If some random person in, say France, came back to life a few days after being executed, that would be amazing enough to probably make the news, especially if the execution had been pretty graphic and witnessed by a lot of people. But if it was just an isolated occurrence, with no relevant backstory leading up to it, we would have no particular reason to attach any special meaning to it; it would simply be a highly unusual, random event.
I realize that the viewers of my channel may have a variety of opinions on whether Christ actually rose from the dead or not, so for this video, we will only look at the question of whether there is a back story to that alleged event that we can verify?
It turns out that there is a highly unusual back story that extends back many centuries before the time of Christ.
So the next question is, what is that backstory, and can we verify that it actually dates back to before the first century?
To answer that, a quick look at a Bible reveals that it has two major sections to it, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is translated directly from the Hebrew scriptures, and corresponds to the Jewish scriptures called the Tanakh. It is a historical fact that the Old Testament was written and completed before the time of Christ and that is unanimously granted in the academic world. But you can verify this for yourself. There are fragments and sometimes whole books of the Old Testament that are part of the Dead Sea Scrolls, some of which predate the time of Christ. The Isaiah scroll is one example, dated between one and three centuries before Christ and you can see it with your own eyes today in the Israel Museum.
Ancient Prophecies Fulfilled
Where it gets fascinating, however, is that the Old Testament contains many ancient prophecies about a Messiah. The word “Messiah” by the way, comes from a Hebrew word meaning “anointed one.” Its Greek counterpart is the word Christos, which in English is “Christ.”
It is in these ancient prophecies that we find the backstory. For example, one of these ancient prophecies, found in the book of Micah in the Old Testament, states that this person would come from Bethlehem, but also have existed from the days of eternity . . . not your normal citizen of Bethlehem, it appears!
The prophecies can be sorted out into two very different categories. In one category, the Christ or Messiah suffers and pays with his life to redeem not just the Jewish people, but people of all the other nations as well. In the other category of ancient messianic prophecies, the Messiah rules the world.
In Jewish circles today, the emphasis is more in the direction of a Messiah who delivers Israel from all her enemies, and may even rule the world, though there are different schools of thought on this — I’ve known quite a few Jews who also believe Jesus is the Messiah. In Christian circles, the coming of the Messiah or Christ into this world has two stages: the first time as a redeemer, or one who lays down his life for the world, and the second time at the end of human history at a time known as “Armageddon,” when he returns as the King of Kings.
So the backstory on Christ’s death and resurrection centers around the first set of ancient prophecies. Let’s take a quick look at two or three.
One prophecy in the book of Daniel, written roughly five centuries before Christ, foretold the future destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, which we know took place in 70 AD. But it also tells us that shortly before that will happen, the Messiah would arrive and be cut off or killed. As it happens, Jesus was crucified 37 years before the Roman destruction of Jerusalem.
Some scholars dispute when the book of Daniel was written, but the academic world is unanimous that it was written before the time of Christ.
What about the Isaiah scroll in the Israel Museum? What interesting prophecies does it contain? Turns out it contains a lot.
One fascinating prophecy in the book of Isaiah states this,
“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of his government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. (Isaiah 9:6,7)
What is worthy of note here is that this Messiah would be physically born as a little boy, but his titles include ‘Mighty God’ and ‘Eternal Father’. The suggestion in this ancient piece of the back story is that the Messiah would be both God and human.
One of the most powerful ancient prophecies is also found in the Isaiah scroll. It is quite an extensive one that speaks of both appearances of the Messiah. If you get a chance, I would highly recommend that you do the following for yourself, so that you do not take my world for it.
First, go online to Bible Gateway, pick a translation you prefer, and call up the section in Isaiah that runs from chapter 52 verse 13 to the end of chapter 53. In this section, the prophet Isaiah is describing what he saw in his vision from God, and you will notice that it keeps switching back and forth between the past tense and the future tense. The past tense is normal when describing something you saw in a vision, but what if what you saw in the vision were two different periods in the future? The part that was nearer in the future you could describe in the past tense, but the other part, much more distant in the future, would be appropriate to describe in the future tense so that you could make a distinction between the two major events seen in the vision.
For example, here are some excerpts using the past tense,
‘He was despised and forsaken of men. . . He was despised, and we did not esteem him. . . But he was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon him, . . . All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on him (Isaiah 53:3-6).
This passage talks about the nation of Israel denoted by the pronoun “we,” and the Messiah, referred to in the third person singular with the pronoun “he.” In this section, we see that he would be despised by his own people, but the sins of his people, and all of humanity, would be laid on him.
An example of the future tense in this ancient prophecy is shown in the following excerpts,
“He will be high, and lifted up, and greatly exalted. . . kings will shut their mouths on account of him. . . He will sprinkle many nations . . . (note that the word “sprinkle” was used as a symbol to describe people all over the world being made pure in the sight of God) When you separate all the statements made about the Messiah into the two different tenses, past and future, you observe something remarkable. The majority of the past tense statements refer to a suffering Messiah who will take all the sins of humanity upon himself in order to make people pure. The future tense describes the same person but this time as one who rules over all the kings of the world, and has come back to life after dying for Israel and all humanity.
By the way, it also states that he would be buried in a rich man’s grave, which we have historical evidence for, but we’ll come back to that in the third video in this Easter series.
So what is the takeaway here?
Here it is . . . regardless of whether or not Jesus did rise from the dead (and we will start looking at that in the next video on my channel), we can verify that there was at least a backstory to be aware of. Specifically, a Messiah would come from Bethlehem, the eternal God born as a little boy, and all the sins of humanity would be laid on him and he would be killed, be buried in a rich man’s tomb, and then he would rise again from the dead. Someday in the future, he is coming again but, this time, not as a baby born in a manger, but as God, the king of Kings.
So, if Jesus really did rise from the dead with an immortal, eternal body, it wasn’t some highly unusual, random event completely out of the blue. IT had a context and back story that dates back many centuries before he came. And that fact alone, and it is a verifiable fact, should make us think more seriously about what actually happened around 33 AD.