4. Jesus - the Prophet Like Unto Moses
Considering now whether Jesus is the prophet referred to, let us begin by answering a few typical objections raised by the Muslims. Firstly, if he was the Christ, they say he could not be the prophet to follow Moses, because the Jews distinguished between Elijah, the Christ, and the prophet (John 1:19-21). The argument goes that John the Baptist is believed by the Christians to have come in the spirit of Elijah, Jesus was the Christ, and Muhammad, therefore, must have been the prophet. We have already shown, however, that it is impossible for Muhammad to be the prophet. In any event nothing conclusive can be construed from the speculations of the Jews. They once said of Jesus: “This is indeed the prophet” (John 7:40). On another occasion they said he was “one of the prophets” (Matthew 16:14), on another “a prophet” (Mark 6:15) and worse still thought of him as both Elijah (Mark 6:15) and John the Baptist himself (Matthew 16:14).
It needs to be pointed out that the Bible does not teach that Elijah, the Christ, and the prophet were to come in that order. The questions put by the Jews to John, whether he was Elijah, the Christ, or the prophet, merely expressed their own hopes and expectations of figureheads to come. In the light of their confusion, however, we can see that no serious consideration can be given to the distinctions they made between the Christ and the prophet. It is also important to note that the predictions of the prophet, etc., were made in the reverse order in the Old Testament (the prophet was promised by Moses, most of the prophecies of the coming Christ were set out in the writings of the later prophets, and the promise of the coming of Elijah only appears at the end of the book in Malachi 4:5). Furthermore no deliberate distinction between the prophet and the Christ was ever drawn in these prophecies and it is not surprising to find the Jews in one breath proclaiming that Jesus was indeed both the prophet and the Christ (John 7:40-41).
Another favorite objection is that Jesus died at the hands of the Jews and God said, in Deuteronomy 18:20, that only the self-styled prophets would die. Every prophet, however, died - many violently as the Qur'an and the Bible jointly testify - and the mere physical death of a prophet was certainly no evidence against his divine mission. God obviously did not mean that every true prophet would not die! What he meant was that a false prophet was to be put to death and would perish eternally - and all his prophecies with him. Only Judgment Day will reveal all the false prophets of the ages.
What we are ultimately concerned about is this: God gave a definite promise that a prophet would arise like Moses who would mediate another covenant and that signs would accompany this covenant to confirm its heavenly origin. The very Bible that contains the prophecy of the prophet to come confirms quite clearly that that prophet was Jesus Christ. The Apostle Peter, claiming that God had foretold the coming of Jesus Christ through all the prophets, appealed specifically to Deuteronomy 18:18 as proof that Moses had done so (Acts 3:22). Jesus himself said, “Moses wrote of me” (John 5:46) and it is difficult to find elsewhere in the five books of Moses such a direct prophecy of his advent. Peter chose Deuteronomy 18:18 as the one distinctive prophecy in all the writings of Moses of the coming of Jesus Christ into the world.
Likewise in Acts 7:37 Stephen appealed to Deuteronomy 18:18 as proof that Moses was one of those who had “announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One”, Jesus, the one whom the Jews had recently betrayed and crucified.
After witnessing all the signs that Jesus had done and after taking part in the New Covenant which he had mediated face-to-face between God and his people, the early Christians knew that Jesus was the prophet whose coming was foretold in Deuteronomy 18:18. They also knew that the prophecy of a prophet to come like Moses had been supplemented by God's promise to the prophet Jeremiah that he would mediate a new covenant in the days to come between himself and his people. For in speaking of this new covenant God clearly distinguished between it and the old covenant he had made with Moses and it was therefore obvious that the one who would mediate it would be the prophet whose coming Moses had foretold. God said:
Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying 'Know the LORD, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
“I will make a new covenant”, God said, thereby confirming the promise in Deuteronomy 18 that a prophet would come to mediate between God and his people in the likeness of Moses. The promised new covenant was directly compared with the covenant God had made with Moses. The covenant would be different to that given through Moses but the prophet who would mediate it would be like him. It is therefore quite obvious that the prophet whose coming was foretold in Deuteronomy 18:18 would be the one to mediate this new covenant between God and his people. And we read: “Therefore Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant” (Hebrews 9:15). To ratify the first covenant we read that:
Just as the first covenant had therefore been ratified by the blood of a sacrificial offering, so the prophet to follow Moses would be like him and would also ratify God's new covenant with blood. And Jesus therefore said:
God's promise of the coming of a prophet like Moses who would mediate a new covenant was one of the great blessings in the days preceding the advent of Jesus Christ. Although God mediated the old covenant through Moses, the blazing fire the Israelites saw together with the tempests and other portents made them “entreat that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given” (Hebrews 12:19-20). They all broke the covenant (Jeremiah 31:31) and died in the wilderness like flies (1 Corinthians 10:5). They failed to receive the life that was promised to those who abided by the old covenant.
