The Old Testament has a multitude of references to Jesus, hundreds of years before
his birth. The gospels continually refer back to descriptions of Jesus in the Torah
and the Prophets. Jesus himself said ‘Read the Law and the Prophets; They speak of
me’ (John 5:39). As we piece together the parts of this jigsaw, we can see that Jesus
alone fulfils the requirements to be the Messiah. No other human being, past present
or future can fulfil those requirements. Mashiach or Messiah in Hebrew which is Christos
or Christ in Greek, means Anointed One: the person that would be the embodiment of
God himself, who would one day come to Earth to be the ultimate atonement for the
sins of mankind. This was God’s plan from before creation. The Messiah was described
in great detail and only one person has or ever could fulfil those criteria in terms
of the timing in history, the places and the events. That person was Jesus of Nazareth.
There is some confusion over the exact date of the birth of Jesus. The calendar as
we know it today is called the Gregorian calendar. This was devised by Dionysius
Exiguus in AD 525, and was based on the year in which he believed Jesus was born.
It is now understood from archaeological evidence that Jesus was born several years
earlier than 1 AD. It is also certain that he was not born on 25th December.
The story of Jesus’ birth as told in the gospel of Luke begins with old Zechariah,
the High Priest ministering in the Holy of Holies, when the angel Gabriel appears
and tells him that he will have a son, who is to be called John. For his natural
disbelief, Zechariah is struck dumb until the baby is born.
With a bit of research, it can be shown that Zechariah was the High Priest in the
course of Abijah (Luke 1:5). The 24 priestly courses were instituted by King David
(1 Chronicles 24:10), starting in the first month of the Jewish sacred year (roughly
corresponding to April in Western parlance). The course of Abijah was the eighth,
which would have been around July. Immediately after this encounter, John (the Baptist)
was conceived. Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth was 6 months pregnant when the virgin Mary
was told by the angel Gabriel that she would conceive (Luke 1:26). So Mary probably
conceived in January. Hence Jesus would be born around the end of September or early
October, which is the time of the Feast of Tabernacles.
Also shepherds would not normally be in the fields looking after sheep in December.
Thirdly, there was no festival for which a census would be taken in December requiring
everyone to travel to their place of birth.
Looking at the interpretation of Biblical types, the most appropriate time would
have been the Feast of Tabernacles, which would also align with the meaning of Tabernacle,
which is the idea of God dwelling in human flesh: ‘The tabernacle of God is with
men’ (Revelation 21:3). There is some indication that both the first and second coming
of Jesus Christ both take place at the Feast of Tabernacles and it will be a fulfilment
of the full meaning of that festival: God coming to dwell with mankind.
However, whilst the exact date of His birth is uncertain, there is no doubt about
His existence. Increasingly archaeology is confirming the truth of the scriptures.
Names of characters, which hitherto were only mentioned in the Bible are being found
in archaeological remains. Even as I write, there has been a newsworthy discovery
of the tomb of Herod. Non-Biblical writers, such as Josephus only confirm the facts
as recorded in the Gospels. The following chapter uses Old Testament texts to show
not only that Jesus existed, but that He was a supernatural being about whom there
are thousands of prophecies concerning His life, ministry and death. These were all
written in Hebrew and completed at least 400 years before Jesus was born. The writings
are the property of the Jews, who as a nation do not accept that Jesus is the Messiah
even though the proof is there in their own scriptures. This is a mystery and explained
by the Apostle Paul, who himself was a Jewish rabbi, as deliberately engineered by
God Himself in order that non-Jews may have a window of opportunity to accept Jesus
as their Messiah. He writes, ‘God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that
they should not see, and ears that they should not hear; unto this day.’ (Rom 11:8)
‘Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall,
salvation is come unto the Gentiles’ (Romans 11:11). As we shall discuss later, a
period of time has been allocated by God, during which the covenants and promises
of God have been extended to include Gentiles. No one knows how long this window
will remain open, but it is not indefinite. At a time known only to God, the Church
will be removed and the eyes of the Jews opened to recognise their Messiah. Then
they will understand their scriptures and the true meaning of rituals that have been
hidden from them for millennia. With the assistance of the New Testament, we are
in the privileged position of being able to interpret God’s plan right now.
Jesus was proclaimed King before He was born or even conceived. The words spoken
by the Angel Gabriel to Mary; ‘He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of
the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall
be no end.’ (Luke 1:32-33)
A king requires a kingdom or territory, and a people over which to reign.
The Angel here declares that Jesus will reign over the house of Jacob, which is Israel;
but the Kingdom over which Jesus will ultimately reign is not just Israel, or just
a part of earth; it includes the whole universe as well as Heaven and every possible
dimension. ‘Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.’
(Isaiah 66:1). Of Jesus, Paul writes, ‘Thou hast put all things in subjection under
his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is
not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.’ (Hebrews 2:8)
‘Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above
every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven,
and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’ (Philippians 2:9-11)
We have been taught to pray to Our Father ‘Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on
earth as it is in Heaven’ and the time is coming when everyone alive will be subject
to the reign of Jesus Christ as King, either willingly or by force.
