Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth (God the Son: Preincarnate Christ)

Eternity Past

Eternal Son of God

Old Testament Appearances

Old Testament Activities

Old Testament Prophecies

Scripture speaks of both the deity and the humanity of Christ. The person of Christ is fully divine and fully human, a tenet that the early church defended time and time again. Only a fully biblical description can provide an accurate revelation of the existence of the Son of God from eternity past to eternity future. A chronological arrangement of the second person’s existence must begin with eternity past.

Eternity Past

TRIUNITY

Throughout the Old and New Testaments, the writers make reference to distinctions between the persons in the Godhead. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit appear as distinct persons with individual operations. In addition, the biblical writers ascribe divine attributes to those persons. Based on biblical evidence, the unprejudiced mind cannot doubt the existence of a plurality of persons in the Godhead without impugning the clarity, the inerrancy, and the inspiration of the Scriptures. Any accurate discussion of the Trinity must begin and end with what the Bible declares.

The revelation John received from God described the second person as being “with God” (John 1:1), a phrase that indicates a distinctly separate identity. In addition, only a distinct person of the Godhead can receive the love of another person of the Godhead (John 17:24). Their distinct identities also appear in the submission of the Son of God to the Father in the economy of redemption (Phil. 2:6–7; Heb. 10:5–7; see “Old Testament Appearances” [p. 240]). They also communicate with each other and about one another: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39). The Trinitarian baptismal formulation indicates coequality among the three persons of the Trinity: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).

In affirming this biblical testimony about the triunity of God, William G. T. Shedd identified twelve actions and relations demonstrating that one person in the Godhead may do or experience something personally which is received by another person of the Godhead:

One divine Person loves another, John 3:35; dwells in another, John 14:10, 11; suffers from another, Zech. 13:7; knows another, Matt. 11:27; addresses another, Heb. 1:8; is the way to another, John 14:6; speaks of another, Luke 3:22; glorifies another, John 17:5; confers with another, Gen. 1:26, 11:7; plans with another, Isa. 9:6; sends another, Gen. 16:7, John 14:26; rewards another, Phil. 2:5–11; Heb. 2:9.

PREEXISTENCE

What kind of existence did Christ have prior to his incarnation? In other words, what was the state of his preexistence in his deity alone before he took on humanity? The second person of the Trinity resided in heaven and came to earth from heaven at the moment of the miraculous conception of his human nature in the womb of the Virgin Mary (Matt. 1:18–25; Luke 1:26–38). He was sent by the first person of the Trinity (God the Father) as a result of God’s love for mankind: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16–17). The Son came down from heaven (John 3:31) when the Father sent him (John 6:38; 17:3; 1 John 4:9). The arrival of the Son on earth at the incarnation demonstrates that his prior existence was in heaven.

The second person of the Godhead existed before the creation of the universe. Indeed, the Bible identifies him as the Creator: “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3; see 1:10; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16–17; Heb. 1:2, 10). The Creator of all things must exist prior to his act of creation—before the existence of all created things. Thus, the Scriptures testify to the fact that he possessed divine glory “before the world existed” (John 17:5). In that preincarnate existence within the Godhead, the second person of the Trinity experienced the first person’s love (John 17:24). The persons of the Godhead exercised this divine, communicable attribute among themselves throughout eternity past.

The second person of the Godhead is eternal in his nature and existence. The clearest biblical statement appears in John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Lest the reader think that “the beginning” relates merely to the commencement of creation, the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews clearly contrasts the temporary, finite existence of the creation with the permanent, eternal existence of the Creator, the Son of God himself: “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end” (Heb. 1:10–12; see Ps. 102:25–27). The Old Testament describes his existence as “from of old, from ancient days” (Mic. 5:2). Isaiah ascribes the titles “Mighty God” and “Everlasting Father” to him and indicates that the incarnation of the God-man consisted of not only the birth of a child but also the giving of a son (Isa. 9:6). Christ has always existed as the Son of God but became a child only at the moment of his miraculous conception.

Eternal Son of God

The eternal existence of the second person raises a question regarding the relationship he had within the Godhead. As the second person of the Trinity (or “the Word,” as John 1:1 speaks of him), he existed from eternity past. But did he always in eternity past exist as Son? Two major views have arisen: eternal sonship and incarnational sonship.

Hebrews 1:5, at first glance, appears to speak of the Father’s begetting the Son as an event that takes place at a point in time: “You are my Son, today I have begotten you” and “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.” That verse presents some very difficult concepts. Begetting normally speaks of a person’s origin. Moreover, sons are generally subordinate to their fathers. Therefore, the text appears to speak of something incompatible with an eternal Father-Son relationship, which demands that perfect equality and eternality must exist among the persons of the Trinity. The incarnational sonship line of reasoning concludes that sonship indicates the place of voluntary submission to which Christ condescended at his incarnation (see John 5:18; Phil. 2:5–8).

The eternal sonship view rests on the observation that the title Son of God, when applied to Christ in Scripture, seems to always speak of his essential deity and absolute equality with God, not his voluntary subordination. The Jewish leaders of Jesus’s time understood this. John 5:18 says that they sought the death penalty against Jesus, charging him with blasphemy “because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” In that culture, a dignitary’s adult son was deemed equal in stature and privilege with his father. The same deference demanded by a king was afforded to his adult son. The son was, after all, of the very same essence as his father, heir to all the father’s rights and privileges—and therefore equal in every significant regard. So when Jesus was called “Son of God,” it was understood categorically by all as a title of deity, declaring him equal with God and (more significantly) of the same essence as the Father. That is precisely why the Jewish leaders regarded the title Son of God the ultimate high blasphemy.

If Jesus’s sonship signifies his deity and absolute equality with the Father, it cannot be a title that pertains only to his incarnation. In fact, the main gist of what is meant by sonship (and certainly this would include Jesus’s divine essence) must pertain to the eternal attributes of Christ, not merely the humanity he assumed.

