Christianity 201

June 8, 2016

Where is God When Life is a Mess? Ezekiel Knows!

•••by Clarke Dixon

With the world in a mess, and even our own lives sometimes in a mess, we might well wonder; “where is God?” If God is truly in our world, shouldn’t things be better by now? Is God weak? Or perhaps the powers of darkness are stronger? In Ezekiel’s day the people of God could wonder the very same thing for they were in a mess. Ezekiel was among a group of 10,000 people or so who were taken into captivity from Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Things were not looking good back in Jerusalem and in another five years the city would be completely destroyed along with the Temple. Was God weak? Were the gods of the Babylonians stronger? If God’s house is destroyed is He gone? Ezekiel is called to bring some clarity to the situation. His summary of the first vision is given in verse 28 of the first chapter:

Like the bow in a cloud on a rainy day, such was the appearance of the splendour all around. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of someone speaking. . . (Ezekiel 1:28 italics mine)

So what clarity does Ezekiel bring?

In reading Ezekiel chapter one we learn that the glory of God is indescribable and incomparable.  God’s people in captivity would have been reminded by Ezekiel’s first vision of the religions around them. The Babylonians, like most nations of the day, but unlike God’s people of Israel, had statues and idols representing their gods. As Bible scholars point out, through the vision the Lord is drawing a contrast between Himself and the gods of the Babylonians. The statues of the Babylonians were lifeless, in contrast to the “living creatures” (verses 5,13,14,15,19,20,21,22) of Ezekiel’s vision which point to the living God. The statues could not see, in contrast to the many eyes, representing the all seeing nature of God. The statues could be destroyed, in contrast to the fire in Ezekiel’s vision, showing that God is the one who has the capacity to destroy and is not Himself consumed. The statues were stuck wherever humans put them whereas in Ezekiel’s vision there are many wheels and free movement. God is not stuck and will go where He wants to go! That God is alive, all seeing, the indestructible destroyer, and has the capacity of presence anywhere and everywhere is all part of the glory of God in direct contrast to the gods of Babylon.

So what is being clarified here? We could sum it up with O people of God. God is alive, all-seeing, powerful, and present. You are not in a mess because God is weak, or because the gods of Babylon are strong.” This is a good reminder for us when our world is in a mess, or when our lives are in a mess. It is not because God is weak, or because the powers of this world have any power over God.

In reading Ezekiel chapter one we also learn that the glory of God is terrifying. While the smallest of animals and the weirdest of bugs can scatter a room of humans, four creatures are seen which must have struck terror. Notice also the noise:

24 When they moved, I heard the sound of their wings like the sound of mighty waters, like the thunder of the Almighty, a sound of tumult like the sound of an army; when they stopped, they let down their wings. (Ezekiel 1:24)

The noise is part of the terror for anyone who has lived through a tornado, or stood next to a railway crossing for a fast moving train with horns at full blast. This was not just a vision, but an experience for Ezekiel, a frightening one. The people of God in Babylon have good reason for fear; God is a God of judgement. They are not in captivity because God is weak or the gods of Babylon are stronger. They are there because they are reaping what they have sown. The glory of God is terrifying because the justice of God is perfect.

Where is God When Life is a MessSo what is being clarified here? We could sum it up with “People of God, examine yourselves and see why you are in a mess. Not because God is weak, or because the Babylonian gods are stronger, but because you have been in rebellion against God.” This will be a theme of the prophecy of Ezekiel. And this is a good reminder to us also; every mess has sin behind it somewhere, even if indirectly.

