The Only Person Ever Pre-announced
by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, Ph.D., D.D., LL.D., Litt.D.
History is full of Men who have claimed that they came from God, or that they were gods, or that
they bore messages from God ------ Buddha, Mohammed,
Confucius, Christ, Lao-tze, and Thousands of others,
right down to the person who founded a New Religion this very day. Each of them has a right to be heard and considered. But as a Yardstick,
external to and outside of whatever is to be measured is needed, so there must be some Permanent Tests available to all Men, all Civilizations,
and all Ages, by which they can decide whether any of these claimants, or all of them, are Justified in their Claims. These Tests are of
Two (2) kinds: Reason and History.
Reason, because everyone has it, even those without Faith; History,
because everyone lives in it and should know something about it. [Definition: Reason is the
Faculty of the Soul enabling us to Apply Being, to Render Perceptions Intellective, to Separate Ideas from
these Perceptions, and to Integrate and Unite the Ideas into Judgments and Conclusions.]
Reason dictates that if anyone of these Men actually came from
God, the least thing that God could do to
support his claim would be to pre-announce his coming. Automobile Manufacturers tell their customers
when to expect a New Model. If God sent anyone from
Himself, or if He came Himself
with a Vitally Important Message for all Men, it would seem Reasonable that He would
First let Men know when His Messenger was coming, where
He would be born, where He would live, the
Doctrine He would Teach, the Enemies
He would make, the Program He would Adopt for
the Future, and the Manner of His Death. By
the Extent to which the Messenger conformed with these Announcements, one could Judge the Validity
of his Claims.
Reason further assures us that if
God did not do this, then there would be nothing to Prevent any
Impostor from appearing in History and saying, "I come from God," or
"An Angel appeared to me in the desert and gave me this message". In such cases there
would be no Objective, Historical way of Testing the Messenger. We would have only his word for it, and of course he could
If a Visitor came from a Foreign Country to Washington, and said he was a Diplomat, the Government would
ask him for his Passport and other Documents testifying that he represented a Certain Government. His Papers would have to Antedate his
coming. If such Proofs of Identity are asked from Delegates of other Countries, Reason
certainly ought to do so with Messengers who claim to have come from God. To each Claimant
Reason says, "What Record was there before you were born
that you were coming"?
With this Test, one can Evaluate the Claimants. [And at this Preliminary Stage,
Christ is no greater than the others.] Socrates had no one to foretell his birth. Buddha
had no one to pre-announce him and his message, or tell the day when he would sit under the tree. Confucius did not have
the name of his mother and his birthplace recorded, nor were they given to Men Centuries before he
arrived, so that when he did come, Men would know he was a Messenger from God. But, with
Christ it was different. Because of the Old Testament Prophecies,
His Coming was not Unexpected. There were no Predictions about
Buddha, Confucius, Lao-tze, Mohammed, or anyone else; but there were
Predictions about Christ. Others just came and said, "Here
I am, believe me". They were, therefore, only Men-among-Men and not the
Divine in the Human. Christ alone stepped-out of that Line saying,
"Search the Writings of the Jewish people and the Related History of the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks,
and Romans". [For the moment, Pagan Writings and even the Old
Testament may be regarded only as Historical Documents, not as Inspired Works.]
It is True that the Prophecies of the Old Testament can be best-understood in the Light of their Fulfillment.
The Language of Prophecy does not have the Exactness of Mathematics. Yet if one searches out the various
Messianic Currents in the Old Testament, and compares the Resulting Picture with the Life and Work of
Christ, can one doubt that the Antecedent Predictions point-to
Jesus and the Kingdom which He
God's Promise to the Patriarchs that through them all the Nations of the Earth would be
The Prediction that the Tribe of Juda would be Supreme among the other Hebrew Tribes until the Coming of
Him Whom all Nations would Obey;
The strange yet undeniable fact that in the Bible of the Alexandrian Jews, the Septuagint, one finds
Clearly Predicted the Virgin Birth of the Messiah;
The Prophecy of Isaiah 53 about the Patient Sufferer, the Servant of the Lord,
Who will lay-down His Life as a Guilt-Offering
for His People's Sins;
The Perspectives of the Glorious, Everlasting Kingdom of the House of David.
------ in whom but Christ have these Prophecies found their fulfillment?
From a Historical Point of View alone, here is Uniqueness which sets Christ apart from all
other Founders of World Religions. And once the fulfillment of these Prophecies did historically take place in the Person of
Christ, not only did all Prophecies cease in Israel, but there was Discontinuance
of Sacrifices when the True Paschal Lamb
Turn to Pagan Testimony.
Tacitus, speaking for the ancient Romans, says, "People
were generally persuaded in the faith of the Ancient Prophecies, that the East was to prevail, and that from Judea was to come the Master
and Ruler of the World".
Suetonius, in his Account of the Life of Vespasian, recounts the Roman
Tradition thus, "It was an Old and Constant Belief throughout the East, that by indubitably certain
Prophecies, the Jews were to attain the Highest Power".
China had the same expectation; but because it was on the other side of the World, it believed that the
Great Wise Man would be born in the West. The Annals of the Celestial Empire contain the statement:
In the 24th year of Tchao-Wang of the Dynasty of the Tcheou, on the 8th day of the 4th moon,
a light appeared in the Southwest which illumined the king's palace. The monarch, struck by its splendor, interrogated the Sages.
They showed him books in which this Prodigy signified the appearance of the Great Saint of the West whose Religion was to be introduced
into their country.
The Greeks expected Him, for Aeschylus
in his Prometheus, Six (6) Centuries before
His Coming, wrote, "Look not for any end, moreover, to this curse until God appears, to
accept upon His Head the pangs of thy own sins vicarious".
