We will now look at some remarkable prophecies that, by themselves, verge on being decisive evidence of the supernatural, for they reveal, hundreds of years before the fact, that the coming Messiah would be a man named Jesus.
The pivotal prophecy in Zechariah 6
Zechariah was a prophet active shortly after the people of Judah returned from exile in Babylon and reestablished regular worship at Jerusalem. In one of the visions recorded in the Book of Zechariah, the Lord instructed the prophet to take crowns and set them on the head of the high priest at that time, a man named Joshua.
11 Then take silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the head of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest;
12 And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD:
13 Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.
The words of the Lord on this occasion connect Joshua the high priest with the figure known in prophecy as the Branch. Who is the Branch? He is the coming Christ. Many prophecies of the Old Testament concur that Christ would be a descendant of David, the first great king of Israel, who reigned about 1000 B.C. (1 Chron. 17:11-14; Psa. 89; 132; Isa. 9:6-7). Jeremiah called Christ a branch of David (Jer. 23:5). Similarly, Isaiah spoke of Christ as a branch from the root of Jesse, David's father (Isa. 11:1). Later prophets simplified the image and called Him just the Branch (Jer. 33:15; Psa. 132:17, where "bud" is the same word as "Branch" in Jer. 23:5).
The Lord told Zechariah that as he set the crowns on the head of Joshua the high priest, he should speak the words: "Behold the man whose name is THE BRANCH." The man that Zechariah was bidding us to notice was Joshua himself. He said that the name of this Joshua who lived more than five hundred years before Christ was THE BRANCH. The prophet's declaration can be understood in various ways, but only one way agrees with the facts. The actual name of this Joshua was not THE BRANCH. And he was not the Christ who would also bear that name, for the Joshua in Zechariah's day has never ruled the world and the Old Testament never predicts that he will yet rule the world. The right interpretation of the words concerning this Joshua requires us replace THE BRANCH with something equivalent. We must treat the oracle like an expression in algebra or logic. THE BRANCH equals "a name of Christ." Therefore, after making the appropriate substitution, we discover that what the oracle is truly saying is this: "Behold the man whose name is a name of Christ."
In fact, the name of Joshua the high priest anticipated the very human name that the parents of Christ would bestow upon Him. "Joshua" is an English transliteration of the Hebrew Yeshua, exactly the same name that is spelled Iasous in Greek. From the Greek Iasous has come the English name "Jesus." In other words, the names "Joshua" and "Jesus" are identical in Hebrew. Thus, English translations of the Bible unnecessarily mystify Zechariah's prophecy. The high priest with a name of Christ was none other than a man called Jesus. Only a man determined at all costs to deny the supernatural character of the Bible would shrink from the obvious conclusion that Christ would also be called Jesus.
The pivotal prophecy in Zechariah 3
Another vision in the Book of Zechariah leads us to the same conclusion, although indirectly. It does not highlight the significance in the name of Joshua the high priest. Yet it supplements the vision just considered by stating more clearly that he is to be regarded as a symbol, or type, of Christ.
8 Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH.
9 For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.
The vision gives us the words of the Lord to Zechariah. In the Lord's statement, "For they are men wondered at" (v. 8), whom does He mean by "they"? In His opening address ("[You] hear now"), the speaker uses second-person reference for both Joshua and his fellows. But His perspective changes by the time He says "they." A few words earlier, He used third-person reference for the men with Joshua. He called them "thy fellows" (v. 8). A few words later, He will use third-person reference for Joshua himself. "For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua" (v. 9). Thus, it is reasonable to suppose that in speaking of "they," He is using third-person reference for them all. The antecedent of "they" is the whole group comprising Joshua and his fellows (1).
The phrase "wondered at" represents a form of the Hebrew word that the KJV ordinarily renders "wonder" (twenty-three times) or "sign" (eight times, including 1 Kings 13:3; 2 Chron. 32:24; Ezek. 12:6) (2). Modern translators agree that the true sense of "men wondered at" is "men of symbol" (3), "men who serve as a symbol or sign" (4), "men who are a symbol" (5), or "men symbolic of things to come" (6).
