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Scripture reveals the identity of Jesus Christ during the seven periods of His life. A purpose of redemption arises within each from announcements of prophetic fulfillment and select events. Collectively, the events led to Jesus’ death and resurrection for all as well as the witness of the almighty God living among humans. Furthermore, each period’s fulfilled Old Testament prophecies progressively came to fruition with humanity’s redemption in Christ. Those who examine them in light of God’s revelation in Christ along with the distinct events of His life will witness the unfolding of His divine purpose. Using biblical prophecy, this article seeks to reveal the identity, life, and purpose of Jesus through their fulfillment; examine the periods of His life to uncover the spiritual truths behind them; and establish the integrity of God’s Word for the world today.

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Period of Preparation

“Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, (23) Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matt 1:22-23 KJV).

The Period of Preparation began with the virgin birth of Christ and ended with His baptism. His baptism signaled God’s public revelation and divine anointing of Jesus as His beloved Son to Israel in the wilderness (Matt 3:16; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22).

God’s awaited declaration of the Messiah’s arrival pinnacles this 30-year period of events. Matthew introduced Christ as Emmanuel at His birth explaining “God is with us” (Matt 1:23). After John baptized Jesus, God made public from heaven “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:16-17).

Scripture calls God the Father, Emmanuel (God with us), in the person of Christ. Initially, God lived with humans in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Now, He lives in us through the outpouring of His Holy Spirit.  

Chronological Events of the Period   

  • Christ conceived and born of a virgin (Matt 1:18-25)
  • John the Baptist birthed 3 months prior to Jesus’ (Luke 1:57-65)
  • Angels announced Christ’s birth (Luke 2:10-13)
  • King Herod attempted to slay the Messiah (Matt 2:16-18)
  • Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt with the Christ child by divine order (Matt 2:13-15)
  • Mary kept all sayings regarding her child in her heart until fulfillment (Luke 2:19,51)
  • Jesus attended the Jewish feasts yearly with His parents (Luke 2:41)
  • Jesus grew up with a love for God’s Word (Luke 2:41-52)
  • Though divine, Jesus was subject to His parents (Luke 2:52)
  • Jesus continually matured in spirit, filled with wisdom and grace upon Him (Luke 2:40)

Period of Obscurity

“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Overlapping with the previous, the Period of Obscurity began with John the Baptist in the wilderness and ended with his death. The period focused on preparation but at a different level with two important truths: conversion and discipleship.

Upon the period’s opening, John the Baptist called the nation of Israel to repentance. His ministry sought to ready the people of Israel for Jehovah’s coming as the Messiah, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). In another event, Jesus, although God in flesh, experienced temptation for 40 days prior to His ministry. He passed through the wilderness temptations, spiritually strong and prepared for ministry. Jesus then sought out His first disciples to whom He revealed Himself through Scripture (1:35-46).

This period also covered Jesus’ first year of ministry launched in Cana of Galilee and highlighted by the many miracles He performed, which manifested His glory (2:11). He arose from obscurity with miracles and teachings unlike others before Him. He declared Himself no ordinary prophet, but more. This period ended when Herod apprehended John the Baptist, making way for Christ’s Galilean ministry the following year.

Chronological Events of the Period 

  • John the Baptist proclaimed Jesus as the Son of God and Lamb of God (John 1:34,36)
  • Satan tempted Jesus for 40 days in the wilderness (Matt 4:1-11; Mark 1:12,13; Luke 4:1-13)
  • Jesus revealed Himself to His first disciples using Scripture (John 1:35-51)
  • Jesus performed His first miracle in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-11)
  • Jesus cleansed the temple at Jerusalem for the first time (John 2:13-22)
  • Jesus performed many miracles at Jerusalem during the Passover feast (John 2:23-25)
  • Jesus ministered to Nicodemus one night about new birth (John 3:21)
  • Jesus ministered to the woman of Samaria and other Samaritans, revealing Himself to them through the Scriptures (John 4:5-42)
  • Jesus performed His second miracle in Cana healing the nobleman’s son (John 4:46-54)

Period of Popularity   

Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee; (13) And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in he borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: (14) That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, (15) The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; (16) The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. (17) From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 4:12-17).

Jesus’ 2nd year of ministry began in the region of Galilee when He dwelt in Capernaum following John the Baptist’s imprisonment. The Messiah’s Galilean ministry fulfilled prophecy from Isa 9:1-2, namely, the great light shining in the region of Galilee and the surrounding Zabulon, Naphtali, Jordan, and other areas.

