Theologians are explaining how it is possible to know that Jesus Christ was and is indeed the long-awaited Messiah.
In an interview this week with Desiring God, Reformed theologian D.A. Carson explained that it is vital to understand that Christ is not the surname of Jesus but a title.
"Christ was not initially, at least in any sense, a family name; it was a title," Carson explained.
"It's disputed today whether it ever becomes fully a name anywhere in the New Testament. My own view is that it never loses its titular function even if it does pick up some naming function in the later New Testament books."
The word "Christ" is a English rendering of the Greek word christos, which means "someone who is anointed." Throughout the Old Testament, priests, prophets, and kings were all anointed and designated for a particular task, pointing to Jesus who is today regarded as the great high priest, the fulfillment of the prophets. In the New Testament, Jesus is referred to in the New Testament as Christian and in most cases, it means the promised Davidic king.
"It's a way of alluding to the coming or dawning kingdom. In some passages, the title gets blurred over to a larger sweeping expectation of God's promised Redeemer, God's promised revelation of himself," Carson said.
Isaiah pointed to this, the Reformed theologian explained, when prophesying about Jesus, that he shall be called 'Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.'"
"Even though Messiah is not used there, because Messiah is regularly used for the Davidic king, this becomes a passage that is espousing a messianism that is an expectation of a redeemer to come, who's in the line of David."
"That's how the term Messiah works. When we say Jesus Christ, we should be thinking in our mind Jesus the Messiah; Jesus the promised Priest, King, Prophet; Jesus the one who is anointed by God to bring about our redemption. He is Jesus, who has been set aside by God, anointed by God — the ultimate Redeemer, the ultimate anointed One, the ultimate Christ."
Aside from the prophetic language pointing to Jesus as the promised Messiah, the events of Jesus' life fulfilled the actual prophecies themselves.
That Jesus was born in Bethlehem and of a virgin was are but two of the prophecies from Micah and Isaiah among over 300 that were fulfilled ages later through Christ, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association observed in a 2015 post.
"In biblical times, building foundations were built from stone, starting with a single stone placed in the corner as a guide for the entire structure. The cornerstone was essential to the structure of the building and ensured each wall would be balanced, straight and solid," BGEA continued.
Thus, when the Word of God says that Jesus was sent as the cornerstone for the world but would be rejected in the process, he fulfilled the prophecy in Psalm 118 where the writer proclaims that "the stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord's doing; It is marvelous in our eyes."
During his earthly ministry Jesus cites these exact words when speaking with religious leaders in Matthew 21.