Jewish people and even some skeptics like to assert that Christians are the ones who have come up with two act play about the coming of the Messiah. In other words, since Jesus failed at the messianic task, Christians then had no choice but to make up a second coming of Jesus. I already have a post called “Was Jesus a Failed Prophet?” here.
While there is much to discuss about this topic, the real question at hand is whether the Old Testament teaches two comings of the Messiah. Let me attempt to offer some helpful tips:
First, Jewish messianism is a concept study. The word “messiah” means “anointed one” and is derived from verbs that have the general meaning of “to rub something” or, more specifically, “to anoint someone.” The Hebrew Bible 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 19:16b) 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 do complete the task (1 Sam. 16:13; Isa. 61:1). However, just because someone was anointed in the Old Testament to perform a specific task doesn’t mean they are “the Messiah.”
So we can conclude that “anointed one” was not used as a title with a capital “M” in the Old Testament.
Second, there are hardly any texts in the Jewish Scriptures that say “When the Messiah comes, he will do x, y, and z. However, most Jewish people think there is going to be a messianic age. Let me give an example:
The only way to define “the Messiah” is as the king who will rule during what we call the Messianic age. The central criterion for evaluating a Messiah must therefore be a single question: Has the Messianic age come? It is only in terms of this question that “the Messiah” means anything. What, then, does the Bible say about the Messianic age? Here is a brief description by famous Christian scholar: “The recovery of independence and power, an era of peace and prosperity, of fidelity to God and his law and justice and fair- dealing and brotherly love among men and of personal rectitude and piety” (G.F. Moore, Judaism, II, P 324). If we think about this sentence for just a moment in the light of the history of the last two thousand years, we will begin to see what enormous obstacles must be overcome if we are to believe in the messianic mission of Jesus. If Jesus was the Messiah, why have suffering and evil continued and even increased in the many centuries since his death.” -David Berger and Michael Wyschogrod, “Jews and Jewish Christianity” A Jewish Response to the Missionary Challenge (Toronto: Jews for Judaism, 2002), 20; cited in Oskar Skarsaune, In The Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity (Downers Grove, ILL: Intervarsity Press, 2002), 302.
“The state of the world must prove that the Messiah has come; not a tract. Don’t you think that when the Messiah arrives, it should not be necessary for his identity to be subject to debate – for the world should be so drastically changed for the better that it should be absolutely incontestable! Why should it be necessary to prove him at all? If the Messiah has come, why should anyone have any doubt?” (Rabbi Chaim Richman, available at http://www.ldolphin.org/messiah.html).
I have already discussed elsewhere that within the Second Temple Jewish period, there are several messianic expectations. But in relation to the objections raised above, one text that is cited about a peaceable kingdom where we see the end of violence in both human society and the world of animals is Isaiah 11: 1-9:
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord— and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.-Isa. 11: 1-9
Here we see no mention of the word “Messiah.” However, we do see the impact of the rule of Messiah in that the world is a different place.
But that leads me to my next point. In many cases, while the word ‘Messiah” is not mentioned, there are names used for the messianic person such as Son of David, Son of God, Son of Man, the Prophet, Elect One, Prince, Branch, Root, Servant of the Lord, Scepter, Star, Chosen One, Coming One, and so forth. For example, we just read a name for the Messiah in Isa. 11:1-9 which is “Branch.”
Another text that is similar to Isaiah 11:1-9 is the following:
The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.- Isa 2: 1-4
Here we see again there is no mention of the word “Messiah. ” But again, there is mention of a figure that will judge between the nations and there will be a time of peace. Another passage that used the name “Branch” is Jer. 23:5-8:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’
In these texts, it is clear Israel will dwell securely in the land. Another similar text that mentions the nations going to Jerusalem to worship a messianic figure is in Zechariah 14. I won’t copy the text. But you can read it here.
So my point is that Jewish people are justified in bringing these texts to our attention. But the problem is it only presents a small portion of the messianic task. Perhaps we can remember the following:
Always remember that the Hebrew word called “Shalom” which means peace, completeness, or wholeness. It can it can refer to either peace between two entities (especially between man and God or between two countries). Why do we lack this wholeness? Sadly, sin causes us to be fragmented. Is there a way to have this Shalom? Is there any way for the world to be peace if we aren’t at peace with God? Do both Jew and Gentile need a radical change of heart so that we can relate to God correctly and our fellow man?
Therefore, what is the messianic task in relation to the New Covenant? (Jer. 31: 31-34). According to Christians, the Messianic King was crucified (Isaiah 52: 13-53: 1-12). For any objections to these texts, see Peter Gentry’s article here called The Atonement in Isaiah’s Fourth. Servant Song (Isaiah 52:13-53:12).
Both Jew and Gentile are impacted by the fall of man. We are both identified in Adam. This is why Jesus (as the second Adam) had to rise from the dead and ascend to the Father (1 Cor.15:1-17; Acts 1: 9-11). Jesus’ current messianic work is a priest-advocate (1Jn. 2:2; Hebrews 7:1-27). The resurrection also had to take place for all of these things to happen. Also, the resurrection is essential for Jesus to be the Davidic King. 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, 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?
Wrong Messianic Qualifications?
Rabbinic Judaism doesn’t accept the death and resurrection of Jesus as messianic qualifications. One of the reasons for this is because they don’t view original sin the same way that both Christians and Messianic believers do. While they do believe in a good and evil inclination, that is a far cry from being identified in Adam. Therefore, for Christians and Messianic believers, no earthly Messiah can reverse the curse of the sin of Adam.
There is nowhere where it explicitly states the Messiah will come only one time. This is why it is incumbent upon Christians to do their homework and study all the messianic texts in great detail. It can be a rewarding experience. To see more on this topic, see our articles section called Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus.