Jesus in Prophecy
Jesus In Prophecy
Jesus, as well as His apostles, often appealed to the Messianic Prophecies in the Old Testament to confirm the fact that He was indeed the Messiah. In fact, Jesus believed that there was such an obvious harmony between what the Old Testament had plainly said about the Messiah and what had happened in His own life, that people who failed to put the two together found themselves rebuked (Luke 24:25-27). What the Scriptures had predicted concerning the Messiah is a line of evidence often used by Jesus and the apostles (Luke 24:44; John 5:39,40,46,47; Matthew 21:42; Luke 4:20-21; 22:37; John 15:25; Acts 3:18; 10:43; 13:29; 17:2-3 “And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ’”).
Before, Not After, The Fact
Some might think, “Well, maybe all those prophecies in the Old Testament were written after Jesus lived”. The facts of the case are that the entire Old Testament had been translated from Hebrew into Greek during the reign of Ptolemy Philadephus (285-246 B.C.). “It is rather obvious that if you have a Greek translation initiated in 250 B.C., then you had to have the Hebrew text from which it was written. This will suffice to indicate that there was at least a 250-year gap between the prophecies being written down and their fulfillment in the person of Christ” (Evidence That Demands A Verdict, McDowell, p. 144).
The Variety Of The Prophecies
Various writers have noted that the Old Testament contains over 300 references to the Messiah that were fulfilled in Jesus. Henry Liddon is credited with the statement that there are 332 prophecies fulfilled in Christ. The mathematical probability that all of these could be fulfilled in one person by sheer chance alone has been calculated at one in 84 (followed by 123 zeros). In addition, such prophecies cover all sorts of different aspects of His life and they are not vague, but give a tremendous amount of detail:
His Divine Nature: Psalm 110:1 David’s Lord
Isaiah 9:6 “His name will be called…Mighty God”
Micah 5:2 His goings forth from the days of eternity
His Birth: Isaiah 7:14 Born of a virgin
Micah 5:2 In Bethlehem
His Ancestry: Genesis 18:18 Seed of Abraham
Genesis 49:10 From the tribe of Judah
Isaiah 11:1 From the family of Jesse
Psalm 132:11 The descendant of David
Events in His Life: Hosea 11:1 Trip in Egypt
Malachi 3:1; 4:5 Preceeded by a forerunner
Zechariah 9:9 Entry into Jerusalem on a young donkey
His Death: Psalm 41:9 Betrayed by a friend
Zechariah 11:11-12 For 30 pieces of silver
Zechariah 11:11-13 Money used to by the Potter’s field
Psalm 109:7-8 Betrayers office taken by another
Isaiah 53:7 Silent when accused
Zechariah 13:7 Deserted by His disciples
Isaiah 50:6 Smitten, spat upon
Psalm 22:6-8 Mocked, insulted
Psalm 22:18 Stripped of His clothing
Psalm 22:16 Hands and feet pierced
Psalm 69:21 Given gall and vinegar
Psalm 22:18 Cast lots for His garments
Zechariah 12:10 His side pierced
Psalm 34:20 No bones broken
Isaiah 53:9 Buried with the rich
Some have argued that Jesus was simply a mere man who set out to deliberately path His life after the prophecies recorded in the Old Testament. The problem with this view is that many of the prophecies concerning the Messiah are totally beyond the human control of a mere man, such as the place of His birth, manner of His birth (born of a virgin), betrayal, manner of His death, the people’s reactions when He was upon the cross, the timing of His death, His piercing, and the place of His burial, not to mention His resurrection (Psalm 16:8-11). In addition, such a view presents the incredible position that the person who best understood the Old Testament teaching concerning the Messiah was an imposter with impure motives. Consider for a moment the prophecy concerning the place of His birth. Micah 5:2=Matthew 2:1-6. In the first place an imposter would have no control over the place of his birth. This is also an example of the minute details that characterize some of the prophecies, for two Bethlehem's existed, one in the territory of Zebulun (Joshua 19:15), the other in Judea, Bethlehem Ephrath. This town was so small and insignificant that it is twice omitted from a catalog of towns in Judah (Joshua 15; Nehemiah 11:25ff). It is simply called a “village” (John 7:42). Of all the cities in the World, the Messiah could be born in only one small village.
The Rapid Succession Of The Prophecies
There are at least 15 prophecies that were fulfilled in one 24-hour period surrounding the death of Christ. Again ask yourself, how much control does a person have over the events surrounding their death, and after their death? In addition, the prophecies virtually detail just about every significant happening that surrounded His death.
