what is messiah

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Answered by: Steven, An Expert in the Studying the Bible Category
A messiah is a savior or deliverer. It has also come to mean the leader or prominent figure of a religion, or some other group or organization. It literally means "anointed one," with the implication being that they have been specially chosen for the job by God, or fate.

Throughout the Old Testament, there are prophecies of a Messiah that would save the Jewish people (Zechariah, 9:9, Isaiah 52). He was promised to be a descendant of David, their greatest king (Isaiah 11:1-2), and many Jews of the time believed that his role was to save them from oppression by or slavery to a foreign people, such as the Romans, under whose rule they were at the time of Jesus. Christians believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of those prophesies, and that he is the promised Messiah, not just of the Jewish people, or the Christian people, but of the entire world. That his perfect life, crucifixion, and resurrection served to free the people of the world from the grip of sin and death--that his death means everyone can have eternal life.

A number of Jewish people also believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah (Messianic Jews, or sometimes Jews for Jesus), though many do not, and still look forward to the day when their messiah will come. Still others, particularly in modern times, no longer hold the belief that a messiah will come to save them, or instead believe that the promise of a messiah refers not to a person, but to a "messianic age," a new golden age on Earth sometime in the future, a time of peace and prosperity that it's their responsibility to bring about through their actions (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

Christians believe in a similar golden age, that will be ushered in by the second coming of Jesus (Revelation 20 and 21). The Christian golden age is seen as a final conquering of sin and death: that Satan and his servants will be bound once and for all, and that this sinful, imperfect world will be destroyed, and replaced with a new Heaven and a new Earth, where those whom Jesus has saved can live forever in peace and harmony. This is the generally accepted Christian belief about the Messiah and the end of the world, though another belief has become prevalent in recent years in some sects of Christianity. Specifically, a belief similar to that of many modern Jews, that the golden age is a more human one, and that it's their responsibility to usher in this age through their actions: loving their neighbor, feeding the poor, etc.

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