“Search the scriptures,” Jesus said, as recorded in John 5:39. The verse continues: “for in them ye think ye have eternal life.” This is a good reason to study! But the statement doesn’t end there. Jesus continued: “and they are they which testify of me.”
“Scripture” at this time was exclusively what we know as the Old Testament. Christ was telling the Jews that, had they known their Bibles, they would know the Messiah. He was emphasizing what the Old Testament said about Him—not to put undue emphasis on Himself, but to show how the prophecies were being fulfilled before their eyes!
Over 300 Old Testament prophecies refer to a coming Messiah! Prophets told of this Messiah “since the world began” (Luke 1:70). Some were remarkably specific—not just that a Messiah would come, but that specific details would take place in His life. There are nearly 50 prophecies of this sort—stating things like where He would be born and what tribe of Israel He would be from. Some show that He would be betrayed for a certain amount of money, and even what that money would be used for afterward! This betrayal, as prophesied, would lead to His mistreatment and execution by men—and there are even more specific details about how that would all play out.
Among these prophecies, there are a handful where the Bible makes special mention of an Old Testament verse being fulfilled—saying something to the effect of: so that which was written might be accomplished, or that the scripture may be fulfilled.
Examining each one of these references will form powerful proof in your mind of Christ’s Messiahship! It’s something you can easily do with a Bible in your hand. One of the reasons God inspired the early apostles to even write a “New” Testament was to make these exact connections between the Messianic prophecies and their fulfillments!
We will go through Jesus Christ’s life chronologically as we do this. Again, get your Bible and prove all of these cross-references for yourself. Doing this in one sitting will pack quite a punch. And, as we will see, it builds our faith in another set of prophecies!
The Dramatic Infant Years
In Matthew 1, we find Joseph’s fiancée Mary already pregnant. Though Mary was still a virgin, and this conception was miraculous (she was carrying the Messiah), Joseph “was minded to put her away” when he learned of this miracle. He didn’t want people to “make her a publick example” (verse 19). God didn’t want Joseph to do this, however.
1. How did God get this message to Joseph? Matthew 1:20-21.
What extraordinary circumstances!
2. What is explained next? Verses 22-23.
All this was done that it might be “fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet.”
3. Can we know who this prophet was? Isaiah 7:14.
The words in Matthew 1:23 are almost identical to those in Isaiah 7:14. The Messiah’s conception—that He would be born of a virgin—was prophesied centuries earlier! And immediately from His conception and birth, we start to see these key Old Testament prophecies unfolding.
4. Where was Jesus born, and how did King Herod react? Matthew 2:1-4.
Herod knew the Jews had been prophesying of a Messiah, and he wanted to know if what had played out in Bethlehem was following the prophesied events. So he gathered the Jewish religious leaders and “demanded of them where Christ should be born.”
5. How did these religious leaders reply to Herod? Verses 5-6.
These leaders knew a prophecy that foretold the location of the Messiah’s birth. What’s remarkable is that Mary and Joseph didn’t live in Bethlehem (rather Nazareth: see Luke 1:26-27; 2:4)—but they were visiting Bethlehem when Mary went into labor.
6. Who was the prophet these leaders were quoting? Micah 5:2.
These chief priests and scribes of Jerusalem were telling Herod the Great about Micah’s prophecy—knowing full well that the “ruler in Israel … from everlasting” was prophesied to come of the tribe of Judah. Joseph and Mary were both of this tribe; their lineage traces back to King David (see Matthew 1:1-16; Luke 3:23-38).
7. Before heading home, where did Joseph and Mary flee with Jesus—and how long did they stay there? Matthew 2:13-15.
8. Verse 15 contains another Old Testament quotation. Which prophet is this referring to? Hosea 11:1.
Were it not for Matthew’s quotation, a simple reading of Hosea 11:1 might make you think God was referring to national Israel metaphorically as His “son.” But God made sure we would know that Jesus’s hiding in Egypt was all part of His plan.
The rest of Matthew 2 shows how—in a fit of rage—Herod had infants 2 and under killed who lived near and around Bethlehem. Verses 17-18 show that this fulfilled another prophecy—one recorded in Jeremiah 31:15. Not long after this, Herod died, and God again revealed things to Joseph through a dream—this time, that it was safe to return home (Matthew 2:19-21).
9. Did Joseph and Mary return to Judah with Jesus? Verses 22-23.
Joseph was nearly just as fearful of the new ruler, since it was Herod’s son. Nevertheless, they made it back to Nazareth and settled there. Even this fulfilled a prophecy, verse 23 shows. But this one cannot be found anywhere in the Old Testament because it was not a written prophecy. It was “spoken by the prophets.” As the July 1961 Good News explains, “It was a universally recognized oral prophecy that was authoritatively preserved from generation to generation by the priests. It became a written prophecy only in New Testament times.”
