Volume 19, Issue 19 (May 7, 2017)
The Right Person at the Right Time
How the Bible Came to Us (6)
By Kyle Pope
So far in this series we’ve looked at how God gave the Old Testament. We cannot fully appreciate how the New Testament came to us without first considering the significance of the One towards whom all of the first Scriptures pointed—Jesus Christ. The New Testament asserts itself onto the stage of human history as the inspired record of Jesus of Nazareth as the fulfillment of the promised Messiah of Hebrew Scriptures.
Someone Is Coming!
In our last lesson we discussed the close of the Old Testament canon. That doesn’t mean that it should be viewed as God’s final word to mankind. The Old Testament never claimed to be the end of God’s revelation. Long before Mosaic Law the book of Genesis records a blessing to Jacob’s son Judah, promising, “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” (Gen. 49:10, NKJV). A king holds a “scepter.” The line of kings descended from David was from the tribe of Judah, but Moses was the “lawgiver” of Israel. Moses was descended from Jacob’s son Levi. Who would this be who would be called “Shiloh”—a name meaning “he whose it is” (Strong)? In the Law of Moses, God revealed to him, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear,” (Deut. 18:15). Like Genesis, this promised the coming of someone “like” Moses, yet who in the history of Israel could compare to Moses? Finally, in the days of Jeremiah, at the beginning of the Babylonian exile (one of the darkest times in Jewish history), God promised:
Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord (Jer. 31:31-32).
This foretold not only a new Moses-like lawgiver, but also a new law and covenant different from the law given when God led Israel “out of the land of Egypt.” Prophecies such as these made it clear that someone special was coming that would bring with Him a new revelation from God to mankind.
The Prophesied Messiah
Throughout the Old Testament clues and glimpses were given about who this would be, when He would come, and what His life would bring. Daniel called Him “Messiah, the Prince” (Dan. 9:25). “Messiah” means “The Anointed One.” In the Bible kings and prophets were anointed, but this One would be special. Daniel even placed the time of His coming after the command to rebuild Jerusalem—which happened sometime around 536-456 BC (cf. Ezra 1:1-2; Neh. 2:1-8)—and before the destruction of the temple (Dan. 9:26)—carried out by the Romans in 70 AD.
Micah foretold that this “Ruler in Israel” would be born in Bethlehem, declaring that His, “goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). This would be more than just an ordinary man! His “goings forth” (or “origin” – ESV, NIV) was “everlasting.” Isaiah described Him as “a Rod from the stem of Jesse” (king David’s father), but also a “Root of Jesse” upon whom the “Spirit of the Lord shall rest” (Isa. 11:1-10). How could a common man be the “Root” of his own ancestor? Isaiah foretold that He would be born of a virgin and called “Immanuel”—a name meaning “God with us” (Isa. 7:14).
This Messiah would not only have “everlasting” origins but much was said about His death and resurrection. Daniel said the Messiah would be “cut off, but not for Himself” (Dan. 9:26). God told Zechariah, “they will look on Me whom they pierced” (Zech 12:10). Isaiah spoke in great detail about His death, foretelling how He would be mocked and rejected (Isa. 53:3), beaten yet silent before His accusers (Isa. 53:5, 7), with the wicked and the rich in his death (Isa. 53:9), and although He “poured out His soul unto death” He would “prolong His days” (Isa. 53:10, 12). Who could accomplish all that was said about this Messiah?
Jesus is the Christ!
No figure in human history has had a more profound influence on the world that Jesus of Nazareth. We count our years looking ahead to His coming or back to His life on earth. What is so special about Him? Jesus fulfilled all that the Old Testament Scriptures had foretold. He was born in Bethlehem (Matt. 2:1-5), a descendant of David of the tribe of Judah (Matt. 1:1-16). He was born to a woman who had not been intimate with a man (Luke 1:26-35). He identified Himself as “the Christ,” the Greek word for “Messiah” (Matt. 16:15-17; Mark 14:61-62; John 4:25-26). He claimed to ratify the “New Covenant” with His blood (Matt. 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20). In His death He was silent before His accusers (Matt. 26:63), mocked (Luke 23:11), beaten (John 19:1), and crucified with criminals (Luke 23:32). His side was pierced (John 19:34-37). He was buried in the tomb of a rich man (Matt. 27:57-60), yet He was resurrected on the third day (Mark 16:1-9). The New Testament details these fulfillments and lays down Christ’s new law for mankind (John 12:47-48; 1 Cor. 9:21; Gal. 6:2).
If Not Jesus, Then Who?
In our next study we will begin looking at how the New Testament came to us, but we must not miss the profound challenge this places before us. The Old Testament foretold in clear terms the coming of the Messiah. If Jesus is not the fulfillment of this promise then who is? The time has passed when prophecy foretold He would come. Although modern Jews continue to look for a Messiah, their own Scriptures indicate that He should already have come. If Jesus is not the One who was promised, and if the New Testament is not a reliable record of His coming everything in Scripture falls apart! The life of Jesus is the most crucial piece of evidence establishing the validity Scripture. The New Testament, as we shall see, is the inspired record of that life.