Is Jesus Really the Messiah? A Look at The Covenants

Introduction

As I have said before, the Tanakh (the Old Testament) records the anointing with oil of priests ( Exod. 29:1-9), kings (1 Sam 10:1;2 Sam 2:4;1 Kings 1:34), and sometimes prophets (1 Kings 19:16) as a sign of their special function in the Jewish community. Also, when God anointed or authorized for leadership, in many cases, He provided the empowering of the Holy Spirit to complete the task (1 Sam. 16:13; Isa. 61:1). However, just because someone is anointed in the Old Testament to do a specific task doesn’t mean they are “the Messiah.” The messianic concept also has a wider dimension than the royal, priestly, and/or prophetic person. A thorough understanding includes characteristics, tasks, goals, means, and consequences of the messianic person. Also,  other names are used to describe the messianic person other than the “Messiah.” Some of the names include Son of David, Son of God, Son of Man, Prophet, Elect One, Servant, Prince, Branch, Root, Scepter, Star, Chosen One, and Coming One. Therefore, to say Jesus is the Messiah is like asking whether he is the Son of Man, Prophet, Branch, etc.

One thing for sure: The messianic task is directly related to the covenants. In this post, we will look at three covenants.

The Abrahamic Covenant: Gentile Inclusion

We see the unique calling in the Abrahamic Covenant. The promise to Abraham in Gen 12:3 exhibit’s God’s plan to bless the nations. Therefore, the Messianic blessing is for all the world . The 70 nations at the time- would be beneficiaries of the promise-(Gen. 12:2–3; cf. 22:18; 26:4; 28:14). So it could not be clearer that  God intended to use Abraham in such a way that he would be a channel of blessing to the entire world. The election of Israel was for a universal goal which is the redemption of humanity.

As Walter Kaiser says:

There is no mistake that  Abraham was to be more than just a foil for the gospel. Everything he was and did, as the current office-holder of the promise, would have both an “already” and a “not-yet” aspect to the message he spoke and the actions he set forth. The work of providing the Messianic Seed and the regenerating action of redemption were distinctively God’s own unique actions. But the descendants of Abraham, knowing how wide the scope of their influence would be in deciminating the blessing of God, could not rest passively on their laurels and leave the work of missions to God or to a later generation. The patriarchs, and subsequently, the chosen people or nation who came from them, must actively call a waiting and watching world to repentance and to a belief in this Man of Promise who would come from their offspring. (1)

In Aryeh Kaplan’s The Real Messiah: A Jewish Response to Missionaries, we see a list of some of the common expectations for the Messiah:

In the Messianic age, the Jewish people will dwell freely in their land. There will be an “ingathering of the exiles” when all the Jews return to Israel. This will eventually bring all the nations to acknowledge the God of Israel and acknowledge the truth of his teachings. The Messiah will be king over Israel, but in a sense, rule rover the nations. The Jewish concept of the Messiah is that which is clearly taught in the prophets of the Bible. He is a leader of the Jews , strong in wisdom and power and spirit. It is he who will bring complete redemption to the Jewish people both spiritually and physically. Along with this, he will bring eternal love, prosperity and moral perfection to the world. The Jewish Messiah will bring all peoples to God. This is expressed in the Alenu prayer, which concludes all three daily services:

May the world be perfected under the kingdom of the Almighty. Let all the humans call upon Your Name and turn all the world’s evildoers to You. Let everyone on earth know that every knee must bow to you….and let them all accept the yoke of Your Kingdom

Jesus is the only messianic figure that has opened a door for non-Jewish to come to know the one true God. Just as Israel is called to be a light to the entire world (Gen 12:3), the Messiah’s mission is also to be a “light to the nations.”  In relation to Jesus, while a remnant believed in Him, what is more significant is that the church is now the home of 1.4 billion adherents which are predominately Gentiles. Sure, large numbers don’t make a faith true. But another traditional view is that the Messiah will spread the knowledge of the God of Israel to the surrounding nations (Isa.11:9; 40:5; 52:8).