In reading Ezekiel chapter one we also learn that the glory of God is comforting. Think of Genesis chapter 3 where Adam and Eve experienced the consequence of their sin in being banished from the Garden of Eden. It is an amazing fact the Bible does not end there, indeed that is only the beginning. Adam and Eve go on to experience the presence of God. In addition to experiencing the consequence of their sin, they go on to experience the consequence of God’s love. Life in the presence of God goes on! Likewise, in Ezekiel the people of God experience the consequence of the sin of the nation, yet God is present with them in captivity! That the Temple might be destroyed is not of great consequence to God. He can be anywhere and there is nowhere He would rather be than with His people. That was the point of the Temple in the fist place. His presence is an expression of His love, whether at the Temple in Jerusalem, or in captivity in Babylon.

After seeing and experiencing the creatures, the wheels, and the fiery figure on the throne Ezekiel mentions a rainbow as part of his summary in verse 28. This was a reminder of God’s covenant promises. Yes, God’s people would suffer the consequences of not keeping their covenant promises, but yes, God was still faithful and would continue to keep His covenant promises.

So what is being clarified here? We could summarize it with “O people of God, despite the fact you are reaping what you have sown, there will be a future.” This is a good reminder for us, that when our lives get in a mess, even when it is a mess of our own making, God will love us through the mess. He remains faithful.

One last thought on Ezekiel chapter 1. There is a similar vision in Revelation chapters 4 and 5 where the glory of God is seen again. The themes of justice and mercy running through Ezekiel’s prophecy point forward to God’s perfect justice and perfect love coming together in Christ Jesus, “the Lamb that was slain”. At the end of his vision Ezekiel fell flat on his face. At the sight of Jesus in the vision from Revelation the elders fall down to worship. Falling on our faces is still the appropriate response to the glory of God. As the writer of Hebrews says about Jesus:

He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Hebrews 1:3)

Yes the world can get messy. But God is not weak. Neither is His love.

(Scripture references are taken from the NRSV)


Clarke Dixon is a Canadian pastor whose writing you can check out at this link.

January 13, 2014

There Will Be No Sea in Heaven

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. ~ Rev.21:1

This article is from popular Biblical writer R. C. Sproul. I have heard teaching previously about the aquaphobia (fear of water) that characterized people in the times and places where scripture originates. It is actually helpful to understanding a number of Bible passages and narratives. To read this at source, click this link.

Scripture often speaks of the entire creation awaiting the final act of redemption. To destroy something completely and to replace it with something utterly new is not an act of redemption. To redeem something is to save that which is in imminent danger of being lost. The renovation may be radical. It may involve a violent conflagration of purging, but the purifying act ultimately redeems rather than annihilates. The new heaven and the new earth will be purified. There will be no room for evil in the new order.

A hint of the quality of the new heaven and new earth is found in the somewhat cryptic words, “Also there was no more sea” (Rev. 21:1). For people who have a love for the seashore and all that it represents in terms of beauty and recreation, it may seem strange to contemplate a new earth without any sea. But to the ancient Jew, it was a different matter. In Jewish literature, the sea was often used as a symbol for that which was ominous, sinister, and threatening. Earlier in the Revelation of John, we see the Beast emerging from the sea (Rev. 13). Likewise, in ancient Semitic mythology, there is frequent reference to the primordial sea monster that represents the shadowy chaos. The Babylonian goddess Tiamat is a case in point.

In Jewish thought, the river, the stream, or the spring functioned as the positive symbol of goodness. This was natural in a desert habitat where a stream was life itself. If we look at a relief map of Palestine, we see how crucial to the life of the land is the Jordan River. It cuts like a ribbon through the heart of an arid and parched land, connecting the Sea of Galilee in the north with the Dead Sea in the south.

The Mediterranean coast of western Palestine is marked by rocky shoals and jutting mountains. The ancient Hebrews did not develop a sea trade because the terrain was not suitable for much shipping. The sea represented trouble to them. It was from the Mediterranean that violent storms arose.

We see this contrasting imagery in Psalm 46. The psalmist writes: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling” (vv. 1–3). Then he adds, “There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God” (v. 4).

I live in central Florida. Our area is sometimes described as “the lightning capital of America.” The summer months bring severe electrical storms. My grandchildren are frequently frightened by what they call the “booming.” The loud thunderclaps are not a part of what they would envision heaven to include.