What do "they"—Joshua and his fellows—symbolize? In His answer, which extends from the middle of verse 8 to the end of verse 9, the Lord employs two images, the Branch and the stone. Since He treats Joshua as separate from the stone—"For behold the stone I have laid before Joshua"—it follows that He wants us to associate Joshua with the Branch. No purpose is then left for the stone unless it gives the symbolic meaning of Joshua's fellows. So, we are to associate his fellows with the stone.
The passage may be analyzed another way. There are two statements beginning with the words "for behold." The first introduces the Branch. The second introduces the stone. Presumably, these images appear in the order established by the Lord's command beginning, "Hear now." First He mentioned Joshua. Then He mentioned Joshua's fellows. Thus, Joshua must symbolize the Branch, and his fellows must symbolize the stone.
Later in the Book of Zechariah, we find what the stone represents.
And the LORD their God shall save them in that day as the flock of his people: for they shall be as the stones of a crown, lifted up as an ensign upon his land.
The promise here that the Lord will "in that day" save "his people" and make them "as the stones of a crown" is, of course, similar to the concluding part of Zechariah 3:9. "And I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day." In Zechariah 3:9 and Zechariah 9:16, "stone" is the same Hebrew word, eben. But whereas the latter text envisions plural "stones," the former mentions only one "stone." The stones of Zechariah 9:16 are a probable allusion to the twelve precious stones (again, eben) that adorned the breastplate of the high priest (Ex. 28:15-20). Upon each gem was engraved the name of a single tribe (Ex. 28:21). Together, the twelve gems defined the whole nation of Israel. The Lord's reference in Zechariah 9:16 to plural "stones" signals that the future exaltation of His people will not be restricted to the latter-day posterity of Zechariah's hearers, a small remnant of the tribe of Judah, but will extend to all twelve tribes.
A broad view embracing the whole nation appears earlier in the same passage.
When I have bent Judah for me, filled the bow with Ephraim, and raised up thy sons, O Zion, against thy sons, O Greece, and made thee as the sword of a mighty man.
Judah was the ordinary designation for the southern tribes, Ephraim for the northern. In Zechariah 3:9, however, the Lord assumes a narrower view. He acknowledges only one stone because He is explaining how Joshua's fellows are men of symbol. As men of Judah, they symbolize one tribe only, the tribe of Judah.
The one stone of Zechariah 3:9 bears seven eyes. To discover what these seven eyes signify, we must turn to another vision of the same prophet.
1 And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep.
2 And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof:
3 And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof.
4 So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord?
5 Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.
6 Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.
7 Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.
8 Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
9 The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you.
10 For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth.
11 Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof?
12 And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves?
13 And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.
14 Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.
After the prophet has seen a vision of seven lamps and two olive trees, he asks an angel, "What are these?" (v. 4). The angel replies, "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit" (v. 6). The answer concerns the lamps and not the trees because the prophet later inquires about the trees (v. 11). The seven lamps must therefore be an image of the Spirit of God. In the course of the vision, the angel identifies these same lamps as the seven eyes of God (v. 10). Obviously, then, the seven eyes of God are likewise an image of the Holy Spirit (7). It follows that the seven eyes upon one stone must represent the nation of Judah in its future glory, after it has been filled with the Spirit and cleansed of all iniquity.
Now we fully understand how Joshua and his fellows are men of symbol. Through the explanatory image of the seven-eyed stone, we discover that Joshua's fellows picture the tribe of Judah during the time of future revival. And through the explanatory image of the Branch, we discover that Joshua himself pictures the coming Christ.
If Joshua is a symbol of Christ, it is reasonable to look for significance in his name, and indeed, as we have shown earlier, his name is identical to "Jesus," the human name that Christ was given by His parents. Yet the Book of Zechariah shows us another correspondence of great importance. The declaration that Joshua and his fellows are men of symbol immediately follows a vision in which Joshua has a prominent role.
1 And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.
2 And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?
3 Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel.
4 And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.
5 And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD stood by.
6 And the angel of the LORD protested unto Joshua, saying,
7 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by.
