The spirit of the Lord is upon me,
And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, To-day hath this scripture been fulfilled in your ears" (Luke iv.16-21).
This sublime passage is a quotation of Isaiah lxi.1-3. It contains several words indicating a character in which the Messiah was to appear, strikingly appreciated by the Jews at the time of the prophecy. Especially from the time of the Babylonish captivity did the Jews make prominent the idea of a deliverer in the person of their promised Messiah. "Release to the captives" and "liberty to the bruised" -- ill-treated by their captors -- was to them a precious proclamation, looked forward to with great anxiety, when deliverance should be proclaimed and Israel should again be the free and favored people of God.
Since this characteristic was so long appreciated as a matter of prophecy, and Jesus announced its fulfillment in Himself, it is a befitting occasion on which to briefly notice the relation of Christ to prophecy. The understanding of this relationship is important at any time, because it furnishes a valuable class of evidence as to the Messiahship and divinity of Jesus. It is especially so at this time, since infidels are making a special effort to destroy the value of prophecy in this respect; and some from whom we should expect better things seem to be assisting in the work.
A great deal of importance was given to Messianic prophecies during the days of the Saviour and the apostolic age of the church. Indeed, this was the main source of evidence to the Jewish mind that Jesus was the Christ. And the use made of it by Christ and the apostles shows that it was abundant.
When Jesus talked with two of the disciples on their way to Emmaus, on the day of the resurrection, He said to them: "O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Behooved it not the Christ to suffer these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." Here Jesus Himself states that Moses and all the prophets prophesied of Him. And when He had returned to Jerusalem, and stood in the midst of the eleven, He said to them: "These are my words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, how that all things must needs be fulfilled which are written in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms concerning me." Thus the books of Moses, and all the prophets, and the psalms, contained teaching concerning the Christ, according to Jesus' own statement; and it was all in the form of type and prophecy. Indeed, types are but forms of prophecy.
Jesus charged the Jews with not believing Moses, and gave that as the reason why they did not believe on Him. He said: "For if ye believe Moses, ye would believe me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings how shall ye believe my words?" Like modern skeptics, they did not believe the writings of Moses concerning the Messiah -- did not believe that they referred to the Messiah; hence their value was destroyed, and they did not believe in Jesus. Had they believed these prophecies they would have believed on Christ.
On the day of Pentecost Peter convinced the three thousand by argument from prophecy concerning the Christ. In his sermon in Solomon's porch the argument was likewise based upon prophecy. Paul's manner of preaching (see Acts xvii.1-3) was to show the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the Messiah and then show that these were fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth. Therefore the conclusion was necessitated that He was the Christ. As this was Paul's method, he evidently attached to prophecy the highest possible value. That all the apostles did this is evident from the statement of Peter. Speaking of their being "eye-witnesses of His majesty," and of the infallible signs He gave of His divinity, he says: "And we have the word of prophecy made more sure; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a lamp shining in a dark place."
How are we to determine the Messianic prophecies? We unhesitatingly reply, by the example of Christ and the apostles. Three important points are established by their testimony: (1) They teach that such prophecies are numerous, and made by Moses, David, and all the prophets. (2) They quote or refer to specifically, and thus apply, quite a number. It is evident that these are Messianic, because so applied. (3) Since Christ and the apostles designate a large number as Messianic, we are safe in concluding that others are so that are of like character. They are infallible judges, and they furnish us a criterion by which to judge.
It is not true, as claimed, that in order to a Messianic prophecy, the prophet making it must so understand it at the time. On the contrary, Peter tells us that they searched diligently to ascertain the things and the time of them referred to in their own prophecies concerning the sufferings of the Christ and the glory that was to follow. (See I. Pet. i.10-12). They, therefore, did not understand the things or the time referred to. Since they did not know these, they did not know that the prophecy referred to the Messiah. The same Peter did not understand some of his own utterances on the day of Pentecost. His language here makes the promise of salvation to Gentiles as well as to Jews. But he did not so understand it till he had a special revelation at Joppa and the house of Cornelius.
