The fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies represents one of the most remarkable facets of Christianity. There is no doubt these prophecies were written down before Christ. They can be found in the Septuagint, a Greek translation from the original Hebrew texts. During the several centuries before Christ, Greek was used as the common language throughout most of the Roman Empire.
Greek Scriptures such as the Septuagint were in wide use throughout the Roman Empire by the time of Christ and Paul. This is because most Christian converts spoke Greek, but could not read Hebrew. The Greek translation was quoted more frequently than the Hebrew version text in the New Testament, by the Apostolic Fathers, and later by the Greek Church Fathers.
This is important to answer the objection that these messianic prophecies were actually written down by Christians after the death of Christ. They were fabricated to coincide with the events of Christ’s life to validate Christianity. But since the Greek translation of the Old Testament is well known to have been translated between 150 – 200 BC, this objection lacks any merit.
There was at least a two-hundred-year gap between the time of the writing of the Greek Old Testament and the appearance of Christ.
There have been multiple people throughout history who have claimed to be the Messiah – but only one, Jesus Christ, appears to have the appropriate credentials. But what are the proper credentials for the Messiah?
Christ appealed to the Old Testament to establish himself as the one fulfilling these prophetic statements,
These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled. (Luke 24:44)
The apostles and other New Testament writers all appealed to the Old Testament to establish the credentials of the Messiah. This is because these prophecies were very specific; they were not like those from Nostradamus or modern-day prophets.
But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ should suffer, He has thus fulfilled. (Acts 34:18)
And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures [meaning the Old Testament}, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.’ (Acts 17:2,3)
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures [Christ’s death was predicted in the Old Testament], and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3,4)
There are sixty major messianic prophecies in the Old Testament along with many minor predictions, that were all fulfilled in one person. It is good to look at some of these predictions and see how they were accomplished in Christ.
Historical Predictions of the Messiah
The Old Testament was a series of books that were written over a period of about a thousand years, containing about three hundred references to the coming of the Messiah. The chances of just forty-eight of these prophecies being fulfilled in just one person is about one in 10^157 (that is 1 followed by 157 zeros – a statistical impossibility to have happened by chance).The prophetic journey should begin in Genesis 3:15. This is the first messianic prophecy where God is talking with Satan,
And 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. (King James Version)
Much is made about the woman having “seed” – this is generally associated with a man, not a woman. The Hebrew word used for “seed” in this Scripture “zera” (Strong Word 2233) which is defined as a physical “seed.” It is used in which way in Genesis 1:29,
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.
The context of this verse is important for the Christian as Messiah did not have a human father, but was “seeded” through the woman.
This first messianic verse indicates the Messiah will come into the world and undo the works of Satan.
Noah’s Sons. Scripture indicates the world was destroyed at one time in the distant past with a flood, and only Noah and his immediate family survived. Noah had three sons, Ham, Shem, and Japheth. In Scripture, God indicated the Messiah would arise from Shem (they would be “Shemites” or “Semitic”).
This choice of only one of the three sons would effectively eliminate two-thirds of the world’s population as ancestors of the Messiah.
Abraham. God called a man named Abraham out of an area now in eastern Iraq called Ur of the Chaldees. God indicated the Messiah would be a descendant of Abraham and not from one of the many other Semitic families in the Middle East of the time. (Genesis 12:17-22).
Abraham was called from these families, not for anything he had done but would ultimately be declared righteous due to his faith. His amazing faith was demonstrated through his willingness to kill his only son as a sacrifice.
Scripture indicates that even though he represented only one of the innumerable families then present on the earth, Abraham would bring a blessing to everyone who would ever live.
Abraham had two sons, Isaac and Ishmael, with God selecting his second son, Isaac, as the ancestor of the Messiah. This would eliminate all the descendants of Ishmael.
And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations; the firstborn of Ishmael: Nabaioth, and Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam, And Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa, Hadar, and Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah.
Interestingly, just like there were twelve children of Jacob forming the twelve tribes of Israel, so did Ishmael also have twelve sons mentioned in the Bible.
Ancient inscriptions from Assyria, Babylon, and North Arabia in the 9th to 6th century BC mention the King of Qedar. Interestingly, many o the sons of Ishmael mentioned in the Bible are mentioned in these inscriptions including Nabal, Kedar, Abdeel, Dumah, Massa, and Teman. These are listed in the Assyrian inscriptions as being Arabian tribes. This would mean Ishmael is the ancient father of the Arabic nations.
Arab genealogy accounts give prominence to the first two sons of Ishmael, Nebaioth, and Qedar. These are also featured in the Genesis account and elsewhere throughout the Old Testament.