Sold for 30 pieces of silver (Zech. 11:12; Matt. 26:14-15).
The money to be cast to the potter (Zech. 11:13; Matt. 27:3-10).
The disciples to forsake Him (Zech. 13:7; Matt. 26:56, Mark 14:27).
He was silent before His accusers (Isa. 53:7; Matt. 27:12-14).
He was wounded and bruised (Isa. 53:5; Matt. 27:12-14).
His hands and feet to be pierced (Psa. 22:16; Luke 23:33; John 20:25-27).
He was crucified with thieves (Isa. 53:12; Mark 15:27-28).
He was to pray for His persecutors (Isa. 53:12; Luke 23:34).
The people were to shake their heads at Him (Psa. 22:7; Mt. 27:39).
The people were to ridicule Him (Psa. 22:17; Luke 23:35).
His garments to be parted and lots cast (Psa. 22:18; John 19:24).
His cry from the cross (Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46).
His bones were not to be broken (Psa. 34:20; John 19:33,36). We should note that at the time this prophecy was given the method of execution was stoning (which would break the bones). The Persians introduced crucifixion.
His side pierced (Zech. 12:10; John 19:34-37).
Buried in a rich man's tomb (Isa. 53:9; Matt. 27:57-60).
The Narrow Window Given For Fulfillment
The Old Testament predicated that the Messiah would die and die by a method that would not break any bones (thus ruling out stoning) (Psalm 34:20); and one that would pierce both the hands and the feet (Psalm 22:16). During the Old Testament period, there is no evidence that the Jews fastened people to a stake or a cross as a means of execution. The Law directed death by stoning (Leviticus 20:2; Deut. 22:24), but the Law did permit the public display (or “hanging”) of a lawbreaker’s body “on a tree”(Deut. 21:22). The Assyrians executed captured enemies by forcing their bodies down onto pointed stakes. This was not crucifixion, but impalement, and neither did it pierce the hands and the feet. The classical Greek historians Herodotus and Thucydides refer to the stake or cross as a method of execution during the time of the Persians, but it is not clear whether the victim was tied or nailed to the wood or impaled. From the early days of the Roman Republic, death on the cross was used for rebellious slaves and bandits. Plautus (ca. 250-184 B.C.), the first writer to describe Roman crucifixions, considers slaves to have been crucified “from time immemorial”. In 313 A.D., the Emperor Constantine outlawed this method of execution. In Daniel 2:44, the point is clearly made that the Messianic kingdom would be established during the reign of the kings who ruled the fourth major world empire that followed the Babylonian Empire. History confirms this to be the Roman Empire. Thus, the Messiah had to come during the days of the Roman Caesars and during a time when crucifixion was practiced and still lawful. Depending on the historian consulted, the “window” for the fulfillment of such prophecies is around 400-300 years. In addition, since 313 A.D. that window has closed. With the end of the Roman Empire, the window for the fulfillment of Daniel 2:44 would likewise close.
The Messiah would be the seed of Abraham (Genesis 12:3); Isaac (Genesis 17:19); Jacob (Numbers 24:17); from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10); from the family of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1), and a direct descendant of King David (Psalm 132:11). Jesus fulfilled all these requirements (Matthew 1:2ff; Luke 3:33-34). In A.D. 70 the Romans captured and destroyed the city of Jerusalem, including the temple and the temple records. These records contained all the genealogies for all the Jewish people. With the end of these records, no Jewish man or woman can establish or prove his or her specific ancestral tree. Thus, the Messiah had to come prior to A.D. 70. For all practical purposes the Messiah had to come when the Roman Empire was firmly established as a world empire and prior to A.D. 70. From the fact that the last book of the Old Testament was not written until around 400 B.C., we then must conclude that the window of time in which the Messiah could come is basically some time after 400 B.C. until 70 A.D.
We need to be impressed that if Jesus of Nazareth is not the Messiah, then there is no Messiah, seeing that the window of opportunity for the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies has passed. The days of the Roman Empire are past, crucifixion is no longer a form of punishment, and the Jewish genealogies have long be destroyed. In addition, if there is no Messiah, then the entire Old Testament is nothing more than a book of false predictions. Even the Old Testament itself proclaims that any prophecy that fails to be fulfilled is the mark of a false prophet (Deuteronomy 18:22). The validity of Jesus’ life and claims, and the validity of everything taught in both the Old and New Testaments stand and fall together.
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/503-644-9017