Edwards talks about the prophecies concerning the coming Messiah.
The Prophecies of Jesus Proving His Divinity
by Jonathan Edwards
972. The Prophecies of Christ. That Jesus truly had the power of prophecy appears by the following facts.
I. He foretold his death and the circumstances of it. This he did very particularly and at several times, Mat. 16:21; 9:15; John 10:11, 15, 17; John 12:23-35; Mat. 12:40; Luke 9:31; Mat. 20:28. The manner of his death is foretold in John 3:14-15; 6:51-56; 8:28; 12:7 and 32; Luke 21:31-33; Mat. 20:18; Mat. 17:22-23. He told his disciples that he must go unto Jerusalem and there suffer many things of the elders, chief priests and scribes, and be killed, Mark 10:33-34; Mat. 20:18-19. And ;he did particularly point out, beforehand, the man who was to betray him, Mat. 26:23-25; John 6:70; John 13:18-33. He foretold that his disciples should forsake him. Mat. 26:31; John 16:32. Christ, long beforehand, foretold the time and place that he would suffer and die, Luke 13:32-33. And when Peter declared his confidant resolution to adhere to him, he foretold that he would deny him with very particular circumstances of the time and manner of it, Mat. 26:34-35; Mark 14:29-31; John 13:38.
II. He punctually foretold his resurrection with the circumstances of it: that he would rise the third day (Mat. 16:21; Mat. 17:23; Luke 9:22; Luke 18:33), that if they destroyed that temple, in three days he would build it up again (John 2:19; Mat. 12:40; Mat. 17:9), and that he would lay down his life and take it again (John 10:17-18). He told his disciples that after he was risen, he would go before them into Galilee (Mat. 26:32), which was accomplished (Mat. 28:16). So Christ also often foretold his ascension (John 6:62; chap. 7:33-34; chap. 8:21-23; 14:1-4; 16:5-7, 28; and chap. 17:5, 11).
III. He foretold the descent of the Holy Ghost on the apostles in miraculous powers and gifts, Luke 24:49. He specified the place where the Holy Ghost would descend and what the effects of this descent upon them would be, Mark 16:17-18. All of this was punctually fulfilled as appears by the second chapter of Acts (Acts 2), and the following part of that history.
IV. He foretold the destruction of Jerusalem before the end of that age, with the signs foregoing it and the concomitant circumstances of it. Concerning this, three things may be observed:
First, our Savior’s general prediction of the siege of Jerusalem and of the total destruction of the city. This he foretells in Luke 19:14 with verse 27 and 41-44…
Second, we may consider our Savior’s prediction of the signs which would forerun the destruction of Jerusalem, viz. these eight:
1. He fortells that there would be false and counterfeit Christs or Messiahs, Mat. 24:4-5; Luke 21:8. And it accordingly happened. Josephus mentions several who undertook to rescue the people from the Roman yoke, which was the thing that the Jews expected the Messiah would do for them…
2. The next sign given by our Savior is “wars and rumors of war, famines, pestilences, earthquakes, etc.” Mat 24:6-7. About this time, the Jews began to be set upon in several places by the command of the emperor and many thousands of them were slain in Alexandria and Babylon, as Josephus tells us, and there was fear and rumor of a general war denounced against them by Caius Caligula the emperor, unless they would admit his statue in the temple… This storm was blown over by the sudden death of the emperor. Verse 7 says “Nation shall rise against nation,” which happened under Claudius and Nero, the next two Roman emperors… as may be read at large in Josephus… Under Claudius Caesar, there was a great famine in Judea. Pestilences usually follow famine, and “earthquakes in divers places” happened in the times of Claudius and Nero…
3. Fearful fights and signs from heaven, Luke 21:11. Josephus gives us a clear comment upon this in Jewish War book vii. Says he, “This wretched people believed impostors and counterfeits; but those great signs and prodigies which did forerun their desolation, they neither minded nor believed.” A little before their destruction, he tells us, there hung over the city a fiery sword, which continued for a year. A little before their rebellion against the Romans, there appeared a comet, which shined so clear in the temple and about the altar, as if it had been day… One evening, not long before their destruction, there were seen in the air, chariots and armies hovering over the city… These things are all related by one of the most prudent historians, who lived at that very time and at that very place. The Scripture usually compares the greatest suffering and afflictions to the pains of a woman in travail, to which the Savior here alludes. These were but the first pangs: nothing to those throws that would come at last.
4. Another sign which our Savior foretold as the forerunner of the destruction of Jerusalem was the persecution of the Christians, Mark 13:9. And these did partly happen before the forementioned calamities. For we find the fathers, in their apologies, everywhere complaining that the Jews and heathen laid the blame for all the calamities and judgments which befell them (as famines, pestilences, and earthquakes), upon the Christians, as the causes of them. From this pretense, they many time took occasion to persecute them…Some of the apostles, Peter and John, were delivered to be whipped by the chief priests and rulers. Stephen was killed by a popular tumult, and the two James were put to death under the color of a judicial process… “And ye shall be hated of all nations for may names sake,” which was exactly fulfilled.
5. Christ fortells that in this persecution “many would be offended” i.e. fall off from Christianity, as we read of many in the epistles of the apostles. “And they shall betray one another and hate one another,” which was remarkably fulfilled in the sect of the Gnostics, who did not only decline persecution themselves, but joined with those who persecuted the Christians, as ecclesiastical history tells us.
6. Likewise, upon this occasion of persecution, many false prophets would arise and deceive many, Mat. 24:11, which seems to refer to Simon Magus and the other heads of the Gnostic sect. Verse 12 also seems to refer to the Gnostics, of whom St. John, in his first epistle, does frequently make mention…
7. There would be a universal publication of the gospel through the Roman empire and before the great desolation would happen, Mat. 24:14, which was accomplished by the preaching of the apostles, especially by the apostle Paul.
