Jesus in the Old Testament
by Ron Jones, D.D.
©The Titus Institute of California, www.titusinstitute.com
Outline, Scripture Verses, and Explanation
“These are the Scriptures that testify about me,” Jesus said in Jn.5:39.
Jesus taught that there were references to himself in the Old Testament. In Jn.5:46, Jesus speaks specifically of Moses (the author of the first five books of the Old Testament) writing about him, “If you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about me.”
In Lu.24:13-27, Luke writes that Jesus taught the two disciples on the Emmaus road about himself from the OT. He writes in v.27, “And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”
What are the Old Testament references to Jesus, the messiah, the Son of God?
There are basically two kinds of OT references to the Son of God, the messiah. They are the messianic prophecies and pre-incarnate appearances.
1. The messiah was called by the titles of God, Jehovah and Elohim, in the OT.
2. The messiah was prophesied to be both David’s physical descendent and David’s spiritual Lord in the OT.
3. The messiah was prophesied to be the Son of God in the OT.
4. The messiah was prophesied to be the Son of Man, the king who will come to earth in power and glory and rule over it.
1. The messiah’s birth
2. The messiah’s ministry life and ministry
3. The messiah’s death and resurrection
I. His messianic Prophecies in the OT
A. OT prophecies of the messiah’s true identity
1. The messiah was called by the titles of God, Jehovah and Elohim, in the OT.
1) Jehovah says to Zechariah that in the future the Jews “will look upon me whom they have pierced.”
In v.1, the Lord (Jehovah) is introduced and, in v.2, the Lord speaks. He shares what he will do for Jerusalem, His people, in the future when messiah comes (the second time).
Zech.12:1- 4 says,
“The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, thus says the LORD, who stretches forth the heavens, and lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him. Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling to all the people around it, when they shall lay siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it. In that day, says the Lord, I will strike every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness and I will open my eyes upon the house of Judah, and will strike every horse of the people with blindness.”
Then later in v.9 and v. 10, he foretells how he will work in the hearts of his people by his sovereign grace,
“And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications, and they will look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son. And they shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. In that day there will be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon. And the land shall mourn, every family…”
In v.10 above, Jehovah says that they will “look upon me whom they have pierced and mourn for him as one mourns for an only son.”
This is an obvious reference to the messiah, Jesus Christ, whom the Jews would pierce by handing him over to the Romans who crucified him, piercing his hands and his feet.
This agrees with Ps.22:16 where David predicts that the messiah would be pierced when he says, “they pierced my hands and my feet.”
In Rev.1:7 John writes of Jesus, the messiah, when he says, “Behold, he comes in the clouds; and every eye shall see him, and those also who pierced him and all the tribes of the earth shall mourn because of him.”
Jesus the messiah is Jehovah.
2) Jeremiah 23:5-6 predicts that the messiah will be described by the divine name of Jehovah.
In Jeremiah 23:5-6 it says,
“’Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘that I will raise to David a righteous Branch, and a King will reign and prosper, and will execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name by which he will be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.’”
Matthew Henry, in his commentary on this passage, explains the significance of this messianic description.
“He is here spoken of as The Lord our righteousness. Observe, who and what he is. As God, he is Jehovah, the incommunicable name of God, denoting his eternity and self-existence. As Mediator, he is our righteousness. By making satisfaction to the justice of God for the sin of man, he has brought in an everlasting righteousness, and so made it over to us in the covenant of grace that, upon our believing consent to that covenant, it becomes ours. His being Jehovah our righteousness implies that he is so our righteousness as no creature could be. He is a sovereign, all-sufficient, eternal righteousness. All our righteousness has its being from him, and by him it subsists, and we are made the righteousness of God in him.”
“The profession and declaration of this: This is the name whereby he shall be called, not only he shall be so, but he shall be known to be so. God shall call him by this name, for he shall appoint him to be our righteousness. By this name Israel shall call him, every true believer shall call him, and call upon him. That is our righteousness by which, as an allowed plea, we are justified before God, acquitted from guilt, and accepted into favor; and nothing else have we to plead but this, ‘Christ has died, yea, rather has risen again;’ and we have taken him for our Lord.”
1) In Isa.9:6-7, Isaiah predicted that the messiah would be “mighty God.”
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder. His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of his government and peace upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from now on and even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”
The expression “mighty God” is “el shaddai.”
Later in Isaiah, the Lord speaks through him in Isa.43:10 proclaiming, “…before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.” (cf.Isa.44:8)
The Lord declares in the very same prophet that he is the only God. Therefore, “mighty God” cannot refer to the messiah being another god besides the true God. The messiah is God.
2) In Isaiah 40:3, Isaiah predicted that the coming messiah would be the Lord God preceded by a herald.
