Do Prophecies About Jesus Prove He Was the Messiah?

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Do Prophecies About Jesus Prove He Was the Messiah?

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Just over 2,000 years ago a male infant was born to a young woman named Mary in the small town of Bethlehem in Judea, a province of the Roman Empire. It was not understood then, but this child was destined to change the entire sweep of history. His parents, Joseph and Mary, named the newborn baby Jesus according to God's will.

It's not possible to adequately describe what the coming of Jesus would mean to the world. We can scarcely begin to comprehend the many works He did. One of the biblical accounts of His life and works states: "And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written" (John 21:25 John 21:25And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.
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).

Many have attempted to describe Jesus and His works. According to one noted historian, more than 100,000 books have been published about Jesus in the English language alone. The coming of Jesus Christ, His teaching and His death and resurrection, revolutionized history and gave birth to the world's largest religion.

So was Jesus just another misguided teacher who, because His followers believed Him to be the Messiah, led them to establish a new religion in His name that happened by chance to endure and have today nearly 2 billion adherents? Or is what the Bible teaches about Him actually true—that He was the Messiah or Christ, the Son of God, and that His life and work were foretold long before His birth?

Was Jesus truly unique?

Other men came forth in that era claiming they were some type of messiah who would deliver the people from the Roman yoke. "It is the grim fact that in Palestine between the years 67 and 37 BC no fewer than 100,000 men perished in abortive rebellions" (William Barclay, The Mind of Jesus, 1963, p. 45).

All of these movements came to nothing, while the work of Jesus survived and eventually flourished. This is just one of the marvelous aspects about Jesus of Nazareth. Other marks stamp on Him a uniqueness not found in any other person in all history.

One is the many prophecies about Him. The nature of His birth and many aspects of His life and works were foretold in the Old Testament. It is this facet of Jesus' life that we focus on in this article.

One source calculates that we find in the Old Testament "three hundred and thirty-two distinct predictions which were literally fulfilled in Christ" (Floyd Hamilton, The Basis of Christian Faith, 1946, pp. 156-157). The probability of this occurring by chance defies our ability to measure statistics.

When we look at the Bible today, nearly two millennia after its completion, we have what are commonly called the Old Testament and New Testament. We view these as one book. Some may not realize, however, that the Old Testament was fixed in form some 400 years before the coming of Jesus Christ.

The prophecies about Him were there waiting for someone to fulfill them and add validation to the Bible as God's Word. The prophecies about Him had been long written. If a man had come from the womb and fulfilled only a few of God's prophecies, we might attribute that to happenstance. But to fulfill more than 300 prophecies defies any possibility of chance!

"Mohammedanism [Islam] cannot point to any prophecies of the coming of Mohammed uttered hundreds of years before his birth. Neither can the founders of any cult ... rightly identify any ancient text specifically foretelling their appearance" (Wilbur Smith, The Incomparable Book, 1961, p. 10). The Bible is unique in this way!

Let's look at just a few of the specific prophetic fulfillments in this article.

Prophecy 1: Jesus would be born in Bethlehem

"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting" (Micah 5:2 Micah 5:2But you, Bethlehem Ephratah, though you be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall he come forth to me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
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).

Anyone who knows even the bare details surrounding the birth of Christ knows that His parents didn't live in Bethlehem. They lived in Nazareth several days' journey to the north. Around the time that Jesus was about to be born, something was required to have Joseph and Mary go from their home to the village of Bethlehem.

That something was a Roman census. Emperor Augustus issued a decree that all of the inhabitants of the empire should be registered. People were required to register in their birthplaces, so Joseph took Mary, his betrothed wife, to Bethlehem. And while they were there, Jesus was born (Luke 2:1-7 Luke 2:1-7 [1] And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. [2] (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) [3] And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. [4] And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) [5] To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. [6] And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. [7] And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
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).

Did God motivate Augustus to declare that all inhabitants of his reign should be counted at that very time? The answer is yes! This would be the first of many instances of divine intervention accomplishing what was foretold.

Prophecy 2: A herald would proclaim Jesus

More than four centuries before Jesus' birth, God raised up a prophet who stated that Jesus' ministry would be preceded by another prophet who would foretell His coming: "Behold, I will send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me" (Malachi 3:1 Malachi 3:1Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the LORD, whom you seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom you delight in: behold, he shall come, said the LORD of hosts.
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).

The herald was John the Baptist, and the record of his proclaiming the ministry of Jesus Christ is as follows: "The word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: 'The voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight'" (Luke 3:2-4 Luke 3:2-4 [2] Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. [3] And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; [4] As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare you the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
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).

