by Rev. Mark Robinson
I noticed the individual approaching from a distance. There was a confidence in his steps, along with a desire for interaction. He had seen our sign asking, “Can you be Jewish and Christian?” Probably no older than 25, Steven brashly proclaimed to me, “I have just come from a seminar refuting your belief that Jesus is the Messiah.”
With the rise of Jewish people coming to the Lord in the last 30 – 40 years, there has arisen in the Jewish community trained apologists who refute the belief that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. These individuals generally come from among the ultra-orthodox of Judaism and more often than not, from the Lubavitcher sect. They are often referred to as anti-missionaries. They produce books, pamphlets, audio and video products, and host seminars showing how to refute missionaries to the Jews.
Having had numerous discussions with different anti-missionaries, I was looking forward to this interaction with Steven. “Great,” I answered. “Give me your best shot.”
“There is no way Jesus can be our Messiah. When our Messiah comes he will bring peace to the world. Jesus didn’t bring peace and so he can’t be the Messiah!,” he triumphantly declared. I smiled as this was a very common “refutation” taught by the anti-missionaries. I then proceeded to explain about the two comings of the Messiah – the first as the Lamb of God and the second as the Lion of Judah.
Mountain Peaks of Prophecy
The Jewish Bible, what Christians refer to as the Old Testament, has numerous prophecies about the Messiah of Israel. These prophecies fit into one of two scenarios. The first is what Christians refer to as the first coming, when Jesus comes meekly as a Lamb, willingly dying for the sins of the world. The second is when He returns in judgment to put down God’s enemies and Israel’s, and then sets up His kingdom on earth.
These are the two “mountain peaks” of prophecy – His first coming as the Lamb of God, and His second coming as the Lion of Judah. Both are of equal importance. On occasions in the Jewish Scripture these two “mountain peaks” of prophecy are juxtapositioned either in consecutive verses or at times in phrases in one verse.
When looking at these “mountain peak” passages it is as if you are looking at two equally sized mountains separated by a valley. If you look from behind one of the mountains toward the other you only see one mountain. But, if you look from a side view you see both equally sized mountains with a valley between them. For Jewish people they are looking at these two “mountain peaks” of prophecy from behind the mountain of the second coming of Messiah, when He will bring peace to the world and rule in righteousness. Thus they can’t see the mountain of prophecy concerning his first coming. Looking at the these mountains from the correct perspective, from a side view, one will see that there is a “valley” of time separating the two.
It is because of this wrong “view” of Scripture that Jewish people like Steven only see Messiah coming to set up a world kingdom of peace. They can’t “see” that Messiah must come first as the Savior before He returns as King.
The rectifying of this is through showing a Jewish person the prophecies of Messiah’s first coming as the suffering Messiah, and then showing the prophecies of His return as the reigning Messiah.
Isaiah 61:1-2 is one such passage that couples the first and second coming together in one verse.
1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
In Isaiah 40 we are told to “comfort ye, comfort ye my people” (vs. 1) by the Lord. God’s people are the Jewish people. The proclamation is to be shouted from the mountains to the people of Israel (vs. 9). We are to proclaim “Behold your God” (vs. 9) for He is coming and “His reward is with him, and his work before him” (vs. 10). The comfort He provides only comes through the Messiah of Israel.
The work of the Messiah, often referred to as the Servant in Isaiah, is seen in much detail in the four servant passages found in Isaiah 42:1-7, Isaiah 49:1-6, Isaiah 50:4-11, and Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12. All of these passages primarily deal with the first coming of Messiah. Just prior to the fourth servant passage that clearly lays out the vicarious suffering of Messiah for the sins of all, God comforts His people, and ultimately the world, through the redemption and salvation He has provided.
Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the LORD hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. Isaiah 52:9-10
God has comforted the people. All the ends of the earth will see His salvation. What has been commanded in chapter 40, “comfort ye, comfort ye my people,” now becomes possible through the work of the servant.
In verse one of Isaiah 61, we are introduced to the individual God has promised to send to provide the comfort that both Jew and Gentile need. We are told the LORD has “anointed” this one to do a number of things – preach good tidings, bind up the broken hearted, proclaim liberty, open the prison, proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and proclaim the day of vengeance of God.
The one “anointed” is the one referred to as Messiah. Messiah comes from the Hebrew word Meshiach (maw-shee’-akh)and means “anointed one.” He has been sent by God to bring good news (good tidings).
16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.
The visit to the synagogue on this Sabbath would be different from all the others. Raised in Nazareth, Jesus would have attended the services at this synagogue regularly. When it came time to read from the scroll of the prophets, Jesus opened to the passage of Isaiah 61:1-2.