Isaiah 40:3 says,
“The voice of him that cries in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’”
This is the herald of the messiah. The messiah is the one who would be coming. This is a prophecy revealing the nature of the messiah as the Lord (Jehovah) and God (Elohim) who is coming.
In Jn.3:3-5, John the Baptist claimed to be this “voice” preparing the way of the messiah as prophesied in Isaiah.
“The voice of him that cries in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.’”
Parallel passages are Matt.3:1-3, Lu.3:3-5.
In Mal.4:5-6, it was prophesied that Elijah would return to introduce the day of the Lord, the time when the Lord came to the earth. It says,
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”
The Angel Gabriel announced to John’s Father that he would prepare the way for the Lord “in the spirit and power of Elijah.”
“For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord. He shall drink neither wine nor strong drink and he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. He shall turn many of the children of Israel back to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him [the Lord] in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Jesus taught that John the Baptist did fulfill this prophecy.
In Matt.11:13-14, Jesus said,
“For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you will receive it, this is Elijah, who is to come.”
Jesus is saying that this OT prophecy was fulfilled in John the Baptist figuratively. Implied in this is the truth that Jesus is the Lord whose way John prepared. Jesus is the Lord, Jehovah.
3) In Isaiah 7:14, it is prophesied that the messiah would be “Immanuel,” God with us.
“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and you shall call his name Immanuel.”
The apostle Matthew by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit quotes this OT prophecy in Matt. 1:20-24,
“But while he thought about these things, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, son of David, fear not to take to yourself Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she shall bring forth a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that what was spoken from the Lord by the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, ‘Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which translated is ‘God with us.’ Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him, and took to his wife into his home.”
“Emmanuel” means “God with us.” In the OT and NT, “name” not only referred to what someone was literally called (i.e. Jesus), but also to a description of that person (i.e. Immanuel). Emmanuel tells us that Jesus would be God among us. Jesus would not only be Jehovah, but Elohim.
4) In Ps.45:6-7, David’s declaration of the divinity of the messiah, the coming king, points to the divinity of the messiah. It says,
“Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a righteous scepter. You love righteousness, and hate wickedness, therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows.”
This verse is quoted in Hebrews 1 in reference to Jesus Christ. The writer to the Hebrews contrasts the superiority of the Son of God to angels in Hebrews chapter 1. After writing that angels are ministering spirits, he states that God the Father has spoken of the superiority of the Son in Psalm 45:6-7 which he quotes.
In it, God the Father addresses the Son as God who rules his kingdom in righteousness. He says,
“But to the Son he [God the Father] says, ‘Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever, a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness, and hated iniquity, therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows.’”
All the personal pronouns in these two verses point to the Son of God. This indicates that “O God” must refer to the Son of God who is the “you” addressed by God the Father.
c. Jesus accepts the OT titles of Jehovah and Elohim in the NT.
The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Hebrew OT made by the Jewish people around 250 BC. In it the Hebrew word “Yahweh” (Jehovah) translated in English “Lord” is translated by the Greek word “kurios.” The Hebrew word “Elohim” translated by the English word “God” is translated by the Greek word “theos.”
1) In several psalms, David addresses the Lord as his Lord and God. He personally worships God as deity.
Ps.7:1 David declares “O LORD my God, in thee do I put my trust: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me…”
Ps.13:3 David says, “Consider and hear me, O LORD my God. Lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; ”
In Ps.30:1, David says, “I will extol thee, O LORD; for you have lifted me up, and have not allowed my foes to rejoice over me. O LORD my God, I cried to you, and you have healed me.”
This personal declaration by David to his Lord and God is the same one used by the apostle Thomas to Jesus Christ.
In Jn.20:26-29, Thomas calls Jesus, “My Lord and my God.” It says,
“And after eight days again his disciples were inside and Thomas with them. Then Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in their midst, and said, ‘Peace be to you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Reach here your finger and behold my hands and reach here your hand, and thrust it into my side and be not unbelieving, but believing.’ And Thomas answered and said to him, ‘My Lord and my God.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed.’”
Jesus accepts Thomas’ declaration of his true identity as both Lord (Jehovah) and God (Elohim) and even blesses those who will declare the same thing without actually seeing him physically alive.
d. Indirect references to Jesus as Jehovah and Elohim of the OT
1) There are NT passages where the author applies OT passages that are clearly referring Jehovah or Elohim to Jesus Christ.
In Heb.1:10-12 the author applies an OT passage, which teaches that God created the earth and universe to Jesus Christ.
It says, “And, you, Lord, in the beginning have laid the foundation of the earth and the heavens are the works of your hands. ”
This is a quote from Ps.102:25-27 where the psalmist speaks of God’s creation of the earth and universe.
