Thursday, June 15, 2017


What reasons do we have to believe that the Bible is the word of God? I think that there are many. One reason is the underlying patterns or designs found in the Hebrew Scriptures, later identified and brought to full disclosure in the New Testament.

In “Why the Jews Rejected Jesus,” Orthodox Jewish writer, David Klinghoffer, attempted to argue that the Jews of Jesus’ day didn’t have adequate reasons to believe that Jesus was their Messiah:

  • If no verse in the prophets unambiguously presented resurrection as a criterion for recognizing the Messiah—and none does—then such a hypothetical wonder [Jesus’ resurrection] would prove nothing. (88)

Although Klinghoffer is correct that the Old Testament doesn’t provide any explicit statements that the Messiah will be resurrected, there is a wealth of implicit evidence for the taking—every Old Testament portrait of the Messiah’s death is accompanied by a cryptic glimpse of His “resurrection,” or at least a portrait of His life after death! If this is the case, it defies all odds and suggests that the collected books of the Hebrew Scriptures reflect a design or pattern that could only originate from above.

I’ll just provide the eight clearest examples of this highly unlikely association between the Messiah’s death and His return to life. Peter quoted Psalm 16 in his first evangelistic speech (Acts 2:25-32) in reference to Jesus’ resurrection:

  • For You will not leave my [David’s] soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption [the decay of His body] (Psalm 16:10).

Here, in one quick snapshot, we see the Messiah’s death, but also a promise of His future life! If His body will not “see corruption,” it means that it will not stay in the grave for long, unlike David’s body.

Perhaps more dramatically, Isaiah pictures the Messiah living once again following His ordeal:

  • And they made His grave with the wicked--but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He SHALL SEE His seed, He SHALL PROLONG His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He SHALL SEE the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:9-11. Because it might be difficult to see the evidence that the Messiah will live again, I will capitalize the evidence.)

Although Jesus died, becoming an “offering for sin,” He nevertheless “prolonged His days.”

The Psalms provide us with a number of remarkable portraits of the crucifixion and the subsequent life of the Messiah. Although modern rabbis reject these portraits as Messianic, the Talmud, compiled around 550 AD, contains ancient rabbinic confirmation that these Psalms, to some extent, had been regarded as Messianic (according to Alfred Edersheim, “Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”):

  • The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, "Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us."…"Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion." "I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, 'You are My Son, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU [from the dead; Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5; 5:5]…Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their TRUST IN HIM. (Psalm 2:2-3, 6-7, 12)

While the fact that the Messiah lives again is explicit in this Psalm, the crucifixion is not. For this, we require the prayer uttered by Peter and John’s “friends” after they were released from the Sanhedrin:

  • “…through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’ [quoting Psalm 2] – for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” (Acts 4:25-28)

According to Edersheim, the Talmud and the Midrashim also affirm this commentary regarding Psalm 2 about the suffering of the Messiah. Psalm 22 provides a clearer portrait of the crucifixion, which finds ample NT support (Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:24; John 19:24, 37):

  • For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots…I WILL DECLARE YOUR NAME to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I WILL PRAISE You. You who fear the LORD, praise Him! All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, and fear Him, all you offspring of Israel! For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from Him; but when He cried to Him, He heard. (Psalm 22:16-18, 22-24)

Psalm 22 also provides adequate evidence that the Messiah will live again: “nor has He hidden His face from Him; but when He cried to Him, He heard.” Although the Father had temporarily (but not ultimately) turned His face from His Son, He also heard His prayer and delivered Him.

Psalm 69 also receive ample NT affirmation that it provides a portrait of the crucifixion (Matthew 27:34, 48; Luke 23:36; John 19:27):

  • Reproach has broken my heart, and I am full of heaviness; I looked for someone to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none. They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink…For they persecute the ones You have struck, and talk of the grief of those You have wounded…I WILL PRAISE the name of God with a song, and will MAGNIFY HIM with thanksgiving. This also shall please the LORD better than an ox or bull, which has horns and hooves. The humble shall see this and be glad; And you who seek God, your hearts shall live. (Psalm 69:20-21; 26, 30-32)

