Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | January 18, 2008

How is Christ found in the Prophets? (Lesson 5: Question 5 Answer)

5.  How is Christ found in the prophets?

We will complete our considerations of Phillip’s statement to Nathanael by focusing more specifically on how Christ is found in the prophets.  In doing this we continue to focus on the following verses of our text: 

43The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 

The major and minor prophets are commonly what we mean when referring to the prophets.  However, it should also include the historical narratives known by some as early prophets who are traditionally assigned authorship of these books.  The period of the early prophets are commonly thought to have started with Samuel (Acts 3:22-24), who is the first of the significant post-mosaic prophets. In the old covenant the primary source of special revelation for the Word of God was through the prophets.  This revelation, however was not a full disclosure of the things to come and was characterized by the apostles of the New Testament as a mystery (Ephesians 3:1-6).  As redemptive history continued there was a progressive unveiling of the mystery that was first revealed in the Garden (Genesis 3:15).  This unveiling was realized through the giving of the Law of Moses and subsequently through the prophecies preserved in the prophetic writing’s of the covenant Lord’s authorized agents.  In this entry we would like to emphasize one task the old covenant prophets were given, too provide a profile of the promised Seed through the various clues about this mystery that were granted until the fullness of time.  These inquiries were focused on discerning who and at what time Christ would appear, as the apostle Peter points out in his epistle:     

10Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. (1 Peter 1:10-12)

Similar to our last topic, in this topic there is almost an exhaustive quantity of examples that we can appeal to in substantiating the claim.  Due to our limitations of time and space we will be focusing our efforts on two prophecies that provided this profile of the coming Christ.  Then we will conclude with a summary of some other ways the prophets pointed to Christ typologically. 

The first of our two prophecies that will be considered in this entry is one of the more explicit and obvious ones that is difficult to argue against.  The lack of difficulty, however should not be taken in any manner to suggest that it is insignificant.  On the contrary, Isaiah 53 is one of the most significant prophecies about our Lord that is included in the old covenant canonical writings.  This passage comes in the midst of a series of writings that characterize the coming Messiah as a suffering servant of the Lord.  Let us now consider the subject passage, which is being quoted in its entirety due to its peculiar accuracy:  

1Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.   7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?  9And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. 10Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.  11Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. 

We should first point out the amazing accuracy that Isaiah’s prophecy foretells about our Lord’s passion.  This was written approximately 700 years before the events were fulfilled in the life of our Lord.  Moreover, an ancient copy of this text, dated around 160 years before the events were fulfilled, was included with the Dead Sea Scrolls that were found at Qumran.  Clearly, this text carries significant apologetic value in substantiating the claim that the Scriptures contain fulfilled prophecies.  Nonetheless, we would argue the greater significance this text possesses is its invaluable content that defines with incredible precision a robust profile of the coming Christ.  Moreover, a beautiful portrait of the Gospel is painted in this text upholding our Lord’s task of providing active and passive obedience for His people.  The prophet here in this entire chapter upholds the principle of substitution that is necessary for the salvation of God’s people in the covenant of grace.  God’s people being cast into a helpless estate by their first representative, Adam, have amassed a huge debt of iniquity against their Lord.  However, this burden, this enormous debt of iniquity would be completely satisfied by God’s suffering servant.  Only with the removal of this enmity between God and His people could peace be achieved.  However, the peace could not and would not be sustained unless God’s people could remain perfectly (Matthew 5:48) righteous before Him.  Unless they could maintain a perfect record after their debt had been paid would they be able to dwell with their perfect God.  Israel had demonstrated that this sinless perfection was not possible by men and this status would not change in the new covenant either (1 John 1:8).  With man this sinless perfection is impossible on his own (Matthew 19:16-26), hence we have verse 11 of our text.  Here God proclaims that the suffering servant will provide the righteousness required for God’s people to dwell before Him.  Thus by Christ alone not only are the sins of God’s people satisfied, but their righteousness necessary to stand before God is provided once and for all.  This obtains further support when considering the original Hebrew term צדק (tsâdaq) a hiphil verb95 translated as “accounted righteous” or “justify”, which possesses a declarative96 or statative connation of making one righteous.  Hence, this text also linguistically supports the commonly neglected Christ-centered doctrine of double imputation.

   

The next passage from the prophets we will be considering is a less explicit passage, which may be the reason for the variation in interpretations.  Although there are more than seven distinct interpretations on this passage, they essentially can be categorized into two different groups.  The major distinction between the two groups is between those who have a Christ-centered hermeneutic of the Old Testament Scriptures and those who do not.  Having made that statement let us refrain from further commenting and cite the passage, which can be found in Daniel 9:24-27:  

24“Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. 25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”

Amongst the various views the distinction between the two groups revolves around defining who the prince is in this passage that makes a covenant with the people.  Granted that this is a difficult passage, however the distinction between these two views is phenomenal.  On the one hand, several of the views share the opinion that the prince referred to in this passage is antichrist.  This view of the passage is held by different critical scholars and by Dispensational (i.e. Tim Lahaye’s “Left Behind”) scholars. This group is divided in there interpretation of whether this prophecy has already been fulfilled or not.  Some critical scholars would say that it was fulfilled in Antiochus Epiphanies in the second century BC.  Others along with the Dispensational scholars would say that it is yet to be fulfilled in the future.  On the other hand, there are those of us who would radically differ with the view just stated making a 180 degree opposite conclusion in defining this prince.  We would argue that the prince who makes a covenant with the people is Christ, which can be summarized in the following: 

