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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
January 13, 2008
In my last message we completed our overview of the Old Testament by looking at the various prophecies concerning the nation of Israel and its future. There were prophecies concerning its punishment and exile, its return from exile, and for a future kingdom that would be eternal. Some of these prophecies were conditional in that certain things would happen as the result of the actions of the nation. Other prophecies were unconditional in that certain things would happen regardless of the actions of the people and the nation. (See: Prophecies of Return & a Future Kingdom)
All of these prophecies are important to us as Christians for several reasons. First, they reveal the character and nature of our God to be omniscient, transcendent and trustworthy. Our Lord knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10) proving He knows all things and is not bound by time, and the exact fulfilment of the prophecies proves He keeps His promises. Second, they reveal that the Bible is the actual revelation of God to us and not the musings of religious men as liberal scholars and skeptics believe. The Scriptures are the word of God and not just religious writings. Third, they reveal what will occur in the future which is a source of comfort for Christians and terror for non-Christians. Comfort for us because we have God’s promises of salvation and eternity in heaven with Him (Revelation 21,22). Terror for unbelievers for they will face judgement at the hands of a holy and just God who will then condemn them to eternal punishment for their sins (Revelation 20).
Among the Old Testament prophecies are predictions concerning the coming of a promised Messiah. (Messiah means “anointed one” and is translated as “Christ” in Greek). It was prophesied from of old that there would be one that would come that would bring salvation to mankind. The prophecies are very specific about who this person would be, what He would accomplish and how He would accomplish it.
Over the next few months as I present an overview of the life of Jesus, I will be pointing out how He fulfilled these specific prophecies and is therefore the one and only Christ, the promised Messiah. This morning I will begin by pointing out the specific prophecies concerning His coming and how they were fulfilled in the arrival of Jesus.
The Messiah Would Have the Right Blood Line
The promised Messiah could not just be anything or anyone. The first prophecy concerning Him is in Genesis 3:15 that He would be the seed of the woman and that He would bruise the serpent’s head. The Messiah had to be a human. An angel or some other creature could not accomplish it. This is one reason why from the very beginning animal sacrifices would not be sufficient. The blood of bulls and goats could neither take away sin (Isaiah 1:11; Hebrews 10:4) nor defeat man’s enemy, Satan. (See: The Sacrificial System – Leviticus 1-17)
The promised Messiah could not just be any descendant of Adam, but had to be from a very specific blood line. The Old Testament traces this through Adam’s son, Seth, then down through Noah and his son, Shem, then to Abram for in Genesis 12:3 God told him, “And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (See: Abram, The Friend of God – Genesis 12-15) The genealogies in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 record that Jesus is a descendant of Abraham.
But there have been millions and millions of descendants of Abraham. The Islamic world even claims this promise for themselves through Ishmael, but being a descendent of Abraham is not enough. Genesis 17:19 states, “But God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.” The promise would go through Isaac and not Ishmael. Contrary to the Islamic claims, Mohammed cannot be the prophet who would bring this blessing to the world, for he is not of the correct lineage. (See: Isaac, the Son of Promise) Again, the genealogies of Matthew and Luke record Jesus as being a descendant of Isaac.
Third, the Messiah to come also had to be from the lineage of Jacob and not Esau. Genesis 28:14 and 35:9-12 record that the promises to Abraham are given to Jacob. In addition, Numbers 24:17 records that the future ruler would arise from Jacob. Messiah would have to be Jewish. (See: Isaac’s Family – Genesis 23-36) Again, Matthew and Luke both record that Jesus is of this lineage.
Fourth, the promised Messiah also had to be from a very specific tribe of Israel. Israel’s blessings on his children in Genesis 49:10 includes the statement that “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, And to him [shall be] the obedience of the peoples.” Again, Matthew 1:2 and Luke 3:34 record that Jesus is a descendant of Judah. Next, Isaiah 11:1 prophecies that the promised Messiah would come through a particular family of the tribe of Judah. He had to come from the stem of Jesse, and Jesus does (Matthew 1:5; Luke 3:32).
