God forgave fallen man, though He had not forgiven the angels. Man’s sin was not so grievous; he had less light and knowledge, and moreover was tempted by them. Besides, he at once to some extent confessed and lamented his sin. Lastly God would not, for the guilt of one, thrust down into eternal banishment from Himself the whole race of men.
1. Immediately after the Fall God promised man a Redeemer.
For He said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed; she shall crush thy head” (Gen., iii. 15).
The seed of the woman here referred to is Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the woman is in all probability the Blessed Virgin Mary. There is to be a complete enmity between Our Lord and His holy Mother on one side, and the devil and his friends on the other. These words of almighty God are a promise that the power of the devil should be destroyed, and that the whole race of men, who through original sin had fallen under the power of the devil, in that he had great influence over them in persuading them to sin, should be freed from their subjection to him. These words are called the Protevangelium or first Gospel, inasmuch as they are the first promise of a Redeemer to come. Yet He was not to come at once. Man had to learn by experience and by suffering the evil of sin, and by seeing the effects of God’s anger against it, e.g., in the Flood, the destruction of the cities of the plain, in the destruction of the Tower of Babel, etc.
2. Two thousand years later God promised to Abraham that the Redeemer should be one of his descendants.
Abraham lived in Ur in Chaldea, and later in Haran in Mesopotamia. He preserved amid the idolatry around him the worship of the true God. God commanded him to leave his father’s house, and journey forth into a land which was to be shown him. In reward for his prompt obedience God promised him that in him all the families of the earth should be blessed (Gen. xii. 2, 3). He directed his steps towards the fertile land of Palestine, and promised him a numerous posterity. Abraham is called the father of the faithful (Rom. iv. 11). God repeated the same promise when the three angels visited Abraham (Gen. xviii. 18), and again when Abraham, in obedience to God’s command, offered up his only son Isaac (Gen. xxii. 17).
The same promise that God had made to Abraham He repeated to Isaac and to Jacob, and one thousand years later to King David.
God appeared to Isaac when he was about to fly into Egypt on account of the famine in Palestine (Gen. xxvi. 2 seq.), and to Jacob when he was flying from his brother Esau, and saw the ladder reaching to heaven (Gen. xxviii. 12), and repeated to each the same promise. To King David the prophet Nathan announced, by God’s command, that He would raise up to him a son whose throne should be established forever (2 Kings vii. 13). The men who belonged to the family from which Christ was to be born were termed patriarchs. All the patriarchs reached a good old age. God had ordained this in order that they might hand down the knowledge of Him to their posterity.
3. At a later time God sent the prophets, and through their mouth foretold many things about the coming, the birth, the person, the sufferings, the death, and the final triumph and glory of the Redeemer.
The prophets were men enlightened by God (men of God), who spoke to the people of Israel in God’s name and with His authority. Their chief task was to keep the people from sin, and to reprove them when they had sinned, and also to prepare the mind of men for the advent of the Redeemer. They were from different classes in society; Isaias was of royal blood, Amos was a herdsman, Eliseus was called from the plough to the prophetical office. God gave them the power of working miracles, of foretelling His judgments, and also of prophesying respecting the Messias. Most of them lived a life of penance; they were held in great veneration by the people, but were persecuted and in many cases suffered a violent death (Matt. xxiii. 30). There were in all about seventy prophets. Moses was one of the greatest of the prophets (Deut. xxxiv. 10), and Isaias was greater still, on account of his clear prophesies respecting the Messias. The last of the prophets was Malachias, who prophesied about B.C. 450. Sixteen of the prophets left writing behind them. Four of these are called the greater prophets (Isaias, Jeremias, Ezechiel, Daniel); twelve the lesser prophets, on account of the smaller amount of their writings.
4. Of the advent of the Messias the prophets have given the following account:
1. The Messias was to be born in Bethlehem.
Micheas says: “Thou Bethlehem Ephrata, art a little one among the thousands of Juda; out of thee shall come forth unto me He Who is to be the Ruler in Israel; and His going forth is from the beginning unto the days of eternity” (Mich. v. 2). Hence the three kings were informed that Christ would be born in Bethlehem (Matt. ii. 5).
2. The Messias was to come at a time when the Temple was still standing.
When the Jews after their return from captivity began to rebuild the Temple, the old men who had seen the former Temple began to weep. They saw from the character of the foundations that the new Temple would not be as large, nor as beautiful as the old one. The prophet Aggeus comforted them by telling them that in this new Temple “the Desired of all nations should come, and fill it with glory” (Agg. ii. 8-10). But this second Temple was destroyed by Titus seventy years after Christ, and was never rebuilt.
