The Expectation of Messiah's Coming
by Doctor David L. Cooper
The Expectation of God's Coming to Earth
Moses and the prophets joyfully looked forward to the appearance of Messiah upon the earth. One of the early predictions is found in Genesis 49:10: "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh come; And unto him shall the obedience of the peoples be." By all who believe that the Scriptures are the Word of God, this verse is recognized as one that foretells the coming of Messiah, who is to establish a reign of righteousness upon the earth. Jacob, in this prediction, declared that the sceptre or ruling authority should not depart from Judah until Shiloh comes. What is the significance of the word "Shiloh"? There is quite a discussion in regard to it. Probable light upon this question is to be found in Ezekiel 21:27: "I will overturn, overturn, overturn it: this also shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him." The words "whose right it is" approaches very closely to the idea that is expressed in the word "Shiloh." These two passages have been recognized as predictions of Messiah.
When the Lord blessed David so very abundantly, the King wanted to build a palace, a temple to Jehovah. The Lord informed him, however, that he could not do this because he was a man of blood; but He appreciated David's loyalty and devotion. He therefore promised that He would build David a house, a dynasty. The record of this is found in II Samuel 7:11-17. In this passage we see the long line of the Davidic house that sat upon his throne in Jerusalem; but in the duplicate account, found in I Chronicles 17:11,12, we see that this dynasty, which, as the record shows, was very sinful at times, terminates in a sinless King who builds the temple of Jehovah, the temple par excellence. This one can be none other than the Messiah of Israel.
In one of the last revelations that David received from the Lord, he was granted a vision of the reigning of one in righteousness. He was so very greatly excited that he spoke in an ejaculatory manner:
"3 The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me;
One that ruleth over men righteously, That ruleth in the fear of God,
4 He shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, A morning without clouds, When the tender grass springeth out of the earth,
5 Verily my house is not so with God; Yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, Ordered in all things, and sure: For it is all my salvation and all my desire,
Although he maketh it not to grow" (II Sam. 23:3-5)
Undoubtedly, this one whom David saw in vision was none other than the Hebrew Messiah, which interpretation is recognized by the ancient rabbis.
Again we see Messiah, the Son of David, reigning in Jerusalem in righteousness. "Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in justice. 2 And a man shall be as a hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest, as streams of water in a dry place, as the shade of a great rock in a weary land" (Isa. 32:1,2). Once more we get another glimpse of the reign of Israel's Messiah, the descendant of David, in Micah 5:2: "But thou, Bethlehem Ephrathah, which art little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall one come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting." The last quotation that I want to use, though I could give many others, is Jeremiah 23:5,6: "Behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that I will raise unto 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 shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called; Jehovah our righteousness." Manifestly, this is a prediction of the reign of Israel's Messiah, the Son of David. Isaiah likewise saw the world-wide reign of the Messiah in 9:6,7 of his book; "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of Jehovah of hosts will perform this." These passages show that the prophets of Israel expected a descendant of David eventually to mount the throne and reign in righteousness over a peaceful world.
The Two Hopes United by the Prophecies Regarding the Virgin Birth of Messiah
The prophets frequently spoke of God's coming to earth and urged the people of Israel to wait for Him. For instance Hosea, one of the earliest writing prophets, exhorted his contemporaries in the following words: "therefore turn thou to thy God: keep kindness and justice, and wait for thy God continually" (Hosea 12:6). This prophet did not intimate when God in fulfillment of this prophecy would come to earth, but exhorted the people to wait constantly for Him. The hope that Jehovah might appear upon earth was natural and to be expected; for when man was in the Garden of Eden, Jehovah appeared to him and held sweet communion and fellowship with him. At different times, in the early history of Israel, the angel of Jehovah, Jehovah himself, appeared for the purpose of communicating with the patriarchs. Such brief visits are called, in theological terms, theophanies." They were never announced. Suddenly, Jehovah would appear to certain ones, deliver His message, and then vanish. But the coming of Jehovah that is announced by the prophets was not to be His coming to one or to a few, but was to be for the benefit of the entire nation--yes, of the world! the sacred writer of Psalm 130 revealed to Israel his expectation regarding the Eternal:
5 I wait for Jehovah, my soul doth wait,
6 My soul waiteth for the Lord
More than watchmen wait for the morning;
Yea, more than watchmen for the morning" (vss. 5,6)
The psalmist David also showed what a vital factor in his life the hope of the appearance of Jehovah upon earth was to him. "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of Jehovah in the land of the living. 14 wait for Jehovah: Be strong, and let thy heart take courage; Yea, wait thou for Jehovah" (Ps. 27:13,14). Note the fact that Israel is exhorted to wait for Jehovah and to take courage. Micah, the prophet, declared: "But as for me, I will look unto Jehovah; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me" (Micah 7:7). Others in Israel were looking for the appearance of God upon earth. When Isaiah told Hezekiah to set his house in order because he was going to depart this life, the King bemoaned his fate in the following words: "I said, I shall not see Jehovah, even Jehovah in the land of the living; I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world" (Isa. 38:11). It is clear that Hezekiah expected Jehovah to appear upon earth in the land of the living. When we come to the New Testament, we see that Simeon was "looking for the consolation of Israel" (Luke 2:25). Likewise, Anna, a prophetess, at the time of our Lord's birth, together with others, was "looking for the redemption of Jerusalem" (Luke 2:38). Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, was "looking for the kingdom of God" (Luke 23:50-52). These people were looking for Jehovah because the prophets had exhorted them to look forward to His appearance upon earth.
