Christ and the Prophets
October 26th, 1969 @ 7:30 PM
CHRIST AND THE PROPHETS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-26-69 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message from the twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, and it is entitled Christ and the Prophets. This is another sermon from a text that we shall read again in Luke 24, verses 25 to 27. Then we will read verses 44 and 45; Christ and the Prophets. Now let us read out loud together, all of us; and on the radio, on WRR, you read it out loud with us. We are reading Luke 24, the last chapter of Luke; now let us read verses 25 through 27 first. Now read it with me:
Then He said unto them, O fools, 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 let’s go to verse 44 and 45:
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, concerning Me.
Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures.
Now the sermon concerns one of the most amazingly unusual things to be found in the Word of God. What is the great authentication of the Christian faith? What is foundation, what assurance do you have of its truth? There are many things that can be said. I read this last week a magnificent article on the authenticity of the Christian faith, a presentation of the truth of the deity of Christ and His messianic ministry; and it had many things, had many points in it. You can speak of the impeccable character of the Lord. This week I was given a book entitled The Impeccable Christ. And we can speak of the effect that the Christian faith has had upon the world.
But what is the great authenticating fact, presentation, of the New Testament? Without fail it is this one thing: the great foundational authenticating commending fact of the truth of the Christian faith is that it is the fulfillment of what the prophets have said. Now you have a magnificent illustration of it here in the life of our Lord. This is the glorified Lord who is speaking, He is raised, He is immortalized from the dead, and He is talking to these disciples about the truth of His ministry, and what is the great substantiating evidence? Wouldn’t you think He would do some marvelous miracle like pointing to a star and having it explode up there in the sky? Or turning the water into blood or the land into the sea? Some stupendous, gigantic miracle, wouldn’t you have thought He would have done that to authenticate His ministry? Or what about referring to His own words: "Never a man spake like that Man" [John 7:46]. These are the inspired words of God that Jesus spake. Wouldn’t you have thought He would have turned to them? But no, what He does to substantiate and to authenticate His ministry and His messianic mission is this: He turns to the Prophets, and He shows that in the Bible, in the Holy Scriptures, these things were fulfilled in Him [Luke 24:27, 44-45].
Now that same way, and method, and approach of preaching, and authentication is also found without exception in the apostles. When Simon Peter stands up at Caesarea and presents the truth of God in Christ Jesus, he will say, "To Him give all the prophets witness" [Acts 10:43]. And in the first chapter of his second letter, he describes here what his eyes saw and his ears heard when he saw the transfiguration of our Lord on the mountaintop [2 Peter 1:16-18], and he is using that as an illustration, as an authentication of the divine message and ministry of our Lord. That’s something that he saw, that he looked upon and his ears heard [Matthew 17:1-5], and he writes it like that. "But," he says as he comes to the conclusion of his great authenticating chapter, he says, "But, we have a more sure word of prophecy" [2 Peter 1:19]. Then he describes what the prophets say, knowing that the Scriptures were not given of a man’s own private inclination; "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of men: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." [2 Peter 1:21] That’s one of the most astonishing things you could think of in imagination. Here is Simon Peter who has seen with his own eyes the glorification and the transfiguration of our Lord, and yet he says that the greatest authenticating sign is not that marvelous deity of Christ shining through the veil of His flesh, but he says the great authenticating substantiating fact to the truth of Christ is to be found in the word of prophecy.
Now I want us to look at that for just a moment. It is an astonishing thing, the Christian faith and its prophetic authentication. Justin Martyr said – the great philosopher of Samaria who was converted and became an apologist and a protagonist for the faith in the Greco-Roman Empire – he said, quote, "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." There’s not a religion in the earth that has prophecy in it. There’s not a faith in the earth that has prophets in it. All of these other religions will talk about things, and things, and things, but they dare not prophesy! If they dared to prophesy, the falsity of their religion would immediately become lucid and apparent! The only faith and the only religion that dares to stand the test of prophecy is the Judeo Christian faith, the faith of the Book that I hold here in my hands. And it is an astonishing thing, I say, that such a thing could be. Look for a man in any age of any time to prophesy a something to come to pass, and it come to pass, is an astonishing thing. But in the prophets we have, not through a generation, and not through a century, but we have through millennia, we have through thousands of years; and not one man, but many men; not describing one thing but describing a thousand things; and doing it in minutiae, in small detail. I have in the back of one of the Bibles that I have at the house – and you’ve seen some of these things – I have a list of all of the things that the prophets have said that were fulfilled in Jesus. And it is page after page after page of them, and some of them the tiniest detail. And yet the man that spake it and the man who described it lived maybe thousands of years before Jesus came – such as Enoch who was the seventh from Adam, and think of David, and think of Isaiah, and all of the prophets, speaking of the Lord as though they were standing at the foot of the cross. What an astonishing thing! The keen, fine mind of Pasteur said, "The greatest of the truths 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, one which God has instituted from the birth of Christ, even to the end." Oh, what an amazing thing God has done to authenticate the mission and the ministry of our Lord.
