Marco is a lay preacher of an Evangelical Church (Brethren Assemblies) in Northern Italy with a keen interest in Apologetics.
The Old Testament contains over 400 messianic prophecies. While some of these sayings are straightforward predictions and others more veiled, they all marvelously find their focus in Jesus Christ. Pronouncements made by men of God of diverse backgrounds living centuries apart wondrously converge and are fulfilled in the prophet from Nazareth.
While historical criticism denies a priori the existence of real prophecy, textual evidence suggests otherwise: in fact, all the messianic prophecies far predate the lifetime of Jesus.
Starting with the early promise in the book of Genesis that the seed of the woman (Eve) will one day crush the seed of the serpent, the canonical Jewish writings abound with hints about the messiah.
This is a selection of 10 crucial messianic prophecies that have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The sayings are listed in the order as found in the Sacred Scriptures; citations are from the ESV (English Standard Version).
1. A Prophet Like Moses
“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers -it is to him you shall listen-” (Deuteronomy 18:15)
In Old Testament times there had been no prophet like Moses whom the Lord knew face to face. Moses had been God's chosen instrument to deliver the Israelites out of Egypt and then reveal His law at Mount Sinai.
Moses lived and wrote somewhere around the 13th century BCE In the law that bears his name, he had spoken about a great prophet like him that would one day come whom the Israelites should follow. A prophecy that clearly pointed to the Messiah. When the apostle Peter preached the gospel in the early first century he explains how precisely this prophecy has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Acts of the Apostles 3:22).
2. Hope Beyond the Grave
“Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.” (Psalm 16:9-10)
For the believer life is not supposed to end with the death of the body. In this Psalm David affirms his steadfast hope to experience fullness of joy near to God, even beyond the tomb.
Later on, in light of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the apostles Peter (Acts 2:25-28) and Paul (Acts 13:35) fittingly apply this passage to him, the holy one par excellence, whose resurrection from the grave is the first step in bringing this hope to fruition.
3. Lament of an Innocent Sufferer
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1)
Jesus famously cried the opening words of this psalm from the cross (Matthew 27:46), as he is the example par excellence of the innocent sufferer.
Further details described in this lament psalm are fulfilled in Jesus life: the dividing of his garments and casting lots for them (cf. Psalm 22:18 with Matthew 27:35) and those mocking Jesus and wagging their heads while seeing him on the cross (cf. Psalm 22:7 with Matthew 27:39).
4. Not One of His Bones Is Broken
“He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.” (Psalm 34:20)
A psalm of David about the deliverance of those who seek the Lord. The line stating that not even his bones will be broken finds its literal fulfillment in Jesus: On the day of his crucifixion the Jews asked Pontius Pilate that the legs of those crucified might be broken that they might be taken away (since it was the day of preparation of the sabbath). Yet when the soldiers came to Jesus they saw that he was already dead and therefore did not brake his legs (John 19:36).
Jesus is, of course, also the ultimate Passover lamb. The Passover feast had been instituted at the time of the exodus and its statute established that none of the lamb's bones should be broken (Exodus 12:46). Both what is written in Exodus and in the Psalms is fulfilled in the life of the Messiah.
5. Born of a Virgin
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name *Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) [*Immanuel means God is with us]
The virgin birth is unique to Christianity. In the original context the prophecy was given by the Lord in response to the failure of unholy King Ahaz to demand a sign.
When some seven centuries on a certain Joseph in the town of Nazareth learns that his fiancé Maria is unexpectedly pregnant, an angel of the Lord has to intervene to stop him from leaving her.
As the evangelist Matthew explains in the opening chapter of his gospel, the miraculous working that has happened is the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy. Jesus Christ, both fully man and fully God, has entered the world born of a woman and conceived by the Holy Spirit.
6. The Suffering Servant
“But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
Chapter 53 of the book of Isaiah foreshadows the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in such detail that liberal scholars were convinced it could have been written only after the events had already occurred.
Then in 1947 Palestinian shepherds, while searching their flock, by chance discovered what came to be known as the Dead Sea Scrolls of Qumran. Among the findings was also a scroll with the entire book of Isaiah dating back to early 2nd century BCE, containing the precise words found in our modern Bibles.
The manuscript that came to be known as the Great Isaiah Scroll today is preserved at the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem and can even be viewed online:
- The Great Isaiah Scroll
The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls have had dramatic implications for the study of Jewish history, providing scholars with a large and diverse (mostly religious) literary corpus from the Hellenistic-Roman Period.
7. The Great Shepherd-King
“And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the LORD, I have spoken.” (Ezekiel 34:23-24)
The rise of the monarchy in Israel is closely associated with king David, the shrewd young shepherd who had defeated the towering Philistine enemy Goliath. By the time Ezekiel prophesied in the 6th century BCE. David, the son of Jesse, had long been in his grave, yet Ezekiel announced the coming of the LORD's servant David. This in Israel built up the collective expectation of a son of David yet to come. When a couple of centuries on Jesus wandered through Palestine he was hailed as the Son of David. Jesus is indeed the greater king David and the truly Good Shepherd (cf. The Gospel of John chapter 10).
8. The Son Called Out of Egypt
“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” (Hosea 11:1)
The prophet Hosea notably uses the metaphor of husband and wife to describe the relationship of God and his unfaithful people Israel. Yet in assessing Israel's history he also employs the metaphor of father and son. This dates back to the Exodus when Pharaoh was told to let God's firstborn son, Israel, go. (cf. Exodus 4:22-23).
Reading the passage of Hosea in context verse 11:1 is not easily recognizable as a prophecy (Hosea simply seems to reflect upon Israel's history). Yet when centuries on, after Herod's death, Joseph and Mary (including Jesus) return from Egypt, the evangelist Matthew refers to precisely this scripture to prove that Jesus is the true Son of God, called out of Egypt, as had previously happened to God's firstborn son Israel (Matt. 2:15).
9. Born in Bethlehem
“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” (Micah 5:2)
This prophecy is about the precise location from which the Messiah would come. When Herod the king inquired of the chief priests and scribes where the Christ was to come from, he was told of Bethlehem because of this prophecy (Matthew 2:3-6).
For Micah, who wrote during the 7th century BCE, Bethlehem was a natural choice: God had promised king David that He would establish the throne of his kingdom forever through his offspring (2 Sam 7:12-13). As David's family was from Bethlehem, the tiny town from Judea was an obvious fit.
Centuries on, by divine providence, it is through a Roman census that Joseph and Mary move from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem in Judea, where Jesus Christ the Messiah is born and an ancient prophecy fulfilled (Luke 2:1-5).
10. Mounted On a Donkey
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9)
The standard military mount of kings was the horse. Yet Israel's king is unlike the kings of other nations: Israel's king is righteous and humble. Being the king of peace, upon his triumphal entry into Jerusalem Jesus is mounted on a donkey, thereby fulfilling Zechariah's ancient prophecy (Matthew 21:5; John 12:15).
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Marco Pompili