01 Mar Jesus in the Old Testament, Part 3: Prophecies
This is the third part in a series on how the Bible is all about Jesus.
Wouldn’t it be great to know the future?
From investments, to sports competitions, to whom you’re going to marry and how long you’re going to live, much of life is dedicated to determining what the future holds. The truth is we don’t know the future because we’re not God. But God does know (Exod. 29:29). As God writes the Scriptures, he also reveals the future, and he, through prophecy, tells us exactly how Jesus will come.
What Are Prophecies? Why Are They Important?
Prophecy shows us that God is omniscient in that he knows all things. He’s sovereign in that he rules all things. At the time of its writing, roughly 25 percent of the Bible was prophetic in nature. This means that God, through human authors, by the power of the Holy Spirit, revealed future events in meticulous detail. And, since he knows and rules over the future, he can bring to pass what he foretold or promised.
The fulfillment of prophecies makes Christianity different than other religions, and the recording of these prophecies in Scripture makes the Bible altogether unique. Since there are so many prophecies that can be discussed, time doesn’t allow me to cover them all, but I would like to visit some of what I find to be the most compelling prophecies for two reasons.
First, for those of you who are not Christians, I want you to consider Jesus. I want you to read the book that God wrote, and I pray that you’d see that it’s all about Jesus. I want you to wrestle with the fact that, if God didn’t write this book, how can you account for the magnificent detail around prophecy we will look at in a moment?
Second, for those of you who are Christians, I want you to trust that this is the book that God wrote, and I want you to see that it’s superior to and unlike anything else that has ever been written or taught in the history of the world. Since this is the book that God wrote, it has authority over everyone and everything else.
What Prophecy Tells Us
- Jesus Would Be Born without an Earthly Father to Defeat Satan
After our first parents’ sin some four thousand years before Jesus is even born of the Virgin Mary, God gave us the first prophecy regarding Jesus in Genesis 3:15, which begins with God saying, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
God comes and says, “Sin has now come into human history. I will send a Savior for sinners.” He, a male child, will be born of a woman. This is the first intimation at a virgin birth. This passage says that the foretold male child would come and battle Satan and that Satan would harm and wound him, but the child ultimately would defeat and crush Satan. From that moment forward there was an expectation that a woman would give birth to a son who would be the Savior of the world.
- Jesus Will Come from the Lineage of Abraham
Continuing the storyline of the Bible, in Genesis 17, penned some two thousand years before Jesus was born, God shows up to an obscure man at that time but a famous man in our time, a man named Abraham. And this is one of the many things that God said to him in Genesis 17:19: “Sarah your wife shall bear you a son. You shall call his name Isaac.” He goes on to say, “I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.
God is basically saying, “Jesus is coming and, Abraham, he’s coming through your line. He’s going to be your descendant. And he’s not coming from your girlfriend. He’s coming from your wife” (cf. Gal. 3:16).
Abraham and Sarah waited for God to provide this son. Many years had passed, and they still were unable to become pregnant. After waiting for such a long time, Sarah cooks up this horrible idea for Abraham to, in essence, commit adultery by sleeping with her female Egyptian servant named Hagar. Well, it didn’t take long. Hagar became pregnant and gave birth to a son named Ishmael (Gen. 16:4, 15).
God loved the other woman and her son, but he said, “It will be through Sarah, not the other woman, your son Isaac, not the other boy, that Jesus ultimately will come.” So we’re looking for one born of a woman without an earthly father from the line of Abraham, through Sarah, who is a descendant of Isaac.
God was paving the road by telling us how Jesus would come.
- Jesus Would Be Born from a Virgin
Written roughly seven hundred years before Jesus was born, God said in Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
This prophecy narrows down God’s prior promises. This woman is going to give birth to a son. Her son will be given the name Immanuel, which means, “God is with us.” God is coming to be with us. You’ll know it’s him when the virgin gets pregnant.
- Where Jesus Would Be Born
We read in Micah 5:2, written nearly seven hundred years before Jesus, “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 origin is from old, from ancient days.”
From the city of Bethlehem a king is coming who is to be the ruler in Israel. This king will be unlike all other kings that have ever lived. He is “from of old, from ancient days,” which simply means from eternity.
Hundreds of years later, Mary, a virgin, conceived by a miracle of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:18), and gives birth to Jesus in Bethlehem.
Here’s the interesting part: before Jesus was born, a godless political leader who was in it for the money and the power says, “I want a census taken. I want to know who all my people are so I can get all my tax revenue. So everybody needs to go to their hometown of origin, where their family is from” (Luke 2:1–7). In the providence of God, Jesus’ adoptive father, Joseph, is a long descendant of King David, who came from the town of Bethlehem. So they have to go to the city of Bethlehem to register for the census even though they live in Nazareth, which is a long way from Bethlehem.
Mary, being very pregnant at this time, gives birth to Jesus in Bethlehem. They didn’t live there. They were visiting there. Why? Simple: this is the book that God wrote and it’s all about Jesus—all the way down to where he would be born.
- When Jesus Would Be Born
God tells us when Jesus would be born. Four hundred years before his birth, we read in Malachi 3:1, “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.”
A messenger is coming. This isn’t some cloaked individual. You’ll know it’s him. He’s going to prepare the way. Who was the messenger that prepared the way?John the Baptizer, Jesus’ homeschooled cousin. He lived in the woods. He was a strange kid with a strange diet of bugs and honey. This messenger prepares the way for the coming of Jesus (Matt. 3:1–6; John 1:6–7)
- What Jesus Would Do on Earth
Prophecy reveals what Jesus would do while he physically lived on earth. It provides us with a little bit of his resume and job description. What exactly was this promised Son, born without an earthly father in Bethlehem do?
In Isaiah 35:5–6 we read, “The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.” How will you know it’s him? Well, mute people will sing. Deaf people will hear. Blind people will see, and handicapped people will run. Make a note to self, when you see these things happening, this is the one we’ve been waiting for. Jesus is that one. He did all of this (Matt. 11:4).
- Jesus Would Be Betrayed
The Old Testament tells us that Jesus would be betrayed and that the bounty on his head would be no less than 30 pieces of silver, not a penny more or less. This was foretold five hundred years before Jesus was born on the earth. We read from Zechariah, “And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver. Then the LORD said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter’ —the lordly price at which I was priced by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD, to the potter” (Zech. 11:12–13).
Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus for how much? Thirty pieces of silver, and then in disgust, threw it “to the potter,” that portion of the temple that no longer exists today, but did up until AD 70 (Matt. 26:15; 27:3–10).
- How Jesus Would Die
One thousand years before Jesus was even born, it was prophesied in Psalm 22:16 how he would be crucified. We read, “For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet.”
Jesus was crucified through his hands and feet. Not only did the Psalmist predict the crucifixion of Jesus one thousand years before he was even born, he also predicted his crucifixion hundreds of years before crucifixion even existed.
- Jesus Would Rise from Death
Finally, but not conclusively, through prophecy we learn that Jesus would rise from death. From Psalm 16:10, we read: “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.” Preaching his first sermon after Jesus ascended into heaven, Peter connected what was written in this Psalm with the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 2:27, 29–31). Not only did Peter make this connection, so too did Paul some years later (Acts 13:35–37).
I know that some of you will say, “This is unbelievable. I don’t think this is the book that God wrote.” My question to you is this, “Then who wrote it? Who wrote this? Who knew the future?”
Multiple authors spanning hundreds and thousands of years in painstaking detail tell us how Jesus would come, what would happen to him, and what would be accomplished through him. For those who would doubt the Bible’s accuracy in predicting the future and Jesus, the burden of proof is on you.