Jewish Expectation for the Messiah
Jesus Christ is a name that is known throughout the world. For many, however, “Christ” is Jesus’ last name and not a title that is actually a Greek translation of the Hebrew word we know as “Messiah.” Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, the King of Israel (Jn. 4:25-26; Lk. 23:2). But what does this actually mean?
Messiah – the “Anointed One”
The concept of a Messiah develops from the Hebrew verb meaning “to smear or to anoint.” God instructs Israel to anoint certain individuals for sacred tasks, particularly to serve as either a priest or king (Ex. 28:41; 1 Sam. 10:1). Therefore, the practice of anointing an individual for a special position led to the concept of an “anointed one,” or Messiah (1 Sam. 26:23; Ps. 2:2).
By the first century, the Jewish longing for the Messiah reflected the biblical tradition of a Davidic descendent, who would reign over Israel forever (2 Sam. 7:13; 22:51; Ps. 89:4). The Jewish community expected the Messiah to defeat the Romans and reestablish David’s throne. Longing for the arrival of the Messiah, the anointed king of Israel, prompted crowds to gather along the road leading up to Jerusalem to announce Jesus’ entrance to the city (Matt. 21:1-11). These crowds likely expected Jesus to enter the city, defeat the Romans and reestablish peace over Israel.
Jesus did not overthrow the Roman Empire and reestablish David’s throne over Israel in the manner the nation hoped; therefore, many within the Jewish community did not believe. While hope for a messianic deliverer reached its pinnacle during the first century, belief in a coming Messiah has remained a consistent part of Jewish belief. Both rabbinic literature and Jewish tradition formulate the foundation of the Jewish concept for the Messiah and his kingdom.
Jewish Messianic Hope Today
One of the central elements to the daily Jewish liturgy is the Shemoneh Esrei (Eighteen Benedictions), a nineteen-hundred-year-old prayer. The fifteenth blessing asks God to, “allow the branch of David, your servant to swiftly flourish and may his horn be exalted through your deliverance.”
The Hebrew Scriptures also convey the hope that Messiah will inaugurate a time of unprecedented, universal peace (Isa. 2:1-4). During this time of peace, the Messiah will reign from Jerusalem and produce the liberation of Israel (Zech. 14). Many Christians are familiar with these and other Messianic passages from the Old Testament.
Less familiar to Christians is the Talmud, the vast compilation of Jewish faith and practice, where the hope for a Messiah is ultimately the longing for an idealized world (b. Ketub 111b). Rabbinic literature continues the biblical tradition by describing key events leading up to the arrival of the Messiah at the end of the age. This includes significant battles against the nations, with a cataclysmic battle against Gog and Magog (m. Eduyot 2.10; b. Shabb 118b). In addition to these battles, there will also be a significant time of sorrows preceding the Messianic Era (m. Sot. 9.15; b. Sanh 98b). This period of grief will lead to the arrival of the Messiah, who will usher in an era of great prosperity and peace (b. Sanh 97a; b. Ketub 111b; 2 Bar 29).
The Coming of Messiah in Jewish Expectation
While belief in the coming Messiah is a foundational element to Jewish thought, descriptions of the Messiah and his arrival in rabbinic literature are rather limited. Additionally, differing views within rabbinic tradition developed due to the apparent contradictory depictions of both a victorious and afflicted Messiah.
This disparity has led to the concept of two separate Messiahs: Messiah Son of David, the victorious one, and Messiah Son of Joseph, the suffering or slain one (b. Sukk 52a). Some ancient rabbis referred to this Messiah as the Leper Scholar (Isa. 53:4; b. Sanh 993b). The rabbis sensed the paradox between a victorious and afflicted Messiah, but they could not reconcile the differences in one person. Is it possible for us to do so?
