What do you say respecting the Messiah?

    The Aramaic-speaking Jews of the first century of the Christian era called him "Ye-shu' Mshi'hha". The Greek-speaking Jews and Gentiles called him "Jesus Messias" or "Jesus Christ". In either language it means "Jesus the Anointed"; and the name Jesus or Jeshua is just the shortened form of the Hebrew name Jehoshua, meaning Jehovah is the Savior. That a Jew bearing that name and title walked and taught in Palestine in the first half of the first century is so fully established by history that it needs no further proof here. Now we take the authentic records written by his personal companions and their friends to learn some details about him.

    This Jew's life and teachings have affected the course of all human history and are destined to affect it still further in the next thousand years. Before he appeared on earth he had already had a wonderful past. To get facts about this we turn to the words of a man formerly his bitter enemy but who became a faithful friend and who said as regards himself: "Circumcised the eighth day, out of the family stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born from Hebrews; as respects law, a Pharisee; as respects zeal, persecuting the congregation." (Philippians 3:5, 6, NW) In this same letter to the Philippian believers this Hebrew writer tells something about the prehuman past of Jesus, saying: "Keep this mental attitude in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although he was existing in God's form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God. No, but he emptied himself and took a slave's form and came to be in the likeness of men. More than that, when he found himself in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake. For this very reason also God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father." —2:5-11, NW.

    This One was not Jehovah God, but was "existing in God's form". How so? He was a spirit person, just as "God is a Spirit"; he was a mighty one, although not almighty as Jehovah God is; also he was before all others of God's creatures, for he was the first son that Jehovah God brought forth. Hence he is called "the only begotten Son" of God, for God had no partner in bringing forth his first-begotten Son. He was the first of Jehovah God's creations. He speaks so of himself, at Revelation (or Apocalypse) 3:14: "These are the things the Amen says, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation by God." (NW) Also at Colossians 1:15 he is spoken of as "the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation". Thus he is ranked with God's creation, being first among them and also most beloved and most favored among them. He is not the author of the creation of God; but, after God had created him as his firstborn Son, then God used him as his working Partner in the creating of all the rest of creation. It is so stated at Colossians 1:16-18 and at John 1:1-3, NW.

    In John, chapter 1, he is spoken of as being the Word of God, that is to say, the mouthpiece or representative speaker for God. In the Greek Bible text the Word is Logos. Hence he may be called "the Word or Logos". Being a mighty one and holding this high official capacity as Logos and being before all other creatures, he was a God, but not the Almighty God, who is Jehovah. This distinction is shown in the Emphatic Diaglott translation of John 1:1-3, as follows: "In the be-ginning was the LOGOS, and the LOGOS was with GOD, and the LOGOS was God. This was in the beginning with GOD. Through it every thing was done; and without it not even one thing was done, which has been done." Here in our quotation the typographical difference between GOD and God is just as found in the Diaglott. The Diaglott's interlinear translation of the Greek, word for word, makes the distinction between Jehovah as "GOD" and the Logos as "God" still clearer, reading as follows: "In a beginning was the Word, and the Word was with the God, and a god was the Word. This was in a beginning with the God." Happily the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures (published in 1950) renders John 1:1, 2: "Originally the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. This one was originally with God." Thus the Word or Logos came into existence long before one of God's later creatures made a devil out of himself and became, as he is called at 2 Corinthians 4:4 (AW), "the god of this system of things."

    That Jesus Christ had a prehuman existence he himself testifies, saying: "What, therefore, if you behold the Son of man ascending to where he was before?" (John 6:62, NW) "You are from the realms below; I am from the realms above. . . . Before Abraham came into existence, I have been." (John 8:23, 58, NW; Mo; AT) In his last prayer with his disciples Jesus said to God: "I have glorified you on the earth, having finished the work you have given me to do. So now you, Father, glorify me alongside yourself with the glory which I had alongside you before the world was. ... I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world and I am coming to you." (John 17:4-11, NW) Less than two months later his faithful disciples, as his witnesses, saw him ascend heavenward and then disappear from their sight. Ten days later they had the evidence by means of the outpouring of God's spirit through Jesus that he had reached the heavenly presence of his Father above.—Acts, chapters 1 and 2.

