When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”
So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” [Matthew 16:13-17]*
In this series, I am attempting to explain the related doctrines of the Deity of Christ and the Triune persons of the Godhead. In the first part, I began an examination of the prophecies which were fulfilled in the first coming of Jesus. And we left off with a brief examination of the prophetic genealogy of Jesus.
In this installment, we will continue with an examination of the Messianic prophecies. And if anyone reading this has not done so already, I recommend highlighting them in your Bibles with handwritten notes cross-referencing the Old Testament passages with their fulfillment in the New. I also recommend using a color for highlighting which is not used for any other purpose.
Another subject within the Messianic prophecies and their fulfillment concerns the timing of the Messiah’s coming. There are two Old Testament prophecies which are key here. The first prophecy is found in Genesis 49:10: The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the peoples. The Holman Christian Standard Bible has, I believe, a more accurate rendering of the text, rendering the Hebrew word “Shiloh” as “He whose right it is,” fixing the scepter and rule in a Person and not a place. Moreover, the NKJV errs here by rendering the word “people” as a singular. The Hebrew and other translations such as the NASB, HCSB, and ESV render this as a plural, signifying a rule over not just one ethnic group or nation, but a rule over all nations.
This means the Messiah had to have revealed Himself to the Jewish people before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies in 70 AD—since the scepter departed from Judah at that time.
Another prophecy concerning the timing of the Messiah’s appearance is found in Daniel 9:24-26: Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times. And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off [be put to death], but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.
The word rendered as “weeks” in this passage is literally rendered as “sevens.” According to the commentators, this refers to cycles of years, so literally this means this prophesied period involves four hundred-ninety years, broken up into three sections: forty-nine years, four hundred-thirty-four years, and seven years in duration. We know the beginning of the cycle begins with a command to rebuild the Temple—a decree issued by Artaxerxes on March 5, 444 BC, according to Nehemiah 2:1-8. It took forty-nine years before this was completed. The end of this forty-nine years also coincides with the completion of the Old Testament canon.
Now it must be remembered that when we are speaking of years, we are not speaking of solar years. The frame of reference is the Hebrew calendar, in which all months are based on a thirty-day lunar cycle and having twelve months in a year—thus in the Hebrew reckoning, all years have 360 days.
The next part of the cycle is the four hundred-thirty-four “silent years.” This time period ended on March 30, 33 AD, when Jesus entered Jerusalem, announcing by the signs which preceded His entry that He was the long-awaited Messiah.
But what of the final cycle of seven years? Daniel 9:26 prophesied the death of the Messiah at the end of the sixty-ninth week of years. The text does not say that this would occur during the seventieth week of years, therefore the text itself suggests an interruption between the sixty-ninth week of years, and the seventieth week of years. But this is a discussion for another time.
According to Psalm 2:1-2, the coming of the Messiah would be met with resistance and hostility from the unbelieving and unrepentant. We see a triple fulfillment of this prophecy: during the early childhood of Jesus [Matthew 2:16], at His death and resurrection [Acts 4:27-28], and at His second coming in glory to establish His literal reign on earth [Revelation 20:7-9].
The rage of a pretender to the throne of Israel at Jesus’ birth is not surprising. What is surprising and inhuman is the viciousness of his rejection. According to Matthew 2:16-18, the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem is the fulfillment of yet another prophecy, found in Jeremiah 31:15.
The text further informs us that some time had elapsed since the events surrounding the birth recounted in Luke 2. The Greek, being more technical than English, has three different words designating a young child. The first word, brephos, indicates either a child in the womb or a newborn infant. It is the word used in Luke 2:12. The second word, nepios, indicates one who, while older than a newborn, has not yet reached the age of having the capacity for speech—generally associated with being weaned [used in Matthew 21:16]. The word used three times is Matthew 2:8-11 is paidion, which indicates one who has just been weaned and is ready to begin education.
Since weaning usually occurred around the age of two, and was a cause for celebration in the family [Genesis 21:8], and also given the instructions in Herod’s decree to his soldiers, it is generally believed that the events recounted in Matthew 2 took place about two years after the events in Luke 2. Thus, what for most Jewish families would have been a time for celebration and rejoicing, was turned to a time of weeping and sorrow.