The begetting spoken of in Psalm 2 and Hebrews 1 is not an event that takes place in time. Even though, at first glance, Scripture seems to employ terminology with temporal overtones (“today I have begotten you”), the context of Psalm 2:7 surely refers to the eternal “decree” of God. It is reasonable to conclude that the begetting Psalm 2 speaks of is also something that pertains to eternity rather than to a point in time. The temporal language should therefore be understood as figurative, not literal.

Orthodox theologians since the First Council of Constantinople (381) have recognized this, and when dealing with the sonship of Christ, they employ the term eternal generation—which is an admittedly difficult expression. In Spurgeon’s words, it is “a term that does not convey to us any great meaning; it simply covers up our ignorance.” Yet the concept itself is biblical. Scripture refers to Christ as “the only Son from the Father” (John 1:14; see 1:18; 3:16, 18). The Greek word translated “the only Son” (ESV; “only begotten,” KJV, NASB) is monogenēs. The thrust of its meaning has to do with Christ’s utter uniqueness. Literally, it may be rendered “one of a kind”—and yet it also clearly signifies that he is of the very same essence as the Father. Therefore, while monogenēs does not explicitly imply generation, it nevertheless coheres with the biblical concept (cf. Ps. 2:7; John 5:26), for it is precisely his eternal generation that makes Christ the unique Son of the Father.

To say that Christ is “begotten” is itself a difficult concept. Within the realm of creation, the term begotten speaks of the origin of one’s offspring. The begetting of a son denotes his conception—the point at which he comes into being. Some thus assume that “only begotten” refers to the conception of the human Jesus in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Yet Matthew 1:20 attributes the conception of the incarnate Christ to the Holy Spirit, not to God the Father. The begetting referred to in Psalm 2:7 and John 1:14 clearly refers to something more than the conception of Christ’s humanity in Mary’s womb.

Indeed, there is another, more vital, significance to the idea of begetting than merely the origin of one’s offspring. In the design of God, each creature begets offspring “according to its kind” (Gen. 1:11–12, 21–25). The offspring bear the exact likeness of the parent. The fact that a son is generated by the father guarantees that the son shares the same nature as the father. Christ in his deity, however, is not a created being (John 1:1–3). He had no beginning but is as timeless as God himself. Therefore, the “begetting” mentioned in Psalm 2 and its cross-references has nothing to do with the origin of either his deity or his humanity. But it has everything to do with him sharing the same essence as the Father. Expressions like “eternal generation,” “only begotten Son,” and others pertaining to the filiation of Christ must all be understood as underscoring the absolute oneness of essence between Father and Son. In other words, such expressions aren’t intended to evoke the idea of procreation; they are meant to convey the truth about the essential oneness shared by the members of the Trinity.

An incarnational view of Christ’s sonship assumes that Scripture employs father-son terminology anthropomorphically—accommodating unfathomable heavenly truths to our finite minds by casting them in human terms. But human father-son relationships are merely earthly pictures of an infinitely greater heavenly reality. In the eternal sonship view, the one true, archetypal father-son relationship exists eternally within the Trinity. All others are simply earthly replicas, imperfect because they are bound up in mankind’s finiteness yet illustrating a vital eternal reality.

If Christ’s sonship is all about his deity, someone will wonder why this sonship applies only to the second person of the Godhead and not to the third. After all, theologians do not refer to the Holy Spirit as God’s Son. Yet the Spirit is also of the same essence as the Father. The full, undiluted, undivided essence of God belongs alike to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is but one essence, yet he exists in three persons. The three persons are coequal, but they are still distinct persons. The chief characteristics that distinguish the persons are wrapped up in the properties suggested by the names Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Theologians have labeled these properties paternity, filiation, and spiration. That such distinctions are vital to our understanding of the Trinity is clear from Scripture. How to explain them fully remains something of a mystery. In fact, many aspects of these truths may remain forever inscrutable, but this basic understanding of the eternal relationships within the Trinity nonetheless represents the best consensus of Christian understanding over the centuries of church history. The doctrines of Christ’s eternal sonship and eternal generation ought therefore to be affirmed, even while acknowledging them as mysteries into which we cannot expect to pry too deeply.

Incarnational sonship viewpoints normally present a case based on either divine declarations concerning the Son at his birth (Mark 1:1; Luke 1:32, 35), his baptism (Matt. 3:17), or his transfiguration (Matt. 17:5), or on the apostolic declaration concerning his resurrection (Acts 13:30–33; Rom. 1:4). In light of the arguments presented above against incarnational sonship, the divine declarations at his baptism and transfiguration merely express the Father’s approval and endorsement, not the initial appointment of the second person of the Godhead to the position and role of Son. The reference in Luke 1:35, when taken in light of Luke 3:38, could be the identification of Jesus as the second Adam. The texts mentioning his sonship in the context of or in association with his resurrection do not state that his resurrection “made” him the Son of God. Rather, the resurrection revealed in a powerful fashion that he was the Son of God, not a mere man, and was evidence proving his sonship, rather than installing him as Son. As Schreiner aptly notes, “It is crucial to recall that the one who is exalted as Son of God in power was already the Son.”7 The endorsements at his baptism and transfiguration support such a conclusion, since those occasions preceded Jesus’s resurrection but emphatically declare his sonship. What, then, was the purpose of the Father’s approving endorsements?

In calling Jesus His beloved Son, the Father declared not only a relationship of divine nature but a relationship of divine love. They had a relationship of mutual love, commitment, and identification in every way.

In saying, “with whom I am well-pleased,” the Father declared His approval with everything the Son was, said, and did. Everything about Jesus was in perfect accord with the Father’s will and plan.

Old Testament Appearances

One of the primary occasions of the phenomenon referred to as a theophany (“an appearance of God”) involves the presence of God at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19). Other instances of divine manifestation arise with the ministry of “the angel of the Lord [Yahweh]” in passages like the following:

       1.    Genesis 16:7–13: In this passage the narrator (Moses, not Hagar) identifies the messenger of Yahweh as Yahweh: “So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her” (16:13).

