Why should we study Messianic Prophecy?
a. Messianic prophecy should be studied to show us God is sovereign in the midst of a chaotic and unstable world. Hence, God is working in the affairs of mankind.
b. Messianic prophecy reminds us that God has a redemptive plan for Israel and the nations.
c. Messianic prophecy should motivate us to holy living. It should also cause to re-evaluate our priorities. If God has brought the Messiah into the world to bring redemption, He will bring Him back to complete the messianic task.
What is the Relationship Between Messianic Prophecy and Apologetics?
a. Apologetics is the branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of belief in Jesus; formal argumentation in defense of something, such as a position or system.
b. The Bible is considered to be God’s revelation to mankind. However, The Quran, The Book of Mormon, and other holy books are considered to be God’s word. Messianic prophecy has apologetic value in that it confirms the Bible as a true revelation.
c. Historical Verification: Has God revealed Himself in the course of human history? If so, when and where has He done this?
d. While prophecy does not prove the existence of God, it does show that unusual events predicted in his Name that come to pass are evidence of his special activity.
e. Fulfilled prophecy is a distinctively accessible and a testable kind of miracle. The prophecy was made and its accuracy cannot be explained either causally (for example, on the ground that it brought about its own fulfillment) or as accidental, and hence that it was probably miraculous (see J.L. Mackie in Swinburne, Miracles, 90).
f. The majority of the Jewish community thinks the Messiah has not come. Is this correct?
How do we define prophecy?
a. Prophecy is the foretelling or prediction of what is to come. People generally think of only prediction—-fulfillment. Not everything called “prophecy” in the Bible is predictive. Prophets forthtold God’s Word as well as foretold the future.
b. A prophet (Heb. nabi) is an authorized spokesperson for God with a message that originated with God and was communicated through a number of means. When God spoke to these spokespersons, they had no choice but to deliver that word to those to whom God directed it.
What does the word “Messianic” mean?
a.“Messianic” has a much wider range of meaning than “Messiah.” “Messianic” usually refers to everything in the Hebrew Bible when it refers to the hope of a glorious future.
b.“Messiah”-“Anointed One” (Heb. messiah),(Gk. Christos) is derived from verbs that have the general meaning of “to rub something” or, more specifically, “to anoint someone.”
c. The Hebrew Bible records the anointing with oil of priests (Exod 29:1-9),kings (1 Sam 10:1; 2 Sam 2:4;1 Kings 1:34),and sometimes prophets (1Kings 19:16) as a sign of a special task within the Jewish community.
d.The messianic concept also has a wider dimension than the royal, priestly, and/or prophetic person. Included in this wider view are some of the characteristics, tasks, goals, means, and consequences of the messianic person.
e. To understand messianism, we need to first start by reading the Bible but also read extra-biblical Jewish literature including the Apocrypha, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, The Targumim, etc, (see Craig A Evans: “Introduction” to Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies: A Guide to the Background Literature).
f. Other names were used to describe the messianic person other than the “Messiah.” Some of the names include Son of David, Son of God, Son of Man, Prophet, Elect One, Servant, Prince, Branch, Root, Scepter, Star, Chosen One, and Coming One.
What are the Types of Messianic Prophecy?
There are promises about the coming of the Messiah. But not all of them are predictive (see more below). Note: All these texts must be studied in context and knowing some Hebrew helps as well. Also, some of these fall into three categories:
1. Prophecies About the First Coming of Jesus
2. Prophecies About the Entire Redemptive Career of Jesus
3. Prophecies About the First and Second Coming of Jesus
2. Prophecy that has Typological Fulfillment
a. The word “fulfill”- the Greek word for fulfill is “pleroo” which can mean “render full,” “fill up” or “complete”- it means something broader than the “completion of a prediction.” An example of this is seen in Matt 5:17- fulfillment is seen in embodying, bringing to completion, or perfecting.
Typology Prophecy: In this case, the prophets did not so much make singular predictions but gave themes or patterns and that these themes have several manifestations or fulfillments in the course of human history.
1.The type and the antitype have a natural correspondence or resemblance. The initial one is called the type (e.g., person, thing, event) and the fulfillment is designated the antitype..
b. Jesus fulfills the sacrificial system. The Passover was a picture of what Jesus would do though his atonement. The ‘binding of Isaac’ (see Gen 22) is a typology prophecy of Jesus.
c. Matthew compares Jesus and Moses in that Jesus is the New Moses.