It was also foretold that although the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem [Micah 5:2], He would first make Himself known in the region of Galilee [Isaiah 9:1-2]. This shows the shortsightedness of the priests and rulers on the Sanhedrin. While they acknowledged the prophecy that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem [John 7:42], they either ignored or failed to account for the prophecy that His ministry would begin in Galilee.
Further, it is stated that the Messiah would be valued at thirty pieces of silver [Zechariah 11:12-13]. Presumably this was temple money and not Roman money, so the silver would have been thirty shekels. It was the price paid to a slave owner as compensation for a slave who had been gored by an oxen, in other words, the Sanhedrin viewed Jesus Christ as being as worthless as a dead slave.
Zechariah 12:10 provides a prophetic bridge between the first advent of Christ and His second advent. As his followers witnessed the Roman soldier thrusting a spear into His side, John 19:34-37, reminds us of the passage. And yet, when He returns to establish His kingdom, the eyes of every human who survived the Great Tribulation will behold Him, and they will weep. For those who became believers during that time, their tears will be mingled with joy. But for those who have rejected Him, those tears will be the bitter tears of regret and remorse, for then they will face judgment, they will have no more opportunities for repentance.
Zechariah 13:7 points that the Messiah would be deserted by His closest associates. At the moment of His arrest in the garden, every one of them fled [Matthew 26:21, 26]. But, with the exception of Judas, not one of them was lost, all were restored after His resurrection—even Simon Peter who had denied him.
The final prophecy we shall look at is found in Malachi 4:2: The sun of righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings. While the authorities missed the evidence. The common people did not. The word translated “wings” in this passage is kanash. The same word is translated as “corners” in Number 15:37-41, in which the Israelites were commanded to tie tassels to the corners of their outer garments as visible reminders of their covenant relationship with God. The garments are called tallit, and are worn by all adult Jewish males. The tassels are called tzitziyot [singular tzitzit]. The woman with the issue of blood in Matthew 9:20-21, and others [Matthew 14:36] recognized that it was not that His tzitziyot and tallit were different, but that the One who was wearing them was the prophesied “Sun of Righteousness.”
This article and part one are merely summaries of the prophecies fulfilled by Jesus Christ at His first coming. Peter Stoner in a book called Science Speaks, looks at the following prophecies:
The Messiah’s place of birth [Micah 5:2],
The Messiah being preceded by a messenger [Isaiah 40:3],
The Messiah’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem [Zechariah 9:9],
The Messiah’s betrayal by a close companion [Psalm 41:9],
The Messiah being valued as worthless [Zechariah 11:12],
The betrayal price being thrown to the potter [Zechariah 11:13],
The Messiah being rejected by His own people [Isaiah 53:3], and
The Messiah being mistreated by His own people [Psalm 22:16; see also Zechariah 12:10; Isaiah 50:6; 52:14]
Stoner calculated that the probability of one man being able to fulfill these prophecies by mere chance and circumstance was 1 in 1017 [1 in 100 quadrillion]. In order to illustrate the impossibility of this being mere chance, Stoner says this is the number of silver dollars required to cover the entire state of Texas to a depth of two feet, marking one of those silver dollars, stirring the mass thoroughly, and then telling a blindfolded person to to travel as far as he wishes and pick up one single silver dollar. That is the probability that the dollar chosen will be the marked one.
To look at it another way. Having met all these criteria, the probability is 100 quadrillion to one that Jesus of Nazareth is the prophesied Messiah, since He alone, of all humanity, has met the required prophetic criteria.
With these odds, it is no wonder that the French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal proposed what has become known as Pascal’s wager: “Which is better [safer]–for one to believe in Christ and live for Him, only to find at the end of his life that he was wrong in doing so, or to deny Christ, only to find at the end of his life that he was wrong in doing so?”
Or, as the Puritan minister Philip Henry once observed: “He is no fool who parts with that which he cannot keep, when he is sure to be recompensed with that which he cannot lose.” [Note, it is this saying, in paraphrased form, which is commonly attributed to the late missionary martyr, Jim Elliot, who expressed it as, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”]
* Unless noted otherwise, all Bible references are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.