In many cultures, there is celebration and anticipation when a mother announces she is pregnant. There are plans and preparations made, showers and parties to attend, progress to monitor as the day approaches. In some ways, God did the same thing between Adam and Eve’s sinful fall and the stable in Bethlehem. Sprinkled among the pages of the Old Testament – from Genesis to Malachi – are God’s announcements of the coming Messiah, The Christ.
Depending on the parameter’s scholars identify 200 to 400 prophecies concerning the Messiah. Some have a vague quality, such as the Messiah being a descendant of Abraham (Genesis 22:18). Others are startling in their precision. Consider these lines from Psalm 22 written a thousand years before the Crucifixion of Christ. “For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me; They pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me; They divide my garments among them, And for my clothing they cast lots.” (Psalm 22:16–18, NASB95) Matthew records, “And when they had crucified Him, they divided up His garments among themselves by casting lots.” (Matthew 27:35, NASB95) That is just one example of many.
Space does not allow a full review of these fulfilled prophecies. In a mathematical probability study, it was determined that the odds against one person fulfilling eight of the more specific prophecies was 1 in 10 to the 21st power (think 21 zeros following a number). The study illustrated this probability as if the entire surface of the earth blanketed with 120 feet of silver dollars, randomly marking and burying one of those coins, and a blindfolded person randomly selecting it.
That hope for God’s Messiah fueled and sustained Judaism much like the hope for Jesus’ second coming sustains Christians. Jewish scholars of that day knew well the prophecies concerning the Messiah although their hopes and worries colored their interpretation and expectation. Even Jesus’ own disciples, recognized Him as the Messiah but expected an earthly kingdom and the return of Israel’s glory days. But God had larger plans. Isaiah prophesied, “He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations (non-Jewish; Gentiles) So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.’“ (Isaiah 49:6, NASB95)
This stands as a warning to be cautious concerning the prophecies of Christ’s return. Jewish scholars of Jesus day knew well the Messianic prophecies and missed seeing their fulfillment along with God’s ultimate purpose. Some of us become so consumed with end-times prophecies they fail to engage with God’s desires for the here and now.
A quick side note: It may seem to new readers of the Bible that Jesus’ title as the Messiah has disappeared. But that is not the case. As the Gospel spread to the Gentile world the word “Christ”, a Greek word with the same meaning as messiah, came into predominate use. Saying Christ Jesus is the same saying as Jesus the Messiah.
Understanding how Jesus fulfilled the ancient prophecies is a faith builder. It is more than a proof for faith but also assurance that God will fulfill His promises in the tests of faith we encounter every day. The one sure thing is that God will keep His promises, but He will do so in His own way, timing, and purposes. Trusting God is what faith is all about.
If you are interested in discovering more here is a short list compiled by Sheri Bell at Josh McDowell Ministry. (https://www.josh.org/jesus-fulfill-prophesy/)
His Nativity and Early Years
The fact: Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 7:14; Jeremiah 31:22
The place: Numbers 24:17, 19; Micah 5:2
Adoration by Magi: Psalm 72:10, 15; Isaiah 60: 3, 6
His Mission and Office
Mission: Genesis 12:3; 49:10; Numbers 24:19; Deuteronomy 18:18-19; Psalm 21:1; Isaiah 59:20; Jeremiah 33:16
Prophet like Moses: Deuteronomy 18:15
Conversion of Gentiles: Isaiah 11:10; Deuteronomy 32:43; Psalms 18:49; 19:4; 117:1; Isaiah 42:1; 45:23; 49:6; Hosea 1:10; 2:23; Joel 2:32
Ministry in Galilee: Isaiah 9:1-2
Preaching: Psalms 2:7; 78:2; Isaiah 2:3; 61:1; Micah 4:2
Rejection by Jews and Gentiles: Psalms 2:1; 22:12; 41:5; 56:5; 69:8; 118:22-23; Isaiah 6:9-10; 8:14; 29:13; 53:1; 65:2
Persecution: Psalms 22:6; 35:7, 12; 56:5; 71:10; 109:2; Isaiah 49:7; 53:3
Triumphal entry: Psalms 8:2; 118:25-26; Zechariah 9:9
Betrayal by friend: Psalms 41:9; 55:13; Zechariah 13:6
False accusation: Psalms 2:1-2; 27:12; 35:11; 109:2
Silence under accusation: Psalm 38:13; Isaiah 53:7
Mocking: Psalms 22:7-8, 16; 109:25
Psalms 2:7; 16:8-10; 30:3; 41:10; 118:17
Psalms 16:11; 24:7; 68:18; 110:1; 118:19
His Second Advent
Psalm 50:3-6; Isaiah 9:6-7; 66:18; Daniel 7:13-14; Zechariah 12:10; 14:4-8
His Universal, Everlasting Dominion
1 Chronicles 17:11-14; Psalms 2:6-8; 8:6; 45:6; 7; 72:8; 110:1-3; Isaiah 9:7; Daniel 7:14