Christ and the Prophets
October 18th, 1964 @ 8:15 AM
JESUS AND THE PROPHETS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-18-64 8:15 a.m.
On the radio and on television, on the radio our televised service is at eleven o’clock; on this radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the eight-fifteen o’clock service entitled Jesus and the Prophets. This presentation that Dr. Sullivan is going to make to me at eleven o’clock has got my mind on the service. And I want to say words of welcome to you this morning too, Dr. Sullivan. He and I were in school together, and I have loved and admired him through all the years and the years since. We were together in school in the Middle Ages; it has been a long time ago. And it was a delight to work with him for years on the Sunday School Board. And it was a part of my happy ministry to choose Dr. Sullivan; I was on the committee appointed to seek a successor for Dr. Powell, and we chose Dr. Sullivan. And our church is in his heart and love and prayers, and he has come down here today, as you know, to present a gift to me from the Sunday School Board, which will be done at this televised, radioed, eleven o’clock hour. And Dr. Sullivan, God bless you and speed you in the work; and welcome today in the fellowship and communion of our dear church.
Now the sermon: we have for these last several Sundays been preparing messages and delivering them on the Word of God. And the sermon today is one in that series; it is entitled Christ and the Prophets. In the last chapter out of which we read this morning, the twenty-fourth chapter of Luke, our Lord says to the two with whom He was breaking bread in Emmaus, verse 25, "Then He said unto them," you have it translated, "O fools," to us that has a different connotation. "O noetoi, O not-knowing, O not-knowing ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?
And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
– now in verse 44, with His disciples –
And He said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms,
The three ancient divisions of the Old Testament, the Law, and the Prophets, and the Writings, the sacred Psalms:
Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures, And He said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations.
I speak first of the great attestation to, and authentication of, the Christian faith. There are many authentications and corroborations of the truth of our most holy and sacred faith. One could speak endlessly of his persuasion that the things we believe in Christ are eternally and everlastingly true. We could speak of the perfect life of our Lord; no other faith, no other religion has a Jesus, our Christ. We could speak of the effects of the Christian religion upon the people who receive it, and believe it, and adore our living Lord. But what is the greatest and the highest of all of the attestations used by Jesus Himself and by the apostles themselves that Christ is truly the Son of God? In the New Testament, you will find the highest and chiefest of all of the attestations to the truth of the Christian faith to be this: the fulfillment of the prophecies; that God in the Old Testament wrote of these things, and these things have come to pass in the life and ministry of our Lord. The great corroboration that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself [2 Corinthians 5:19], is found in this: that He fulfills the prophecies of the Old Testament.
Now you find that in the ministry of our Lord and very typically illustrated here in our Savior’s conversation with the two in Emmaus. He has been raised from the dead, but they just heard about it from some women. They’d seen Him crucified, and they thought that this was the end of the ministry and mission of their hoped for Savior. So is Christ unknown to them, a stranger to them? Not until He had revealed Himself and they’d opened their eyes did they recognize Him. As the Lord spoke to them, He is bringing these two to a faith in Himself, undying and everlasting. And how does He do it? Does He bring to the attention of those two disciples in Emmaus, so discouraged and in such despair, does He bring to their attention some marvelous miracle that He works in order to corroborate the truth of His life and resurrection? Does He do some marvelous and astonishing thing? Does He remind them even of His words of wisdom and the glory of the days of His flesh? No; what He does is this: out of the Old Testament Scriptures, "Beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded unto them in the Scriptures the things concerning Himself" [Luke 24:27]. The great corroboration and attestation and truth of the ministry of our Lord He found in the Holy Scriptures themselves.
Now you find that same attitude and that same presentation in the work and the writings and the preaching of the apostles. The Gospel of Matthew is none other thing than a presentation of our Lord as the fulfillment of all of the prophecies of the Old Testament. Time and again will you find in Matthew this formula: this was done, or this happened that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet. Simon Peter, in his sermon at Caesarea, said, "And to Him give all the prophets witness" [Acts 10:43]. When the eloquent Alexandrian, Apollos, spake in Ephesus, the Bible says, "And he showed them publicly, from the Scriptures, that Jesus is the Christ" [Acts 18:28]. And when Paul wrote his great letter to the church at Corinth, and defined the gospel, he said it like this: "My brethren, I declare unto you, I make known unto you the gospel, wherein ye are saved: how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures" [1 Corinthians 15:1-4]. I am just summarizing in the New Testament the tremendous corroboration of the truths of the faith in Jesus Christ is this: that He fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies.
