Who Do You Say That I Am?
When Christ came, there were many ideas that were prevailing regarding the identity of the Messiah. While the Hebrews still affirmed the knowledge that the Anointed Messiah of God was none other than the Son of God, there were myriads of ideas in addition to this.
The popular notion was that the Messiah was to redeem the Jews from the bondage of slavery to the Roman yoke they were serving under. So filled with national pride, the Jewish nation had lost sight of the Redeemer who was to come to save the world from the slavery of sin and its curse. Others emphasized that the Messiah would come as a prophet to fulfill the words of Moses, and would sit in his seat to bring righteous judgment on the earth.
When it came to the subject of Jesus (whose name in Hebrew was Ye’shua but in the Greek Jesus) in particular, he was considered by many to be “the prophet”, or else “the Messiah” (although these were prophesying one-in-the-same individual), or else a sinner for going against the customs of the rabbinites (John 9:16), and others going as far as to denounce him as a Samaritan possessed of the devil (John 8:48). So diverse was the opinion regarding him that the Scriptures conclude that “there was division among the people because of Him.” (John 7:40-43)
Identity of the Christ
On account of the diverse and strange views regarding the mission of Christ, He warned His disciples to beware of the doctrines of the religious scribes and pharisees, which he likened to leaven. Then in connection with this warning, He put forth a question to His disciples which is as relevant today as it was when it was first asked. “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” (Matthew 16:13)
The answers of the disciples hone in on the great confusion then existing regarding who Christ was. “And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.” (Matthew 16:14) “He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:15-17)
A False View of Christ
Understand that it was flesh and blood, and not the spirit of inspiration from the Word of God moving the speculations of men to give voice to unsanctified ideas regarding the Messiah. One of the works of the flesh is “heresies” (Gal. 5:18), and without the Spirit of God’s word informing and shaping our conclusions, we’d be bound to depart from the truth regarding who Christ is.
Shall we think that the great confusion which existed then is any less today, in our generation upon whom the ends of the world are come? While it may differ in some respects today, it is still just as present, if not more than that time.
The apostle Paul warned of the leaven of heresy regarding the work, mission, and identity of the Messiah being obscured through false preachers. “For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached…ye might well bear with him.” (2 Corinthians 11:4) For this cause, we feel it necessary in this series of articles to expose the eight different views of the Messiah that are prevalent today, and how they depart from the true Messiah abundantly revealed in the Scriptures.
THE CREATED MAN OF BETHLEHEM
The idea that Christ is merely a man suggests that the Messiah is a flesh and blood descendant of David, and he is the savior of the world, destined to reign as a great king. And this theory went only that far, it would be true. However, that is all that he is; a chosen leader from God, like Abraham, Moses, David, or Elijah whose origins began in with His birth in Bethlehem. His direct descent and parentage to the God and Father of all creation is lost sight of, and wholly disregarded.
In this theory, the first created man, Adam, must necessarily predate the existence of Christ. And going back further than this, Lucifer would have also preceded him, which belief Satan would exult over. He is regarded as the great prophet to come that is greater than Moses, but he was not before Moses.
A greater than John the baptist, but not before the baptizer. However, the testimony of the baptist was clear: “John bare witness of him, and cried, saying…He that cometh after me was brought forth before me: for He was before me.” (John 1:15)
In fact, the Bible states that He is before all created things. “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” (Colossians 1:16-17)
Origins of Christ
And what does the prophecy regarding Christ’s birth in Bethlehem state? “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose origins have been from the beginning, even from the days of eternity.”(Micah 5:2)
Those who say that Christ was only a great man make Him merely such a one as themselves. Yet His existence the Scriptures clearly testify were from the beginning, long before John the baptist was born.
Moreover, the Messiah speaks of His existence predating His birth in Bethlehem. In His testimony to the Jewish leadership, he stated, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.”(John 8:56-58)
Moses indeed testified of Christ, and in the recounting of Abraham’s life written in Genesis, we are informed that several times he had encountered Christ, whom He called “Lord” (Gen. 18:3). And in His prayer to the heavenly Father, Christ stated, “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was…for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:5,24)
How could Christ be glorified with glory that He had with the Father before the world existed, or how could the Father have loved Christ before the foundation of the world, if He did not exist? Therefore, this belief is only from those who seek to wrest the Scriptures from their true meaning.
