We should be able to make certain connections and distinctions concerning the general overall principles and purposes of God found in scripture. In God’s counsels, what I share next becomes a very important understanding. Jesus Christ, in the title and role of Messiah, was always a specific promise in Old Testament prophecy to Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham. As such, Messiah was never a promise to the Gentile nations, and they were never instructed to specifically look for Him. I believe we will find, if we search and know the scriptures, and allow the Spirit of God to show us, that the title and role of Jesus Christ as Messiah, has little direct application to the Body of Christ, or the individual believer. Messiah speaks to Israel, as do all the Messianic scriptures (that is, if we can agree as to which scriptures are Messianic). There are very distinct promises connected to Messiah – the throne of David, the Promised Land, setting captives free, declaring the acceptable year of the Lord (Luke 4:17-21), and a kingdom over Israel (Is. 9:6-7).
The Counsels of God and the Two Titles of Jesus Christ
The majority of the Word of God, its proper interpretation and understanding, depends on clarifying the distinctions between the two titles of Jesus Christ – that of “Messiah” and that of “Son of Man.” I believe this to be the most important understanding concerning the counsels of God, and I want you to be able to see how God’s Word makes these distinctions clear and obvious. This is a time in which the proverb, “can’t see the forest, for the trees,” will come into play. In studying the statements of scripture, the believer has to be able to truly step back and see the bigger picture God is bringing out that the details are hinting at, or describing, or even obscuring. This is one of those times, and I am really hoping you will clearly see the “forest” with me. When we examine these two titles and roles, as we will do extensively in this book, we want to particularly pay attention to their nature and character.
Now I’m sure some skepticism is already starting. I’ve made a somewhat grand statement that these two distinct titles of Christ lead to an understanding of a majority of scripture. But consider this — in eternity past, before the foundations of the world, God had purpose and a plan already, and the grand emphasis of this plan is the glory of God. These counsels centered in on the exaltation of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:9-10). I do not believe many Christians would argue this point. But again allow me to point out some scriptural support. Adam, in the beginning in paradise, is a type of the second Adam, who is Jesus Christ, the Son of Man (Rom. 5:14). Then, when man fell in sin, in God’s cursing of the serpent afterward, we see the declaration of the Seed of the woman (who is Jesus Christ) that would eventually come and crush the power of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). Also, when God confirmed the covenant of promise to Abraham, it was confirmed in his one Seed, who is Christ (Gal. 3:16-18, Gen. 22:18). So it is easy to see in God’s word, that His counsel and plan from the foundation of the world, centered on Christ. This can be clearly traced through the scriptures.
“…having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.”
The two titles of Jesus Christ, “Messiah” and “the Son of Man”, are very distinct in how scripture makes use of them. And the promises of God associated with both titles are also very distinct, as are the people to whom these promises are made. These two titles, found uniquely in God’s counsels, show forth all the working of God for the accomplishing of His eternal purpose and glory; that purpose being, the gathering together of all things, both in heaven and earth – in Christ (Eph. 1:9-10).
Jesus Christ and the Title of Messiah to Israel
First let us consider Christ as Messiah – this is always related to a specific people, the descendants of Abraham after the flesh, the Jews. Messiah was to come to Israel, and the Jews had, and still have, this expectation. And there were, and still are, promises associated with this expected coming. These physical promises concern the restoration of Israel, the Promised Land, and the throne of David. There will be a son of David, after the flesh, reigning forever out of Zion’s hill in Jerusalem over the twelve tribes of Israel.
“For Your servant David’s sake,
do not turn away the face of Your Anointed.
The LORD has sworn in truth to David;
He will not turn from it:
For the LORD has chosen Zion;
He has desired it for His dwelling place:
“This is My resting place forever;
here I will dwell, for I have desired it.
I will abundantly bless her provision;
I will satisfy her poor with bread.
I will also clothe her priests with salvation,
And her saints shall shout aloud for joy.
There I will make the horn of David grow;
I will prepare a lamp for My Anointed.
His enemies I will clothe with shame,
but upon Himself His crown shall flourish.”
“For I said, Loving-kindness shall be built up forever; in the very heavens wilt thou establish thy faithfulness.
I have made a covenant with mine elect, I have sworn unto David my servant:
Thy seed will I establish forever, and build up thy throne from generation to generation.”