8. The last and most immediate sign and forerunner which he gave of their destruction is the standing of the abomination of desolation in the holy place, which was spoken of by the prophet Daniel, Mat. 24:15. It is the Roman armies encompassing Jerusalem and standing in the holy place that is called the abomination of desolation, because Jerusalem was the holy city and so many furlongs about it were called holy. But the word “abomination” seems particularly to refer to the Roman ensigns, upon which were the images of their emperors, which the Romans worshipped. Josephus tells us that after the Romans had conquered the city, they set up those ensigns in the ruins of the temple and sacrificed to them.
Having thus treated the forerunners of the destruction of Jerusalem, which Christ foretold, I proceed,
Third, to consider the concomitant and subsequent circumstances of it.
1. The unparalleled greatness of their calamity and destruction, Mat. 24:19; Luke 21:22-23… Josephus fully gives testimony both by what he says in general concerning their calamity and by the particular account of their miseries and suffering, In general, he tells us that never was any age so fruitful of misery as this was, and almost in our Savior’s words, he says “that all the calamities that had fallen upon any nation, from the beginning of the world were but small in comparison of what happened to the nation of the Jews in that age.”… In short, from the beginning of the siege till the taking of the city, there were famished and slain, by the factions among themselves and by the Romans, about 1,000,000 people: the greatest number and the saddest circumstances that is to be read in history.
After this, the temple was burnt and made desolate, the whole city destroyed, and all their whole land was seized by the Roman emperor. The remnant of the people in other parts of the nations were persecuted with great severity.
2. Another circumstance that was to follow the destruction of Jerusalem was the arising of false Christs and false prophets, Mat. 24:23-24. Such was Jonathan who, after the destruction of Jerusalem, as Josephus tells us, drew many into the wilderness of Cyrene, pretending that he would show signs and wonders to them. There appeared in Egypt, Crete, and Cyprus, several other impostors, who gave out themselves to be Christ’s, and false prophets, who applied the prophecies of the Old Testament to these counterfeit mystics…
3. Another subsequent circumstance was the Jews being led into captivity and dispersed into all nations. This St. Luke adds, Luke 21:20, “They shall be led away captive into all nations.” I need not prove this out of history: we see the effect of it to this day.
4. “That Jerusalem should be trodden down of the Gentiles till the times of the Gentiles should be fulfilled.” *42*
Reflections on the foregoing prophecies of Christ and their exact fulfillment.
1.) The predictions, though very improbable, new, and very extraordinary, yet were fulfilled in a very remarkable manner. Such were the unusual signs forerunning the destruction of Jerusalem, such was the universal publication of the gospel all over the Roman Empire, and such were likewise the circumstances of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, as that it should be an utter desolation (which was strangely accomplished, as Josephus tells us)… If things had gone on at this rate a little longer, no one of the Jewish nation would have been left alive. But for the sake of their posterity, who were the elect Jews, who are to be called in the last ages of the world, these days were shortened.
2.) The providence of God has so ordered it as to preserve to us a more punctual and credible history of this destruction of Jerusalem, than there is of any other matter whatsoever, so long since done. And it is worthy to be noted that this matter is related, not by a Christian (who might have been suspected of partiality and a design to have paralleled the event with our Savior’s predicament), but by a Jew, both by nation and religion, who seems designedly to have avoided, as much as possibly he could, the very mention of the Christian name and all particulars relating to our Savior, though no historian was ever more punctual in all other things… And furthermore, there is no ancient history extant that relates any matter with so much particularity of circumstances, as Josephus does of the Jewish wars, especially the siege and destruction of Jerusalem.
3.) It seems very plain from this relation, which Josephus gives, that the Jewish nation was remarkably devoted by God to destruction, and most fatally hardened and blinded to their own ruin. This, Josephus everywhere takes notice of, that there was a sad and black fate hung over the nation, and God seemed to have determined their ruin…
4.) It must be for some very great sin that God sent those dreadful calamities upon that nation. Josephus says that it was surely for some greater impiety than the nation was guilty of when they were carried away captive to Babylon. Nay, he says, that the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah were but small in comparison with those the Jews were guilty of. So he says they were ripe for destruction…
5.) The punishment that was inflicted on them has very shrewd marks and signatures upon it, from which it is easy to conjecture for what sin they were thus punished. Titus laid his siege to Jerusalem at the very same time and season that the Jews crucified Christ, viz. at the time of the Passover. The very day that he began his siege, he crucified one before the walls… and afterwards sometimes five hundred were crucified in a day, till they wanted wood for crosses: so that they who earnestly cried out against our Savior “Crucify, crucify,” had at last had enough of it. God made them eat of the fruit of their own ways and filled them with their own devices. They who bought Christ for thirty pieces of silver were afterwards themselves sold at a lower rate.
6.) Their religion was remarkably struck at and affronted, as if God intended to put an end to that dispensation and to abrogate their law. Most of their great calamities happened to them on the Sabbath day and upon their great festivals…
5. We come now to the last instance of our Savior’s prophetic spirit, viz. in those predictions which foretell the fate of the gospel in the world.
First, what discouragements and difficulties that first publishers of the gospel should meet with. Our Savior foretells two great discouragements:
1. From the persecutions which the powers of the world would stir up against them. Of this our Savior gave his disciples early notice, when he first called them together and sent them forth, Mat. 10:16-18, 21-22. See also Luke 10:3; Mat. 10:34; Luke 21:12; Mat. 22:1-10.
Particularly, he foretold that the two sons of Zebedee, James and John, would be put to death, Mat. 20:23. We have an account of the fulfillment of this with respect to James in Acts 12:2. And ecclesiastical history gives us an account of the same, concerning John, though he remained till after the destruction of Jerusalem, which Christ might have some respect to in John 21:22, where he says, “What if I will that he tarry till I come?”
He likewise foretold Peter what kind of death he should die, viz. that when he was old he would be crucified, John 13:36; 2 Pet. 1:14; John 21:18-19. And accordingly, he was crucified about forty years after, as Eusebius and several of the fathers tell us.
