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Approximately 300 Messianic prophecies were written centuries before the life of Jesus which foretold a coming Messiah. In this section we will be discussing some of the most detailed Messianic prophecies and how they were fulfilled in the New Testament life of Jesus Christ.
The outline we will be following for this discussion is as follows:
What are the Messianic Prophecies?
The Messianic prophecies were written over the span of a millennium by several Old Testament prophets. They spoke of a Messiah who would one day come to earth and walk among mankind. These prophecies mentioned specific names, locations, and even the timing surrounding His appearance. The known date of completion for the Old Testament writings is 430 B.C., so these prophecies were in circulation at least 430 years before the time of Christ.
Skeptic Interjection: Is it possible these prophecies were written after the life Jesus?
Answer: There is simply too much evidence showing the Old Testament writings to be in circulation for this to be possible. One example is the Septuagint which predates the Masoretic texts by more than 1,000 years. The Dead Sea ScrollsThe Dead Sea Scrolls are another example, with many scrolls dating back to 250 BC. Other (less reliable) sources include the Talmud and various authors which record the knowledge of certain messianic prophecies around the time of Christ. Even if you reject the Old Testament date of completion as 430 B.C. there is enough evidence to show a time gap of at least 250 years between the last messianic prophecy and the time of Jesus. If we accept the Mosaic authorship of the Torah in approximately 1400 B.C., some messianic prophecies were written up to 1,400 years before the life of Jesus.
Skeptic Interjection: I've read in some skeptic literature that the translation of the Septuagint didn't begin until 250 B.C. and was finally completed in 50 B.C.
Answer: Even if this is true, this still allows for a 50 year gap before the life of Christ. Regardless, the fact of the matter is the Scriptures were in existence prior to 250 B.C. for the translators to begin their mission.
Skeptic Interjection: Is it possible the Christians interpolated the Messianic prophecies into the Hebrew Bible?
Answer: The odds of this occurring are practically impossible. The Jews were well acquainted with their Scriptures. If Christians tried to alter the texts, the Jews would have immediately pointed this out. If someone today altered the Christian Bible, the Declaration of Independence, or any other well known literary work, they would immediately be discredited once confronted with the original documents. There are simply too many extant manuscripts preceding Christianity that show the Messianic prophecies were well known and in circulation.
The Jews of antiquity were very familiar with the Messianic prophecies, though there was some confusion at the seemingly conflicting prophecies: one interpretation told of a suffering servant while another told of a triumphant and glorious king. Today we know the Bible speaks of two separate appearances. We know His first appearance was one of peace, sacrifice, and humility whereas His second coming in the end times will be one of glory, judgment, and reconciliation. The prophecies and fulfillments we will be discussing in this article are those that were completed in the life of Jesus Christ.
The Messianic Lineage
The prophecies referring to the Messianic lineage are very exciting once we see their historical importance. For centuries the ancient Jews kept meticulous records of their genealogies. These records existed even during times of foreign captivity and immense persecution. The records were finally destroyed during the Roman invasion and destruction of the Jewish temple in 70 A.D. This is important for two reasons:
Skeptic Interjection: Doesn't the Bible warn its readers against the use of "endless genealogies" in proving Jesus to be the Messiah?
Answer: These two references are I Timothy 1:3-4 and Titus 3:9. However, this is where critics can get caught in their own skepticism.Though Christian scholars have dated Matthew and Luke to have been written before Timothy and Titus, many critics allege the two Gospels were written after Paul's epistles. This begs the question how Paul would be refuting texts that did not yet exist! It is generally believed that Paul was combating heresies surfacing within Gnostic, apocryphal, and pseudographical texts- not the canonical Gospels.
He would ultimately be the Son of God
PROPHECY: "I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me,‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You.’" Psalms 2:7 "I will be His Father, and He will be My Son. I will never take My love away from Him as I took it away from your predecessor. I will set Him over My house and My kingdom forever. His throne will be established forever." I Chronicles 17:13-14
FULFILLMENT: And suddenly a voice came from the heavens saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Matthew 3:17 And a voice came from heaven: You are My Son, whom I love. With you I am well pleased. Mark 1:11
Skeptic Interjection: How do we know these Old Testament verses refer to the future Messiah and not just to King David?
Answer: Many of the Messianic prophecies were double references which used historical applications to allude to the future Messiah. While in the current sense a verse might directly be referring to Moses, King David, or the Jewish people, it was also known by the Jews of antiquity as a reference to the Messiah. The early church father's also explain the dualism of history as prophecy. Though critics claim many passages were only considered prophecies after the fact, this allegation is proved incorrect once we investigate antiquity. The Talmud mentions specific scriptures as Messianic prophecies, Matthew's Gospel often quotes the Old Testament prophecies before posting the New Testament fulfillment, early apologists cite Scripture known to be considered Messianic prophecy, etc. From our modern point of view the parallels seem far-fetched but they were well known at the time.