And finally, the Messiah would have to be an heir to the throne of King David. God told David in 2 Samuel 7:12,13 that there would be a descendant after David whose throne would be established forever. Isaiah later prophesied concerning the coming Messiah, “There will be no end to the increase of [His] government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:7). Jesus is of the lineage of David (Matthew 1:6; Luke 3:32). The Angel Gabriel told Mary in Luke 1:32,33 concerning the child she was going to bear, “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; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will have no end.”
These requirements narrow down the possible candidates from everyone to very few. But there are still additional requirements.
The Messiah Would be Born in the Right Place
The coming Messiah had to be born in a very particular location. Matthew 2:1-6 records the coming of the wise men of the east who had seen the anticipated star of Messiah. They knew that the prophecy of Numbers 24:17 specifically stated that “a star shall come forth from Jacob.” These men had been looking for it and when it appeared they set of to find the one born under it in order to worship Him. When they reached Jerusalem, the capital of the nation and the logical place to search for a king, they inquired of Herod where the one “born king of the Jews” was at. Matthew 2:4 records that Herod then inquired of the chief priest and scribes where the Messiah was to be born, and without hesitation they told him for the prophecy was well known. Micah 5:2 states, “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, [Too] little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.” The sad part about this part of the story is that though they knew the prophecy and were the religious leaders of the nation of Israel, they did not seek the Messiah, yet those from a foreign land did.
This particular Bethlehem, which means “house of bread,” was distinguished from other places named Bethlehem by the title “Ephrathah,” which means either “ash heap or place of fruitfulness.” This was the ancestral home of king David, but after a 1,000 years and the deportations of Israel and Judah, there were very few of David’s descendants that would have been born there. This further narrowed the possible candidates. As it was, Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth, which is where Mary would have given birth except a census required by Caesar Augustus forced them to go to Bethlehem even though Mary was near delivery of her child. This was no accident, but God’s providence in fulfilling this particular prophecy. Jesus was born in Bethlehem Ephrathah (Luke 2:1-7).
The Messiah Would be Born at the Right Time
Along with the celebration of Christmas is a lot of interest in the timing of the birth of Jesus. When was Jesus born? The Bible gives us some clues about this, but it does not predict nor reveal either the exact day or year the birth actually occurred.
Western calendars supposedly use the date of Jesus’ birth as the starting point, but Dionysius Exiguus (Dennis the Little) made some calculation errors when he created this calendar about 525 A.D. The actual year of Jesus’ birth was earlier, with estimated dates ranging from 7 to 2 B.C.
There is also quite a bit of debate about the particular day on which Jesus was born. All sorts of dates have been proposed, with December 25 as the traditional date in the West, and January 6 as the traditional date in the East. December 25 was made popular by Pope Liberius in 354 A.D. and became the rule in the West in 435 A.D. when Pope Sixtus III officiated the first “Christ mass.” Though there is an attempt to calculate the date based on a speculation that Jesus’ conception and passion were both at the Spring equinox (March 25), setting Jesus’ birth on December 25 has more to do with trying to adapt the pagan Roman celebrations of Saturnailia and Natalis Solis Invicti, (the Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun) into a Christian context.
It is more reasonable to set Jesus’ birth into either a Spring or Fall time frame based on calculations involving the difference in age of Jesus & John and the timing of John’s conception based on his father’s service in the Temple. Zacharias was of the order of Abijah (Luke 1:5) and would have served in the temple in June and again in December (though some calculate it to be July and January depending on the particular year). John the Baptist was conceived after Zacharias returned home. John would have been born in either March or September and Jesus would have been born six months later (Luke 1:26). This timing would also fit better with the shepherds being out in their fields and the timing of the census, neither of which would have likely taken place in the Winter.