But the Jews feared other problems from the sea besides turbulent storms. Their traditional archrivals, marauders who beset them countless times, were a seacoast nation. The Philistines came from the direction of the sea.

The Jew looked to a new world where all the evils symbolized by the sea would be absent. The new earth will have water. It will have a river. It will have life-giving streams. But there will be no sea there.

This excerpt is taken from Surprised by Suffering by R.C. Sproul.

Bonus reading: At the end of the article there is also a link to this related piece.  Click to read Creation Freed From Decay.

“Creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption” (vv. 20–21).Romans 8:18–25

In our study of the biblical theme of creation, we saw yesterday that what seems to be chaotic is actually under the control of our sovereign Lord (Job 38). The presence of such “chaos,” however, is not God’s ultimate design for His universe. He subdued the raging waters when He took what was unproductive and made it into an environment suitable for plant, animal, and human life (Gen. 1:1–2:3). The fact that nature can be a danger to us today is due to the curse this environment suffered when our first parents fell (3:17–19). Our creator is sovereign over the chaos, but this chaos is not the ideal, biblically speaking. Instead, Scripture looks forward to a new heavens and earth that will no longer pose any threat to His people.

The prophet Isaiah is the first one to speak directly of a new heavens and earth (Isa. 65:17–25), but it is the New Testament that explains how the renewal of creation will come about. Today’s passage tells us that all will finally be set right in the day that “the revealing of the sons of God” occurs (Rom. 8:19–21). Paul is talking about that final day when Jesus will return to finish what He started and vindicate His people, separating the sheep from the goats to show to the world those whom He has purchased with His own blood (Matt. 25:31–46). This is the day for which the entire creation is longing, for it will be on that day that the effects of the curse will be totally removed from the creation (Rom. 8:22–25). Christ has already done all the work necessary to cancel the curse (Gal. 3:13–14), but the Holy Spirit has not yet applied the benefits He won for His creation to the fullest. Sin’s power is broken but its presence remains to war with us until the day of the “redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23).

Jesus came not only to save us spiritually but also to redeem our physical bodies and, indeed, to redeem creation itself. He loves the world that He created (Gen. 1:31; John 3:16), and He is unwilling to let it fall by the wayside. Proof of this is seen in His promise to resurrect all those who are in Christ to live forever in God’s presence in the manner in which we were designed — spiritual and physical creatures. Likewise, the earth will be transformed and made new so that we will be able to look on the world and understand clearly the Lord’s goodness and glory in all things, which is why He created everything in the first place (Col. 1:16).

Coram Deo

Non-Christian environmentalism can be really a form of nature worship that elevates the creature over the Creator. Christians are to be good stewards of creation and look not to misuse it because they know the damage that pollution and other such things create makes it harder for others to see the glory of our Lord. We care for our own little corner of God’s world so that His glory can be seen readily in it.

Passages for Further Study

Deuteronomy 30:1–10

Both articles reproduced with blanket permission from the source.  From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org

December 23, 2013

The Bible’s Story Arc Culminates in Christ

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.

~Heb. 1:1-2 NIV

After four years of blog poaching here at Christianity 201, today we’re poaching from one of the best, Bible commentator D. A. Carson. The verse in question here is often referred to at Christmas, even though this was posted in mid-November.  As always, C201 readers are encouraged to read items at source, click here to read today’s post.

THE CONTRASTS IN THE OPENING VERSES OF Hebrews 1 all tend in the same direction.

“In the past” contrasts with “in these last days.” God spoke “to our forefathers” stands over against the fact that in these last days he has spoken “to us.” In the past God spoke to the forefathers “through the prophets at many times and in various ways.” But in these last days God has spoken to us “by his Son” (Heb. 1:1–2).

