How do we know Jesus Christ is the Messiah?

Throughout the Old Testament, God raised up many prophets, priests, and kings from among His chosen people. In the Scriptures we read about how they served and led Israel, obeying God’s will and fulfilling the purpose He had set forth for them. Perhaps most importantly, these men prefigured the coming of Our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, the promised Prophet, Priest, and King.

Jesus Christ: The Promised Prophet

In Deuteronomy 18:15-19 we see Christ foreshadowed as the promised Prophet, when the Lord speaks to Moses, saying:

I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and I will put My word in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all I command Him.

Deuteronomy 18:18

The italicized portion above speaks of the preincarnate Word taking on our human nature to become the promised Prophet. Additionally, the New Testament reveals several instances that confirm Jesus Christ as this Prophet of whom Moses wrote. For example, after witnessing Jesus’ miracle of feeding the five thousand, those present said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world” (Jn 6:14; see also Jn 7:40). Moreover, St. Peter, while preaching to the Jews, quotes Deuteronomy 18:18-19, showing Jesus Christ as the long-awaited Prophet, the fulfillment of God’s promise (Acts 3:22-23).

Jesus Christ: The Great High Priest

The Prophet David beautifully foreshadows Christ as the great High Priest:

The Lord said to my Lord […] “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

Psalm 109(110):1,4

The Book of Hebrews leaves no doubt as to whom this passage envisions: “Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Jesus Christ” (3:1). And also, “We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (8:1). This long-awaited High Priest is our Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 6:20).

A priest is one “appointed [by God Himself] to offer both gifts and sacrifices” (Hebrews 8:3). As our eternal High Priest, Jesus Christ freely offers Himself by willingly dying on the Cross for us. He did so as the perfect sacrifice, fulfilling the requirements of atonement through the remission of sins. By this gift, the promise of resurrection is offered, paradise is reopened, the Comforter is sent, and the hope of eternal life is given. As High Priest, Jesus is both the Offerer and the Offering.

Although many Jews believed in Christ, the majority of the Jewish people adhered to their old leaders and traditions. Meanwhile, increasing numbers of Gentiles became Christian.

Proof of God’s faithfulness to Israel

Paul’s letter to the Romans indicates how important such questions were to Christians in the first century. Has God been faithful to Israel? Paul’s conclusion is yes: He has been faithful to Israel, and through them to the Gentiles. God’s unchanging faithfulness is seen in several ways.

1. Through Paul

Romans 9:1-3. God miraculously saved the Jewish zealot Saul (Acts 9:1–22), who later, as Paul the Apostle, confesses, “I am indeed a Jew” (Acts 22:3). The faithfulness of God to Israel and to the Gentiles is witnessed “in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 9:1) through Paul, who is even willing to be “accursed from Christ” (9:3) if by that Israel could be saved.

2. Through Providence

Romans 9:4-5. God the Father shows His sovereign care for both Israel and the Gentiles through bestowing on them His adoption, glory, covenants, law, service (Gr. latreia, a reference to proper worship) and promises. The gospel itself came to “the Jew first” (Rom 1:16) and then to the Gentile.

3. Through the patriarchs

Romans 9:6-13. God has been faithful to Israel and thus to the Gentiles through His servants Abraham (v. 7), Isaac (v. 10), and Jacob (v. 13). As Isaac’s birth came by the promise of God (vv. 6–9), so the new birth comes to us by His promise. For just as it was possible to be in the nation of Israel but not truly a child of God, so being born into a
Christian home, church, and culture does not de facto guarantee our faithfulness. We must, like Isaac, be born of God’s promise. For the Christian this new birth comes from the watery womb of baptism, with the injunction that we grow to serve the Lord with all our heart, mind, and strength.

4. Through the prophets

Romans 9:14–29. Beginning with Moses (v. 15) and including Hosea (vv. 25, 26) and Isaiah (vv. 27–29), the prophets reveal God’s faithfulness in His sovereign mercy and election of His faithful—Jew and Gentile alike. The “potter” has “power over the clay” (v. 21) “that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy” (v. 23).

Jesus Christ: The King of Kings

The Prophet Jeremiah records God’s promise of a coming King. The Lord says, “Behold, days are coming when I will raise up for David the Righteous Orient, and a King shall reign. He will understand, and bring about judgment and righteousness on the earth” (Jer 23:5). Isaiah promises His government will be not temporal, but eternal, ruling from the throne of David (Is 9:6, 7). Additionally, in Zechariah 6:13, we see the foreshadowing of a priest on His throne.

To further illustrate Christ as the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophets, priests, and kings, we see Jesus enter Jerusalem as a humble servant-King on the foal of a donkey (Zec 9:9; Mt 21:1–7). He willingly and without hesitation, doubt, or fear accepts the extreme humiliation of the Cross. And let us not forget what was written above His head: “King of the Jews” (Jn 19:12–22).

At His Second Coming, foretold in Old Testament prophecy, Christ will come as the all-conquering King of kings to execute judgment, destroy the forces of evil, and establish everlasting peace in His Kingdom (Mt 16:28). We find explicit confirmation of Christ fulfilling this role in the apocalyptic vision, in which Christ bears the title: “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Rev 19:16).

We have a Prophet who is the Truth. We have a Priest whose eternal offering we receive and the Father accepts. And we have a King who will rule and reign forever over His Kingdom.

"All of creation is a burning bush of God's energies."
Saint Gregory Palamas