In the history of Judaism, the evidence seems to point to only one potential candidate who can possibly  have fulfilled the promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3. As Richard Bauckham says:

Matthew frames the whole story of Jesus between the identification of him as the descendant of Abraham in the opening verse of the Gospel and, in the closing words of Jesus at the end of the Gospels, the commissions of the disciples of Jesus to the make disciples of all nations. Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus begins with Abraham (1:1-2) not with Adam, as Luke’s does (3:38) nor with David, which would have been sufficient to portray Jesus the Messiah the son of David, which certainly is an important theme here in Matthew’s Gospel. However, for Matthew, Jesus is the Messiah not only for the Jews but also for the Gentiles. He is the descendant of Abraham through whom God’s blessing will reach the nations. [2]

The Davidic Covenant

Both Christians and Jews agree that the Messiah has to be a descendant of David. The area of disagreement is when Christians start to make the claim that Jesus is the divine, Son of God. Why do Christians think Jesus is not only the Davidic King, but the not just another king in the line of David? Even though divine sonship appears in the Hebrew Bible with regards to persons or people groups such as angels (Gen 6:2; Job 1:6; Dan 3:25), and Israel (Ex. 4:22-23; Hos 11;1; Mal. 2:10), the category that has special importance to the Son of God issue is the king. When the divine sonship’s used in the context of the relationship between Israel and the king (2 Sam. 7:14; Ps. 2:7;89:26-27), the sonship theme emphasizes that the king is called or elected to a specific task as well. Furthermore, there is also a special intimacy between God and the king.

The true king was the means by which the Lord related to his people as a nation. So the existence of Israel is directly related to God’s covenant with Israel and Israel’s relationship to God as the King. The Davidic covenant established David as the king over all of Israel. Under David’s rule, there was the defeat of Israel’s enemies, the Philistines. David also captured Jerusalem and established his capital there (2 Sam. 1-6).

While God promised that Israel would have an earthly king (Gen. 17: 6; 49:6; Deut.17: 14-15), he also promised David that one of his descendants would rule on his throne forever (2 Sam.7:12-17; 1 Chr.17:7-15; Ps.89:28-37). In other words, David’s line would eventually culminate in the birth of a person whose eternality will guarantee David’s dynasty, kingdom, and throne forever.

As seen in 2 Sam. 7:1-4, David wanted to build a “house” (or Temple) for the Lord in Jerusalem. God’s response to David was one of rejection. However, as just mentioned, God did make an unconditional promise to raise up a line of descendants from the house of David that would rule forever as the kings of Israel (2 Sam. 7:5-16; 1 Chr.17:7-15; Ps.89:28-370. The desire for the restoration of the Davidic dynasty became even more fervent after the united kingdom of the Israelites split into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah, at the time of King Rehoboam.

The prophets even spoke of a Davidic Messiah who would be unlike any past Davidic king (Is. 9:6-7; 11:1-5; Jer 23:5-6; Mic. 5:2-5). Both Hosea and Ezekiel spoke of the Davidic aspect of the Messiah. While Hosea spoke of a time when the northern tribes of Israel would seek out David, Israel’s king (Hos. 3:5), Ezekiel spoke of a new David who would be a shepherd as well as a prince and a king to Israel (Ezek: 34:23-24; 37:24-25). This king’s function would help restore the Davidic dynasty after the exile.

A Look at the Royal Psalms

Go ahead and read Psalm 2

What do we see here?

1. Psalm 2 should be read as a coronation hymn, (similar to 2 Kings 11:12) and today marks the moment of the king’s crowning.

2. God tells the person to whom he is speaking that He is turning over the dominion and the authority of the entire world to Him (v 8).

3. David did have conquest of all the nations (Edom, Moab, Ammon, Philistia, Amalek, etc-1 Chron. 14:17; 18:11).

4. Vs 11-12: One day God will subjugate all the nations to the rule of the Davidic throne.

Psalm 89 is another royal Psalm.

We see the following:

1. The Davidic King will be elevated over the rivers and seas (v.24- 25).

2. Just as God is the most exalted ruler in heaven (vv.6-9), the Davidic King is the most exalted ruler on earth (v. 27).

3. The Davidic King will be the “firstborn” and enjoy the highest rank among all earthly kings.

4. God promises to establish David’s throne and continue his dynasty from one generation to the next for perpetuity (vv.28-29).

Psalm 110

We see the following:

1. The Davidic King is invited to sit at the royal throne at God’s “right hand” (v.1)

2. The new king is called “lord” (v.1) and called a “priest” after the pattern of Melchizedek.

3. The Davidic King is promised universal dominion by God’s enablement (vv. 2-3; 5-7).

4. God promises to establish David’s throne and continue his dynasty from one generation to the next for perpetuity (vv.28-29).