Indeed, the form of that expression, “by his Son,” in the original, suggests pretty strongly that the author of Hebrews does not think of the Son as one more prophet, or even as the supreme prophet. The idea is not that while in the past the word of God was mediated by prophets, in these last days the word has been mediated by the Son, who thus becomes the last of the prophets. Something more fundamental is at issue. The Greek expression, over-translated, means “in Son.” The absence of the article “the” is significant. Moreover, “in Son” contrasts not only with “through the prophets” but with “through the prophets at many times and in various ways.”

The point is that in these last days God has disclosed himself in the Son revelation. In the past, when God used the prophets he sometimes gave them words directly (in oracles or visions), sometimes providentially led them through experiences they recorded, sometimes “spoke” through extraordinary events such as the burning bush: there were “many times” and “various ways” (Heb. 1:1). But now, God has spoken “in Son”—we might paraphrase, “in the Son revelation.” It is not that Jesus simply mediates the revelation; he is the revelation. It is not that Jesus simply brings the word; he is himself, so to speak, the Word of God, the climactic Word. The idea is very similar to what one reads in the Prologue of John’s Gospel. The Son is capable of this because he is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Heb. 1:3).

Strictly speaking, then, Christians are not to think of the New Testament books as just like the Old Testament books, bringing the next phase of God’s redemptive plan to us. Mormons argue that that is all they are—and then say that Joseph Smith brought a still later revelation to us, since he was yet another accredited prophet. But the author of Hebrews sees that the climax of all the Old Testament revelation, mediated through prophets and stored in books, is not, strictly speaking, more books—but Christ Jesus himself. The New Testament books congregate around Jesus and bear witness to him who is the climax of revelation. Later books that cannot bear witness to this climactic revelation are automatically disqualified.


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Mission Statement: Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of Christian blogs and websites. Sometimes two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives. The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we can see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading.

Scripture portions from various translations quoted at Christianity 201 are always in green to remind us that the Scriptures have LIFE!

February 18, 2013

End Times Prophecy in Matthew’s Gospel

Matthew 3 (NLT): 11 “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.”

When we think prophecy, we think often of Bible books like Revelation and Daniel; but Matthew’s gospel records many of the end-times prophetic words of Jesus. The passage above contains imagery that is foreign to us, and even the NLT (above) uses terminology that is foreign to urban dwellers in the 21st century. Our featured writer today breaks this down for us with related scriptures and commentary. (You’ll see references to Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament.) He also uses the KJV as a base text, but in this case all the texts are challenging because of the agrarian imagery. You’re encouraged to click through to Don Costello’s blog, Theophobic*.  This is a great example of how to exegete a passage; how to do a thorough study on a single verse.


Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. ~ Matthew 3:12

1. “Whose fan is in his hand…”

a. The “his” of this phrase is the Holy Ghost of the previous verse, the fan is in his hand.

  • 1). Matthew 3:11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

b. fan [4425 * ptyon][Thayer: a winnowing shovel.]

  •  1). Brethren NT Commentary: “A light, broad shovel with which grain was thrown against the wind to clear it of chaff. The breadth of the shovel had the effect of spreading the grain into the air, that the air might more thoroughly separate the chaff from the grain. This illustrates the thoroughness of the separation that God will make between the good and the bad.”
  •  2). Albert Barnes NT Commentary:  “The word used here and rendered “fan” means a winnowing shovel instead. It was used for throwing the grain, after it was threshed, into the air, so that the chaff might be driven away by the wind. This mode of separating the grain from the chaff is still practiced in the East.”
  •  3). When the Holy Ghost came into the earth he came in a mighty rushing wind. 4). In this dispensation the Holy Ghost will blow upon our lives, he will speak to us in our hearts through the Scriptures and in prayer, he will move upon us to be obedient to the word and be more conformed to the image of Christ, to get rid of the chaff in our lives.
    • a). Acts 2:2-4 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
    • b). John 3:8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

2. “…and he will thoroughly purge his floor,

a. purge [1245 * diakatharizo][Thayer: to cleanse thoroughly.]

b. floor [257 * halon][Thayer: a ground plot or threshing floor, i.e. a place in the field made hard after the harvest by a roller, where grain was threshed out.]

c. The purging is the work of the Holy Ghost in our lives. In this dispensation the Holy Ghost will blow upon our lives, he will speak to us in our hearts through the Scriptures and in prayer, he will move upon us to be obedient to the word and be more conformed to the image of Christ, to get rid of the chaff in our lives.

