Scriptures

Jesus, The Christ Of Prophecy

Introduction

Two of the strongest proofs of the inspiration of the Bible are the prophecies in the Old Testament and the person of Christ in the New Testament. These two evidences are united in the Messianic prophecies.

The Bible gives us two pictures of Christ, the ‘picture of prophecy’ as found in the Old Testament prediction of the Messiah and the ‘picture of the eyewitnesses’ as found in the account given in the four gospels.

That these two pictures coincide remarkably is proof of two things

1. The Old Testament prophets were actually able to foretell future events and hence were divinely inspired in their writings and

2. Since Jesus fulfils these prophecies so completely he must be the Messiah, Christ promised to the Jews.

It has been said that there are more than 300 distinct prophecies in the Old Testament relating to the Messiah. The Jews in the time of Christ were earnestly looking for this deliverer. When the apostles preached Christ to the Jews they proved by the prophecies that he was the Messiah or ‘anointed one.’ Only a few of the many prophecies can be considered here.

His lineage

The Old Testament clearly foretells both the tribe and family from which the Messiah was to come. Of His tribe it is prophesied, ‘The sceptre will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.’ Genesis 49:10

The sceptre is the emblem of kingly authority. The fulfilment is found in Hebrews 7:14. ‘For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah.’

The Christ was to come from the family of Jesse, the father of David and was to be a descendant of King David himself. We are told, ‘A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots, a Branch will bear fruit.’ Isaiah 11:1. See also Psalm 89:3-4.

Paul shows that this is fulfilled in Christ when he says of David, ‘From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Saviour Jesus, as he promised.’ Acts 13:23

His birth

The very place of birth of the Messiah was foretold in the Old Testament. The prophet Micah predicted, ‘But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.’ Micah 5:2

There were two Bethlehems in Palestine and the one described was the ‘city of David’, a few miles from Jerusalem. Although Joseph and Mary were living in Nazareth, a combination of providential circumstances caused Jesus to be born in this insignificant village. Thus, we read the fulfilment, ‘After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea.’ Matthew 2:1

It was prophesied that the Messiah would be born of a virgin, Isaiah 7:14. Matthew records the statement of the angel who spoke to Joseph saying, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.’ Matthew 1:20

It has been objected that the Hebrew word in Isaiah 7:14 from which the word virgin is translated means young woman instead of virgin. The Revised Standard Version has so translated it. This translation has brought much criticism of this version of the Bible.

In defence of the use of the word virgin, it may be observed

1. The Hebrew word ‘almah’ from which the word virgin comes may be translated as either ‘young woman’ or ‘virgin’;

2. ‘Virgin’ is evidently the intended meaning of the writer since the conception was to be a sign of something out of the ordinary, which would be true of a virgin, but not of a young woman;

3. The translators of the Greek Septuagint in the third century before Christ rendered the word ‘almah’ by a Greek word meaning ‘virgin’;

4. Matthew quotes the passage from Isaiah and renders it ‘virgin’.

‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’). Matthew 1:23

His forerunner

It was prophesied that the Messiah would be preceded by a forerunner who would prepare the way for Him, Isaiah 40:3 / Malachi 3:1 / Malachi 4:5.

The fulfilment of these prophecies is to be found in the life and work of John the Baptist. We read, ‘In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: ‘A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ Matthew 3:1-3

John is called Elijah in Luke, ‘And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’ Luke 1:17

And he possessed the characteristics of Elijah in the way that he dressed and in that his wilderness mission called men to repentance.

His suffering

Probably the finest and most complete description of the Messiah is found in Isaiah 53. It was from this chapter that Philip preached to the Ethiopian eunuch as they rode along the way between Jerusalem and Gaza, Acts 8:26-40.

Notice the following from that chapter. ‘He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely, he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds, we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.’ Isaiah 53:3-7

Notice the agreement between this prophecy and the actual suffering of Christ

1. He was despised and rejected by His own people, John 1:11.

2. He was to suffer for others.

Of Jesus, Paul says, ‘He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.’ Romans 4:25

Through his suffering and death, a perfect sin offering was made that all men might be saved.

3. He is pictured by Isaiah as suffering patiently as a lamb brought to the slaughter and as a sheep about to be sheared.

When on trial for his life Jesus made no effort to escape or retaliate, Matthew 26:62-63 / Matthew 27:12 / Matthew 27:14.

His death, burial and resurrection

There are many prophecies that relate to the last days of Christ upon the earth. The Messiah was to enter Jerusalem riding upon a donkey, Zechariah 9:9.

The fulfilment of this is described in Matthew 21 in which we are told how Jesus entered Jerusalem on an ass a few days before His crucifixion as multitudes cried ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’ Matthew 21:9

In Psalm 22, we read, ‘Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.’ Psalm 22:16-18

This is a description of the crucifixion of Jesus. As He was hanged on the cross, His hands and feet were pierced by the nails that tore into His body. Below Him, the soldiers parted His garments and cast lots for His coat, John 19:23-24.

As He was suspended on the cross, ‘There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall.’ Matthew 27:34. This was a fulfilment of Psalm 69. ‘They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.’ Psalm 69:21

That Christ was to be buried with the rich was foretold by Isaiah, Isaiah 53:9. Matthew gives the fulfilment in detail. ‘As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away.’ Matthew 27:57-60

But the Messiah was not to remain in the grave. David predicted, ‘because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay.’ Psalm 16:10

The Hebrew word here translated as hell is ‘Sheol’ and means ‘The abode of the dead.’ It should not be confused with the Greek word ‘Gehenna’ which is also translated as hell in the New Testament and which means the place of eternal punishment.

David’s prophecy was that the soul of Christ would not be left in the abode of the dead nor would His body be left in the grave to corrupt. The many passages pertaining to the resurrection of Jesus are ample proof of the fulfilment.

Peter quoted the prediction in Acts 2 to prove the resurrection of Jesus to the Jews on Pentecost, Acts 2:27.

What is the significance of the amazing correspondence between these prophecies and their fulfilment?

First, they prove the inspiration of the Bible.

Second, they show that the New Testament cannot be completely understood without a knowledge of the Old Testament.

Third, they prove that Jesus is the Christ and that as the Christ, His commands must be obeyed, and His promises may be relied upon.

 

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