He would be born from the seed of a womanPROPHECY: “And I will put enmity between you [Satan] and the woman and between your seed and her Seed. He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” Genesis 3:15
This prophecy actually contains three predictions:
He would be from the seed of Abraham
PROPHECY: “In your [Abraham's] seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed because you have obeyed My voice.” Genesis 22:18
FULFILLMENT: “The book of genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” Matthew 1:1 "The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say, 'and to seeds,' meaning many people, but 'and to your seed,' meaning one person, who is Christ." Galatians 3:16
Skeptic Interjection: How do we know this verse refers to the Messiah and not only to Abraham's descendants as a whole?
Answer: By stating the Messiah would come from the seed (not seeds) of Abraham, God is telling us the Messiah would come from the Hebrew race. Furthermore, Galatians clarifies the original prophecy in Genesis by pointing out the singular form of the word seed as a reference to one particular person.
He would be from the seed of Isaac
PROPHECY: “But God said to Abraham… in Isaac your seed shall be called.” Genesis 21:12
FULFILLMENT: “Jesus… the son of Isaac.” Luke 3:23,34
Abraham had two sons: Ishmael and Isaac. By stating the Messiah will come from the line of Isaac, God eliminates 1/2 of Abraham’s descendants. Again, we see the singular form of the word seed.
He would be from the seed of Jacob
PROPHECY: "I see Him but not now. I behold Him but not near. A Star will come out of Jacob, A Scepter out of Israel.“" Numbers 24:17
FULFILLMENT: "“Jesus… the son of Jacob.” Luke 3:23,34" Luke 3:23,34
Abraham had two sons: Ishmael and Isaac. By stating the Messiah will come from the line of Isaac, God eliminates 1/2 of Abraham’s descendants. Again, we see the singular form of the word seed.
He would be from the Tribe of Judah
PROPHECY: "…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 old, from ancient times. " Micah 5:2
FULFILLMENT: "Jesus… the son of Judah." Luke 3:23,34
Jacob had twelve sons from which the twelve tribes of Israel originated. By specifying the Messiah would be from the tribe of Judah, God eliminated the descendants of the eleven other tribes.
Skeptic Interjection: Jesus was never a ruler over Israel. How did He fulfill this prophecy?
Answer: Like we mention earlier, the seemingly contradictory references to both a humble yet triumphant Messiah caused much confusion to the Jews of antiquity. When we look at the wording we can see the word will is used twice: will come for Me One who will be ruler. This is one of the many verses referring to two separate Messianic appearances.
He would be from the line of Jesse
PROPHECY: "There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots." Micah 5:2
FULFILLMENT: "“Jesus… the son of Jesse.”" Luke 3:23,32
He would be from the house of David
PROPHECY: "...I will raise up to David a righteous branch. A King shall reign wisely and execute judgment and righteousness in the land. " Jeremiah 23:5
FULFILLMENT: "Jesus… the son of David." Luke 3:23-32
Jesse had eight known sons. By specifying the Messiah would come from the Davidian line, God eliminates Jesse's other sons.
He would be born of a virgin
PROPHECY: "The Lord will give you a sign: The virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel." Isaiah 7:14
FULFILLMENT: "...God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary... the angel said to her... ‘You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High." Luke 1:26-27 - :Luke1:30-32
Jesse had eight known sons. By specifying the Messiah would come from the Davidian line, God eliminates Jesse's other sons.
Skeptic Interjection: How could this prophecy be related to Jesus? His name was not Immanuel.
Answer: This seems like a contradiction until we are given the meaning of Immanuel in the following passage: "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel which means 'God with us.'" Matthew 1:21-23
Because the angel specifically tells Mary to name her son Jesus, we know Immanuel was a symbolic title instead of a literal name. Matthew confirms this by explaining the meaning of the name Immanuel as God with us. Though Jesus was His earthly name, He was also symbolically referred to as Lamb of God, Son of Man, Lion Of Judah, etc. Though this prophecy literally refers to a virgin birth, it metaphorically refers to the Messiah coming to earth in human form. Hence, God with us.
Skeptic Interjection: The Old and New Testament verses differ in their use of virgin. One refers to a woman of marriageable age and the other refers to an actual virgin.
Answer: In the Masoretic text, the prophecy in Isaiah uses the Hebrew word almah (a woman of marriageable age) whereas the verse in Matthew uses the Greek word parthenos (a pure virgin or woman of marriageable age). However the translators of the Greek Septuagint (which is older than any existing Hebrew text) used parthenos in their translation of the verse in Isaiah. The translators understood the verse in Isaiah as referring to a literal virgin birth. Some critics argue Matthew could have used the Septuagint when writing his Gospel but this claim, though possible, is based on supposition.
Skeptic Interjection: Wasn't this a specific prophecy meant for King Ahaz? God told Israel He would send an immediate sign of the child Immanuel so that the Israelites would not be defeated in battle. Wasn't this prophecy fulfilled by the prophetess' son in Isaiah 8:3-4?
Answer: The Child born in Ahaz's time was named Maher-shalal-hash-baz meaning quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil. His name did not fulfill the prophecy literally or metaphorically as the child was in no way believed to be God nor was his name Immanuel. The fulfillment of this prophecy in Ahaz's time was to show the Israelites that God was with them (Immanuel) by sending the sign of the child Maher-shalal-hash-baz before battle. The ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy occurred during the lifetime of Jesus. Once again we see the use of historic applications and double references which were known to the Jews of antiquity.
