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From Promise to Fulfillment

December 4, 2021 | by: Tony Sanelli | 0 comments

The Advent of Jesus as Prophet, Priest and King

advent-managerThis month we will reflect upon the birth of our Lord known as the doctrine of the incarnation. The doctrine of the incarnation refers to a time in human history when the eternal Son, who existed before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, added humanity to Himself in order to be born as the God-Man and enter human history.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1, 14).

The gospel writers also indicate that the birth of Jesus was the fulfillment of Old Testament expectation. Indeed, there was a general sense that the time of the Messiah (Christ) was near. Many had come forth and falsely claimed to be the Messiah. But godly men like Simeon were “waiting for the consolation of Israel” (Lk. 2:25-26). When John the Baptist appeared, Luke records that “the people were waiting expectantly, and all were wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ” (Lk. 3:15).

We do well to remember that the New Testament announcement of the birth of Christ comes at the end of centuries of expectation. For example, Isaiah 7:14 is quoted as fulfilled in Matthew 1:22-23.

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

“Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which translated means, ‘God with us’” (Matt. 1:22-23).

advent-manager-2The arrival of Jesus was the culmination of centuries of hope – Messianic hope. The foundation of this hope was the Old Testament prophecies and foreshadowing of a coming one who would bring peace, liberation, and justice for the people of God. All these prophecies and shadowy images were lacking the substance and the clarity that Jesus brought through His life and teachings.

W. H. Griffith Thomas imagines a man who is given the Old Testament without the New Testament. As he reads through the Old Testament, he traces the idea of a promised personal redeemer but in the end, he sees that the promises have not been realized. Thus, he surmises that the Old Testament is a book of unfulfilled promises. Next, he traces the themes of sacrifices, offerings, and feasts in Israel’s worship, but he finds insufficient clarification. Thus, he surmises that the Old Testament is a book of unexplained ceremonies. Once again, he reads and concentrates on the personal communion of the Old Testament believers with Yahweh and especially the yearnings for experiences of the presence of God by individuals like David and Moses. But again, he does not find these pantings after God fully realized. The Old Testament is a book of unsatisfied longings.

Lastly, Griffith Thomas imagines that the man is given a New Testament. He begins to read and on the very first page he comes to the clause “that it might be fulfilled.” Soon he discovers that Jesus is the prophet who fulfills in His life the promises, the priest who explains in His death all the ceremonies and the king who satisfies in His resurrection and indwelling Spirit all the longings of the saints of God. Thus, the arrival of Jesus is the fulfillment of centuries of Messianic expectation.

The Purpose of the Incarnation

In several different ways the Scriptures reveal the varied purposes of the Son’s incarnation. It was the reformer, John Calvin, who brought into prominence the so-called “threefold office” of Christ. The threefold office of Christ presents Jesus Christ as prophet, priest, and king, who fulfilled all the anointed offices of the Old Testament in his life and saving work.

Francis Turretin, a Genevan-Italian (had to get that in) Reformed theologian, later wrote of the threefold office as “the divinely revealed solution to the threefold disease of ignorance, guilt, and pollution.” It is Jesus who procures and offers the divine remedy for human sin via his ministry as prophet, priest, and king. It is important to note the use of the singular office by all the forementioned authors. As Bruce Milne states, “We are concerned with what are simply three distinguishable facets of one indissoluble reality, the work of Jesus Christ the mediator.”

Indeed, our Lord Jesus is the Ideal Prophet, the Ideal Priest, and the Ideal King. Each of these roles are facets of the diamond of His mediatorial work of redemption. The Puritan William Ames believed that the order of Christ’s mediatorial roles was also important. He states, “The order appears in the appointed way of carrying it out: Christ first taught others, declaring the will of God to them; then He offered Himself; and afterward He entered into His kingdom.”

Tony-NewJust how Jesus fulfills this three-fold office in his multi-faceted mediatorial work will occupy us during the first three Sundays of Advent. Consequently, this year’s Advent series will be entitled “Knowing Jesus.” The first three sermons will trace out His three-fold office: “Jesus Our Prophet,” “Jesus Our Priest,” and “Jesus Our King.” Lastly, we will celebrate the incarnation on December 26th under the title of “Jesus Our Emmanuel.” I hope that when we reflect upon these titles and the Old Testament expectation behind each of them, we will together see how richly they encapsulate why He came.

Tony Sanelli is a Pastor/Teacher at Grace Bible Church