Now I speak of the merit and the worth and the glory of that attestation. About 70, 80, 90 AD, a contemporary with the apostles who lived to great age, there was converted a philosopher in Samaria. He was a Greek. He was a learned rhetorician. His name was Justin; and because he laid down his life for the faith, history knows him as Justin Martyr. He became a Christian; a Greek philosopher and intellectual, he became a Christian how? Because by reading the Old Testament Scriptures, being born in Samaria, and finding their fulfillment in Jesus Christ, he himself embraced the faith. And I have copied a sentence out of the testimony of this great Christian witness. I quote Justin Martyr: "To declare a thing shall come to pass long before it is in being, and then to bring it to pass, this or nothing is the work of God."
And the more that Greek philosopher, as he came across the Old Testament Scriptures, and reading those prophecies and finding them fulfilled in Jesus the Christ – the marvelous faith that came to him is the marvelous faith that will come to any honest heart who will read God’s Word and who will find those holy prophecies fulfilled in our blessed Lord. To know the future is a prerogative of God alone. No man can foresee the future, not a minute hence, not a day hence, much less a thousand years hence. No man can know the future but God. And for God to outline the future, and to see that future come to pass as God hath written it, is a work and a miracle and an attestation of the presence and truth of the Lord God Himself.
I want you to see how marvelous that is. If a man were to prophesy – if one man were to prophesy that a hundred years hence or a thousand years hence – there would be somebody as he is describing come to live in the earth, it would be a phenomenal and a marvelous thing. But in this instance, you have not just one man at one particular time foretelling and prophesying the coming to the earth of another man; but you have in the Word of God, you have men, men, men, men through all of the centuries, and through thousands of years prophesying the coming to this earth of a great being, a great character, a great personality, a great Man. Not only do they say He is coming as such, but they intimately describe dozens and dozens and dozens of details concerning Him; and this over a period of uncounted thousands of years.
How long ago was it? How long ago was it? Known but to God, how long ago was it that God created Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden? [Genesis 1:26-28]. And God in their fall, how long ago was it that God promised that in the Seed of the woman – and a woman doesn’t have seed; the man has seed – in the Seed of the woman, a prophecy of the virgin birth of this coming Savior, in the Seed of the woman, Satan should be crushed? [Genesis 3:15]. How long ago was that? I haven’t time to speak of the days of Abraham, two thousand years before Christ. Nor have I time to speak of Moses, a thousand five hundred years before Christ. Nor have I time to speak of Jacob, the third after Abraham. And time would fail me to speak of David, a thousand years before Christ; or of Isaiah, seven hundred fifty years before Christ; or of Micah, seven hundred years before Christ; or of all of the prophets speaking, speaking, speaking in intimate detail of the great coming One, the Promised of God.
The fine scientific mind of Pasteur, who delivered mankind from the thralldom and the dread of disease, Pasteur wrote, "The greatest of the proofs of Jesus Christ are the prophecies. They are also what God has most provided for, for the event which has fulfilled them is a miracle of God!" It is an astonishing thing that men under the Holy Spirit of God could say an outline and portray the coming of our Lord in minutest detail. To read the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, written over seven hundred years before Christ, is to read as though a man had stood by the cross of the Son of God himself.
And no less a miraculous part of those marvelous prophecies, written under the inspiration of God in these Old Testament Scriptures, no small amazing part of those prophecies is this: that they seemingly contradict one another. Until they were fulfilled in our Lord, no man could disentangle those prophecies. For as I have said, they seemingly contradict one another. At one time he will be speaking, the prophet will be outlining the coming One as a great conqueror; and in the next breath, the same prophet may be describing His lowliness, and His sorrows, and His grief. How could that be? A great conqueror, riding triumphant as leader of the nations of the earth, but lowly, and despised, and outcast, a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief [Isaiah 53]. In one breath they would be describing Him as the King of heaven, and the King of glory, and the King of the nations, and the desire of all the peoples of the earth; then they’d be describing His stripes, and His blood, and His atoning death. How could those things be? Even John the Baptist didn’t understand. It is the most marvelous thing, the greatest attestation of the Christian faith that mind could imagine: these things God has written thousands of years before they were fulfilled in the life of our Lord.