Though Jewish custom noted the day a person died, it did not celebrate birthdays, so it is not surprising that the exact day of birth is not recorded. Perhaps in a future sermon I will explain how the celebration of birthdays was transferred from pagan practice into Western culture, but in the interest of time I only add here that the celebration of Jesus’ birth is proper only in so far as it maintains the right perspective of who Jesus is and what He accomplished, for that brings worship to God and praise for His gift of salvation to us. However, to seek to celebrate Jesus’ birth while in denial of the incarnation, the atonement and the resurrection is blasphemy. If those things are not true, then there is no reason to celebrate His birth, for then the ancient prophecies are not fulfilled and God is a liar. It is better to disregard the day or keep it as a winter solstice vacation than to blaspheme.
God did not have the exact day of Jesus’ birth recorded for His emphasis is upon Jesus’ death and resurrection, but we do know that the birth was in God’s perfect timing. Galatians 4:4,5 states, “But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” Celebrating Jesus’ birth is also celebrating God being true in the fulfillment of the prophecies.
While the exact date of the Messiah’s birth was not important, it did have to occur within a certain time frame. Daniel 9:24, 25 specifies the time period when Messiah would be alive. 24 “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy [place.] 25 “So you are to know and discern [that] from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince [there will be] seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.”
The Messiah would have to be alive at the end of the prophetic 69 weeks. Without going into all the detail of the calculations of these seven and sixty two weeks, Harold Hoehner worked out the calculations that the time of Messiah being cut off to be March 30, A.D. 33. This further limits the possible candidates to within a fairly small time frame.
Now if these were the only prophecies, then there would still be a small number of people that could possibly have fulfilled them. We know that there were other babies born in Bethlehem during the same time period as Jesus because Herod sent his troops there to kill them (Matthew 2:16f). Since it was the ancestral home of David and the census had required people to return to their ancestral homes, then there is a good possibility that some of these other children were also of the lineage of David. However, there are a few more prophecies that make it impossible for the Messiah to be anyone other than Jesus.
The Messiah Would Avoid the Curse
In the genealogy of Messiah, there were not only blood lines that He must be from, but also blood lines that He could not be from. The difficulty is that the restricted blood line was also the line of heritage to the throne. Jeremiah 36:30 states, “Therefore thus says the Lord concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah, “He shall have no one to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat of the day and the frost of the night.” How could the Messiah be both a descendant of David with the right to rule and yet also avoid the curse on Jehoiakim through whom the right to rule must pass?
The answer is that the mother would have to supply the direct blood line to King David while the right to rule would have to come through the father through adoption. This would allow him to inherit the right to rule while not being in the blood line of King Jehoiakim yet still being of the blood line of David. This is exactly what happened in the case of Jesus. Luke 3 records the genealogy of Jesus through Mary through whom He inherits his blood lineage through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Jesse and King David. Matthew 1 records Jesus’ genealogy through Joseph, a direct descendant of King Jehoiakim, the ruling line of David. Joseph had the right to the throne and could pass it on. Since Joseph was not Jesus’ actual father, Jesus would not be of the blood line of Joseph and would avoid the curse on Jehoiakim. At the same time, Jesus would inherit the right to rule on David’s throne through Joseph as his adopted son.
The possibility of anyone else fulfilling this is so small that we might consider it mathematically impossible, however, we must grant there could be a possibility even if infinitesimally small. What if a descendant of David has a son and then her husband dies and she then remarries another descendant of David who is in the ruling line and he adopts her son as his own? It would then be possible for that adopted son to inherit the right to rule. However, even in granting this improbable possibility, the next two prophecies remove any possibility of the Messiah being anyone but Jesus.
The Messiah Would be Born of a Virgin
There was an additional curse that had to be avoided, and that was the general curse upon all mankind. Several scriptures deal with this issue, but Paul puts it more clearly in Romans. Though Adam sin entered the world and spread to all men (Roman 5:12) so that condemnation was placed upon all men (Romans 5:18) and all men sin (Romans 3:23). The Messiah would have to somehow be human, but also avoid inheriting Adam’s sin and live a perfect life without sin. The solution to the dilemma was for the Messiah to be born without having a human father.
The prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 declares, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” Which means “God with us.” If all we had was the Hebrew, there would be a question since the Hebrew word translated “virgin” here can also mean “young maiden.” However, Matthew’s application of this to Jesus makes it clear that the Messiah would be born of a virgin and not just a “young maiden.” The Greek word used in Matthew 1:23 is specific. parqenoV / Parthenos refers to a woman who has not known a man, which is just what Mary said to Gabriel when he announced to her that she would be the mother of the Messiah. “Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” (Luke 1:34 KJV). Gabriel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God.” Jesus had a human mother, but did not have a human father. He was human without inheriting Adam’s sin.
The Messiah Would Live a Sinless Life
In addition, the Messiah had to live a sinless life. This is extremely important. Isaiah 53:9 states that the Messiah would have to be someone who “had done no violence” nor have “any deceit in His mouth.” Zechariah 9:9 says He would be just, humble and endowed with salvation. If the Messiah ever sinned, then He would be guilty and under God’s just condemnation for the wages of sin is death. Ezekiel 18:4 says, “the soul who sins will die.” Jesus was without sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5) even though He had been tempted in all things as we (Hebrews 4:15).
There have been bizarre claims by people that either they or someone they knew was a hybrid between a human and something else, but then we live in a world where people confuse fantasy and science fiction with reality. Only Jesus meets the criteria of the prophecy of having a human mother and God Himself for a father and proving it. By living a sinless life Jesus proved He was not under Adam’s curse. He proved that He is the Son of God by His many miracles. That is the last prophecy we will look at this morning.
The Messiah is the Son of God
Gabriel told Marry that her child would be called the Son of the Most High ( Luke 1:32). This was not a new prophecy concerning the Messiah. Psalm 2:6,7 says, “But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain.” 7 “I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, ‘Thou art My Son, Today I have begotten Thee.” Isaiah 7:14 states that the name of the one born of a virgin would be “Immanuel,” which means “God with us.” Isaiah 9:6,7 states further concerning Messiah, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. 7 There will be no end to the increase of [His] government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.”
The prophecies concerning the Messiah also give Him the attributes of deity which is consistent with Him being the Son of God. Psalm 45:6-7 says, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Thy kingdom. 7 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated wickedness; Therefore God, Thy God, has anointed Thee With the oil of joy above Thy fellows.” Hebrews 1:8-9 quotes those verses and applies them directly to Jesus, who is referred to in this chapter as the Son (vs. 2,5,8). Hebrews 1:10-12 goes on to quote Psalm 102:25-27 and attribute them to Jesus, “Thou, Lord, in the beginning didst lay the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the works of Thy hands; 11 They will perish, but Thou remainest; And they all will become old as a garment, 12 And as a mantle Thou wilt roll them up; As a garment they will also be changed. But Thou art the same, And Thy years will not come to an end.”
It is one thing to claim to be or to be called the Son of God by your followers. It is quite another to prove it to be true. Jesus did. The various gospel accounts were written to prove the claim to be true. Matthew specifically presents Jesus as the promised Messiah who fulfills all the ancient prophecies. Mark presents Jesus as the Son of God who came to serve and sacrifice His life for sinners. Luke presents the results of his thorough investigation that Jesus is the God-man who came to seek and save the lost. And John presents the conclusive evidence that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that through believing in Him we could have eternal life.
Only God incarnate could do all that Jesus did. He demonstrated authority over the elements of nature, over disease and sickness, over demons, over sin and even over death. We will look at these in detail in the coming months, but in brief, here are a few of Jesus’ many miracles demonstrating His deity as the Son of God.
Miracles over nature: He turned water into wine (John. 2). He fed five thousand with five barley loaves and two small fish (John 6); He walked on water (John. 6); Calmed the wind and sea (Matt. 8).
Miracles of healing: The lame man at Bethesda (John 5); Peter’s mother-in-law (Matthew 8); the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath (Matthew 12); the paralytic (Mark. 2); cleansing the leper in Galilee (Luke 5); the multitudes (Matthew 15:29f).