The Messianic Geography
He would be born in Bethlehem
PROPHECY: "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 in Israel, whose origins are from of old, from the days of eternity." Micah 5:2
FULFILLMENT: "Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea." Matthew 2:1
Skeptic Interjection: Bethlehem Ephrathah can refer to either the city of Bethlehem or to a descendant of Bethlehem and Ephrathah.
Answer: Ephrathah (the ancient name of Bethlehem) can refer to either the city of Bethlehem or it can refer to the Biblical characters of the same name. The key for our answer is the word or. Micah is referring to the city of Bethlehem- not the individuals.
Skeptic Interjection: Bethlehem was the birthplace of King David. How do we know this verse even refers to Jesus?
Answer: David was a mortal human being who possessed both a physical beginning and end but the verse in Micah refers to someone who is eternal: from the days of old, eternity. Second, the Book of Micah was written centuries after the life of David but the verse in question mentions one who will come (future tense)!
He would come to Zion
PROPHECY: "Rejoice greatly Oh daughter of Zion! Shout Oh daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you!" Zechariah 9:9
FULFILLMENT: "And so all Israel will be saved as it is written: 'The Deliverer will come from Zion. He will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is My covenant with them when I take away their sins" Romans 11:26-27
He would return from Egypt
PROPHECY: "Out of Egypt I called My Son." Hosea 11:1
FULFILLMENT: "So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt where he stayed until the death of Herod." Matthew 2:14-15
With King Herod's growing paranoia over the jeopardy of his throne, he issued a decree to kill all male children under the age of two years old. To escape Herod's wrath, Joseph took his family and escaped to Egypt.
Skeptic Interjection: The verse in Hosea is a reference to the Egyptian exodus. How is it a Messianic prophecy?
Answer: The prophecy in Hosea serves as a double reference to both the Egyptian exodus and the future Messiah. The singular use of My Son as compared to My children shows the intent of a double reference to a single individual as well as the people of Israel. Like we mention earlier, historic applications were understood by the Jews of antiquity as a reference to the coming Messiah. The book of Hosea is also classified as a prophetic book which uses metaphor throughout its text.
He would begin His ministry in Galilee
PROPHECY: "...In the past He humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future He will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan." Isaiah 9:1
FULFILLMENT: "Now when Jesus heard that John had been put into prison, He departed to Galilee. And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali. From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, 'Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'" Matthew 4:12-13,17 "After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee proclaiming the good news of God." Mark 1:14
Mark explains although Jesus had traveled previously, He did not begin His ministry until entering Galilee.
Skeptic Interjection: The above prophecy states God will honor Galilee. What does this have to do with the Messiah? Could it be a reference
to King Hezekiah?
Answer: The verse in Isaiah may not seem like a Messianic prophecy until we read the context of the verse. When we read further into the chapter we are told: "Unto us a Child is born. To us a Son is given. The government will be on His shoulders. He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever." Isaiah 9:6-7. Once the context of the verse is taken into consideration we can clearly see this chapter is a Messianic passage. The person foreseen by Isaiah would have the government against Him (both the Israelites and the Romans persecuted Jesus) and His kingdom would be eternal. Hezekiah, though a righteous king, was still an earthly king with a temporary throne.
He would be a Nazarene
PROPHECY: "A Shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse. From his roots a Branch will bear fruit." Isaiah 11:1
FULFILLMENT: "And He went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: He will be called a Nazarene." Matthew 2:23
Skeptic Interjection: The Old Testament makes no mention of a place called Nazareth or the Nazarene people.
Answer: Our answer lies in the origin of the word Nazarene. The Hebrew translation of branch in the above prophetic verse is netzer. In our fulfillment verse, the Greek word for Nazarene is Νazaphnoe, coming from the Aramaic twig or branch. The King James Version of the Bible, published in 1611, translates the original Greek word as a person from Nazareth but modern scholars now believe this translation to be incorrect. The Greek word for a citizen of Nazareth is Nazarethaios. But Matthew uses Νazaphnoe (branch), not Nazarethaios (a person from Nazareth). The error lies within the well-intentioned 17th century translators.
Skeptic Interjection: Are you saying Jesus was never associated with the city of Nazareth?
Answer: The Bible and Matthew both make it clear Jesus was a citizen of Nazareth, of Galilee, of Judea. I am simply explaining the connection Matthew makes between the city of Nazareth and its root word meaning branch.
The Messianic Ministry
A messenger would precede Him
PROPHECY: "A voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God." Isaiah 40:3. "I will send My messenger, who will prepare the way before Me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to His temple. The Messenger of the covenant whom you desire will come." Malachi 3:1.
FULFILLMENT: "John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" Matthew 3:1-2
Isaiah and Malachi mention a messenger who will appear directly before the Messiah. This messenger was John the Baptist whom the Bible describes as a prophet of the wilderness who warned the Jews to turn from their apostasy. The word suddenly in Malachi refers to the imminent coming of the Messiah once this messenger appears. From the writings of Josephus, we know John the Baptist and Jesus were contemporaries of one another.
Skeptic Interjection: Is it possible Jesus paid John to act as His messenger?
