Scattered throughout the Old Testament are prophecies about a future Messiah who would bring justice and salvation to people througout the world. The prophecies also foretold that the Messiah would die, as well as how and why the Messiah would die.
In Isaiah 53:8,9, for example, the prophet said that the Messiah would be "cut off from the land of the living," which is phrase used in the Bible to refer to a rejection by means of separation, isolation, or death:
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth. (Isaiah 53:8,9, NIV)
Isaiah, who lived about seven centuries before the time of Jesus, prophesied many details about the Messiah. Here, in these verses, Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would die, even though "he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth."
The people who wrote the books of the New Testament testify that Jesus lived a perfect and sinless life (Hebrews 4:14-16, etc). Even so, Jesus was falsely accused, put on trial and executed, about 2,000 years ago. His crucifixion and death are described in Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19.
In Isaiah 53:4-6, the prophet spoke of the Messiah as suffering for the sins of others:
4 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6, NIV)
Christians believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of this prophecy, that he suffered and died for our sins, that he paid the price for all of our sins. Sin and atonement are themes that run throughout the span of the Bible, from the book of Genesis, which is the first book in the Bible, to the book of Revelation, which is the last book in the Bible. Sin separates people from God. This is expressed throughout the Bible, including in the following verses:
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. (Isaiah 59:2, NIV)
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23, NIV)
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23, NIV)
But, Jesus paid the price of sin. He did this by suffering and dying, in our place, as the substitute for all sinners, when he was crucified about 2,000 years ago. He died for us, and through him we have life - the gift of eternal life with God. These things are expressed in various places, including in the following verses:
Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27,28, NIV)
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, NIV)
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2, NIV)
Incidentally, it is interesting to note that for centuries the Jews used the Temple in Jerusalem for a yearly ceremony, involving sacrifice, in which an offering was made for sin atonement. The ceremony was part of a day called Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement. But, during the century in which Jesus became the permanent and once-and-for-all atonement for sin, the Temple was destroyed by the Romans, in 70 AD. And the Temple has never been rebuilt.
There is additional information in the Talmud about Yom Kippur that might prove of interest. The Talmud was compiled in written form from about 200 AD to about 500 AD. It includes Rabbinical discussions and commentary, often focusing on Judaic law, customs and ceremonies. In the Talmud, there is a passage that says that the Day of Atonement ceremony failed to work properly about 40 years before the Temple was destroyed. Among other things, according to the Talmud, there was a red piece of cloth that was supposed to turn white:
"The rabbis taught: Forty years before the Temple was destroyed, the lot never came into the right hand, the red wool did not become white, the western light did not burn, and the gates of the Temple opened of themselves, till the time that R. Johanan b. Zakkai rebuked them, saying: 'Temple, Temple, why alarmest thou us? We know that thou art destined to be destroyed.'"
- Babylonian Talmud, Tract Yomah, Chapter IV, as translated by Michael L. Rodkinson.
In other words, according to the Talmud, Judaism's yearly atonement ceremony stopped working properly in or around the year 30 AD. That would correspond to either the same year, or about the same year, that Jesus became the permanent atonement for sin.
In Zechariah 12:10, Zechariah was given a prophecy in which God spoke of people mourning for one who was pierced, as one would mourn over the death of an only son:
And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. (Zechariah 12:10, NIV)
This verse, which was written about 500 years before the time of Jesus, is referred to in the Gospel of John in connection with the death of Jesus:
31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: "Not one of his bones will be broken," 37 and, as another scripture says, "They will look on the one they have pierced." (John 19:31-37, NIV)
Jesus, who is the only begotten son of God (John 3:16), was pierced while he was being crucified, when his hands and feet were nailed to the cross. And, before Jesus had been taken down from the cross, he was pierced again, with a spear by a Roman soldier.
© Ray Konig | azbible.com
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