Is Jesus the Messiah? 3 Portraits from Daniel

Messiah had to arrive before siege of Jerusalem — Francesco Hayez

Messiah is Jesus or no one. Take your pick.

Christ literally means anointed one or Messiah.

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Daniel provides 3 portraits of the Messiah which are different in nature:

  1. An eternal kingdom ushered in during the time of the Roman Empire- Daniel 2
  2. A King who is both human and divine, having an everlasting throne in heaven- Daniel 7
  3. An anointed one or Messiah who is killed during the time of the second temple- Daniel 9

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1. An eternal kingdom ushered in during the time of the Roman Empire- Daniel 2

In Daniel 2, Nebuchadnezzar has a dream of a statue with a golden head, chest and arms of silver, middle and thighs of bronze, legs of iron and feet partly of iron partly of clay (Daniel 2:31–35). In the days of the fourth kingdom (v.40–43), God sets up a kingdom that will never be destroyed (v. 44) and which grows to a mountain from a small stone (v. 35).

Which kingdoms?

Traditionally, scholars have interpreted these four kingdoms as Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. In recent times, some scholars such as Sam Storms and John Walton have pushed back on this interpretation claiming Media and Persia are separate kingdoms while Greece is possibly the fourth kingdom. Please note, however, it was not uncommon to divide time into four and this should not be viewed as an overall definitive view of world history!

Ask Josephus and Daniel

Nevertheless, Josephus in Antiquities 10.209 refers to the third “king” as being “from the west”- that is, the Greek Empire of Alexander the Great. This makes it likely during the time of Jesus, Rome was deemed to be the fourth kingdom. Furthermore, Daniel explicitly merges the Medes and the Persians into one kingdom multiple times (see Daniel 5:28, 6:8, 12, 15, 8:20).

Jesus during the time of Caesar

Tiberius Wikimedia Commons

Jesus, who commenced his ministry during the time of the Roman Empire, “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar” (Luke 3:1), spoke of ushering in the kingdom of God regularly. Jesus taught people to repent as the kingdom of God was at hand (Mark 1:14–15), had come upon them (Luke 11:20) and taught his disciples to preach the same (Matt. 10:5–7). To a first century Jew this was a repeated reference to the fifth kingdom in Daniel 2.

2. A King who is both human and divine, having an everlasting throne in heaven- Daniel 7

The Son of Man was commonly referred to as the Messiah in Jewish writings (eg. 1 Enoch 48:1–11, 52:4; 4 Ezra 13:1–52, Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 98a; Numbers Rabbah 13:4).

Rabbi Akiva (AD 50–135) is thought to have believed that in Daniel 7:9–14 there are multiple thrones of God (Babylonian Talmud Chagigah 14a) which different people sit at (eg. Ancient of Days and Son of Man).

Rabbi Akiva

The fact Jesus called himself the Son of Man is widely attested across the four Gospels and unlikely to be an invention given the early church rarely refers to Jesus by this name. Daniel 7:13–14 (ESV):

I saw in the night visions,

and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came 
one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.

And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom
that all peoples, nations, and languages
serve him;
his dominion is an 
everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.

Son of Man comes with the clouds of heaven. In the Old Testament, no one comes with the clouds of heaven except God himself. There is no one like God in Deuteronomy 33:26 who rides through the heaven, the one to whom praise is due as he rides in the ancient heavens in Psalm 68:32–33, who makes the clouds his chariot in Psalm 104:1–4 and is YHWH riding on a swift cloud in Isaiah 19:1.

One like a son of man. Clear human appearance (eg. Ezek 2:1).

Given dominion and served by the nations. In Isaiah 45:23, dominion is only for YHWH to whom every tongue will swear allegiance and every knee bow down (cf. Phil. 2:9–11). Dominion is for the Most High God in Dan. 4:34.

Glory/ honour. In Isaiah 48:11, YHWH shares his glory (slightly different Hebrew word) with no one.

Kingdom knows no end. In Psalm 145:13 and Daniel 4:34, YHWH’s/ Most High God’s kingdom is described as an everlasting kingdom.

Thus, it is clear the Son of Man has the very traits of YHWH himself. It is no wonder Jesus was charged with blasphemy for claiming he, as the Son of Man, could forgive sins (Mark 2:1–10), seated at the right hand (co-ruling) of the Power coming in the clouds (Mark 14:60–64).

3. Messiah is killed during the time of the second temple- Daniel 9

Second Temple Wikimedia Commons

Daniel 9:25 and 9:26 are the only two places in the entire Old Testament the Hebrew word masiah or anointed one is used to describe an individual. Unlike Daniel’s visions in chapter 7 and 8, which greatly alarm and distress him (7:28; 8:27), the message of the seventy weeks is one of hope with a strong Jubilee/ liberation theme. The seventy weeks will bring an end to sin, bring atonement and bring in righteousness (Dan. 9:24).

Dead before 70 AD

Yet, the anointed one or Messiah is “cut off” or dies (9:26) in this passage and the temple is later trampled on in destruction (v.26–27, also see Matt. 24:1–3,15–22). Note, Jerusalem and the temple are rebuilt for a second time (v.24–25) before this happens. As such, the Messiah must have died before the second temple was destroyed in 70 AD.

Titus Vespasian who was behind destruction of Jerusalem

Nothing like the first, yet better

The second temple was physically nothing like the first. This led some people in Ezra 3:13 to cry. Yet, God promises in Haggai 2:9 that the later glory of the temple (second temple) will be greater than the first and in Malachi 3:1–5 that he will visit the temple to purify God’s people. How is all this possible? If Jesus as God visited the temple personally while also being cut off and atoning for sin.

Doesn’t end here

It doesn’t end there.. The suffering servant of Isaiah is given as an “offering for guilt” (Isaiah 53:10), yet, somehow after dying has his life extended “he shall prolong his days” (Isaiah 53:10, compare Deut 5:33) and sees his offspring or the beneficiaries of his sacrifice. The seventy weeks of Daniel bring in everlasting righteousness (Dan. 9:24).


If Jesus is King, he deserves your honour and worship. It is folly to ignore his reign. If Jesus is the Son of Man he can bridge the gap between fallen humans like us (humanlike figure) and God (divine traits). If Jesus is the anointed one who was cut off during the second temple time, his death can atone for your sins and bring you ultimate liberation.

The Messiah was either Jesus or no one. Take your pick.

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