    Prior to coming to earth, this only-begotten Son of God did not think himself to be co-equal with Jehovah God; he did not view himself as "equal in power and glory" with Almighty God; he did not follow the course of the Devil and plot and scheme to make himself like or equal to the Most High God and to rob God or usurp God's place. On the contrary, he showed his subjection to God as his Superior by humbling himself under God's almighty hand, even to the most extreme degree, which means to a most disgraceful death on a torture stake. To quote the Emphatic Diaglott translation, at Philippians 2:5-8: "Christ Jesus, who, though being in God's form, yet did not meditate a usurpation to be like God, but divested himself, taking a bondman's form, having been made in the likeness of men; and being in condition as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."

    Jesus asked the Jews concerning the Messiah's descent, saying: "What do you say respecting the Messiah? whose son is he?" His foes admitted from whose ancestral line the Messiah should come, saying: "David's son." (Matthew 22:41, 42, Delitzsch's translation) Just so, the Son of God on coming to earth was born in David's line, for his virgin mother Mary was descended from David. Joseph, to whom the young woman was betrothed, was also a descendant of David, but before Mary was united to him, the angel from God announced her coming motherhood, saying: "You will conceive in your womb and give birth to a son, and you are to call his name Jesus. . . . Holy spirit will come upon you, and power of the Most High will overshadow you. For that reason also what is born will be called holy, God's Son."—Luke 1:30-35, NW.

    The angel said Mary's child should be called "God's Son". So it is blasphemously improper to call her "the mother of God". That title was borrowed by the Roman Catholic clergy from pagan Babylon, where Rhe'a (Semiramis) or Venus was worshiped as the "mother of the gods". Jesus did not address Mary as "Blessed Mother". In every case on Bible record he addressed her as "woman". (John 2:4; 19:26; Matthew 12:46-50) Also, his apostle Paul writes: "When the full limit of the time arrived, God sent forth his Son, who was produced out of a woman." (Galatians 4:4, NW) At the time that the young woman conceived by the miracle-working power of Almighty God then the life of the Son of God was transferred from his glorious position with God his Father in heaven to the embryo of a human.

    Mary conceived at the city of Nazareth in Galilee, but, due to Caesar's registration decree, she transferred to Bethlehem in Judea, where King David had been born about eleven centuries previous. There Jesus was born, about October 1, B.C. 2. This was in fulfillment of the prophecy at Micah 5:2. To the Jewish shepherds out in the fields that fall night the angel announced: "There was born to you today a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, in David's city." Then a multitude of the heavenly army appeared also and said: "Glory in the heights above to God, and upon earth peace among men of good-will." (Luke 2:8-14, NW; Dy) On the eighth day he was circumcised like any normal Jewish boy, and then after the fortieth day Mary was permitted to enter the temple at Jerusalem and present him. Later the child was carried down into Egypt to escape King Herod's murderous soldiers, but was brought back after Herod's death and was taken up to Nazareth to live and grow up. This fulfilled another prophecy, at Hosea 11:1: "Out of Egypt I called my son." —Matthew 2:13-23, NW.

    The cousin of Jesus' mother married a priest, Zechariah, to whom she bore a son, Jesus' cousin John. Six months before Jesus became thirty years old, John began to preach as a forerunner of Jesus and he also baptized in water in connection with his preaching. To the Jews exclusively he preached, saying: "Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near." After this announcement of the Kingdom Jesus went to John, showing the primary purpose for which he came to earth, namely, to bear witness to God's kingdom which will vindicate the sovereignty and holy name of Jehovah God. When Jesus stood on trial before Governor Pontius Pilate three and a half years later, he said: "My kingdom is no part of this world. . . . my kingdom is not from this source." "Therefore Pilate said to him: 'Well, then, are you a king?' Jesus answered: 'It is for you to say that I am a king. For this purpose I have been born and for this purpose I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone that is on the side of the truth listens to my voice.'" (John 18:36, 37, NW) It was to this kingdom of God that Jesus was anointed to be the Messianic King. When?