Now when you look at these prophecies, the men who delivered them contradicted themselves and sometimes the same prophet would contradict himself in the same prophecy; which shows that he did not understand it, he was moved by the Holy Spirit of God, and the things that he said about the coming of the Lord were sometimes, I say, contradictory. For example, the prophet would say He is to be a great conqueror and a mighty leader; and in the same breath he would turn around and say that He is lowly and despised and rejected. Sometimes the prophet would describe Him as a great and a glorious King; and in the same breath turn around and describe His subjection and His suffering and His agonizing death. And a prophet would sometimes describe Him as the desire of all the nations of the earth, and then turn around and describe Him being pierced and His blood flowing out. They spake what they did not understand; they were moved by the Holy Spirit of God.
And these descriptions and these adumbrations were thousands and thousands of years before Jesus was born. The great – according to the Bible – the tremendous authentication, substantiation, confirmation of the deity and the messianic mission of our Lord is to be found in the Prophets. "And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded unto them the things concerning Himself" [Luke 24:27]. That’s why a man can preach the Bible and preach about Jesus, no matter where he is in it, no matter where. It’s all His story, it tells about the Lord.
Now when you look at these prophecies and gather them together and list them, and before you say that they all are fulfilled in Jesus, an objector says, "Now wait a minute, before you say that they are all fulfilled in Christ, I have some objections to say." Fine, what are they? "First," he says, "First, what happened was that these friends of the Lord took the life of Christ, and they made it conform to those prophecies, and that’s why you have the prophecies fulfilled in Jesus, because His friends took the life of our Lord and made it conform to the prophecies."
Now, what is the answer to that? The answer to that is very, very plain, and very simple and easy: most of the prophecies that were fulfilled in Christ were done by His enemies, by those who hated Him; not His friends, they didn’t have anything to do with it, but His enemies who destroyed Him. Who was it that sold Him for thirty pieces of silver? It was Judas Iscariot, according to the prophecies. Who was it that nailed Him to the cross and fulfilled the twenty-second Psalm and the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah? It was the leaders of the synagogue in the temple, it was the Roman rulers, it was the legions who nailed Him to the tree. Who was it that pierced His side, and His blood flowed out and encrimsoned the ground? It was His enemies who crucified Him. Why it’s an astonishing thing! His friends didn’t make the life of our Lord conform to those prophecies; for those prophecies were fulfilled mostly in what His enemies did to Him and those who despised and rejected Him.
Well, the objector says, "No, now listen, before you say they’re fulfilled in Jesus, what we want to point out," they say, "is that these things were put in that Bible in order that they might say that these things that happened to Jesus were in the Bible." My, my, my. No, no, no; for the Bible in the days of Jesus was as canonized, it was as complete as the Bible that I hold in my hands today. You couldn’t put something in that Bible now and say, "That’s a part of the Word of God," and I not know you put it in there. And a thousand, thousand, thousand others of us would know you put it in there. And it was the same in the days of our Lord. That holy canon of the old Bible was complete after the days of Ezra. And those Jews revered it, and loved it, and memorized it, and taught it in the morning and in the evening, in the uprising and the down-sitting, to their children. And had anybody put in that canon anything added or taken away, they would have known it immediately, just as we’d know it today. Those prophecies that are written in the Bible were inspired of God hundreds and thousands of years before Jesus was born; and they were the Holy Scriptures out of which the people preached the Word of God.