Let’s look at Romans 1:1-5

“Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints:Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

We see the following:

Paul says through the resurrection, Jesus is installed (by God) as the Son of God (Rom. 1:4). Paul is not saying Jesus is being appointed as The Son of God is a change in Jesus’ essence. The appointment is not in terms of his nature but in terms of his work as a mediator—the messianic age has dawned. Jesus is the Lord—the anti-type of the previous “sons” in the Old Testament (Adam, David, Israel).

Remember, the New Testament authors unanimously declare Jesus as the one who is from the “seed of David,” sent by God to restore God’s kingship over mankind (Matt. 1:1; Acts 13:23; Rom. 1:3,4; 2 Tim:2:8; Rev. 22:16). As seen in 2 Samuel 7:12-17, the immediate prophecy is partially fulfilled in David’s son Solomon. However, as already said, the word “forever” shows there are future descendants to come. God promised David that his “seed” would establish the kingdom. There were two ways for this prophecy to come to pass. Either God could continually raise up a new heir or he could have someone come who would never die. Does this sound like the need for a resurrection?

As Murray Harris says,

“There is a loose parallel in the case of a royal family where a child is ‘born’ a king but subsequently ‘becomes’ king at his coronation. From this standpoint, the resurrection was the coronation or installation of Jesus as the Son of God.” (Harris, M. Raised Immortal: Resurrection and Immortality in the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1983).

The New Covenant

In Ezekiel and Jeremiah, we see the Promises of the New Covenant:

1. God promises regeneration (Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 36:26).

2. God promises the forgiveness of sin (Jeremiah 31:34; Ezekiel 36:25)

3. God pledged the indwelling Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 36:27)

4. God promises the knowledge of God (Jeremiah 31:34).

5. God promises His people would obey Him (Ezekiel 36:27; 37:23-24; Jeremiah 32:39-40).

6. The fulfilling of this covenant was tied to Israel’s future restoration to the land (Jer. 32:36-41; Ezek. 36:24-25; 37:11-14).

Before Jesus rose from the dead, he made a promise that was related to the New Covenant passages:

Just like the giving of the Torah (with Moses), the New Covenant needs someone to inaugurate it. As Jesus says:

“And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, so that He may be with you forever, the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive because it does not see Him nor know Him. But you know Him, for He dwells with you and shall be in you.” John 14:16,17

So we can conclude with following syllogism:

1. If Jesus rose from the dead, He can send the Spirit and inaugurate the New Covenant.

2. Jesus rose from the dead

3. Therefore, Jesus is the inaugurator of the New Covenant.

To see evidence that Jesus rose from the dead, see here:

Also, how can Christians claim this New Covenant was inaugurated  if universal forgiveness for sins has not come to Israel? The context of these passages has to do with Israel. There is a regathering of the Jewish people to the land (Ezek. 36: 24-27). To dodge this question would betray solid exegesis.  In his Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus Vol 4,  Dr. Michael Brown discusses how a Christological reading provides a template for interpreting all the restoration from exile promises in Jeremiah which include:

1. The physical return of the exiles to the land.

2.Their blessed resettlement there

3. Their spiritual renewal and restoration

4. The glorious return of the Messianic king

Each of these promises has a historic, partial fulfillment beginning in the 530’s BC when the first wave of the exiles returned home and when Jerusalem was initially rebuilt and each of these promises has a future, ultimate fulfillment which waits the end of the age. At that time- at the eschaton- there will be a final, supernatural regathering of Israel’s remaining exiles, a Jewish return to God of national proportions, the Messiah’s second coming, the establishing of God’s kingdom on the earth, and the final, glorious rebuilding of Jerusalem (pgs 286-292).

What About Gentiles?