       2.    Exodus 3:2–4: Later in history, the messenger of Yahweh appears to Moses in a burning bush at Mount Horeb in the Sinai Desert. The narrator (again, Moses) declares that “God called to him out of the bush” (3:4).

       3.    Judges 6:11–23: The writer of the book of Judges (not Gideon or the messenger of Yahweh) reports that “the Lord turned to him and said …” (6:14).

Such appearances seem to possess one significant feature: all of them, as James Borland puts it, “reveal, at least in a partial manner, something about [God] Himself, or His will, to the recipient.” Should we identify the divine person in such appearances as the preincarnate Son of God (i.e., a christophany)? Borland defines these appearances as “those unsought, intermittent and temporary, visible and audible manifestations of God the Son in human form, by which God communicated something to certain conscious human beings on earth prior to the birth of Jesus Christ.” When the biblical account associates “the angel of the Lord” with a theophany, “messenger” might provide a better translation than “angel,” because this title denotes the function or office of the individual, not his nature. In addition, the Scripture speaks of him as actually being God. He bears the name “Lord,” he speaks as God, and he displays divine attributes and authority. Most significantly, however, he receives worship (Matt. 2:2, 11; 14:33; 28:9, 17). Given what John 1:18 says about the Son—that “no one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known”—the appearances of God in the Old Testament must have been the Son, not the Father. The phrase “made him known” in Greek (exēgeomai) is the word from which we derive the verb exegete and its cognate noun, exegesis. Literally, the Son of God “exegeted” the Father to mankind.

Old Testament Activities

The works of the second person of the Godhead in the Old Testament include creation, providence, revelation, and judgment. These are acts of deity and demonstrate that he is God. Jesus’s works in the New Testament (e.g., resurrection) parallel the works attributed to him in the Old Testament and add significantly to those works.

CREATION

Obviously, this work of the second person of the Godhead takes place in his preincarnate state. Old Testament references to the Creator or Maker do not distinguish the divine person doing the creating from other persons of the Godhead. The New Testament, however, emphatically makes that very distinction:

All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:3)

He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. (John 1:10)

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (Col. 1:16)

But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. (Heb. 1:2)

You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands. (Heb. 1:10)

The Son’s title “the Word” (John 1:1) affirms that God created all things by his spoken word—he spoke all things into existence (see the repetition of “God said” in Gen. 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, and the direct declarations in Ps. 33:6 in the Old Testament and Heb. 11:3 in the New Testament). Although all three persons of the Godhead participated in some way in creation, the Scripture identifies the Son of God as speaking everything into existence.

PROVIDENCE

Providence involves the care of God over all his creation. It includes the outworking of all his decrees in order that he might ultimately be glorified in all that he has done—that is, in the execution of his programs of kingdom and redemption in all their details. Since the Trinity acted together to create man in the image of God (“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness,” Gen. 1:26), the Son of God, the preincarnate Christ, participated in initiating the kingdom program. When mankind rebelled against God after the flood, again the Trinity (including the Son) intervened in world history to direct the outcome (dividing mankind’s language and scattering them on the surface of the earth) and to ensure that the divine program in the world would continue to unfold under the direction of all three persons of the Godhead (Gen. 11:7).

The Son of God, as Messiah, acts personally and directly to intervene in world history to establish the kingdom of God on earth (see Dan. 2:31–46; Matt. 23:37–25:46; Rev. 11:15). Christ was involved in the rejection of unbelieving Israel and the establishment of the church—and will yet be involved in the salvation of Israel (Rom. 11:13–36). Christ also works to redeem people and to establish them in every good work (2 Thessalonians 2). In addition, Christ has continually upheld the creation, sustaining and directing it in its role related to God’s kingdom program (Heb. 1:3)—more than just preserving all things as in Col. 1:17. And he governed the outworking of God’s program among mankind.

One significant aspect of the providence of God relates to his goodness. In the Old Testament, God’s goodness emerges in the actions of one who appears to be the second person of the Godhead. Psalm 23 speaks of Yahweh as shepherd—one who cares for and provides. His goodness pursues his people all the days of their lives (Ps. 23:6). Jesus identified himself as that shepherd (John 10:11, “the good shepherd”). Acts 14:17 similarly describes God’s goodness in showing that he “did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” Throughout all ages, the work of saving mankind from their sins was the work of the Son of God, whose goodness appeared in that very action of providing for forgiveness of sins:

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4–7)

REVELATION

The term inspiration identifies the work of God in giving written revelation to mankind. The key biblical text regarding inspiration is 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is breathed out [inspired] by God and profitable …” The phrase “breathed out by God” is but one word in Greek, and that word is an adjective modifying “Scripture.” In fact, the next adjective (“profitable”) also modifies “Scripture.” Biblically speaking, Scripture, not the writers, possesses the quality of being “inspired” or “God-breathed”—just as “profitable” is also a quality of Scripture, not the writers. The point of the word for “God-breathed” is that the Scriptures owe their “origin and contents to the divine breath, the Spirit of God.” Thus, Paul by the superintending work of the Spirit of God writes to Timothy that inspiration relates directly to inscripturation (the writing of Scripture).

Each divine person of the Godhead was involved as both the author and the subject of the Scriptures. The second person of the Godhead fulfilled a vital role in the production of the Bible. Old Testament writers speak often of the appearance of God in some manifestation to his people for the purpose of delivering them, leading them, or communicating with them (see “Old Testament Appearances” [p. 240]). These theophanies reveal something about God or his will to those who witness the appearance. Since these events consist of appearances by the Son of God, they reveal the role of the second person of the Godhead in giving revelation leading to the production of Scripture. Jesus himself confirms that the Father sent his word by his messenger:

For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. (John 12:49)

Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. (John 14:10)

I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. (John 17:6–8)

I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. (John 17:14)

The Son of God appears in both the Old Testament and the New as one speaking to God’s people. Thus the Bible reveals that the divine spokesman is the Son of God himself, the very One whom the apostle John describes as “the Word” in the opening to his Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). The God who speaks is the second person of the Godhead, the preincarnate Christ—the same One who spoke the universe and all it contains into existence in Genesis 1 (see John 1:2–3, 10). When God imparted revelation to the prophets, the Son of God was often personally present.