Two Messianic Roles Combined in One Person
The Jewish community today, as in the first century, continues to hope for the Messiah. Since Jesus did not arrive in the kingly or triumphant manner expected, many Jewish people did not recognize Him as the Messiah. How then can Jewish and non-Jewish believers proclaim that Jesus is truly, nonetheless, the Messiah?
Matthew considers Jesus’ birth the fulfillment of this Jewish expectation for the Messiah of Israel (Matt. 1:1). The suffering Messiah Jesus arrived 2,000 years ago when He inaugurated peace between God and humanity, but He promises to return to earth to establish universal peace when He reigns from David’s throne in Jerusalem. Perhaps Matthew best depicts the paradox when he describes the trek of the Magi across the desert to worship the infant “King of the Jews” in the remote village of Bethlehem (Matt. 2:2). Jesus is the Messiah the Jewish people have always anticipated.
The Final Overthrow of Babylon and Israel's Complete Deliverance by Her Messiah
By Dr. Goldberg
Babylon is an extraordinary symbol of a world gone mad with idolatry and disobedience. Isaiah 46-48 is a vivid description of God’s displeasure and the impending punishment God has prepared for Babylon. The Babylonian gods are mocked for their impotence in Isaiah 46. The mighty Babylonian Empire’s destruction is predicted in Isaiah 47. Even Israel sacrificed great opportunities and is reprimanded in Isaiah 48.
JUDGMENT ON BABYLON, THE GREAT OPPRESSOR OF JUDAH (Isaiah 46, 47)
Babylon’s downfall should be viewed in the light of Israel’s deliverance, which is the general theme of Isaiah 40-48. Israel is commanded to remember her history (Isa. 46:8-9). Remembering her history especially includes her deliverance from Egypt.
Babylon, the “queen of kingdoms” (Isa. 47:5), had been used by God as an instrument of judgment on Israel, God’s own people. Now God brings judgment upon Babylon for her mistreatment of God’s people. The nation of Babylon was teeming with idolatry—pagan priests, astrologers, soothsayers, charlatans, including demon-inspired religions.
Even though the nation had a high state of civilization, being advanced in mathematics, astronomy and literature, the moral character of the empire was evil. She mirrored the Babylon in the End of the Age, which will be destroyed without a trace (Isa. 47:5-11; Rev. 18:17-24).
THE FIRST APPEARANCE OF ISRAEL’S REDEEMER AND MESSIAH (Isaiah 48)
Through Isaiah, God reminds Israel how He spoke through the ancient prophets and caused those events to take place (Isa. 48:3). Peter indicates the prophets spoke concerning the time of the Messiah (1 Pet. 1:10-12). God knew his people would fail to recognize the source of their provision and protection; therefore, He reveals future events before they occur to protect the nation from attributing their deliverance to false idols (Isa. 48:4, 5). When Israel as a nation refuses to acknowledge their deliverer, God still promises to respond with mercy and defer His anger (Isa. 48:9). This is also the case when Israel does not embrace her Messiah.
When His people rebel against Him, God seeks to restore His people when He allows Israel to pass through the furnace of affliction. As a silversmith refines silver, God purifies His nation through the furnace of affliction (Isa. 48:10). The prophet Jeremiah speaks about the future refinement as “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7). The speaker in this text is none other than King Messiah Himself (Isa. 48:12).
Isaiah makes it clear that God the Father Himself has planned and prospered the coming and appearing of Israel’s Messiah (Isa. 48:15). What a great testimony we see in the Hebrew Bible in Isaiah 48:16, declaring the triune nature of the God of Israel: “from the time that it was, there am I, and now the Lord God and His Spirit, hath sent me.”
THE FUTURE REVIVAL OF BABYLON AND THE FINAL CALL FOR ISRAEL TO DEPART (Isaiah 48:20-22)
A future, revived Babylon is predicted in Isaiah 48:20. The Jewish people are exhorted to begin their long journey back to the land of their fathers with the Lord’s assurance that it will be just as in the time of the Exodus from Egypt when, “they did not thirst when He led them through the deserts; He caused the waters to flow from the rock for them; He also split the rock, and the waters gushed out” (Isa. 48:21).
