Does the Resurrection of Jesus Mean He is the Jewish Messiah?

The resurrection of Jesus is one of the most important doctrines for followers of Jesus the Messiah. The center of Biblical faith is not found in ethical and religious teachings. Instead, it is founded on the person and work of Jesus the Messiah. It is true there is no explicit teaching throughout the entire Tanakh (i.e., The Old Testament) that says, “When the Messiah comes, what qualifies Him to be the Jewish Messiah means that He must rise from the dead.” Eugene Borowitz discusses why the resurrection of Jesus is of relative insignificance:

Jews can see that the story of Jesus’ resurrection is told against the background of Pharisaic belief. Despite this our people has never had difficulty rejecting it. Our Bible is quite clear that the chief sign of the coming of the Messiah is a world of justice and peace. No prophet says the Messiah will die and then be resurrected as a sign to all humanity. Except for the small number of converts to Christianity, Jews in ancient times did not believe Jesus had actually been resurrected. Modern Jews, who believe in the immortality of the soul or in no afterlife at all, similarly reject the Christian claim.[1}

So with these comments in mind, let’s look at the relationship between Jesus being the Messiah and his resurrection from the dead. Remember, the issue that comes up is whether the resurrection of any specific individual is a messianic qualification. The Greek word “christos” from which we get the English word “Christ” carries the same connotations as the Hebrew word — “the Anointed One” from which the word “messiah” is derived. The Jewish Scriptures record the history of those who were anointed for a specific purpose such as priests,  kings, and even prophets.

1: The Resurrection is Necessary for the Messiah to be the Davidic King

King David wanted to build a “house” (or Temple) for the Lord in Jerusalem.[1] God made an unconditional promise to raise up a line of descendants from the house of David. We find texts in the Jewish Scriptures about how the Davidic King’s rule is universal [2] and everlasting. [3]

Let’s look at Paul’s Gospel:

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 (Romans 1:1-5).

In this passage, Paul says through the resurrection Jesus is declared (by God) to be the Son of God and a descendant of David. As seen in 2 Samuel 7:12-17, the immediate prophecy given to David’s house is partially fulfilled in David’s son Solomon. However, as already said, the word “forever” shows there are future descendants to come. Remember, Davidic kings die. It is the line of these kings that is “eternal.” The promises entailed in the covenant with David are divided by the text into two: (1) those to be fulfilled during his lifetime and (2) those to be fulfilled after his death. As Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum explain this:

The promises to be fulfilled after the death of David are also three: (1) an eternal house, (2) kingdom, and (3) throne. There are two ways in which God could give David an eternal house. It could be that every descendant would be successful in producing a male heir—something which has always created problems for every human royal house. Or it could be that someday, a descendant would be born who would never die. According to the New Testament, this is what happened: the eternal house/seed is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, a descendant of David who according to his resurrection is an eternal person.[4]

 #2: The Resurrection is Needed for Jesus to be the Initiator of the New Covenant

 Christians and Messianic Jews realize the importance of the new covenant and most would be familiar with the following Scriptures:

And He said to them, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I say to you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God (Mark 14:24-25).

 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”  In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me (1 Cor. 11:23, 25).

There are passages in the Jewish Scriptures that speak of the coming of the new covenant. For example, Moses summons all of Israel and tells them God “has not given you them hearts to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.”[5] He goes onto tell them God “will circumcise their hearts and the heart of your offspring, so that they will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and that they may live.” [6] The Hebrew expression “the stubbornness of his/their heart” occurs ten times in the Tanakh.[7]  So the need for a new covenant is the solution to this problem. The only place the words “new covenant” are seen is the following text:

Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord.  “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more (Jer. 31: 31-34).

Though Ezekiel never uses the phrase “new covenant,” as Jeremiah does, he mirrors the concept:

Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries among which you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.”’ When they come there, they will remove all its detestable things and all its abominations from it.  And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God (Ezek. 11: 17-20).

 I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord,” declares the Lord God, “when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight.  For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land.  Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God (Ezek. 36: 23-28).

Just like the giving of the Torah (with Moses), the new covenant needs someone to inaugurate it. These passages promise the day when God will place his Spirit permanently inside people so they can walk in holiness and love. We can look forward to:

  1. God promises the forgiveness of sin.[8]
  2. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit [9]
  3. Knowledge of God. [10]
  4. Obedience of God by his people.[11]
  5. The fulfillment of Israel’s future restoration to the land.[12]

Before Jesus rose from the dead, he made a promise related to the new covenant passages. As Jesus says:

 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you (John 14:16,17).

