A pencil will not eventually materialize on the desk before you. Things—no matter how simplistic—do not pop into existence from nothing.
The idea, that structured, law-abiding, physical matter (i.e., like that which we see all around us in the created order) could come into being from nothing, is even more far-fetched. Beyond intuition, this matter is laid to rest when we consider the implications of the First Law of Thermodynamics and the Law of Conservation of Matter (see Miller, 2013c). To paraphrase, the amount of energy and matter in a system will remain constant unless there is input from some outside source. In other words, it does not matter how long you stare at the desk; unless someone comes by your desk and puts an already existing pencil on it, or you put the pencil on it yourself, or the pencil falls on the desk from some other place, a pencil will not appear on the desk. This idea, applied to the origin of the Universe, indicates that the Universe has either always existed (an idea which violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics—see Miller, 2013c), or Someone put it here.
Naturalists do not take such news sitting down. Scientists like Stephen Hawking claim that in the beginning, at the alleged Big Bang, “the laws of science…would break down” (1988, p. 88). Theoretical physicist Ahmed Farag Ali at Benha University and the Zewail City of Science and Technology in Egypt highlighted the Big Bang singularity as a devastating deficiency of the Big Bang Theory: “The Big Bang singularity is the most serious problem of general relativity because the laws of physics appear to break down there” (as quoted in Zyga, 2015). So, in other words, according to naturalists, one cannot use the laws of physics to disprove the spontaneous origin of the cosmic egg, because those laws could not apply to the cosmic egg at the beginning.
To what are the naturalists referring when they claim that the laws of nature “break down” at the cosmic egg that gave birth to the Universe—that the laws did not apply then? One of the first concepts taught in a study of calculus is that of a “limit.” A “limit” is a way to solve what will be the end result of an equation if its variable(s) was allowed to move to its ultimate destination. For example, imagine a bottle full of water with a leak at its base. As the water leaks from the bottle, the water level, ℎ, gets smaller. A limit equation seeks to determine what the end result will be of such a scenario. The “limit” of “ℎ” in the bottle over time, ℎ(t), as the water leaks from the bottle, will be zero—the final height of the water when it has all drained from the bottle . Now imagine trying to find the limit of the same equation, but with the ℎ(t) term in the denominator of the function . Over time, the height of the water in the bottle, ℎ(t), still moves to zero, which results in a situation where one must find the limit of an equation with a one divided by a zero. You do not have to know much about math to know that dividing one by zero is a problem. Such a scenario does not fit the rules. The usual laws do not work. We call it a “singularity,” and something similar happens when cosmologists attempt to work out the equations that explain what would occur at the beginning of the hypothetical Big Bang. This is why Stephen Hawking said, “The beginning of real time would have been a singularity, at which the laws of physics would have broken down” (n.d.).
In response, first notice that there is a reason that physicists consider the singularity a “problem.” Arguing that a singularity must have occurred at the beginning of the Big Bang admits that the laws of nature do not work in the way they are supposed to in the Big Bang model. The Big Bang requires the singularity, and yet the laws of nature do not work with singularities. So, by definition, the Big Bang event is not natural. It is supernatural—and therefore, the Big Bang naturalist must give up on being a naturalist, or remain in a self-contradictory position.
One physicist contacted me at Apologetics Press and went further in trying to get around the Universal origin problem. Paraphrasing, he said, “The laws of nature involve the interaction of matter and energy. The laws wouldn’t work in a situation where you don’t have matter and energy—like at the very beginning, before the cosmic egg appeared. So the laws wouldn’t be violated if matter and energy popped into existence from nothing, because there wouldn’t be any interaction for the laws to govern. So, no law would be able to stop matter/energy from popping into existence.” Is his statement true that the laws of physics only involve the interaction of matter and energy?
No. In thermodynamics, for example, we often work problems, specifically First Law of Thermodynamics problems, where you begin with a system with nothing in it, and then energy or matter moves into the system from outside of the system. So the problems involve a system bearing the interaction of nothing with energy/matter, and this is the precise scenario that poses a problem for the origin of the cosmic egg.
Still, the naturalistic scientist “usually assumes that the current laws of physics did not apply then” (Linde, 1994, emp. added). Granted—certain assumptions are often necessary in science. Granted—no one was around to make scientific observations about the origin of matter. But wait…that’s the point. No one was there to observe the beginning. So we have to be very careful in making assumptions. If we wish to be rational and not hold to a blind “faith,” we have to look at evidence available to us and only draw those conclusions that are warranted by that evidence. But naturalists throw out the current evidence, since it does not provide them with a naturalistic answer to the origin question that they seek, and proceed to engage in wild speculation. How is it scientific to throw aside solid science—making the assumption that there were no such things as laws of science in the beginning—with no evidence to support such a claim? This, naturalists do, even when all empirical evidence that has ever been observed by scientists leads to the conclusion that the laws of physics are, always have been, and always will be immutable (i.e., until they are destroyed along with the physical Universe on the Day of Judgment—2 Peter 3:7-10)—that they do not “break down.” Recall Stephen Hawking’s words regarding the laws of nature: “But what’s really important is that these physical laws, as well as being unchangeable, are universal. They apply not just to the flight of the ball, but to the motion of a planet and everything else in the Universe. Unlike laws made by humans, the laws of nature cannot ever be broken. That’s why they are so powerful…. [T]he laws of nature are fixed” (“Curiosity…,” 2011). In spite of such bold assertions, this same Hawking irrationally contradicted himself in claiming that in the Big Bang model, which he subscribes to, “the laws of science…break down” (1988, p. 88). If we behave rationally—drawing conclusions based on the evidence—a naturalist would have to conclude that the laws did not “break down” at the beginning. But if they did not break down, then naturalism has been falsified—and such a truth cannot be swallowed by naturalists.
Ironically, evolutionists take great pains to prove the immutability of certain scientific assertions, at least when it suits their agenda. For instance, creationists point out that the dating techniques utilized by evolutionary geologists are based on certain assumptions which are far from reasonable when all of the evidence is considered—like the assertion that physical constants used in dating methods have, in fact, remained constant throughout time. Mark Isaak of “The TalkOrigins Archive” attempts to respond to this criticism by describing certain constants which have purportedly remained constant for billions of years (Isaak, 2007). Creationists have no problem with the idea that certain constants could have remained essentially the same over long periods of time (though we do not believe that the Universe has existed for billions of years). However, scientific evidence indicates that not all physical constants have remained unchanged forever—like constants that are used in evolutionary dating techniques (cf. Stober, 2010; Miller, 2013b; Butt, 2010b; Reucroft and Swain, 2009; Gardner, 2010). For instance, catastrophic phenomena, such as volcanoes (cf. Akahane, et al., 2004), can significantly accelerate the rate of processes generally thought to take millions of years. The conclusion: dating techniques that make unscientific assumptions are flawed (cf. Miller, 2013b). But scientific laws, by definition, are without exception.
Notice again that, on one hand, naturalists do not want to grant that the laws of science have always been constant, although all scientific evidence indicates that they have; but they do want to make erroneous claims about physical constants that have been shown to be in contradiction with the scientific evidence, since it suits their agenda. And further notice that the evolutionist’s dilemma is not improved upon even if we grant the possibility that the laws of science were inapplicable at the beginning. Would evolutionists have us to believe that in the beginning, not only matter, but the physical laws that govern that matter popped into existence with the matter as well (see Miller, 2012b)? How can there be a law without a law maker? How is such an assertion scientific? And how is such an assertion allowed to go unchallenged by many scientists? The bias of those in the evolutionary community against accepting the rational and scientific alternative to their faulty theories is profound.
After Stephen Hawking admits on his Web site that “the laws of physics would have broken down” at the singularity, in the next sentence he contradicts himself, saying, “Nevertheless, the way the universe began would have been determined by the laws of physics” (n.d.). The naturalist wishes to have his cake and eat it, too. One cannot sidestep the thrust of the First Law of Thermodynamics by trying to say the laws did not apply in the beginning, and then simultaneously claim that natural law—namely quantum law—would bring about the Universe, which is precisely what naturalists wish to do (see Miller, 2013a). If you acknowledge that the natural laws cannot work in your model, you must acknowledge that your model is a supernatural model—not a naturalistic model. If the evolutionist cannot use science and its laws to bring about the Universe, then he has, in reality, given up on naturalism and become a believer in supernaturalism. In other words, if the laws of nature did not apply in the beginning, by implication, only supernatural phenomena could have existed to bring about the Universe (see Miller, 2012a). The next step is only to decide which supernatural entity is the true Creator—God, with His supporting evidences; or magic, with its lack thereof. [NOTE: The fact that naturalists must believe in supernatural phenomena illustrates that naturalistic theories amount to religion. Consistency, therefore, would dictate that those schools that do not allow the Creation model to be taught in their science classes should eliminate naturalistic theories as well. However, this author believes that the correct solution would be to teach the evidence from science, wherever it leads. Truth is the goal. The scientific evidence detailed in this book points to a Creator. So it should be taught. Any theory which contradicts the evidence should be removed from scientific discussion. See Houts, 2007, for more on the idea that evolution is religion, not science.]
Although assumptions are often necessary in science, scientific assumptions must carry the quality of being reasonable in order for them to be permissible in scientific discussion (See Miller, 2013b for a discussion on scientific assumptions.). What scientific evidence could be cited to back such a grandiose claim that there was a time that the laws of nature did not hold? The only way the claim that the laws of science did not apply in the beginning can be made and considered to be reasonable is if the person has made another equally unscientific assumption upon which that claim is based. The person would have to assume that there was no One here at the beginning that organized matter in keeping with the Laws which that Being set in motion. The Creation model in no way contradicts the laws of physics. On the other hand, the atheistic evolutionary model contradicts the laws of physics in a myriad of ways. Yet, oddly, creationists are the ones who are branded as unscientific.
ReferencesAkahane, Hisatada, Takeshi Furuno, Hiroshi Miyajima, Toshiyuki Yoshikawa, and Shigeru Yamamoto (2004), “Rapid Wood Silicification in Hot Spring Water: An Explanation of Silicification of Wood During the Earth’s History,” Sedimentary Geology, 169[3-4]:219-228, July 15.
Butt, Kyle (2010b), “New Findings Show Flaws in Old-Earth Dating Methods,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=9&article=3770.
“Curiosity: Did God Create the Universe?” (2011), Discovery Channel, August 7.
Dawkins, Richard and George Pell (2012), “Religion and Atheism,” ABC Australia, http://www.abc.net.au/tv/quanda/txt/s3469101.htm, April 9.
Gardner, Elizabeth (2010), “Purdue-Stanford Team Finds Radioactive Decay Rates Vary With the Sun’s Rotation,” Purdue University News Service, http: //www.purdue.edu/newsroom/research/2010/100830FischbachJenkinsDec.html.
Hawking, Stephen (1988), A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (New York: Bantam).
Hawking, Stephen (n.d.), “The Beginning of Time,” Stephen Hawking: The Official Web Site, March 1, 2016.
Houts, Michael G. (2007), “Evolution is Religion—Not Science [Part I],” Reason & Revelation, 27:81-87, November, http://www.apologeticspress.org/pub_rar/27_11/0711.pdf.
Isaak, Mark (2007), “Claim CE410,” The TalkOrigins Archive: Exploring the Creation/Evolution Controversy, http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CE/CE410.html.
Linde, Andrei (1994), “The Self-Reproducing Inflationary Universe,” Scientific American, 271:48, November.
Miller, Jeff (2012a), “The Atheistic Naturalist’s Self-Contradiction,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=12&article=4225.
Miller, Jeff (2012b), “The Laws of Science –by God,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=12&article=4545.
Miller, Jeff (2013a), “Can Quantum Mechanics Produce a Universe from Nothing?” Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=4584&topic=57.
Miller, Jeff (2013b), “Don’t Assume Too Much: Not All Assumptions in Science Are Bad,” Reason & Revelation, 33:62-64,69-70, June, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1122&article=2153.
Miller, Jeff (2013c), “Evolution and the Laws of Science: The Laws of Thermodynamics,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=12&article=2786.
Reucroft, Steve and J. Swain (2009), “Ultrasonic Cavitation of Water Speeds Up Thorium Decay,” CERN Courier, June 8, http://cerncourier.com/cws/article/cern/39158.
Stober, David (2010), “The Strange Case of Solar Flares and Radioactive Elements,” http://www.symmetrymagazine.org/breaking/2010/08/23/the-strange-case-of-solar-flares-and-radioactive-elements/.
Zyga, Lisa (2015), “No Big Bang? Quantum Equation Predicts Universe Has No Beginning,” Phys.Org, February 9, http://phys.org/news/2015-02-big-quantum-equation-universe.html.
[Article Revised 2016]
Demon Possession, the Bible, and Superstition
|by||Wayne Jackson, M.A.|
Q.How does one respond to the charge that the New Testament endorses superstition by its occasional references to demon possession?
A.Demon possession was a real, historical phenomenon of the first century. Spirit entities, known as demons [the KJV “devils” is an incorrect translation], did inhabit and afflict human bodies during that age.
The question of demon origin is not spelled out in the Scriptures, though several theories have been proposed by Bible scholars—some of which may be dismissed out of hand. A few writers have suggested that demons were the disembodied spirits of a pre-Adamic race of men who lived upon the Earth in an alleged “gap period” between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. There is, however, no evidence of any such gap period. Furthermore, Adam is clearly identified as the “first man” (1 Corinthians 15:45). Others speculate that demons resulted from the cohabitation of angels with antediluvian women (based upon a misunderstanding of Genesis 6:1-4), even though Christ plainly taught that angels are sexless beings incapable of such unions (Matthew 22:30).