Therefore God promised to their descendants that he would raise up another prophet like Moses and would mediate a new covenant through him which God's people would both give heed to and obtain the promised blessings accompanying it - true knowledge of God, forgiveness of sins, power to keep God's law, and the public favor of God (Jeremiah 31:33-34). This new covenant Jesus brought in due time.
Unlike the Israelites under the old covenant who fell by the wayside, the people of God through this new covenant have come “to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to a judge who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:23-24). This is the covenant which Jesus brought in.
Jesus therefore is the promised prophet like Moses, for he mediated the new covenant between God and his people. Like Moses (and in a way in which no other prophet could compare), he also knew God face-to-face and became a direct mediator between God and men. “I know him, I come from him, and he sent me”, Jesus said (John 7:29). Again he proclaimed: “No one knows the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27). And yet again Jesus said: “Not that anyone has ever seen the Father except him who is from God - he has seen the Father” (John 6:46). And what further evidence do we need that Jesus knew God face-to-face and is the direct mediator between him and men than these two verses: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by me ... Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:6, 14:9)
When he spoke to God face-to-face, “Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him.” (Exodus 34: 29-30) When the image of the invisible God was directly revealed through the transfigured face of Jesus Christ, “his face did shine as the sun.” (Matthew 17:2) No other prophet could claim such a distinction - no one else knew God face-to-face in such a way that his face shone while he communed with him.
Not only was the new covenant mediated through Jesus who knew God face-to-face as Moses had done, but he too performed great signs and wonders to confirm his mediatorial work. One of the greatest signs that Moses did was to control the sea: “Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind.” (Exodus 14.21) Although other prophets had power over rivers (Joshua 3:13, 2 Kings 2:14), no other prophet emulated him in controlling the sea until Jesus came and we read that his disciples exclaimed: “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?” (Matthew 8:27) He caused a raging storm on the Sea of Galilee to cease with just three words: “Peace - be still!” (Mark 4:39)
Another of the great signs that Moses did was the feeding of the Israelites with bread from heaven. When the Israelites at the time of Jesus saw him perform a similar miracle by feeding no less than five thousand people with just a few loaves of bread they were convinced that he was the promised prophet.
When they saw the sign, they said “This is the prophet”. They knew well enough that the promised prophet would be recognized among other things by the performance of signs similar to those which Moses had done. When Jesus gave no indication of repeating the sign, the Israelites recalled that Moses had performed his feat for forty years unabated. So they said to Jesus, “What sign do you do that we may see and believe you?” (John 6:30), appealing to Moses' act of sustaining the lives of their forefathers in the wilderness. Jesus replied:
In every way he gave proof that he was the prophet who was to come - one to mediate a covenant like that mediated through Moses at Horeb - one who would know God face-to-face - one who would perform great signs and wonders as Moses had done. In every way the Jews were right on this one point when they said “This is really the prophet.” (John 7:40)
So it is proved that Muhammad is not foretold in Deuteronomy 18:18 but rather that the prophet whose coming was foretold in that verse was Jesus Christ. We shall go on to see that if Muhammad is not foretold in the Old Testament, neither is he foretold in the New Testament.
We shall again see that Jesus Christ is the climax of all prophecy in all the revealed scriptures of God. For all the promises, revelations and blessings of God are vested in him - the fountainhead of the love and favor of God towards men.
We shall also see, even more clearly, that in the Torah and the Gospel there is only one Savior, one man alone through whom the favor of God can be obtained. While there were many prophets in ages past - both true and false - yet for us there is only one Lord and one Savior - Jesus Christ. Again it will be seen how deeply God wishes to impress this truth upon all men that they may believe in and follow Jesus Christ into the Kingdom of Heaven.
For all who do not heed his words or believe in him with all their hearts, there remains only a “fearful prospect of judgment” (Hebrews 10:27) when God will fulfill his warning in Deuteronomy 18:19 by requiring of them their unbelief in the Savior he sent and he will surely dismiss them, one and all, from his presence for ever and ever.