Ask a Bible Teacher

One Messiah Or Two?

Q. I wanted to get into the Jewish eschatological mind a bit and bought a book on the subject.  In the section about Gog and Magog, it mentions TWO Messiahs, Maschiach Ben Yosef (Joseph) and Maschiach Ben Dovid (David). It also mentions that evil will cancel out evil in the war of Gog and Magog, and a period of peace is expected after. If this is their expectation, could this be the mechanism by which Israel is deceived by the Antichrist?

A. The two Messiah idea apparently was popularized by the Essenes, a sect that lived in Qumron near the Dead Sea, in the time when Jesus was on earth.  Since they didn’t understand the notion of two messianic missions performed by the same person, the first to conquer sin and the second to restore Israel, they thought that the scriptures spoke of two messiahs.

To them the one they named Messiah ben Yosef (son of Joseph) was foreshadowed in the life of Jacob’s son Joseph. There are numerous events in the life of Joseph that are clear models of what we now know was the first coming.  Naming the other one Messiah ben Dovid (son of David) means they thought the life of King David was a model of 2nd Coming prophecies. So Messiah ben Joseph would be the suffering servant, and Messiah ben David the conquering King.

When John the Baptist, who had spent time with the Essenes, lay in prison awaiting his execution he sent some of his disciples to inquire of Jesus, “are you the one who is to come or should we expect another?” (Matt. 11:3)

The intent of the question is hidden in English, but in the Greek it becomes clear. There are two Greek words that can be translated “another.” One means another of the same kind, and one means another of a different kind. It’s this second word that John used. We was asking Jesus to solve the mystery of the two messiahs. His real question was, “Are you the only messiah who is to come or should we also expect another one, different from you?”

Jesus responded in Matt. 11:4-6 with miracles He had performed. Some of these miracles linked Him to prophecies of the first messiah, and others to the second one. In short, He was telling them he was the only one.

Don’t misunderstand me. John knew Jesus was the only one. He asked Jesus to clarify this for the benefit of the Essenes.

As to the End Times deception, I believe it’s more likely that the Jews will see the anti-Christ as Messiah ben David, the one who conquers their enemies and brings them peace.  I say this because one of the most frequent reasons the Jewish people give for not accepting Jesus as their Messiah is that He didn’t fulfill any of the prophecies that we associate with the second coming.  But at least at the beginning, the anti-Christ will appear to do so.

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