Yet, once again, we find evidence here that the crucified Messiah lives again. Subsequent to His ordeal, “He will praise the name of God” and “magnify Him.” However, both Psalms 69 and 40 do not receive Talmudic affirmation that they are Messianic. Nevertheless, Psalm 40 reveals that animal sacrifice will be replaced by the ultimate sacrifice to which the animal sacrifices pointed:

  • Psalm 40:6-10 Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; my ears You have opened. (“A body Thou hast prepared for Me.” LXX; Heb. 10:5) Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require. Then I said, "Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart." I HAVE PROCLAIMED THE GOOD NEWS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS in the great assembly; indeed, I do not restrain my lips, O LORD, You Yourself know. I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart; I HAVE DECLARED YOUR FAITHFULNESS AND YOUR SALVATION; I HAVE NOT CONCEALED Your lovingkindness and Your truth from the great assembly.

Although these references to the presence of the Messiah after His death are cryptic, they are still blatantly present and accompany each reference to the death of the Messiah.

Zechariah is even more cryptic but also revealing of the Trinity:

  • And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; THEN THEY WILL LOOK ON ME WHOM THEY PIERCED. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn… And one will say to him, “What are these wounds between your arms?” Then he will answer, “Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.”  "Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, against the Man who is My companion," Says the LORD of hosts. "Strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” (Zech. 12:10; 13:6-7. Jesus had quoted this final phrase to prepare His disciples for their betrayal of their Master: Mat. 26:31; Mark 14:27)

God reveals that the Messiah will be pierced to death. The “sword” will come against Him. As a result, once Israel’s eyes have been opened, they will mourn for the One they had killed. However, God also reveals that it is He, the One who now speaks to Israel, who has been pierced to death. Then He reveals that there is a distinction in the Godhead, because they will mourn for Him not just for ME!

This prophecy from Daniel is equally cryptic about the fact that the Messiah will live again:

  • Daniel 9:24-26 "Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation [“atonement” in the KJV] for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and TO ANOINT THE MOST HOLY. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince [comes; week 69] there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times. And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined.

Notice several curiosities – the Messiah is “cut off” (killed) in week 62 but is anointed afterwards in week 70, after His death. Also note that the Messiah will return in week 69, once again, after being “cut off.”

I also want to briefly cite these last two allusions to the crucifixion and the Messiah’s life afterwards:

  • Into Your hand I commit my spirit [Luke 23:46 affirmation that this refers to the crucifixion]; You have redeemed me, O LORD God of truth. (Psalm 31:5)

  • He guards all his bones; not one of them is broken (John 19:36; Exo. 12:46) …The LORD redeems the soul of His servants, and none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned. (Psalm 34:20, 22)

Admittedly, all of these references are cryptic. Because of this, many have charged that the resurrection is a New Testament addition or invention:

  • “Resurrection of the dead, it is argued, is a Johnny-come-lately notion, not found in the ancient texts of the Hebrew Bible, which treated mortality matter-of-factly. Instead the doctrine was an innovation of the Maccabean period…when faithful Jews were being persecuted by the Hellenistic monarch Antiochus IV. With ideas borrowed from Zoroastrianism and other foreign sources, resurrection solved the puzzle of understanding divine justice when fidelity to the Law brought about not prosperity and length of years by martyrdom” (Peter Steinfels, NYT, 9/30/06).

I hope that these various prophecies from the Hebrew Scriptures have thoroughly answered this false charge. However, you are probably left with a perplexing question:

  • If the crucifixion and the resurrection are so central to God’s plan, as clearly revealed in the New Testament, why did our Lord hide His plan so diligently?

Perhaps Paul provides the best explanation:

  • But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:7-8; emphasis mine).

What does all of this tell us about the nature of Scripture? How do we explain this consistent and cryptic design that we find throughout the various books of the Hebrew Scriptures? Why do we not find just one indication of the crucifixion without an accompanying assurance that He will return?

This couldn’t have been the result of a collaborative human effort. If humans had invented this message, they would have presented it clearly. What would be the sense of promoting a message that no one would even notice?

Of course, the same objection can be brought against God’s authorship. Why would He hide away such a central disclosure? Peter explained that the Prophets of Israel didn’t fully understand what they had been given to write. Instead, it was revealed to them that what they had written was for future generations – for us!

  • Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. (1 Peter 1:10-12)

I thank God for His various hidden revelations. This skeptic continues to find great assurance and courage by feeding upon such jewels.

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