2. Another great discouragement which our Savior foretold they would meet with was the rising of false Christs and false prophets, as Mat. 24:5, 24; Mat. 7:15. But of these I have spoken already.
Second, Christ likewise foretold what assistance the apostles would have in carrying on their work. He told them he would be with them in it. He told them that they would receive power by a Spirit that would come upon them whereby they would be qualified to be witnesses unto him in Judea, Jerusalem, Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth, Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8. See also John 7:38-39; John 14:16-26; John 15:26; John 16:7-14. Now it is most evident that they were endowed with some extraordinary spirit and uncommon influence, by which they were furnished with power, strength, courage, activity, comfort, and eloquence. They answered those purposes that Christ spoke of in an extraordinary manner.
Thirdly, Christ foretold what success the gospel would have: that it would be published in all nations (Mat. 24:14), that they would make disciples in all nations (Christ being with them to cause it to be so, Mat. 28:18-20), that they would bear witness unto Christ to the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 1:8), and that he would build his church upon a rock, and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. See Mat. 4:19; Mat. 5:14; Mat. 13:24-25; Luke 5:10; chap. 10:18-19; chap. 13:18-22. It was particularly foretold that there would be a great harvest of souls, in a little time in Samaria, John 4:35-38, and it came to pass.
Christ also foretold the destruction of other cities of Palestine, besides Jerusalem, Mat. 11:21-24; Luke 10:12-15. He foretold that he would not appear to the Jews after his resurrection but only to his disciples, Mat. 23:39; Luke 13:35; John 7:33-34; 14:19.
He foretold the calling of the Gentiles, the rejection of the Jews, and their envy at the Gentiles on that account, Mat. 8:10-12; Mat. 12:45; chap. 20:12-16; chap. 21:33-43; 22:1-10; Luke 13:25-30. Parable of the prodigal son, Luke 15; Luke 14:15-24; 19:9-10; John 9:39; John 10:16.
1002. Cessation of Animal Sacrifice after Christ. It is remarkable that it should be ordered in providence, not only that the custom of sacrificing should wholly cease among the Jews, since the sacrifice of Christ has been offered, but also that it should be so ordered that since that time this custom has gradually dwindled away and ceased among almost all nations, though it was so universal before that there was no nation among whom the custom had not prevailed and been established time out of mind. Mr. Charnock, speaking of the custom, vol. ii of his works, p. 12 says, “This tradition hath been superannuated and laid aside in most parts of the world.”
1044. Prophecies of Christ. As Christ wrought miracles in a very different manner from the prophets, acting therein in his own name, and as doing what he did of his own power and will, so also he uttered prophecies in a way very diverse form that of the ancient prophets.
1. The ancient prophets, when they utter there predictions, were not wont to introduce them after this manner, “Hear ye the word of the Lord;” or “Thus saith the Lord;” showing that they did not speak of their own knowledge, but by special revelation and direction from God. Christ foretold things to come in a remarkably different manner and style, introducing his predictions, not with a “Thus saith the Lord,” but, “Verily, verily, I say unto you;” as Mat. 23:36; Mat. 24:34, 35; Mat. 26:13, 21; Mark 14:30; Luke 21:31, 32; John 13:38; John 14:12; John 16:20, 21, 22. The following place is very remarkable, showing what great authority Christ attributed to his own word in his predictions, Mat. 24:34-35, “Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” These words are annexed to the chief prophecies that Christ ever uttered which are contained in Matthew 24. See the same, Luke 21:31-32.
2. Christ foretold future events, and those to be accomplished after his death, not only as what he knew by his own knowledge, but what he himself would bring to pass: both future blessings to his church and people, and future calamity and destruction to those persons and people that were his enemies.
First. He foretold great events for the benefit of his church that he would bring to pass, John 14:12-14, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do, he shall do also; and greater works than these shall he do, because I go to my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” John 16:7-11, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him into you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and see me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.” And John 16:20-22, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful. But your sorrow shall be turned into joy. — And ye shall now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” See the whole chapters of John 13, 14, 15, 16, and Luke 21:15-18, “For I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay or resist. And ye shall be betrayed both by parents and brethren, and kinsfolks and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death: and ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake. But there shall not an hair of your head perish.” Luke 24:49, “And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you. But tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye shall be endued with power from on high.” So he foretold his own resurrection from the dead, as what he himself would bring to pass by his own power; John 2:19, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” John 10:17, 18, “I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No man taketh it from me. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” Mark 16:17-18, “And these signs shall follow them that believe: in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”
Second. He foretold many great events implying awful calamity and destruction to his enemies, as what he himself would bring to pass. Thus he speaks of that mighty destruction of the Jewish nation by the Romans, as that from which he would have protected them if they had believed on him, Mat. 23:36-38, “Verily, I say unto you, all these things shall come on this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” This destruction is spoken of as what he would bring upon them, as a punishment for their rejection and contempt of him. Luke 19:12-14, “He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.” With Luke 19:27, “But those mine enemies which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay before me.”
3. Christ not only foretold things future, as having ability in himself to accomplish them, but he promised to give others ability to foretell future events by his Spirit, and hereby should honor him, as having, in his foreknowledge of future things, the same honor with the Father. John 16:7, “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” John 16:13-15, “When the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth. For he shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak; and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me, for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine. Therefore said I, that he shall take of mine and shall show it unto you.”
It is observable that never any prophet gave such great and manifest opportunity for proof and trial, whether he was a true prophet or not, in the multitude of predictions of events to be fulfilled in his lifetime and during that generation after his death. And also in the plainness of his predictions, most of them being delivered not in visionary mystical representations but in a manner intelligible to all.