3. “…and gather his wheat into the garner…”

  •  a. This is the harvesting process. What a privilege, to be harvested and gathered into his garner.

4. “…but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

a. Jesus spoke of those in his kingdom who instead of responding to the work of the Holy Ghost would continue to offend and work iniquity; he spoke of their end.

  •  1). Matthew 13:41, 42 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

b. In the book of Isaiah we get a picture of those who do not make the harvest and those who do.

  • 1). Isaiah 33:11-16 Ye shall conceive chaff, ye shall bring forth stubble: your breath, as fire, shall devour you. And the people shall be as the burnings of lime: as thorns cut up shall they be burned in the fire. Hear, ye that are far off, what I have done; and, ye that are near, acknowledge my might. The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; He shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.

c. We need to seek his face so he can speak to our hearts and we can in the power of the Holy Ghost in the grace of God yield our lives in obedience, throwing off the chaff so we may be gathered into his garner, Heaven.


*The name “theophobic” comes from a combination of two Greek words, “phobia” which is the Greek word for fear and “theo” which is the Greek word for God. I instantly thought of the phrase “God fearers” in the book of Acts and thought of “theophobia”.

October 23, 2011

Ron Rhodes: Jesus is the Messiah (Part One)

One of the best books I’ve never read is Christ Before the Manger by prolific author Ron Rhodes, subtitled The Life and Times of the Pre-incarnate Christ.  I set a copy aside somewhere, but I was probably afraid that once I delved into this subject, I might never finish!  This topic also deals with “theophanies,” which are visible appearances of God in various forms; and many believe and teach that where the Old Testament says, “Then an angel of the Lord appeared…” that many of these are instances of Jesus making a pre-incarnate appearance.

After spending some time searching online for an excerpt from the book, or even a good review, I finally came upon a Ron Rhodes article that appeared at the Bible Prophecy Blog.  This is a slightly different topic, dealing with the authority by which Jesus can be claimed to be the Messiah who the Jewish nation at the time was anticipating.  As then, so today, Jesus is not seen as fitting the role, and that was the primary motivation for this article. 

In this section, he begins by showing a circle of possibilities that keeps getting smaller and smaller, to the point where it can only truly apply to one person.  This is a longer article, so we’ll spread it out over two days, with part two tomorrow.

By Ron Rhodes

As one reads through the Bible, we find progressively detailed prophecies about the identity of the Messiah. Obviously, as the prophecies become increasingly detailed, the field of qualified “candidates” becomes increasingly narrow.

In showing a Jewish person that Jesus is the Messiah, one effective approach is to begin with broad prophecies and then narrow the field to include increasingly specific and detailed prophecies.

You might use circles to graphically illustrate your points as you share these prophecies.As suggested by Stuart Dauermann, seven increasingly detailed “circles of certainty” include:

1. Messiah’s humanity (Genesis 3:15).
2. Messiah’s Jewishness (Genesis 12:1-3; 28:10-15).
3. Messiah’s tribe (Genesis 49:10).
4. Messiah’s family (2 Samuel 7:16; Jeremiah 23:5-6).
5. Messiah’s birthplace (Micah 5:2).
6. Messiah’s life, reception, and death (Isaiah 52:13; 53).
7. Chronology of Messiah’s appearing (Daniel 9:24-26).

Let us look at these in a little more detail.