Isaiah closes his discourse of chapters 40-48 with this somber declaration, “There is no peace,” says the Lord, “for the wicked” (Isa. 48:22).
God does not provide peace for those who produce evil. The enemies of Messiah will face judgment and the eternal fire “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt 25:41). There is only one way to live, and that is for God, accepting Jesus the Messiah and becoming a new creation in Him. Then, by His grace, we will serve and honor Him throughout life and He will receive us into immortal glory.
Dr. Goldberg serves as International Ministries Representative for Chosen People Ministries and lives in Pineville, North Carolina with his wife, Madeline.
By Alan Shore
I am grateful to have been raised in a Jewish home where Jewish heritage was prized and Jewish values stressed; religious faith—not so much, although my parents made sure I went to Hebrew school and had my bar mitzvah. One thing I more or less took for granted is that Jewish people didn’t believe in Jesus. If you asked me why, the one thing I would have said was, “I guess we Jewish people don’t believe that a holy, invisible God, if He existed at all, could ever become a man.” That was for Christians, not for us. But I had other problems with religious faith. They were not particularly original, but they mattered to me. The main objection to God was the problem of suffering. How could a just and loving God stand by and watch the unspeakable catalog of horrors that human beings are either afflicted with or else inflict upon one another?
Where Was God?
God seemed to me to be indifferent to our plight, the senseless and terrifying physical and/or spiritual pain we must endure. And for Jewish men and women who saw the struggle for faith as a lost cause from the beginning, the biggest question of all was, “Where was God during the Holocaust?” The implied answer to this was, for so many of us, “nowhere.”
Or was it?
I had heard the case for unbelief loud and clear. But was there another side to the question? Although, like so many in my generation, I had fooled around with Eastern mysticism and had searched in all the wrong places for some kind of spark to kindle hope, none of it seemed to reach to that deep and inconsolable place of loneliness. Yet there came a time when
I began to sense I was a little too complacent in my glum atheism. It was time to ask a new set of questions.
The Suffering Servant
I went back to square one—the problem of human suffering. Did God care? If there was a God, and He did not care, then it made no sense to pursue the question any further. But if God did care, that changed everything. And if God cared, how could we tell?
To find out, I turned again to the root that had somehow nourished me all along—Jewish identity. Where, if not there, was the mixture of God, suffering and human destiny most deeply entwined? And it was there I found something so unexpected and unimaginable that all of my preconceived ideas of God and the universe were turned completely upside down.
As my thoughts were turning in this new direction, I discovered that one of the most startling claims that the Bible makes, a claim that originates in the Hebrew Scriptures and is repeated throughout, is that the Creator of the universe has willed a special, irrevocable, covenant relationship with human beings, starting with the Jewish people. Moreover, the Scriptures inform us that the God of the Jewish people also has compassion for us. He has determined to heal the deep, appalling wound that sin has inflicted upon His creation and the disfigurement it has wrought upon the humanity that was originally created in His own image and likeness.
But how? It was in the one way, it seems, I had been taught was impossible—by becoming one of us. I saw it, first reluctantly and later clearly, in the moving and unforgettable passage about the Suffering Servant in the prophet Isaiah 53:4-5.
Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.
Immanuel: God with Us
It was then that I made a life-changing connection—the claims concerning Jesus in the New Testament did not stand alone. They were firmly based on prophetic groundwork that had already been laid in the Hebrew Scriptures. The New Testament proclaims that God has taken the almost inconceivable step of coming among us: by entering our world—as a human being—to share our condition, shoulder our burdens, to suffer on our behalf and to suffer with us.
So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet [Isa. 7:14], saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us” (Matt. 1:23).