Nor is it true, as claimed, that a Messianic prophecy must have been so understood by the people before its fulfillment. Many of the Messianic prophecies were not understood as such in Old Testament times. The Saviour charged this want of understanding upon His disciples, and told them that if they had correctly interpreted Moses and the prophets, in this very respect, they would have known that His death was required by such prophecies, and they would not have received the story of His resurrection as an idle tale. Moreover, He charged the Jews that this failure to understand Messianic prophecies, as such, was the ground of their not believing on Him. (See John v.45-47).
In regard to types, which is a feature of prophetic teaching, and a strong chapter of evidence as to inspiration, Clark Braden says: "There are but few real types in the Bible; that is, there are but few things that men devised and acted with the intention of symbolizing or typifying anything future. There are exceeding few that were devised or acted with that as their sole object." It would be difficult for one to crowd more flagrant error into the same space than the above contains, if he were to make it a specialty. It contains the following positions, all of which are false: (1) That there are but few types in the Bible. (2) That types are devised by men. (3) That types were "devised and acted" by the same party. (4) That they were "devised and acted" by men with the intention of typifying something future. (5) That this, in order to their value as evidence of inspiration, should have been "their sole object." This will do quite well for five lines. We would suggest that God devised types, not men. While men were the actors, they were not the originators. While men may not have intended to typify anything in the case, God did. While types were intended by God to typify something future, this was not "their sole object." God had in them a purpose for the actors in addition to their typical significance. The purpose they then served detracts not from their value as types. As to the comparative number, we prefer Paul as authority. Speaking of the wilderness life of the Israelites, from their baptism in the cloud and in the sea, he says: "Now these things happened unto them by way of types [tupoi], and they were written for our admonition." This history contains numerous types, Paul being judge. Indeed, the patriarchal and Jewish religions were mainly typical. When Noah built the ark to the saving of his house, it is not probable that he thought of anything typical. Certainly that was not the only purpose, nor the main purpose. But Peter says it was a type, all the same.
The fact that God's people did not understand the full significance of their worship, did not destroy its character or its value. The same is true now. While God's oppressed people worshiped in types and symbols which foreshadowed the perfection to come, they were taught by the spirit of prophecy to look with longing anxiety to the coming of a deliverer. While, in debate, we may not rely on a large number of prophecies as Messianic, because the proof is not conclusive, it does not effect the fact that many of them have that character.
To appreciate Christ as a deliverer one must realize his own bondage -- the slave of sin, and sold under its power. There is no appreciation of the Deliverer till there is a longing for deliverance, and no longing for deliverance till there is a hatred of bondage. Hence one must have a just sense of the heinousness of sin before he can appreciate Christ as a Saviour.
In coming to this world to deliver us, Christ had, in a sense, to come within the dominion of Satan, and under the assaults of sin. This is typfied by Moses going into Egypt to deliver his brethren. He had to place himself under the reign of Pharaoh, and in order to deliver his brethren he had to deliver himself. The Son of God took upon Him our humanity. This He had to do to make a sacrifice and be a mediator for us. In doing this He placed Himself under the tempting power of sin, and was tempted in all points as we are. He had to save Himself from this condition before He could save us. This was done through death and the resurrection. With Him the old life ceased at the cross, and the new one began from the grave. He conquered Satan -- dragged the captor captive -- and was forever delivered from his tempting power. "He died unto sin once," says Paul; and we die to sin just where He did, being put to death by the cross. We are buried with Him, and rise with Him to walk in newness of life. Thus the new life begins with us just where it began with Him -- from the grave -- the grave of baptism in which we are buried together and rise together. The denominational world want to make the new life begin from the cross. But it did not thus begin with Jesus, and Paul says it does not thus begin with us.