God promised the nation of Israel that he would raise up a descendant from King David who would one day establish a righteous throne forever (see 2 Samuel 7:11-16). The Hebrew word Messiah, the equivalent of the Greek Christ, actually means “Anointed One.” And it was this person who would usher in God’s eternal kingdom on earth.
More than 400 years before Jesus was born there existed over 60 major Old Testament prophecies about this coming Messiah, made over hundreds of years. This is of great historical and spiritual significance, because it is the Messiah who Isaiah prophesied would one day
remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever all insults and mocking against his land and people. The Lord has spoken! (Isaiah 25:7-8).
The Evidence of Prophecy
Of course Jesus did claim to be the “Anointed One.” But do the prophesies of the Old Testament confirm that he was actually the Messiah? The answer is yes. It’s as if God gave us a specific way to recognize who the “Anointed One” would be, through what has been called Messianic prophesies.
It seems impossible, but because of these prophecies, out of billions of people born over thousands of years we are able to pinpoint one person in history as the Messiah. It is as if God had an answer waiting for us when we asked, “How will we know who the Messiah is?” Imagine we are having a conversation with God as he uses these prophecies to pinpoint who this Messiah would be.
God begins by saying, “You will know he is the Messiah because I will cause him to be born as an Israelite, a descendent of Abraham” (Genesis 22:18; Galatians 3:16).
“But God,” we protest, “Abraham’s descendants will be many!”
“Then I will narrow it down to only half of Abraham’s lineage and make him a descendant of Isaac, not Ishmael” (Genesis 21:12; Luke 3:23-34).
“That will help, but isn’t that still an awful lot of people?”
“Let him be born from Jacob’s line, then, eliminating half of Isaac’s lineage” (Numbers 24:17; Luke 3:23-34).
“I will be more specific. Jacob will have 12 sons; I will bring forth the Messiah from the tribe of Judah” (Genesis 49:10; Luke 3:23-33).
“Won’t that still be a lot of people? Again, we may not recognize him when he comes.”
“Don’t worry! Look for him in the family line of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1; Luke 3:23-32). “And from the house and lineage of Jesse’s youngest son, David” ( Jeremiah 23:5; Luke 3:23-31). “And then I will tell you where he will be born: Bethlehem, a tiny town in the area called Judah” (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1).
“But how will we know which person born there is the Messiah?”
“He will be preceded by a messenger who will prepare the way and announce his advent” (Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:1-2). “He will begin his ministry in Galilee” (Isaiah 9:1; Matthew 4:12-17) “and will teach in parables” (Psalm 78:2; Matthew 13:34-35), “performing many miracles” (Isaiah 35:5-6; Matthew 9:35).
“Okay, that should help a lot.”
“Oh,” God responds, “I’m just getting warmed up. He will ride into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:2; Luke 19:35-37) “and will appear suddenly and forcefully at the temple courts and zealously ‘clean house’ ” (Psalm 69:9; Malachi 3:1; John 2:15-16). “Why, in one day I will fulfill no fewer than 29 specific prophecies spoken at least 500 years earlier about him! Listen to this:
- He will be betrayed by a friend (Psalm 41:9; Matthew 26:49).
- The price of his betrayal will be 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12; Matthew 26:15).
- The betrayal money will be cast to the floor of my temple (Zechariah 11:13; Matthew 27:5).
- His betrayal money will be used to buy the potter’s field (Zechariah 11:13; Matthew 27:7).
- He will be forsaken and deserted by his disciples (Zechariah 13:7; Mark 14:50).
- He will be accused by false witnesses (Psalm 35:11; Matthew 26:59-60).
- He will be silent before his accusers (Isaiah 53:7; Matthew 27:12).
- He will be wounded and bruised (Isaiah 53:5; Matthew 27:26).
- He will be hated without a cause (Psalm 69:4; John 15:25).
- He will be struck and spit on (Isaiah 50:6; Matthew 26:67).
- He will be mocked, ridiculed, and rejected (Isaiah 53:3; Matthew 27:27-31).
- He will collapse from weakness (Psalm 109:24-25; Luke 23:26).
- He will be taunted with specific words (Psalm 22:6-8; Matthew 27:39-43).
- People will shake their heads at him (Psalm 109:25; Matthew 27:39).
- People will stare at him (Psalm 22:17; Luke 23:35).
- He will be executed among ‘sinners’ (Isaiah 53:12; Matthew 27:38).
- His hands and feet will be pierced (Psalm 22:16; Luke 23:33).
- He will pray for his persecutors (Isaiah 53:12; Luke 23:34).
- His friends and family will stand far off and watch (Psalm 38:11; Luke 23:49).
- His garments will be divided up and awarded by the casting of lots (Psalm 22:18; John 19:23-24).
- He will thirst (Psalm 69:21; John 19:28).
- He will be given gall and vinegar (Psalm 69:21; Matthew 27:34).
- He will commit himself to God (Psalm 31:5; Luke 23:46).
- His bones will be left unbroken (Psalm 34:20; John 19:33).
- His heart will rupture (Psalm 22:14; John 19:34).
- His side will be pierced (Zechariah 12:10; John 19:34).
- Darkness will come over the land at midday (Amos 8:9; Matthew 27:45).
- He will be buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 27:57-60).
- He will enter Jerusalem as a king 483 years after the declaration of Artaxerxes to rebuild the temple (444 BC) (Daniel 9:24). 33
“As a final testimony, on the third day after his death, he will be raised from the dead” (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:31), “ascend to heaven” (Psalm 68:18; Acts 1:9), “and be seated at my right hand in full majesty and authority” (Psalm 110:1; Hebrews 1:3).
As you can see, God has gone to extraordinary lengths to identify his Son Jesus as the Christ—the Messiah who would give his life for us. And one day, “when he has conquered all things, the Son will present himself to God, so that God, who gave his Son authority over all things, will be utterly supreme over everything everywhere” (1 Corinthians 15:28).
We can be confident that Jesus was the Messiah prophesied in Scripture. In fact, because there are 60 major Old Testament prophecies (with about 270 additional ramifications) fulfilled in one person named Jesus, we can be more than confident. The probability that all these prophecies were fulfilled in one person just by chance is overwhelmingly small.
This chapter originally appeared in 77 FAQs About God and the Bible by Sean McDowell and Josh McDowell (2012). Used by permission from Harvest House Publishers.
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