As we add up the predictions of the coming of the Lord, the odds increase against the phenomena happening by chance. Throughout human history, a number of men have been born in Bethlehem. Babies are being born there now. But how many have been born in Bethlehem who also had a heraldic crier proclaiming in advance that he was coming to preach God's Word?

Jesus' birth was foretold in the Old Testament, and then His coming was proclaimed in advance by John the Baptist. Both these prophecies were fulfilled.

Prophecy 3: Jesus would enter Jerusalem riding a donkey

The prophet Zechariah recorded a prophecy pertaining to an event that would occur during the last week of Jesus' life: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey" (Zechariah 9:9 Zechariah 9:9Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, your King comes to you: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding on an ass, and on a colt the foal of an ass.
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).

During the last week of His earthly life, Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey, effectively proclaiming Himself God's Messiah (Matthew 21:7-11 Matthew 21:7-11 [7] And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. [8] And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strewed them in the way. [9] And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. [10] And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? [11] And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.
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). How many men in the history of the world have entered Jerusalem as a ruler while riding a donkey? This prophecy alone is something for which we have no recorded historical precedent.

As we add prophecy to prophecy we further eliminate the likelihood of these events being matters of chance. How many men entered Jerusalem riding on donkeys, who were also born in Bethlehem, and whose coming was preceded by someone announcing it beforehand?

Prophecy 4: He would be like a shepherd who is struck down

"'Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, against the Man who is My Companion,' says the Lord of hosts. 'Strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered'" (Zechariah 13:7 Zechariah 13:7Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, said the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn my hand on the little ones.
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).

This was fulfilled on the night when Jesus was arrested and the disciples forsook Him and fled (Matthew 26:31 Matthew 26:31Then said Jesus to them, All you shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.
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, 56). Then Roman soldiers repeatedly struck Jesus, who had declared Himself to be the good Shepherd (John 10:14 John 10:14I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
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). They beat Him and struck Him with the palms of their hands (Matthew 26:67 Matthew 26:67Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands,
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). The next day He was killed—the Shepherd was indeed struck, and His close followers were dispersed.

For each utterance that Old Testament prophets made regarding Jesus, we see its fulfillment historically recorded in the New Testament. This confirms that these events were under the overall direction of God and that the Bible is infallible. It's virtually impossible to explain unless there was a divine hand guiding these events.

Prophecy 5: He would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver

"And the Lord said to me, 'Throw it to the potter'—that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord for the potter" (Zechariah 11:13 Zechariah 11:13And the LORD said to me, Cast it to the potter: a goodly price that I was priced at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD.
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).

This was fulfilled when Judas betrayed Jesus to the chief priests for the price of 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15-16 Matthew 26:15-16 [15] And said to them, What will you give me, and I will deliver him to you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. [16] And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him.
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). Later Judas, suffering from remorse, tried to return the money to the priests. They refused to accept it, and Judas flung the money on the temple floor. The priests later took the money and used it to buy the potter's field for burying strangers who died (Matthew 27:3-10 Matthew 27:3-10 [3] Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, [4] Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see you to that. [5] And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. [6] And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. [7] And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in. [8] Why that field was called, The field of blood, to this day. [9] Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; [10] And gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me.
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).

This prophecy is very specific. Let us ponder this question: How many men who have accepted blood money to betray a friend have tried to return it and had it rejected? Even further, what are the chances the money was used to purchase a plot for burying vagabonds as foretold centuries earlier?

Prophecy 6: He offered no defense at His trial

"He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth" (Isaiah 53:7 Isaiah 53:7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opens not his mouth.
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).

When Jesus was before the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate, the chief priests and elders leveled many accusations at Him, to which Jesus made no reply. Pilate "marveled greatly" that an innocent man who had so much hatred and false charges directed toward Him would not speak up in His own defense (Matthew 27:12-14 Matthew 27:12-14 [12] And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing. [13] Then said Pilate to him, Hear you not how many things they witness against you? [14] And he answered him to never a word; so that the governor marveled greatly.
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).

How many men in history have, when on trial for their life, reacted as Jesus did? How could a man have the strength to restrain himself and not try to save his life when he is totally innocent? The answer is that Jesus was the Son of God. He had come to the earth to fulfill all prophecies recorded about Him. He knew that He, an innocent man, would die for our sins.

Only the Messiah could endure without complaint under such torturous circumstances. He withstood it all without sinning. "Nor was any deceit in His mouth" (Isaiah 53:9 Isaiah 53:9And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
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). In so doing, He set an example for all Christians who are accused concerning their faith (1 Peter 2:21-23 1 Peter 2:21-23 [21] For even hereunto were you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his steps: [22] Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: [23] Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judges righteously:
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).