3. The Messias was to come when the Jews no longer were an independent kingdom.*
Jacob, in blessing his sons before his death, said to Juda: “The sceptre shall not be taken away from Juda, till He come that is to be sent, and to Him shall be the expectation of the nations” (Gen. xlix. 10). From this time the tribe of Juda was the leading tribe (Numb. ii. 3-9). King David was of the tribe of Juda, and so were his successors up to the captivity in Babylon. Zorobabel, who brought the Jews back from captivity, was of the same tribe. When the Jews regained their liberty, they were under the rule of the Maccabees, who also belonged to Juda. It was not till the year 39 B.C. that the Jewish monarchs were deprived of their sovereignty, and Herod the Great, a foreigner and a pagan, was raised to the throne by the authority of the Romans. In the time of Herod a Redeemer was looked for all over Judea. Herod was alarmed at the inquiry of the Magi for the new-born King (Matt. ii. 3); the Jewish people thought that St. John the Baptist was the Messias (Luke iii. 15); the Samaritan woman to whom Our Lord talked at Jacob’s well was looking for ward to the advent of the Messias (John iv. 25). The chief priest conjured Jesus to tell them whether He was the Messias (Matt. XXT i. 63). As many as sixty impostors about this time gave out that they were the Christ, and deceived many. Even among the heathen there was, at the time of Christ, an expectation of a deliverer, who would banish crime and restore peace to the world (Cf. Virg., Eel. 9).
4. The prophet Daniel (605-530) foretold that from the rebuilding of Jerusalem (453), until the public appearance of the Messias, there would be sixty-nine weeks of years, and until the death of the Messias sixty-nine, and a half weeks of years.
This prediction was revealed to him by the archangel Gabriel, as he was one day offering the evening oblation, and was praying for the deliverance of his people out of captivity. Cyrus, in the year 536, gave the Jewish people leave to return to Palestine and to rebuild their city. In the year 453 the King Artaxerxes gave his cup-bearer Nehemias full powers to fortify Jerusalem; this had not been allowed by Cyrus, on account of which the Jews had been exposed to the constant attacks of their enemies. Now if we add to 453 sixty-nine weeks of years (483 years) we have the date of the commencement of Christ’s public ministry or if we add sixty-nine and one half weeks of years (486V2 years) we have the date of the crucifixion (A.D. 83%).
5. The Messias was to be born of a virgin of the House of David.
As a sign God gave to King Achaz the following prophecy: “Be hold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and His name shall be called Emmanuel [God with us]” (Is. vii. 14). And of the tribe of which the Messias is to be born the prophet Jeremias says, “Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise up to David a just branch, and a king shall reign and shall be wise, and shall execute judgment and justice on the earth” (Jer. xxiii. 5), and His name shall be “the Lord our just One.”
6. The Messias was to be preceded by a precursor or fore runner, who was to preach in the desert, and to live an angelic life.
Isaias says of this forerunner, that he was to be “the voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a path for our God” (Is. xl. 3). And God says through the mouth of Malachias “Behold, I send My angel, and he shall prepare My way before My face. And presently the Lord, Whom you seek, shall come to His Temple” (Mal. iii. 1). This pre cursor was St. John the Baptist.
7. With the Messias a new star was to appear.
The prophet Balaam announced to the King of Moab, when the Israelites were approaching: “I shall see Him, but not now; I shall behold Him, but not near; a star shall come out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise up from Israel “ (Numb. xxiv. 17).
8. The Messias was to be adored by kings from distant lands, and they were to bring Him gifts (Ps. Ixxi. 10).
9. At the time of the birth of the Messias many children were to be put to death.
We read in the prophet Jeremias, “A voice was heard on high, of lamentation and mourning and weeping; of Rachel weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted, because they are not” (Jer. xxxi. 15). Rachel here represents the Jewish people. She died in Bethlehem and was buried there (Gen. xxv. 19).
10. The Messias was to fly to Egypt, and to return again from thence (Osee xi. 11).
5. Of the person of the Messias the following prophecies had been uttered:
1. The Messias was to be the Son of God (Ps. ii. 7).
Through the prophet Nathan God promises David the Redeemer, and says: “He will call Me Father and I will call Him Son” (2 Kings vii. 14). In a psalm God addresses the Messias: “Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee” (Ps. ii. 7).
2. He shall be at the same time both God and man.
Isaias says, “A Child is born to us, and a Son is given to us; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, God, the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of peace” (Is. ix. 6).
3. He was to be a great worker of miracles.
“God Himself shall come and save you. Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as the hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall be unstopped” (Is. xxxv. 5-7).