Answer: It's highly unlikely considering the volatile religious and political scene during this time. False prophets were put to death under the accusation of blasphemy. The Bible also documents John's inquiry of Jesus as to whether or not He was the actual Messiah. John was willing to die if needed but he was not willing to die for a lie.
He will heal the sick
PROPHECY: "Then the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer and the tongue of the dumb will sing for joy." Isaiah 35:5-6
FULFILLMENT: "The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor." Matthew 11:5
He will speak in parables
PROPHECY: "I will open my mouth in a parable. I will utter dark sayings of old." Psalm 78:2
FULFILLMENT: "All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them." Matthew 13:34
The New Testament shows Jesus' use of parables (metaphor) during His teachings. He used analogies to help His listeners better understand the spiritual principles of His sermons.
He was to enter Jerusalem on a Donkey
PROPHECY: "Behold, your King is coming to you. He is just and having salvation, humble, lowly, and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey." Zechariah 9:9
FULFILLMENT: "And they brought him to Jesus. And they threw their own clothes on the colt, and they set Jesus on him." Luke 19:35
The prophecy in Zechariah reveals the attitude the Messiah will have during His first coming. The Jews were expecting a glorious, triumphant Messiah who would overthrow Roman rule and establish the sovereign kingdom of Israel. But Zechariah states the Messiah’s first appearance would be for the purpose of bringing salvation to mankind with a spirit of humility.
Skeptic Interjection: Jesus was not an earthly king. How could the prophecy refer to Him?
Answer: The verse in Zechariah refers to a king- yet one who is humble, lowly, and riding on a donkey. Once again, we must understand the Bible refers to two Messianic appearances: the first advent of humility, the second advent of triumph. Jesus was considered the spiritual king of Israel and an earthly descendant of King David.
He would be rejected by the Jews but accepted by the Gentiles
PROPHECY: "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering." Isaiah 53:3. "The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising." Isaiah 60:3
FULFILLMENT: "He came to that which was His own, but they did not receive Him." John 1:11. "For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’ Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord." Acts 13:47-48
This is an interesting prophecy because its fulfillment can still be seen today. The Christian (Gentile) Bible consists of an Old Testament beginning with Genesis and ending with Malachi and a New Testament beginning with Matthew and ending with Revelation. The orthodox Jewish Bible does not contain the Christian New Testament because it does not accept the divinity of Jesus Christ. This prophecy was not only fulfilled in Jesus' time, but is still currently being fulfilled in our time as well.
The Messianic Betrayal
He would be betrayed by a friend
PROPHECY: "Even my familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me." Psalm 41:9
FULFILLMENT: "Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him." Matthew 10:4
Skeptic Interjection: Because Jesus knew Judas would betray him, how could the verse in Psalms be considered a Messianic prophecy with the statement in whom I trusted?
Answer: Jesus entrusted Judas with many things. It is believed Judas was the treasurer of the apostles, Jesus entrusted Judas with His teachings, they traveled and preached together, they shared meals, etc. Just because Jesus had foreknowledge of Judas' actions does not mean Judas was not entrusted with many responsibilities of an apostle.
He will be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver
PROPHECY: "Then I said to them, ‘If it is agreeable to you, give me my wages. And if not, refrain. So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver." Zechariah 11:12
FULFILLMENT: "What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you? And they counted out thirty pieces of silver." Matthew 26:15
Thirty pieces of silver was the standard price of a slave in the Old Testament, making this amount particularly insulting.
Skeptic Interjection: Isn't there a verse in Matthew that attributes this prophecy to Jeremiah instead of Zechariah?
Answer: This reference is found in Matthew 27:9 (Then what was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled...). If you notice throughout the Book of Matthew, Matthew frequently mentions the Old Testament prophecies before he records the fulfillments by Jesus. Whereas Mark dedicates his Gospel to the Romans and Luke focuses his attention towards the Gentiles, Matthew appeals to his fellow Jews, trying to convince them Jesus alone fulfilled the prophecies. The Jews of antiquity realized the lesser-known verses in Jeremiah as being Messianic which is why Matthew references them. Though the verses in Jeremiah (18:2, 19:2, and 32:6-9) seem vague and far-fetched to us, Matthew summarizes and combines the prophetic symbolism of Zechariah and Jeremiah into one reference, giving credit to the better-known prophet, Jeremiah, which was a frequent exegetic method used in antiquity when referring to the prophets.
The silver will be thrown into the temple for the potters field.
PROPHECY: "So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord for the potter." Zechariah 11:13
FULFILLMENT: "Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed. And they consulted together and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in." Matthew 27:5,7
Skeptic Interjection: Does the Syriac Old Testament use the word treasury instead of potter? If so, does this damage the credibility of Zechariah's prophecy being Messianic?
Answer: I do not have access to the Syriac texts but if the word treasury is used, it would make sense when we read the following verse in Matthew: "It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money." Matthew 27:7 Judas took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the temple. But because the priests did not want to accept the blood money used to condemn an innocent man, they used it to maintain the potter’s field. The verse in Matthew implies Judas tried to return his money to the temple treasury but the priests would not accept it.