Now I’ve come to this part of our message: are you sure that the fulfillment of all of those prophecies is in Jesus? The Hebrew nation of course disavows it, disowns it, repudiates it. Are you sure all of these things written by the Spirit of God in the Old Testament Scriptures, are you sure that they are fulfilled in Jesus Christ? "Now before," an unbeliever could rise up and say, "Now before you stand up there and avow that Jesus fulfills those Old Testament Scriptures, before you do it, we have three objections to say." All right, let’s listen to their objections.
First: they say Jesus apparently fulfills those Old Testament Scriptures because there was collusion between Jesus and His friends to make the life of our Lord conform to all of those Old Testament Scriptures. It was planned. It was a trick. And we’re dupes to believe it. Why is that objection not valid? For the very simple and plain reason that most of the predictions that were made about the life of our Lord were not fulfilled by the friends of Jesus, or by the acts of Jesus Himself; but they were fulfilled by His enemies who hated Him, and who slew Him! Oh! We could speak of that endlessly, but we must hasten.
Who broke His bones? Who broke the bones of those thieves on either side? [John 19:32]. Who did that? Were they the friends of Jesus who came and break the bones of the thief on one side and the thief on the other side? Or were they the men who crucified Him? They were the men who crucified Him. But the Scriptures said, "A bone of Him will not be broken" [Exodus 12:46]. And when they came to the center cross, and saw that He was certainly dead, they break not His bones" [John 19:33]. But the Scriptures also said, a thousand years before He died, the Scriptures also said, "They shall look on Him whom they have pierced" [Zechariah 12:10]. And one of the soldiers took a spear and thrust it into His heart; and blood and water poured out [John 19:14]. I’m just illustrating the majority of the Scriptures that prophesy the life and ministry of our Lord were not fulfilled by His friends; they were fulfilled by those who hated Him, and destroyed Him, and crucified Him. So there could not have been a collusion between Jesus and His friends to make His life conform to the prophecies of the Old Testament.
Then they have another avowal. They say and then turn it around, "Why, these friends of Jesus wrote those things back here in the Old Testament Scriptures. They put them back there in those Scriptures. And then when the life of Jesus followed its course, why, they had already doctored and changed the Scriptures." The answer to that is very apparent: the holy Old Testament Scriptures were as set, and they were as known, and they were as inviolable, and they were as sacred to the Jew when Jesus lived, as they are to the Jew and to us today. The Old Testament canon was completed after the days of Ezra. And they were completely translated into the Greek language, called the Septuagint, somewhere around three hundred years before Christ. And for those apostles to seek or to try to change those Scriptures to make them conform to the life of our Lord would be utterly impossible! There are thousands of scholars today, beside the ordinary believer who listens to me out there in the pew, who would know if a man changed the Bible, the Word of God. It was just that way in the days of our Lord. For hundreds of years before Christ was born, those Scriptures were canonized, and they were set, and they were known, and they were definitely transcribed according to a certain pattern! Every page had its letter in its certain place; far more sacred then than it is now because we have many, many different versions and translations now. Those Hebrew Scriptures in that day when our Lord lived, every copy was made exactly as every other copy. And on the same spot on every page, every letter was identically transcribed. And for the apostles or the friends of Jesus to change those Scriptures would have been utterly impossible.
Then there’s one other objection: "Before you identify the fulfillment of those Scriptures in Jesus the Christ, why, maybe they refer to some other man, some other man." Well, that would be an open opportunity to see for yourself. Plainly written back here in the pages of the Old Testament is a description of the coming One; what He is to be like, what He is to do. Maybe it refers to somebody else. Who? Socrates? Socrates? Plato? Caesar? Marcus Aurelius? Alexander the Great? Charlemagne? Napoleon? And in our own day there have been men of stature as great as any in the ages past; one of whom is Winston Churchill. Would you ever in your wildest imagination ever think of identifying a Winston Churchill as the fulfillment of the prophecies of God? Would you? Did anybody? And it is as least likely had you lived in the days of Socrates, had you lived in the days of Plato, had you lived in the days of Charlemagne, had you lived in the days of Alexander, had you lived in the days of Caesar. It would have been as impossible, it would be a wildest imagination to identify one of those men as the fulfillment of all these prophecies of the Old Testament Scripture.
There’s just One; there’s only One; His name is Jesus. And you can take all of those multitudinous descriptions and prophecies, put them all together, and you’ll have an outline of the life, and ministry, and birth, and death, and resurrection, and ascension, and coming again of our living and glorious Lord.