    Jesus at thirty years of age went to John then Baptist to be immersed in water. After John had dipped him in the Jordan river and Jesus came out of the water, then "the heaven was opened up and the holy spirit in bodily shape like a dove came down upon him, and a voice came out of heaven: 'You are my Son, the beloved; I have approved you.' " (Luke 3:21-23, NW) By his water baptism Jesus showed his submitting of himself to do God's will; and now God consecrated him by his holy spirit. By acknowledging him as his beloved Son, God begot Jesus to be his spiritual Son once more instead of a human Son. By pouring out his holy spirit upon the baptized Jesus, God anointed him with the spirit to be the long-promised King in God's kingdom. By being thus anointed with the spirit Jesus became the Messiah, or Mashiahh or Christ, which words all mean "Anointed". Thus he became in fact Jesus Christ, or Jesus the Anointed. His Jewish disciple Peter declared: "Jesus who was from Nazareth, how God anointed him with holy spirit and power."-Acts 10:38, NW.

    After spending forty days in the wilderness, where he beat back the Devil's temptations, Jesus returned to John's locality, to get in touch with his first disciples. On seeing Jesus approaching, John said to his hearers: "See, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29,36, NW) Thus John showed the secondary purpose for which the Son of God came to earth, namely, to die as a holy sacrifice to Jehovah God in order to cancel the sins of believing men and to free them from death's condemnation, that they might gain eternal life in the righteous new world which God has promised to create. Jesus was suitable to be such a ransom sacrifice. By having his perfect, sinless life transferred from heaven to the womb of a Jewish virgin, Jesus was born a perfect human and grew up to be a perfect man, absolutely sinless, guileless, undefiled. (Hebrews 7:26, NW) So, when he presented himself in full dedication to God's will, Jehovah God accepted him for sacrifice as mankind's Redeemer. Because Jesus was bound by this to lay aside his humanity forever as a sacrifice, God begot him by his spirit to become again a spirit Son of God. Hence Jesus said: "The Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many." (Matthew 20:28, NW) So he laid down his human life forever.
On his return visit to Nazareth the anointed Jesus spoke in its synagogue. There he applied to himself the prophecy of Isaiah 61: 1,2. He confessed he had been anointed with God's spirit in order to preach the good news or gospel to meek persons seeking release from bondage to sin and religious error. (Luke 4:16-21) After that he preached "The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near" up and down the land of Judea and Galilee and Trans-Jordan. He gathered about him twelve apostles and other disciples, whom he trained to preach the heavenly kingdom to which he had been anointed. He exposed religious traditions and errors and preached the truth to set men free. This brought him in conflict with the rabbis, priests and sectarian leaders, who sought his death. At passover time A.D. 33, with the aid of the traitorous apostle Judas Iscariot, they seized Jesus, gave him a mock trial, handed him over to the Gentiles for trial by Pontius Pilate and Herod Antipas, and then blocked his release by stirring up the misguided Jewish people to cry for Jesus to be hanged on a torture stake like a seditious lawbreaker and blasphemer. He died obedient to God, without renouncing God's kingdom.

    On the third day of his being dead in the grave his immortal Father Jehovah God raised him from the dead, not as a human Son, but as a mighty immortal spirit Son, with all power in heaven and earth under the Most High God. Says the Jewish witness Peter: "He being put to death in the flesh, but being made alive in the spirit." (1 Peter 3:18, NW; Dy) For forty days after that he materialized, as angels before him had done, to show himself alive to his disciples as witnesses. He then ascended to heaven and appeared in God's presence with the value of his human sacrifice as God's High Priest, and this he applied in behalf of all those who should believe in him.—Hebrews 9:11,23,24; 10:12,13.

    God exalted his Son Jesus to be higher than he was before he lived and died as a man. If Jesus had been "equal in power and glory" with the Supreme One, then Jehovah God could not have elevated his Son any higher than he was in his prehuman state. But now Jesus is made the Head under Jehovah of God's capital organization over the entire universe. Says the apostle Peter: "Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is at God's right hand, for he went his way to heaven, and angels and authorities and powers were made subject to him." (1 Peter 3:21,22, NW) This proves Jesus did not take his human body to heaven to be forever a man in heaven. Had he done so, that would have left him ever lower than the angels. By his becoming a man, "we behold Jesus, who has been made a little lower than angels, crowned with glory and honor for having suffered death." (Hebrews 2:6-9, NW) God did not purpose for Jesus to be humiliated thus forever by being a fleshly man forever. No, but after he had sacrificed his perfect manhood, God raised him to deathless life as a glorious spirit creature. He exalted him above all angels and other parts of God's universal organization, to be next-highest to himself, the Most High God. What Jesus does in this exalted capacity, we leave to succeeding chapters to tell.
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