Isaac. Isaac was the “child of promise” – the one through whom the Messiah would come. He had two sons, Jacob and Essau, with God choosing Jacob. Just like with his father Isaac, Jacob was the second-born son. In Jewish tradition, the first-born son would receive twice the inheritance as the other sons, and would generally be held in greater esteem.
Esau’s descendants would be the kingdom of Edom which was located in an area bordered by Moab to the north and east, and Arabia to the west and sound. Most of the former country is now a part of Israel and Jordan.
Edom is mentioned in several extra-biblical sources including a list of countries by the Egyptian pharaoh Seti, and a chronicle of a military campaign by Ramesses III. The Edomites flourished between the 13th and 8th century BC until it was destroyed by the Babylonians in the 6th century BC. They were taken into captivity just like the Jews; however, the Edomites gradually intermarried with the Babylonian population and disappeared as a people.
Jacob had twelve sons who would comprise the twelve tribes of Israel (Jacob’s name was later changed to “Israel”). God chose the tribe of Judah as the ancestor of Christ and eliminated 11/12th of the Israelite tribes.
Jesse was a descendant of Judah and had eight children, the youngest child being David who would be the ancestor of Christ. In summary, the man who would become the Messiah would have had a very specific lineage. He would not only need to be (somehow) the seed of a woman, but also the lineage of Shem (the race of the Semites), the line of Isaac, the line of Jacob, the tribe of Juda, and a descendant of King David.
Further details from a prophecy dated from 1012 BC (Psalm 22: 6-18) indicate the Messiah’s hands and feet will be pierced (crucified). This description of crucifixion was written many centuries before the Romans started the practice.
Christ Worth Thirty Pieces of Silver. More details of this future Messiah’s life are also contained within an amazing prophecy from Zechariah (Zechariah 11:11-13). In Hebrew culture, thirty pieces of silver was the price paid to the master of a slave if the slave was gored by an ox (Exodus 21:32). There is a strange episode in the life of the prophet Zechariah. Zecharia was to play the part of a shepherd and care for a flock of sheep “doomed to slaughter.” This doom was a judgment to be pronounced against Israel for crucifying Christ predicting the fall of Israel in 70 AD and scattering of the nation. Zechariah also broke his two shepherding staves. One staff is called Favor and is broken to symbolize the breaking of the Mosaic Covenant of the disobedient people and God’s setting aside his favor over them. The other staff is called Union and is broken apart to represent the breaking up of the nation by the Romans.
Zechariah then went to those he worked for and asked them to pay him what they thought his job was worth. They gave him thirty pieces of silver which Zechariah then throws to the potter. This is an accurate portrayal of future prophesy when Judas bargained with the leaders of Israel to betray Christ and was given thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15).
Bethlehem. The Old Testament even predicted where Christ would be born. Even though he would be from the tribe of Judah, he would be born in Bethlehem which was in the tribe of Benjamin’s territory. Bethlehem was a minor backwater village near Jerusalem where maybe less than a thousand people lived but would be honored as Christ’s birthplace. The King of all creation would be born in a feeding trough in a barn wrapped in rags because there was no room for him elsewhere.
Just let that sink in.
Death. One of the most remarkable passages in the Old Testament is found in Isaiah 53. This chapter gives detail of the death of Christ, including that none of his bones would be broken, that he would be silent and not complain as a sheep led to the slaughter, and that he would die while people would mock and scorn him. Being the “Lamb of God” he would be slaughtered at the same time that lambs were slaughtered for the Passover meal. This is not exactly something anybody in their right mind would want to emulate.
Some have concluded that Christ fulfilling the Messianic prophecies is purely coincidental coincidental. It is difficult to estimate the probabilities of any of these predictions although some have tried. The random probability of any random person matching the Biblical description of the Messiah in Biblical times would be negligible. Anybody wanting to present themselves as being the Messiah would have to be of the right lineage, not to mention be crucified and die a cruel death – not very appealing.
It should also be mentioned that nobody today could make that claim either. The destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD by the Romans also destroyed all the genealogical records making it impossible for anybody to substantiate their heritage.
It seems more likely that Christ having satisfied all the predictions concerning his life is actually the Messiah predicted in Scripture.
Summary of Messianic Prophecies
“Who do you say that I am?” Each person must provide an answer to that question, with the answer being very important in their eternal destiny.
There is nothing more important in life than to understand who Christ was, and what his death means for us.
There is plentiful historical evidence that Christ was an actual historical figure, and that he died on the cross. This evidence comes from ancient secular sources providing detail concerning his life which corroborates Scripture.