The name Jesus, “Ιησούς (iesous)” in Greek, is originated from Hebrew name ישוע (yeh-ho-shoo’-ah(, meaning “Jehovah is salvation.”
Christ is משיח (mashiyach) in Hebrew and “Χριστός” (khris-tos) in Greek, meaning “the anointed one.” The name Christ is the New Testament’s appellation for the Old Testament’s Messiah. The expression “ό Χριστός (ho khris-tos)” that frequently appears in the Four Gospel is the word “Christ” preceded by the definite article “the,” telling us that Jesus is the absolute God Himself. God the Father, in other words, sent His own Son to deliver everyone living in this world from all sins.
Strictly speaking, these two names of “Jesus” and “Christ” are not actually interchangeable. The name “Jesus” is the name of the Savior who came as the Interceder of mankind, as the peacemaker between God and human beings. But the name “Christ” means “the anointed one,” originating from the traditions of the ancient Middle East region—that is, from the ritual of distinguishing those chosen to bear the responsibilities of high positions by anointing them.
For the people of Israel in the Old Testament’s time, this tradition was originated from God’s own command. They anointed prophets, priests, and kings (1 Kings 19:16, Psalm 133:2). This was the ritual that publicly affirmed before everyone the fact that those chosen by God were fit for the duties of each. Such symbolic rituals of the Old Testament, however, were effective only for the certain period of duration when these people entrusted with such duties were alive, and even so their capacity to fulfill their duties was also imperfect. These facts implied that the Israelites could not but wait for the coming of the perfect One who would be anointed by God Himself.
In such a context, there was the birth of One who would be especially anointed by the Holy Spirit to fulfill the righteousness of God (Matthew 3:15-17, Mark 1:10-11, Luke 3:21-22). Jesus Himself testified on this, “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me…” (Luke 4:18; see also Isaiah 61:1). Thus, the name “Christ” means “the anointed One” who saves His people from sin. Contained in the name of Christ are not only His duties as the Redeemer and Interceder, but also His authority and power manifested by His perfect fulfillment of these duties.
1. Christ’s Attributes
Christ already existed even before the creation (Ephesians 1:4). Explaining the will that God had even before the creation, Paul said, “In the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him” (Ephesians 1:10).
To fulfill His will, God sent His only begotten Son, whom He had promised and who would be anointed, to this earth. The family lineage of this Son of God is shown in more detail in the covenant that God established with Abraham—that is, He would come as one of the descendants of Abraham, and all the nations would be blessed because of Him (Genesis 22:17-19). This was God’s promise.
Jacob, while blessing his sons in his dying hour, also said that the Messiah would come as a descendant of Judah (Genesis 49:10). The prophets of the latter times revealed the attributes and ministries of the Messiah in even more detail. According to Isaiah 53, it was prophesied that Christ would take the sins of His people upon Himself, be crucified, suffer at the hands of people and be abandoned by them, and ultimately die and be buried.
(1) The Divine Nature of Jesus Christ: Jesus Christ has not only existed even before the creation, but He has existed as the eternal and true God. Furthermore, even though He came to this earth in the flesh of a man, He has continued to be God Himself (John 1:1, 14). As Romans 9:5 states, “[He] who is over all, the eternally blessed God.”
The confession of God’s Church about the divine nature of Jesus Christ is not a man-made confession, for this is founded on the very revelation of God Himself (Matthew 16:17). In addition, all the truths of the Bible describe the divine nature of Christ explicitly, not ambiguously (Micah 5:2; Isaiah 9:6). In the New Testament, the true divinity of Christ the Savior is often solemnly declared by Christ Himself. Peter also confessed to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16; see also Mark 8:29 and Luke 9:20).
Furthermore, Paul also said, “[Christ Jesus] who, “being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God” (Philippians 2:6). John, while praising Christ, also confessed, “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20). When Caiaphas the High Priest asked Jesus, “Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God,” Jesus answered him, “It is as you said” (Matthew 26:63-64; see also Mark 15:2).
