A question that always used to cause me problems is this one: How did the religious leaders of Jesus’ time miss His coming?
These were highly educated men. Men who spent entire lives from early youth memorizing and learning Scripture, especially the Torah—the first five books of the Bible. Pharisees and Sadducees were the religious and legal experts of the day. They were very intelligent men.
How then did they miss the importance of Jesus of Nazareth?
The actions of the forthcoming Messiah were well-known to all Jews. Isaiah and others described in detail who He would be and what He would do; that He would heal the sick, bring sight to the blind, heal the broken hearted…raise the dead. The Bible told them that it would be through these signs that they should recognize Him.
This is why when John the Baptist, in prison awaiting death, sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “…Are you the coming one, or should we wait for another?” (Matthew 11:3). Jesus responded not by giving a straight “yes” or “no” but by saying, “Go back and report what you hear and see: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the good news is proclaimed to the poor” (Matthew 11:4-5). (emphasis mine)
Jesus was telling John, don’t ask me; judge for yourself by my works—by the signs. And when we read the gospels they are one account of an outstanding miracle after another. Each miracle, each healing is a testimony to who Jesus is, that He is exactly who He says he is. Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the Messiah and His works validated that claim.
God loves us all deeply. He never does anything without revealing His ways to His prophets (Amos 3:7). That is why God gave not general but very specific details of what the Messiah would do and who He is:
That He would be a descendant of Abraham (Genesis 12:3, 18:18, Matthew 1:1), that He would be of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10; Luke 3:33), that He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:4-7), the time of his birth (Daniel 9:25; Luke 2:1), that there would be a slaughter of innocent children (Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:16-18).
That their King would come to them in humility riding a donkey (Zechariah 9:9; John 12:13-14), that He would enter Jerusalem through the Golden Gate (Ezekiel 44:1-2; Mark 11:7-8), that He would be betrayed by a friend for thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12; Psalm 41:9, Mark 14:10; Matthew 26:14-15), that the money would be returned for a potter’s field (Zechariah 11:13; Matthew 27:6-7).
That He would be silent before his accusers (Isaiah 53:7; Matthew 26:62-63), that he would be spat upon and struck in the face (Isaiah 50:6; Matthew 26:67), that He would be hated without reason (Psalms 69:4; 35:19; 109:3-5; John 15:24-25), that soldiers would divide his garments (Psalm 22:18; Matthew27:35), that He would be crucified. (This prophecy one thousand years before crucifixion was developed as a method of execution) (Zechariah 12:10; Psalm22:16, Matthew 27:35; John 20:27).
That He would be crucified with malefactors and would agonise with thirst (Isaiah 53:12; Psalm 22:15; Mark 15:27-28; John 19:28), that in his thirst they would give him gall or vinegar to drink (Psalm 69:21; John 19:19) that his side would be pierced but no bones would be broken (Zechariah 12:10; Psalm34:20; John 19:32-36).
That He would be buried with the rich but deserted by his followers (Isaiah 53:9; Zechariah 13:7; Matthew 27:57-60; Mark 14:27). The Bible tells us how the Messiah would be deserted and completely abandoned by God (Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46) but that ultimately He would rise from the dead (Hosea 6:2; Psalms 16:10; 49:15; Luke 24:6-7; Mark 16:6-7).
God never does anything without revealing it first to those who love Him.
So how did they miss His coming? The Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ day were expecting a messiah, just not the one they got. In Jewish tradition there were two messiahs to come, each fulfilling very different roles. There was Messiah ben Joseph and Messiah ben David.
Messiah ben Joseph was the suffering Messiah. This is the Messiah who would come and take the place of the sacrifice and he is depicted in Isaiah 53. This was what Jesus did in his first incarnation, the Suffering Servant who took the sins of the world onto his shoulders. But at the time of Jesus they were waiting for Messiah ben David, who would be an awesome political and military leader.
They were looking for someone to come and free them from the yoke of Roman servitude and quite simply that was not Jesus’ role in his first incarnation. His role was to free humanity from the yoke of sin and death! He didn’t fit their ideology so they ignored him. Ultimately they killed him.
Even the disciples after the resurrection asked Jesus, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). They were still expecting Jesus to free them from Roman oppression and believed that now Jesus would fulfil the role of Messiah ben David and establish his kingdom.
They were expecting two different messiahs to fulfil two different roles. What they could not grasp was that one man would fulfil both roles, but at two separate times!
Are we guilty making the same kind of mistake today, two thousand years later?
Jesus told us what the signs would be indicating His Second Coming to this earth. He told us how to recognize the season of His return. How many of us are paying attention? If the hundreds of prophecies concerning his First Coming were fulfilled, literally and to the letter then surely those related to His Second Coming will be literally fulfilled too. To the letter. Why would we think any differently?
For example, there are approximately three-hundred prophecies of the First Coming of Messiah in the Old Testament but over five hundred of His Second Coming. George Heron, a French mathematician worked out that the chances of 40 of those First Coming prophecies being fulfilled in one man were 1 in 10 to the power of 157. Dr Peter S. Ruckman calculated the odds of 60 (not 300) being fulfilled in one man were 1 in 10 to the power of over 895. That’s a one with 895 0’s after it.
The prophecies related to the Second Advent of Jesus are coming to pass now, so why are so many in positions of “leadership” spending their time talking about Kingdom Now theology, talking about “seeker sensitive” models of church growth, talking about having “your best life now?” Especially when the signs Jesus told us to watch for indicating the end of the age are ample, converging and increasing literally on a day to day basis?
They are making the same mistake the Pharisees and Sadducee’s made 2000 years ago, they are wilfully ignoring the signs of the times.
The signs of the end of the age abound. They are increasing in intensity and frequency. There are false prophets everywhere, famines and diseases ravaging entire populations, earthquakes and tribulations, there is godlessness and apostasy, the Roman Empire is reforming before our eyes, Hebrew has returned as the spoken language of Israel and preparations for the rebuilding of the temple is common talk, as is the news of Red Heifer births.
Knowledge has increased and we all travel to and fro. Ethiopian Jews have returned to Israel, Russia has risen and its Jews have returned “from the north country.” The technology for the mark of the beast is upon us and the New World Order is common currency.
Israel is fast becoming the pariah state of the world and every nation is obsessed with dividing Jerusalem. And I personally, think that the gospel has been preached to all the world.
“When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?” (Matthew 16:2-3).
Let’s be ready for our Lord’s call! The signs are telling us His return is close at hand.