Why did the Prophet Isaiah call it a great light? Israel’s Messiah-King had arrived, though born about thirty years earlier: The very Wonderful, Counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace (Isa 9:6). Jesus characterizes the great light. God chose Galilee to reveal Himself and display His power to the nation. The Messiah’s light shined on those who sat in darkness and in the region of the shadow of death. Jehovah God of Israel stood ready to deliver His people from their sinful lifestyles and afflictions.

Jesus healed all manner of afflictions, forgave sin, cast out demons, preached, and taught great sermons until John the Baptist’s death. However, the nation of Israel failed to receive Jesus as Messiah, which resulted in rebuke and judgment for those cities who witnessed the glory of God in Jesus Christ (Matt 11).

Chronological Events of the Period

  • Jesus healed and delivered (Matt 4:21-25) Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, and John to serve with Him in ministry (Luke 5:1-11)
  • Christ taught the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5)
  • Jesus raised the widow’s son in the city of Nain (Luke 7:11-17)
  • Jesus taught Kingdom parables (Matt 18: 23-35; 20:1-16; 21:33-43; 22:1-14; 24:45-51; 25: 1-1-13; 14-30; and Luke 15:3-32)
  • Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Luke 8:40-42, 49-56) 

Period of Intense Opposition

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, (21) And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. (28) And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath,” (Luke 4:18, 21, 28).

Although Jesus’ ministry produced mounting popularity throughout and beyond Israel, it also drew a growing opposition of unbelief, uncertainty, and hatred eventually leading to His crucifixion. Jesus’ clash with Jewish tradition along with His messianic and divine claims, became the basis for His eventual rejection.

During Jesus’ 1st year of ministry, He did many miracles at the Passover feast in Jerusalem. Many Galileans there commemorated the feast also. Upon witnessing His miracles, the Galileans believed Him to be the Messiah, and took this testimony with them as they returned home. For this reason, many Galileans sought Him out and experienced Christ for themselves increasing His fame (John 4:45).

Shortly after His start, Jesus visited His hometown of Nazareth. During the synagogue service He declared Himself the Messiah, the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. The whole congregation became enraged, which led them to seek His execution then but to no avail. Though God stood in their midst with confirmation, in ignorance, Jesus’ hometown did not receive Him. While the nation stood in unbelief, those who demonstrated faith saw and experienced His mighty works. This event marked a critical manifestation of messianic rejection early in Jesus’ ministry.

In another instance of opposition, Jesus drew conflict with the Jews at the Passover feast when He zealously drove out those who used God’s house as a means of personal gain. Despite His ministry producing true faith in many Jews concerning His identity, Jesus did not allow them to make Him their King. He came to die for the sins of the world. His time to reign as King awaited future fulfillment (John 2:13-25). The mounting opposition had to continue for humanity’s redemption to occur.

Chronological Events of the Period

  • Jesus made provision for He and His disciples on the Sabbath (Matt 12:1-8)
  • The Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out devils by the power of Beelzebub (Matt 12:24)
  • Scribes and Pharisees demanded a sign from Jesus of His messianic claims (Matt 12:38-42)
  • Jesus healed a withered hand (Luke 6:6-11), man with dropsy (14:1-6) and deformed woman on the Sabbath (13:10-17)
  • Jesus claimed to be God; the Jews sought to kill Him (John 10:30-38)

Period of Persecution

“And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them. (24) And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: (25)  Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? (26) The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. (27) For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, (28) For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done” (Act 4:23-28).

The prior period escalated to the Period of Persecution (Greek: to pursue intently). It led to His eventual death. Jesus’ teachings clashed with rabbinic and Jewish interpretations of God’s word. Additionally, His miraculous acts continuously confirmed His claim to be the Son of God. So much so, anyone who confessed Him as Messiah was be put to death. The religious order of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, political order, lawyers, and Herodians rejected this obvious truth. Scripture says on occasion they sought to arrest and put Jesus to death. Luke recorded one account when Jesus, as an invited guest in one of the chief Pharisee’s home, healed a man with dropsy on the Sabbath. Using the man’s healing as a teaching tool, Jesus attempted to disclose their erroneous interpretation of the Sabbath but to no avail (Luke 14:1-6).