Genesis 15:1–16 records how “the word of the Lord” appeared to Abram (15:1). He even brought Abram outside his tent to personally show him the stars (15:5). Then the Lord appeared as a “smoking fire pot and a flaming torch” (15:17) passing between the pieces of the sacrifices which Abram had prepared. The similarity of the smoke and the torch to the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night during the exodus of Israel from Egypt is significant, especially in this context, which contains the prophecy about God bringing Israel back up out of Egypt (15:13–14). These personal appearances of a person of the Godhead testify to the role of the “angel of the Lord,” the preincarnate Christ in a theophany. Moses’s encounter with God in the burning bush at Mount Sinai (Ex. 3:1–12) provides yet another occasion when “the angel of the Lord” (Ex. 3:2; see Acts 7:30, 35) gave revelation by means of his personal presence. Other such incidents are reported in Judges 6:11–18; Isaiah 6 (see John 12:41); and Jeremiah 1:4–10.

The Spirit also plays a key role in the prophets’ recording of that revelation. Therefore, the Father sends his messenger (the preincarnate Son) to his people with the divine message, and the Holy Spirit superintends the inscripturation of that message. While this Trinitarian involvement in inspiration seems to faithfully represent core functions for each person, there yet remain some areas of revelation and inscripturation in which their functions overlap. For example, David says, “The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me; his word is on my tongue” (2 Sam. 23:2).

JUDGMENT

The Son of God, as the Son of Man (a messianic title from Dan. 7:13), will judge the wicked and the righteous: “When he comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.… Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’ ” (Matt. 25:31, 41). John’s Gospel explains the appointment of the Son of God as the Judge of all: “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father” (John 5:22–23). Authority to bring judgment rests on the fact that he is the Son of Man (John 5:27). Who better than the one person of the Godhead who is truly human and who has experienced life as a man in a fallen world and remained blameless, without sin? The Son of God came into this world in order to be the Son of Man and to execute judgment (John 9:39). Thus Peter declares that Jesus had commanded his disciples “to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42). The apostle Paul confirms Jesus’s appointment as the Judge by stating, “According to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” (Rom. 2:16).

On the other hand, Jesus says that, in his first coming, he did not judge those who do not obey his words, because he “did not come to judge the world but to save the world” (John 12:47). However, “on the last day,” at his second coming, the words of Jesus will judge those who reject him and do not give heed to his words. Jesus did not speak on his own authority; the Father commanded Jesus what to speak (John 12:49). Because he is one with the Father, his judgment is always just (John 5:30) and righteous. Therefore the Father “commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:30–31). He who is the Word of God speaks all things into existence and also pronounces judgment—he is Lord at the first as Creator, then Lord as Savior, and Lord at the end as Judge.

Besides judging the unrighteous, Jesus will also sit in an evaluative judgment of believers for the purpose of rewarding them: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:10). Elsewhere, Paul speaks of himself standing at Christ’s judgment: “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8).

Old Testament Prophecies

One very good reason to search the Old Testament for prophecies concerning Christ is that Jesus himself declared that the Prophets had spoken about him: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39). After his crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus expounded from the Scriptures (“Moses and all the Prophets,” Luke 24:27) concerning himself, saying, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44). This is the only time in Scripture that the Psalms are included with the Law and the Prophets with reference to the Messiah. Table 4.1 identifies what psalms Jesus might have included in the instruction he gave on the road to Emmaus.

Table 4.1 Christ in the Psalms (Luke 24:44)

Psalms  New Testament Quote  Significance  
2:1–12  Acts 4:25–26; 13:33; Heb. 1:5; 5:5  Incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection  
8:3–8  1 Cor. 15:27–28; Eph. 1:22; Heb. 2:5–10  Creation  
16:8–11  Acts 2:24–31; 13:35–37  Death, resurrection  
22:1–31  Matt. 27:35–46; John 19:23–24; Heb. 2:12; 5:5  Incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection  
40:6–8  Heb. 10:5–9  Incarnation  
41:9  John 13:18, 21  Betrayal  
45:6–7  Heb. 1:8–9  Deity  
68:18  Eph. 4:8  Ascension, enthronement  
69:20–21, 25  Matt. 27:34, 48; Acts 1:15–20  Betrayal, crucifixion  
72:6–17  —  Millennial kingship  
78:1–2, 15  Matt. 13:35; 1 Cor. 10:4  Theophany, earthly teaching ministry  
89:3–37  Acts 2:30  Millennial kingship  
102:25–27  Heb. 1:10–12  Creation, eternality  
109:6–19  Acts 1:15–20  Betrayal  
110:1–7  Matt. 22:43–45; Acts. 2:33–35; Heb. 1:13; 5:6–10; 6:20; 7:24  Deity, ascension, heavenly priesthood, millennial kingship  
118:22–23  Matt. 21:42; Mark 12:10–11; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:8–12; 1 Pet. 2:7  Rejection as Savior  
132:12–18  Acts 2:30  Millennial kingship  

The Jews themselves read the Hebrew Bible in such a way that many came to understand its prophecies as direct predictions of the coming Messiah. After Philip had been called to service as a disciple of Jesus (John 1:43), he sought Nathanael in order to tell him that Jesus of Nazareth was truly the one about whom Moses and the prophets had written (John 1:45). That said, it is necessary to inject at this point the recognition of a dangerous trend to read the Lord Jesus Christ into every Old Testament text. This practice ignores the true prophecies, rejects the essential hermeneutic of authorial intent, kills authentic exegesis and exposition, and makes meaningless the Old Testament to its original Jewish readers. Such is not a spiritual approach but rather an attack on the divine meaning of the Old Testament.