Given this evidence, therefore, we conclude that the Messiah’s beginning originating at Bethlehem finds no basis in fact. And rather, to believe such a thing would be lightly esteem the plain teachings of the Scripture on this matter. Christ’s origins are not equal to our own, but His birth as the Son of God and existence predates ours in a measure that is incalculable by human figures.
THE CREATED, PRE-EXISTENT CHRIST
This view of Christ suggests that the Messiah is more than a man, but is still a created being. According to this theory, he existed before Bethlehem, but he was rather the first created thing before every other facet of creation. As such, God the Father created him to reign over the heavenly host. This idea comes closer to the truth, but still falls short of the perfect truth revealed in the Scriptures.
The problem with this theory is that this would strip Christ of His identity as the Word of God, by whom the Father created all things (John 1:1-3, Col. 1:16, Heb. 1:1-3, 1 Cor. 8:6). If the Father created “all things” through Christ, it is evident that if Christ is created, then all things were not created through Christ. In this view, Christ retains the position as Captain and Chief over the angelic hosts as the Father has set him up, but he is no longer the divine medium through which God performs all of His works. We’re told that God “who created all things by Jesus Christ” (Eph. 3:9) “by whom He made also the worlds” (Heb. 1:2).
Of Divine Inheritance
“Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and His Maker… I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded.” (Isaiah 45:11-12) Christ the Son of God was invested with all the authority of the Father, since all things were created in God through the Son, the authority of God is shared with the Son, who is commander of all the host of heaven.
Even the name of God is shared with the Son of God. “Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they…And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him…but unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.” (Heb. 1:4-8)
This verse would suffice to show that the name of the Son is even better than created things. Cherubim are the highest class of angel, standing foremost in the presence of God, yet to the Son, He receives a better name by inheritance from the Father; receiving worship of them and the name of God by birthright.
Captain of the Heavenly Host
Yet something more can be said of the Captain of the heavenly hosts. Joshua, after the conquest of Jericho, met Christ and his actions were telling of the honor due to the Messiah. “And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come.
And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant? And the captain of the LORD’S host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.” (Joshua 5:13-15) Would Joshua fall to worship just an exalted creation? The Captain of the Lord’s hosts is none other than the Holy One of Israel, the Son of God. Note that His presence was regarded as holy, and the same command given to Moses at the burning bush to “remove thy shoes from off thy foot” was repeated to Joshua by no created administration, but was full of divine authority.
By Virtue of Birth
The view that makes the Messiah a pre-existent created being negates the honor and majesty that He has with the Father. “That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.” (John 5:23)
Here, the Greek word to honor the Son “even as” the Father, means “just the same”, “in the same manner”, and therefore the truest honoring of the Father includes the honoring of His Son. And just as you would reveal your honor to the Father in holy worship, “in the same manner” this embraces the worship of the Son. The view of a created, pre-existent Messiah could not receive that kind of homage which Joshua gave to Christ; even the exalted angel communicating the prophetic revelations to John the apostle refused to be worshipped (Rev. 22:8-9).
Divine Son of God
If a created being were to receive such high privileges, it may be argued that all created beings may be exalted to the status of receiving worship with the Most High. If this were possible, it would justify Lucifer’s argument for equality with God in heaven, when he aspired to “exalt [his] throne above the stars of God”, and “to be like the Most High”.
It is evident that we should not make the creature equal to the Creator, lest we fall into the snare of thinking we may be equal in every respect to Christ when we come “unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). And like He had received a name better than the angels by inheritance, John the revelator beheld Him, declaring “He had a name written, that no man knew, but He Himself…and His name is called the Word of God.” (Revelation 19:12-13)
COMING SOON: PART 2 DEALING WITH “THE HOLY FLESH CHRIST”, “THE ONENESS CHRIST”, AND “GOD THE SON”.
PART 3 DEALING WITH “THE GREEK JESUS”, “THE HEBRAIC PRIDE MESSIAH”, AND “THE BLACK HEBREW ISRAELITE MESSIAH”
PART 4 DEALING WITH “THE TRUE MESSIAH”