The First and the Last

The first book of the New Testament
was written by one of the 12 Apostles
to show how the [first] coming of Jesus
fulfills the Old Testament prophecies
about the Promised King.
The restoration of the throne of David
is fulfilled in Jesus.
The last book of the New Testament
was written by one of the 12 Apostles
to show how the [second] coming of Jesus
fulfills the Old Testament prophecies
about the Promised Kingdom.
The restoration of God’s people
is fulfilled in Jesus.

Of the four gospel writers, Matthew places a particular emphasis on showing that Jesus was the Anointed One…the promised Messiah. Over and over, Matthew says, “this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet” (Matthew 1:22, 2:15, 2:17, 2:23, 4:14, 8:17, 12:17, 13:35, 21:4, 26:56, 27:9). Matthew’s point is not simply to validate the reliability of the Old Testament prophets. Matthew is emphasizing to his readers that these Old Testament prophecies were pointing to Jesus.

The Jews had long been waiting for the Promised One:

  • the seed of the woman who would crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:14-15).
  • the seed of Abraham who would “possess the gates of [his] enemies” and bless “all the nations of the earth” (Genesis 22:17-18).
  • the lion of Judah who would command the obedience of all the peoples (Genesis 49:9-10).
  • the root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:10), the righteous branch (Jeremiah 23:5, 33:15), the king who would gather his people and destroy their enemies, reestablishing David’s throne as the seat of power over a kingdom that would never again be defeated (Isaiah 9:6-7), just as God had promised David (2 Samuel 7:16).

Jesus came in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies about the promised Messiah. Jesus is the promised King. However, the kingdom that God has promised his people was not immediately ushered in when Jesus came to earth (at least not in its entirety). Although Satan has been judged (John 12:31, 16:11), cast down (Luke 10:18), and bound (Matthew 12:29), he still temporarily retains his role as the “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), blinding and enslaving the kingdoms of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4, 1 John 5:19). The ultimate destruction of evil and the peace and prosperity of God’s kingdom have not yet been fully realized.

Jesus died and returned to heaven with “unfinished business.” As Cleopas said on the road to Emmaus, “we had hoped that [Jesus] was the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). As his disciples asked him after his resurrection and before his return to heaven, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). Perhaps some of the disciples misunderstood the nature of God’s kingdom, but it remains true that there are still unfulfilled promises about the restoration of God’s people, the eradication of God’s enemies, and the establishment of God’s eternally peaceful kingdom.

The biblical canon closes with the apostle John’s reassurance that Jesus will return, fulfilling the remaining promises, and perfecting God’s kingdom. John’s vision does not reveal new promises so much as it reveals the fulfillment of old promises. John does not quote specific Old Testament prophecies the way Matthew does. John communicates via a different genre, writing an apocalypse, not a biography. John refers to Old Testament prophesies using allusions not quotes. Yet his point is still quite clear. Jesus will come again to fulfill the prophecies of Daniel, Ezekiel, Zechariah and others. The Promised King will return to establish his kingdom, rescue his people, and destroy those who oppose him.

The people of Matthew’s day had been waiting for the Messiah to be revealed. Matthew wrote his gospel to display the glory of the King who had come. In our day, we await the return of the King to establish his glorious kingdom. Jesus appeared to John in a vision to reveal the coming of the kingdom that he has promised. Come, Lord Jesus!