He would be denied by His Disciples
PROPHECY: "Strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered." Zechariah 13:7
FULFILLMENT: "Then they all forsook Him and fled." Mark 14:50
Jesus is often referred to in Scripture as a Shepherd. When Jesus was arrested, His disciples were so afraid of persecution, they deserted Him until after the resurrection.
The Messianic Suffering
PROPHECY: "He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth." Isaiah 53:7
FULFILLMENT: "And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing." Matthew 27:12
The Scriptures make it clear there were many false witnesses called to give testimony against Jesus. Yet Jesus kept silent at His trial because He knew these things must take place in order for Him to atone for the sins of mankind.
He will be flogged
PROPHECY: "But He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement for our peace was upon Him and by His stripes we are healed." Isaiah 53:5
FULFILLMENT: "Then he released Barabbas to them. And when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified." Matthew 27:26
Not only does Isaiah refer to the scourging Jesus receives, he even reveals the reasons for Jesus’ suffering. Isaiah explains the Messiah would endure such things to save us from the judgment of sin and death.
He would be tortured
PROPHECY: "I gave My back to those who struck Me and My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard. I did not hide My face from shame and spitting." Isaiah 50:6
FULFILLMENT: "Then they spat in His face and beat Him. And others struck Him with the palms of their hands." Matthew 26:67
He would be mocked
PROPHECY: "All who see Me ridicule Me. They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, ‘He trusted in the Lord. Let Him rescue Him. Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!" Psalm 22:7-8
FULFILLMENT: "When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him saying, ’Hail, King of the Jews!’" Matthew 27:29 "In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. ‘He saved others, they said but he can’t save Himself if He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue Him now if He wants…’ " Matthew 27:41-43
The Roman soldiers mocked Jesus by constructing a crown made of thorns and handed Him a reed to imitate a royal scepter. Once Jesus was on the cross, the people mocked Him by asking if He was so beloved of God, why was God not rescuing Him? They did not understand the spiritual concepts regarding the crucifixion and the atonement for sin.
The Messianic Death
His hands and feet would be pierced
PROPHECY: "Dogs have surrounded me. A band of evil men has encircled me. They pierced My hands and My feet.” Psalm 22:16 "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on Me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child..." Zechariah 12:10
FULFILLMENT: "And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him" Luke 23:33
Jesus was crucified in the typical Roman manner: His hands and feet were nailed to the cross using large spikes. This is very interesting considering crucifixion had not yet been invented. Both verses refer to the different reactions of the witnesses:
He will suffer with the common sinners.
PROPHECY: "Because He poured out His soul unto death, He was numbered with the transgressors." Isaiah 53:12
FULFILLMENT: "Then the two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and another on the left." Matthew 27:38
His followers would forsake Him
PROPHECY: "My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague, and my relatives stand afar off." Psalm 38:11
FULFILLMENT: "But His acquaintances and the woman who followed from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things." Luke 23:49
He would be stared upon
PROPHECY: "I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me." Psalm 22:17
FULFILLMENT: "And the people stood looking on." Luke 23:35
Though this prophecy literally states the Messiah would be stared upon during His suffering, there is an underlying reference that needs to be explained: the meaning of I can count all My bones. During a typical crucifixion, the weight of the body being pulled down on the cross would disjoint the bones and make them appear more prominent than usual. Count all My bones is a direct reference to the state of Jesus' body on the cross.
Lots will be cast for His garments
PROPHECY: "They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots." Psalm 22:18
FULFILLMENT: "The soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. They said… ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be.’" John 19:23-24
The verse in Psalms seems contradictory until the prophecy becomes fulfilled at the cross. Jesus' garments were distributed among the soldiers but the tunic was awarded to one soldier by the casting of lots.
He would be given gall and vinegar to drink
PROPHECY: "They also gave me gall for my food and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink." Psalm 69:21
FULFILLMENT: "They gave Him sour wine mingled with gall to drink… "Matthew 27:34" A jar of wine vinegar was there so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a hyssop stalk, and lifted it to Jesus' lips." John 19:29
Skeptic Interjection: When you read the context of the verse in John, it seems like Jesus provoked the soldiers to fulfill this prophecy.
Answer: The whole purpose of the Messianic prophecies was to reveal the identity of the true Messiah once He appeared. In order to have this prophecy fulfilled as a sign to us, Jesus cried out I thirst. What the soldiers chose to offer Jesus was their decision alone. Jesus could not control what He was offered.
His bones would not be broken
PROPHECY: "He guards all His bones. Not one of them is broken." Psalm 34:20
FULFILLMENT: "But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs." John 19:33
A typical crucifixion can last quite a while as the victim could linger for days before expiring. Many crucifixion victims died from asphyxiation as they would have to continually push up against the cross in order to breathe. After a certain amount of time, the guards would come along and break the victim’s legs so he could no longer support himself. However, because Jesus had died earlier than anticipated, His bones were not broken. Instead...
He would be pierced
PROPHECY: "They will look on Me whom they pierced." Zechariah 12:10
FULFILLMENT: "But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear." John 19:34
To ensure Jesus had already expired, a Roman soldier pierced his side with a spear instead of breaking His legs.
