There is so much written in the Bible about the Messiah that we obviously must be selective. We shall choose some of the main prophecies and predictions which relate to the coming of the promised Messiah, and show how they were fulfilled in precise detail in New Testament times. What does the word “Messiah” mean? It is a Hebrew word which really means the “anointed One.” Right through the Old Testament period certain people were “anointed” with oil as a sign that God had chosen them for special tasks. Two kinds of appointment were made in this way. Priests were thus anointed. We read of Aaron, for example. He then poured some of the anointing oil on the head of Aaron and anointed him to consecrate him. (Leviticus 8:12). Kings were also anointed. Thus we read of David: So Jesse had him brought in. Now he was ruddy, with attractive eyes and a handsome appearance. The Lord said, “Go and anoint him. This is the one!” So Samuel took the horn full of olive oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. The Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day onwards. Then Samuel got up and went to Ramah. (1 Samuel 16:12-13).
As time passed, the expression “the Messiah” took on the meaning of the “Chosen One” among the Hebrew people and it became a proper name for the Savior God had promised would come.
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THE NEED FOR A SAVIOR
Why does the Bible contain promises about a coming Savior? The answer to this question becomes obvious as we examine the evidence, commencing with the very first promise in the Bible. This promise is found in Genesis 3 and the story connected with it is well known. It tells how Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan into disobeying God. Until then, no sin had come between God and man. Man’s disobedience changed the perfect relationship which had existed between God and the human race for when man became sinful he feared the holiness of God. Here is the Biblical narrative: But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” The man replied, “I heard you moving about in the orchard, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” (Genesis 3:9-10).
Today, men are inclined to ridicule the idea that sin is serious, but that is a very foolish attitude. Proverbs 14:9 says: Fools mock at reparation, but among the upright there is favor. Because God is the Almighty Creator, anything affecting our relationship with Him is extremely serious. The Bible makes it clear that sin is the most serious thing in human life for it will separate us from God forever unless we can find the way of forgiveness of sin.
Because God is merciful, He does not leave us to try to discover the way to forgiveness by our own efforts. At the very moment Adam and Eve became aware of the fatal consequences of sin God gave the first promise of a coming Savior. Because Satan was the tempter, God said to him, And I will put hostility between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring; her offspring will attack your head, and you will attack her offspring’s heel. (Genesis 3:15).
THE FIRST GREAT PROMISE
What does this strange promise mean? Certainly it was expressed in symbolic language, but nevertheless it contains some very clear points. It declares that there would be permanent enmity between Satan and the human race; that the power of Satan would eventually be overcome by a human being, and that in the process of destroying the power of Satan, the Savior would suffer. In crushing Satan’s “head,” the Savior’s “heel” would be attacked. Moreover, the Savior would be “the offspring of the woman” This last statement is somewhat unusual. Why was the coming Savior not called the offspring of the man? Most races trace the lines of inheritance through the male. To answer this question we must leap over thousands of years and read what is written in the book of the prophet Isaiah. For this reason the sovereign master [God] himself will give you a confirming sign. Look, this young woman [virgin] is about to conceive and will give birth to a son. You, young woman, will name him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14). This prophecy has a direct connection with the subject but, as we showed in an earlier lesson, the final answer to questions in the Old Testament is found in the New Testament.
Now read the two passages which follow taken from the New Testament
Now the birth of Jesus Christ happened this way. While his mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph, her husband to be, was a righteous man, and because he did not want to disgrace her, he intended to divorce her privately. When he had contemplated this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” This all happened so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet would be fulfilled: “Look! The virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they will call him Emmanuel,” which means “God with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep he did what the angel of the Lord told him. He took his wife, but did not have marital relations with her until she gave birth to a son, whom he named Jesus (Matthew 1:18-25).
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, a descendant of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. The angel came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled by his words and began to wonder about the meaning of this greeting. So the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God!Listen: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will never end.” Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I have not had sexual relations with a man?” The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called the Son of God. “And look, your relative Elizabeth has also become pregnant with a son in her old age—although she was called barren, she is now in her sixth month! For nothing will be impossible with God.” So Mary said, “Yes, I am a servant of the Lord; let this happen to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her (Luke 1:26-38).