So what are the Old Testament prophecies concerning Christ? What did the Old Testament reveal concerning Jesus’s coming and his work? Table 4.2 presents 120 of those Old Testament prophecies. A study of the Old Testament prophecies would constitute a large volume all on its own. Nevertheless, a few key examples will suffice for the purposes of this volume.

Table 4.2 Messianic Prophecies of the Old Testament

Prophecy  Old Testament References  New Testament Fulfillment  
Seed of the woman  Gen. 3:15  Gal. 4:4; Heb. 2:14  
Through Noah’s sons  Gen. 9:27  Luke 3:36  
Seed of Abraham  Gen. 12:3  Matt. 1:1; Gal. 3:8, 16  
Blessing through Abraham  Gen. 12:3; 28:14  Gal. 3:8, 16; Heb. 6:14  
Seed of Isaac  Gen. 17:19; 21:12  Rom. 9:7; Heb. 11:18  
Blessing to nations  Gen. 18:18; 22:18; 26:4  Gal. 3:8  
Of the tribe of Judah  Gen. 49:10  Rev. 5:5  
No bone broken  Ex. 12:46  John 19:36  
Blessing to firstborn son  Ex. 13:2  Luke 2:23  
No bone broken  Num. 9:12  John 19:36  
Serpent in wilderness  Num. 21:8–9  John 3:14–15  
A star out of Jacob  Num. 24:17–19  Matt. 2:2; Luke 1:33, 78; Rev. 22:16  
King of kings, Lord of lords  Deut. 10:17  1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 17:14; 19:16  
As a prophet  Deut. 18:15, 18–19  John 6:14; 7:40; Acts 3:22–23  
Cursed on the tree  Deut. 21:23  Gal. 3:13  
The throne of David established forever  2 Sam. 7:12–13, 16, 25–26; 1 Chron. 17:11–14, 23–27; 2 Chron. 21:7  Matt. 19:28; 25:31; Mark 12:37; Luke 1:32; Acts 2:30; 13:22–23; Rom. 1:3; 2 Tim. 2:8; Heb. 1:5, 8; 8:1; 12:2; Rev. 22:1  
A promised Redeemer  Job 19:25–27  John 5:28–29; Gal. 4:4–5; Eph. 1:7, 11, 14  
Declared to be the Son of God  Ps. 2:1–12  Matt. 3:17; Mark 1:11; Acts 4:25–26; 13:33; Heb. 1:5; 5:5; Rev. 2:26–27; 19:15–16  
His resurrection  Ps. 16:8–10  Acts 2:27; 13:35; 26:23  
Mocked and insulted  Ps. 22:7–8  Matt. 27:39–43, 45–49  
Hands and feet pierced  Ps. 22:16  Matt. 27:31, 35–36  
Soldiers cast lots for coat  Ps. 22:18  Mark 15:20, 24–25; Luke 23:34; John 19:23–24  
Accused by false witnesses  Ps. 27:12  Matt. 26:59–60; Mark 14:57–58  
He commits his spirit  Ps. 31:5  Luke 23:46  
No bone broken  Ps. 34:20  John 19:36  
Accused by false witnesses  Ps. 35:11  Matt. 26:59–61; Mark 14:57–58  
Hated without reason  Ps. 35:19  John 15:24–25  
Friends stand afar off  Ps. 38:11  Matt. 27:55; Mark 15:40; Luke 23:49  
Came to do the Father’s will  Ps. 40:6–8  Heb. 10:5–9  
Betrayed by a friend  Ps. 41:9  Matt. 26:47–50; Mark 14:17–21; Luke 22:21–23; John 13:18–19  
Known for righteousness  Ps. 45:6–7  Heb. 1:8–9  
His resurrection  Ps. 49:15  Mark 16:6  
Betrayed by a friend  Ps. 55:12–14  John 13:18  
His ascension  Ps. 68:18  Eph. 4:8  
Hated without reason  Ps. 69:4  John 15:25  
Stung by reproaches  Ps. 69:9  Rom. 15:3  
Given gall and vinegar  Ps. 69:21  Matt. 27:34, 48; Mark 15:23; Luke 23:36; John 19:29  
Exalted by God  Ps. 72:1–19  Matt. 2:2; Phil. 2:9–11; Hebrews 1–8  
He speaks in parables  Ps. 78:2  Matt. 13:34–35  
Seed of David exalted  Ps. 89:3–4, 19, 27–29, 35–37  Luke 1:32; Acts 2:30; 13:23; Rom. 1:3; 2 Tim. 2:8  
Son of Man comes in glory  Ps. 102:16  Luke 21:27; Rev. 12:5–10  
Remains the same  Ps. 102:24–27  Heb. 1:10–12  
Prays for his enemies  Ps. 109:4  Luke 23:34  
Another to succeed Judas  Ps. 109:7–8  Acts 1:16–26  
A priest like Melchizedek  Ps. 110:1–7  Matt. 22:41–45; 26:64; Mark 12:35–37; 16:19; Acts 7:56; Eph. 1:20; Heb. 1:13; 2:8; 5:6; 6:20; 7:21; 8:1; 10:11–13; 12:2  
The chief cornerstone  Ps. 118:22–23  Matt. 21:42; Mark 12:10–11; Luke 20:17; John 1:11; Acts 4:11; Eph. 2:20; 1 Pet. 2:4  
The King comes in the name of the Lord  Ps. 118:26  Matt. 21:9; 23:39; Mark 11:9; Luke 13:35; 19:38; John 12:13  
David’s seed to reign  Ps. 132:11; see 2 Sam. 7:12–13, 16, 25–26, 29  Matt. 1:1  
Declared to be the Son of God  Prov. 30:4  Matt. 3:17; Mark 14:61–62; Luke 1:35; John 3:13; 9:35–38; Rom. 1:2–4; 2 Pet. 1:17  
Repentance for the nations  Isa. 2:2–4  Luke 24:47  
Hearts are hardened  Isa. 6:9–10  Matt. 13:14–15; John 12:39–40; Acts 28:25–27  
Born of a virgin  Isa. 7:14  Matt. 1:22–23  
God with us  Isa. 7:14  Matt. 1:23  
A rock of offense  Isa. 8:14–15  Rom. 9:33; 1 Pet. 2:8  
Light out of darkness  Isa. 9:1–2  Matt. 4:14–16; Luke 2:32  
Full of wisdom and power  Isa. 11:1–10  Luke 2:52; 1 Cor. 1:30  