A Miraculous Ministry
By the time of His early ministry, another major prophecy is quoted in the New Testament—this one in all four Gospels. It was about a messenger who would precede the Messiah’s ministry.
1. Who was this man, and what message did he preach? Luke 3:1-3.
2. Whose recorded prophecy from the Old Testament did this fulfill? Read verses 4-6, then Isaiah 40:3-5.
Three other Gospel writers also quoted this prophecy (Matthew 3:1-3; Mark 1:2-3; John 1:23), though Luke’s contains the most detail.
3. In Mark’s account, what other prophecy did he quote that John the Baptist fulfilled? Compare Mark 1:2 and Malachi 3:1.
Jesus Christ Himself also quoted Malachi 3:1 to state emphatically that John the Baptist fulfilled this verse (see Matthew 11:7-10).
4. By the time Jesus Christ began His ministry, He had been baptized by John and tempted by Satan (at the end of the 40-day-and-night fast). After this time, where did He start preaching? Luke 4:13-16.
5. Which prophet did Christ quote on this particular Sabbath? Verses 17-19.
6. What happened when He finished reading? Verses 20-22, 28-30.
Christ Himself drew attention to the fact that this passage from Isaiah (spelled Esaias here in the New Testament) was being fulfilled at that moment.
7. Compare what Christ read to the actual account in Isaiah 61. Can you note where Christ stopped reading? Isaiah 61:1-2.
Christ stopped in the middle of what we call “verse 2” because the rest of verse 2 talks about His coming in power and glory—His rule—which was to happen at His Second Coming. Had He read on, He could not have said: “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”
8. Christ’s preaching there was hard for these Jews to accept. They attempted to murder Him and then, Luke writes, He went to Capernaum (verse 31). Where is Capernaum in relation to the lands allotted to the 12 tribes of Israel? Matthew 4:13.
The “sea coast” refers to the Sea of Galilee—as Capernaum is on the northwest shore of that sea.
9. Why was it important that Christ minister in that area? Verses 14-16;Isaiah 9:1-2.
This fulfilled another prophecy and quoted another prophecy from Isaiah about these tribes seeing a great light. Even the first of Christ’s disciples were selected from this area.
10. A little after that, around the time of the first Passover during His ministry, He and His disciples came to Jerusalem, along with His mother and brothers (John 2:12-13). This is the first account of Jesus driving the moneychangers out of the temple. You can read about Christ’s reaction in verses 14-16. What Old Testament phrase were the disciples reminded of when they saw Christ react this way? Read verse 17andPsalm 69:9.
11. What does Isaiah prophesy about the healing promise, as it relates to the Messiah? Isaiah 53:4; Matthew 8:14-17.
In Matthew 8, Christ is back in Capernaum. Having just healed Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, many others came to Him for healing—which prompts Matthew to quote Isaiah, offering more documentation that this was the Messiah.
Christ’s miracles also drew a lot of antagonism from the religious establishment of the day (Matthew 12:14), but He continued to heal “great multitudes” in spite of this resistance (verse 15).
12. In the next verse, it says He “charged them that they should not make him known.” Why? Verses 17-21. Can you see how this is quoting two separate portions of Isaiah? Isaiah 42:1-3; 11:10.
Final Days in the Flesh
1. As His ministry drew to a close, Jesus Christ took His 12 disciples to Jerusalem. Why? Luke 18:31.
This would fulfill several prophecies from the Old Testament!
2. What specific prophecies “concerning the Son of man” would take place? Verses 32-33.
3. He would be spit on, beaten and scourged beyond recognition to the point of people hiding their faces from Him. Can you find all those things mentioned in the Old Testament? Isaiah 50:6; 52:14; 53:3.
4. Interestingly, were the disciples aware that these things would fulfill those above-mentioned prophecies? Luke 18:34.
They didn’t have God’s Holy Spirit dwelling in them, plus some of this was “hid from them” at this time. Even in God’s Church today, certain things will happen, but God doesn’t reveal the fact that those things were prophesied until He reveals it in a verse we’ve read for years and never fully understood!
5. When Jesus entered Jerusalem this final time, He had just resurrected Lazarus—which had caused many Jews to start believing in His Messiahship. This also caused the final push of persecution that would end in Jesus Christ’s execution. How was Christ received in Jerusalem? John 12:12-15.
Notice the type of animal upon which Christ rode.
6. Was that prophesied to happen? Verse 16 and Zechariah 9:9.
You can also read about this in Matthew 21:4-5, but John draws attention to the fact that—as these things were happening— the disciples weren’t aware that these things were fulfilling an ancient prophecy. But God brought it to their memories later (“when Jesus was glorified”), particularly so they could write it down.
