One of the evidences of the authenticity and inspiration of the Bible is its prophecy. It not only provides an irrefutable proof for the existence of the God who inspired the prophets but also distinguishes the Bible as God’s Word out of the “sacred books” of the world’s religions. Biblical prophecies revolve around two major themes: the nation of Israel and Jesus the Messiah who came through Israel as the Saviour of all mankind. This piece will focus on the latter.
God inspired the Bible prophets to provide details about the lineage, birth, mission, death and resurrection of the Messiah and these were accurately fulfilled in Jesus. Thus, Jesus stands out as unique and without any rival out of the founders of religions (e.g Muhammad, Buddha, Confucius). Some skeptics who intend to disprove Bible prophecy propounded what I call the “Passover Plot” theory. It claims that Jesus conspired with Judas and the apostles to fulfil the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament so as to convince them He was the Messiah.
But let’s take a look at these messianic prophecies and how they were fulfilled.
1. Virgin birth. The first promise of the Messiah was given in Genesis 3:15. God foretold that there will be enmity between Satan and the Messiah which was identified as “her seed.” The phrase “her seed” points to the virgin birth which was fulfilled in Jesus. He was born of Mary alone, without Joseph’s participation (Mt. 1:16).
In Isaiah 7:14 a promise was given to the unbelieving King Ahaz: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son…” The Hebrew word rendered as “virgin” is almah which is also used for Rebekah as a virgin (Gen. 24:43), maids of the young (Ex. 2:8) virgins/unwed young women (SOS 11:3) and damsels (Ps. 68:25-26). The word almah “never refers to a maiden who has lost her virginity.” (Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, 1982, 266-68)
A writer claimed this prophecy failed because vs 16 says before Jesus reaches the age of maturity, two Jewish countries would be destroyed. This is a classic display of ignorance. After vs 14-16, Isaiah wasn’t talking about Jesus but “the boy” whom he later names as “Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz.” He was the son of Abi, the bride of King Ahaz (Is. 8:3). The prophecy said that “two kings” Ahaz dreaded “will be laid waste” and this was fulfilled about 3 years after this boy was born, when the two kings of Syria and Ephraim were killed (2 Ki. 15:30; 16:9).
2. Patriarchal Line. God’s promised Abraham that “in you all the family of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:2). This is connected with the Messiah coming from his line. The same promise was repeated to Isaac and Jacob (Gen. 17:19; 25:23). Numbers 24:17-19 says a “star will come out of Jacob; a scepter [ruler] will rise out of Israel” who will crush the enemy and have dominion. These promises were fulfilled in Jesus who came from this very lineage (Mt. 1:1).
3. The Line of Judah. Genesis 49:10 says “The sceptre will not depart from Judah … until he comes to whom it belongs.” The sceptre was still in Judah when Jesus was born, though by the time Jesus had completed His mission, it had departed as evidenced by the rabbis’ inability to exact the death penalty (Jn. 18:31).
4. The Line of David. In God’s promise to David, He included the coming of the Messiah who would have an everlasting dynasty (“house”); rule (“throne”) over people (“kingdom”), and His rule would be “eternal.” (2 Sam. 7:12-16) This promise was expanded in Psalm 89 and by prophet Isaiah that the Messiah will reign on the “throne of his father David” (Is. 9:7). Jesus fulfilled this by coming through the lineage of David (Mt. 1:6). Matthew gives a lineage of Joseph while Luke gave that of Mary, but only placed Joseph’s name in place of Mary (Lk. 3).
5. His Place of birth. Micah 5:2 predicted the birthplace of the Christ as Bethlehem, a town so small and insignificant in Judah that it was not often listed. This was the town where Jesus was born (Lk. 2:4).
The lineage, place and timing of the Jesus’ birth as foretold were obviously beyond the influence of any ordinary mortal or a “passover plot”. His birth had to occur before the sceptre departed from Judah (Gen. 49:10), while the temple was still standing (Mal. 3:1), while the genealogical records were available to prove His lineage (2 Sam. 7:12) and shortly before the temple and Jerusalem were destroyed (Dan. 9:26). These weren’t mere coincidences or chances.