4. He was to be a priest like to Melchisedech.
“The Lord hath sworn and He will not repent: Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedech” (Ps. cix. 4). Christ offered bread and wine at the Last Supper, and offers it daily in holy Mass through the hands of the priests who are His representatives.
5. .He was to be a prophet or teacher of the people.
To Moses God had said, “I will raise up unto them a prophet, out; of the midst of thy brethren, like to thee” (Deut. xviii. 18). Hence the Jews named the Messias, “the Prophet Who was to come into the world” (John vi. 14). As prophet the Messias was to teach and to prophesy. He was also to be the teacher of the nations (Is. xlix. 1-6).
6. He was to be King of a new kingdom (Jer. xxiii. 5), which was never to be destroyed, and was to embrace all other kingdoms (Dan. ii. 44).
This kingdom is the Catholic Church, or the Church of the whole world. Before Pilate Christ proclaimed Himself a king, and said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” i.e., His kingdom was to be a spiritual one (John xviii. 36).
6. Of the sufferings of the Messias the prophets spoke as follows:
1. The Messias was to enter into Jerusalem riding on an ass (Zach. ix. 9).
2. He was to be sold for thirty pieces of silver. “And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and I cast them into the house of the Lord” (Zach. xi. 12, 13).
The words of Zacharias were exactly fulfilled; Judas threw down the money in the Temple, and with it was bought a field belonging to a potter, as a burying-place for strangers (Matt. xxvii. 5-7).
3. He was to be betrayed by one who ate at the same table with Him (Ps. xl. 10).
Judas went out from the Last Supper to betray his Master (John xiii. 30).
4. His disciples were to forsake Him at the time of His Passion (Zach. xiii. 7).
5. He was to be mocked (Ps. xxi. 7), beaten, spit upon (Is. 1. 6), scourged (Ps. Ixxii. 14), crowned with thorns (Cant, iii. 11), and given gall and vinegar to drink (Ps. Ixviii. 22).
The chief priests and Scribes at the crucifixion mocked Our Lord, and said among themselves, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save” (Mark xv. 31; Cf. v. 29). In the house of Annas a servant gave Him a blow (John xviii. 22). In the house of Caiphas, when He declared Himself the Son of God, the servants spit upon His face, and gave Him blows; Pilate had Him scourged (John xix. 1), and handed Him over to the soldiers, who crowned Him with thorns, put upon Him a purple robe (in mockery of the imperial purple), struck Him on the head with a reed, and derided Him (Mark xv. 15-19). On Golgotha they gave Him to drink wine mixed with gall, which, when He had tasted it, He would not drink (Matt. xxvii. 34).
6. For His garments lots were to be cast (Ps. xxi. 19).
The soldiers divided His garments into four parts, and gave to each soldier a part. His coat they would not divide, for it was with out seam, woven from the top throughout. They therefore cast lots for it (John xix. 23).
7. His hands and feet were to be pierced with nails (Ps. xxi. 17).
Our Lord was really fastened by nails to the cross; for He showed to St. Thomas the wounds in His hands and feet, and told him to place his finger in them (John xx. 27). The usual practice was to tie condemned criminals to the cross with ropes.
8. He was to die between two evil-doers.
The prophet Isaias says: “They shall give the ungodly for His burial, and the rich for His death” (Is. liii. 9). He died between two highway robbers, who were crucified at the same time with Him (Luke xxiii. 33).
9. He was to be patient as a lamb in His sufferings (Is. liii. 7), and was to pray for His enemies (Is. liii. 12).
10. He was to die willingly and for our sins (Is. liii. 47).
7. Of the glory of the Messias the prophets made the following predictions:
1. He was to make His grave with the rich (Is. liii. 9), and it was to be glorious (Is. xi. 10).
2. His body was not to undergo corruption (Ps. xv. 10).
3. He was to return to heaven (Ps. Ixvii. 34), and was to sit at the right hand of God (Ps. cix. 1).
4. His doctrine was to spread from Jerusalem and from Mount Sion over the whole world (Joel ii. 28; Is. ii. 3).
The hall of the Last Supper, where the apostles received the Holy Ghost, was situated on Mount Sion.
5. The heathen nations of the whole earth were to be received into His kingdom, and to adore Him (Ps. xxi. 28, 29).
6. The Jewish people, who had put the Messias to death, were to be severely punished, and scattered over the face of the earth (Deut. xxviii. 64).
The city of Jerusalem was to be destroyed as well as the Temple; the Jewish sacrifices and the Jewish priesthood were to cease, and the Temple was never to be rebuilt (Dan. ix. 26, 27; Osee iii. 4).