God is not going to let Satan or anyone else in rebellion against Him have any part
of the universe. Satan’s rule on earth is short-lived (Rev 12:12).
God created everything and He will have everything under His dominion. In fact nothing
can exist without Him anyway as He upholds all of creation by His power, without
which it would all come to nothing. That is why it is so foolish to resist God.
People sometime use the following passage to argue that Jesus’ kingdom is only a
Heavenly one, that He will not reign physically on the earth: ‘Jesus answered, My
kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants
fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from
hence.’ (John 18:36)
By this I believe Jesus was saying that His kingdom was not of this world right at
that time, or there would have been physical fighting, and His arrest, which was
an essential part of God’s plan, would not have taken place. Fighting and death will
however occur on a massive scale, prior to the inauguration of His earthly kingdom.
‘And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was
called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. And out
of his mouth went a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations. And I
saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to
make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the remnant
were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out
of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.’ (Rev 19:11-21). The
time is coming when a bloody and decisive battle is going to take place in the Valley
of Armageddon and Jesus Christ Himself will head up the conquering army.
The duration of His kingdom will be eternal. ‘The kingdoms of this world are become
the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.’
After the battle of Armageddon, the reign of Jesus Christ will begin on Earth, where
it will last for 1000 years. After that, He will reign for eternity in Heaven.
Throughout the history of mankind and Israel in particular, God showed that he was
preparing an ancestral line of kings through which the Messiah would come. In Jewish
custom, the succession line was passed from father to the eldest son. However, if
a man had no sons, then the line of succession could to be passed to his daughter.
When she married, within the tribe, the succession would pass to her husband and
subsequently his sons. (Read about the daughters of Zelophehad in Numbers 36). This
may seem to us like male chauvinism, but female emancipation is a relatively modern
concept. Way back in the days of the patriarchs, as he was conferring his dying blessing
on his 12 sons, Jacob prophetically announces that the kingly line will come from
Judah: ‘The sceptre shall not depart from Judah’, (Gen 49:10). A sceptre is an ornamental
staff belonging to a king, symbolising authority.
Hundreds of years later, unlike the nations around them, Israel had no king. God
intended Israel to be a Theocracy over which God himself was to be their King. But
they wanted to be like the other nations around them, to have an earthly king. Israel
wanted to be able to function as a Monarchy, with all the pomp and ceremony that
entails, with palaces and fine buildings. They asked the prophet Samuel to give them
a king. God acceded to their wishes and seemingly reluctantly, but perhaps to teach
them a lesson, allowed them to have a king. The first king was an impressive man
named Saul, powerfully built and a great warrior; a perfect choice by any human standard.
Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin, which was the least of the tribes, rather than
from Judah, and his reign turned out to be a disaster. From very humble beginnings
Saul rose to become an extremely proud and arrogant king. His lowest point was when
he went to engage the services of a witch to bring the deceased prophet Samuel back
from the dead for advice. Eventually, injured on the battlefield he fell on his own
sword to avoid being captured and tortured by the Philistines. (1 Samuel 31:4) Not
a good start for the monarchy, but God was allowing them to see what an earthly king
would be like.
God Himself appointed the next king, named David, who was from the tribe of Judah,
who took Israel to its peak. As a fine warrior, as well as poet and musician, David
made an excellent king, conquering and subduing all the nations around them. However,
even he sinned very badly committing adultery, murder and becoming proud of his military
achievements. But David was also known as a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22),
who was willing to acknowledge his sin and repent.
David’s son Solomon reigned next, during whose time the wealth and power of Israel
was fabulous. King Solomon’s gold mines are legendary. Yet in spite of great wisdom
and achievements Solomon turned aside from following God and began to align himself
with the foreign gods of his 700 wives and 300 concubines!
God had promised that David and Solomon would have a kingdom that would last forever
and that they would never cease to have a descendent on the throne of Israel. ‘King
Solomon shall be blessed, and the throne of David shall be established before the
LORD for ever’ (1Kings 2:45).
However, Solomon’s successor, his son, Rehoboam was a weak king and the kingdom of
Israel was torn by civil war. 10 tribes broke away following a self-acclaimed king
named Jeroboam. Only 2 tribes remained faithful to Rehoboam and the kingdom of Judah.
Thus two lines of kings continued for several hundred years but they were mostly
very bad and idolatrous leaders. It is amazing that God allowed the monarchies to
continue as long as He did, but He had made a promise to David that his throne would
last forever. ‘The LORD would not destroy the house of David, because of the covenant
that he had made with David, and as he promised to give a light to him and to his
sons forever’. (2 Chronicles 21:7)
More than 200 years after David, the prophet Isaiah, speaking of the Messiah says
‘Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne
of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and
with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform
this’ (Isaiah 9:7).
