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Distorted Notions About the Messiah

Notwithstanding the abundance of prophecies about the Messiah in the Old Testament writings, during the earthly lifetime of Christ, many of the Jews did not have the right notions about him. The reason for this was that many Jews could not rise to the spiritual understanding of the messianic prophecies, for instance, about the Godly nature of the Messiah, about the necessity of moral rebirth, about the grace of God working in the Kingdom of the Messiah

     The period from the 3rd century BC to the beginning of 2nd century AD was a time of intense struggle of the Hebrew nation for its political independence. This difficult struggle and the hardships connected with it helped to develop among many Jews the hope for better times, when the Messiah will defeat the enemies of the Hebrew nation. They envisioned that with the enthroning of the Messiah glad times will begin, full of the material abundance of life. Because of such narrow national and utilitarian desires, as we have already mentioned, the Lord Jesus Christ avoided publicly proclaiming Himself the Messiah. On the other hand, He often quoted the ancient prophecies that spoke about the Messiah as a spiritual leader, and with this returned the faith of the Jews to the right path (See Matt. 26:54, Mark 9:12, Luke 18:31, John 5:39).

     But the Jews, desiring to have in the Messiah a worldly king and dreaming of earthly blessings, were irritated by the meek and at times humble appearance of Jesus Christ. His teachings of meekness, of love to the enemies, about the striving for the Heavenly Kingdom — was entirely alien to them.

     The Jewish leaders in the course of several years did not know how to get rid of this undesirable teacher/miracle-worker. The feared the loss of their own influence on the people, as many of the common people believed in Jesus Christ. Finally, a convenient opportunity arose when Judas, one of the 12 apostles, offered the High Priests his services and helped them deliver Jesus Christ to judgment. At the trial, though, the judges could not offer an accusation for which He could be sentenced to death. Only after Jesus answered the question of Caiaphas, whether He considers Himself the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the Living God, in the affirmative, was He accused of blasphemy. This “sin,” by law, was punishable by death. But by themselves the Jewish leaders were not allowed accomplish this sentence, since Judea was under Roman rule. As we know from the Gospel, Pilate, against his own wishes, fearing for his fate, confirmed the death sentence of the Judean leaders — the high priests and members of the Sanhedrin. Christ was crucified on the eve of the Jewish Passover in the 33rd or 34th year AD. In the face of these circumstances the Hebrew nation, represented by their leaders, rejected the God-sent Messiah.

     But, by awaiting a Messiah King-conqueror, both before Jesus Christ, as well as, particularly, in the 1st and 2nd centuries after Him, there was created a convenient basis for the appearance of all sorts of self-proclaimed messiahs among the Jews. After all, that was the time, in accordance with the prophecies of the patriarch Jacob and the prophet Daniel, when the true Messiah was to come. In the history of the Hebrew nation there were nearly sixty false messiahs. They were, mainly, every possible kind of adventurer: sometimes — simply a leader of a band of robbers, sometimes — one of the more visible military leaders, sometimes — religious fanatics and reformers.

     The most prominent of these false messiahs was Bar-Kochba, heading a desperate fight with Rome in 132-135 AD. He called himself the Star of Jacob (referring, probably, to the prophecy in Numbers, 24:17) and the messiah-deliverer. He possessed an iron will and managed to completely subject the Jewish population in Palestine. He was an absolute master, of the property as well as of the lives of his subjects. Jews blindly believed in his messianic calling, and were prepared to sacrifice everything in order to realize their dreams of the messianic fortunate times. But for little Judea the task of taking on powerful Rome was too great. The war ended with terrible destruction throughout Palestine. A considerable part of the population died in this war, the rest were taken into captivity and sold in the slave markets. Bar-Kochba himself died. (A writer of the second century, living in Palestine, Justin the Philosopher, relates of the brutality of Bar-Kochba during the peak of his power. He demanded of Christians that they deny Christ and disparage His name. Those who refused to do so he committed to excruciating suffering and death. He did not spare neither women, nor children, Apologia 1, par. 31).

     During the course of the next centuries Jews, being scattered throughout the world, directed all their forces to preserving their Old Testament religion and nationalism. In this they succeeded. But, while not accepting Christ and His teachings, Jews deprived themselves of that which was the most valuable left them by the prophets — hope of spiritual rebirth.

     After the Second World War, some Jews developed a yearning for their Messiah — Jesus Christ. Active missionaries sprung up among them, attracting their fellow countrymen to the Christian faith. The missionary work went very successfully because they resorted to the messianic predictions of the Old Testament prophets. It must be said that the Holy Scriptures, even among those Jews indifferent to God, are highly respected. This way, the writings of the prophets, notwithstanding the elapsed centuries, remain the living and functioning word of God.

     It appears, that the difficult task of exposing the falsity of the approaching final false messiah — the Antichrist — will lie on these new Christians from among the Jews. This impostor, like the ancient false messiahs, will promise earthly blessings and happiness. In accordance to predictions, many will blindly come to believe in him, and he will achieve considerable political success, but not for long. Later he will die, just as did the more ancient impostors.

     Christians have no need to prove that Jesus Christ is the true Messiah. Yet, acquaintance with the ancient prophecies is useful for all. This familiarity, on the one hand, enriches faith in Christ, on the other hand, offers the means of converting to faith the doubtful and disbelieving. We must be grateful to the Old Testament prophets that they so clearly and in such detail related about Christ. Thanks to them, our faith in Him is established on hard rock, and with this faith we gain salvation.

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