Part Two: The Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ
Christ, the Desire of Nations The Old Testament is literally filled with prophecies of the Messiah. One of the least understood of these prophecies is found in the book of Haggai:
And I will shake all nations, and THE DESIRE OF ALL NATIONS SHALL COME: and I will fill this house with glory saith the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts. The glory of this latter house shall be GREATER THAN the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts.1 The Jews have never understood this scripture. Very few Christians have really grasped the full significance that JESUS CHRIST is the FULFILLMENT — THE DESIRE OF ALL NATIONS.
Let's understand this prophecy.
Haggai's prediction was fulfilled, right on schedule, in the days of Herod and Christ. God said, through the prophet Haggai, "I will shake all nations," and that is just what He did. We have seen how the armies of Rome literally "shook" all the nations of the civilized world. The armies of Pompey, Julius Caesar, and then Augustus, forced the nations of the world to their knees and subjected them to the imperial power of Rome. Hundreds of years before, armies from Babylon, Persia, and Greece wreaked havoc throughout the entirety of the world, and the world was shaken!
The Temple Glorified The prophecy continued, "The glory of this latter house SHALL BE GREATER THAN OF THE FORMER." The house being referred to is the temple of God at Jerusalem. The temple which had previously been built by Solomon was one of the greatest buildings ever constructed by human beings. Its plated walls of gold bedecked with jewels made it one of the OUTSTANDING SHOWPLACES of the world. That temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar between the years of 604 and 585 B.C.
The latter house is the temple which had been constructed by Zerubbabel after the return from captivity, about which we read a little in the book of Daniel. The prophecy through Haggai was that the glory of this latter house would be greater than the former. In a physical way the NEVER occurred.
Herod the Great remodeled Zerubbabel's temple after over three hundred years of use and made it a truly magnificent structure. Herod's chief glory was:
...the new temple in Jerusalem. The actual labour on the shrine itself lasted but eighteen months, although eight years were required on the surroundings. The last detail, however, of this gem of all Palestine was not completed until the days of Albinus (62-64 A.D.). And then, less than a decade later, it was fired by the conqueror's torch! Its magnificence — white marble with its overlay of gold and precious stones — gleaming high on the summit of Zion, and bursting into sudden view as pilgrims came over the top of Olivet on the Jericho road, gave rise to the rabbinical saying: "Whoever has not seen the temple of Herod has seen nothing beautiful."2 The temple refurbished by Herod was a magnificent structure. Yet, all the Jews readily knew it did not even begin to measure up to the magnificence and glory of the temple which was built by Solomon.
Then how could Haggai's prophecy be fulfilled? How could this latter house have more glory than the former?
The obvious answer is the God sent Jesus Christ, His Son, into that second temple and GLORIFIED IT beyond any building in all history.3
One of the first acts Jesus did in His ministry was to enter the temple in Jerusalem and cast out the money changers and the animals which were desecrating the temple of God.4
Jesus Christ did enter into that second temple, He did cleanse and purge it, HIS VERY PRESENCE made it a more glorified building than the temple built by Solomon.
The World Sought a Savior But was Jesus Christ "the desire of all nations," as Haggai's prophecy states? Ironically, the Jews were not the only ones looking for a Messiah at this time. The two best known Roman historians of this period of history, Seutonius and Tacitus, both record Roman anticipation of a deliverer.
There had spread over all the Orient and old and established belief, that it was fated at that time for men coming from Judaea to rule the world.5 Certainly, the Romans did not accept Jesus Christ as the Redeemer or Savior. Rather, they became the instruments who put Him to death to fulfill the scriptures about Him. But it is, nevertheless, interesting to note the world was looking for a savior and that Jesus Christ was the "desire of all nations" even though the nations did not accept Him.
...there was a firm persuasion, that in the ancient records of their priests was contained a prediction of how at this very time the East was to grow powerful, and RULERS, COMING FROM JUDEA, WERE TO ACQUIRE UNIVERSAL EMPIRE.6
But What about Other Nations? We have already seen how the Greeks had the greatest educational and cultural influence in the world up to this time. Probably their most famous philosopher was Plato. His writings also show a desire for a redeemer or savior. Speaking of the subject of religion, Plato says, "It is therefore necessary, to wait till One teach us how we ought to behave toward the gods and men. When shall that time arrive and who shall that teacher be? For most glad would I be to see such a man."7 Although written three hundred years before Christ, the Greeks were looking for a man to lead and teach them. Their traditions looked for "the desire of all nations."
We have already recorded Seutonius and Tacitus as far as the Romans were concerned, but let's read from Vergil, the Latin poet of forty years before Christ's time: "A GOD-LIKE CHILD SHALL BE BORN...COME QUICKLY TO RECEIVE YOUR POWER FOR ALL THE WORLD AWAITS YOU. O that I may live to see so noble a subject for my verse."8 Yes, the Romans were looking for a deliverer and were looking for someone divine.
The Romans and Greeks represented the western portion of the empire. But what about the eastern portion of the world? Were they also looking for a redeemer?