Therefore the supposition that if Christ were an impostor, God would so order it, that all these predictions — many of them so strange and wonderful, and in themselves so exceedingly unlikely — should exactly come to pass, and that God’s providence should so wonderfully confirm his words, beyond those of any other prophet that ever had been in the world, is extremely unreasonable, especially considering the following things:
First. That God had of old given this as a sign, by which his people might know a true prophet; viz. The coming to pass of the things foretold by him. And this rule is annexed by Moses to that great promise which God gave of the Messiah, Deu. 18:15 etc., “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; according to all that thou desiredst of the Lord thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. And the Lord said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whatsoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. But the prophet which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken but the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; thou shalt not be afraid of him.”
Now, therefore, since Jesus professed to be the Messiah, and the great Prophet foretold and promised by God in this place, and utter so many great and wonderful prophecies, it might be expected, if he was a mere pretender and spoke presumptuously and uttered what the Lord had not spoken, that God should not have confirmed his prophecies in his providence. But in that case, [he] would have given his people opportunity to refute, by this rule, his pretenses.
Second. That foretelling future events is spoken of by God, as one great thing wherein the Messiah should differ from the false gods and false prophets, and vain pretenders of the heathens. In that great prophecy of the kingdom of the Messiah, beginning with the fortieth chapter of Isaiah (Isa. 40) to the end of the book, the foretelling of future events, in such a manner as to show that the person who foretells, does foresee, and has a view of futurity, is often mentioned as a divine prerogative, and therefore as a good evidence, that he that does so is a divine person, or speaks by divine authority. Therefore the prophets and gods of the heathens are often challenged on this head, and the proof of their authority often put upon this issue: Isa. 41:21-28; Isa. 42:8, 9; Isa. 43:9-12; Isa. 44:6-8; Isa. 45:3, 21; Isa. 46:10; Isa. 48:14. — In this prophecy it is declared that herein the Messiah should differ from all vain pretenders (see Isa. 41:27, and Isa. 42, at the beginning; compared with chap. 41:21-29). Now therefore, is it credible that God would so order it, that one who falsely pretended to be the Messiah, should, in so high a degree, have this honor, which God had mentioned as the great and distinguishing honor which he would put on the true Messiah, as his elect, in whom his soul delighted?
Third. That the foretelling of future events, as by his own knowledge, and as events that are to be accomplished by his own power, is spoken of by God as his great prerogative, and as a good and sure evidence of the divinity of the person who can do thus. And God speaks thus, in those very places in which he is foretelling the coming of the Messiah. Isa. 41:21-23, “Produce your cause, saith the Lord; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob. Let them bring forth, and show us what shall happen. — Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods.” Isa. 41:26, “Who hath declared from the beginning, that we may know? And is none that showeth; yea, there is none that declareth; yea, there is none that heareth your words.” Then, in the next words, God promises the Messiah, Isa. 41:27, “The first shall say to Zion, Behold, behold them: and I will give Jerusalem one that bringeth good tidings;” i.e. that foreshows glorious future things which God is about to do for his people. In the words that follow, it is signified that thus God would supply that defect which arose from the impotence of the heathen gods, and grant that thing wherein they were so deficient. Isa. 41:28-29….
Therefore, since God mentions the foretelling of future events in this manner, as a certain note of divinity, and a distinguishing honor that he would put on the Messiah, his elect in whom his soul delights, is it credible, that God would put this honor, in so great a degree, on one who falsely pretended to be the Messiah, and the beloved of God? And especially, when he pretended, in this respect, to have the same honor which belongs to God, as John 16:13-15, “He will show you things to come. He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father has are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you.” He also speaks of his knowledge of divine secrets, and future events, as the effect of the peculiar love that God had to him, John 5:20, “The Father loveth the Son, and showeth him all things that himself doth.”
1192. Evidence That Jesus Is the Messiah. It is a great argument that Jesus is the true Messiah in that he is the person that has actually brought life and immortality to light, which is so agreeable to reason and to the innumerable dark hints given in the Old Testament: that he has declared, with great plainness of speech, a future state of rewards and punishments as is most rational and agreeable to the nature of true religion and virtue, tending most properly to promote these things according to what is taught by the reason of mankind in its best improvement and as it appeared in the wisest philosophers, and by the Word of God delivered in the Old Testament, which shows how essential to true virtue and religion are weanedness from the riches, pleasures and honors of this world and a readiness to lay down our lives for God, etc. and to place our happiness in God, in the knowledge of him, in union and communion with him, conformity to him, and dwelling with him. It is exceedingly manifest from reason and the Old Testament that such state of future rewards and punishments is appointed by the great moral Governor of the world, and that these rewards and punishments are the grand sanction of the divine law, and of all God’s commands, and consequently that it must be in God’s design, some time or other, plainly to reveal them to the world, and not always to keep them hid, as it were, behind a veil. But Jesus is, in effect, the person that has brought to light such a future state as reason says there is, and as we, now being taught by Jesus, can see to have been limited often in the Old Testament and has actually brought it to be the received doctrine among mankind, received by all the Christian nations of the world, as one of the most fundamental articles of their faith and religion, and as that which is plainly exhibited without a vain conjecture and made evident beyond controversy, and fully established among his followers.
Seeing this was to be done, and seeing God had a design to bring these things thus to light at last, and he had forborne for so many ages, there is the greatest reason to suppose that it was to be done by the Messiah, who is prophesied of as God’s greatest prophet and teacher, and as light of the world, who should bring glad tidings, who should most clearly reveal the divine law and covenant, and publish good tidings and salvation. It was foretold that eternal life should be a benefit of the Messiah’s kingdom. Our Jesus is the person that has most plainly and rationally taught the doctrines of the resurrection and general judgment, and fully introduced and established these doctrines, agreeably to the hints and prophecies of the Old Testament.
It is a great evidence that Jesus is the Messiah that he has abolished the ceremonial law and introduced a spiritual, rational service, fit for all nations, which reason and the Old Testament show plainly was a thing to be done by the Messiah.