After many generations, the situation continued to deteriorate with the kings becoming
increasingly wicked and leading Israel deeper into idolatry, even to sacrificing
their own children to the pagan god Molech. Finally, exasperated with the monarchy,
God made a pronouncement that the kingly line would be cut off. Of King Jeconiah,
‘Thus saith the LORD, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in
his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David,
and ruling any more in Judah’ (Jeremiah 22:30).
King Jeconiah (Also known as Coniah) was the final king of Judah around 600 BC as
God pronounced that no more of his descendents would reign. His son Zedekiah took
the throne, but the neighbouring Babylonians invaded the land, killing his sons before
his eyes, and then they blinded him before taking him into captivity. He did have
another son whilst in captivity who carried on the royal lineage although it was
cursed from ever having a reigning king.
Now God has a problem. He has promised that a king from David’s descendents would
be forever on the throne and yet he has now cursed the lineage. Over 500 years later,
there was a man called Joseph, one of the descendents of the kingly line of David,
of the tribe of Judah. He got engaged to a young virgin girl, named Mary who was
also from the kingly line, but descended from one of David’s other sons, named Nathan.
As Mary may have been an only child, Joseph appears to have been adopted as heir
by her father. So as we read the accounts of the lineage of Jesus, Joseph is shown
as having two different fathers, Jacob from the line of Jeconiah or Jehoiakim (Matt
1:16) and Heli from the line of Nathan (Luke 3:23). (Note that the names, originally
in Hebrew were translated into Greek and then English in the New Testament, can get
a bit changed.) The story is well known, how the virgin Mary becomes pregnant before
the marriage is consummated, but an angel tells Joseph to go ahead with the marriage
as the conception is from God. Thus whilst Jesus is legally from the kingly lineage
of Judah, via Solomon and Joseph, he is genetically only from the line of Mary. His
actual Father is none other than God himself, as no human man was involved in the
conception. The Holy Spirit planted the seed in Mary’s womb.
The virgin birth is also alluded to by Isaiah, 250 years earlier; ‘Therefore the
Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,
and shall call his name Immanuel.’ (Isaiah 7:14) Immanuel means ‘God is with us’.
So the Messiah had to fulfil the criteria of being of the kingly lineage of Judah,
but could not be from the cursed lineage of Jeconiah. Most people never understand
the significance of the Virgin Birth and see it as a cute story, perhaps to explain
away the anomalous pregnancy of the young Mary. Some have even suggested that another
man was secretly involved. But understanding the significance of the royal lineage,
we can see that this was God’s supernatural answer to a conundrum created by the
weakness of human kings. Knowing in advance that this would happen, God made provision
from before the world began, to ensure that His anointed one would be a perfect human
specimen of manhood so that the sacrificial Lamb would be pure bred, go on to live
a sin free life in order to die for the sins of mankind. No human could have ever
devised such a plan. It had to be planned and executed by One outside of our 3 dimensional
space and time.
The Messiah had to be born of a virgin and He will live forever. No one, past, present
or future could meet those requirements, other than Jesus of Nazareth.
Place of birth
The Old Testament prophecies indicate that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem.
‘But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah,
yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose
goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting’. (Micah 5:2).
Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem, fulfilling the ancient prophecies.
Bethlehem means House of Bread and, during His ministry, Jesus stated that he was
the Bread of Life.
During the early parts of the gospels, Jesus continually seems to be hiding the fact
that he is the Messiah. ‘And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man.’ (Matthew
8:4). ‘Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus
the Christ.’ (Matthew 16:20)
Finally a day arrives when He rides into Jerusalem on a donkey and is acclaimed King
by the crowds. This event is exactly predicted in the Old Testament, the timing and
the precise details. ‘Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem:
behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding
upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass’. (Zechariah 9:9)
The exact day of his unveiling as Messiah and King, was prophesied by Daniel. ‘Know
therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore
and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore
and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.’
The Hebrew word for ‘week’ in this context is "shabua" which means a week of years.
The angel speaks of two events; the first would be the restoration of the walls of
Jerusalem, which would be within 49 years (seven sevens). The second would be the
coming of Messiah 434 years after that (62 sevens).
Seven plus two plus threescore (60) is 69. In those days, a year was measured as
12 months of 30 days, which is 360 days. We know from historical and archaeological
information the exact day on which the Babylonian King Artaxerxes gave the edict
to begin building the walls of Jerusalem in 445 BC. If you multiply 7 x 69 x 360
the result is 173,880 days. Divide this by 365.25 to correct for the real number
of days in a year and the result is 476 years. Subtract from this 445 (BC) and the
result is 32 years. Allowing for leap years and corrections for calendar differences,
scholars have calculated that this comes to the exact day on which Jesus rode into
Jerusalem on the donkey at the age of 33. Could Jesus have actually calculated that
day by human reasoning? I don’t think so. He was waiting for God to tell Him the
right time at which he was to be revealed as King.
This incident again is an indicator that Jesus is the Messiah, and that Someone outside
of time, God himself, set up the programme and made it happen exactly on cue.