Through this unimaginable act of love, we now dare to speak of God as though He were at our side, in our world, closer to our soul’s need than we can possibly be aware. To this day, as I reflect and marvel, I am drawn into what is perhaps the greatest mystery of all—what believers in Yeshua (Jesus) call the incarnation.
If the Lord’s presence was found by Moses in the burning bush or by Job from out of the whirlwind, why not in the form of a human being, as the Scriptures proclaim? Why not, indeed?
Alan Shore is a Jewish believer from New York City who has served with Chosen People Ministries for over fifteen years in a number of capacities including staff writer, ministry representative and as part of the Shalom Brooklyn Evangelism Team. He is also working on a doctorate in Modern Jewish History and Culture.
Jewish Ministry in the 21st Century
President's Prayer Letter, December 2014
Shalom! We are about to start our 121st year as a ministry to the Jewish people. I cannot tell you how excited I am about the future! May I quickly report on this past year and then share our plans for the future?
2014 was a momentous year for Your Mission to the Jewish People! I wish I had more space, and you more time, but let me briefly bring you up to date on our global Isaiah 53 Campaign.
The Isaiah 53 Campaigns
We have now conducted campaigns in New York City, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Israel, and in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The book, Isaiah 53 Explained, which I wrote and is the evangelistic centerpiece for the campaign, is now in eleven different languages including English, Hebrew, Russian, Spanish, French and Farsi. These account for the languages spoken by 98% of the world’s Jewish population.
More than 200,000 people have already visited the English Isaiah 53 Campaign website. Thousands have ordered the free book and included among this group are hundreds upon hundreds of Jewish people seeking the Lord. The Spanish website, designed to reach the almost half million Spanish-speaking Jewish people in the world, has grabbed the attention of Jewish people everywhere from Latin America to Israel!
We are currently preparing the Russian and French websites which, when completed, will allow us to reach an additional one and a half million Jewish people scattered throughout Russia, Ukraine, the United States, Israel and, of course, France (more than 600,000 Jewish people live in France!). Additionally, thousands of French Jews have left France because of antisemitism and are now living in Israel, but do not know Hebrew yet. We are reaching French Jews in Israel through the website as well.
The Hebrew language Isaiah 53 Campaign website has been extraordinarily effective. So far, almost 200,000 Jewish people have watched one of the Isaiah 53 video testimonies (in Hebrew of course) for an average of five minutes—which is absolutely amazing! We have also delivered 200 copies of Isaiah 53 Explained in Hebrew to Israelis and our staff is following up on these individuals.
And believe it or not– the Hebrew Isaiah 53 Campaign has just begun! We recently added additional Hebrew language video testimonies of Jewish believers in Israel who have come to know Jesus as their personal Savior.
Just last week, I heard of a Jewish man who watched the testimony, began an online dialogue with the brother who gave the testimony, and within a few weeks this individual received Jesus as his Messiah!
Online evangelism is especially effective in Jewish communities scattered throughout a city or state and not easily approached in one particular locale. In addition, it is a powerful tool as many Jewish people enjoy the privacy of searching for the Messiah without having family and friends looking over their shoulder.
We have also just completed an online Isaiah 53 Campaign among the 100,000 Jewish people living in the state of Texas! I cannot tell you how excited I am about the dozens of conversations we have had with Jewish people about Jesus as a result. We need your prayers as we personally follow up with those who give us the opportunity to meet with them individually.
Shalom 21 – Jewish Ministry for the 21st Century
We are about to enter our 121st year as a mission and the beginning of the 15th year of the 21st century! And, as every faithful believer in Jesus who has gone before us, we will start the New Year filled with the bright hope of His coming, understanding that this next year might be our last. This is why Jewish evangelism is so important, especially if you have the same understanding of the end times as I do. The salvation of Israel is key to the second coming of Messiah. Therefore, we have been called by God to bring the Gospel to the Jewish people for this special moment in time. As the Apostle wrote to the Roman believers,
For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? (Rom. 11:15)
We believe this great turning of Jewish people to Jesus is coming soon and maybe in our lifetime! If He is slow to come, then we understand that the Lord is giving more time for Jews and Gentiles to hear the Gospel and be saved. Either way, the urgency of the hour is upon us and we must proclaim the Gospel as if there is no tomorrow!