How did the Magi of the East know of His
Coming? Probably from the many Prophecies circulated through the World by the Jews as well as through the Prophecy
made to the Gentiles by Daniel Centuries
before His Birth.
Cicero, after recounting the sayings of the Ancient Oracles and the Sibyls about a
"King whom we must recognize to be saved", asked in expectation,
"To what man and to what period of time do these predictions point"? The Fourth
Eclogue of Virgil recounted the same Ancient Tradition and spoke of "a chaste woman, smiling on
her infant boy, with whom the Iron Age would pass away".
Suetonius quoted a contemporary author to the effect that the Romans were so fearful
about a King who would Rule the World that they ordered all children born that year to be killed ------ an order that was not fulfilled,
except by Herod.
Not only were the Jews expecting the Birth of a Great King,
a Wise Man and a Savior, but Plato
and Socrates also spoke of the Logos and of the Universal Wise Man
"yet to come". Confucius spoke of "the
Saint"; the Sibyls, of a "Universal King"; the Greek
Dramatist, of a Savior and Redeemer to
unloose Man from the "Primal Eldest Curse". All these were on the Gentile Side of the
Expectation. What separates Christ from all Men is that
First He was Expected; even the
Gentiles had a longing for a Deliverer, or
Redeemer. This fact alone distinguishes Him from all other Religious Leaders.
A Second Distinguishing Fact is that once
He appeared, He struck History with such impact that
He split it in two, dividing it into Two (2) periods: One before
His Coming, the Other after it. Buddha did not do this, nor any of the
great Indian Philosophers. Even those who deny God must date their Attacks
upon Him, A.D. so and so, or so many years after
A Third fact separating Him
from all the others is this: every other person who ever came into this World, came into it to Live.
He came into it to Die. Death
was a Stumbling Block to Socrates ----- it interrupted his teaching. But to
Christ, Death was the Goal and Fulfillment of
His Life, the Gold that He was seeking. Few of
His Words or Actions are Intelligible without reference to His
Cross. He presented Himself
as a Savior, rather than merely as a Teacher.
It meant nothing to Teach Men to be Good unless He
also gave them the Power to be Good, after
Rescuing them from the Frustration of Guilt.
The Story of every Human Life begins with Birth, and Ends with Death. In
the Person of Christ, however, it was
His Death that was
First and His Life that was
Last. The Scripture describes Him as
"the Lamb slain as it were, from the beginning of the World".
He was Slain in Intention by the
First Sin and Rebellion
against God. It was not so much that His
Birth cast a Shadow on His Life and thus led to His
Death; it was rather that the Cross was
First, and cast its Shadow back to His Birth.
His has been the only life in the World that was ever lived backward. As the Flower in the
Crannied Wall tells the Poet of Nature, and as the Atom is the Miniature of the Solar System, so too,
His Birth tells the Mystery of the Gibbet.
He went from the known to the known, from the reason of His Coming
manifested by His Name "Jesus" or
"Savior" to the fulfillment of His Coming,
namely, His Death on the Cross.
John gives us His Eternal Prehistory; Matthew,
His Temporal Prehistory, by way of His Genealogy.
It is significant how much His Temporal Ancestry was connected with
Sinners and Foreigners! These Blots on the Escutcheon of His Human
Lineage suggest a Pity for the Sinful and for the
Strangers to the Covenant. Both these aspects of His Compassion would later on be hurled
against Him as Accusations: "He is a friend of
sinners"; "He is a Samaritan". But the Shadow of a Stained Past foretells
His Future Love for the Stained. Born of a
woman, He was a Man and could be one with all
Humanity; born of a Virgin, who was
Overshadowed by the Spirit and "Full of Grace",
He would also be outside that Current of Sin
which Infected all Men.
Christ the Teacher
A Fourth distinguishing fact is that
He does not fit, as the other World Teachers do, into the Established Category of a Good Man. Good Men do not lie.
But if Christ was not all that He said
He was, namely, the Son of the Living
God, the Word of God in the
Flesh, then He was not
"just a good man"; then He was a
Knave, a Liar, a
Charlatan and the Greatest Deceiver who ever lived. If
He was not what He said
He was, the Christ, the
Son of God, He was the
anti-Christ! If He was only a Man, then
He was not even a "good" Man.
But He was not only a Man.
He would have us either Worship Him or
Despise Him, Despise
Him as a mere Man, or Worship Him as
True God and True Man. That is the alternative
He presents. It may very well be that the Communists,
who are so anti-Christ, are closer to
Him than those who see Him as a Sentimentalist
and a Vague Moral Reformer. The Communists have at least decided that if
He Wins, they Lose; the others are Afraid to consider
Him either as Winning or Losing, because they are not prepared to meet the Moral Demands which
this Victory would make on their Souls.
If He is what He claimed to
be, a Savior, a Redeemer, then we have a
Virile Christ and a Leader worth following in these Terrible
Times; One Who will step into the Breach of
Death, Crushing Sin, Gloom
and Despair; a Leader to Whom we can make
Totalitarian Sacrifice without Losing, but Gaining Freedom, and
Whom we can Love even unto
Death. We need a Christ today Who
will make Cords and Drive the Buyers and Sellers from our New Temples; Who will Blast the
Unfruitful Fig Tree; Who will Talk of Crosses and
Sacrifices, and Whose Voice will be like the
Voice of the Raging Sea. But He will not allow us to Pick and Choose among
His Words, discarding the Hard Ones, and
accepting the ones that Please our Fancy. We need a Christ Who will Restore Moral Indignation,
Who will make us Hate Evil with a Passionate
Intensity, and Love Goodness to a point where we can drink
Death like Water.