On other occasions, Jesus also said that He and God the Father were one (John 10:30), and that He had existed before Abraham (John 8:58). Christ, moreover, mentioned His role as the High Priest and the glory that He has shared with the Father even before the creation (John 17:5). In addition, when Christ forgave people of their sins or healed them from their illnesses, as well as when He admonished His disciples to believe in Him, all these things were contingent upon their recognition of His divinity.
Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Triune God who worked as the Son of God (Matthew 16:16; 26:63-64). According to the angel that visited Mary, the Son whom Mary would give birth would be called as the Holy Son of God (Luke 1:35). Right after Jesus was baptized by John, a voice came from Heaven and testified, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17; see also Mark 1:11 and Luke 3:22).
This meant that His baptism was not simply a ritual, but the one approved by God the Father. It refers to the baptism that Jesus received to take all the sins of mankind upon Himself. This is how He fulfilled all the righteousness of God (Matthew 3:15). Just before Jesus was baptized, He said to John, “Permit it to be so now [that is, baptize Me], for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). The Bible declares that Jesus Christ has the same particular power as the Father (John 5:26). The Apostle Paul calls Christ as God’s “own Son” (Romans 8:32). And John says that Christ was “the Word [who] was with God” (John 1:1). He also describes Him as God’s only begotten Son (John 1:14, 3:16; see also 5:18, where Jesus Himself called God as His own Father.)
(2) The Human Nature of Jesus Christ: The New Testament also emphasizes Christ’s human nature. The eternal Son of God was born “in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7-8). He was called “the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). Even though He was God Himself, He incarnated into a man and dwelt among us (John 1:14). In consequence, He was baptized by John the Baptist. He lived among people as a man, and He shared in their happiness, joy and sadness. And He also ate the same food that they ate. He was a man not only in His appearance, but in His character. Like others, He was also a descendant of Adam (the family lineage of Luke 3:38). And He was born of a woman (Luke 2:6-7; Matthew 1:18-25, and Galatians 4:4). Among His forefathers were Abraham and David (Matthew 1:1).
Even though Jesus Himself had no sin, He nonetheless came to this earth in the flesh of a man weakened by sins. In other words, Christ came “in the likeness of sinful flesh,” and by being baptized by John, He fulfilled all the righteousness of God (John 19:30). Although He shouldered our sins with His baptism and suffered, He was not differentiated from others (Isaiah 53:2-3).
However, although Christ had the same human nature as us, He never surrendered to the temptation of sin. According to the author of the Book of Hebrews, Christ was “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus bore sins only because He took the sins of the world upon Himself by being baptized by John, and this is why He was crucified for the sake of sinners. Referring to Christ, Hebrews 7:26 states, “For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.”
Christ’s Three Duties
There were three kinds of persons who were anointed by oil in the Old Testament age: the prophets, the priests, and the kings (1 Kings 19:16; Exodus 40:13-15; 2 Kings 9:3).
Christ is the Prophet and the Teacher anointed by the Holy Spirit. And He is also the heavenly High Priest. The concepts of the many roles that Christ played are all biblically sound. Deuteronomy 18:15 states, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet” (see also verse 18). In Psalm 110:4, Jehovah called Christ by saying, “You are a priest forever.” Zechariah 6:12-13 reveals the Kinghood of Christ by stating that “the Man whose name is the BRANCH” would “bear the glory” and “sit and rule on His throne.” These three duties of Christ were all fulfilled when Christ came to this earth, shouldered all the sins of the world by being baptized by John, was crucified and shed His blood on the Cross, and rose again from the dead.
A. Prophet: Like the prophets of the Old Testament, Christ fulfilled His prophetic role by revealing the will of God and implementing God’s Word to His people. But Christ was not merely a simple prophet or messenger. He was the greatest Prophet for mankind. His Word was the complete and perfect Word of God that no prophet can ever add to or subtract from. This is because all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him (Colossians 2:3). It is also because He is “the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father” (John 1:18).