Psalm 2:2, 6,
“The kings of the earth set themselves, and the princes plot together, against Jehovah and against his anointed…. And I have anointed my king upon Zion, the hill of my holiness.”
The First Presentation of Messiah to Israel and His Message and Work
I believe that from these verses we should be able to make a few connections. Messiah is the Anointed One, and also, is associated with Jehovah choosing Zion as a dwelling place for ever. I see in the title “Messiah” a connection of the idea, God coming in the flesh or Jehovah among Israel, all of which describes Jesus Christ. He came to the Jews as their Messiah, He came unto His own (John 1:11). He presented Himself to Israel as their Messiah, and we find this presentation clearly in Luke’s gospel. And further, there is a distinct message (gospel) and work associated with the coming and mission of Messiah, quoted by Jesus from the book of Isaiah,
“ The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”
“Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
At this presentation of Messiah, the people in His hometown became enraged. They forced Him out of the synagogue and to the edge of a cliff to throw Him down to His death. Why? He was claiming to be Israel’s long awaited Messiah, now come in the flesh. He took the book of Isaiah and found a passage referencing the Anointed One, declared to them its fulfillment in their hearing by His presence. Every Jew would have clearly known to whom this passage was referring. However, it is disappointing that many in the Body of Christ don’t know the same. The passage from Isaiah not only speaks of the Anointed One, but also the ministry Messiah would have in Israel. It is the fulfillment of promises and prophecies centered on the Messiah. Also in Luke the Lord says;
“…but He said to them, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.”
Luke 9:1-2, 6
“Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
So they departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.”
It says,”…preaching the gospel…” This gospel that was preached by Christ and His disciples at first, was one of promises of physical blessing, physical healing, and physical restoration to Israel, and Israel alone (Luke 4:43, Matt. 10:5-8, Luke 9:1-2). The gospel preached in Luke 9:6 and Luke 9:11 is the gospel of Messiah, and did not contain thoughts or references to suffering, crucifixion, death and resurrection. When He delivered those in Israel from demon possession, He was proclaiming liberty to the captives, and doing so in a literal and physical way. The feeding of the five thousand is a partial fulfillment of Ps. 132:15, the physical blessing of the Messiah to Israel.
From the outset of this study, I want to re-emphasize to the reader the importance of clearly seeing and understanding these distinctions and differences made by the scriptures. The two titles of Jesus Christ are distinct – I write to prove this argument from the scriptures to you. The gospels – the messages – attached to each title are quite distinct and different from each other. The gospel of Messiah is one of promises and blessings to Israel. We will see how different the gospel associated with the Son of Man is, as we move along through the book.
The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven
Also notice that Jesus said He must preach the kingdom of God, as well as sending the disciples forth to do the same. The kingdom of God was at that time present. The kingdom of God was among them because Emmanuel was there, as their Messiah. We may see this clearly also in Luke;
“But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.”
God was present working among them (John 5:17-20) and therefore the kingdom of God was also, and so, it was preached as the gospel of Messiah to Israel. He sent His disciples early in His ministry from town to town, saying to them, go only to the house of Israel, and they returned rejoicing that even unclean spirits were subject to them in His name.
There is a distinction made in scripture between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven. As we have seen already, the kingdom of God is present anywhere God is present. However, when Jesus and John the Baptist spoke of the kingdom of heaven, it was always not yet, but at hand. We will discover, as we go farther on in our study that the kingdom of heaven could only exist after the Son of Man went away to heaven. This kingdom is so named because the King of this kingdom, the Son of Man, is away in heaven. The kingdom of heaven is related to the Son of Man title. The kingdom of God is a broad and general term, and speaks of the direct working of God. We see these points clearly made again in Matthew.
Matt. 10:1, 5-8
“And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease…. These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.”
It is physical blessing all the way here, it would be hard not to see that. And then in Acts, the disciples ask at that time for the restoration of Messiah’s kingdom in Israel;
“When they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
This was a kingdom described to them, as well as to all the Jews in Isaiah — Messiah’s kingdom.
“For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”
Jesus clearly was the Messiah come to the house of Israel, come unto His own. And the gospel of Messiah was that which He and His disciples preached. He did many signs and wonders among them, fulfilling at least partially the promises associated with Messiah concerning physical blessing and restoration. He was of the linage of David, the son of David according to the flesh, and called as such by many at that time.