Reigning on the throne of David  Isa. 16:4–5  Luke 1:31–33  
The key of David  Isa. 22:21–25  Rev. 3:7  
Death swallowed up in victory  Isa. 25:8  1 Cor. 15:54  
A stone in Zion  Isa. 28:16  Rom. 9:33; 1 Pet. 2:6  
The deaf hear, the blind see  Isa. 29:18  Matt. 11:5; John 9:39  
Healing for the needy  Isa. 35:5–6  Matt. 9:30; 11:5; 12:22; 20:34; 21:14; Mark 7:30; John 5:9  
Make ready the way of the Lord  Isa. 40:3–5  Matt. 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4–5; John 1:23  
The Shepherd dies for his sheep  Isa. 40:11  John 10:11; Heb. 13:20; 1 Pet. 2:24–25  
The meek servant  Isa. 42:1–6  Matt. 12:17–21  
A light to the Gentiles  Isa. 49:6  Luke 2:32; Acts 13:47; 2 Cor. 6:2  
Scourged and spat on  Isa. 50:6  Matt. 26:67; 27:26, 30; Mark 14:65; 15:15, 19; Luke 22:63–65; John 19:1  
Rejected by his people  Isa. 52:13–53:12  Matt. 27:1–2; Luke 23:1–25  
His word not believed  Isa. 53:1  John 12:37–38  
Suffered vicariously  Isa. 53:4–5, 11–12  Matt. 8:17; John 11:49–52; Acts 10:43; 13:38–39; Rom. 5:18–19; 1 Cor. 15:3; Eph. 1:7; 1 Pet. 2:24; 1 John 1:7  
Silent when accused  Isa. 53:7  Matt. 27:12–14; Mark 15:3–4; Acts 8:28–35; 1 Pet. 2:23  
No deceit in his words  Isa. 53:9  1 Pet. 2:22  
Buried with the rich  Isa. 53:9  Matt. 27:57–60  
Crucified with transgressors  Isa. 53:12  Matt. 27:38; Mark 15:27[–28]; Luke 23:32–34, 39–41; John 19:18  
Leader and commander  Isa. 55:4  Acts 5:31; Rev. 1:5  
Calling of those who are not Israel  Isa. 55:5  John 10:16; Rom. 9:25–26  
Deliverer out of Zion  Isa. 59:20–21  Rom. 11:26–27  
Nations walk in the light  Isa. 60:1–3  Luke 2:32  
Anointed by the Spirit  Isa. 61:1  Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38  
Anointed to preach liberty  Isa. 61:1–2  Luke 4:17–19  
Called by a new name  Isa. 62:1–4, 12  Rev. 2:17; 3:12  
A vesture dipped in blood  Isa. 63:1–3  Rev. 19:13  
The elect shall inherit  Isa. 65:9  Rom. 11:5, 7  
New heavens and a new earth  Isa. 65:17–25  2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1  
The Lord our righteousness  Jer. 23:5–6  1 Cor. 1:30; Phil. 3:9  
Born a King  Jer. 30:9  John 18:37; Rev. 1:5  
Massacre of infants  Jer. 31:15  Matt. 2:17–18  
Conceived by the Holy Spirit  Jer. 31:22  Matt. 1:20; Luke 1:35  
A new covenant  Jer. 31:31–34  Matt. 26:27–29; Mark 14:22–24; Luke 22:15–20; 1 Cor. 11:25; Heb. 8:8–12; 10:15–17; 12:24; 13:20  
A spiritual house  Jer. 33:15–17  John 2:19–21; Eph. 2:20–21; 1 Pet. 2:5  
A tree planted by God  Ezek. 17:22–24  Matt. 13:31–32  
The humble exalted  Ezek. 21:26–27  Luke 1:52  
The good Shepherd  Ezek. 34:23–24  John 10:11  
Stone cut without hands  Dan. 2:34–35  Acts 4:10–12  
His kingdom triumphant  Dan. 2:44–45  Luke 1:33; 1 Cor. 15:24; Rev. 11:15  
The Son of Man coming on the clouds in glory  Dan. 7:13–14  Matt. 24:30; 25:31; 26:64; Mark 14:61–62; Acts 1:9–11; Rev. 1:7  
Kingdom for the saints  Dan. 7:27  Luke 1:33; 1 Cor. 15:24; Rev. 11:15  
Time of his death  Dan. 9:24–27  Matt. 24:15–21; Luke 3:1  
Israel restored  Hos. 3:5  Rom. 11:25–27  
Flight into Egypt  Hos. 11:1  Matt. 2:15  
Promise of the Spirit  Joel 2:28–32  Acts 2:17–21; Rom. 15:13  
The sun darkened  Amos 8:9  Matt. 24:29; Acts 2:20; Rev. 6:12  
Restoration of the tabernacle  Amos 9:11–12  Acts 15:16–18  
Israel regathered  Mic. 2:12–13  John 10:14, 26  
The kingdom established  Mic. 4:1–8  Luke 1:33  
Born in Bethlehem  Mic. 5:2  Matt. 2:1; Luke 2:4, 10–11  
Earth filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord  Hab. 2:14  Rev. 21:23–26  
The Lamb on the throne  Zech. 2:10–13  Rev. 5:13; 21:24; 22:1–5  
A holy priesthood  Zech. 3:8  1 Pet. 2:5  
A heavenly High Priest  Zech. 6:12–13  Heb. 4:14; 8:1–2  
The King comes  Zech. 9:9  Matt. 21:5  
Triumphal entry  Zech. 9:9  Matt. 21:4–5; Mark 11:9–10; Luke 19:38; John 12:13–15  
Sold for pieces of silver  Zech. 11:12–13  Matt. 26:14–15  
Money buys potter’s field  Zech. 11:12–13  Matt. 27:9–10  
Piercing of his body  Zech. 12:10  John 19:34, 37  
Shepherd smitten, sheep scattered  Zech. 13:7  Matt. 26:31; John 16:32  
Preceded by a forerunner  Mal. 3:1  Matt. 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:27  
Our sins purged  Mal. 3:3  Heb. 1:3  
The light of the world  Mal. 4:2–3  Luke 1:78; John 1:9; 12:46; 2 Pet. 1:19; Rev. 2:28; 22:16  
The coming of Elijah  Mal. 4:5–6  Matt. 11:14; 17:10–12  