The two more plausible views surmise that: (a) demons may have been the spirits of wicked dead men whom God, in harmony with His divine purpose, permitted to leave the Hadean realm to indwell some people (see, for example, Alexander Campbell, “Demonology,” Popular Lectures and Addresses); or (b) demons may have been fallen angels who were allowed to escape their confinement (Jude 6) for a similar purpose (see Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology). Regardless of their origin, the existence of demons is recognized within the pages of the New Testament.
In regard to their nature, demons are portrayed as spirits (Matthew 8:16), and thus did not possess a corporeal existence (Luke 24:39). In regard to their character, demons are portrayed as unclean spirits that were evil, and under the immediate control of Satan (Matthew 12:24,43,45). Demons also were intelligent beings (Mark 1:24), and could exercise both volition and locomotion whenever permitted (Matthew 12:44-45). Demon possession of human bodies frequently resulted in physical and/or mental illness (although such ailments clearly were distinguished from the demon itself (see Matthew 4:24). Dumbness (Matthew 9:32), blindness (Matthew 12:22), and supernatural strength (Mark 5:4; Acts 19:16) sometimes were characteristic of demoniacs.
The New Testament supplies no reason as to exactly why demons entered particular individuals, but makes clear that they inhabited men (Matthew 9:32), women (Luke 8:2), and children (Mark 7:30). Apparently, demon possession was permitted temporarily by God in order that the authority of Christ might be made manifest. As the Lord revealed control over nature (Mark 4:41), disease (Mark 2:12), material things (John 2:9), and even death (John 11:44), so also did He demonstrate power over the spirit realm (Luke 11:20). In fact, the authority of Jesus over evil spirits amazed His contemporaries, who exclaimed: “What is this? a new teaching! With authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him” (Mark 1:27). Christ’s disciples, by His authority, also could expel demons (Luke 10:17), except on one occasion when hindered by their weak faith (cf. Mark 9:28 and Matthew 17:20).
With the termination of the supernatural era of the early church, demon possession, and the corresponding gift of expulsion ceased. Satan’s supernatural power was bound (Matthew 12:29). Certainly, the devil exerts great influence today. However, just as God no longer works miraculously, but influences men through His Word and providence, so also, Satan wields his power indirectly and non-miraculously through various media. Modern cases of supposed demon possession are doubtless the results of psychosomatic problems, hysteria, self-induced hypnosis, delusion, and such like. They have natural, though perhaps not always well-understood, causes. When the Bible discusses demon possession, it is always from a specific, historical vantage point. As such, it does not endorse myth or superstition.
The Predicted Messiah
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
In hindsight, a good mystery fits together perfectly, like the various pieces of an intricate puzzle that need but one final piece to link the parts that form the completed magnificent panorama. Until that final piece is added, the mystery is virtually impossible to grasp in its entirety. In fact, while the mystery is developing, the inquisitor’s greatest challenge is to assess correctly which pieces of information or evidence are of significance and which are the banal elements that add nothing of consequence to the story. Is it important that Mr. Brown forgot his hat at the train station? Does it matter that the water faucet in the kitchen suddenly is not working properly? Inevitably, the astute inquisitor accurately pinpoints those elements in the story that are of great import. The less astute inaccurately labels ordinary events as important, or fails to understand fully events that were of major consequence.
Such is the case when approaching the study of the predicted Messiah, or, as it were, when solving the mystery of the Messiah. Anyone familiar with New Testament writings is quite familiar with the term “mystery” as it is applied to God’s plan for the redemption of the human race through the predicted Messiah. Paul wrote concerning this mystery: “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before ages for our glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7). In his letter to the Colossians, he stated: “I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to his saints” (1:25-26). Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians contains similar comments: “[I]f indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery...which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (3:3,5).
The New Testament writers identified for us several characteristics of this Messianic mystery: (1) The mystery revolves around the prophesied Messiah and the redemption of mankind; (2) The mystery is one that has been hidden in various ways from all generations of people prior to the time of the New Testament; (3) The various tenets of the mystery are divinely revealed and made known only through divine communication; (4) During the times of the New Testament writers, God revealed the final piece of the mystery to the New Testament writers themselves.
The intention of this discussion is to trace out the various divinely revealed tenets of the Messianic mystery. Upon completion of that task, we must then determine if, in truth, the New Testament writers did possess the final, completing piece of that mystery. We have dealt in other places with the traces of a Savior originating from various sources outside the biblical writings (see Butt and Thompson, 2001). Therefore, since the Hebrew Scriptures are renowned for being the most complete repository of Messianic predictions available, we will focus our attention upon them.
OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURES
Second, the remainder of the Old Testament, from Genesis 12-Malachi, focuses primarily on the descendants of Abraham. Note that the narratives and terms often used to describe these descendants are none too flattering. They are called stubborn, stiff-necked, sinful, rebellious, and a host of adjectives equally as caustic (see Deuteronomy 9:7; Ezekiel 2:3-10; Hosea 4:16). And yet, these descendants of Abraham are the ones responsible for preserving the very Scriptures that repeatedly rebuked them for their idolatrous backsliding from God. Remember, too, that they could have altered and preserved these writings in a more flattering form. From archaeological finds we have learned that other nations surrounding ancient Israel often chose to embellish their history, intentionally excluding derogatory remarks or events concerning themselves.
Why did the Israelites preserve the writings as they did? The answer to this is actually twofold. First, they believed the particular writings that they preserved to be inspired by God, a belief that can be proven beyond doubt (see Thompson, 2001). But secondly, each of the 39 books contains a calculated revelation describing some aspect of the coming Messiah, who, according to these Scriptures, is not only destined to save the nation of Israel, but the entire world. In fact, the reader cannot progress far into the Old Testament writings before he is inundated with descriptions of, and predictions concerning, the coming Messiah.
WERE THE JEWS LOOKING FOR A MESSIAH?
I am aware also that in recent times many intelligent Jews, backed by rationalistic, so-called Christians...deny that there is hope of a Messiah in the Old Testament Scriptures, and assert that the prophecies on which Christians ground such a belief contain only “vague anticipations and general hopes, but no definite predictions of a personal Messiah,” and that consequently the alleged agreement of the gospel history with prophecy is imaginary (2000, p. 16).In his statements that refute the “non-Messianic” view of Old Testament Scripture, Baron wrote: “Even Maimonides, the great antagonist of Christianity, composed that article of the Jewish creed which unto the present day is repeated daily by every true Jew: ‘I believe with a perfect faith that the Messiah will come, and although His coming be delayed, I will await His daily appearance’ ” (p. 18). He commented further: “Aben Ezra, Rashi, Kimchi, Abarbanel, and almost every other respectable and authoritative Jewish commentator, although not recognizing Jesus as the Messiah, are yet unanimous that a personal Messiah is taught in the Old Testament Scriptures” (pp. 19-20). Baron also noted that only an “insignificant minority of the Jews” had dared to suggest that the Old Testament lacks definitive predictions of a personal Messiah. He then eloquently stated: [W]ith joy we behold the nation [Jews—KB], as such, still clinging to the anchor which has been the mainstay of their national existence for so many ages—the hope of a personal Messiah, which is the essence of the Old Testament Scriptures” (2000, p. 20).