Prophecy 7: He would die by crucifixion

"The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet" (Psalms 22:16 Psalms 22:16For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.
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). Pilate scourged Jesus and "delivered Him to be crucified" (Matthew 27:26 Matthew 27:26Then released he Barabbas to them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
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). For this prophecy to be fulfilled required an unlikely and extraordinary chain of events.

The Jewish leaders desired to rid themselves of Jesus, whom they regarded as a competitor. However, the Romans did not allow the Jews to impose capital punishment. If they had killed Jesus, it probably would have been by stoning (Acts 7:58 Acts 7:58And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul.
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), since the Jews did not practice crucifixion.

The Romans utilized crucifixion for despised criminals and especially for people who were thought to represent a threat to the Roman peace. Pilate knew that Jesus was no such threat. He knew that "they had handed Him over because of envy" (Matthew 27:18 Matthew 27:18For he knew that for envy they had delivered him.
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).

The Jews brought Jesus before Pilate, making the accusation that He essentially represented a threat to Rome (Luke 23:2 Luke 23:2And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King.
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). Again, Pilate knew that they had trumped up these charges, so he refused to sentence Jesus to be crucified. Then they coerced Pilate into sentencing Jesus through implying that Pilate was being disloyal to Caesar (John 19:12 John 19:12And from thereafter Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If you let this man go, you are not Caesar's friend: whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.
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). Pilate feared being reported to Rome, as it could threaten his office as procurator.

Thus, for the one prophecy regarding how Jesus would die to be fulfilled required a chain of circumstances that were indeed unusual. The fulfillment of this prophecy regarding the life and death of Jesus Christ adds to the world of evidence that this Man, whose life was prophesied and remarkably determined beforehand by God, was the Messiah. The fulfillment here adds to the infallible proof that the Bible is God's Word. No ordinary book could have such divine fingerprints upon it.

Prophecy 8: He would die with criminals yet be buried with the rich

"He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12 Isaiah 53:12Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he has poured out his soul to death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
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). Although perfectly innocent, Jesus was crucified between two malefactors, flagrant violators of the law (Mark 15:27-28 Mark 15:27-28 [27] And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left. [28] And the scripture was fulfilled, which said, And he was numbered with the transgressors.
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; Luke 23:33 Luke 23:33And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.
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).

Isaiah 53 also says, "And they made His grave with the wicked—but with the rich at His death" (Isaiah 53:9 Isaiah 53:9And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
American King James Version×
). This can sound like a contradiction, but the first part denotes the initial assignment of a mass grave with criminals and the latter part shows what actually happened—that He was buried in the tomb of the rich man Joseph of Arimathea, who made a special request of Pilate for his body (Matthew 27:57 Matthew 27:57When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple:
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, Matthew 27:60 Matthew 27:60And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulcher, and departed.
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). Again, only God could have foretold all this in advance and ensured its fulfillment, recording it centuries in advance.

More to come—assured by God's Word

Thankfully, Jesus did not remain dead and in the grave. He was prophesied to do many more great things—and that could only happen through Him living again. And indeed we know that Jesus was resurrected from the dead and, after appearances to many people, went to heaven to sit at His Father's right hand. He'll be there until the time that He is to come again—this time as "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" (Revelation 19:16 Revelation 19:16And he has on his clothing and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
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We should stand in awe at the way Jesus fulfilled prophecy with such exactitude. We should read the inspired Word of God—the Bible—with wonder because it not only tells us of prophecies that have been fulfilled, but it also tells us what's going to happen in the future.

It tells us that Jesus will return to establish God's Kingdom on earth and that He will reign forever (Revelation 11:15 Revelation 11:15And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
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). You can be there and be a part of that Kingdom if you act on God's Word and surrender your life to Him now!

Other books have been written that purport to be holy books. How can we distinguish the Bible from all of them? One of the chief ways is fulfilled prophecy.

Speaking through Isaiah, God says: "I have declared the former things from the beginning; they went forth from My mouth, and I caused them to hear it. Suddenly I did them, and they came to pass ... Even from the beginning I have declared it to you; before it came to pass I proclaimed it to you, lest you should say, 'My idol has done them, and my carved image and my molded image have commanded them'" (Isaiah 48:3 Isaiah 48:3I have declared the former things from the beginning; and they went forth out of my mouth, and I showed them; I did them suddenly, and they came to pass.
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, Isaiah 48:5 Isaiah 48:5I have even from the beginning declared it to you; before it came to pass I showed it you: lest you should say, My idol has done them, and my graven image, and my molten image, has commanded them.
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).

Read your Bible! Study it diligently. It is God's Word! In it you can read about God's plan—His will for you. That which He desires for all people is far greater than our minds can fully grasp.

However, we can gain an inkling of it by reading the Bible. As He tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 [9] But as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him. [10] But God has revealed them to us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.
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: "As it is written: 'Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.' But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God"!