We can conclude with the following syllogism:

  1. If Jesus rose from the dead, He can send the Holy Spirit and inaugurate the new covenant.
  2. Jesus rose from the dead
  3. Therefore, Jesus is the inaugurator of the new covenant.

 Gentiles Participation in the New Covenant

It is abundantly clear the Lord made the new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah (see Jeremiah31:31–34, quoted in Hebrews 8:8–12) and not with the nations of the world, which leads us to ask the question: how do Gentiles get to partake in the new covenant? In response, God’s plan for Israel was to be a light to the nations and be a conduit for Gentiles to come to faith in the one true God.

We see the unique calling in the Abrahamic Covenant. The promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 exhibit’s God’s plan to bless the nations; the Messianic blessing is for all the world. All peoples on all the earth – seventy nations at that time- would be beneficiaries of the promise.[13] So it could not be clearer that God intended to use Abraham as a channel of blessing to the entire world. The election of Israel was for a universal goal— the redemption of humanity. The challenge is how Gentiles comes to appropriate the blessings of the new covenant we previously mentioned. After all, the context of both passages has to do with Israel. Just because the promises about are made to the Northern and Southern Kingdoms, we can’t logically conclude others are not able to participate just because they aren’t part of Israel. The Jewish Scriptures reveal that Gentiles would be restored to God through Israel’s end-time restoration and become united to them.[14]  References to the new covenant foresee Gentile involvement and blessing. [15] The prophet Isaiah illustrates that Gentiles will receive the “trickle down” blessings:

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.” The Lord God, who gathers the dispersed of Israel, declares, “Yet others I will gather to them, to those already gathered. (Is. 56:6-8)

God’s planned for Israel to be a light to the non-Jewish nations from the beginning. Thus, Gentile believers are grafted into Israel’s new covenant (Romans 11:17). As Michael Kogan says:

Has Jesus brought redemption to Israel? No, but he has brought the means of redemption to the gentiles—and that in the name of Israel’s God—thus helping Israel to fulfill its calling to be a blessing to all peoples. A Jewish Messiah for the gentiles! Perhaps, as I have suggested, an inversion of Cyrus’s role as a gentile Messiah for the Jews. Israel is redeemed by engaging in redemptive work. Perhaps redemption is not a final state but a process, a life devoted to bringing oneself and others before God. To live a life in relationship to the Holy One and to help the world to understand itself as the Kingdom of God—which it, all unknowingly, already is—is to participate in redemption, to live a redemptive life. This has been Israel’s calling from the beginning.”[16]

But even though the nations of the world have been allowed to participate in the new covenant, we see God will fulfill his promises to Israel. Though Gentiles are experiencing spiritual blessings during Israel’s partial hardening, this will escalate with national Israel’s salvation.[17] Though Israel that has been partially hardened, there will be a future group of Jewish people who will experience salvation.[18]

#3: The Resurrection is Important to Jesus being a Prophet like Moses

In the New Testament, the Greek word for kingdom is “basileia” which is considered a present reality and involves suffering for those who enter into it. [19] However, the kingdom is futuristic and involves reward [20] as well as glory. [21] Jesus’s inauguration of the kingdom of God included not only the dispensing of the Spirit,[22] but also the ability to perform miracles. But if the kingdom is breaking into human history, then the King has come. Deuteronomy is a pivotal text that speaks about the first coming of the Messiah:

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him. This is according to all that you asked of the Lord your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, or I will die.’ The Lord said to me, ‘They have spoken well. I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. (Deut. 18: 15-18)

To be like Moses, the prophet Moses speaks about will have to be a “sign prophet.” Of course, the Torah clearly states even if a prophet’s signs and wonders do come to pass but the prophet leads the people astray to worship false gods, he is a false prophet.[23] So the ability to do signs and wonders is related to being a prophet of God. While actions by other prophets including Ezekiel and Jeremiah show some significant parallels to Jesus, Jesus is closer to the actions of the Jewish sign prophets such as Moses. We see God used signs to convince Moses of his divine mission: God says, “Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.” [24]