The land would be darkened
PROPHECY: "And it shall come to pass in that day says the Lord God that I will make the sun go down at noon and I will darken the earth in broad daylight." Amos 8:9
FULFILLMENT: "Now from the sixth hour until the night hour there was darkness over all the land." Matthew 27:45
The Jews counted twelve hours from sunrise to sunset. The sixth hour would be noon and the ninth hour would be 3:00 p.m.
Skeptic Interjection: Why is there no mention of such an event outside the Bible?
Answer: The darkness which covered the land was documented by two Roman historians, Phlegon and Thallus. The authors write about an eerie darkness that lasted several hours in the middle of the day during the Passover on which Jesus was crucified. Although the secular historians try to dismiss the unusual event as an eclipse, astronomers prove that due to the alignment of the planets a solar eclipse cannot occur during Passover, which is carefully scheduled to coincide with the full moon. Their quotes may be read on this page.
He would be buried in a rich man's tomb
PROPHECY: "And they made His grave with the wicked- but with the rich at His death." Isaiah 53:9
FULFILLMENT: "There came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph…and [he] asked for the body of Jesus… When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb." Matthew 27:57-60
Death by crucifixion was reserved for the lowest classes. Most victims were left to decompose on the cross without being given a proper burial. Out of the countless victims who suffered this fate, only one body has been recovered with traces to the Roman Empire around the time of Jesus. Isaiah was able to foresee Jesus receiving a distinguished burial after a lowly death. This leads us to one last point...
He would be cursed for hanging on a tree
PROPHECY: "You must not leave His body on the tree overnight. Be sure to bury Him that same day because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God's curse." Deuteronomy 21:23
FULFILLMENT: "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘ Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’" Galatians 3:13
The verse in Deuteronomy refers to the Jewish law regarding those executed by hanging. Their bodies were not to be left in such a state after nightfall due to desecration laws. Because His body was removed prior to nightfall, Jesus' body was not considered unclean according to Jewish law.
Skeptic Interjection: Is Paul admitting Jesus was cursed? How could this be if Jesus led a sinless life?
Answer: The New Testament makes it clear Jesus' body was removed by nightfall. His physical body did not become unclean by Jewish standards. Paul is making a reference to the spiritual curse of sin Christ accepted for our sakes. Because Jesus defeated the power of sin and death, He also broke the power of the curse which He accepted in our place.
The Messianic Triumph
He would atone for the sin of man
PROPHECY: "And He bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors." Isaiah 53:12
FULFILLMENT: "God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood…" Romans 3:25
Before the arrival of the Messiah, Jews were required to atone for their own sins by bringing sacrifices to the temple. When Jesus was crucified, He became the blood sacrifice to atone for all the sins of mankind.
He would represent the passover lamb
PROPHECY: "...Each man is to take a lamb for his family... The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect... All the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight... Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the door frames... On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn... The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt... Do not break any of the bones." " Exodus 12:3-46
FULFILLMENT: "For Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed." I Corinthians 5:7
The above prophecy is highly symbolic of the coming Messiah:
Jesus was crucified on the Passover in the year of 33 A.D. He alone fulfilled this prophecy both metaphorically and literally.
Skeptic Interjection: The Passover lamb was not an atonement for sin. How could this represent Jesus?
Answer: In the Old Testament, blood sacrifices were required to atone for sins. In this age of grace it is hard for us to understand the spiritual concepts of sin but it is evident God considers sin so severe that a blood offering was required to cover the sin. Sin also separates us from God's presence and brings us under His judgment. Jesus' death was not only to atone for our sin but to free us from judgment. This is His relationship to the Passover lamb, which protected the Jews from the judgment of the Egyptians.
Skeptic Interjection: The Passover lamb was required to be free from all physical blemishes, yet Jesus was marred beyond recognition.
Answer: The spotless lamb was a metaphor to the sinless life of Jesus. It did not mean He would be physically perfect in appearance. The Bible also states God wishes for us to be without spot nor wrinkle. This is an obvious reference to our spiritual behavior- not a commandment to be free of physical imperfections (or else we'd all be in trouble!). The spotless condition of the Paschal lamb simply serves as a foreshadowing to the Messiah's sinless life.
He would be resurrected
PROPHECY: "For You will not leave my soul in Sheol nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption." Psalms 16:10
FULFILLMENT: "His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption." Acts 2:31
After spending three days in the grave, Jesus arose from the dead and appeared to more than 500 witnesses.
He achieved victory over death
PROPHECY: "He will swallow up death forever." Isaiah 25:8
FULFILLMENT: "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." I Corinthians 15:56-57
The Messianic Timing
The first three prophecies listed below concern the relative timing and historical events corresponding with the Messiah's appearance. The last prophecy is famous among Biblical scholars for its ability to foresee the exact year of Jesus' crucifixion.
He would appear during a time of Spiritual apostasy and political unrest
PROPHECY: "He grew up before him like a tender shoot and like a root out of dry ground." Isaiah 53:2
FULFILLMENT: "The root out of dry ground analogy refers to the Messiah's appearance during a time of spiritual drought and political upheaval. History shows Israel was in a state of chaos during the first century. The religious leaders were unscrupulous, more than 400 years had passed since the last canonical prophet, and Israel was under the tyrannical domination of Rome. Jewish rebellions were frequent and the average Jew was more concerned with religious rites and worldly affairs instead of their love for God. Jesus appeared on the scene with new revelations from God, established the New Covenant, urged an apostate Israel to return to God, and brought the gift of Salvation."
