The Gospels tell us Jesus’ birth, life, and the events of what we call Holy Week – his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, betrayal, suffering, death and resurrection – and ascension all took place as fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Old Testament scholars consider there to be at least 48 specific messianic prophecies, repeated hundreds of time in total. I will only touch on a few in this blog. Here are some of the ones I find most fascinating and/or meaningful for us as we celebrate Holy Week, and the approximate dates they were written down and later fulfilled. (Scholars often disagree widely over exactly when these were first written.)
I know this is long – even by my standards – but it’s mostly a cursory survey of a relative handful of passages:
Time unknown – but obviously ancient; written around 1400 BC: Genesis 3:14-15: 14 So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.”
4 BC: Galatians 4:4-5: 4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that he might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
56 AD: Romans 16:20: The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
732 BC: Isaiah 7:14: Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
4 BC: Luke 1:31: [The angel Gabriel, to a young Jewish virgin named Mary] You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.
700 BC: Micah 5:2: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
4 BC: Luke 2:11: Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
480 BC: Zechariah 9:9: Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
30 AD: Mark 11:7-10: 7 They brought the colt to Jesus and put their coats on it; and He sat on it. 8 And many spread their coats in the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields. 9 Those who went in front and those who followed were shouting:
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord;
10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David;
Hosanna in the highest!”
1000 BC: Psalm 41:9: Even my close friend in whom I trusted,
Who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.
30 AD: Mark 14:10: Then Judas Iscariot,who was one of the twelve, went off to the chief priests in order to betray him to them.
650 BC: Isaiah 53:3-7; 12: 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. …
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.
30 AD: Matthew 27:38: At that time two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left.
650 BC: Isaiah 53:12b: For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
30 AD: Luke 24:34: But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
1000 BC: Psalm 22:16b, 18: 16b They pierced my hands and my feet. …
18 They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.
30 AD: Matthew 27:35: And when they had crucified him, they divided up his garments among themselves by casting lots.
750 BC: Amos 8:9: “It will come about in that day,” declares the Lord God,
“That I will make the sun go down at noon
And make the earth dark in broad daylight.”
30 AD: Matthew 27:45: From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land.
1000 BC: Psalm 22:1: My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
30 AD: Matthew 27:46: About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice,“Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?”(which means“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)
1000 BC: Psalm 34:20: He keeps all his bones, not one of them is broken.
30 AD: John 19:32-33: 32 So the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first man and of the other who was crucified with him; 33 but coming to Jesus, when they saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.
480 BC: Zechariah 12:10: “… they will look on me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.”
30 AD: John 19:34: But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.
1000 BC: Psalm 16:10: For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol;
Nor will you allow your Holy One to undergo decay.
46 AD: Acts 13:33-37: 33 … God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that he raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you.’ 34 As for the fact that he raised him up from the dead, no longer to return to decay, he has spoken in this way: ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ 35 Therefore he also says in another Psalm, ‘You will not allow your Holy One to undergo decay.’ 36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay; 37 but he whom God raised did not undergo decay.
1000 BC: Psalm 68:18a: You have ascended on high ….
30 AD: Acts 1:9: And after he had said these things, he was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received him out of their sight.
Postscript: This is from Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ, pp. 197-98:
[Strobel asked Louis Lapides, a Jewish Christian pastor and Old Testament scholar, whether it’s possible that Jesus merely fulfilled all the prophecies by accident.]
“Not a chance,” Lapides replied. “The odds are so astronomical that they rule that out. Someone did the math and figured out that the probability of just eight prophecies being fulfilled is one chance in one hundred million billion.
“He calculated that if you took this number of silver dollars, they would cover the state of Texas to a depth of two feet. If you marked one silver dollar among them and then had a blindfolded person wander the whole state and bend down to pick up one coin, what would be the odds he’d choose the one that had been marked?”
With that he answered his own question: “The same odds that anybody in history could have fulfilled just eight of the prophecies.”
I had studied this same statistical analysis by mathematician Peter W. Stoner when I was investigating the messianic prophecies for myself. Stoner also computed that the probability of fulfilling forty-eight prophecies was one chance in a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion! …
“The odds alone say it would be impossible for anyone to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies,” Lapides concluded. “Yet Jesus – and only Jesus throughout all of history – managed to do it.”
The words of the apostle Peter popped into my head: “But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ should suffer, he has thus fulfilled” (Acts 3:18 NASB).
As we celebrate Easter, the birth date of the Christian faith, I hope you have been encouraged and your faith strengthened by this glance at Jesus, the prophesied Messiah of the Old Testament.
I am much indebted to the following sources:
David Limbaugh, Jesus on Trial
Josh McDowell, The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict
Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