Obviously, God’s plan for Israel was to be light to the nations and be a conduit for Gentiles to come to faith in the one true God.  The challenge is how the Church comes to appropriate the blessings of the New Covenant. After all, as I just said, the context of both of these passages has to do with Israel. It is true that the Old Testament never mentions the “church” when discussing Gentiles as New Covenant beneficiaries.  In response,  this is because the church was an undisclosed mystery during the Old Testament period.  The late Harold W. Hoehner,  concluded:

The mystery mentioned in Ephesians was hidden in God in ages past (3:9). It was something that could not be understood by human ingenuity or study. God revealed it to the apostles and the prophets by the spirit (3:4). Now that it is revealed, it is open to everyone and it is simple to understand and thus not relegated to an intellectual minority. Ephesians views God’s sacred secret as believing Jews and Gentiles united into one body. In the OT Gentiles could be part of the company of God, but they had to become Jews in order to belong to it. In the NT Gentiles do not become Jews nor do Jews become Gentiles. Rather, both believing Jews and Gentiles become one new entity (Eph 2:15-16).–Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002), 433-34.

Also, just because the promises about the New Covenant are made to the Northern and Southern Kingdoms, we can’t  logically conclude that others aren’t t able to participate just because they are not a part of Israel. There are Old Testament references to the New Covenant  that do foresee Gentile involvement and blessing (Isa. 55:5; Ezek. 36:36; 37:28). One passage that illustrates  that Gentiles will receive the “trickle down” blessings is the following:

Also the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to Him, and to love the name of the LORD to be His servants, everyone who keeps from profaning the sabbath, And holds fast My covenant; even those I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar, for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples (Isa 56:6-8).

Also, in Acts 2, we see the following:

 Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying,  Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own  language to which we were born?  Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,  Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”  But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine. ” But Peter,  taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day;  but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, And your old men shall dream dreams; Even on My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit and they shall prophesy.  And I will grant wonders in the sky above And signs on the earth below, Blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke The sun will be turned into darkness And the moon into blood,Before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

We can observe here that there are a large amount of Jews gathered here. And Peter quotes the Joel passage which speaks of the Spirit being poured out on all flesh (Gentiles included). See more on Peter’s use of the Joel text here.

 Furthermore, if God’s plan is to reach the nations, and Israel doesn’t fulfill their role in this process, there’s no reason to think God won’t accomplish his purposes. I still think there is a future fulfillment with Israel (see Romans 11 as well). But I see no reason as to why God would not allow the inauguration of the New Covenant.

In relation to the kingdom/reign of God theme, one of the most debated issues in biblical scholarship is whether Jesus actually offered the earthly,  or political aspect of the kingdom of God.   A look at the content of Jesus and John the Baptist show the kingdom is the central theme of their message: (1)“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near”(Matt.3:2);(2) “Repent, the kingdom of heaven has come near”(Matt. 4:17); (3) “The kingdom of heaven has come near”(Matt 10:7). One of the crucial issues in this debate is the meaning behind the Greek word “engizo” which can mean “has already arrived” or “has drawn near.”  According to New Testament scholar Scot McKnight, it is best taken to mean “has drawn very near but is not yet come.”   To support this view, McKnight says there are passages such as Matt. 21:1, where the travelers have drawn near to Jerusalem but are still in Bethphage (thus “have drawn very near”); in Matt. 21:34, the time for the harvest has drawn near but has not yet arrived; and in Matt. 26:45, the hour of Jesus’ death has drawn so near that its impact is now being felt, but it remains in the future. Therefore, while the kingdom is now operative in some regards, it still has a futuristic aspect in which Israel will be all that God has purposed it to be. — See Scot McKnight. A New Vision For Israel: The Teachings of Jesus in National Context(Grand Rapids; Eerdmans, 1999), 70-155.

Conclusion

Much more can be said about the covenants. But for now we see the covenants are directly related to the entire task of Jesus.

Sources:

1. Walter Kaiser, The Great Commission in the Old Testament, available at http://www.ijfm.org/PDFs_IJFM/13_1_PDFs/01_Kaiser.pdf?vm=r&s=1

2.  Richard Bauckham, Bible and Mission: Christian in a Postmodern World (Carlisle: Paternoster; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 33

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One thought on “Is Jesus Really the Messiah? A Look at The Covenants

  1. allen993 September 6, 2014 / 9:47 pm

    I Believe That Jesus Is The Messiah Because Of His Titled Name Christ Meaning That He’s The One
    The Prophets Had Said Of Him And Predicted About Him Prophesying The Future Of The Restoratio
    n Of Israel Under The Rule Of Their King Jesus Christ The Chosen One Of God The Father Who Ha
    d Pointed Him To Rule Over His People!

    PS The New Covenant In Which God Had Promised To Israel To Send A Future King To Rule
    Over His People And Free Them From Their Transgressors!

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