He would appear before "The scepter departs from Judah"
PROPHECY: "The scepter shall not depart from Judah nor a lawgiver from between his feet until Shiloh comes..."
FULFILLMENT: "According to this passage, two signs would take place shortly after the Messiah appeared. Judah would lose its scepter/tribal identity and Jewish judicial power would be eradicated. In this verse, the word scepter is best translated into tribal staff. For centuries, each of the twelve tribes of Israel possessed their own tribal staff. This prophecy states the tribal staff, or tribal identity, of Judah would not be lost until the Messiah came. Even when Judah was deprived of its sovereignty during the Babylonian captivity, it never lost its national identity or tribal staff. The people still possessed their own laws, lawgivers, and judges."
Judah began to lose its power when Herod the Great (a Gentile) succeeded the Maccabean dynasty, the last Jewish family to reign in Jerusalem. Furthermore, the legal power of the Sanhedrin was now being limited under Roman domination. This loss of power included the ability to execute capital punishment sometime between 7 and 11 A.D. The Jews believed the Messiah would appear before Judah lost its identity but with the legal restrictions imposed on them by Rome, their power was rapidly diminishing. The question remained: where was the Messiah?
The Jews were well aware of the loss of power. The Jewish Talmud even documents the lamentations of their people with the words Woe unto us, for the scepter has been taken from Judah and the Messiah has not appeared! But the Messiah had appeared. He was Jesus, a humble Galilean teacher, traveling about the countryside.
He would appear before the destruction of the Temple
PROPHECY: "And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple." Malachi 3:1
FULFILLMENT: "The above verse ((and others mentioned in Psalms, Daniel, Haggai, and Zechariah)) gives a definite reference to the existence of the Jewish temple when the Messiah appears. This means the temple must still be standing when He comes. Of course, the Jewish temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Romans and has never been rebuilt- for almost 2,000 years!"
The book of Daniel not only speaks of the destruction of the temple, he also provides us with an exact sequence of events: "...The Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary." Daniel 9:26
According to Daniel:
The exact year of His death
PROPHECY: "Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city... Know therefore and understand this: from the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks... After sixty-two weeks the Messiah shall be cut off... And the people of the ruler who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary... Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week..." Daniel 9:24-27
FULFILLMENT: "This prophecy is known as Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy. Biblical scholars agree the interpretation of the word week represents seven years. This comes from the Hebrew word for week (shabua) which literally means seven. Seven sets of seven (49 years) added to Sixty-two sets of seven (434 years) added to one seven (7 years) gives us a total of 490 years. God reveals to Daniel 483 years would pass between the decree to rebuild Jerusalem and the Messiah's death."
Skeptic Interjection: Why does the above verse mention seven weeks and sixty-two weeks instead of sixty-nine weeks? Answer: Critics point out the fact the Masoretic Text uses punctuation between seven weeks and sixty-two weeks. However, evidence shows ancient Hebrew did not contain punctuation or vowels. Through the evolution of the language, punctuation was later added into the written texts.
Answer: We see in the second chapter of Nehemiah it was in the month of Nisan in the 20th year of King Artaxerxes when Nehemiah petitioned the king to rebuild Jerusalem. Artaxerxes agreed to issue him a letter of approval to rebuild the city. From history, we know Artaxerxes ascended the throne in 465 B.C., making 444 B.C. the 20th year of his reign.
Skeptic Interjection: There are other decrees mentioned in the Old Testament. How do we know this is the decree on which we should base our calculations?
Answer: There are three other decrees in the Book of Ezra (1:1-4, 5:3-7, 7:11-16), but the reader can see they are decrees to rebuild the Jewish temple- not the city of Jerusalem.
Skeptic Interjection: The second chapter of Nehemiah states King Artaxerxes issued Nehemiah letters of permission to accompany him on his Journey to Jerusalem. Is this the same as a decree?
Answer: We are told in Nehemiah: "...May I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so they will provide me with safe passage until I arrive in Judah? And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the king's forest so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates... The king granted my requests, so I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king's letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me." Nehemiah 2:7-9. These verses explain the written letters King Artaxerxes issued to Nehemiah providing him with safe passage and building materials. Because this was an order issued by the king himself, it is obvious this was a sovereign decree. We are even told Nehemiah was accompanied by members of the king's cavalry to ensure no one interfered with the orders.
In order to accurately calculate this prophecy, we need to understand the difference between a Biblical year and a calendar year. In the past, men have measured the years by seasons and lunar cycles consisting of 30 days each month. Today, we know the earth completes its revolution around the sun every 365.25 days. But a Biblical, or prophetic, year lasts 360 days. Although there are several verses that demonstrate this, let’s use Revelation 11:2-3 as our main example:
"...They will trample the holy city for 42 months. I will give power to my witnesses. They will prophesy for 1,260 days clothed in sackcloth."
