Anyone with a Bible can verify the most amazing facts of human history, as well as the foundational truths of what we can know about God and eternity. He can do this by examining the prophecies made in the Old Testament Scriptures, indisputably written centuries before He was born, that were fulfilled in the coming and ministry of Jesus.
To see this astounding and unmistakable fulfillment of prophecy is to prove not only that He is the promised Saviour, but also that the Bible is (what it claims to be) the very word of God, and that there really is a God. Take a look at these prophecies and see how Jesus fulfilled them. There are many more such Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, the portion of the Bible written before Jesus came, but those listed here can be classified as outstanding examples of prophecies of Christ, and were written and read long before Jesus lived.
1. The Seed
Promises of a Saviour begin to come all the way back in the garden of Eden, where Adam’s defiance of the Creator brought about the curse of sin that has plagued mankind ever since. In the book of Genesis, written by Moses more than fourteen centuries before Christ, God tells the serpent that tempted the first man and woman, and precipitated their fall: I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel (Genesis 3:15)
This prophecy says that the woman’s seed will bruise or crush (a fatal blow is implied) the serpent’s head, while the serpent himself will injure the heel of her seed. First of all, it is strange, and perhaps unique to this passage, to refer to the offspring of a woman with the metaphor “seed.” That term is nearly always a reference to the male part in human reproduction. It is curious to refer to the seed of a woman. Bible students infer that this is a reference to the virgin birth of Christ, and that the bruising of the Seed refers to the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary. The Seed will eventually destroy the serpent and undo the damage he has done.
No matter how one decides to interpret the words of Genesis 3:15, a reading of the rest of the Hebrew scriptures (the Old Testament) makes it clear that the sacred writings focus on a particular linking of seeds down through the years—it is the family line that will produce the Saviour.
Eve had many sons and daughters, but “in process of time,” she and Adam brought forth a son they named Seth (read Genesis 4 and 5). His name means “appointed” for, “God, saith she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel,” (the righteous son who had been murdered by his evil brother Cain). Clearly, Eve took seriously the promise of her “seed” given in Genesis 3.
In Genesis 12, a descendent of Seth through Noah and Shem, named Abraham is given a promise that will bring blessing to “all families of the earth” (read it in verses 1 through 3). This covenant with Abraham will be kept with his son Isaac “and with his seed after him” (follow Genesis 12:7, 17:19, 22:16–18). Abraham had two sons, but the blessing was bestowed on Isaac (look at Genesis 17:19 again, and then chapter 21:1–12). Isaac ended up having two sons also, but God ordained that the blessing would be put upon Jacob and his seed (read Genesis 25:20–26, 27:28–29, 28:1–4, and 28:12–14), rather than on his brother Esau and his family line.
Jacob had twelve sons, and before his death the patriarch clearly designated his son Judah as the one who would inherit the blessing of the promised seed (see Genesis 49:8–10). Up to this point in the Scriptures, the focus is on one family, the family of the promised seed. From Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, to Judah, the narrative finds its emphasis.
Other family lines related to the patriarchs are summed up and dismissed at a certain point (Ishmael in Genesis 25, and Esau in Genesis 36). Then the story returns to the line of the Seed. As Genesis closes, the narrative turns to the growth of Jacob’s family into a nation as they lived and suffered in bondage in Egypt. The subject of the promised conquering Seed is obscured for a while until it is brought up again in the books of Ruth and First Samuel. The scenes move to Bethlehem, and the family followed is that of Jesse and his son David.
In Second Samuel 7, we are told that the promised “seed” is to be that of David (verses 12, 16, and 25–29). The Messiah is to be the son of Jesse and David, according to the prophets (Isaiah 11:1–5, for instance), and the New Testament verifies that Jesus was a descendent of that family.
The royal line of David (kings of Israel and Judah) is listed in the first chapter of the New Testament scriptures, Matthew 1. Notice that this passage is called the, “Book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham,” referring back to similar designations in Genesis 2:4, 5:1, 10:1, 11:10, and 25:19. Notice that the royal family line includes “Jechonias” (Jeconiah or Jehoiachin, referring back to 2 Kings 24:8, 1 Chronicles 3:16, and 2 Chronicles 36:8) who is cursed in Jeremiah 22:28–30 with the words, “No man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David.” This means, among other things, that a man in the royal line of David cannot be the Messiah. Joseph was in that royal line, and provided Jesus with his official, legal family, but of course he was not His biological father, cursed with this curse.
The family line of Mary is given in Luke 2 and also goes back to David, but not through his kingly son Solomon. The biological line of Jesus through Mary came down through an otherwise unknown son of David, Nathan (see Luke 3:31 and compare Matthew 1:6), and was not cursed, so that He can one day rule from the throne of David as the Messiah (Luke 1:3–32).
2. The Law
When God delivered Israel out of bondage in Egypt, He gave the nation laws that they were to observe as they settled in the land He had promised them. Many of these laws were rules of religious observance and ritual unique to the nation of Israel. In the ceremonial law (given to us in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), we find a number of references to Jesus in type and symbol.
The animal sacrifices that were offered in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple at Jerusalem all carried the idea that atonement for sin can be made by the sacrifice of the innocent for the sins of the guilty. Animals were sacrificed with their blood shed to picture the atonement for sin provided in the sacrifice of the One who would be “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:2–34). Read the very interesting instructions concerning the offering of certain sacrifices which are found in Exodus 12:1–27, Leviticus 1:1–9, and Leviticus 16. The animal to be sacrificed was to be a male in the prime of life that was totally unblemished. Of course, all of these sacrifices speak of Jesus dying for our sins on the cross.