3. Prophecy that shows Prophetic Telescoping: These Prophecies Bridge the First and Second Coming of the Messiah
Prophetic Telescoping is prophecy that bridges the First and Second Comings of the Messiah. In this way, prophecy telescopes forward to a time. The prophets saw future events as distant “peaks” (i.e., events) without an awareness of the large time gaps between them. Also, the prophets understood that history had two major periods—the present age and the age to come–although they did not always make a hard distinction between the two. Prophetic Telescoping stresses progressive revelation which means that God does not reveal everything at once.
Example: Psalm 2: Does Jesus have universal dominion over the nations? We must remember that part of Psalm 2 is not fulfilled. This is what we call “prophetic telescoping.” Psalm 2 is one of several texts in the Hebrew Bible where part of the text is fulfilled in the first appearance of Jesus. But there is another part that will be fulfilled in the future. In this sense, Jesus will return and establish the earthly, national aspect of the kingdom of God (Is. 9:6; Amos 9:11; Dan. 2:44; 7:13-14; 27; Is. 11:11-12; 24:23; Mic. 4:1-4; Zech.14:1-9; Matt. 26:63-64; Acts 1:6-11; 3:19-26). In other words, one day the Messiah will be King over His people (Matt. 19:28).
What role do presuppositions play in the understanding Messianic Prophecy?
a. A presupposition is something assumed or supposed in advance
b. Whether or not certain passages are clearly Messianic depend upon what the preconceived idea of the reader.
c. Is the role of the Messiah to enable the Jewish people to dwell securely in the land of Israel (Is.11:11-12; 43:5-6; Jer.23: 5-8; Mic.5:4-6), and usher in a period of worldwide peace?
d. Is the role of Messiah to put an end to all oppression, suffering and disease (Is.2:1-22; 25:8; 65:25; Mic.4:1-4) and create a pathway for universal worship to the God of Israel (Zeph.3:9; Zech.9:16; 14:9)?
e. Is the role of the Messiah to be a priest and king? Is He supposed to have an atoning role?
What About Interpretive Issues with Messianic Prophecy?
a. In many cases prophecy may only be understandable by true believers under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (e.g.Luke 24:45;John 12:16).
b. Messianic prophecy is not a series of independent prognostications, but a series of promises. There is one Messianic promise, which is revealed and expanded on throughout the Hebrew Bible (see Walter Kaiser’s The Messiah in the Old Testament).
c. Each passage in the Hebrew Bible must be examined in its own context and on its own terms. So Messianic prophecy is one promise developed in a progressive series of revelations rather than several disjointed predictions.
d. Remember the dual aspect of Messiah’s work as actually two comings of Messiah (the first time to suffer and the second time to reign). In Luke 24:25-27 Jesus says, “Was it not necessary for Messiah to suffer these things and to enter into His glory.” Also see 1 Peter 1:10-11.
Themes That Help in Interpreting Messianic Prophecy
1. Promise Theme: The NT uses the word “promise” to refer to the message of the Hebrew Bible, but the Hebrew Bible itself does not have a consistent term to refer to this concept. A cluster of words is used, such as oath, word, blessing, promise, and others (See Walter C. Kaiser’s Messiah in the Old Testament).. Walter Kaiser notes that “the substance of this `promise’ was most frequently, but not exclusively, embodied in the content of the various covenants.” He further adds that the promise also includes these concepts: “that the gospel was also for Gentiles… the gift of the Holy Spirit… the resurrection from the dead… redemption from sin… Jesus the Messiah.” (see Walter C. Kaiser’s, Toward Rediscovering the Old Testament)
2. Mission in the Bible Theme
a. There was a universal purpose in God’s election of Abraham and of the people of Israel. They were called and brought into existencebecause of God’s missionary purpose for the blessing of the nations. Indeed, God’s commitment to Israel is predicated on his commitment to humanity as a whole.
b. Israel has an ethical, prophetic, priestly, and kingly role- this is tied to the role of the Messiah.
c. The Reign of God theme is very helpful as well. I have touched on that issue here:
The Christian should not shy away from studying messianic prophecy. It is through the study of prophecy that the Christians can gain a greater understanding of what God has done and is currently doing in the world around us.