There was a narrow time range within which the Messiah had to come – and He did. Jesus’ coming followed a divinely arranged time-table. “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman [i.e virgin born]…” (Gal. 4:4).
6. His forerunner. Isaiah predicted that the Messiah would have a forerunner who will call men to repentance and “prepare the way for the Lord” (Is. 40:3). Prophet Malachi calls this forerunner a “messenger who will prepare the way before” the Messiah (Mal. 3:1). This messenger was John the Baptist who prepared the way before Jesus (Jn. 1:23, Mk. 1:2-3).
7. His mission. Isaiah says that “The Spirit of the Lord God” will come upon the Christ to empower and anoint Him to preach the gospel and release those in spiritual bondage (Is. 61:1). The Spirit of God came on Jesus and anointed Him (Jn. 1:32). God promised to “honor the Galilee of the Gentiles” and show them His light. In fulfilment Christ settled in Nazareth – in the midst of the Gentiles – a Roman province (Is. 9:1-2; Mt. 4:15-16).
8. His life. In Isaiah 7:14, the coming Messiah was called Immanuel meaning “God with us.” This was fulfilled in Jesus’ life and ministry. The name sums up the words and works of God which Christ acutely demonstrated. Thus, God’s people could testify: “God has come to help his people.” (Lk. 7:16)
9. His ministry. Isaiah speaks of the Lord’s coming when “the eyes of the blind” will open “and the ears of the deaf unstopped” (Is. 35:5) along with the promises of “freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (61:1-2) from the Lord’s anointed. This fits in perfectly with Jesus’ earthly ministry in opening the eyes of the blind, opening the ears of the deaf, expeling demons, raising the dead, healing the lame and preaching the gospel to the people (Mt. 11:5-6). Isaiah 42:2-4 predicted that the Messiah would not be warlike or contentious, but kind and compassionate. This is said of Jesus (Mt. 12:19-21).
10. His teaching. Prophet David predicted One who will “open [his] mouth in parables…[and] utter hidden things, things from of old” (Ps. 78:2). In the same way, Jesus “spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable” (Mt. 13:34-35).
11. His presentation. Prophet Zechariah predicted that the King of Israel who is “righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding a donkey” will enter into Jerusalem (Zech. 9:9). This was fulfilled at the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem (Lk 19:37). This flies in the face of the “passover theory” as a Bible teacher noted:
“Where did Jesus get the money to pay off the multitude that lined the road into Jerusalem and hailed Him as the Messiah when He rode in on a donkey – the last beast one would expect a triumphant king to choose – precisely as foretold in Zechariah 9:9? It was Nisan 10 (April 6), A.D. 32, the very day the prophets had declared that this amazing event would occur – 483 years to the day (69 weeks of years as Daniel 9:25 foretold it) after Nehemiah … had received received (on Nisan 1, 455 B.C.) authority to rebuild Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:1)!” (Dave Hunt, A Woman Rides the Beast, 1994, 32).
12. His rejection. David likens the Messiah’s rejection by the Jewish people to “the stone the builders rejected” (Ps. 118:22). This was precisely what happened to Jesus (Matt. 21:42). It was also predicted that the Messiah would be forsaken by all His friends at a crucial moment (Zech. 13:7). This was fulfilled also. (Matt. 26:31).
13. His betrayal. David in a double reference, foretold treachery of a close associate of the Messiah, “he who shared my bread has lifted up his heel against me” (Ps. 41:9). This happened as foretold (Jn. 13:18, 21-30). Prophet Zechariah predicted “thirty pieces of silver” which will be thrown “into the house of the LORD to the potter” (11:12-13) This was fulfilled when Judas betrayed Jesus with 30 pieces of silver which he used to buy a potter’s field and finally threw down at the feet of the rabbis at the temple (Mat. 26:14-16). Did Jesus make a “passover plot” with the rabbis to pay Judas that exact amount?