It is a great argument that Jesus is the Messiah, that there is such a correspondence between him, what he did and suffered, the doctrine he taught, the administration he introduced, and the types of the Old Testament. It is plain these types did mainly point to the Messiah and were to be fulfilled in him, and it is evident that they were remarkably fulfilled in Jesus.
1193. Prophecies from Isaiah. Great changes in kingdoms and nations, coming to pass according to God’s predictions, is often spoken of by God himself, in the Old Testament, as a great evidence of his being the only true God, vastly distinguished from all other gods, and infinitely above them. Particularly, his foretelling the great changes brought to pass in the world relating to his church and people, such as great deliverances and salvations to his own people, and great judgments and destruction to those nations that injure them, and are their enemies.
1. The foretelling of the revolutions of nations and monarchies, and particularly the destruction of Babylon by Cyrus, is greatly insisted on by God, as a great evidence of his being the true God, and as most clearly and greatly distinguishing him from all pretenders to divinity. See Isa. 41:21-27. See also Isa. 44:25, to the end, and Isa. 46:10. But Jesus was one that professed divinity, and foretold revolutions of nations as great and strange as this, yea, far more wonderful. He foretold the destruction of Jerusalem, which had been the holy city, and of the nation of Jews, who had been God’s own people, and whose protector he had in a special manner been, and towards whom he exercised a most peculiar providence. He also foretold the deliverance of the Christians who were in Jerusalem. It was a greater thing, and less to be expected, that such a city and such a nation should be destroyed, than that destruction should befall a nation of aliens. Therefore, to foretell this destruction, with the various circumstances of it, as they actually took place, is a greater evidence of divine foreknowledge, than to foretell the destruction of a nation of aliens.
2. In this very passage, the foretelling of the conversion of the Gentiles from their heathenism and from idolatry is spoken of as the prerogative of the true God, a glory that should not be given to another, Isa. 42:8-9 (see also verses 1-17 entirely).
Again, the foretelling of the gathering of God’s people from all nations, and enlightening the blind, and opening the ears of the deaf, is spoken of as greatly and evidently distinguishing the true God and his servant Messiah, Isa. 43:6-13. But thus Jesus did.
So in Isa. 44:3-8, the foretelling of the conversion of multitudes to profess themselves the people of the true God, with the exact accomplishment, is spoken of and insisted on as a certain and very distinguishing note of the true God. But thus did Jesus.
In the 25th and 26th verses of the same chapter (Isa. 44:25-26), God declares that he frustrates the prediction of false pretenders, but will confirm the word of true prophets, and particularly of his servant, i.e. the Messiah. Called God’s servant often in the preceding chapters. See also Isa. 19:12.
In Isa. 45:21 to the end, the foretelling of the conversion of the Gentiles from idolatry to the worship of the true God, is represented in like manner, as an high prerogative and certain evidence of the true God.
In Isa. 48, the foretelling of such great salvations, as speaking in his own name, is introduced as a great evidence that the person who foretells, is the same who does the work.
1194. Prophecies from Isaiah. The turning of the wilderness into a fruitful field, is spoken of by God as a peculiar work of God, and a certain sign of a divine hand, Isa. 41:18-20, “I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah-tree, and the myrtle, and the oil-tree. I will set in the desert, the fir-tree, and the pine, and the box-tree together, that they may see and know, and consider and understand together, that the hand of the Lord hath done this.” It is evident this is not intended in a literal sense, but signifies the happy change in the state of mankind, from a state wherein men are represented as barren, as briers and thorns, and as wild beasts, to a morally excellent and happy state. This might be proved by the frequent use of such figures in the prophecies of Scripture. But it is manifest, that this, according to Christ’s prediction, was effected, in a remarkable manner, by Christ himself, and his apostles and followers, in the turning of the world from heathenism, to the knowledge and worship of the true God, to just apprehensions of his moral government, and from all manner of vice to virtue.
This circumstance may be observed that as it was done at Christ’s word, according to his prediction, and when he had foretold it as a thing that he would effect; and as it was done afterward, by his messengers in his name, pretending only to act as his servants: I say its being done with these circumstances did as much show that he was the doer of it, as it appeared that he healed the sick and cast out devils. When these things were so done at his word, that whenever he spoke and commanded the effect to be, it immediately was. It makes the relation between the effect and his word, and the dependence of the latter on the power of him that speaks the word, as evident.
The effect of turning the wilderness into a fruitful field, or an effect described in like figures of speech, is spoken of by God as one of the greatest of the works of God, far greater than those that were wrought for Israel in bringing them out of Egypt, Isa. 43:15-21.
If we consider the particular circumstances of the predictions of Jesus, in the success of his gospel, and compare them with what is spoken of in the Old Testament, as the peculiar and distinguishing work of God, the evidences of the authority and divinity of Jesus will appear yet greater. Disappointing and baffling the power and subtility of the potent, the crafty, and the cruel, in their attempts for the destruction of the poor, the helpless, and the meek, and finally, in a remarkable manner, giving the latter the ascendancy and victory over their oppressors and persecutors, and terribly destroying them, is often spoken of as a peculiar work of the Most High, remarkably manifesting a divine hand, and gloriously displaying God’s supreme power, and wisdom, and divine mercy. See Job 5:11-16; the Song of Hannah in 1 Sam. 2; Job 12:17-19, particularly God’s thus baffling the attempts of the heathens against those that fear him, and that hope in his mercy, Psa. 33:10 to the end, and Psa. 46 throughout.
We find these things often spoken of as the peculiar and glorious work of the Most High, in prophecies of the days of the Messiah, with a particular application to what he will do, in the times of his kingdom, for his people who are weak and helpless. See Isa. 25:1-8; Isa. 40:22-24 with verse 27 to the end; Isa. 41:11-12; 54:15-17; 49:24-26; Psa. 68 throughout; Psa. 118:5-23. Yea, this is spoken of as the work and glory of the Messiah himself, Psa. 72:4; Isa. 11:4, and Psa. 45:3-5.