During His 3rd year of ministry, Jesus experienced continued and increased attempts on His life. These attempts had more to do with claims to be God than Jewish interpretation of Scripture (John 7-12). Without relent, the Jews led by their religious leaders pursued Jesus’ death. Acts 4 and Ps 2 prophetically recorded Israel and the nations (Rome) rising up against Jehovah and His Anointed (Hebrew: Christ). Here, the incarnation of Jehovah God in Christ receives ultimate rejection. But, Ps 2:8 declared the rejected Christ’s resurrection. God ordained Christ’s rejection with a greater purpose than Israel’s reason for killing Him. Using Israel’s hatred for Jesus and their eventual rejection, God made salvation available to everyone through the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Chronological Events of the Period 

  • Peter’s confession (Matt 16:13-17)
  • Jesus healed an impotent man on the Sabbath (John 5:1-20)
  • People divided in their opinions about Jesus (John 7:40-53)
  • Official threats made against any who confessed Jesus as Christ (John 9:17-25)
  • Jesus declared Himself to be the great I Am; the Jews sought to stone Him (John 8:54-59)
  • Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead; the Jews wanted to kill Jesus and Lazarus (John 11)

Passion Week

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (4)Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. (5) But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (6) All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. (10) Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand” (Isa 53:3-6, 10). 

The prophetic purpose of Jesus’ coming and life came down to His final week. The preceding periods of His life converged upon this week of Passover, Nisan the 14th (Exod 12:6-15). Scripture, covenants, and dispensations awaited the sacrifice of the Lamb of God to deal with humanity’s sin and usher in a New Covenant era of grace. For over 3 years, many  loved and believed in Jesus, but the nation of Israel as a whole stood in unbelief and indecisiveness over His identity. Jesus continued to teach and perform miracles even through the spectacle of His death, but it produced no change in the hardness of Israel’s heart.

Jesus began this week with a final offer of Himself to Israel as King by riding into Jerusalem upon a donkey and its colt in fulfillment of the prophet Zechariah’s prediction (Zech 9:9). As the multitude who accompanied Him cried “Hosanna to the son of David: blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord,” the citizens of Jerusalem cried out “Who is this?” How did the multitude respond? They said, “This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee” (Matt 21:1-11). The multitude of followers who sang His praise saw Him as no more than a prophet. They beheld an anointed man of God who could be their Messiah but not God. They carried a flawed understanding of the Son of David. They believed Jesus to be their promised Messiah-King but not Jehovah their Lord (Matt 22:41-46). The Pharisees later persuaded many of them to put Jesus to death. Many of Israel’s political leaders believed in Jesus as the Messiah, but did not confess it openly for the Pharisees drove the opposition against Him.

This week further witnessed some of Jesus’ greatest teachings along with the promise of a second coming. He declared great revelations of His deity and silenced His opposition including rebuking the Pharisees (Matt 22:15-33; 23). On the eve of His arrest, He healed Malchus’ ear that Peter severed (24:29-31). Finally, His enemies apprehended Him on the feast day of Passover so God could make Jesus’ soul an offering for sin through death.

The prophet Isaiah wrote Jesus died for the transgression of God’s people (Isa 53:1-11). The prophet further revealed Christ’s death as a substitutionary act for everyone. It ended the need for the sacrifices required by the Law and opened the door for God’s enduring mercy promised to the repentant. His death for sin made it possible to abolish its dominion over humanity. And His final cry from the cross made the outpouring of the Holy Ghost possible and ended the dispensation of the Law.  

Chronological Events of this Period 

  • Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Matt 21:1-11)
  • Jesus cleansed the temple for the second time (Matt 21:12-17)
  • Jesus cursed of the barren fig tree (Matt 21:18-22)
  • Jesus taught the parable of the two sons (Matt 21:28-32); householder (21:33-46), marriage feast (22:1-14)
  • Jesus silenced His opposition (Matt 22:15-46)
  • Jesus taught against the Pharisees (Matt 23)
  • Jesus instructed the disciples on end times and His second coming (Matt 24-25)
  • Jesus and His disciples ate the last supper together (Matt 26:26-29)
  • Jesus taught and washed feet on the eve of His crucifixion (Matt 13-16)
  • Judas betrayed Christ (Matt 26:14-16)
  • Multitude from the chief priests and elders arrested (Matt 26:47,50; John 18:12) and a crowd comprised of the High Priest, religious leaders, political leaders, Jews, Romans, and Gentiles took part in Jesus Christ’s crucifixion (Matt 26-27; Acts 4:26-28)
  • Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead (Matt 28)

Resurrection Appearances: 40 Days  

“I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes” (Hos 13:14).