When Moses asks God, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me?” the Lord gives Moses two “signs”  his rod turns into a snake,[25] and his hand becomes leprous.[26] Moses “performed the signs before the people, and they believedthey bowed down and worshiped.” [27] As far as Jesus being a sign prophet like Moses, we need to remember the word “sign” is reserved for what we would call a miracle.  Nicodemus said of Jesus “We know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him” [28] “Sign” (Gr.sēmeion) is also used of the most significant miracle in the New Testament which is the resurrection of the Messiah from the grave. Thus, when asked for a sign, Jesus repeated this prediction of his resurrection.[29] Not only was the resurrection of the Messiah a miracle, but it was a miracle that Jesus predicted.[30]

#4: The Resurrection is Important to Jesus Being a Priest in the order of Melchizedek

One text vital to understanding the priestly work of the Messiah is in the following text: Psalm 110:1-4:

The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”  The Lord will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of Your enemies.” Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power; In holy array, from the womb of the dawn, Your youth are to You as the dew. The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110:1-4)

Who is qualified to be a priest in the order of Melchizedek? While David did perform priestly functions, he could not be a priest forever because he died and remained dead. If the figure mentioned in Psalm 110 is David’s son, how could he be a priest forever and die?  He would have to not die. The individual must be a descendant of David, but one that is greater than David, and he must also serve as priest in some way outside of the qualification of being a Levite.

Here the Psalmist answers saying the priest would be of the order (not the line) of Melchizedek. The word Melchizedek is derived from “melchi,” which means “king” and “zedek’ which means righteousness.” Therefore, Melchizedek means “king of righteousness.” Melchizedek was, as you recall, was greater than Abraham because he existed prior to Abraham. In the Tanakh, the priest was anointed in his role as a mediator between God and the Jewish people through his ability make to make atonement for the whole people (Lev.4:26; 31, 35; 5:6, 10;14:31). By doing this, the priests “sanctified” the people which allowed them to come into God’s presence. Another priestly function in the Tanakhh was to pray or make intercession on behalf of the people. The Messiah’s resurrection is the basis for his priesthood because in that life he can be the “priest forever” (Heb 7:17) who is typified by Melchizedek and portrayed in Psalm 110.  Here we see the purpose of the Aaron-Melchizedek contrast: to establish the permanence of the Messiah’s priestly ministry. One can see how Psalm 110 is stressed throughout Hebrews which is related to the endlessness of the Messiah’s priestly office.

 I discuss these topics in greater length in my book called “The Resurrection of the Jewish Messiah.” 

The Resurrection of the Jewish Messiah by [Chabot, Eric]

 Sources: 

 [1] E. Borowitz, Liberal Judaism (New York: Behrman House. 1984), 216.

[2]  2 Sam. 7:1-4.

[3]  Ps.72:8; Is. 9:7; Zech. 9:9.

[4] 2 Sam. 7:16; Ps. 21:14; 72:17; 89:36-37; Jer. 33:17.

[5] Deut. 29: 4.

[6] Deut. 30: 6.

[7]  Deut. 29:18; Jer. 3:17; 7:24; 9:14; 11:8; 13:10; 16:12; 18:12; 23:17; Ps. 81:12.

[8] Jer. 31:34; Ezek. 36:25.

[9]  Ezek. 36:27.

[10] Jer. 31:34.

[11] Ezek. 36:27; 37:23-24; Jer. 32:39-40.

[12] Jer. 32:36-41; Ezek.36:24-25; 37:11-14.

[13]  Gen. 12:2–3; cf. 22:18; 26:4; 28:14.

[14]  Ps. 87:4-6; Is 11:9-10; 14:1-2; 19:18-25; 25:6-10; 42:1-9; 49:6; 51:4-6; 60:1-16; Jer. 3:17; Zeph. 3:9-10; Zech. 2:11); G.K. Beale and B. L. Gladd,  Hidden But Now Revealed: A Biblical Theology of Mystery (Downers Grove:  IVP Academic. 2014),186.

[15]  Isa. 55:5; Ezek. 36:36; 37:28.

[16]  M. S. Kogan, Opening the Covenant: A Jewish Theology of Christianity (Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2007), 68.

[17]  Rom. 11: 25-26.

[18]  Rom.11:26–29, quoting Is. 59:20–21.

[19] 2 Thess. 1:5.

[20]   Matt 25:34.

[21]  Matt 13:43.

[22]  John 7: 39.

[23] Deut.13: 1-3.

[24]  Exod. 3:12.

[25]. Exod. 4:3.

[26]  Exod. 4:1–7.

[27]  Exod. 4:30–31.

[28]  John 3:2.

[29] Matt. 16:1, 4.

[30]  Matt. 12:40; 16:21; 20:19; John 2:19.

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