These things are fulfilled, in the most remarkable manner that ever they were, in disappointing and baffling the policy, power, and rage of the greatest, wisest and most potent empire of the heathens, that ever was in the world, in their greatest rage and violence, and bringing of the church of Christ to a complete victory, so as to overthrow the ancient, long established heathenism of the world, in all the nations anywhere taken notice of in Scripture, so that it never has again revived.
It is remarkable that it is foretold, particularly in Isa. 42, that the Messiah should set judgment in the earth, and his law or religion among the nations, particularly the isles, or Europe, against strong opposition, and through great sufferings, under which his church should seem ready to be extinguished or crushed, like smoking flax, or a bruised reed: but that, finally, judgment should be brought forth to victory.
1316. Prophecies of Christ. That Christ had the spirit of prophecy, the destruction of Jerusalem was many ways a remarkable proof.
1. He often foretold it with its time, and circumstances, and consequences, and that great and extraordinary event, in all its dreadful circumstances and great consequences, exactly answered his predictions. And that it did so, abundantly proved that he was a true prophet, and that the word of his mouth that he spoke in the name of God, was the truth, and indeed the Word of God, and consequently, that his doctrine concerning himself was the Word of God, or was divine doctrine.
And here this is to be observed that in the other desolations and captivities that had been in Israel, God sent prophets to foretell them, and forewarn the people of them, especially the prophets Hosea and Amos. And what abundant predictions and forewarnings were given of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, and their captivity into Babylon, by many prophets, e.g. Isaiah, Micah, Huldah (2 Kin. 22:14-16), Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel; though that destruction was but a little thing in comparison with the second destruction by the Romans, and the captivity that followed but a trifle, and short of continuance, in comparison of that which has followed the latter. And therefore, it is altogether unlikely that God should send no prophet at all to predict or forewarn the people of this, but that there should be a perfect silence about it for more than 500 years before it happened. But it was not so. The people had a far greater, more remarkable, and more affecting warning and predictions of this, than of the other: not by a prophet that spoke on earth, but by the Prophet of prophets, the great Prophet of God, the only begotten Son of God, that is, the Lord from heaven.
In other respects, God made his hand, in this last destruction, far more visible, both by an extraordinary interposition, in the strange and unusual incidents and circumstances of it, and also in extraordinary signs, forerunners, and presages of it (see No. 48)., than in former destructions, which is another circumstance that makes it the more incredible that God should not interpose and manifest himself in this respect also, viz. in forewarning of it, and giving the reasons of it by the spirit of prophecy. It appears it was the will of God to give previous notice of it, by extraordinary presages, in abundance. Why then, should there be a total silence in God’s more usual manner of presignification by prophecy.
2. Christ, who thus exactly foretold this great event, declared, at the same time, the reason why God would bring such a judgment, and he declared it should be for their rejection of him, and their contempt and malignity towards him, his gospel, and his church: as the prophets who foretold the destruction of Israel and Jerusalem of old, withal declared the reason for it. And it would be a strange thing, if that which has been far above all others the greatest judgment that ever God brought on his people Israel, which, in its duration, has continued much longer than the whole time of their dwelling in the land of Canaan, should be brought on them, without anyone to tell them the reason of it, and leave them all the while in the dark about it. And it is reasonable to suppose that He who was let so particularly and exactly into the secret of the divine will with respect to his event, was able also truly to declare for what reason and end it was brought to pass. But as there was no other forewarning of the event, since Daniel’s time (who intimated that it should be fore rejecting the Messiah), except Christ’s prediction, so no other reason was given but that which he gave, which therefore should be received as the true reason. But if God brought that destruction for not receiving Christ, how great a testimony of God is this to Christ’s divine authority!
3. Christ foretold this great event, as that which he himself would bring to pass, Luke 19:27. That it should come by his forsaking them, and not protecting them, Mat. 23:34-39; Luke 13:34-35. That is should be his curse, represented by his cursing the barren fig tree; that it should be by his coming, Luke 17:30, with context and Mat. 24:3, etc.
And how the fulfillment of such a prediction, with such a circumstance, is often spoken of in the Old Testament as an evidence of the divinity of the prophet.
4. The circumstances and incidents of this great event, were such as remarkably showed it to be the will of God, that the Mosaic dispensation should be abolished, and to show that God thenceforward would have no more regard to the peculiar institutions or promises of it (see No. 48). Besides, the consequence in blotting out the family of Aaron, and tribe of Levi, by the confusion of their tribes, and their temple and land being so long in desolation, and the people in dispersion, by which means God has now made it impossible for the rules of that dispensation to be upheld, for a much longer time than ever they were attended, which is a great testimony from heaven that that dispensation is at an end, and consequently that the Messiah, before that, had appeared, and that the doctrine of Christ, in which he taught, that the time was come that men should no more worship in that mountain, nor at Jerusalem, but should worship God in spirit and in truth, was the Word of God, and that He was the Messiah.
5. That the punishment of the Jews had so many shrewd marks and signatures of the displeasure of God, for their despising, evil-treating, and crucifying Jesus, is another thing that make this awful event a seal of his divine mission and authority.
6. That Christ’s followers, the Christians that were in the city, were, by wonderful providence, generally delivered, being guided by Christ’s prophetic directions. See No. 48.
1327. Christ’s Divine Mission. That one great event of the conversion of the Gentile world from idols to the acknowledgment and worship of the God of Israel, together with the acknowledgment of himself (the Messiah) and subjection to him, so often foretold as what should be the great work and distinguishing honors of the Messiah, is a great and glorious evidence of the divine mission of Jesus of Nazareth and of his true Messiahship. To set this in its proper light, the following things may be considered:
1. How often this is foretold, and how copiously and abundantly it is insisted on, as a great, remarkable, and wonderful event, which the Messiah should accomplish.