This seventh and final period concludes the events of the Passion week, for the prophets not only foretold the death of the Messiah but His resurrection. God declared through the prophet Hosea that He would personally redeem His people from death and destroy it as a continual plague (Hos 13:14). Jehovah made Himself the ransom to abolish death’s reign over humanity. Being the incarnation of Jehovah, Jesus’ death paid the price for everyone’s rebellion against God. Isaiah made another prediction regarding Christ’s resurrection. He initially stated His soul, in death, would be an offering for sin, but the Messiah Himself shall prolong His days (Isa 53:10). Here, the prophet revealed the Messiah will raise Himself from the dead. This gives a decisive testimony to Jesus being both God and man in one person, a witness acknowledged by Thomas, 8 days following His resurrection (John 20:28).

The Jews in unbelief challenged Christ to deliver Himself from the cross if they were to believe, but for the time it went unanswered. In His death, Jesus left them with three undeniable signs. These events gave witness against their unbelief in Jesus as the Messiah, established the fact of His resurrection, and laid a powerful foundation for the proclamation of the Gospel.

With the first sign, Matthew recorded a great earthquake occurring when Jesus died. Divinely powerful and selective, it opened the graves of many saints of the Old Testament. They arose from death immediately after Jesus and showed themselves alive to the people of Jerusalem for the duration of the 40 days following His resurrection (Matt 27:50-53).

Upon the next sign, Scripture records the supernatural tearing of a heavy veil, 60 feet long and 30 inches wide, covering the entrance to the most holy place of the temple immediately following Jesus’ death (Matt 27:51). Expounded later by the epistle to the Hebrews, this indicated the divine termination of the temple system given by Moses. Men and women from all nations now can access the presence of God by faith in who Jesus is and His shed blood (Heb 10:19-22).

The final sign reverberated throughout the Roman empire. Angels appeared early that morning on the first day of the week and rolled away the stone to the empty tomb. Though the Roman authorities attempted to suppress it, a powerful testimony remained before them (Matt 28:1-4, 11-12). Jesus died under Roman power, but this angelic visitation to remove the stone guarded by soldiers demonstrated His resurrection and the superiority of His power to Rome.

During the 40 days Jesus gave personal witness of His resurrection to His followers on divers occasions. He left signs to Israel, but gave proofs along with scriptural exposition to His disciples. The latter proofs with exposition prepared His disciples to experience the outpouring of the Spirit, birth of His church, and proclamation of the Gospel. This period ended with Christ’s triumphant ascension to heaven. He took with Him resurrected saints and the spirits of those who did not rise, for His death was the price of their redemption. Furthermore, His ascension gave the promise of His return. His Church continues to proclaim His Word until then.

In summary, this period concludes the prophetic fulfillment concerning the life of Jesus Christ. It confirmed His resurrection with many infallible proofs and gave full scriptural exposition for all the events of His life. It further gave promise of the baptism of the Holy Ghost and the Lord’s return. Christ’s resurrection ultimately fulfilled those things spoken by the prophets. Prior to His departure, Jesus opened His disciples’ understanding to see these things in Scripture revealing His identity and purpose for coming  (Luke 24:45).

Chronological Events of the Period  

  • Women visited the empty tomb (Matt 28:1-10; Mark:16:1-8; Luke 24:1-11)
  • Peter and John saw the empty tomb (Luke 24:12; John 20:1-10)
  • Guard reported on the resurrection events to the Jewish chief priests (Matt 28:11-12)
  • Jesus’ appeared to Mary Magdalene (Mark 28:9-10; John 20:11-18); the other women (Matt 28:9-10); two disciples on the way to Emmaus (Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-35); Simon Peter (Luke 24:33-35; 1 Cor 15:5); disciples without Thomas (Mark 16:14; Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-25); Thomas and the disciples (John 20:26-31; 1 Cor 15:5); seven disciples on the Sea of Galilee (John 21); five hundred in Galilee (Matt 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-18; 1 Cor 15:6); and James, the brother of Jesus (1 Cor 15:7)
  • Jesus appeared to the disciples with another commission (Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:3-8)
  • Jesus made His last appearance on Olivet and ascended into heaven (Mark 16:19-20; Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:9-12)     

Conclusion

Collectively, these seven periods reveal the essential importance of prophecy. They prophetically reveal God’s identity and purpose in Christ, His sovereign rule over creation, His people’s lives, and the integrity of His Word. Prophecies remain to be fulfilled, but they pertain to Christ’s second coming. Until then the Lord seeks to fulfill the purpose for which He died and rose, the salvation of humankind.

Pastor Daryl Cox, August 8, 2016

Image from Pequea Church