Power to forgive sin: Healing the paralytic and forgiving his sins (Matthew 9:6);
Miracles of restoring life: Raising the widow’s son from the dead at Nain (Luke 7) Raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Matthew 9); Raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11); Rising from the dead Himself (Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20).
The various prophecies concerning the Messiah have been fulfilled by only one person – Jesus Christ. Only God in human flesh could perform all these miracles. Only God in human flesh could live a perfect life in which there could not be brought any true accusation of wrong doing. Only God in human flesh could love us sinners enough to pay the sacrifice for our sins Himself so that we could be forgiven. Only God could conquer death and give us sure promises of eternal life. Jesus is the Son of God. He is God incarnate. If He is not the Lord as He claims (John 8:58), then He is either a liar or a lunatic and therefore not worthy of following much less honoring on His birthday.
There is no greater question you will face in life than who is the one referred to as Jesus Christ, for both your eternal destiny and purpose of life on this earth are dependent upon it.
If you are already a true Christian, then rejoice in these truths and may you become more bold in your faith in proclaiming them to others.
If you are not a Christian yet, then I implore you to explore every avenue of answering that question honestly and intelligently. Read the Bible. Continue to come to hear this series of sermons, or at least read them as they are posted on our website. Read other books on the subject, and pray that God will mercifully allow you to see, hear and understand what He has revealed about Himself to us.
Sermon Study Sheets
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times the name “Jesus” used in the sermon. Talk with your parents about what the importance of Jesus’ birth.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. How do you celebrate Christmas? What traditions are important to you and your family? Why? What evidence have you found of the increasing secularization of Christmas? Why is Old Testament prophecy important to Christians? Trace the specific blood line required for the Messiah according to prophecy. Trace Jesus’ blood line. What was the particular place the Messiah had to be born? Why? Why did the wise men from the east finally go there? Between what years was Jesus probably born? Why do Western churches celebrate Christmas on December 25 and the Eastern churches on January 6? What are some other possible dates? What time period would actually be the most reasonable? Why? Why didn’t God have the date of Jesus’ birth recorded? Why didn’t the Jews celebrate birthdays? Why do people celebrate birthdays now? Is celebrating Christmas wrong? Why or why not? Does Jesus fit within that time frame? Was the timing of Jesus’ birth arbitrary? What was the general time frame in which Messiah had to be born? How could the curse against Jehoiakim be avoided and still meet the other requirements for Messiah? How did Jesus avoid that curse? What is the importance of the virgin birth? How did Mary come to be with child? Why was it important that the Messiah live a sinless life? What have happened if He did sin? Did Jesus live a sinless life? Why did Messiah have to be the Son of God? What miracles did Jesus perform that demonstrate that He was the Son of God? Jesus is either Lord, a liar or a lunatic – which do you believe He is and why? Are you ready for His return?
Sermon Notes – 12/30/2007 A.M.
Prophecies are important because they reveal the _________________ of our God
Prophecies reveal that the Bible is the actual revelation of ____________
Prophecy reveals what will occur in the ___________ – a source of comfort for Christians
Messiah = “_________________ ” = Christ
Genesis 3:15 – the seed of a woman who would bruise the serpent’s head – a _________
Genesis 12:3 – through the line of ______________
Genesis 17:19 – through the line of ___________, not Ishmael
Genesis 49:10 – through line of ____________
The Messiah Would be Born in the Right Place
The Messiah Would be Born at the Right Time
Actual year of birth: between ___________ B.C.
More probable date: Either _______________________
Galatians 4:4-5 – at the “_____________ of time”
Daniel 9:24-25 – alive at the end of the __________ and _____________ weeks.
The Messiah Would Avoid the Curse
Jeremiah 36:30 – curse on _____________
Luke 3 – genealogy through _________ supplies the bloodline
Matthew 1 – genealogy through _____________ supplies the right to the throne through adoption
The Messiah Would be Born of a Virgin
The Messiah Would Live a Sinless Life
The Messiah is the Son of God
Miracles over nature
Miracles of healing
Power over demons
Power to forgive sin
Matthew 9:6 ______________________________________________________________________
Miracles of restoring life
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