This verse refers to the seven year tribulation and mentions two witnesses spreading the gospel for 3 1/2 years (42 months). The Bible states the 42 month period equals 1,260 days, which gives us 360 days as a prophetic year.
For a few more scriptural references see:
Skeptic Interjection: What's the point of using a Biblical year? Was God not aware of the length of a solar year?
Answer: The use of a biblical year instead of a calendar year is for our own understanding of prophetic interpretation. When we look throughout history, we can see the length of a calendar year has differed greatly (usually 300 and some odd days per year) due to the ignorance of the length of an earth/solar revolution. God was well aware of the technical length of a solar year but many ancient civilizations calculated their calendars based on lunar cycles of a 360-day year. Daniel's prophecy is based on the 360-day lunar year which offers us a standard to execute our calculations.
Our prophecy in Daniel tells us there will be 483 prophetic years between the decree to restore Jerusalem and the death of the Messiah. We now know:
Using this information, we can show how Daniel was able to precisely predict the year of the coming Messiah:
Answering Common Skeptic Questions
Could Jesus have purposely fulfilled these prophecies?
Though some of the prophecies could have been manipulated, most would be impossible to control such as His place of birth, His family lineage, and the timing of His life. No one could decide where, when, and to whom they would be born. Jesus could not force the soldiers to pierce His side nor could He control the existence of the Jewish temple or the judicial power of Judah.
Could the Disciples have fabricated these fulfillments to suit their own purposes?
Not likely, considering all of their fates: the original remaining apostles were executed as a result of their testimony (with the exception of John who was exiled to the Island of Patmos).
Let's use this analogy: Mr. X decides to invent a fantastic story in order to receive wealth and fame. The media goes hog wild and is willing to pay him for his story. But one day the government shows up at Mr. X's door, arrests him, tortures him, and threatens to kill him for his testimony. Chances are, a sane Mr. X would confess to the sham.
Scenario B: Mr. X decides to invent a fantastic story knowing he would be met with persecution, hardship, and death. Would a sane Mr. X go through with this plot? Probably not.
Scenario C: Mr. X, his family, his friends, and his coworkers all decide to invent a fantastic story knowing they would be tortured, imprisoned, and killed for their testimony. Does this seem plausible? Not remotely.
The early Christian witnesses had nothing to gain and everything to lose with their testimony- many losing their property, freedom, and even their lives. A sane person may be willing to die for something they believe to be true but no one would die for something they knew was a lie
Couldn't these prophecies fit other people as well?
It is possible some of these prophecies could have been fulfilled by others. There certainly were other Bethlehem-born Jews who lived before the destruction of the temple or who may have traveled to Galilee. But were they miracle workers? Were they said to have been born of a virgin or raised from the dead? Were they flogged, crucified, and pierced with a sword? The greater amount of prophecies mentioned, the slimmer the chance.
How do we know that these verses are Messianic prophecies?
Some prophecies appear to have nothing to do with the Messiah. For instance, the reference cited as the prophecy foretelling the slaughter of male infants by Herod:
PROPHECY: "A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted because her children are no more." Jeremiah 31:15
FULFILLMENT: "Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: 'A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted because her children are no more." Matthew 2:17-18
This certainly seems like a far-fetched reference but the meaning was understood by the Jews of the day. Ramah was a small town about five miles north of Jerusalem. Rachel was one of the Jewish matriarchs. This is believed to be a double reference to what was occurring at the time and also an allusion to the future Messiah. In the current sense, Rachel is weeping for her children (the tribe of Israel) as they are being led off into captivity. In the futuristic sense, Rachel is weeping for the babes of Judea as they are slaughtered by Herod. Many Messianic prophecies have double references. God often uses the past to reveal aspects of the future.
Another way to interpret prophecy is to look at the context of the verses in question. For instance, Psalms 100 & Psalms 101 and Isaiah 52 & Isaiah 53 contain several Messianic prophecies within their passages. If you isolate one verse you may not recognize it as Messianic prophecy but the explanation becomes clear once you consider the context. Example:
"He grew up before him like a tender shoot and like a root out of dry ground." Isaiah 53:2
At first glance, it seems the Bible is talking about plants and dirt. But when you read the context of the passage you see the entire 53rd chapter of Isaiah describes Jesus' first advent. The chapter begins with the above mentioned verse and goes on to discuss the various tribulations the Messiah would experience while on Earth.
Another indication a verse is considered a Messianic prophecy is by knowing the antiquity of the Jews. The Jews were very familiar with the prophecies- they were fervently looking and praying for their Messiah's arrival. The canonical books of the Jewish Bible were completed approximately 430 years before the birth of Jesus. The Jews had ample time to become acquainted with their scriptures and prophecies. Evidence of this can be found in the Book of Matthew. He references several Old Testament prophecies which appear meaningless to us but were understood at the time.
One man would fulfill these prophecies- prophecies that gave specific details- not vague predictions that could only bee seen in hindsight or manipulated to fit anyone. Statistically, the odds of these prophecies being fulfilled by one man would be astronomical. But one man did fulfill these prophecies. One man, born in Bethlehem. One man, born into the family line of the Hebrew patriarchs. One man, crucified by the Romans. One man. His name was Jesus Christ.