Isaiah foretold how Christ will be “oppressed and afflicted yet he [will] not open his mouth” (Is. 53:7). In the same vein, Jesus didn’t defend Himself before His accusers (Mt. 26:62-63; 27:12-14; Lk. 23:8-10). The only time He spoke was when He was with Pilate in private (Jn. 18:36). This has to be pointed out because some misinformed critics have attempted to find contradictions here whereas there are none.
14. His suffering and death. Isaiah predicted the Messiah’s suffering and disfigurement by scourgings. This was meted out on Jesus (Is. 52:14; Jn. 19:1). In Psalm 22:6, David describes in actual words how the Messiah would be insulted and it came to pass as foretold (Mt. 27:39, 43). Vs 16, says that His hands and feet would be pierced. This was an apt description of the Roman crucifixion centuries before this means of execution became known. God in His foreknowledge knew Jesus wouldn’t die by stoning (the Jewish execution) because the rabbis had lost the power to exact the death penalty by 7 A.D. (Jn. 18:31).
This is why the “passover plot” theory is false. It would have been ludicrous for Jesus to get Himself killed in order to convince a small band of inept followers that He was the Messiah. The Jews (even His disciples) had expected the Messiah to be victorious and deliver them from the Roman oppression, so Jesus’ death could only have meant that He wasn’t the Messiah.
The prophecies about Christ’s death (e.g Ps. 22:16, Is. 53:5-8) were avoided by the Jews because the same Messiah is also predicted to “extend [His] mighty sceptre from Zion” and “reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom” (Ps. 110: 2; Is. 9:7). How can He suffer and die and then reign as king? The Jewish interpreters decided to reject what didn’t fit into their mindset. But this is no contradiction because: the promised Messiah had to come twice. First, to die for man’s sins and second, to reign as King. Yet some Jews today are still awaiting the first coming of the Messiah!
David’s prophecy speaks of His bones which would be kept intact (Ps. 22:17; 34:20). Even though this wasn’t the normal custom, Jesus’ bones were kept intact (Jn. 19:33-36). Psalm 22:18 says that soldiers would gamble for Christ’s clothes and it came to pass (Jn. 19:24). How could Jesus had known which soldiers would be on duty so as to bribe them to do this? Did He also arrange with them to offer Him vinegar and gall at the cross? (Ps. 69:21) The prayer Jesus prayed in Matthew 26:39 was prophesied in Psalm 22:24.
15. His burial. Jesus was buried in a rich tomb as it was predicted of the Messiah (Is. 59:3; Mt. 27:57-60). Did He also arrange where He should be buried?
16. His resurrection. Psalms 16:10 predicts the Messiah’s bodily resurrection before seeing decay and this happened as foretold (Acts 2:24-27, 31). Had the Romans soldiers allowed the disciples to secretly steal His body, they would have been on those crosses the next day for breaking a tomb with the Roman seal. The only logical explanation of the empty tomb is that Jesus rose from the dead.
17. His ascension. Psalm 68:18 predicts the end of Jesus’ earthly life. His exaltation to God’s right hand was also predicted in Ps. 110:1. This was fulfilled (Acts 7:56, Eph. 4:8).
18. His Reign. David describes Christ’s millenial reign as King in Jerusalem over the nations of the world (24:7-10). Isaiah describes Him as the Son whose governmental rule will be a reign of justice over the restored Israel and the world (9:6-7; 11:5-16) along with the great blessings of this reign (Is. 35:1-10). Zechariah also predicts the destruction of Israel’s enemies and Christ’s rule over all the nations at His second coming (Zec. 14:9-12).
The fulfilment of these prophecies proves beyond a doubt that Jesus is the Messiah and Saviour of the world. This gives us a strong confidence in the one True God and His infallible Word – the Bible.