Various prophets were granted visions in which they saw Jehovah reigning as King. As an example, in the Torah, see this prediction: "He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob; Neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel; Jehovah his God is with him, And the shout of a king is among them" (Num. 23:21). In the days of Hezekiah there was a crisis that arose in Israel. (At this point read Isa., chap. 30.) The Assyrian king, Sennacherib, was threatening Israel with an invasion of the land. The leaders in Jerusalem were divided as to what policy to adopt. There was what was known as the pro-Egyptian party and also the pro-Assyrian group. The former wanted to purchase aid from Egypt in this emergency. The latter were in favor of appeasing the wrath of the Assyrian. The pro-Egyptian body won out and sent their delegates to Egypt negotiating a contract whereby that country would assist Judah militarily. The prophet Isaiah, at the mouth of the Lord condemned this procedure. Nevertheless, the people refused to hearken to his message and said that they would not change their position, but were determined to continue the prosecution of the plan that had been adopted. Moreover, they said that, if things came to the worst they would flee. The prophet, therefore, said that they would be forced to flee. In view of the rebellious spirit of the people, the prophet declared to them what God would have to do because of Israel's attitude: "... therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly in an instant." The Lord had to wait for Israel to change his mind and attitude because He never forces anyone's will. Since Israel has not yielded, the Lord still pleads for the people to change their ways and continues to wait until they do so (Isa. 30:18). Thus, there is a reciprocal waiting. As we have seen, Israel is exhorted to wait for Jehovah. He is ready to come and intervene in Israel's behalf whenever the latter repents and pleads for Him to appear. Jehovah is therefore waiting for the people to welcome His coming.
The prophet Isaiah once more promised Israel that Jehovah would come to earth. Hear him: "O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up on a high mountain; O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold, your God! 10 Behold, the Lord Jehovah will come as a mighty one, and his arm will rule for him: Behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. 11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and will gently lead those that have their young" (Isa. 40:9-11). From this passage, we see that Jehovah is scheduled to come to Israel with His recompense and His reward--a reward for the faithful servants and recompense, punishment, for those who are disobedient.
The First Coming of Messiah
In the first section of this study we saw that there is a line of prophecy that Messiah, a literal descendant of David, would be born and would reign in Jerusalem over a peaceful world. In the preceding section we have examined a line of prophecy which shows that Jehovah would come to earth and would reign over all nations, having His capital at Jerusalem. Are there to be two reigns, one by a literal descendant of David, a mere man, and another by Jehovah himself? Or are these prophecies and promises supplemental, the one to the other? In other words, are these prophecies united in a single person, the God-man? Let us address ourselves to this phase of the investigation.
The Lord spoke the following words to the serpent after he had beguiled Eve and led her and Adam to disobey the one and only prohibition laid upon them: "and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Gen. 3:15). According to this prediction there would develop, and continue to exist, enmity "between thy [the serpent's] seed and her [the woman's] seed..." The term, "the seed of the woman," is a very peculiar and strange expression. It never occurs anywhere else--only in this one passage. The progeny, throughout the Old Testament, is always reckoned after the male--and never after the female. Here, however, the case is different. There is therefore something very peculiar and extraordinary about this statement. Had there not been such a contingency, certainly there would have been no reason for the use of such a strange and unusual expression. One would understand the implication is that this one, though a man, is not the seed of a man, but is exactly what the statement says, the seed of a woman. This immediately presents before us something unusual about the birth of this one who is to be the conqueror of the serpent.
That which is mysterious and marvelous in the prophecy of Genesis 3:15 becomes much clearer in the light that is shed upon it by Isaiah 7:14, which we shall examine in its context. In the days of Ahaz, king of Judah, there arose a conspiracy between the king of Syria at Damascus and the king of Israel in Samaria. They had agreed to unite their forces in order that they might overthrow the government of Judah in Jerusalem and might set upon the throne their own appointee, the son of Tabeel. The Lord sent Isaiah the prophet with a message of assurance, safety, and security to Ahaz if he would only believe the divine revelation which he was making to him. But young, impious, ungodly Ahaz refused to listen to the message of the Lord. Isaiah, speaking for God, said that He would perform a miracle, either in the heights, the heavens above, or in the deep, the sea below--accordingly as Ahaz would decide. The sign which God proposed to work was indeed a miracle. Something unusual, something that would arrest his attention and earmark the event as supernatural, as being caused by the Lord for the strengthening of the faith of Ahaz.
