By John F. Walvoord
Part 2: The Incarnation of the Son of God
Prophecies concerning the Life of Christ
A remarkable foreview of the life of Christ is afforded in many Messianic prophecies which portray the character of His life. His important public ministry was to be preceded by a messenger, “Behold, I send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant, whom ye desire, behold, he cometh, saith Jehovah of hosts” (A.R.V., Mal 3:1). Previously Isaiah had spoken of the “voice of one that crieth, Prepare ye in the wilderness the way of Jehovah” (A.R.V., Isa 40:3). There can be no doubt that the reference in both cases is to John the Baptist (cf. Matt 3:3; 11:10 ; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:27), and all the Gospels record the fulfillment of these prophecies.
The coming Messiah was in His life to fulfill the offices of prophet, priest, and king. Moses had predicted the coming of such a prophet (Deut 18:15-18). and the New Testament points specifically to its fulfillment in Christ (John 1:21; 4:29 ; 5:46 ; 6:14 ; 8:28 ; 14:24 ; Acts 3:20-23). The priesthood of Christ was anticipated in the whole priestly system given by revelation, first the patriarchal and later the Levitical orders. The prophecy given in 1 Samuel 2:35 can be fulfilled completely only by Christ, even if partially fulfilled by Samuel. The prediction of Psalm 110:4, quoted in Hebrews 5:6, and discussed at length in Hebrews, is clearly fulfilled in Christ. Zechariah combines the priestly and kingly offices in his prophecy, “He shall be a priest upon his throne” (Zech 6:13). The context indicates that the reference is to Christ. the same. The entire eleventh chapter of Isaiah is a picture of the rule of the King.
Jeremiah repeats these same major aspects of the future kingship of the Messiah: “Behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called: Jehovah our righteousness” (A.R.V., Jer 23:5, 6). The prophecy is turned to its particular effect on Israel. Zechariah speaks of the king coming as the Savior and Deliverer of His people: “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, even upon a colt the foal of an ass” (A.R.V., Zech 9:9). Here we have Christ in His character as King in His first coming, in contrast to previous passages quoted which referred to the kingdom after the second advent. The Zechariah passage has its fulfillment in the New Testament (Matt 21:4-9; Mark 11:9, 10; Luke 19:37-38). The Old Testament foreview of Christ as King includes, then, both His first advent and the kingdom to follow the second advent.
That the Messiah was to be a Savior and Deliverer had been anticipated in many Old Testament passages beginning with the protevangelium of Genesis 3:15. Even Job, who lived before the day of written Scripture, knew of the hope of a coming Redeemer (Job 19:25). Almost all the passages which are Messianic speak of it. The classic passage predicting the saving work of Christ is, of course, Isaiah 53.
One of the important lines of prediction concerning the coming Messiah is embraced in the figure of Christ as a corner stone and foundation. The principal Old Testament passage is found in Isaiah 28:14-18. The numerous passages each contribute something to the total revelation (Gen 49:24; 1 Kgs 7:10-11; Ps 118:22; Isa 8:14; Zech 4:7. Cf. New Testament passages, Acts 4:11; Rom 9:33; 11:11 ; Eph 2:20; 1 Pet 2:6-8). The thought in these passages is that Christ will bring security to Israel.
Considerable attention is given in the Old Testament to the Messiah as the Servant of Jehovah. Important passages dealing with this line of truth are found in Isaiah 42:1-7; 49:1-7 ; 52:13-53:12 . The New Testament alludes to these predictions in regard to the Messiah frequently (Matt 8:17; 12:17-21 ; Luke 22:37; John 12:38; Acts 3:13, 26; 4:27, 30 ; 8:32 ; Rom 10:13; 15:21 ; 1 Pet 2:22-24). The term Servant of Jehovah as found in the Old Testament sometimes has reference to Israel, sometimes to the obedient remnant of Israel, sometimes specifically to the Messiah, and in Isaiah 37:35 refers to David. The principal idea in these predictions is that of presenting Christ as the obedient servant, who through His sufferings and death redeems His people.
In connection with the prophecies of the coming Messianic kingdom, it is revealed that the Messiah will perform many great miracles. The testimony to this is not always related specifically to the Messiah, but is given as a description of the period. Hence in Isaiah 35:5-6, it is written, “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing; for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.” While the immediate context deals with the Messianic kingdom, it is at once a description of the credentials of the Messiah. Christ called attention to the significance of His miraculous works as a testimony to Himself (John 5:36).