Christ’s message was made perfect when He had completed His mission: To fulfill all righteousness of God, Jesus was baptized by John, and shed His blood on the Cross; And He calls every sinner to be remitted of all his/her sins within the righteousness He had completed. Therefore, such true knowledge of God and teachings on salvation cannot be attained without believing in the baptism of Christ and the blood of the Cross. Those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God, and thus remain sinful (John 3:18). They cannot find the way of eternal life, either. Because Christ’s sermons had power and authority as the Prophet, they led the listeners to obey His Word.
B. High Priest: In Psalm 110:4, speaking to His anointed One, God said, “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.” This means that Christ is the High Priest not from the order of Aaron, but He is the High Priest as a result of Jehovah’s special and singular calling and appointment. The priests of the Old Testament, who had served in the Tabernacle or the Temple, were the foreshadowers of this Christ to come, presaging Christ as the perfect and eternal High Priest. He works as the perfect High Priest, “For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us” (Hebrews 9:24).
There are three dimensions to Christ’s ministry as the High Priest.
First, He had offered Himself as the sacrifice for our sins forever. Jesus Christ, in other words, had redeemed all mankind from destruction with His baptism and bloodshed. He has completed God’s righteousness by having obtained eternal redemption for us. Christ’s sacrifice of atonement had been foretold and known for thousands years through the sacrificial system under the old sacrificial rituals of the laying on of hands. In particular, this was typically revealed through the laying of hands on the head of the Passover lamb and its bloodshed.
In contrast to the sacrificial offerings of Aaron and other priests of the Old Testament, which were symbolic and repetitive, Christ came to this earth only once, and by taking the sins of the world upon Himself through His baptism received from John and dying on the Cross, He fulfilled all the righteousness of God once and for all. This is why He was baptized and gave all the perfect sacrificial offerings on the Cross. Christ, as Hebrews 9:26 states, “once at the end of the ages… has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”
He is the Lamb of God who shouldered the sins of the world with His baptism and carried them to the Cross (Matthew 3:13-17). Christ reveals to us that He Himself was sacrificed as “our own Passover Lamb.” By sacrificing Himself for the sins of mankind, He paid the price of redemption to God for the sake of His people. As Hebrews 9:28 states, “Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.” He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12). This was achieved by accepting His baptism and the Cross. He did like the High Priests of the Old Testament, who, on the Day of Atonement, had entered the Most Holy with the blood of sacrifice.
Likewise, by being baptized in His body, Christ also accepted the sins of the world passed onto Him, and ascended to Heaven after having atoned all the sins of the world with the blood of the Cross, thereby entering the Sanctuary of Heaven with His own blood of sacrifice. By doing so, Christ has saved all those who believe in His baptism and blood from their guilt and curses.
Above all, for the salvation of His people from their sins, Christ was able to achieve all His works, including being baptized by John and shedding His blood on the Cross. With His “voluntary obedience”—that is, by being baptized—Christ bore the sins of His people, and with His “active obedience”—that is, by carrying the sins of the world to the Cross and being crucified—He fulfilled the righteousness of God perfectly. It is when we believe in this that we attain our eligibility for salvation. By coming to this earth and giving up His body as the sacrifice for all mankind, Christ fulfilled all the righteous works of God. By doing so, He has saved His people who, because of the corruption of Adam, had become sinners, from all their sins. It is by this work that Christ fulfilled God’s righteous plan perfectly. By giving His baptism and blood to His people, He enabled them to receive the righteousness of God.
The second aspect to the priestly ministry of Christ is prayer. He not only enables mankind simply to approach God, but more so, He enables them to go boldly to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16; see also 10:19). Christ not only teaches how to pray (Luke 11:1-4; Matthew 6:9-13), but He also guarantees before God the prayers of whoever prays truthfully in His name, and by imploring God based on His works, He makes it possible that his/her prayers would be answered. Christ Himself prays for His people, and He works as the Interceder who, for their sake, pleads on their behalf and defends them before God.