So…what is the plan? In consultation with our Board and leadership team, we believe the Lord is directing us to advance our ministry among the Jewish people in the following ways.
Through Digital Media
As you can see from the success of our Isaiah 53 Campaigns, ministry through the media (especially on the web), is a great opportunity to reach Jewish people with the Gospel. In order to do this effectively, we need to continue building our digital media department, which includes videographers, editors and writers, web designers and graphic artists, as well as those on our team who are proficient in online communications.
In order to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and especially to reach our new generation of young Jewish people, we must get ready! We have already begun to develop our digital media team. Now we need your help to make this dream a reality. We will continue Isaiah 53 Campaigns throughout the United States and around the globe for the next five years. We are learning so much with every campaign and believe that the best is yet ahead as we initiate the Campaign in some of the great Jewish population centers in the United States and across the globe.
Our new media department will require at least $300,000 a year to be fully staffed at this stage of our development.
This will need to increase in the future, especially as we add websites that are more dynamic in nature and as we utilize the wonders of modern technology for the Gospel in reaching the Jewish community.
Through Our New Generation Initiative
The New Generation Initiative brings together all of our efforts to recruit, train, support and deploy a new generation of young missionaries to the Jewish people. We cannot do anything without people, as God works powerfully through individuals. So, it is important for us to develop this team of individuals who will “run point” in developing this new generation of missionaries among the Jewish people.
This team will focus on reaching Jewish college students and young adults, but also minister to young people attending Christian colleges, seminaries and secular universities who have a burden to reach Jewish people for the Messiah Jesus. We believe that by providing short-term ministry opportunities, mentoring, internships and training programs for young adults, we will be able to enlist a new generation of Jewish evangelists for the 21st century!
We already have the beginnings of our new generation team. But in order for this department to grow and for us to find the right people to build the future of Jewish evangelism, we must add a number of key staff members and scholarship funds for young people wanting to be trained for Jewish ministry.
The New Generation Initiative requires about $250,000 a year to be fully staffed at this stage of our development.
This training, of course, includes the Master of Divinity in Messianic Jewish Studies. This degree, as you may already know, is offered through a partnership between Chosen People Ministries and Biola University’s Talbot School of Theology. This program is going well and is now housed at the Feinberg Center in Brooklyn!
We hope to raise an army of young people that will advance the cause of reaching Jewish people for Jesus throughout the 21st century. But in order to build this army for the Lord, we need the Chosen People Ministries staff team to reach and recruit the right people.
Thank You for Sharing Our Vision for the Future of Jewish Evangelism
Your gift at the end of this calendar year will be used to build the future of Chosen People Ministries as we serve the Lord by proclaiming the Gospel to the Jewish people…just as we have been doing for 120 years!
We need your help to gain the spiritual muscle needed to reach a new generation of Jewish people for the Lord in more dynamic and creative ways. We are ready to do the work but cannot move forward without your prayers and generous support!
We need your help in becoming a Jewish Mission for the 21st century.
The budget for advancing Chosen People Ministries for now is simple and straightforward:
$300,000: for the Digital Media Department
$250,000: for the New Generation Initiative
Would you pray and help us get on our way with a generous gift at the end of this year or even with an annual pledge to help us build the future of Chosen People Ministries?
Thanks so much for making the last few years a season of great accomplishment and encouragement. Now, let’s turn our eyes together to the future as we know the hour of His return is soon.
Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!
Your brother in the Messiah,
P.S. For your gift of $200 or more we will send you the DVD set from The People, the Land and the Future of Israel conference held last year in New York.