2. It is plainly foretold as a great, glorious, and most distinguishing work of the Messiah, and his peculiar honor, thus to turn the heathen world from idolatry, to the acknowledgment and worship of the God of Israel, and to bring them to submit to him, and trust him, as their Teacher, Lawgiver, and Savior.
See in what a pompous manner this great honor is promised to the Messiah, in Isa. 43:1-9. It is promised as the Messiah’s great reward, and peculiar manifestation of the great and distinguishing love of God to him, Psa. 2:8; Isa. 53, latter end; Psa. 110. It is prophesied of as a mighty and peculiar work of God, compared to which that of Abraham’s victory over the kings and their armies, was but the shadow, with a challenge to the gods of the heathens, and all their abettors, to try their strength with him, Isa. 40, 41, 42.
3. Though, according to modern Jews, some of the doctrines that Christ has taught the Gentiles, are very erroneous, as that he was the Messiah, etc. Yet it is indisputable that he has introduced and established among the Gentiles those same great and important things, which it was foretold should be introduced by the Messiah. He has brought them to forsake all their ancient idols, to destroy all their images of silver, gold, brass, and iron, wood and stone, and utterly abandon all things of that nature…. He has overthrown all those kinds of idolatry that were spoken of in the Old Testament, as practiced by the heathen nations round about the land of Canaan, and in all countries far and near that were known in those times; has abolished all those heathenish practices that were condemned in the Old Testament, in Israel, and in other nations; and has brought them to profess and worship the only one God, who in six days made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all that is in them. He has brought them to worship Jehovah, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the same God who brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, led them through the wilderness and brought them into Canaan, and dwelt in their tabernacle and temple, and spoke to them of old by their prophets….
And to those doctrines which the Jews call errors, which Jesus taught the nations, the chief of them is that he was the Messiah. And the supposing that to be an error is a perfect plain, bold begging of the question. For it is implied in the prophecies that when the Messiah did indeed come, this is one thing that he should teach the nations and bring them to acknowledge that they would submit to him as the great Messiah. And if Jesus had not brought the nations to acknowledge this with respect to himself, it would have been an evidence against him.
Another error which they suppose he taught was that he was God. But this is certainly agreeable to the prophecies of their own Scriptures, which often teach that the Messiah should be God. Another is the doctrine of the Trinity, but this also is plainly agreeable to their own Scriptures. Another is the abolition of the ceremonial law, but this was foretold as what should be done by the Messiah, and therefore is rather a confirmation of Jesus Christ as the Messiah, and a plain instance of his fulfilling the prophecies.
4. The idolatry which Christ delivered the nations from is that same kind of idolatry which it was foretold the Messiah should abolish. This is exceedingly plain in Isaiah 40, 41, and the following chapters. It was that kind of idolatry by images, etc. which had been practiced by the nations round about Canaan, and by the heathen nations that were famed in the history of the Old Testament.
5. It may be considered how great and important a work such a change and conversion of the world is in its nature and kind. It is represented as a great work of God to heal the diseases of the body, but it a much greater, to heal the diseases of the mind…. It is represented as a great work of God to cause light to shine out of darkness. But the heathenish darkness that overspreads the world is often represented as the most dreadful darkness. Delivering the heathen world from this disease and calamity is spoken of as a thing far beyond their own power, Isa. 44:19-20.
God’s appearing above the idols of the nations, and getting victory over them in instances infinitely less than this, is spoken of as a great work of God, a glorious display of his power, majesty and greatness: as his appearing above the idols of Egypt in the thing wherein they dealt proudly. How much greater was the victory of Christ over the idols of the nations! How much greater the overthrow! ….God honored him as above the heathen gods, in causing the image of Dagon to fall before him, and in breaking off his head and hands. So God is represented in the prophecies of Isaiah, as gloriously manifesting himself, as above the gods of the heathens, in appearing above Bel and Nebo, the idols of Babylon, when Babylon was destroyed, and the Jews delivered from their captivity there.
6. The vast extent to which Christ accomplished this effect is to be considered. It was done through all the heathen countries that were known in the times of the Old Testament, through all the nations there mentioned…. but vastly beyond the utmost limits of the then known world. Nebuchadnezzar overrun the greater part of the nations that were then known. But the Babylonish empire was but a small thing in comparison with the Roman empire, which Christ converted from heathenism. And it is to be considered that the Mahometans derive all the notions they have of the true God originally from Jesus Christ. It is also to be considered that America is now, in effect, in the possession of those that own the name of Jesus, and was taken from the heathen. By this vast extent of Christ’s influence, not only all the heathen gods, and all those kinds of idolatry which are mentioned in any part of the Old Testament are abolished, but innumerable other kinds of idols and idolatry.
7. Jesus overthrew heathenism, not only in so vast an extent, but at a time when it was in the greatest strength at which it had ever arrived, from the foundation of the world to that time, yea, or ever since that time. He overthrew it in its strongest empire, when it had the greatest earthly powers, authority, riches, and wisdom on its side, that ever had. He overthrew it in that kingdom which the Scripture says was strong as iron, and that broke in pieces and subdued all things, as iron is made use of to cut and break and subdue all things. He conquered the God of this world in his greatest glory and magnificence, when he was most secure, most ready to say, “I sit a king forever.”
And as heathenism, at that time, enjoyed the greatest strength and advantage to maintain itself, so it exerted all that power and strength which it had obtained, in opposition to Jesus, to endeavor to hinder this great effect we are speaking of. But all was in vain. Jesus overcame heathenism in all this its strongest opposition.
8. Our Jesus not only wrought this work to so great a degree and extent, and against the greatest opposition to him that ever had been exerted, but he wrought the work effectually and durably. Though indeed other bad things have arisen since, yet that ancient idolatry remains abolished to this day.
