I am continuing in a rebuttal of the teachings of John Hagee on Israel. His best-selling status in evangelical culture is a sign of serious problems in the church, and an explanation of why postmillennialism has difficulty getting traction today. In this article I will demonstrate Hagee’s errors regarding Christ as the Messiah. Those errors are enormous.
1. Jesus did not present himself as the Messiah.
Hagee writes: “Not one verse of Scripture in the New Testament … says Jesus came to be the Messiah” (p. 136). “The Jews were not rejecting Jesus as Messiah; it was Jesus who was refusing to be the Messiah to the Jews” (p. 140; cp. 145). In fact, he wrongly argues that “if God intended for Jesus to be the Messiah of Israel, why didn’t he authorize Jesus to use supernatural signs to prove he was God’s Messiah”? (p. 137).
These incredible assertions absolutely contradict the New Testament and historic Christian teaching. Jesus is called “Christ” in over 385 passages of the New Testament. “Christ” is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew term “Messiah.” When Jesus asks his disciples “Who do you say that I am,” Peter answers: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:15-16). To this Jesus responds: “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 16:17). Jesus actually blesses Peter for declaring his Messiahship, even noting that God in heaven revealed this to Peter. He then “warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ” (Matt. 16:20). In similar terms faithful Martha also declares Jesus to be the Christ (John 11:27).
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Note only so, but contrary to Hagee, Christ did prove this through supernatural signs. In John 10:24-25 the Jews demand of him: “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answers them: “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these bear witness of Me.” Note his clear affirmation and his pointing to his “works” (miracles) as witness to the fact. God did authorize Jesus to use signs to confirm his Messiahship. In fact, the Jews see his signs as proof of his Messiahship: “many of the multitude believed in Him; and they were saying, ‘When the Christ shall come, He will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will He?’” (John 7:31).
Christ’s messianic signs represent the very purpose for John’s writing his Gospel. The Gospel closes with these words: “Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31; emph. mine).
Before his crucifixion, in his High Priestly Prayer he speaks to the Father: “And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent” (John 17:3). In Matthew 26:63-64 Jesus is on trial for his life. The high priest formally demanded of him: “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God” (Matt. 26:63). Matthew records his answer: “You have said it yourself” (Matt. 26:64). Thus, under oath he affirms that he is the Messiah.
Later at Pentecost in Jerusalem Peter preaches from the Psalms: “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know … [David] looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay…. Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:22, 31, 36). This is the apostolic message throughout Acts (Acts 4:26; 5:42; 8:5, 12; 10:36, 48; 17:2-3; 18:5, 28; 20:21; 26:23; 28:31). Indeed, Paul was “confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 9:22).
2. The Jews did not reject Jesus as the Messiah.
Hagee states that: “The Jews did not reject Jesus as Messiah” (p. 132, 135), for “how can the Jews be blamed for rejecting what was never offered? (p. 136, emph. his). “Had Jesus permitted himself to become the reigning Messiah to the Jews, he would have missed the sovereign will of God for his life” (p. 134) because “Jesus had to live to be the Messiah” (p. 135). He explains that those who reject Jesus and seek his crucifixion “could not have numbered more than a few hundred” (p. 129). The plot against Jesus “had nothing to do with the Jewish people as a civilization,” for “three out of four Jews did not live in what the Romans called Palestine” and “nine out of ten of the Jews in Palestine at that time lived outside of Jerusalem” (p. 131).
In the first place, the Jews did reject Christ. Early on in John’s Gospel we read that “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). John is not limiting the rejection to leadership of Israel. And in the following context we read that John the Baptist denied being the Christ though affirming he was Christ’s forerunner (1:19-29) and Andrew told Peter “‘we have found the Messiah’ (which translated means Christ)” (John 1:41). In fact, he wrote the Gospel to urge belief in Jesus as the Christ” (John 20:31), though his own did not receive him as such.
Stephen declares this in his sermon: “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become” (Acts 7:51-52).
According to Scripture we learn even that “Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him… ‘I know that you are Abraham’s offspring; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you” (John 8:31). The Lord even warned his disciples of the prophesied outcome: “If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. But they have done this in order that the word may be fulfilled that is written in their Law, ‘They hated Me without a cause’” (John 15:24-25). He frequently noted that even ancient, evil pagans would more readily believe that the Jews: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you” (Matt 11:21-22; cp. Matt 10:15; 11:23-24). And Stephen’s denunciation (Acts 7:51-52) was given before a broad Jewish audience (Acts 6:9, 12-13; 7:57-58; 8:1).
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Contributors lay the scriptural foundation for a biblically-based, hope-filled postmillennial eschatology,
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At the end of his ministry Jesus weeps over Jerusalem (not over the Sanhedrin or the high priestly aristocracy): “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling” (Matt. 23:37).
In the second place, Christ did come to die. Peter declares to the Jews that “the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ should suffer, He has thus fulfilled” (Acts 3:18). Paul busied himself among the Jews in Thessalonica “explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ’” (Acts 17:3). In his defense before Festus regarding the Jewish accusations against him, Paul asserted “that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He should be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:23).