Such works were already done when Christ was ministering on this earth (Luke 22:32; 23:34; John 17), and they continue to be fulfilled now, even after He was exalted and entered the Sanctuary of Heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father (Romans 8:34). Christ understood perfectly all the sufferings and sadness of human beings, knew their needs well, and approached such needs with a compassionate and merciful heart. As Hebrews 4:15 states, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” His prayers reflect His profound understanding of the needs of mankind.
The third dimension to Christ’s priestly ministry is asking for the blessings of His people. In the Old Testament, one of the priests’ duties was to lay their hands on their people and bless them. God promised that when the priests blessed the descendants of Israel in the name of Jehovah, He would indeed give them His blessings (Numbers 6:22-27). Likewise, when Christ was ministering on this earth, His very existence itself was already a blessing, and when He ascended to Heaven, He also raised His hands and blessed His disciples (Luke 24:50-51). Furthermore, even now He blesses His people with every spiritual blessing of Heaven (Ephesians 1:3). Through His Spirit, He bestows the gifts of Heaven on them, and brings them the never-ending showers of blessings.
Like this, Christ is God Himself for whom there can be no other comparison, for Christ alone could become the sacrifice of atonement, and, standing at the side of His people, He alone could fulfill the Law perfectly. As such, only Christ is the Interceder who brings us the blessings of Heaven. Now, if there are people who do not believe in His priestly ministry, they will certainly not be able to find any other priest who can atone for their sins. Because they cannot find any interceder who is with God, they will, far from receiving the blessings of Heaven, all face their eternal condemnation instead.
C. King: Christ was also anointed as the King for His duties, like the Old Testament’s kings. But He is not like the preceding kings, whose glory and power were attained by force. Rather, Christ was anointed as the eternal King, and as the King who would reign with infinite power, justice and truth.
John draws attention to the fact that Christ’s Kingdom “is not of this world” (John 18:36). Paul, on the other hand, teaches that the Kingdom of God is constituted only of “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). The author of Hebrews says that this King rules with His Word: “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Moreover, the sovereign Kinghood of Christ is not limited to the Jewish nation. Christ is the Head of the Church, the congregation of His believers (Ephesians 4:15).
This church has been redeemed from the dominion of the Devil, and has been built with the blood of Christ. His church is led by the Holy Spirit, and it belongs to Christ forever. As the King, Christ protects His Church from any danger. He does not allow any forces, no matter what they may be, to ever overcome the church. Even if such forces were the gates of Hades (hell), they cannot prevail against the church (Matthew 16:18).
In addition, His rule is merciful and perfect. Through such rule, He makes His people submit to His authority and obey His words. Furthermore, even those who do not recognize His sovereignty cannot escape from the reign of Christ, for God the Father has enabled the Son to rule over the entire universe. The Father has given Christ all authority. Jesus therefore says, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). Paul writes that the triumphant Christ stripped the evil angels of their authority (Colossians 2:15). The Apostle John says Christ is “the ruler over the kings of the earth” (Revelation 1:5).
The sovereign authority of Christ may seem to be ignored on this earth, and His glory may appear to be blasphemed, insulted, and hidden by His evil enemies (Psalm 89:51). But His majesty continues to shine in Heaven as the King of kings and the Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16). In the end, Christ will ultimately come back in the clouds, and He will give honor to those who have believed and shame to those who have rejected Him (Matthew 25:31-46). When this time comes, the reign of Christ will be manifested through His righteousness everywhere in Heaven and on earth (2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 21).
In the New Testament, Christ was the Prophet, and at the same time He was the High Priest and the King. When Christ spoke as a Prophet, His teachings were accompanied with His authority as the King (Luke 4:32). When Christ admitted to Pilate that He was indeed a King, He also said that He came to this world as a Prophet to testify the truth (John 18:37). When Christ performed miracles, His sovereign authority was revealed, such miracles were secured by His prophetic teachings, and these miracles were bestowed by His priestly mercy (Matthew 8:17).