THE MESSIAH IS THE SEED OF THE WOMAN (GEN. 3:15)

God’s verdict regarding the serpent was not completed with the curse of crawling on its belly in Genesis 3:14. He continued, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring [lit., seed] and her offspring” (Gen. 3:15). The physical, bodily effects of the curse were one thing. Alienation to some other living thing was yet another. The serpent would not only crawl on its belly all its life, it would also enter into a kind of warfare with Eve and her offspring. This warfare would last beyond that one serpent’s lifetime. It would involve its own offspring.

What is meant by “your offspring [seed]”? Some have suggested that it is a figure of speech referring to evil men. They believe that Genesis 3:15 depicts a conflict between good men and evil men. Others, however, believe that the meaning is broader than that. They believe that a kingdom of evil exists over which Satan rules. He was the one who empowered the serpent and who was ultimately responsible for what happened. The New Testament confirms such an interpretation in Romans 16:20, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet,” and in Revelation 12:9, “And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world.”

This interpretation affirms that God intended the offspring of the woman in a broader sense as well. It refers to a kingdom of good over which some descendant of the woman will ultimately become the ruler. That future individual will finally defeat Satan and put an end to the conflict between the two kingdoms: “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel’ ” (Gen. 3:15). As in the case of Jesus addressing Satan through Peter in Matthew 16:23, God addressed Satan through the serpent. Satan will strike at the heel of the woman’s offspring. The attack will result in harm but not defeat. The woman’s offspring, however, will do more than attack Satan—he will crush his head. The crushing of the head symbolizes total defeat. The New Testament writers understood that the offspring of the woman is the Messiah (see Matt. 1:23; Gal. 4:4; 1 Tim. 2:15; Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8). Such an interpretation makes this verse the first messianic prophecy in Scripture.

The rest of Scripture echoes Genesis 3:15 with its two protagonists of the head and the heel (Ps. 22:16; Luke 24:39–40; Rev. 13:3). A recovered skeleton of at least one first-century crucifixion provides evidence that the Roman executioners placed the nails so that the victim could not tear free. The feet were nailed through the structure of the foot below the ankle in a place that could be identified as closely related to the heel—either nailing each foot to one side of the vertical beam or twisting the lower body sideways to nail both feet with one nail.

The serpent (Satan’s representative) deceived Eve. Therefore, a woman will be the mother of the ultimate victor over Satan. In the midst of God’s pronouncement of punishment on the serpent, Moses pens a note of hope, a glimpse of God’s mercy and grace. An end to the conflict of the ages that started at the fall of man will come. Thus, some Bible scholars have called Genesis 3:15 the protoevangelium (“the first gospel”), because it is the earliest prophecy promising a future deliverer.

THE MESSIAH IS THE SON OF GOD (PSALM 2)

Many Bible scholars treat Psalm 2 as merely a reference to one of the Davidic kings, not as a messianic prophecy. However, the New Testament treats the psalm as prophetic and messianic, citing it eighteen times (seven times in the Gospels, five times in Revelation, three times in Hebrews, twice in Acts, and once in Philippians). Verses 1–3 reveal a worldwide rebellion against the Lord and their king, God’s anointed. In verses 4–6, he confirms his chosen king over the nations, and in verses 7–9, God confirms that his king is also his Son. Then he invites the world to contemplate his Son and to render full obedience to him (2:10–12). No historical king of Judah in the Davidic line ever fulfilled the elements of this psalm. The psalmist depicts God’s Son as exercising universal dominion and judgment. Indeed, God demands that world leaders render to his Son spiritual service and fear by their submission to him. Spiritual blessing accrues to those who “take refuge in” God’s Son—something never promised for submitting to a human king. The similarity of the individual and his actions in Psalm 2 and Isaiah 9:6 indicates that they are identical individuals.

TRINITARIAN REFERENCES TO MESSIAH

A number of passages in the book of Isaiah identify three distinct, divine persons:

•     Isaiah 42:1: “I,” “my servant,” and “my Spirit”

•     Isaiah 48:16: “the Lord God,” “I,” and “his Spirit”

•     Isaiah 61:1: “the Lord,” “me,” and “the Spirit of the Lord God”

•     Isaiah 63:7–10: “the Lord,” “the angel of his presence,” and “his Holy Spirit”

In these texts the Lord’s servant will be sent by the Lord, and the Lord will empower him with his Spirit. Jesus confirms that Isaiah 61:1 speaks of him as the Lord’s servant (Luke 4:17–21). Such specificity regarding distinct persons of the Godhead can be traced back to much earlier Old Testament references to multiple divine persons. The following are but a brief sampling of such references:

•     Genesis 1:1–2: God and the Spirit of God

•     Genesis 19:24: two persons named Yahweh (“the Lord”), one in heaven and one on the earth (see 18:17, 22–33)

•     Joshua 5:13–15: “the commander of the Lord’s army” and “the Lord” himself

THE MESSIAH IS THE MEDIATOR BETWEEN GOD AND MAN (JOB 33:23–28)

The apostle Paul’s identification of Jesus as the God-man serving as the Mediator between God and mankind (1 Tim. 2:5) agrees with what the oldest book in the Old Testament had previously revealed. Job admitted that God was so just or righteous that a person could not be just in his presence (Job 9:2). The question was not how an individual could be justified but how one could have the quality of being just. People are sinners before a holy God. They can have no dealings with their just and holy God. There is only one way a person can communicate effectively with God—by means of a mediator. Job faced a hopeless future unless someone would intervene on his behalf (Job 33:24–28). He was destined for “the pit.” Death would eventually take him, and then he would need to appear before the holy God. Already, in Job 19:25, Job had expressed his conviction that his Redeemer lived and would stand on the earth in the latter days. Who is this and how does he qualify as Job’s Redeemer?