7. In every place throughout the world, a “clean oblation” (holy Mass) was to be offered to Him (Mal. i. 11).
8. He will one day judge all men (Ps. cix. 6). Before the Day of Judgment Elias will be again sent on the earth (Mal. iv. 5).
8. The Messias was announced through many types.
The twilight announces the approach of the sun; so the lives of the patriarchs announced and foreshadowed the coming of Christ. Almost all the ceremonies of the tabernacle foreshadowed the ceremonies of the religion of Christ (Col. ii. 16, 17). The relation of the whole of the Old Testament to the New is that of the shadow to the substance (Heb. x. 1), of the image to the object that it represents. The ancient covenant was the veil which concealed the new. The persons and things which thus represent in the Old Testament the persons and things of the New, are called types.
The types of the Messias were as follows: Abel, Noe, Melchisedech, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Jonas, the arch angel Raphael, the paschal lamb, the offering on the Day of Atonement, the brazen serpent, and the manna.
Abel was the first of just men; Christ the first of the saints; Abel was a shepherd and offered to God an acceptable offering; he was gentle as a lamb, but he was hated by his brother and murdered by him. Noe was the only just man among all those around him; Christ alone was without sin. Noe amid his course of preaching built the ark; so Christ the Church. Noe saved the human race from temporal death; so Christ from eternal death. Noe’s sacrifice on his quitting the ark was the beginning of a new covenant; so Christ’s on leaving the world. Melchisedech, i.e., king of justice, was King of Salem, i.e., King of peace; Christ was both King and Priest; He offered to God bread and wine. Isaac was the only-begotten and well-beloved son of his father. He himself carried the wood on which he was to be sacrificed, and offered himself willingly; he was restored to his father, and from him sprang a countless offspring. Jacob was persecuted by his brother, but afterwards was reconciled to him. Though the son of a rich father he wandered in a strange land and there won his bride by long service; so Christ the Church. He had twelve sons, of whom one was the beloved son; so Christ had twelve disciples, of whom St. John was the beloved disciple. Joseph, the well-beloved son of his father, was hated by his brethren, and sold by them for a few pieces of silver; after great humiliation he was raised to the highest honor, and by his counsel saved the whole people from death. Heralds proclaimed that all should bow the knee before him and he was reconciled to his brethren. Moses when a little child, escaped the cruel command of the king, spent his youth in Egypt, fasted forty days before the publication of the ancient law, freed the Israelites from slavery, and brought them to the Promised Land, worked miracles in proof of his divine mission, interceded for the people to God (Exod. xxxii. 11; Numb. xiv. 13); appeared on Mount Sinai with a shining countenance (as Christ on Thabor), and was the mediator of the ancient covenant. David was born in Bethlehem, spent his youth in a humble state, vanquished the giant Goliath, the enemy of the people of the Lord: was King of Israel, had much to suffer, and triumphed over all his enemies. Jonas was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale (Matt. xii. 40), and preached penance to the Ninivites. The archangel Gabriel came down from heaven to conduct safely on his journey one of the children of men; delivered Tobias from blindness, and Sara from the devil. The paschal lamb was slain just before the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, and therefore on the Friday preceding the paschal Sabbath; it was offered to God and afterwards eaten; it was to be without spot, and in the prime of its age; not a bone of it was to be broken (John xix. 36); its blood sprinkled on the posts of the door preserved from temporal death, as the blood of Christ from spiritual death. It was eaten on the eve of the departure of the Israelites to the Promised Land; so Our Lord is given as Viaticum on our departure for heaven. The emissary goat on the day of expiation was presented by the high priest before the Lord, and the priest then laid his hands upon its head, in order thereby to signify that the sins of all the people were transferred to it, and it was then driven out to die in the desert (Lev. xvi. 10). So Christ had the sins of the whole world laid upon Him, and passed from heaven into the desert of this sinful world to die for us. The brazen serpent in the desert was set up on a piece of wood, and all who looked upon it were healed of the bite of the fiery serpents (Numb. xxi. 6-9). So Christ was raised up on the wood of the cross, and all who look to Him with faith and hope are saved from the deadly effects of sin. Hence Our Lord says: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believeth in Him may not perish, but may have life everlasting” (John iii. 14, 15). Lastly the manna is a type of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar; it was white and small, came down from heaven every day, was to be consumed in the early morning, was given only during the journey through the desert, and contained in itself all sweetness. In all these things it resembles the Blessed Sacrament. Our Lord says that there is this difference between the manna and the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar: that Moses did not give the Israelites bread from heaven, but that the Blessed Sacrament is the bread that came down from heaven, and giveth life to the world (John vi. 32, 33).
This article, 2. THE PROMISE OF THE REDEEMER is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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