As He read from the passage He didn’t complete the reading of the second verse. He stopped with the phrase “to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” Closing the scroll, He walked over to the minister of the synagogue and handed him the scroll. This highly unusual occurrence mystified the worshipers. All eyes were riveted on Jesus as He went to His seat.
After sitting down Jesus proclaimed, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” This was a clear claim that He was the promised One of Israel, the prophesied Messiah to come, the “anointed” of God.
When He closed the scroll after reading “to preach the acceptable year of the Lord,” He was saying the “acceptable year of the Lord” was involved with His time presently on the earth.
In purposefully leaving out “and the day of vengeance of our God,” He was relegating this event to a later time period, the period Christians refer to as the second coming which takes place after the judgment of God is poured out during the Tribulation period.
Isaiah speaks of this time period in chapter 63 when the man coming from Edom and Bozrah, who is Messiah, says “for the day of vengeance is in mine heart.” The language used in the first six verses of this chapter speaks of God’s anger being poured out on His enemies. It is a description of what is commonly referred to as the Battle of Armageddon, the climatic event of the seven year Tribulation period where God, through His Messiah, destroys the armies coming against Israel and delivers Israel. Consider the vivid description used “for the day of vengeance.” “Traveling in the greatness of his strength,” “I have trodden the winepress alone,” “I will tread them in my anger,” “trample them in my fury,” “their blood shall be sprinkled on my garments,” “my fury it upheld me,” “make them drunk in my fury,” and “I will bring down their strength to the earth.”
The winepress analogy is used in Revelation 19:15 where it speaks of Jesus’ return from heaven to destroy the nations of the world at the end of the Tribulation period. “And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.”
When Jesus closed the scroll with the statement “to preach the acceptable year of the Lord,” he was leaving the “the day of vengeance of our God” to a later time period.
With the clear Scriptural delineation between two comings of Messiah, many Christians wonder why Jewish people don’t “see it.” With the suffering of Messiah seen in passages such as Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, Daniel 9:26, and Zechariah 12:10 and the reigning and victorious Messiah seen in such passages as Isaiah 11, Isaiah 63, Micah 4, and Zechariah 14, it is clear there are two separate works of Messiah.
Although there is a variety of reasons Jewish people today don’t “see” the two comings of Messiah in Scripture, there is recorded for us in Jewish history the recognition of the different “works” of Messiah.
In Talmudic times (A.D. 200 – A.D. 500), the belief in two Messiahs was developed by Jewish authorities. One was referred to as Messiah ben Joseph, because he would suffer, and the other as Messiah ben David, because he would be victorious over the nations in battle and reign as King. This is the exact portrait of the Scriptures.
Raphael Patai in his excellent book, The Messiah Texts, develops in detail this teaching. He says:
“When the death of the Messiah became an established tenet in Talmudic times, this was felt to be irreconcilable with the belief in Messiah as the Redeemer who would usher in the blissful millennium of the Messianic age. The dilemma was solved by splitting the person of the Messiah in two; one of them, called Messiah ben Joseph, was to raise the armies of Israel against their enemies, and, after many victories and miracles, would fall victim to Gog and Magog. The other, Messiah ben David, will come after him…, and will lead Israel to the ultimate victory, the triumph, and the Messianic era of bliss.”1
To answer the dilemma of the suffering Messiah and victorious Messiah, the Talmudic sages postulated there are two Messiahs each having one work. The Scriptural teaching is that there is one Messiah with two works. Those two works are separated by a “valley” of time.
The “mountain peaks” of prophecy are clear to all honest students of Scripture. There is a plethora of Scriptures differentiating the suffering and reigning works of Messiah. So why don’t Jewish people “see” this?
First, most are ignorant about the contents of their Bible. Secondly, the religious teachers in Judaism, when they address the subject of Messiah at all, solely focus on his victory in battle, reign over the earth, and the establishment of the blissful peace of his reign. As with Steven in my opening story, Jewish people are taught of the victorious reigning Messiah.
In essence, Jewish people have a wrong perspective. They are looking at Messiah from behind the “mountain” of his reign. They can’t see the “mountain” of suffering because the “mountain” of his reign blocks the view. The need is for them to come into the valley. From this perspective, they will be able to see the work of suffering Messiah and the work of King Messiah separated by a “valley” of time. This perspective will let them “see” Jesus coming first as Messiah to suffer and die for the sins of all, Isaiah 53, and then return as Messiah to reign and rule, Isaiah 11, putting down Israel’s enemies.
1. Patai, Raphael, The Messiah Texts, Wayne State University Press, 1979, page 166.