A second view is that Gabriel (who announced the fulfillment of these things to Mary) is here foretelling what Christ would accomplish – his sacrificial death and event culmination in the destruction of the temple.  Jesus is God’s last word; in the past God spoke through prophets but now through his Son.  He fulfilled everything the sanctuary represented.  He made atonement for all sin – there is no need for another, ever.  All of God’s promises are Yes, Amen in him.  So Gabriel is speaking of Christ’s finished work on the cross and what followed. 97 

Obviously, the differences of opinion on this passage are extremely drastic and in order to properly substantiate our conclusion more thorough exegesis of the book of Daniel would be required.  Although a noble task to pursue, it is beyond the scope of this work.  We can briefly conclude, however that the root of the differences depend on the extent that we seek to make Christ the central character of the Scripture.  Especially, with the rich imagery provided in verse 24 of this passage that clearly alludes to our Lord’s earthly mission He is clearly in the context.  To depart from the context and abandoned the subject in verse 24 as the prince who makes a covenant for another in the subsequent verses, seems unthinkable.  This stated we should spare a moment to consider verse 24 of the passage, which further clarifies and defines the profile of the coming Messiah to Daniel’s original audience.  Similar to the previous passage (Isaiah 53) we are instructed that the One to come will have the task of atoning for sin.  Moreover, He will be responsible for bringing an everlasting righteousness for His people.  This passage, however adds some information about the task of the coming One to seal up vision and prophecy.  Thus, we find support in the old covenant prophets that a closing of the canon and cessation to the prophetic word would occur upon its culmination in Christ. This mystery, which was hidden for ages (Colossians 1:25-27) now manifested in God’s gracious compassion in the Gospel is sufficient.  How could we improve upon a message so grand?  We cannot and should not, but should with care and diligence consider the riches of Christ revealed completely in the canon of Scripture.

   

Before we conclude we’d like to briefly point out a few additional ways in which Christ is found in the prophets.  In addition to direct prophecies that created a profile of the coming Messiah, there are also typological examples similar to the examples we pointed out in the Law.    A particularly much loved story of this author is found in Zechariah 3:1-5.  In this passage the principle of the double imputation manifested in the two prophetic passages above is expressed in powerful vivid imagery.  Zechariah is audience to a divine vision where God’s high priest during the post-exilic period is being accused by Satan for wearing dirty garments.  These dirty garments are symbolic of his fallen sinful nature, which precludes him from standing in the presence of the Almighty.  However, the covenant Lord rebukes Satan and proclaims that Joshua (the high priest) is a “brand plucked from the fire”.  The imagery of the brand being plucked from the fire is symbolic of Christ’s vicarious atonement sparing His saints from the fires of hell by taking hell in their place.  Then the covenant Lord proceeds to command that Joshua be clothed with “pure vestments” replacing the dirty garments.  The imagery of the “pure vestments” points to the righteousness of Christ that clothes us and allows us to stand before the thrice holy Lord. Two more brief examples of typology in the prophets will be covered as we move towards the conclusion.  In the book of Jonah98 (see quote) we have typological significance in Jonah’s appeasing the wrath of God bringing peace to the chaotic sea and dwelling in the belly of the whale for three days.  These events were pointing to Christ, His death and resurrection (Matthew 12:38-42).  Another figure whose ordeal typologically pointed to Christ was Daniel in the lions den as summarized in the following:  

Matthew’s account of Jesus’ burial reads somewhat like the account of Daniel’s being sealed in the pit; Daniel’s emergence unhurt parallels Jesus’ resurrection.  Not a bone of his was broken, which is an important observation in John 19:36, highlighting Jesus as the Passover Lamb, the bones of which should not be broken (Exod. 12:46). 99  

We could certainly continue appealing to additional examples of how Christ is found in the prophets.  The abundance of material unfortunately is invariably neglected by many who do not with diligence, seek to find Christ in the Old Testament Scriptures.  The problem with doing this is that it essentially nullifies the usefulness of the Old Testament leaving it susceptible to merely an ethical guide, a source for character studies, or even worse just being ignored.  We hope that this examination undertaken in the last two questions has been useful in pointing out how Christ is front and center in the Old Testament.  After considering in more detail the manner in which the Old Testament points to Christ, we realize just how profound Phillip’s statement was to Nathanael.  We can now move beyond this portion of our text in John and continue with the next verses.   

95 Francis D. Brown The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Boston, MS; HMC, 1906) 842
96 Bruce K. Waltke and M. O’Conner An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Winona Lake, IN; Eisenbrauns, 1990) 433

97 George M. Schwab Hope in the Midst of Hostile World, The Gospel According to Daniel (Phillipsburg, NJ; P&R, 2006) 134-135
98 Bryan D. Estelle Salvation Through Judgment and Mercy, The Gospel According to Jonah (Phillipsburg, NJ; P&R, 2005) 94-95
99 George M. Schwab Hope in the Midst of Hostile World, The Gospel According to Daniel (Phillipsburg, NJ; P&R, 2006) 91

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  1. […] shows inconsistencies in his belief, you can also see his consistencies in another post about the Mystery of Christ.  He cannot distinguish the mysteries revealed in the Church of God.  Of course, the secret things […]


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