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What is the core message of the Major Prophets?

Major Prophets

The Major Prophets, which include the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel, have an important role in the Bible. They are called “Major Prophets” because they are longer than the twelve “Minor Prophets” that follow them in the Old Testament. While the Major Prophets fit seamlessly within the overarching narrative of the Bible, they also communicate a distinct and profound meaning of their own.

The core message of the Major Prophets is that the Messiah is coming to establish His rule. They emphasize that Israel and the nations must repent for failing to meet God’s righteous standards. In repenting, they can receive God’s salvation and avoid His judgment on the day of the Lord.

Central to the core message of the Major Prophets is the Messiah. The Hebrew word translated as “Messiah” means “anointed one.” Its Greek equivalent is translated into English as “Christ.” The Major Prophets reveal that, as a descendant of David, the Messiah would unite and preserve Israel and be a “light for the nations” (Isaiah 42:6, ESV; cf. Jeremiah 23:5–6; Ezekiel 37:26–27). The New Testament reveals that Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled these Messianic prophecies and many others. Furthermore, Jesus taught that He was the Messiah (Luke 24:44–47), His followers affirmed it (Matthew 16:13–20), and the early church preached it (Acts 4:24–28).

The Major Prophets also communicate that the Israelites were guilty of violating the law God gave Moses on Mount Sinai, which described righteous standards for living based on His holy nature. Leviticus 19:2 summarizes the relationship between God’s commands and His character: “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (cf. Isaiah 6:3). Living in obedience to the law wasn’t only in the Israelites’ best interests, but also set them apart from the nations (Deuteronomy 4:7–8; Romans 9:4–5). Yet they fell short of keeping it, necessitating their repentance and rededicating themselves to righteous living.

The core message of the Major Prophets is found in each of the five books, including the forthcoming arrival of the Messiah, the need for people to repent of sin, and the judgment or blessing that awaits each person. Because their authors are different and some of their settings and themes are unique, the books highlight aspects of the core message to varying degrees. Yet when taken together, the core message of the Major Prophets is evident and powerful.

Before the exile, during which the Israelites were forcibly removed and held in captivity by foreign powers for seventy years, the Major Prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah urged repentance to avoid judgment and attain blessing at the Messiah’s coming. Isaiah admonished Israel for its spiritual infidelity, while foretelling that the Messiah would embody both suffering and salvation (Isaiah 52:13–53:12; 61:1–3). Jeremiah urged repentance, pointing out Israel’s idol worship. He also foresaw a “righteous Branch,” who is the Messiah, starting a New Covenant focused on faith, not nationality (Jeremiah 31:26–40; cf. Hebrews 8:8–12). Lamentations, written by Jeremiah, reflects on Israel’s sins and God’s mercy, emphasizing repentance.

When the exile occurred, the prophetic messages of Ezekiel and Daniel shifted to address the immediate circumstances of the Israelites while maintaining the core themes that Isaiah and Jeremiah established. Ezekiel explains that the New Covenant the Messiah will establish will be a lasting one characterized by God’s peace and presence (Ezekiel 18:31–32; 37:26–27). Additionally, Daniel represents and advocates for unwavering faithfulness to God. He provides visions of the Messiah who would rule the world as God’s anointed one, promising deliverance and redemption for the faithful (Daniel 1; 2:35, 45; 7:13–14; 9:26; 11:33–35). Together, Ezekiel and Daniel emphasize God’s supreme rule and the promise of final restoration.

Building on the prophetic vision of repentance and redemption, the New Testament reveals that Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the prophets’ hopes. As the Messiah, Jesus taught that everyone falls short of God’s standards (Mark 10:18; cf. Romans 3:23). Yet, in grace He extends forgiveness to all those who believe in Him (John 3:16; cf. Ephesians 2:8–9). By embracing this good news through repentance of sin and putting one’s faith in Jesus for salvation, sinners can avoid the judgment that the Major Prophets foretold and instead secure the blessings that they promised (Mark 1:15).

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What is the core message of the Major Prophets?
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This page last updated: February 27, 2024