Messiah’s Mission to the House of Israel Only
But now, let us look at a passage of scripture in Matthew that makes very little sense, or may even be offensive, without having an understanding of Messiah’s mission.
“Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.”
But He answered her not a word.
And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.”
But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”
But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”
And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”
Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.”
In verses 21-24 you have the “big picture” concerning the title and mission of Messiah. He is referenced as Lord, Son of David (v. 22). Then Jesus speaks of the scope of His mission as Messiah, or better yet, He speaks of the limits of His mission – “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” This is fairly emphatic; as the Messiah, He was sent by God to Israel only. And in verses 25-26, He says, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Are you uneasy with the Lord’s statements here? This may seem somewhat rude and heartless. He says, “It is not right…” What we need is an understanding of the Messiah title and mission in relation to the counsels of God. Jesus is saying this would not be proper or appropriate concerning the reasons and limitations of His mission as Messiah. He says,”…the children’s bread…” The Jews are always the children of God according to the flesh, descendants of Abraham after the flesh.
Israel, as a nation, always has a wall of partition up around them; this was placed there by God Himself, separating them from the Gentiles. Their law, rites, and ordinances kept this partition in place. There is an obvious separation from this woman having to do with her being a Gentile – this separation was always part of the Jewish law. Messiah and His mission are related to the Law of Moses, and you see part of this association here. There was still this wall of separation present (vs.24-26). The “bread” is the promise of physical healing and deliverance to the physical decedents of Israel – the children – given by Messiah. He says,”…throw it to the dogs,” further identifying the existence of this wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles – the Gentiles being the dogs. When understanding comes concerning this portion of scripture, it is quite enlightening.
Prophecy and the Two Presentations of Messiah
Here are some further connections in Christ and His title of Messiah, as to the Jews only. In Malachi there is the promise of Elijah being sent before the great and awesome day of the Lord.
“For behold, the day is coming,
Burning like an oven,
And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble.
And the day which is coming shall burn them up,”
Says the Lord of hosts,
“That will leave them neither root nor branch.
But to you who fear My name
The Sun of Righteousness shall arise
With healing in His wings;
And you shall go out
And grow fat like stall-fed calves.
You shall trample the wicked,
For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet
On the day that I do this,”
Says the Lord of hosts.”
“Remember the Law of Moses, My servant,
Which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel,
With the statutes and judgments.
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.”
We know that for the Antichrist, the beast, the ten kings, and all the armies at Armageddon, it will be judgment (Mal. 4:1). But for the Jewish remnant in the end (Rev. 7:1-8, Rev. 14:1-5, Rom. 9:27-29, Rom. 11:25-29, Mal. 4:2) it will be their Messiah come from Zion, their Deliverer (Rom. 11:26, 27, Rev. 14:1). However before His return in the end, there will be two witnesses in Jerusalem for a period of 3 ½ years during the coming tribulation (Rev.11:1-12). One of the two witnesses comes in the power of Elijah. This is the actual fulfillment of this prophecy from Malachi. One will stand witnessing in Elijah’s character and ministry (I don’t feel it is coincidence that Moses is mentioned by Malachi as well), preceding what we know to be the second coming of Messiah to Israel. But there was a partial fulfillment of this same prophetic passage at the first coming of Messiah, which was preceded by the appearance of John the Baptist, heralding the coming of the Lord. So Malachi promises Elijah coming, and the revelation of scripture stops – then the next thing is John the Baptist on the scene, who, if you will, is Elijah come (Matt. 11:13-14), preparing the way of Messiah to Israel.
In keeping things straight, we have a partial fulfillment of the Malachi prophecy concerning Elijah coming before the great and terrible day of the Lord, and a partial fulfillment of Messiah coming to Israel; all this in John the Baptist and Jesus Christ, at first. This was not the real full fulfillment of the Malachi prophecy, nor did Messiah take the throne of David and reign. Only in the end, in the last days, will this prophecy completely be fulfilled. So we have the prophecy given by Malachi, then years later a prefiguring partial fulfillment, and in the end, there will be the full development of the prophecy.