7. Now notice more quotations in this account. What prophecy was fulfilled in those who doubted His miracles? Compare John 12:37-38 and Isaiah 53:1.
8. Did this fulfill another passage in Isaiah? John 12:39-41.
John emphasizes that this particular prophecy happened when Isaiah “saw his glory”—which occurs in the first several verses of Isaiah 6. So here the Bible gives us a little help as to where to find that quotation, and it’s found specifically in Isaiah 6:9-10.
9. At His last Passover, what Old Testament quotation did Christ use to explain the persecution aimed at Him and His followers? Compare John 15:20-25 and Psalm 69:4.
Even this intense hatred was a prophesied circumstance.
10. Christ’s betrayal was prophesied (see Matthew 26:13-24 and Mark 14:20-21—“as it is written of him”), but which Gospel writer quoted the actual Old Testament verse? Compare John 13:18 and Psalm 41:9.
The one who betrayed Christ was also prophesied to be “lost … that the scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12). Acts 1:20 shows how Judas Iscariot’s tragic end fulfilled a verse in Psalm 69 and a larger section of Psalm 109.
Death and Resurrection
This betrayal, of course, led to Christ’s arrest. Christ knew how His disciples would respond to this.
1. How did Jesus reply to those who came to arrest Him? Mark 14:48-49.
2. What would the disciples’ reaction be? Read Zechariah 13:7 then Mark 14:27, 50-52.
Moving ahead to His crucifixion, we will see more remarkably specific prophecies!
3. Was Jesus Christ crucified alone? Mark 15:27. Why not? Verse 28; Luke 22:37.
4. Which scripture did this fulfill? Isaiah 53:12.
5. In what prophesied way did the soldiers handle Christ’s clothes? Compare John 19:23-24 with Psalm 22:18. (Matthew calls the author of Psalm 22 “the prophet”—referring to King David, its author.)
Consider the peculiarity of this prophecy! Grant R. Jeffrey, in his book, The Signature of God, writes: “Think of how unlikely it was that Roman soldiers would bother to gamble to see who would win the right to claim the garments of a crucified prisoner. Yet the prophecy was fulfilled precisely.”
6. What did Jesus do a little later to help fulfill one of the prophecies about Him? John 19:28-30. This was one of the last things Jesus did, and what prophecy did it fulfill? Psalm 69:21.
This gives us the sense that Jesus Himself was aware of these prophecies as they were happening and ensuring that God’s Word was accomplished fully!
7. In what prophesied way did Jesus die? John 19:31-34; Zechariah 12:10; Psalm 34:20.
It was prophesied that His bones would not be broken and that He would be “pierced” (see Revelation 1:7).
In some of the passages we’ve studied, the writers themselves drew attention to which Old Testament prophecy was fulfilled. In some, Jesus Christ Himself made those connections. After His resurrection, He continues to teach this exact truth to His disciples. Otherwise, how would they have known? How could they have written it down as they did?
8. Even at this point, some were still having trouble believing Christ was actually resurrected. How does Christ chide them for this? Luke 24:25-27.
They were slow to believe “all that the prophets have spoken.” So Christ “expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” They took this correction and began to proclaim these wonderful connections between prophesied events and the dramatic things that had just happened! In verses 30-32, you can read how inspired they were to hear this preached to them.
9. Later when the disciples were gathered together, the resurrected Christ appeared to them. What was one of the things Christ taught at this gathering? Verses 44-48.
Not only were all the Old Testament prophecies written about Him fulfilled, He also “opened … their understanding”! They understood that they were “witnesses of these things”—not just the events themselves but how those events tied into the prophecies!
Building Faith for the Future
In The Signature of God, Grant R. Jeffrey discusses 17 of these prophecies to show numerically—using probability—that no one could predict that all these details would happen in one person’s life. Of course, Christ’s Messiahship was not a probability equation—God prophesied it! “Some Bible critics have suggested that Jesus of Nazareth, as a rabbi, knew about these predictions and simply arranged the events of His life to fulfill the predictions. However, consider the impossibility of such a thing. How could you arrange in advance to be born in Bethlehem? How could you manage to manipulate circumstances so that you would be descended from the tribe of Judah? How could you arrange with your enemies for the price of your betrayal to be precisely 30 pieces of silver? How could you set it up with the Roman authorities that you would be crucified with thieves?”
Those are good questions, and you’ve proven the answers!
Finally, notice what Acts 3:18 says: “But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.” This became a benchmark teaching of the first-century Church of God. Again, apostles and evangelists penned the New Testament partly to confirm this truth. And many of them died for this conviction.
Because what was it all for? The next verses continue the same thought: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (verses 19-21).
Look at everything Christ fulfilled in His first coming, and there should be no doubt that the rest of this will be fulfilled. Times of refreshing are coming! And it will be fulfilled exactly as all the prophets have said!