In his volume, The Messiah in the Old Testament: In Light of Rabbinical Writings, Risto Santala wrote: “If we study the Bible and the Rabbinic literature carefully, we cannot fail to be surprised at the abundance of Messianic interpretation in the earliest works known to us.... [T]he Talmud states unequivocally: ‘All the prophets prophesied only for the days of the Messiah’ ” (1992, p. 22).
In regard to specific Old Testament prophecies, a plethora of rabbinical commentary verifies that the nation of Israel certainly had in view a coming Messiah. Concerning Genesis 49:10, the noted author Aaron Kligerman wrote: “The rabbis of old, though not agreeing with each other as to the meaning of the root Shiloh, were almost unanimous in applying the term to the Messiah” (1957, pp. 19-20). Immediately after this statement, Kligerman listed the Targum Onkelos, Targum Jerusalem, and the Peshito all as referring to Genesis 49:10 as a Messianic prophecy pointing toward an individual, personal Messiah (p. 20). With reference to Genesis 49:10, David Baron wrote:
With regard to this prophecy, the first thing I want to point out is that all antiquity agrees in interpreting it of a personal Messiah. This is the view of the LXX Version [Septuagint—KB]; the Targumim of Onkelos, Yonathan, and Jerusalem; the Talmud; the Sohar; the ancient book of “Bereshith Rabba;” and among modern Jewish commentators, even Rashi, who says, “Until Shiloh come, that is King Messiah, Whose is the kingdom” (2000, p. 258, emp. added).Concerning the book of Isaiah and the predictive, Messianic prophecy contained within it, Santala stated: “The Messianic nature of the book of Isaiah is so clear that the oldest Jewish sources, the Targum, Midrash and Talmud, speak of the Messiah in connection with 62 separate verses” (1992, pp. 164-165). Santala then, in a footnote, proceeded to list several of those verses, including Isaiah 4:2, 9:5, 10:27, 11:1, 11:6, 14:29, 16:1, 28:5, 42:1, 43:10, 52:13, and 60:1 (p. 165).
The prophet Jeremiah contains material that has long been recognized as Messianic in nature. Concerning Jeremiah 23:5-6, David Baron wrote: “There is scarcely any contrary opinion among ancient and modern Jews but that this is a Messianic prophecy” (2000, p. 78).
In truth, statements that verify that the ancient Israelite nation recognized certain passages in the Old Testament as Messianic are legion. Regardless of what a person believes about the identity of the Messiah, it cannot be gainsaid that the nation of Israel, through the influence of the Old Testament writers, has been waiting for His coming.
Into this scene of shame and sin, God brought judgment upon all parties involved. Death would be the consequence of this sinful action, as well as increased pain in childbirth for the woman and increased hardship and toil for the man. Yet in the midst of God’s curse upon the serpent, He included a ray of glorious hope for humanity. To the serpent he said: “And I will put enmity between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15). This brief statement made by God to the serpent concerning the Seed of woman is often referred to as the protevangelium. J.A. Huffman commented on the passage:
Here the prophecy of a deliverer is unmistakably uttered. Even a temporary bruise, that of the heel, suggesting the apparent, momentary defeat of the deliverer is predicted: but, at the same time, the deliverer’s ultimate and final triumph is prophesied, in his bruising of the serpent’s head, which means a fatal blow (1956, p. 38).The Jewish scholar, Aaron Kligerman, noted that three things stand out in this first prediction of the Messiah, “namely that the Deliverer must be—(A) of the seed of woman and (B) That He is to be temporarily hindered and (C) Finally victorious (1957, p. 13, italics in orig.). Kligerman further noted that the ancient rabbinical opinions found in the Palestinian Targum testify “that in Genesis 3:15 there is promised a healing of the bite in the heel from the serpent, which is to take place ‘at the end of the days, in the days of King Messiah’ ” (p. 14). [NOTE: The Targums “are interpretive renderings of the books of Hebrew Scriptures...into Aramaic” (Metzger, 1993). Such versions were needed when the major populations of the Jews no longer spoke Hebrew as their primary language. Metzger further explains that the oral Targum began as a simple paraphrase of the text, “but eventually it became more elaborate and incorporated explanatory details.” John Stenning, in his detailed article on the Targum, explained that oral Targum was introduced several years prior to the first century A.D. in connection with “the custom of reading sections from the Law at the weekly services in the synagogues” (1911).]
Of the protevangelium, Charles A. Briggs, in his classic work, Messianic Prophecy, noted:
Thus we have in this fundamental prophecy explicitly a struggling, suffering, but finally victorious human race, and implicitly a struggling, suffering and finally victorious son of woman, a second Adam, the head of the race.... The protevangelium is a faithful miniature of the entire history of humanity, a struggling seed ever battling for ultimate victory.... [U]ntil it is realized in the sublime victories of redemption” (1988 reprint, p. 77).Briggs went on to comment that the protevangelium “is the only Messianic prophecy which has been preserved from the revelations made by God to the antediluvian world” (p. 77).
Here, then, is the seminal prophecy made to pave the way for all others that would deal with the coming of the great Deliverer of mankind. Several qualities of this coming Deliverer are readily apparent. First, He will come in human form as the seed of woman. Second, He will defeat the effects of sin brought about by the fall of man and the entrance of sin into the world. Third, He will be hindered in His redemptive activity by the serpent, Satan, who will inflict upon Him a minor wound. Fourth, He will ultimately overcome the wound of Satan and finally triumph. In this first prediction of the Messiah, we catch an underlying theme of a suffering, victorious redeemer—a theme that will be fleshed out in the remaining pages of the Old Testament.
THE SEED OF ABRAHAM
Such narrowing of the Messianic scope can be seen in God’s promise to the patriarch, Abraham. In Genesis 12, the Bible records the fact that God specifically chose Abraham from among all the peoples of the world (Genesis 12:1-3). Through Abraham, God promised that all the nations of the world would be blessed, and that Abraham’s descendants would multiply as the sand of the sea and the stars of the sky. As Huffman noted, “It was to Abraham, the son of Terah, a descendant of Shem, that God gave a peculiar promise, one which could not be omitted in any serious effort to trace the Messianic hope” (1956, p. 41). For many years, this promise of progeny remained unfulfilled due to the fact that Abraham’s wife, Sarah, was barren. In order to “help” God fulfill His promise, Abraham and Sarah devised a plan by which Abraham could have a child. Sarah sent her handmaid, Hagar, to serve as a surrogate wife to Abraham. As a result of this union, Hagar conceived and gave birth to a child named Ishmael.