3. The Psalms
The collection of divinely-inspired songs for use in worship by the Israelites, make up the longest book in the Bible, the book of Psalms. Many of them had David as their human author whose seed was to bring the Saviour (see 2 Samuel 7:12–13, 18–29) and refer very clearly to the coming Saviour. Any objective reader of them can see that the references are to Jesus, Who came centuries after they were written.
Psalm 2 (written by David—look at Acts 4:24–26—about a thousand years before Jesus was born) says that God’s “anointed” (Hebrew, Messiah) will rule as King from Zion (Jerusalem), that He will be the Son of God, and that “they that put their trust in him” will be blessed.
Psalm 16 (also written by David) clearly indicates that Messiah will rise from the dead. The one praying in the words of this song says that “my flesh also shall rest in hope” because God was not going to “suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (decay). Peter used Psalm 16 on the Day of Pentecost to prove that Christ, the son of David, must rise from the dead.
Psalm 22 (again written by David) presents a detailed description of the crucifixion of Christ a millennium before it happened:
- The opening line is, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” which, of course, is what Jesus was heard to say from the cross.
- Verses 7 and 8 say, “All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him,” which is just how the religious leaders mocked Him while He was dying.
- Verses 12 through 15 (read them) describe in detail what we know happens physically to a person suffering in a crucifixion (a means of execution not even invented until long after the psalm was written and began to be sung).
- Verse 16 speaks of the hands and feet being pierced.
- Verses 17 and18 describe the famous casting of lots by the soldiers for the vesture of Jesus.
- Verse 15 says that the Victim will be “brought…into the dust of death.”
- In verses 19 through 21 He cries to God for deliverance, and God hears His prayer.
- Beginning in verse 22, it is obvious that He has risen from the dead (read through verse 25).
- Verses 26 through 30 say that the need of the meek will be met by what this One has done, and that those who will be saved will be, “Accounted to the Lord for a generation.”
- The psalm ends with these words (verse 31): “They shall come, and will declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.” Here is a reference to the preaching of the cross by Christians throughout the world. “They,” this “generation” of the saved, “will declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done THIS”: died by crucifixion and rose again to give us eternal life (verse 26—“your heart shall live for ever”).
Psalm 22 is one of the most remarkable examples of fulfilled prophecy the world has ever seen, and it focuses on Calvary!
4. The Child
The prophet Isaiah preached to the errant and hypocritical people of Judah during the reigns of four kings. His inspired book was written seven centuries before Jesus, but he very clearly spoke of Him. In chapter seven, he tells the royal house of David that a special child will be born in their family, and would be destined to rule the world and provide salvation to God’s people.
Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.—Isaiah 7:14b (1–16 for context.)
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.—Isaiah 9:6 (Read verses 1 through 7 for context.)
And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse [the father of David], and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: and the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.—Isaiah 11:1–2 (Read chapters 11 and 12 for context.)
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, and he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.—Isaiah 53:4–6 (For context read chapters 52 and 53, and see that the Servant of the Lord, the Child grown up, would offer Himself a sacrifice for the sins of His people; the references to Jesus and to Calvary are evident.)
All of these phophecies were wonderfully fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
5. The Wise Man
In the book of Daniel (written more than 500 years before Christ) we meet a Jew that was taken captive when the Babylonians conquered Judah and destroyed the city of Jerusalem. Daniel, and three of his companions, were trained and placed into a class of public servants that were called “the wise men.” As a wise man, Daniel got to serve the ruler of the known world as a counsellor. In that capacity God gave the emperor (through Daniel) some of history’s most amazing prophecies, several of which relate to Jesus.
In chapter 2, you can find where he predicted centuries ahead of time the rise and fall of each of the major world empires of ancient times: the Babylonian, the Persian, the Greek, and the Roman. In that amazing prophecy, he refers to coming of the kingdom of heaven. It will come some time after the first four have fallen, and when the fourth one (the Roman Empire) shall be divided. The divided Roman Empire will end up as a collection of kingdoms, some strong and some weak, but never re-united until the Kingdom of God comes (look over verses 40–44). Of course this prediction describes precisely what has happened in Europe over the centuries since the fall of Rome.
In chapters 7 through 9 we read again about the coming of Christ and His Kingdom, and even find an indication of the time when He will appear. Find that in Daniel 9:24–26 (which refers to both the first and the second coming of Christ). This prophecy and others were the basis of the visit of the “wise men” to find the Messiah in Matthew 2. They realized that the time had come, based on their study of the writings of the great wise man, Daniel.
6. The King
More details of the life of Jesus are given by the prophets as they spoke of Christ as the coming King of Israel and Ruler of the world, as well as the promised Saviour.
- He will be born in Bethlehem: But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.—Micah 5:2
- He will come into the city riding an ass’s colt: Behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.—Zechariah 9:9
- He will be sold for thirty pieces of silver: And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver.—Zechariah 11:12
- When He comes to set up His Kingdom, His nation will regret their rejection of Him at His first coming, and repent for crucifying Him: And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon. And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart; The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart; All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart. In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.—Zechariah 12:10–13:1
The names listed as heads of branches of the Messianic family are from the obscure line of David descended from his son Nathan, and can be found in the list of the ancestors of Mary and Jesus in Luke chapter three. When the house of David turns to Jesus a fountain of cleansing and salvation will be opened to them, just as the fountain of salvation is open to penitent sinners today.
Anyone who studies the evidence of fulfilled prophecy can see that Jesus is the Christ and the promised Saviour. You can come to the fountain and drink of the water of life today. Hear the voice of God calling you in Isaiah 55 and in Revelation 22, and come to Jesus for your salvation. He will receive you when you receive Him.