THE PRIMARY ROLE OF PROPHETS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT WAS TO PROPHESY OF THE COMING OF CHRIST.
One of the reasons that I blog is to bear my witness of Jesus Christ. If Jesus is indeed the Son of God that has very significant implications in lives of each one of us. If he is the Son of God, then what he taught was from God and is truth to guide our lives. In his interview with Pilate before his crucifixion, Jesus said that he came into the world to bear witness of the truth. Pilate then asked him, “What is truth?” (John 18:37) Isn’t that the quest of the ages, “what is truth?” If one could know the truth then there is a sure guide to your life.
So, the ultimate question is, “is Jesus the Son of God?” How do we come to know that He is the Son of God? The very first beginnings of a testimony of Jesus is to hear the testimony of others. This arouses our desire to discover this truth for ourselves. In my last blog I wrote about the role of prophets and apostles. It is to bear witness of Christ. We know that Jesus’ apostles bore witness of him continually. Jesus asked them to “go into all the world and peach his gospel.” Did the prophets in the Old Testament testify of Jesus Christ? Although they don’t mention the name, Jesus Christ, the Old Testament is rich in symbolic references to Christ. Prophecies of his birth, mission, sufferings, death and resurrection abound. The Jews knew and understood these prophecies of a coming Messiah. They were looking for and expecting the fulfillment of these prophecies. It was very much on their minds. They knew that Moses had prophesied of a coming Messiah.
The first book of John tells of four friends who recognized Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy. These four friends lived in Bethsaida. They had undoubtedly studied the scriptures together. The first to recognize Jesus as the promised Messiah was Andrew, a follower of John the Baptist. He immediately sought his brother, Simon Peter, and excitedly told him, “We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.” The next day Jesus found Phillip who then sought Nathanael and told him, “We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” One can only imagine their excitement in finding the promised Messiah!
Matthew, the writer of the first gospel, specifically points out many incidents in the life of Jesus that are the fulfillment of prophecy. As he records the angel’s visitation to Joseph commanding him to take Mary as his wife he says:
Matthew 1:20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
As the apostles went forth to witness of Jesus’ resurrection, they specifically taught that he was the one prophesied by the prophets that should come. Peter taught “those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. (Acts 3:18) He also taught that “Jesus Christ was before preached unto them,” and that Jesus was the fulfillment of Moses’ prophecy that the Lord would raise up “a prophet like unto him (Moses), and that all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.” (Acts 3:20-24)
Paul, a knowledgeable and influential Jew, and a member of the Pharisees before his conversion, knew and understood the writings of the prophets. After his conversion he delighted in showing that Jesus was the one testified of by the prophets of old. He states, “And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. (Acts 28:23)
JESUS TAUGHT THAT HE WAS THE FULFILLMENT OF OLD TESTAMENT PROPHECIES
Most importantly, Jesus, himself, taught that the prophets of the Old Testament testified of Him. In a dramatic moment early in his ministry after his return to Nazareth, he went to the synagogue and stood to read. He requested from the book of Esaias (Isaiah). The passage which he read had specific reference to the Messiah whose coming the nation awaited. “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,
To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. ( Luke 4:18-19). He quietly affirms with “gracious words”, but with words that carried authority, “this day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” The reference was unmistakable. All who heard it understood its implications. He has stated that he is the prophesied Messiah, yet the Jews could not believe that this humble, gracious man who was the son of Joseph could be their Messiah. Having so firm an idea that the Messiah would be a conquering hero who would deliver them from their bondage to Rome; their hearts weren’t open to the quiet whisperings of the spirit that this man, Jesus, was indeed the promised Messiah, the Son of God who would deliver them spiritually from their sins.
After his resurrection there was a singular teaching moment when he appeared to two of his disciples walking on the road to Emmaus. Why these two men were chosen for this special appearance is not known, but it was an important encounter as it is included in the book of Luke. They were walking and discussing the events of the last few days of Jesus death and the subsequent rumors of his resurrection. They, like many others, were expecting the Messiah to come as a mighty deliverer. After listening to them, Jesus gently upbraided them for being “slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” Then “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them the scriptures which concerning himself.”
The Book of Mormon is essentially an Old Testament book. 421 pages of its 531 pages were written before the coming of Christ. The crowning event in the Book of Mormon is when the resurrected Christ appears to the Nephites. After introducing himself by name, the first words he speaks are to honor the prophets who testified of him. He states that the scriptures concerning him are fulfilled and that he is the one whom the prophets have testified should come. Here again the Bible and the Book of Mormon become one in their testimony that Jesus is the Christ.
3 Nephi 9:15-16 Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God. I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are. I was with the Father from the beginning. I am in the Father, and the Father in me; and in me hath the Father glorified his name. I came unto my own, and my own received me not. And the scriptures concerning my coming are fulfilled.
3 Nephi 11:10 Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.
It is also very significant that on the second day that Jesus visits the Nephites, He teaches, as did Peter in Acts 3:20-24, that he is the fulfillment of the prophecy given to Moses of a prophet whom the Lord would raise up among them who would be like unto Moses and whoever would not hear this prophet would be cut off. He honors his prophets again by saying that “all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have testified of me” (3 Nephi 20:23-24). Again, showing the continuity between the Bible and the Book of Mormon. In fact this prophecy seems to be so important that it is also quoted by Nephi in 1 Nephi 22:20. Very, very significantly, Nephi clearly states that “this prophet spoken of whom Moses spake was the Holy One of Israel.”
20 And the Lord will surely prepare a way for his people, unto the fulfilling of the words of Moses, which he spake, saying: A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that all those who will not hear that prophet shall be cut off from among the people.
21 And now I, Nephi, declare unto you, that this prophet of whom Moses spake was the Holy One of Israel; wherefore, he shall execute judgment in righteousness. (1 Nephi 22:20-21)
As we contemplate the multitude of testimonies that Jesus is the Promised Messiah, the one prophesied of through the centuries by the prophets, we can be filled with wonder and gratitude that our loving Heavenly Father has given us such a multitude of irrefutable evidence of the life and ministry of His Only Begotten Son. God does not work in darkness or secrecy. “Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. (Amos 3:7)
The testimony of prophets touches my heart. I am a truthseeker. I seek to know who can teach me truth. I pray continually to be able to recognize truth. I feel like Andrew in the book of John. After he knew that Jesus was the Messiah he excitedly ran to find his brother saying, “We have found the Messias, which is being interpreted, the Christ.” I, too, feel like I have found the Messias, even Jesus Christ.