In Genesis 17, God renewed His covenant with Abraham and instructed Abraham to institute circumcision as a sign of the covenant. In Genesis 17:19, God informed Abraham that Sarah would have a son named Isaac. In an interesting conversation with God, Abraham petitioned God to let Ishmael be the son of promise and the heir of the covenant that God made. Yet God insisted that Ishmael was not the son of promise and that the promise of all nations being blessed through Abraham’s descendants would not pass through Ishmael, but would be fulfilled only through Isaac. God said: “But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year” (Genesis 17:21). James Smith, in writing about God’s promise to bless all nations through Abraham, noted that this promise “has Messianic implications. Both the Church Fathers and Jewish Rabbis so interpreted it” (1993, p. 47). Aaron Kligerman concurred when he wrote about God’s promise to Abraham: “This is more than the promise of ‘The Hope of a Prosperous Era.’ It is a promise of the coming of a ‘Personal Messiah’ ” (1957, pp. 17-18). At this point in human history, then, the Messianic implications fall to the descendants of Isaac. It is important not to miss the significance of the Messianic hope through Abraham and Isaac. The scope of the Messiah has been narrowed from all other peoples and nations of the world, to a single nomadic family. And yet, not just to Abraham’s family in its entirety, but to only one of Abraham’s sons—Isaac.
But the picture becomes even clearer with the birth of the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah. Because of abnormalities with her pregnancy, Rebekah went to inquire of the Lord about her situation. To answer her questions, the Lord said: “Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23). Concerning this passage, Briggs noted: “This prediction breaks up the seed of Isaac into two nations, assigns the headship with the blessing to Jacob, and makes Edom subject to him” (1988, p. 90). The fact that the promised Messiah would come through Jacob’s descendants becomes increasingly clear throughout the Genesis narrative that tells the stories of Jacob and Esau. God confirmed the promise to Jacob in Genesis 28:14, when He said to the patriarch: “Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (emp. added). The picture of the Messiah continues to become increasingly focused: The seed of woman, the seed of Abraham, the seed of Isaac, the seed of Jacob.
A SUFFERING SERVANT AND REIGNING KING
Concerning this separation of the Messiah into two different individuals, John Ankerberg and his colleagues John Weldon and Walter Kaiser wrote:
[T]hey (early Jewish rabbis—KB) could not reconcile the statements that so clearly spoke of a suffering and dying Messiah with those verses in other passages that spoke of a triumphant and victorious Messiah. What is important to note is that they did recognize that both pictures somehow applied to the Messiah. But they assumed it was impossible to reconcile both views in one person. Rather than seeing one Messiah in two different roles, they saw two Messiahs—the suffering and dying Messiah, called “Messiah ben Joseph,” and the victorious conquering Messiah, called “Messiah ben David” (1989, pp. 57-58).Jewish rabbi Robert M. Cohen stated:
The rabbis saw that scripture portrayed two different pictures of King Messiah. One would conquer and reign and bring Israel back to the land by world peace and bring the fullness of obedience to the Torah. They called him Messiah ben David. The other picture is of a servant who would die and bear Israel’s sin that they refer to as the “leprous one” based on Isaiah 53 (Cohen, n.d.; also see Parsons, 2003-2006).It is evident, from the rabbinical view of two Messiahs, that the themes of suffering and regal authority were so vividly portrayed in Old Testament Messianic prophecy that both themes demanded fulfillment. To suggest two Messiah’s provided such a fulfillment. However, the dual Messianic idea failed to comprehend the actual nature of Messianic prophecy, and missed a primary facet of the Messianic personality: that the Messiah would be both a suffering Servant and a majestic King. As Huffman rightly observed: “The theme of Messianism is composed of two inseparable strands or threads—the scarlet and the golden, or the suffering and the reigning, or the priestly and the royal” (1956, p. 7). To misunderstand or miss either of these two interwoven threads would be to miss the Messiah completely.
Genesis 49:10—ShilohThe Lord kept His promise to Jacob and multiplied his descendants exceedingly. His twelve sons and their wives and children escorted him to Egypt to live in the land of Goshen at the behest of Joseph, who had been elevated in Egypt as the Pharaoh’s chief advisor. As Jacob neared the end of his rather long life (over 130 years, Genesis 47:9), he gathered his sons around his death bed, and stated: “Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days” (Genesis 49:1). Following this introductory statement, Jacob proceeded to address each of his sons and bestow blessings (or in some cases, curses) on his descendants.
In the midst of his final speech, in his blessing on Judah, Jacob stated: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people” (Genesis 49:10). The Messianic nature of this statement has long been recognized and discussed in ancient Jewish circles. As previously stated, David Baron wrote: “With regard to this prophecy, the first thing I want to point out is that all antiquity agrees in interpreting it of a personal Messiah. This is the view of the LXX. Version; the Targumim of Onkelos, Yonathan, and Jerusalem; the Talmud; the Sohar; the ancient book of ‘Bereshith Rabba;’ and among modern Jewish commentators, even Rashi, who says, ‘Until Shiloh come, that is King Messiah, Whose is the kingdom’ ” (2000, p. 258, emp. added). Aaron Kligerman added: “The rabbis of old, though not agreeing with each other as to the meaning of the root Shiloh, were almost unanimous in applying the term to the Messiah” (1957, p. 19-20). Santala, in his discussion of several of the oldest Jewish documents available, wrote:
Targum Onqulos says of Judah’s scepter that it will not depart “until the Messiah comes, he who has the power to reign.” Targum Jonathan puts it that the verse refers to “the age of the Messiah-King, the King who will come as the youngest of his children.” Targum Yerushalmi speaks of the ‘time’ when “the Messiah-King will come” (1992, p. 50, italics in orig.).Much commentary and debate surrounds the “Shiloh” prophecy found in Genesis 49:10. It is often viewed as an indication of the time that the Messiah should arrive on the scene. As can be deduced from Kligerman’s quote, the actual origin and exact meaning of the word Shiloh are disputed in many scholarly circles. Yet, despite the controversy in reference to this prophecy, the one aspect of it that stands out is the central idea that this is a Messianic Prophecy. As such, it narrows the identity of the Messiah even further to a descendant, not just of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but to the house of Judah.
The Son of DavidOf all the monarchs that possessed the throne of Israel, none is as storied as King David. From his youth he proved himself to be a courageous, valiant warrior who trusted in the Lord. He was described as a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). He wrote many of the Psalms, and ushered in a united kingdom that paved the way for the majestic reign of his son, Solomon.
David’s relationship to the Messiah is a rather interesting one. First, Jewish antiquity recognized the fact that Messiah would be the Son of David. Santala commented: “Tradition ascribes 73 of the 150 psalms to King David. In the Rabbinic literature the Messiah is constantly referred to as the ‘Son of David.’ For this reason, everywhere the future blessing of the house of David is described, the Sages saw Messianic material” (1992, p. 109, italics in orig.).
