Why did the Jews not believe Jesus Christ was the Messiah?
Various answers have been given to the question, “Why did the Jews not believe Jesus Christ was the Messiah?” The Jews were looking for the Messiah to do certain things and have certain characteristics (John 7:31, 40-43). They looked for the Messiah to overthrow their enemies and to establish a universal kingdom. Yet, the religious leadership was envious of Him (Mark 15:10). They were afraid the Romans would take away their position of power (John 11:47-50). These are reasons why the Jewish people rejected Jesus Christ as the Messiah. But these are not the fundamental or foundational reasons they rejected Jesus. The answer is actually very simple and follows below.
The message of Scripture is that most of Israel hardened their hearts when they abandoned God and filled their hearts with idols. Due to their sinful and stony hearts (Ezekiel 36:26, 38), they did not believe in God. So, God punished them by having the Babylonian army invade Israel. Consequently, since the time of the Babylonian invasion in 586 B.C., their hearts have been hardened. So, they rejected Christ and are still rejecting Christ. Their hearts will remain partially hardened until Israel recognizes Jesus was their Savior Messiah at the second coming of Christ when He will then set up His kingdom. The time period in which Israel’s hearts will be hardened is called the times of the Gentiles. What follows now is an explanation of important biblical passages that teach this point.
They did not believe God in the Old Testament.
The times of the Gentiles began when the Babylonian Army invaded Jerusalem, took control of the city by appointing a puppet king, and deported Jews to Babylon (2 Chronicles 36:1-10; Daniel 1:1-2. That is the message of the dream given to King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2:36-49. In that dream God told King Nebuchadnezzar that seven kingdoms would rule over Israel: the Babylonian Empire, the Medo-Persian Empire, the Grecian Empire, the Roman Empire, a future kingdom that exist just before the millennial kingdom is established, and then the millennial kingdom. The times of the Gentiles began with the Babylonian invasion and continues today until the end of the tribulation period.
Why did God implement the times of the Gentiles? Why did He permit Gentile nations to control Jerusalem? The answer is that the people of Judah in the sixth and fifth century B.C. had hardened their hearts and refused to worship God. God said they were rebellious (Ezekiel 2:5), had adulterous hearts (Ezekiel 6:9), had idols in their hearts (Ezekiel 14:3), and needed new hearts (Ezekiel 18:30-32) because their hearts were stony (Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26).
Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26 (NASB)
That is, they had stone-cold, hardened hearts. This is a prophecy from God that at some future day He Himself would remove their stony hearts (check out Romans 11:25-26). But until that time, God will not change their hearts. This was and is a judicial act of judgment for having idols in their hearts and literally worshipping Baal, Ashram, Tammuz, other idols, sacrificing their children, and making their children walk through the fire of Moloch,. They did this after all that He done for them (Ezekiel 16:35-63).
Consequently, after many years of Israel being warned to repent of their sins, idol worship, and refusing to repent and get a new heart, God finally punished them for their sins in 586 B.C. The punishment occurred when the Babylonian army invaded Jerusalem, killed massive number of Jews, and burned the city and temple to the ground. The Babylonian invasion of 586 B.C. started the times of the Gentiles. Then in Ezekiel 36:22-38, God promised that Israel’s people will one day have new hearts. That is, the times of the Gentiles will continue until the people of Israel have new hearts. But it will not occur until the millennial kingdom is established.
They did not believe Christ.
During Christ’s ministry we learn from Matthew 13:10-15 that the hearts of the Jewish leaders and the people were still hardened. The passage tells us that the disciples asked Him why He spoke in parables to the people. Then Jesus answered them with,
“Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” Matthew 13:13.
Jesus quoted Isaiah 6:9-10 which explains that the people of Israel had “dull hearts;” that is, their hearts were like stone. Malachi 1-2 reveals they still did not love God even after they returned to Jerusalem after the seventy years of captivity in Babylon. Now Jesus reveals their hearts were still hardened.
Then just days before Christ’s rejection as the king of the Jews, we read this in John 12:37-40,
But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT? AND TO WHOM HAS THE ARM OF THE LORD BEEN REVEALED?” For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES AND HE HARDENED THEIR HEART, SO THAT THEY WOULD NOT SEE WITH THEIR EYES AND PERCEIVE WITH THEIR HEART, AND BE CONVERTED AND I HEAL THEM.” John 12:37-40 (NASB)
This passage describes divine judgment upon the religious leaders because due to their ongoing refusal to believe what God wrote through the major and minor prophets, God hardened their hearts. An important series of chapters that would be helpful to gain an understanding of divine judgment upon a people who continue to refuse to repent and believe Him is Ezekiel 9-16. God declares in this passage that eventually He must and will punish unrepentant rejection of Him. The same is still true today (Romans 9:30-33; 10:21-11:36). So, Romans 11:7-8, 25-26 says,
What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; just as it is written, “GOD GAVE THEM A SPIRIT OF STUPOR, EYES TO SEE NOT AND EARS TO HEAR NOT, DOWN TO THIS VERY DAY.” Romans 11:7-8 (NASB)
So in Luke 21:24, we read that Jesus said this about the times of the Gentiles.
And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. Luke 21:24 (NASB)
He told us that Jerusalem will not be free from occupation by Gentile nations until the times of the Gentiles is fulfilled. That is the situation today. Jerusalem is occupied by Gentiles since half of Jerusalem is occupied by the Arabs. It is believed by many that the Dome of the Rock is on the Temple Mount. This means that the times of the Gentiles has not yet been fulfilled. This means the times of the Gentiles is still in effect. Israel is still being punished for their rejection of God in the Old Testament.
They will believe in Christ in the future.
The next Scripture we should consider is Romans 11:25-26. It tells us that Israel is partially hardened today. That reinforces the last statement. That is, Israel is not believing in Christ due to a partially hardened heart. The nation will continue to have a hardened heart until the times of the Gentiles is completed.
For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery — so that you will not be wise in your own estimation — that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB.” “THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS.” Romans 11:25-26 (NASB)
When the times of the Gentiles is completed, all of Israel that is alive at that point in time will be saved. That is the promise quoted in verse 26. This quote is from Isaiah 59:20-21. So, this is a promise of salvation when the times of the Gentiles ends.
In summary, the times of the Gentiles started in 586 B.C. and continues until the end of the tribulation when Christ returns. Zechariah 12:10-11 reveals that when they see Christ return, everyone will believe in Him. They will have new hearts and then the millennial kingdom will be established (Revelation 20:4-6). So, why did the Jews not believe Jesus Christ was the Messiah? Most of them have hardened hearts due to ongoing unbelief of what God has spoken through the prophets. The nation is responsible for their own rejection of Christ. But God the Holy Spirit continues to draw individual Jews who have been chosen to faith in their Messiah.
Suggested Links:Why do most Jews not believe Christ is the promised Messiah?
Are there historical facts that reveal Christ is the Messiah?
How do the rabbis interpret prophecies about Jesus?