The prophet sees Joshua the high priest standing in the presence of the Lord (v. 1). He is wearing garments of iniquity (v. 3), presumably not his own iniquity but the iniquity of the nation, for, as the high priest, he represents the nation before the Lord. Despite the accusations of Satan (vv. 1-2), the Lord commands his attendants to remove the filthy garments from Joshua (v. 4). Then the prophet, as spokesman for his people, pays tribute to Joshua (v. 5), and the Lord confers upon him great authority (v. 7).
The vision is a prophetic picture of Christ. During His suffering and death upon a cross, Christ would bear the sin of the world in His own body (1 Pet. 2:24), just as Joshua wore garments of iniquity. When the torments of Christ had satisfied God's righteous anger toward sinners, God would lay aside their sin, just as He laid aside the filthy garments of Joshua. Then, just as God exalted Joshua, so He would exalt Christ. He would raise Him to honor and authority above all creation (Heb. 1:3-4).
By offering His own body as a sacrifice for sin, Christ would perform a priestly office. It is no coincidence, therefore, that the man whom the Book of Zechariah uses to prefigure Christ's redemptive work was a high priest.
It is now evident that Joshua the high priest was a type of Jesus Christ in two specific respects:
- This Joshua bore the same office as Christ, the office of priest.
- This Joshua bore the same name as Christ, the name "Jesus."
Jesus has three offices: prophet, priest, and king. In His public ministry He was a prophet urging Israel to repent. In His death, after Israel had rejected Him, He was a priest offering His own body as a sacrifice for sin. When He comes again, He will be the King of kings. Just as Joshua the high priest foreshadowed Jesus' priestly office, other men with names equivalent to "Jesus" foreshadowed His prophetic and kingly offices.
The great Old Testament type of Jesus the King was a certain Joshua who succeeded Moses as the leader of Israel. Against opposition from powerful enemies on all sides, this Joshua led the people of Israel into their promised land, the land of Canaan. So also, Jesus the King will someday lead all the redeemed into their promised land, the land of paradise. Joshua's given name was Oshea (Num. 13:16), which means "salvation." Moses called him Jehoshua (Num. 13:16), which means "Jehovah is salvation." "Joshua" is the same name in shortened form.
Perhaps another contraction is "Hosea" (8). We therefore suspect that the prophet Hosea, author of the book bearing his name, is a type of Christ also, specifically of Christ in His prophetic office. The Lord Himself affirmed that Hosea was a man of symbol. He instructed the prophet that his wife's desertion of her family for a life of whoredom pictured Israel's unfaithfulness to Jehovah.
Then said the LORD unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the LORD toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine.
Indeed, when Jehovah took human form and manifested Himself as a prophet,
He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
Just as Hosea bought his wife back from prostitution (Hos. 3:2-3), so Jesus paid the price to redeem His people from bondage to sin.
Besides the one Hosea and the two Joshuas considered here, no other godly man with a name equivalent or possibly equivalent to Yeshua—that is, no other godly Joshua, Jehoshua, Jeshua, Jeshuah, Hosea, Hoshea, or Oshea—earns more than passing mention in the Old Testament. This one Hosea and these two Joshuas clearly prefigure Christ in His three offices, as Prophet, Priest, and King.
The Gospel of Matthew relates how Jesus received His name.
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.
20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
22 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.
24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:
25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.
The name that Joseph conferred upon the child was not of his own choosing. A messenger from God had instructed him to call the child "Jesus." Thus, one man's obedience to the revealed will of God brought to fulfillment all the Old Testament glimmerings of Christ's human name.
As already stated, "Jesus" is the Anglicized Greek form of Yeshua, or "Joshua." The name means "Jehovah is salvation." It can also be read "Jehovah saves," or "God saves," or "God the Savior." The name is singularly appropriate for Jesus Christ, since it shows who He was. He was God made flesh for the purpose of taking away the sin of the world. The angel said, "Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21). The name summarizes the Christian gospel.
Yet this was not a name that Jesus took for Himself. He was given it by His parents. In the natural course of things, they likely would have given Him some other name, for many dozens were in common use. But they gave Him the one name best suited to proclaim His exalted identity as both God and Savior. This improbability should alone be sufficient to give any skeptic pause.