Such Messianic sentiments in regard to David find their seminal origin in the promise made by God to David through the prophet Nathan. In 2 Samuel 7, the text narrates the events that lead to this promise. David had become a great king and his reign had spread far and wide. Due to his love for the Lord, he wanted to show honor to God by building a glorious temple in which the Ark of the Covenant could be housed. He mentioned his idea to the prophet Nathan, who immediately encouraged the building plans. But soon after Nathan had told David to do all that was in his heart, God conveyed to Nathan that He did not want David to build a temple. Instead, God would commission David’s son, Solomon, to construct the magnificent edifice. Yet, in God’s message to David, He promised: “And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16).
In later Psalms, the promise of David’s descendant reigning over an eternal Kingdom is expanded and given more substance. Psalm 89 contains several Messianic aspects, not the least of which is the following statement: “I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn to My Servant David: ‘Your seed I will establish forever, and build up your throne to all generations’ ” (vss. 3-4). Psalm 132 contains a very similar statement: “The Lord has sworn in truth to David; He will not turn from it: ‘I will set upon your throne the fruit of your body. If your sons will keep My covenant and My testimony which I shall teach them, their sons also shall sit upon your throne forevermore.”
Along with the various inspired psalmists, other Old Testament writers noted the Messianic lineage through David and his throne. One of the most memorable of all Messianic predictions from the Old Testament, Isaiah 9:6-7, mentioned the Messianic reign upon the throne of David:
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.Yet, along with the fact that the Messiah was to be of the seed of David and reign on His throne, at least one Psalm places David in a subservient position to this majestic Messianic ruler. Psalm 110 opens with the statement: “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool’ ” (Psalm 110:1). In regard to Psalm 110, Briggs noted: “The 110th Psalm is in the form of an utterance from Jahveh respecting the son of David. It is therefore a prediction that unfolds the prediction of Nathan” (1988, p. 132). Walter Kaiser, in his discussion of Psalm 110, wrote: “While the external evidence that this psalm is Messianic is large, the internal evidence is just as overwhelming” (1995, p. 94). In reference to the Messiah mentioned in the first verse, Kaiser stated: “That unnamed Lord is a royal person, for he was invited to ‘sit at [God the Father’s] right hand....’ If the God of the universe invited this other Sovereign to take such a distinguished seat alongside himself, then we may be sure he was no one less than the promised Messiah, invited to participate in the divine government of the world” (p. 94).
Psalm 110 adds an interesting aspect to the character and position of the Messiah. Not only would the Messiah be born from the seed of David and reign on the throne of David, He also would be exalted to a position far above David, to such an extent that David called him “Lord” in Psalm 110. David’s statements in this Psalm not only speak to the pre-existence of the Messiah before David, but also to the pre-eminence that the Messiah would assume.
With these details, the portrait of the Messiah becomes increasingly sharp. He was to come from the seed of woman and crush the power of Satan. He was to be of the seed of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah and now David. He would rule on the throne of David, yet He existed before David and was so preeminent that David called Him Lord. And there would be no end of His glorious, majestic kingdom.
THE SUFFERING SERVANT
Isaiah 52:13-53:12The passage of Scripture found in Isaiah 52:13-53:12 stands as a somber reminder of the horrendous suffering that the Messiah would endure. The text mentions that He would be highly exalted and extolled (52:13). And yet His appearance would be marred more than any man (52:14). He would not be physically attractive (53:2), and He would be despised and rejected by men, familiar with sorrows and grief (53:4). He would be perfect and without sin (53:9), and yet He would be beaten, suffer, and die for the sins of the Lord’s people (53:5-6,11). This suffering Servant would be killed among the wicked, but buried among the rich (53:8-9). Yet, in spite of His death (or even because of it), He would be numbered among the great and divide the spoil with the strong (53:12).
Needless to say, this picture of the Messiah seems to stand in stark contrast to the glorious King on David’s throne. As has been mentioned, this contrast has caused some to concoct two Messiahs to accommodate the prophecies. Still others have attempted to discount Messianic prophecies such as Isaiah 52:13-53:12. Some have suggested that this passage of Scripture is not Messianic in nature, but that the servant under discussion represents the collective nation of Israel. Along these lines, David Baron noted: “Modern Jews, in common with a number of rationalistic so-called Christians, are trying hard these days to weaken the Messianic application of this remarkable prophecy” (2000, p. 225). James Smith stated:
The Messianic interpretation of Isaiah 53 was acknowledged by Jewish authorities until the Middle Ages. Almost all Christian leaders until the beginning of the nineteenth century saw in this passage a clear picture of the suffering, death and resurrection of the Messiah. Jews and some Christian scholars now hold primarily to the collective view of the Servant: The Servant is Israel as a whole, or the remnant. The traditional view, however, has much to commend it (1993, p. 307).That the ancient Jewish community, and the bulk of scholars for the last 2,000 years, have recognized Isaiah 53 as a prophecy concerning a personal, individual Messiah cannot be questioned. Baron correctly commented regarding this sentiment:
That until recent times this prophecy has been almost universally received by Jews as referring to Messiah is evident from Targum Yonathan, who introduces Messiah by name in chapter lii 13, from the Talmud (“Sanhedrin,” fol. 98, b); and from Zohar, a book which the Jews as a rule do not mention without the epithet “holy...” (2000, p. 226).The recent view that Isaiah 53 refers to the nation of Israel not only garners little (if any) support from ancient Jewish commentators, it collapses under the scrutiny of critical examination. The foremost objection to the view that Israel collectively is the Servant in Isaiah 53 is the fact that the Servant is described as perfect and sinless (53:9), not deserving the punishment that He willingly accepts for the sins of God’s people. No one remotely familiar with the nation of Israel as portrayed in the Old Testament would dare suggest that they were sinless. From their first few steps out of Egypt and into freedom they began to provoke God and bring judgment upon themselves. On numerous occasions the Old Testament depicts the Israelites’ sin of such a rebellious nature that God executes thousands of them. One fundamental aspect of an atoning sacrifice in Old Testament literature was its condition of spotless perfection. No nation of mere mortal men, including the ancient Israelite nation, could suffice as an atoning sacrifice for sins, as the Servant does in Isaiah 53. Nor could a sinful nation make another group of people “righteous” as the Lord’s Servant would. Furthermore, the Servant of the Lord is depicted as being stricken for “transgressions of my people.” If the Servant was collectively depicted as the nation of Israel, then who would be the Lord’s people in 53:8? [NOTE: For a more complete refutation of Israel as the Servant of the Lord in Isaiah 53, see Baron, 2000, pp. 225-251.]