The word translated "sign" has a two-fold signification: in certain contexts, as the facts indicate, it frequently means a miracle, divine interposition; in other connections, however, as also the facts of the context prove, it signifies an ordinary event to which some peculiar significance is attached. The facts of each context is to determine its meaning in a given case. Since the Lord promised to perform a sign either in the heavens above or on the earth beneath, it is clear that only the miraculous connotation can be allowed in this connection. The Lord therefore promised to perform a supernatural act or event for the strengthening of the unbelieving king's faith.
When Ahaz, in an impious manner, dodged the issue and refused to accept such a special providential act from the Lord for his benefit, the prophet in disgust turned from him, looked toward the future, and addressed the house of David, the descendants of David in the future, and said: "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Isa. 7:14).
The word "sign" in this quotation must be interpreted in the light of the facts of this context. Since it has at times a miraculous connotation, as we have just seen, we are forced to understand that it has such significance in this verse. These facts being apparent, there is but one way for us to interpret this prophecy, namely, that it is a prediction that a virgin, or as some manuscripts indicate, the virgin, would give birth to a miraculously conceived Son. But some expositors insist that the word rendered "virgin" simply means a woman of marriageable age; hence, those interpreting the passage thus do not see any miraculous element in it and insist that the prediction simply for-tells the birth of a child by a woman of marriageable age--in the ordinary way. The birth of such a one would be no miracle. But in this prediction we are promised a miracle. That the word rendered "virgin" in this passage does mean what the English term connotes, is clearly seen by an examination of each of the other occurrences of this same word when examined in the light of the facts of each context. When each of the cases is studied in this manner, it is clearly seen that the word does mean "virgin" in the correct and proper sense of the term. Since in Isaiah, chapter 7, the miraculous element is promised and stands out in bold relief, we are driven irresistibly by the facts to the conclusion that virgin here has the same connotation. This passage, therefore, is a prediction that a certain virgin would miraculously conceive and bring forth a child who would be recognized as Immanuel, God with us. Thus we see that the child whose birth is foretold in Isaiah 7:14 is none other than God, who enters the world by miraculous conception and virgin birth.
The birth of another child is foretold in Isaiah 7:15-17: "Butter and honey shall he eat, when he knoweth to refuse the evil, and choose the good. 16 For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land whose two kings thou abhorrest, shall be forsaken. 17 Jehovah will bring upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon thy father's house, days that have not come, from the day that Ephraim departed from Judah--even the king of Assyria." Verse 14, as we have already seen, was spoken to the house of David of the future. But the prophecy concerning the second child was addressed to Ahaz--"the land whose two kings thou [Ahaz] abhorrest shall be forsaken. Those two lands, Israel and Syria, were to be devastated within sixty-five years of the time when the prophecy was made. (Isa. 7:5-9). This calamity would occur while this second child was still an infant. Hence this child would be born within the sixty-five years mentioned in the prophecy. But the birth of the virgin-born child was announced, not to the King, but to the house of David of the distant future. This interpretation is established by the fact that the history of the times records nothing of the birth of such a child. Certainly the sacred historian would have preserved a record of such a momentous event if it had occurred at the time--since this child is to be Immanuel, God with us. In view of these and many other facts which could be brought forward, it is quite evident that the births of two different children are foretold in Isaiah, chapter 7. Seeing this fact clearly, we can, with full assurance--and with perfect confidence--believe that Isaiah 7:14 is a prediction of the miraculous conception and virgin birth of King Messiah.
That there is often the blending of two (and in some cases more) prophecies, with some features in common is generally admitted by students of prophecy. This principle is known as "The Law of Double Reference," or "The Law of Double or Manifold Fulfillment of Prophecy." According to this fundamental law a description of one person or event develops suddenly into another prophecy. The way to detect the operation of this principle in a given case is to apply "The Golden Rule of Interpretation" to the entire passage, taking every word at its face value when the facts of the context thus indicate.
When the student comes to that place of the passage under consideration where the author manifestly moves out, figuratively speaking, into a larger sphere of movement or vice versa, he is not to warp or distort the sense of the words, but is to take them at their obvious meaning. When he does this, he will recognize the blending of the two pictures into a single prophecy. In the present case the prophet moved out into a large circle or realm of miraculous activity in Isaiah 7:13,14: "And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David: Is it a small thing for you to weary men, that ye will weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." As we have already seen, this prediction, when dealt with sincerely, logically, and thoroughly, can mean only one thing: The miraculous conception and virgin birth of the God-man, Immanuel, God with us. But when Ahaz refused to believe and accept the prophecy, Isaiah moved back into the circle of purely human events and activity and foretold the birth and infancy of another child before the expiration of the sixty-five years of the prophecy. There is therefore the blending of prophecies of the births of two children in this prediction.