Taken as a whole, the Old Testament provides a remarkable picture of the coming Messiah. He is to be preceded by a messenger, to be a Savior and Deliverer when He comes, to execute the offices of prophet, priest, and king, to be a corner stone and foundation, to fulfill the expectation of an obedient servant of Jehovah who would redeem His people, and one whose life should be filled with good and miraculous works. His works and teachings were to manifest the power of the Spirit of Jehovah (Isa 11:2-3).
Prophecies concerning the Death of Christ
The Old Testament foreview of the death of Christ is given principally in Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53, though many other passages contribute to the doctrine. Isaiah 53, presenting the suffering of the servant of Jehovah, gives most of the major idetails of the death of Christ. He is to be brutally beaten (Isa 52:14), “wounded for our transgressions” and “bruised for our iniquities” (Isa 53:5); His sufferings provide peace and healing (Isa 53:5). He is to be silent before His persecutors as a lamb led to the slaughter (Isa 53:7). His soul will be an offering for sin (Isa 53:10). He will die with the wicked, but will be buried with the rich (Isa 53:9). His sufferings arise not from His own sin, for “he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth” (A.R.V., Isa 53:9). To say the least, we have in Isaiah an accurate and detailed account of the sufferings and death of Christ together with a theological reason for His death—He was dying for the sins of others, as a satisfaction to God. Even a casual examination of the New Testament record reveals a fulfillment of all the details of this prophecy.
While on the cross, Christ Himself quoted from Psalm 22, thereby calling attention to the predictions afforded in this Psalm. The Messiah is to be forsaken of God (Ps 22:1), ridiculed and taunted (Ps 22:6-8); to suffer unspeakable agony (Ps 22:14-16); His bones were to be pulled out of joint (Ps 22:14); He was to suffer thirst (Ps 22:15); His hands and feet were to be pierced—an anticipation of His crucifixion (Ps 22:16); His garments were to be divided with the exception of His vesture, for which they would cast lots (Ps 22:18); He was to be brought into death (Ps 22:15). This Psalm accordingly presents a graphic picture of the sufferings of Christ on the cross fulfilled in every detail by the events recorded in the Gospels. that it refers specifically to the Son of God. Psalm 72, which affords a general view of the coming kingdom, closes with a benediction, “And blessed be his glorious name for ever; And let the whole earth be filled with his glory” (A.R.V.). Isaiah predicts, “In that day shall the branch of Jehovah be beautiful and glorious” (A.R.V., Isa 4:2). The reference to the “branch” seems clearly a reference to Christ. Isaiah asks the question, “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength?” (A.R.V., Isa 63:1). The context makes the reference to the Messiah evident. Daniel gives a comprehensive picture: “And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (A.R.V., Dan 7:14).
These numerous references to the glory of the Messiah in contrast to His sufferings gave occasion to Peter’s mention of this problem: “The prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired about this salvation; they inquired what person or time was indicated by the Spirit of Christ within them when predicting the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glory” (R.S.V., 1 Pet 1:10). In other words, the Old Testament prophets themselves while recognizing the dual prophecies of suffering and glory of the Messiah were not able to harmonize this apparent contradiction. The testimony of the Old Testament is, therefore, abundantly clear on this aspect of Messianic prophecy.
The New Testament confirms this interpretation,. Christ at His ascension returned to glory. His glorious present session in heaven is mentioned often in Scripture (Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51; Heb 4:14; 9:24 ; 1 Pet 3:22). From this present glorious state He will return for the church (John 14:1-3; 1 Cor 15:51-52; 1 Thess 4:13-18). After the church is taken up to glory, the church will be judged by Christ (1 Cor 3:12-15; 9:16-27 ; 2 Cor 5:8-10; Rev 3:11). The glorious return of Christ follows (Matt 26:64; Luke 21:27; Acts 1:11). After the reign on earth the eternal state is ushered in (1 Cor 15:24-28). From the moment of the ascension, however, Christ is in His glorious estate and all His works and appearances are in keeping with His glory. The New Testament adds many of the details to the outline of prophecy, but the fact of His glory is as well attested by the Old Testament.
The incarnation of Christ is attended by all the important revelation of these Old Testament Messianic prophecies. The incarnation has in its essential character the fulfillment of the revealed plan of God. With the Old Testament background in view, the incarnation assumes its rightful place of central importance in the outworking of the sovereign plan of God.
(To be continued in the July-September Number, 1948)
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