Another important point to be made is the two comings of Messiah are quite different in character. The first was in grace and humility, at a time when Israel was being tested; the second will be in righteous judgment and sovereign power when Israel will be saved and established. This is an important understanding about the title of Messiah in the counsels of God. Messiah will have two different presentations to Israel. The first one has already past. The second one is in the future.
The Physical Blessings of Messiah to Israel
In Matthew we have another interaction between John and Jesus that emphasizes both the title and work of Messiah.
“And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”
Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”
The Messiah was the Coming One; coming to Israel. The works of this One were physical healings, deliverances, and feeding the poor. The gospel preached to the poor was not crucifixion and death of Messiah, but one of Messiah blessing the poor and restoring. In Matt. 9:27 the two blind men followed Him, crying out, “Son of David, have mercy on us!” This is, again, another reference to Christ as Messiah, as every Israelite would understand. He heals them of their blindness, but forbids them to tell anyone; again foreseeing His rejection as Messiah by the nation. Another portion of scripture in Matthew emphasizes the same or similar things;
“But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew from there. And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all. Yet He warned them not to make Him known, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:
“Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen,
My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased!
I will put My Spirit upon Him,
And He will declare justice to the Gentiles.
He will not quarrel nor cry out,
Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets.
A bruised reed He will not break,
And smoking flax He will not quench,
Till He sends forth justice to victory;
And in His name Gentiles will trust.”
Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw. And all the multitudes were amazed and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”
Jesus heals the multitudes, but warns them not to speak of Him as Messiah. The prophecy from Isaiah 42:1-4 (Matt. 12:18-21) is mostly Messianic in character. When God is saying, My Servant whom I have chosen, and I will put My Spirit upon Him, He is identifying the Messiah. However, when God speaks of His Beloved, He is referring to the Son of God (Matt. 3:17, John 1:18).
The Son of God – not a Title Taken Up by Christ
Jesus is the Son of God, always has been, and always will be. This is who He is. Messiah however, is a title He takes up in the working out and fulfilling of the counsels of God. When He takes up the Messianic title, He does so as the Son of God; again, this is because He never stops being the Son of God. But it is the Messianic title alone that is associated with the counsels of God in this passage, not the fact that He is the Beloved Son. When we speak later in the book of Jesus setting aside the Messiah title and turning to the Son of Man title and role, He does so as the Son of God as well. The two titles taken up or set aside have to do with God’s counsels, and God’s work that is associated with that particular title; further, a message or gospel linked to each title, as well as a distinct future kingdom to each of varying scope and influence. But Jesus is the Son of God. This is His divinity. Therefore, Jesus as the Beloved Son is not the working out of the counsels of God.
This prophecy is much like the one we considered from Malachi; it has a partial fulfilling presently with Christ, but a final and complete fulfillment in the end at Messiah’s return. That is how the Gentiles are involved with Messiah, in the end, for some of the Gentile nations are spared in the separating judgment of the sheep and the goats (Matt. 25:31-32). The prophecy, in part, points to the end, for that is the only time Messiah sends forth justice to victory (it certainly wasn’t a consequence of His first coming), and the Gentiles will be gathered to a restored Israel in blessing. In v. 22 He delivers another captive of Israel by healing the blind and mute, and in v. 23 they marvel, “Could this be the Son of David?”
Messiah’s Connection with the Physical Earth
There are two very important connections that are to be made from all the above material concerning the title of Messiah that I am hoping we all will see and clearly understand. First, it is that Messiah strictly connects with Israel, the physical seed of Abraham; and second, that Messiah strictly connects with this physical earth, in physical blessing, physical restoration, physical land, physical descendants of Abraham, and the throne of David on which the physical Seed of David will sit. It is all Israel and the earth when we know the nature and character of the title of Messiah in God’s counsels, and for that matter, the nature and character of prophecy.
But the Messiah was not received in His first coming. He was persecuted and hated by the leaders and elders of Israel. They gnashed their teeth at Him and conspired to put Him to death. The people in general were dull of hearing, hard of heart, and blind to any insight into whom He really was. Instead of a Deliver come out of Zion at this time, God laid a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense. Jesus was the stone that the builders rejected. But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’ (John 15:22-25). Who has believed the report? To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? Israel did not believe in Him (John 12:37).