These passages of Scripture record the announcement of the birth of Jesus. It is clearly stated that He would be born of a virgin to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies! We link up the promise in Genesis 3 about the “offspring of the woman” with the prophecy of Isaiah about a child born of a virgin and compare and observe at once that the facts of the birth of Jesus Christ fit in like the pieces of a puzzle. The promised Savior was born of the virgin and He did come to save His people from their sins! Thus the Old Testament begins with a prediction of a Savior who would come to conquer the power of Satan and deal with the problem of sin in human life; the New Testament begins with the record of the actual birth of this Savior. Although there was an element of mystery in the first promise, later predictions and the final fulfillment in the New Testament make the meaning perfectly clear.
THE PROMISE TO ABRAHAM AND HIS DESCENDANTS
The next important promise is found in the story of Abraham. God said to him, I will bless those who bless you, but the one who treats you lightly I must curse, and all the families of the earth will bless one another by your name (Genesis 12:3). This promise also seems somewhat vague, for Abraham had a number of sons through Hagar, through Sarah and through Keturah. Later revelations again make it clear that the promised blessing would flow out to the world through Abraham’s son Isaac. Here is the promise as recorded in Genesis: God said, “No, Sarah your wife is going to bear you a son, and you will name him Isaac. I will confirm my covenant with him as a perpetual covenant for his descendants after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you. I will indeed bless him, make him fruitful, and give him a multitude of descendants. He will become the father of twelve princes; I will make him into a great nation. But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this set time next year.” (Genesis 17:19-21). Ishmael was Abraham’s firstborn son but He was the son of a secondary wife. Isaac was the son of Sarah, Abraham’s principal wife, and God made it very clear that Isaac, not Ishmael would inherit the promises of God.
The same kind of thing was true in the life of Isaac. He also had two sons, Esau and Jacob, but again God revealed that Jacob would be the one to inherit the promises as the channel of Divine blessing. This promise is worded as follows and the Lord . . . said, “I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham and the God of your father Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the ground you are lying on. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west, east, north, and south. All the families of the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using your name and that of your descendants. (Genesis 28:13-14).
In each case, you will observe, it was God who made the choice of which son should carry forward the Divine purpose and it was God who revealed His will in this matter to the fathers. Once again centuries had to pass before God made clear what He meant by the promise that through those chosen people all nations of the earth would be blessed.
When Jesus Christ was born, the angel announced that this momentous event was good news that brings great joy to all the people: Today your Savior is born in the city of David. He is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11). Thus the promise of worldwide blessing through Abraham was fulfilled in the Messiah (Christ is a Greek word meaning the Messiah.)
Here then is a common feature of the Old Testament prophecies. First, the prediction is given but what is meant by it was not always very plain to those who first heard it. The prediction is then expanded and explained by other prophecies given hundreds of years later as time moved on toward the day of fulfillment, chosen by God in His almighty wisdom and power.
From the first promise of a Savior, the offspring of the woman, the focus narrows to Abraham and his family. It is then narrowed further to the descendants of Jacob. Jacob had twelve sons who founded the twelve tribes of Israel; from these God chose the tribe of Judah to be the Royal tribe. That prediction reads The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs; the nations will obey him (Genesis 49:10). Centuries later, God chose David from the tribe of Judah to be the king and then promised him that one of his descendants would reign on an everlasting throne. This important promise reads as follows: When the time comes for you to die, I will raise up your descendant, one of your own sons, to succeed you, and I will establish his kingdom. He will build a house for my name, and I will make his dynasty permanent. I will become his father and he will become my son. When he sins, I will correct him with the rod of men and with wounds inflicted by human beings. But my loyal love will not be removed from him as I removed it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will stand before me permanently; your dynasty will be permanent.” (2 Samuel 7:12-16). Finally, from the family of David it was foretold that the Savior would be born of a virgin!