Indeed, the evidence points overwhelmingly to the fact that Isaiah 53 stands as one of the most poignant portrayals in all of the Old Testament of an individual, suffering Messiah. As Smith correctly noted: “The Servant of the Lord here is portrayed in a strongly individualistic way. It takes rich imagination or strong prejudice to see the Servant here as a symbol for Israel, the remnant, the prophets, or any other group” (p. 1993, 307). Kaiser similarly commented: “Undoubtedly, this is the summit of OT prophetic literature. Few passages can rival it for clarity on the suffering, death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah (1995, p. 178).
VARIOUS SPECIFIC MESSIANIC PROPHECIES
Space prohibits a listing of all of these prophecies, but a representative sampling is appropriate. The Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem in Judea (Micah 5:2) of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). He was to be betrayed by a friend (Psalm 41:9) for thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:13). The Lord’s Ruler would come into Jerusalem riding on the foal of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9). He would be buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9). During His suffering, His clothes would be distributed to those who cast lots for them (Psalm 22:18). His attackers would pierce Him (Zechariah 12:10). Even though His physical suffering would be severe, His bones would not be broken (Psalm 34:20). And in spite of His death, His physical body would not experience decay (Psalm 16:10). This small sampling of specific prophetic details is only a fraction of the many Old Testament prophecies that exist. The prophecies were specifically designed to be an efficient mechanism by which the Jewish community could recognize the Messiah when He arrived.
WHO IS THE MESSIAH?
The New Testament narratives depicting the death of Jesus Christ verify that Jesus was betrayed by His friend and sold for exactly 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 24:14-16). At His death His bones were not broken, soldiers cast lots for His garments, and His side was pierced with a spear (John 19:33-37 and Matthew 27:35). During His suffering, He was numbered with the transgressors as Isaiah 53 predicted by being crucified between two thieves, and at His death He was buried in the tomb of a wealthy man as was also foretold (Matthew 27:57). This type of verification could continue for many pages. The life of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, as depicted in the New Testament documents, was designed to fulfill the Messianic prophecy of the Old Testament.
Due to this overwhelming congruence of the life of Jesus Christ with the predictive Messianic prophecy of the Old Testament, some have suggested that Jesus was an imposter who was able, by masterful manipulation, to so artificially organize His life as to make it look like He was the Messiah. Such a contention cannot be reasonably maintained in light of the fact that many of the prophecies were far beyond His control. Obviously, it would be impossible for a person to arrange where he would be born. Furthermore, it would be impossible to coordinate events so that He could ensure that He was buried in the tomb of a rich man or crucified among thieves. How could the betrayal price of Judas be manipulated by Jesus? And how, pray tell, would Jesus have managed to arrange it so that soldiers cast lots for His clothing? The idea that Jesus manipulated events to make it appear as if He was the Messiah not only is indefensible, but it also speaks to the fact that Jesus obviously was the fulfillment of the Old Testament, Messianic prophecies.
Others have objected to Jesus as the Messiah based on the idea that the New Testament documents are not reliable, and were artificially concocted to describe things that Jesus never really did. This objection also falls flat in light of the actual evidence. It cannot be denied that the New Testament has proven itself to be the most reliable book in ancient history. When it records people, places, and events that are checkable using archaeological means, those people, places, and events invariably prove to be factual and historic (see Butt, 2004). Again, the abundant evidence verifies that the New Testament is accurate and factual. Many of the Messianic prophecies documented in the New Testament do not describe anything inherently miraculous. There was nothing miraculous about Jesus being buried in a rich man’s tomb. Nor was there anything miraculous about Jesus riding into Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey, or being betrayed by His friend for 30 pieces of silver. These events are, if not ordinary, at least very plausible, everyday events that theoretically could have happened to anybody. And yet, due to the fact that such everyday events had been predicted about the Messiah hundreds of years before the arrival of Jesus, the fulfillment of the events becomes one of the most amazing miracles recorded in the Bible. It is no wonder that Jesus, the apostles, and the early church used fulfilled Messianic prophecy as one of its foundational pillars of proof and evangelistic tools.
APPEALING TO PROPHECY
The Writers of the Gospel Accounts Applied Messianic Prophecy to Jesus Christ
The Gospel writers repeatedly peppered their narratives of the life and actions of Jesus Christ with allusions, quotes, and Messianic prophecies from the Old Testament, which they applied to Jesus. Mathew 1 includes the Messianic prophecy taken from Isaiah 7:14 in which a virgin is predicted to bear a son. Matthew applies this virgin-birth prophesy to the birth of Jesus Christ. In chapter 2, Matthew references Micah 5:2, in which the birth city of the Messiah is named, again applying the prophecy to Jesus. In Matthew 3, the Bible writer notes that John the Baptizer was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy in 40:3, indicating that John was the forerunner of the Messiah which, again, is Jesus Christ. Matthew 4:15-16 references another Messianic prophecy that discusses the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, again applying the prophecy to Jesus Christ. Looking, then, at the first four chapters of the book of Matthew, one is forcefully struck with the fact that one of the Bible writer’s primary apologetic tools used to confirm that Jesus was (and is) the Messiah was a fervent appeal to Messianic prophecy as fulfilled in the life and actions of Jesus. Furthermore, Matthew’s pattern of applying Old Testament, Messianic prophecy to Jesus continues throughout the remainder of his account.
Mark’s gospel account, although not as replete with such prophecies, nevertheless includes appeals to Messianic prophecy and applies those prophecies to Jesus. Mark chapter 1 begins with quotations from Malachi 3 and Isaiah 40 that predict the forerunner of the Messiah. Mark applied these passages to John the Baptizer as the forerunner of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, during the crucifixion account as recorded in Mark, the Bible writer noted that Jesus was crucified between two thieves, and then he commented, “So the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors’ ” (15:28). In addition, Mark included instances in which Jesus applied Messianic prophecy to Himself.
As with Matthew and Mark, Luke and John also included numerous Messianic prophecies and appeal to them as proof of the deity of Jesus Christ. Luke chapter three cites the prophecy from Isaiah 40 concerning the Messianic forerunner and applies it to John the Baptizer, the forerunner of Christ. John does the same in 1:23. During Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, John records that Jesus rode into the city sitting on a donkey. John then commented on the situation by saying: “as it is written: Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.” His reference was a clear appeal to the Messianic nature of this prophecy found in Zechariah 9:9. Again, in John 12:37-38, the Bible writer refers to a Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 53:1, and applies its fulfillment to the ministry of Jesus. During the crucifixion of Christ, John records that the soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ clothing. John then references Psalm 22:18 as a Messianic prophecy: “They divided My garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”
Only a few of the many Messianic prophetic references in the gospel accounts have been documented here. Yet, even with this small sampling, the reader is struck with the clear conclusion that the gospel writers appealed to Old Testament, Messianic prophecy as proof of the deity of Christ.