There is even greater evidence in the East! Who was it who came in the early days of Christ's life to worship and give Him honor? Was it not the Wise men FROM THE EAST?
"The East" at this time in history referred to the nations east of the Euphrates. These nations consisted primarily of India, Persia, and THE PARTHIAN EMPIRE. If you do not understand who these Wise Men were, write for our free article which appeared in the December, 1966, issue of the PLAIN TRUTH magazine entitled "The Greatest Story Never Told." You will see clearly proved just exactly who the Parthians were — they were portions of the LOST TEN TRIBES OF ISRAEL who had settled in the area of Parthia after the Assyrian captivity of 721-718 B.C.
They had known for centuries that a deliverer would come. God directly led and inspired them by a miraculous star (which was an angel, Revelation 1:20) to acknowledge the newborn Messiah in Bethlehem shortly after His birth.
But there were other Eastern countries who also looked for a Messiah.
The Wise Men from the East, who followed the star to Bethlehem, represented the universal Eastern expectation of a Redeemer. The Persians were at this time looking for the appearance of their Sosiosh, who would conquer Ahriman and his kingdom of darkness.9 Although the Persians in no way understood the true plan of God, their traditions looked for a Messiah who would suppress the works of evil — Satan the Devil and his demons. These traditions, although warped and twisted by time and pagan ideas, certainly show all nations did know of a coming Messiah and were looking for Him — and looking for Him at this SPECIFIC TIME IN HISTORY.
It is very likely the people of India had heard of the Savior born in Palestine from the Parthian magi, either as they began their travels to see Christ, or upon their return. An amazing tradition of ancient Indian history tells of the ruler of India who sent emissaries to Palestine in about the year 1 A.D. to inquire whether the PREDICTED royal child had actually made his appearance.10 It is amazing that the world in general had never heard of these traditions and never realized the entire world was waiting for Jesus Christ.
But even more amazing than the Indian history is the ancient Chinese tradition looking for the Messiah:
Confucius, who wrote about 550 years before the Christian era, was accustomed to say: that The Holy One must be sought in the West. Traditions from around the world constantly focus upon a HOLY ONE, a DELIVERER to come.
His declaration was carefully handed down to posterity: and, in the year 64 after the Christian era, the Emperor Mimti, we are told, under the influence of this ancient expectation, sent messengers westward into India, that there they might inquire for the long predicted Holy One of Confucius.
Such, in the remote East, was the expectation, which existed 550 years before the Christian era, and which from that time downward continued to prevail.11
Just as Haggai prophesied, Jesus Christ was "THE DESIRE OF ALL NATIONS."
Jesus Christ Really Did Exist Whether or not an individual accepts Jesus Christ to be the Savior, there is abundant historical evidence to PROVE that Jesus Christ was a literal historical figure born in Bethlehem, who lived in Palestine between the years 4 B.C. and 31 A.D.
Roman annuals recorded His birth and His death. The historians and writers of the day, besides Biblical records, mentioned His life. The Jews preserved testimony of Christ and the Christian Church He founded, in the writings of both Josephus and Philo.
Traditions of the day from around the world showed the world knew a deliverer should come. That Deliverer was Jesus Christ, as the Biblical record claims.
Many atheists ridicule the existence of a person such as Jesus Christ. Perhaps it is appropriate at this point to insert a short section proving Jesus Christ literally was an historical figure.
Certainly, we have already seen evidence in secular history of Jesus Christ. We have seen His birth was recorded in Roman chronicles and preserved — even though those records are not extant at this time. The sceptic could still doubt and ridicule.
But there is still another witness!
When being tried for his life before the Roman governor, Festus, the apostle Paul said, "For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely; for I am persuaded THAT NONE OF THESE THINGS ARE HIDDEN FROM HIM; FOR THIS THING WAS NOT DONE IN A CORNER."12 If these things were not done in a corner, certainly there must have been some notice in Rome and there would be some record of Jesus Christ at this time.
There is that record! Here is proof Jesus Christ did exist:
Nero fastened the guilt [for the burning of Rome] and inflicted the more exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called CHRISTIANS by the populace. CHRISTUS, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our own procurators, Pontius Pilate, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular.13 Now that we have proved that Jesus Christ did live, and have determined the dates of His life, we need to understand His teachings and how he founded His one true Church.
Chapter VI - Footnotes 1. Haggai 2:7-9
2. Enslin, Christian Beginnings, p. 54.
3. Luke 2:20-39
4. John 2:13-17
5. Seutonius, Lives of the Caesars, viii. 4. 5.
6. Tacitus, The Histories, v. 13.
7. Plato, Alcibiades 2. 150.
8. Lonsdale and Lee, Works of Vergil, Eclogue 4.
9. Hurst, History of the Christian Church, vol. I, p. 87.
10. Jones, Asiatic Researches, vol. X, pp. 27-28.
11. Faber, Eight Dissertations, vol. II, p. 97 (see also: Du Halde's China, vol. I. p. 360, 361. Le Compte's
China, p. 118, 200).
12. Acts 26:26
13. Tacitus, Annals, xv. 44.