Messiah means “anointed one” and comes from Hebrew; Christ also means “anointed one” and comes from the Greek language. Although a number of figures in the Old Testament were anointed with olive oil as part of appointing them to their ministry (like priests and prophets), the term when applied to Jesus has to do with the anointed king.
When I speak of messianic prophecies, I’m talking about the prophecies that Jesus fulfills in his role as king and savior. I find these prophecies convincing, but one of the questions that is asked is how could the Jews or any one else miss the point of the prophecies. I like the explanation of Michael S. Heiser:
By God’s design, the Scripture presents the messiah in terms of a mosaic profile that can only be discerned after the pieces are assembled.1
The point is straightforward: Only someone who knew the outcome of the puzzle, who knew how all the elements of the messianic mosaic would come together, could make sense of the pieces. Jesus had to enable the disciples to understand what the Old Testament was simultaneously hiding and revealing.2
Why was it necessary to reveal and hide at the same time? Paul gives us insight into the mission:
But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Corinthians 2:7–8 ESV)
If everything had been straightforward and clear, Jesus would not have been crucified, and the plan would have failed.
I think mosaic is a helpful way of thinking about the messianic prophecies. In them, you find the seed of woman who will bruise the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15), the seed of Abraham who will bless all the nations (Genesis 12:3), and David’s dynasty that will last forever (2 Samuel 7:16). You find the suffering servant who dies an atoning death for others (Isaiah 53) and “one like the son of man” who receives an eternal kingdom (Daniel 7:13-14). And the list could go on. As separate pieces before the coming of Christ, it would be difficult to know whether these go together or not. After the coming of Jesus, we see how the pieces fit together to form a picture of Jesus’s person and work. The prophecies present a compelling messianic mosaic.
1Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm, p. 241.
2The Unseen Realm, p. 242.