Jesus’ Appeal to Prophecy as it Applied to HimOn multiply occasions, Jesus directed His listeners to certain Messianic Old Testament scriptures, and applied those scriptures to Himself. Luke records an incident in the life of Jesus in which He visited a synagogue on the Sabbath in His hometown of Nazareth. While in attendance there, Jesus read a passage from Isaiah 61:1-2, and commented to those in attendance that the particular Scripture He had just read was fulfilled in their hearing.
During His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus addressed those who had come to arrest Him, asking them why they did not apprehend Him while He was with them daily teaching in the temple. He then stated: “But the Scriptures must be fulfilled” (Mark 14:49). His statement implied that this deed they were doing was a fulfillment of Old Testament Scriptures as they related to His Messianic role.
Again, in Luke 24, the resurrected Jesus appeared to two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus. They treated Him as a stranger, because they did not recognize Him. Upon striking up a conversation with Jesus, they began to discuss the events of Christ’s death and burial in Jerusalem only a few days earlier. After the disciples related the events of the women at the empty tomb, Jesus began to speak to them with these words: “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory” (Luke 24:25-26). The verse following Jesus’ statement explains: “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”
A few verses later, in the same chapter, Jesus appeared to several more of His disciples and applied the Old Testament prophecies to His activities again: “Then He said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all the things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me” (Luke 24:44). Such statements made by Jesus show that one of the main lines of evidence that He used to establish His identity as the Messiah was the application of Old Testament Messianic prophecy to Himself.
Messianic Prophecy Applied to Jesus in the Book of ActsThe recorded writings and sermons of the apostles after the ascension of Jesus are replete with appeals to Messianic prophecy as proof of the Messianic identity of Jesus Christ. In the first recorded gospel sermon on the Day of Pentecost, Peter explained to those in Jerusalem that the resurrection of Christ was a fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy uttered by David in Psalm 16:8-11 (in which the Lord would not allow His Holy One to see corruption). In Act 3, Peter addressed another multitude of those dwelling in Jerusalem. In his sermon, he stated: “But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled” (vs. 18). In that same sermon, Peter referred his audience back to Deuteronomy 18, in which Moses had foretold the coming of a prophet like himself, which Peter applied to Jesus (as did Stephen in his sermon in Acts 7:37). In the next chapter, Peter is arrested and allowed to speak to the high priest and his family. In Peter’s statements to these leaders, he again referred back to the Old Testament, quoted Psalm 118:22 about the stone that was rejected by the builders, and applied the prophecy to Jesus.
In one of the most memorable conversion accounts, Philip the evangelist is called to meet with an Ethiopian treasurer on the road to Gaza. As Philip approached, the Eunuch was reading a passage from Isaiah 53. Upon their meeting, the Eunuch asked Philip about the prophecy, wondering whether the prophet was speaking of himself or someone else. From that text, the Bible says that Philip preached Jesus to the Eunuch, applying the passage from Isaiah as a Messianic prophecy with its fulfillment in the person of Christ (Acts 8:26-40). In another memorable conversion account, Peter visited the house of Cornelius and preached the Gospel to him and all his household. Included in Peter’s message was the following statement concerning Jesus: “To Him all the prophets witness, that through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43, emp. added).
As one continues through the book of Acts, it becomes evident that Paul often appealed to prophecy as evidence of Christ’s deity. In Acts 13, while preaching to those in the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia, he commented that those responsible for killing Jesus did so because they did not know “the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath” (Acts 13:27). In the same verse he concluded that because of their ignorance of the prophetic message, the murderers of Christ actually fulfilled the prophecies concerning Jesus in their abuse of Him. Paul further quoted from Psalm 2:7, Isaiah 55:3, and Psalm 16:10, noting these Old Testament passages as Messianic prophecy and applying them to Jesus Christ. In a separate sermon, delivered much later, Paul stood before King Agrippa and told him that Jesus is the Christ. In his oratory to Agrippa, Paul acknowledged that the king was “expert in all customs and questions which have to do with the Jews” (Acts 26:3). Paul further noted that in his teachings concerning Jesus as the Messiah, he was saying to Agrippa “no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come” (26:22). In his concluding remarks, Paul said to the king, “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe.” Agrippa responded to Paul with these words: “You almost persuade me to become a Christian” (Acts 26:27-28).
Examples of Messianic prophecy applied to Jesus by the early propagators of Christianity as recorded in the book of Acts could easily be multiplied further. These few instances suffice to establish the fact that, throughout the book of Acts, predictive prophecy as it applied to Jesus as the Messiah stood as one of the foundational pillars upon which Christianity was based and spread.
Messianic Prophecy Applied to Jesus in the EpistlesWithout providing an exhaustive study of every instance of Old Testament prophecy applied to Jesus in the epistles, this brief section will provide enough examples to establish the fact that the epistles, in similar fashion to the other books of the New Testament, rely heavily upon Messianic prophecy to establish the deity of Jesus Christ.
The book of Romans begins with a section discussing the Gospel of God, “which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh...” (1:2-3). In the book of Galatians, Paul refers back to the promise made to Abraham, that through the seed of the patriarch all nations would be blessed. Paul then applies that promise to Jesus, stating that Jesus is the Seed of Abraham through whom the world would receive the blessing of Abraham (Galatians 3:15-18). The writer of the book of Hebrews opens his book discussing the merits of Christ, applying many Old Testament passages such as Psalm 2:7 and Psalm 110:1 to Jesus. In Hebrews 5, the writer argues the case that Jesus is a priest after the order or Melchizedek as prophesied in Psalm 110:4. He repeats these sentiments in 7:17 and 7:21.
The epistles of 1 and 2 Peter contain numerous examples of such prophetic application to Jesus. One of the most potent passages along these lines in found in 1 Peter 1:10-12, in which Peter wrote:
Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into.In 1 Peter 2:6, the apostle applies Isaiah 28:16 and Psalm 118:22 to Christ, describing Him as the chief cornerstone rejected by the builders. Again in 1 Peter 2:22, the apostle applies Isaiah 53:9 to Jesus, referring to the fact that the Messiah would be sinless as was Jesus.
It becomes readily obvious, then, that the New Testament writers and apostles frequently referred to Old Testament, Messianic prophecy and applied the fulfillment of such prophecies to the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. It is impossible to deny that one of the main lines of reasoning upon which the Christian faith was founded from its inception is the idea that Jesus Christ fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies that looked forward to a coming Messiah.
In Acts 8:26-40, Philip the evangelist approached the Ethiopian who was riding in a chariot reading the Old Testament Scriptures. As Philip approached, he heard the man reading a section from Isaiah 53 in which the sufferings of the Messiah are depicted. Upon entering into a conversation with Philip, the man asked Philip, “[O]f whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” Immediately after this question, the Bible says that Philip “opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him” (Acts 8:35). In truth, Jesus is the sum total of every Old Testament, Messianic prophecy ever uttered. From any single one of those ancient Scriptures, the honest, informed individual could open his or her mouth and preach Jesus, the Messiah.
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