Christ for Us (Pt. 2): Jesus as Prophet

Series Links:

Christ for Us: Prophet, Priest, and King.

Jesus as Priest

In considering the biblical evidence and theological significance of the Messianic offices of Jesus, we begin with his prophetic role, proceed to his priestly role, and conclude with his kingly role.  This order is not arbitrary but reflects the exercise of Jesus’ earthly ministry in accomplishing redemption for his people.  Vos rightly observes, “First He appeared as Prophet, teaching and preaching, then at the end of His life He offered His sacrifice as Priest in order after the resurrection to receive His reward and to reign as King.”[1]

A prophet was a recipient of God’s revelation – through visions, dreams, or verbal communication – as well as a spokesman for God, communicating the divine revelation to people in general, but especially to the people of God (Ex. 7:1-2; Num. 12:6-8; Isa. 6; Jer. 1:4-10).[2]  Louis Berkhof provides a summary of the duties of God’s prophets:

It was the duty of the prophets to reveal the will of God to the people, to interpret the law in its moral and spiritual aspects, to protest against formalism and sin, calling the people back to the path of duty, and to direct attention to the glorious promises of God for the future.[3]

In short, a prophet’s responsibilities involved teaching, judging, and foretelling.  As we will see, Jesus fulfilled these aspects of a prophet during his ministry.  First, however, let us look at an Old Testament passage that prophesied of this Messianic office, of which Jesus is the fulfillment.

The Prophetic Messiah Prophesied in the Old Testament
We find this prophecy of Jesus’ office as prophet in the book of Deuteronomy, and the prophecy is spoken of in relation of or comparison to Moses’ role and responsibility to the Israelite people.

Deuteronomy 18:15, 18-19 (cf. Acts 3:22-26) “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me [Moses] from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen….  ‘I [God] will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers.  And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.  And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.’”

While many prophets of the LORD arose after Moses, beginning with Samuel (Acts 3:24), none of them quite matched the leadership role and intimate communion that existed between Moses and God, except Jesus Christ, whose communion with the Father was/is greater, being the eternal Son of God (Num. 12:6-8; Jn. 1:1-2).  Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus repeatedly demonstrated himself to be this unique prophet (cf. Acts 3:26).

New Testament Fulfillment
Let us now consider the various ways in which Jesus fulfilled the prophetic office and this Old Testament prophecy.

He made known or explained the Father, having spoken the word that the Father gave Him.

John 1:18 “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”

John 3:33-36 “Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true.  For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.  The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.  Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

John 12:47-50 “If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.  The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.  For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.  And I know that his commandment is eternal life.  What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” [This strongly resembles the language of Deut. 18:18-19.]

He taught the people the moral and spiritual aspects of the Law, accompanied by exhortation and warning, thus exhibiting his authority.

Matthew 7:28-29 (cf. Matt. 5-7 for whole context) “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.”

He opened up the Scriptures, explaining how they point to his ministry as the Prophet, Priest, and King.

Luke 4:17-21 “And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him.  He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’  And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down.  And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  And he began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’” [Prophet; cf. v. 24; Mk. 1:14-15]

Luke 24:44-47 “Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’  Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” [Priest; cf. vv. 6-7, 26-27]

Luke 19:37-40 “As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’  And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.’  He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.’” [King; cf. Matt. 25:31-46]

He foretold future events.

Matthew 24:2 “But he answered them, ‘You see all these, do you not?  Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.’”

Luke 19:43-44 “For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you.  And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

He, now in glory, continues to serve as Prophet through the Holy Spirit and the teaching of his apostles (now enscripturated), especially in the proclamation of the gospel.

John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

John 16:13-14 “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.  He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” [This has immediate reference, not to us, but to the apostles who were the authoritative eye witnesses and teachers of the Church (Lk. 24:48; Acts 1:8; 21-22; 2:42; 1 Jn. 1:1-4).]

Mark 16:20 “And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.”

Hebrews 1:1-2 “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things….” [That which was spoken by Christ, the Son of God, was subsequently proclaimed by his apostles.]

Summary
As Prophet, Jesus taught the will of God, expounded the spiritual nature of the Law, proclaimed himself as the Messiah (Prophet, Priest, and King), called Israel to repentance, and foretold future events.  His prophetic role continues, namely through the testimony of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures.  The primary significance of Jesus as Prophet is that he teaches us the truth and so reveals to us the will of God and the way of salvation.  As relates his other offices, “the prophetic office serves the priestly office, since it lends meaning to the sacrifice of the Mediator and puts it in the proper light.  Similarly, the prophetic serves the kingly office, since it proclaims Christ’s kingship and brings it to the attention of men.”[4]  In other words, as Prophet, Christ proclaims and interprets himself, paving the way for his service as the Priest-King (Ps. 110).  Behold the glory of the Messiah!

Implications & Applications

  1. This reality of Jesus’ prophetic office should cause us to hunger for the Scriptures (the word of God), to diligently study them, meditate upon them, treasure them in our hearts, speak them, and live according to them (Ps. 119:9, 11, 105; Matt. 7:24-27; Col. 3:16; 2 Tim. 3:15-4:5; Jms. 1:22).
  2. Jesus’ teaching, and that of his apostles (which is in accordance with the teaching of Christ; Jn. 14:26; 16:13-15), is the final authority on the interpretation of the Old Testament Scriptures (see Matt. 17:1-8; Acts 2:42). In other words, due to the authoritative teaching of the Old Testament by Jesus and the apostles, we should approach our understanding of the Old Testament in the greater light of the New.

 


[1] Vos, Geerhardus. Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 3 “Christology”, translated and edited by Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. (WA: Lexham Press, 2014), 91.

[2] Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology (MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., reprinted 1974), 358.

[3] Berkhof, Louis. Manual of Christian Doctrine (MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., reprinted 2002), 201.

[4] Vos, Geerhardus. Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 3 “Christology”, 89.

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