In the third lesson on Christ, our Substitute, the prophet Isaiah was addressing the nation of Israel concerning the coming of Messiah.  He would be a glorious king and a suffering servant.  His prophecy covered two distinct periods of human history.  The first is known as the incarnation, the coming of the God-Man into human history.  "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NASB). That would reach its zenith, ignominiously from man’s perspective, on a Roman cross.  It was Christ’s victory not defeat. God’s righteousness had been satisfied by the justice of God exacting the penalty and punishment for man’s sin upon the sinless humanity of Christ.  That penal substitutionary death on our behalf guaranteed restored relationship with God through faith in the finished Work of Christ on the Cross. “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom. 5:10 NKJV). That Work was vicarious in that it was on behalf of every individual who would live in human history.  Paul the Apostle would emphatically state to the churches in Corinth … “Christ died for our sins” (I Cor. 15:3). That Work also was propitious; it satisfied the righteousness of God which demands that the punishment and penalty of sin be exacted from the sinner.  “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (1 John 2:2 NASB).  That unique Work could not be performed by man, for his efforts to gain favor with God falls miserably short. “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away” (Is. 64:6 NIV).  The Apostle Paul reiterated God’s declaration of man’s sinful condition … “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23 NIV).  A Work was needed that only God could produce. The ritual sacrifice instituted in the Garden and handed down for centuries must finally become an actuality with the Lamb of God, the Suffering Servant, dying on a Cross for the sins of the world.  “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” Rom. 5:12 NASB). That Work was efficacious -- it had the desired intended results. “For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many” (Rom. 5:15 NIV)!  As Isaiah had foretold, when Messiah came, the Jewish nation rejected Him and substituted religious activity and ritual for faith in the Person of Christ, her Messiah …”because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works” (Rom. 9:32). While Israel remains today in unbelief, Isaiah’s prophecy has yet a further fulfillment.  In retrospect, during the Tribulation, the nation will reflect on the One Whom they pierced. "And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn” (Zech. 12:10 NKJV).  Unbelief will turn into faith …“When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes. Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem” (Is. 52:8-9 NIV).

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