Circle 1: The Circle of the Messiah’s Humanity

Scripture says that the Messiah had to become a human being. This circle is obviously a very large circle.

The Messiah’s humanity is prophetically spoken of in Genesis 3:15, when God is pronouncing judgment against the serpent following the fall of Adam and Eve:

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.

The word “offspring” refers to descendants. The Messiah would be a descendant of the woman– that is, He would be a human being. We find this fulfilled in Galatians 4:4-5:

But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.

Circle 2: The Circle of the Messiah’s Jewishness

Scripture says that the Messiah had to be Jewish– that is, He had to be a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This narrows the circle considerably. Of all human beings who have ever lived, only Jewish human beings would qualify.

Point the Jewish person to Genesis 12:1-3, where God makes a covenant with Abraham (the “father” of the Jews):

The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

Then point the Jewish person to Genesis 28:10-15:

Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the LORD, and he said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

These Bible passages indicate that the promised seed (in Genesis 3:15) was to come through the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Circle 3: The Circle of the Messiah’s Tribal Identity

The circle gets even narrower when it is demonstrated that the Messiah had to come from the tribe of Judah. This is demonstrated in Genesis 49:10:

The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.

Here Jacob is on his deathbed. Before he dies, he affirms that the scepter (of the ruling Messiah) would be from the tribe of Judah.

Circle 4: The Circle of the Messiah’s Family

Scripture tells us that the Messiah had to be from David’s family. This narrows the circle still further. We see this affirmed in 2 Samuel 7:16:

Your [i.e., David’s] house and your kingdom shall endure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever.

We also read in Jeremiah 23:5-6:

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.”

Clearly the ruling Messiah had to come from the family of David.

Circle 5: The Circle of the Messiah’s Birthplace

Scripture clearly prophesies that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. This narrows the circle of possible candidates for the Messiah tremendously. Micah 5:2 tells us:

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

So far we have seen that the Messiah had to become a human being, had to be a Jew, had to be from the tribe of Judah and the family of David, and He must be born in Bethlehem (a small, insignificant city in ancient times). Failure to fulfill any one of these conditions disqualifies a person as a possible candidate.

Circle 6: The Circle of the Messiah’s Manner of Life,Rejection, and Death

Regarding the Messiah’s manner of life, rejection, and death, point the Jewish person to Isaiah 53. Note the following excerpts:

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. (Isa. 53:1-4).

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. (Isa. 53:7-9).

Note from these verses that: (1) The Messiah was to be despised and rejected by His fellow Jews. (2) He would be put to death following a judicial proceeding. (3) He would be guiltless. Obviously these facts about the Messiah narrow the circle still further.

Circle 7: The Circle of Chronology

Point the Jewish person to Daniel 9:24-26:

“Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. “Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens’, and sixty-two ‘sevens’. It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ‘sevens’, the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.

Regarding this passage, note the following facts: (1) The city would be rebuilt, as would the Temple. (2) The Messiah would come. (3) The Messiah would be “cut off” (die) but not for Himself. (4) The city and the Temple would be destroyed.

Note especially that the Messiah had to come and die prior to the destruction of the second temple, which occurred in A.D. 70.

Clearly, this narrows the circle of potential candidates incredibly. Is there anyone who has fulfilled all these conditions? Is there anyone who was a human being, a Jew, from the tribe of Judah and the family of David, born in Bethlehem, was despised and rejected by the Jewish people, died as a result of a judicial proceeding, was guiltless, and came and died before the destruction of the second temple in A.D. 70? Yes there was, and His name was Jesus!

To further demonstrate that Jesus fulfilled the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament, note the following facts, which are derived from my book, Christ Before the Manger: The Life and Times of the Preincarnate Christ.  These prophecies– taken together– narrow the field so much that there can be no doubt as to who the Messiah is.

…to be continued tomorrow, or click the link in the intro to read the whole article…

Song: Could it Be the Messiah – Michael W. Smith