Now may I conclude? That’s why the sin of unbelief is so grievous. And if persisted in becomes what the Book would call "the unpardonable sin." Our Lord has authenticated, as only God in heaven could do, "This is My beloved Son; hear Him" [Matthew 17:5]. Our Lord has authenticated Jesus our Savior, the Christ of God. And for a man to persist in rejection and unbelief becomes an unforgivable, an eternal an unpardonable sin [Mark 3:22-30].
My brother, God forgives the harlot. One came off of the street, out of the gutter, bathed His feet with her tears, dried His feet with the hair of her head; and the Lord lifted her up, and sent her away in forgiveness and in peace. The Lord forgives the harlot [Luke 7:36-50]. The Lord forgives the malefactor, and the traitor, and the murderer. Dying, one of them turned, looked to Jesus, and said, "Lord, when You come into Your kingdom, remember me." There’s one man I know is in heaven: he’s a thief and a murderer, guilty of insurrection. For the Lord said to that repentant thief, "Today, this day, semeion, not at the resurrection, not at the age of consummation, but today, this day, thou shalt be with Me in Paradise" [Luke 23:42-43]. And when the Lord entered glory, He never walked by Himself. Arm in arm, "Lift up your heads, O ye gates: and the King of glory will come in" [Psalm 24:7], and by His side a repentant murderer, insurrectionist, robber, thief. God will forgive the thief.
God will forgive us when we deny our Lord. Simon Peter cursed and swore, and said, "You think I talk like Him? Listen to this!" and he cursed. And while he was cursing, the Lord turned and looked upon Peter; and he went out and wept bitterly [Luke 22:61-63]. And the Lord appeared especially to Simon Peter [Luke 24:34]. There’s not any sin God will not forgive, not any sin. But he that believeth not is condemned, judged, cast out, refused, unworthy; for God hath done all that God could do to attest, to verify, to authenticate, "This is My beloved Son; hear Him" [Matthew 17:5].
And that shall be this day the avowal and the commitment of our lives to Jesus. One time, one time, our Lord spake under oath. Before the high priest, on trial for His life, the high priest said to Jesus, "I adjure Thee, by the living God, that Thou tell us whether or not Thou be the Christ, the Son of the Blessed." One time before the Sanhedrin, presided over by the high priest, and under oath, the Lord replied, "I am. I am. And henceforth thou shalt see the Son of Man come in the glory of the Father, with His holy angels" [Matthew 26:63-64; Mark 14:61-62].
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
["The Solid Rock"; Edward Mote]
And in the light of that attestation and on the firm rock of that avowal, the apostles preached, and the martyrs testified, and the true church of Jesus rises today in the darkness of this world hour to proclaim Christ Jesus, the hope and the light of the world. Even as the Lord said, "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself" [Luke 24:27], God’s highest attestation, the true and living witness, the Word of the Lord.
Now while we sing our hymn of appeal, somebody you give his life to Jesus; a couple you, coming into the fellowship of the church; a family you, "Pastor, this is my wife, these are our children, all of us are coming today." As the Spirit of our Lord shall press the appeal, make it this morning; make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
AND THE PROPHETS
I. The authentication of the Christian
A. Fulfillment of the prophecies
(2 Corinthians 5:19)
1. The teaching
of Jesus (John 7:46, Luke 24:27, 44-45)
preaching of the apostles (Acts 10:43, 18:28, 1
II. The power and meaning of this
A. Prophetic evidence
peculiar to Christianity
1. Justin Martyr
Not just one man prophesying, but men through centuries (Genesis 1:26-28, 3:15)
B. Some of the
predictions seem contradictory (Isaiah 53)
III. Who fits these prophecies?
A. The unbeliever has
objections to Christ
Most of the prophecies fulfilled by His enemies (John
19:32-33, Exodus 12:46, Zechariah 12:10, John 19:14)
2. The predictions were
written into the documents
a. Canon complete after
Ezra, before Jesus born
3. Prophecies refer to
some other man
a. There is no one who
has begun to fulfill them but Jesus
Unbelief is sin; if persisted in, the unpardonable sin (Matthew 17:5, Mark 3:22-30, Luke 7:36-50, 23:42-43, Psalm 24:7, Luke
under oath (Matthew 26:63-64, Mark 14:61-62)