Then the third objection: "Those prophecies do not refer to Jesus, they refer to somebody else." Well, what somebody else? Read the prophecies of the Old Testament. And in whom are they fulfilled and named? Name anybody; name the great of the world. Are they fulfilled in Alexander the Great, the greatest Greek that ever lived? Or in Aristotle, or Plato, or Socrates, the greatest philosophers who ever lived? In whom were those prophecies fulfilled? Were they fulfilled in Julius or Augustus Caesar, the greatest Caesars who ever lived, who gave their names to the kaiser, that’s another name for Caesar in German, to the czar, that’s another name for Caesar in Russian, or to Caesar, kaisar who lived in the days of the great Roman Empire? There’s no conquerors or empire builders like them, but you would be foolish were you to stand up and say, "The prophecies, the Messianic prophecies are fulfilled in Augustus or Julius Caesar, or in Alexander the Great," or name anybody. They’re fulfilled in Pasteur from whom I read? Oh, he’d be the last to fulfill! And Abraham Lincoln? He’d be the last, he’d be the first to disavow it. Fulfilled in Napoleon Bonaparte? Fulfilled in whom? Nobody has ever walked across the stage of human history who even could begin to commence to touch the hem of the garment of the glorious, glorious corpus, body, amalgamation, all of those marvelous things that God says about the coming King. It is Jesus or nobody. The prophecies fall to the ground, and they turn to dust and ashes before our very eyes if they do not find materialization and reality and fulfillment in Jesus our Lord.
Now that’s why that it is such a sin not to receive the testimony of God. "We have," says Simon Peter, "a sure word of prophecy" [2 Peter 1:19]. And that is the unpardonable sin: when a man refuses the witness and testimony of the Holy Spirit of God to the Son of God, to Jesus our Lord [Mark 3:22-30]. The harlot who bathed His feet with her tears and dried them with the hairs of her head was forgiven [Luke 7:38-48]. The thief on the cross who turned and said, "Lord, remember me," was forgiven [Luke 23:42-43]. And Simon Peter who cursed with an oath and said, "I never knew Him," was forgiven [Luke 22:57]. But the man who rejects the testimony of the Holy Spirit of God through the prophecies to the deity and the messianic saviorhood of Christ is lost forever; there is no redress. The Scriptures are fulfilled, and the writing is plain, and God has done His best, even the best that God can do, to assure us of the King, His Majesty, His glory, the efficacy, the power to save in the blood of His cross, in the offering of His life, in His death on the tree, all of these things God hath authenticated to us in order that we might surely, surely believe. And when I spurn the witness of the Spirit and say "No," to the witness of the Holy Scriptures, and say "No," to the invitation of God, there is no other redress; there is no other hope, there is no other escape. How shall we escape, if we turn aside from so great a salvation? [Hebrews 2:3]. This is the Son of God and the Savior of the world. I close.
These Gospels, however they may summarize the life of our Lord as He goes about His Judean or Perean or Galilean ministries, they take time to expatiate upon and describe the great trial, the consummating event in the life of Jesus: when He died for our sins. And the Lord is before the Sanhedrin, "And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, saying, Tell us, art Thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" And Jesus is on oath and has taken the stand before the Sanhedrin, and the angels in heaven are looking down. And the leaders of the chosen people are listening with their ears. And all eternity is in the offing – in the galleries – and Jesus had to reply under oath. In the presence of the High Priest and the Sanhedrin, when the priest says, "I adjure thee by God, tell us, Art Thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" And Jesus said, I am [Matthew 26:63-64; Mark 14:62],Before Abraham was I Am,I Am that I Am; I Am! [Exodus 3:14] And ye shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven" [Matthew 26:64].
This is God manifest in the flesh. This is God walking among men. This is God dying for our sins. This is God raised for our justification. This is God coming again. This is God our Savior; in the Old Testament named Jehovah, and in the New Testament named Jesus.
Ah! What an assurance, what a victory, what a foundation upon which to base the hope and trust of your soul and your life. Come, come, come.
CHRIST AND THE PROPHETS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Luke 24:25-27, 44-45
I. The authentication of the Christian faith
A. Fulfillment of the prophecies
1. Jesus uses them (John 7:46, Luke 24:27, 44-45)
II. The power and meaning of this authentication
A. Prophetic evidence peculiar to Christianity
1. Justin Martyr
B. Some of the predictions seem contradictory
III. Who fits these prophecies?
A. The unbeliever has objections to Christ
1. Collusion between Jesus and His friends to conform His life to the prophecies
a. Most of the prophecies fulfilled by His enemies
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
A. Unbelief is sin; if persisted in, the unpardonable sin (2 Peter 1:19, Mark 3:22-30, Luke 7:38-48, 22:57, Hebrews 2:3)
B. Jesus under oath (Matthew 26:63-64, Mark 14:62, Exodus 3:14)