In Part 1 of this reason for believing in Jesus Christ, we saw that many people during the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry expected a literal fulfillment of prophecy about the age to come and about Messiah. Many of the religious leadership and common folk alike anticipated the bodily return of Elijah and Moses in anticipation of a new era under the reign of a personal Messiah. Many believed that the prophecies regarding Elijah, Moses, and Messiah could well happen within their lifetime.
Part 1, also, briefly addressed the fulfillment of prophecy regarding yet future events. The point was made that one way to determine the certainty of future prophetic fulfillment is to examine whether past prophecies were fulfilled as promised, and in what fashion.
Tanakh (Old Testament) Prophecies about Messiah
Many of you are, without a doubt, familiar with a number of Old Testament predictions about the Messiah that were literally fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Let’s review a few of these.
- Genesis 3:15 may well be the earliest reference to man’s deliverance from the curse of sin through the work of a Messiah. In that verse, God speaks to the serpent that had deceived Eve and declares, “And I will put hostility between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring; her offspring will attack your head, and you will attack her offspring’s heel.” In the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, Satan indeed did attack Jesus, yet Jesus prevailed and has won the victory over Satan. Hebrews 2:14-15 says that Jesus destroyed the one who holds the power of death (that is, the devil).
- The book of Isaiah is replete with Messianic prophecies. Matthew 1:23 asserts the fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14: “’Look! The virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they will call him Emmanuel,’ which means ‘God with us.’ (NIV)” Matthew takes care to note that Joseph had not had sexual relations with Mary before the birth of Jesus.
- Micah 5:2 foretells the birth of the Messiah in the town of Bethlehem. Even though Mary and Joseph were from Nazareth in Galilee, they had to travel to Bethlehem in Judea due to a government mandate. Jesus was born to Mary while they were in Bethlehem.
- Psalm 22 is well known for its description of death by crucifixion, even though David wrote the psalm 400 years before crucifixion was used by anyone and well before the founding of the Roman Empire. The psalm describes the victim’s bones being dislocated, but not broken, dehydration, the piercing of the victim’s hands and feet, and mocking by those who surround the victim. King David wrote the psalm in the first person, but David was never subjected to this kind of torture. On the other hand, a reading of the crucifixion accounts in the four Gospels reveals each detail in precise fulfillment of this psalm. (Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19)
- In Isaiah, once again, we find very explicit predictions regarding the death and burial of the coming Servant of God. Isaiah 52:13 – 53:10 describe the nature and purpose of the coming Messiah’s death. The burial in a rich man’s tomb is predicted, even though the original intent was to bury the prophesied One with common criminals. Of course, Jesus was crucified between two thieves and yet was buried in the tomb of the wealthy Joseph of Arimathea. (John 19:18; John 19:38-42)
- Most importantly, even Old Testament prophecies predict the resurrection of the coming Messiah. Psalm 16:10 says, “… you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. (NIV)” After Jesus’ resurrection, Simon Peter cited this verse in his appeal to the crowds in Jerusalem to return to the One they had recently turned over to the Romans for crucifixion. (Acts 2:27)
- After His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Himself explained to His followers how everything that had happened was in fulfillment of ancient, biblical prophecy. Luke 24:27 explains, “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them the things written about Himself in all the scriptures.”
- One of the Church’s earliest creeds expresses the conviction that all that Jesus had accomplished in His earthly ministry was “according to the [Old Testament] scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
In this medium, time and space do not permit me to go through the hundreds of Old Testament prophecies that have already been fulfilled literally—not figuratively—in Jesus’ earthly ministry. These predictions and their completions are there for examination for all who care to make an honest investigation.
Such an investigation is not simply a matter for gratifying light intellectual curiosity, though. Jesus Himself said, “For unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (John 8:24) God is purposefully offering all of us firm validation and verification regarding the Person and mission of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Now What about the Future?
If Jesus fulfilled such a mass of Old Testament predictions about One who would come to save mankind from our sins, it stands to reason that we can expect literal completion of Bible prophecies regarding the future return of Jesus and the consummation of human history according to His revealed word.
The Bible has much to say about the return of Christ and the changes that will ensue in human history. Briefly, here are a few key specifics.
- Believers in Jesus will be removed from the world before a time when God’s righteous wrath will be poured out on the world. (1 Thessalonians 4:13 – 5:11)
- As Matthew 24:21 says, “For then there will be great suffering unlike anything that has happened from the beginning of the world until now, or ever will happen.”
- At the end of this time of great suffering, Jesus Christ will personally and bodily return to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. (Zechariah 14:3-4; Acts 1:9-11)
- Jesus will personally rule over all the earth from Jerusalem for one thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)
- After the thousand years, there will be a last judgment of all those who have rejected the rights and authority of God and of His Christ. Anyone who has not wanted God will be eternally separated from God in what commonly is called hell. (Revelation 20:7-15)
- God will create a new heaven and a new earth in which there will be no more unrighteousness, pain, suffering, tears, or death. He will then live among mankind. He will be our God, and we will be His people. (Revelation 21:1-8)
I realize that this has been a lengthy pair of posts, but then again, when life is on the line, it is important to be clear about what is at stake.
In making a case for why people should believe in and not reject Jesus Christ, evidences have to be brought forth. The historical facts help establish the case.
- Books written many hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth made precise statements about a coming Messiah.
- Those predictions were literally fulfilled in the life of Jesus on earth. A great number of those predictions, such as the place of His birth, could not have been arranged by a purely human pretender to the role of Christ.
- If Jesus fulfilled hundreds of past predictions, then we can expect Him to fulfill the many predictions that are part of God’s future plan for mankind.
- These factors together make it more important than anything else that we turn to Jesus Christ in faith and receive His offer of everlasting life.
For Further Reading:
Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ:A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus, Zondervan, 1998.