The concept of Jesus as Messiah needs to be explained more fully at this point. Messiah means the Anointed One and speaks of the anointing with the Holy Spirit that was prophesied of God’s Messiah in the OT (Isaiah 61:1ff, Luke 4:16-30). The term ‘Christ’ is Greek for the ‘Anointed One’ as well. For Jesus, the anointing took place during the inauguration to His ministry at the baptism by John the Baptist (Mt 3:13-17, Luke 3:21f, Jn 1:32-34). After the Holy Spirit came to Him in the form of a dove, He remained on Jesus (Luke 4:4) for the remainder of His ministry in infinite fulness and power (Jn 3:34) and worked tremendous miracles to attest to His Messiahship as well as to His divinity (Jn 5:36, 14:11, Matt 11:4). The NT also makes it clear that Jesus descends from the lineage of David and fulfills the promises of God to David that a future king would take his throne, which would be Israel’s Messiah (Ps 2, Luke 1:32f, Acts 2:24-37). Thus, the NT refers to Jesus in terms of His messianic identity in using the term ‘Christ’ in many places, in the various forms consisting of Jesus Christ, the Lord Jesus Christ, Christ the Lord, the Christ of God, Christ, etc. (Matt 16:20, Jn 20:31). This underscores the prominence given in the NT to this aspect of the identity of Jesus and is vital to the proof that He is the long-awaited Messiah of the Jews.
Although the Jews had a long tradition of their hope of the coming of Messiah to conquer their Gentile enemies and set up a kingdom over the nations ruled by David’s descendant through Israel, the Lord’s first advent did not square with those expectations. Thus, He was not only rejected by the Jews of His day, but also was misunderstood by His own disciples until after His resurrection. When they were expecting a conquering hero to overthrow the Romans, instead their Messiah spoke multiple times of being arrested, mistreated, and then killed, until it actually transpired. Instead of taking the throne over Israel to conquer and then rule the nations in the political sense, their Lord, after rising from the dead, ascended into heaven out of their sight, leaving behind the disciples with a commission to preach the message of salvation to the Jews and then to the world. Thus, their Messiah took a completely different path than what they had been taught in their synagogues. Nevertheless, the chosen disciples remained true to the Lord’s commission and laid down their lives for Him in the end.
One controversy still lingering over Israel’s Messiah to this day is, how will He return to earth? The present-day Jews are still waiting for the first advent of messiah, while still rejecting Jesus as God’s Messiah. Christians however are awaiting Christ’s return to earth, His second advent. But the controversy of the manner of His return revolves mainly around the two views of whether He returns after a period of catastrophic judgment, to set up His political earthly kingdom to rule on David’s throne in the restored nation of Israel, that has accepted Him as Messiah, reigning over and conquering the world for a literal thousand years, until He brings in the Final Judgement or if He remains in heaven as the reigning heir on David’s throne at the right hand of God, spiritually ruling over His kingdom of the Church, which is the Israel of the New Covenant, conquering the entire world through the Gospel, until the end of the world when He finally returns to usher in the Final Judgement? Those are two general views of Christ’s rule and return held by eschatology schools in Christian circles today. But in either view, Jesus reigns as Messiah on the Davidic throne. Also in both views, He remains in heaven from the time of His Ascension ruling on David’s throne until He returns to the earth. During the time on the heavenly throne, He is working through the Church by His written Word and the operation of the Holy Spirit to spread the Gospel of Salvation to all nations in fulfillment of the Great Commission (Matt 28:19f). The main divergence of the two views with respect to Messiah’s return to earth therefore is when that return will occur, to whom He will return, that is, will it be to the Church as a whole or to the nation of Israel in particular, and the circumstances surrounding His return, i.e., to a world entirely conquered by the Gospel or a world in total rebellion and under catastrophic judgement. In any case, when Christians confess Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior (Roms 10:6-13), they are confessing their belief and allegiance to the Messiah of the Bible, the long awaited Hope of Israel, who first came as the Lamb of God to take away their sins and who will come again to the earth as the victorious Lord of all.
To be continued – The Supreme Gift of thThe Supreme Gift of the Ages – Part 3