Was Jesus Really the “Messiah”?
A Jewish opponent of Christianity argues:
“Christians claim that the mission of Jesus of Nazareth was to bring peace to this earth. It has been two thousand years since he was born, and yet still there is no peace. In fact, there seems to be more conflict than ever. Does this not prove that Jesus was not the person Christians claim him to be?”
It does not. The question is based upon a false premise. There is no place in the Scriptures where it is declared that the Messiah (Jesus Christ) would come to this earth to effect a political, military “peace” among all the nations of this planet. It is true that some in the community of “Christendom” erroneously so claim (e.g., those who subscribe to the theory of premillennialism). But these folks are mistaken. Here is the truth of the matter.
While there are biblical passages that suggest that a “peace” of some sort will be effected as a result from Christ’s mission, each context that purportedly provides the proof must be examined carefully to determine the nature of the “peace” that is promised. A few of these “peace” texts will illustrate this point.
The prophet Isaiah, seven centuries before the birth of Jesus, foretold the following:
“And it shall come to pass in the latter days, that the mountain of Jehovah’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many peoples shall go and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem. And he will judge between the nations, and will decide concerning 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 any more” (2:2-4; cf. Micah 4:1-4).
Within this passage are several important truths. First, the text contains a prophecy of what will transpire in the “latter days.” The “latter days” (“last days” — KJV) is an OT expression which frequently designates the Christian era, the final period of earth’s history — beginning on the day the church was established (Pentecost — Acts 2:1ff), and continuing until the time of the Lord’s return (cf. Joel 2:28ff with Acts 2:16-17). The expression does not focus exclusively (or even primarily) upon a brief period near the end of time.
Isaiah speaks of the establishment of “the mountain of Jehovah,” identified further as the “house of God.” The term “mountain” is employed symbolically to reflect permanence and stability (cf. Habakkuk 3:6; Psalm 30:7; 125:1-2; Isaiah 54:10). “House of God” becomes the church of Jesus Christ in the New Testament record (Ephesians 2:19ff; 1 Timothy 3:15).
The prophet mentions those who are taught of the ways of the Lord, as the sacred law goes out from Jerusalem. With the receptivity of the “word of Jehovah from Jerusalem,” many peoples of various nations “flow unto” this new regime. In so doing, their ingrained hostilities of nationalism would be dissolved and, in a manner of speaking, they would exchange their weapons of war for implements of peace.
This situation precisely obtains today — among those who believe and obey the doctrine of Christ, and who unite in his spiritual body, the church (Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 2:13ff). The prophecy has nothing to do with political treaties, military conflicts (ancient or modern), or a future, one-world government.
In a subsequent section of his book, Isaiah introduced a similar prophecy, though with different imagery.
“And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of Jehovah shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Jehovah. And his delight shall be in the fear of Jehovah; and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither decide after the hearing of his ears; but with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth; and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his waist, and faithfulness the girdle of his loins. And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the root of Jesse, that stands for an ensign of the peoples, unto him shall the nations seek; and his resting-place shall be glorious” (11:1-10).
This comprehensive prophecy focuses upon the following factors. It sets forth the incarnation of Christ out of the loins of Jesse, David’s father (cf. 2 Samuel 7:12-13). The text describes his able ministry under the guiding influence of the Spirit of Jehovah. It underscores his impartial, righteous administration. The prophet speaks of the Messiah’s gracious benevolence towards those who meekly submit to his will, and likewise his fierce judgment ultimately upon the wicked. Finally, with vivid imagery (involving animals normally antagonistic to one another), the previewed declaration pictures an era of peace when men “shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain” (v. 9).
It is very important to observe that the peace here described is, in a sense universal (throughout the earth), yet, at the same time, it is restricted to a certain domain, within Jehovah’s “holy mountain.” The “mountain” image is not literal; rather, it signifies the kingdom of God that was to be set up in the days of the Roman Empire (cf. Daniel 2:35,44) — which institution is the same as the New Testament church (see also on Isaiah 2:2-4 above).
That this context has a spiritual fulfillment, and not one of a political nature, is demonstrated by the fact that Paul, in the book of Romans, cites this very passage and shows its fulfillment in the uniting of both Jews and Gentiles in the church of God (Romans 15:8-12). [Note: For an excellent refutation of the premillennial view of Isaiah 11:6-9, see: Everett J. Carver, When Jesus Comes Again, Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1979, pp. 87-98; Loraine Boettner, The Millennium, Philadelphia: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1957, pp. 90-91.]
Finally, let the serious student consider the testimony of that angelic chorus that heralded the arrival of the Christ child to those shepherds watching their flocks near the time of Jesus’ birth. It provides a supplementary commentary to the testimony of the Old Testament prophets.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is well pleased” (Luke 2:14).
The “peace,” here suggested, is not said to be among the political powers of the world; rather, it is to be among those who have yielded to God’s authority, hence, are pleasing to the Lord.
The argument, therefore, that Jesus could not be the promised Messiah due to the fact that world peace has not followed in the wake of his ministry, is based upon a false foundation. Moreover, the vast depository of evidence which demonstrates that Jesus precisely fulfills the Messianic expectation, the groundwork of which is laid throughout the Old Testament, is beyond refutation.
Finally, the Christian scholar does not need to resort to fanciful theories (e.g., the “millennial” view), in an effort to rebut a Jewish objection regarding the true identity of Jesus Christ.
About the Author
Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.