Job’s Redeemer-Mediator must be both God and man (Job 9:32–33; 16:21). According to Job 33:23, that individual is an “angel” (“messenger”), a “mediator,” and “one of a thousand” (meaning “one of a kind,” like the New Testament’s use of monogenēs, “only begotten,” in texts like John 1:14, 18; 3:16; 1 John 4:9). This individual is able to declare what is right (Job 33:33) and to deliver Job from the pit by means of the “ransom” that this Mediator possesses (Job 33:24). The rest of the picture regarding this Redeemer-Mediator in the book of Job includes the following descriptions:

       1.    Being the faithful witness in heaven (Job 16:19; see Rev. 1:5)

       2.    Possessing a record on high (Job 16:19; see Heb. 9:16, 24)

       3.    Being Redeemer (Job 19:25; 33:24, 28; see Gen. 48:16; Gal. 3:8–22)

       4.    Being a Mediator (Job 33:23; see 1 Tim. 2:5–6)

       5.    Being the unique One (Job 33:23; see John 3:16)

       6.    Being the One who cleanses from sin (Job 9:30–31; see 1 John 1:5–2:2)

       7.    Being the healer (Job 33:25; see James 5:16; 1 Pet. 2:24)

       8.    Being the song giver (Job 33:27; see Eph. 5:18–19; Col. 3:16)

THE MESSIAH IS PROPHET, PRIEST, AND KING

The promise of the prophetic office of the Messiah appears first in Deuteronomy 18 in the revelation concerning a prophet “greater than Moses” (Deut. 18:15–22). Prophets like Moses (and other prophets who followed him from Joshua to Malachi) fulfilled a mediatorial office. The people of Israel could not approach or bear the Lord’s glorious presence. His spoken revelation also transcended their ability to properly preserve, propagate, and obey what the Lord demanded of them. Deuteronomy 5:23–27 describes this state of affairs in regard to the divine presence and the divine word. Israel needed a mediator who could act on their behalf by communicating with God and by transmitting his words to them. This mediatorial ministry continued to be necessary for subsequent generations with whom God established his covenants.

Revelation and covenant enforcement require a divine representative, a great Prophet. In Acts 3:22–23, the apostle Peter declared that the Messiah fulfilled the prophecy of Deuteronomy 18:15–22. Stephen affirmed the same fulfillment and associated the great prophet with the theophany at the burning bush (Acts 7:35–38; see Ex. 3:2). First-century Jews understood Moses’s prophecy as a reference to their Messiah (John 1:21, 25), and the people of Jerusalem recognized Jesus as a prophet (Matt. 21:11; see Luke 7:16; 24:19). Jesus himself identified his own prophetic office when he stated that he must die in Jerusalem, “for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem” (Luke 13:33).

In the future, that prophet, the high priesthood, and the kingship over God’s people will be combined in one person. The Old Testament announced that this person would also bear the title “the Branch” (Isa. 4:2; 11:1; Jer. 23:5–6; 33:14–22; Zech. 3:8; 6:12). Zechariah 6:12–13 specifically revealed that this Messiah-Priest-King would build the temple about which Haggai had prophesied (Hag. 2:1–9). Table 4.3 presents Walter C. Kaiser’s compilation of these Old Testament references to “the Branch” in comparison to the individual emphases of the four New Testament Gospels.

Table 4.3 “The Branch” in View of the Gospels

The Messianic Title  The Gospels  
“David, a righteous Branch, a king” (Jer. 23:5; 33:15)  The Gospel of Matthew: kingly aspect  
“My servant the Branch” (Zech. 3:8)  The Gospel of Mark: servant aspect  
“The man, whose name is Branch” (Zech. 6:12)  The Gospel of Luke: human aspect  
“The Branch of Yahweh” (Isa. 4:2)  The Gospel of John: divine aspect  

Of course, the future High Priest is the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Hebrews 5:5–6 says, “So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’; as he says also in another place, ‘You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.’ ” Then, in Hebrews 7:14, the writer points out that David and his descendants are of the tribe of Judah: “For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.” Jesus’s high priesthood is greater than any priesthood Israel ever experienced, and his kingship is forever (see Psalm 110). The Messiah is divine, the great Priest-King to come.

Thus, the messianic kingship and priesthood move through biblical revelation and Israel’s history until they converge in the Messiah in Zechariah’s prophecies. Jesus sacrificed his own blood in a priestly manner and propitiated the wrath of almighty God, which had been stirred up by the sins of his people. Then Jesus rose triumphantly from the grave to sit down on an eternal throne, from which he rules the entire universe evermore and invites everyone to come and bow the knee in faith and submission to him as the great Priest-King. The identification of Jesus’s present enthronement has a great bearing on an accurate understanding of his present and his future interventions in this planet’s affairs. Jesus today does not sit on the throne of David that was promised to the greater Son of David in 2 Samuel 7:13–16 (cf. Rev. 3:21). Today, Jesus is King over the universal kingdom of God. In the future he will return to sit on the throne of David (Matt. 25:31) and reign for one thousand years as the Davidic King over what has been variously termed “the messianic kingdom,” “the intermediate kingdom,” and “the millennial kingdom” (Rev. 20:1–6). The Old and New Testaments reveal the differences between these two distinct reigns (eternal vs. one thousand years), which have distinct roles (heavenly king vs. earthly king) and distinct purposes (fulfilling the kingdom program of God from creation onward vs. fulfilling the covenants with Israel).[1]


[1] MacArthur, J., & Mayhue, R., eds. (2017). Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth (pp. 235–254). Crossway.