9. This effect wrought by our Jesus is vastly the greatest and best revolution that ever was brought to pass in the world. It is vastly the greatest revolution that ever was, the most like creating the world anew. And it was the best, the most happy revolution, consisting in abolishing things that were worst, most absurd, most debasing to mankind, and most pernicious and most hateful to God. And it introduced instead, thereof, that light and knowledge, and those laws, constitutions, regulations, and means that were most noble, excellent, worthy, and tending to the dignity, perfection, and happiness of men, and the honor of God.
10. This was a work wherein God put peculiar honor upon our Jesus, vastly distinguishing him from, and exalting him above all the rest of mankind, even the greatest and best, and those who, in other respects, had been most favored and honored of God.
All the wise men among the heathens that had some notion of the true God, and the vanity of idols, though there had been a succession of great philosophers, who arrived at great attainments in the knowledge of the nature of things in many respects, and philosophic knowledge had been increasing in the world for five or six hundred years, yet all with united exertions availed nothing for the production of any such effect: but, after all, the world grew worse and worse in their idolatries.
God, in this, conferred an infinitely greater honor upon Jesus, than ever he had done on any of his own people, than upon any of the most eminent saints that ever had existed from the foundation of the world. He did that which none of his prophets could do. Daniel was a great prophet, was remarkably and openly honored by God, as his most peculiar favorite, and seemed to enjoy advantages for the accomplishing of an effect of this kind, in many respects beyond other of the prophets…. But no effect followed, nor anything like it.
David was a man highly favored of God, often declared to be a man after God’s own heart, was a zealous hater and opposer of the idolatry of the heathens, and had his heart set much on the setting up the kingdom of the true God through the world…. But yet he was made the instrument of no such revolution as this. Solomon, his son, was yet a much greater prince, in wisdom, magnificence, greater authority, great fame, and extensive influence in the world. All nations used to come to him for instruction, and he did great things for the honor of the true God, that all the nations of the earth might hear his name, and might be induced to worship him, as appears by his prayer, 1 Kin. 8. But God never honored him, by making him the instrument of any such great revolution as that which we are speaking of, accomplished by Jesus Christ….
It was a great work of the ancient judges, prophets, and kings of Israel, whom God raised up and most distinguishingly favored, to be the instruments to bring to pass the reformation of Israel, when they had corrupted themselves with idolatry for 40 or 50 years. This was the highest honor of the ancient judges. This was the glory of those excellent princes so highly favored of God, Hezekiah and Josiah. It was a great work of Moses to recover the people of Israel after they were corrupted with Egyptian idolatry, and was what he could not thoroughly accomplish. Elijah and Elisha, and all other prophets sent to the ten tribes, never could thoroughly reclaim them from their idolatrous corruptions. Those great prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel could not thoroughly purge the Jews from idolatry. And as to converting the heathen world from their idolatry, it was what the whole nation of the Jews could not do….
It is spoken of as a great honor that God in his providence put upon Joseph, that he was advanced to be an instructor of the Egyptians, and to teach the senators of Egypt wisdom. But how small was the effect! As to the knowledge of God, which the Scriptures of the Old Testament often speak of as the highest part of wisdom, there was no great abiding alteration. But the Egyptians, in the generations immediately following, were sunk into vastly greater degrees of heathenish darkness that ever, and not only so, but they drew the Israelites, Joseph’s own people, into the corruption.
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were separated from the rest of the world, because of its idolatry, that the knowledge and worship of the true God might be kept up in the world. But they were not made the instruments of reclaiming any people from idolatry, or of preventing the inhabitants of the land where they dwelt, from sinking apace into the grossest and most impious idolatrous principles and practices.
11. Jesus converted those parts of the world that it was foretold the Messiah should convert, as that he should convert the chief nations of the world for power, arts, wealth, merchandise, and seafaring; and those parts of the world that had belonged to the four monarchies, especially the last of them, viz. the Roman monarchy; and particularly the inhabitants of Lesser Asia and Europe (Egypt, many parts of Arabia, Philistia, Tyre, Babylonia, Tubal, Tarshish, Javan, and the far isles of the sea, as is remarkably fulfilled in the conversion of the utmost parts of Europe, and those great islands, Great Britain and Ireland, and of America). And many other circumstances might be mentioned, which are exactly fulfilled in what Jesus has done.
12. Let it be considered how unreasonable it is to suppose that after this great effect had been so abundantly insisted on as the peculiar and most distinguishing honor of the Messiah, God should suffer it to be anticipated by another, a grand impostor, one most wickedly pretending himself to be the Messiah (such as the Jews most blasphemously suppose our Jesus to be); that he would so favor him in his imposture as to give him the honor of conquering the heathen world, in its greatest monarchy, in its highest advancement, strength, and authority, etc.; that he would produce this effect, foretold as the prerogative of the Messiah, in such vast extent, to so great a degree, and in so durable a manner; and all not only agreeably to God’s frequent and abundant predictions in the Old Testament, but also agreeably to the predictions of this very impostor, declaring that he was the Messiah, and that, as such, he would accomplish this effect.
13. It may be further considered that this effect has been so accomplished already, that it cannot now be accomplished by another Messiah, according to the prophecies. The prophecies are already fulfilled, and do not remain to be fulfilled by another. Jesus has abolished heathenish idolatry in all the nations round about Canaan, and in every heathen nation at any time mentioned in the Old Testament, and it does not now remain to be accomplished in any one of them: neither in those isles mentioned in the prophecies, in the countries that had been subject to the four monarchies, nor in the fourth and greatest monarchy, the Roman empire.
14. If this revolution, which is vastly the greatest that ever was accomplished in the world of mankind, be not that which is so often foretold as what the Messiah should accomplish, then it is not foretold at all, which would be very strange. Strange indeed! That there should nowhere be any hint of an event, more considerable than any others that ever were predicted in any prophecy concerning any change or revolution in any nation or nations: a revolution that was of such a nature as would have been most likely to be foretold, being of a religious nature, and so most nearly concerning the kingdom and city of God.