In our last report we looked at Old Testament references concerning God’s Anointed – the Messiah. We will now look at how the New Testament presents Jesus of Nazareth as being the promised Messiah.
A reminder about the word “Messiah.” It comes from the Hebrew word mashiach (מָשִׁ֫יחַ). The Greek word for Messiah is Messias (Μεσσίας), but the primary word used in the New Testament for the “anointed one” is Christos (Christ).
Jesus the Christ
The New Testament refers to Jesus of Nazareth as “the Christ” hundreds of times. Here are several examples from the Gospels –
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1:18
“For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11
“Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:16
“Then they said to the woman, ‘Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.” John 4:42
“And many of the people believed in Him, and said, ‘When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?” John 7:31
“ She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” John 11:27
“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John 17:3
“And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” John 20:30-31
Claims of ‘the Christ’
Did Jesus of Nazareth believe He was the Messiah of Israel? Did He make that claim or was it only others who thought that?
The Gospel of Luke records this interesting exchange between Jesus and two men after He rose from the dead –
“Then He said to them, ‘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?’ And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” Luke 24:25-27
Jesus said these words to His disciples a short time before He ascended back to Heaven –
“Then He said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.’ And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” Luke 24:44-49
This next portion of the New Testament may be the most telling of all. Jesus of Nazareth prayed these words to God the Father and claimed in that prayer to be the Christ –
“Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” John 17:1-5
The earliest preaching and teaching of Jesus’ apostles was that Jesus is the Christ.
“Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38
“And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” Acts 5:42
“Then all who heard were amazed, and said, ‘Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?’ But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.” Acts 9:21-23
“So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:31
“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to 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, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ.” Romans 1:1-6
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:9
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:3-5
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your[a] joy may be full.” 1 John 1:1-4
“I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Revelation 1:9
“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” Revelation 22:20-21
Jesus of Nazareth prayed to God that He was the Christ and claimed to His followers that the Old Testament writings (Law, Prophets, Psalms) were about ‘Him.’ Jesus said He was the Christ – the Messiah of Israel. Either He was lying or telling the truth – or was deluded.
That was something I noted during the investigation into the New Testament. Jesus of Nazareth believed He was Israel’s promised Messiah, His disciples believed He was the promised Messiah, and many of the people who heard Him speak believed He was the promised Messiah. So, was He? Was Jesus of Nazareth the Messiah written about in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms?
[One other option I personally believed at the time was that Jesus was a myth, a legend. He never existed. We’ll look at how that option stands up later in the investigation.]
Messianic Prophecies Fulfilled?
Christians claim that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. So what? Claims are easy to make, but hard to prove. How do we know that Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah?
Before I list some of the prophetic claims Christians made to me when I was an atheist, let me share something about how atheists view these claims.
First, many atheists don’t believe Jesus even existed. For those who will accept that someone named Jesus lived in Israel in the early 1st century, atheists don’t believe He was anyone special who did anything special.
Second, atheists believe it would have been easy for Jesus and/or His followers to make up stories about His life that would fit with Old Testament prophecies.
It’s easy for atheists to dismiss the claims of prophetic Messianic fulfillment, so that’s what they do.
As for our Jewish friends, they don’t believe Jesus fulfilled ALL of the Messianic prophecies, so He couldn’t be the Messiah.
“More than 1,000 years after Jesus’ crucifixion, the medieval sage Maimonides (also known as Rambam) laid out in his Mishneh Torah specific things Jews believe the messiah must accomplish in order to confirm his identity — among them restoring the kingdom of David to its former glory, achieving victory in battle against Israel’s enemies, rebuilding the temple (which the Romans destroyed in 70 CE) and ingathering the exiles to the land of Israel. ‘And if he’s not successful with this, or if he is killed, it’s known that he is not the one that was promised by the Torah,’ Maimonides wrote.” MyJewishLearning.com
Interestingly enough, our Muslim friends do believe Jesus was the promised Messiah, though not in the same way Christians understand it. The term al-Masih (the Messiah) occurs in the Qur’an 11 times. Here are two examples –
“When the angels said: “O Mary! Allah gives you the good news of a Word from Him, whose name is the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, who is illustrious in this world and the hereafter, and who is one of those brought near [to Allah].” Surah 3.45
“O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion or utter anything concerning Allah but the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah, His Word that He sent to Mary, and a Spirit from Him [that He sent]. So believe in Allah and His messengers, and do not say ‘Three.’ Desist, it is better for you! Allah is one God. Far exalted is He above having offspring. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is on the earth. Allah is sufficient a disposer of affairs. The Messiah would never scorn to be a servant to Allah, nor would the angels who are nearest to Allah. As for those who scorn His service and are arrogantly proud, He shall gather them all to Himself to answer.” Surah 4.171-722
My own view at the time of this investigation was that Jesus was a myth/legend and His followers made up stories to make it look like someone named Jesus lived in Israel in the early 1st century AD and fulfilled Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah.
So, with all of that in mind – we’ll look at some of the prophecies I found difficult to dismiss “if” Jesus was not a myth/legend and really did exist.
The easy thing for an atheist to do is dismiss the claims of Christianity. The hard thing is to investigate those claims and look at the evidence with an open mind.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.