In perfect harmony with the two lines of predictions which we have been studying, and which converge in the birth of this virgin-born child, is the prophecy found in Isaiah 9:6,7: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of Jehovah of hosts will perform this." In this passage both lines of prophecy converge. This one who mounts the throne of David is a man, and at the same time He is God--as the prophecy asserts. He therefore is the God-man.
Since Israel was promised that a man would reign over the world in righteousness, who would be a descendant of David, since the nation was urged to wait for Jehovah who would likewise come and reign over the world, and since the prophets declared that there would be a God-man who would reign over the earth from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth, naturally the Hebrews, who believed the prophesies, saw the two lines of predictions converging in the miraculously conceived and virgin-born child of the Davidic house, who will yet--at His second coming mount the throne, lift the curse from the earth, and reign in righteousness over all peoples.
The prophets revealed that the Messiah at His first coming would be rejected by His people, the Hebrews, and would suffer and die for the sins of the world, thus making atonement. Upon His resurrection He would return to glory where He would remain until the Jewish people--having been given the facts concerning Him--would confess their national sin of rejecting Him, and would plead for Him to return. In such passages as Psalm 110:1-3 the entire redemptive career of Messiah is given in a single outline.
1 Jehovah saith unto my Lord,
Sit thou at my right hand,
Until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
2 Jehovah will send forth the rod of thy strength out of Zion:
Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.
3 Thy people offer themselves willingly in the day of thy power, in holy array:
Out of the womb of the morning Thou hast the dew of thy youth."
Dramatically speaking, when the curtain rises in this psalm, the scene is laid in Jerusalem. Messiah is there. (This passage assumes the information concerning His leaving heaven and entering the world by miraculous conception and virgin birth--which predictions, as we have already seen, are found in other passages.) The leaders of the nation are hostile to Him. But the writer does not state the extent to which their enmity drives them--to the unreasonable point of clamoring for His execution. Of course, His making "his soul an offering for sin" (Isa. 53:10) in the crucifixion was by "the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23). In other words, the enemies of the Messiah simply carried out the plan of God in their clamoring for His execution. God always overrules the free actions of men and makes them contribute to the advancement of His eternal purposes. In Psalm 110 His resurrection also is assumed. Then Jehovah the Father invites Him to ascend to heaven and to remain there until He (the Father) puts His enemies under His feet. When He does that, the entire nation of Israel will turn to Him and "offer themselves willingly, In the day of thy [Messiah's] power."
Thus in this passage we see the entire redemptive career of Messiah consisting of His first coming, His rejection by His people, His ascension to heaven, His session at the right hand of God during the present dispensation, Israel's conversion, Messiah's second coming and reign on this earth.
The Apostle Matthew, who was associated with our Lord during His ministry, and who therefore knew the facts by firsthand knowledge, assures us that the birth of Jesus of Nazareth was in fulfillment of the prediction made concerning the miraculous conception and virgin birth of the Messiah. Everything connected with His life, from His birth to His ascension into heaven furnishes cumulative evidence which proves absolutely that the messianic predictions were fulfilled in Him. His virgin birth, sinless life, teachings, miracles, death on the cross, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of the throne of God, all of which facts are attested by witnesses who in many instances sealed their testimony with their own blood, establish, without a peradventure, that Jesus of Nazareth was the one of whom God spoke in the two lines of prophecy.
Since Israel, not knowing Him nor the Scriptures (Acts 13:27), did not receive Him, and since God never forces anyone's will but waits, as we have already seen, until people willingly and voluntarily accept Him, the risen, triumphant Christ naturally returned home to glory where He has remained from that time until now--as the prophets foretold that He would do. He is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God, awaiting the time when Israel--having his eyes opened, and realizing his need of a Saviour--repudiates his national sin of rejecting King Messiah and pleads for Him to return and deliver him from all his troubles. When Israel is convicted of his sin and pleads for Him to return, the Lord Jesus will rend the heavens assunder, come back in mighty power, take over the world situation, and establish His reign of righteousness.
It is for us who know the Lord Jesus in a personal manner, and who see God's plan for Israel yet in the future, to do all that we can to give the truth to them in order that they may see the mistake of nineteen hundred years' standing, may accept the Messiah as their Saviour and plead for Him to return. What are you doing, my brother, to give the message of God's Word to His Ancient People? Are you praying for the peace of Jerusalem daily? May the Lord stir our hearts and cause us to do all within our power for them. By doing so, we shall hasten the coming of the Lord and the establishment of His kingdom of righteousness upon the earth.