Ps. 102: 25-27, Of old you [the Son - v.8] have laid the foundation of the earth and the heavens are the work of your hands. ”
2) In Eph.4:7-10, Paul applies to Jesus Christ an OT statement by David, which was addressed to God. Paul says,
“7But to every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 8Wherefore he says, ‘When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men. 9(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)
Paul quotes Ps. 68:18 which says, “You [v.10 - God] have ascended on high; you have led captivity captive. You have received gifts for men; yes, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them.”
Here, David addresses God using the title Elohim, but also he calls Elohim the Lord God.
3) In John 12:41 John claims that Isaiah the prophet saw Jesus in his glory as the Lord God.
In Jn.12:41, John explains why many Jews saw Jesus’ miracles, but still rejected him. He says that it was because of God’s judgment which God himself had predicted would happen.
37But though he [Jesus] had done so miracles before them, yet they did not believe on him: 38That the saying of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke, ‘Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ 39Therefore they could not believe, because of what Isaiah said again, 40 ‘He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.’
This was prophesied by Isaiah the prophet in Isa.6:9-10. Then in v.41, John says that Isaiah said this when Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory. When did Isaiah see Jesus in his glory? At the time that this prophesy took place.
This occurred in Isa.6:1-8.
Then John adds in v.41, “41These things Isaiah said when he saw his glory, and spoke of him.”
“1In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. 2Above it stood the seraphim: each one had six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3And one cried to another, and said, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory. 4And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.
5Then I said, “Woe is me! for I am undone because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips. For mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. 6Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: 7And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips and your iniquity is taken away, and your sin is purged.’ 8I also heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then said I, ‘Here I am; send me.”
“9And he [the Lord} said, ‘Go, and tell this people, you indeed hear, but you do not understand; and you indeed see, but you do not perceive. 10Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.”
Isaiah saw the Lord sitting on his throne. That Lord was the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Then the Lord told him to go and speak to the people of Israel judgment. A judgment that was for Isaiah’s present time and later a judgment for the Israelites of Jesus’ time. God would harden their hearts in a stronger way because they already had hard hearts against then Lord.
2. The messiah was prophesied to be both David’s physical descendent and David’s spiritual Lord in the OT.
It was predicted in the OT that the messiah would be the “Son of David,” that is, a physical descendent of David who would “reign on David’s throne.”
See 2 Sam. 7:12-13, Ps. 89:3- 4, Isa.9:6-7
The Jewish leaders believed and taught this. See John 7:42
Jesus fulfilled this prophecy as he was the physical descendent of David through his mother Mary (Lu. 1:27, 32) and the legal descendent of David through Joseph (Matt. 1:1, 17, Lu. 2:4).
Jesus accepted the title of “Son of David” which means that he accepted the people’s recognition of him being the messiah. See Matt.9:27-31; 20:29-34; 21:14-16
In Matt.22:41-46, Jesus taught that messiah was predicted not only to be a human being descended from David, but also an eternal divine being who was superior to David. It says,
41While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42saying, ‘What do you think of the Christ? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The Son of David.’ 43He said to them, ‘How then does David in the Spirit call him Lord, saying, 44‘The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit on my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool?’’ 45If David then called him Lord, how is he his son?’ 46And no one was able to answer him a word, neither did any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.”
Jesus quotes Ps.110:1 where David calls the messiah “Lord.”
For David to call the messiah Lord means that the messiah existed before Jesus was physically born and that the messiah was superior to David. Therefore the messiah could not have been just a human being nor could he have been an angel (since an angel would not be called Lord). The messiah must be God.
This prophecy refers to the ultimate victory of the messiah over all his enemies.
3. The messiah was prophesied to be the Son of God in the OT.
a. In Heb.1:4-5, the writer applies two OT texts to Jesus that speak of the messiah’s true identity as the Son of God. It says,
“4Being made so much better than the angels, as he has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. 5For to which of the angels did he [God] say this at any time, ‘You are my Son, this day I have begotten you.’ And again, ‘I will be a Father to him and he shall be a Son to me.’”
The first statement comes from Ps.2. This psalm is a messianic psalm. It looks at the coronation of the king of Israel, but at the same time looks beyond him to the great king of Israel, the coming messiah who will rule Israel.
“7will declare the decree the Lord has said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 8Ask me, and I shall give you the heathen for your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession. 9You shall break them with a rod of iron; you shall dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. 10Be wise now therefore, O you kings: be instructed, you judges of the earth. 11Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. 12Kiss the Son, lest he become angry, and you perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all that put their trust in him.’”
The messiah will be the Son of God who will rule with power and authority when he establishes his earthly kingdom on it. The specific reference is to the earthly kingdom Israel, but the ultimate reference is to the messiah. This becomes obvious in such statements as “I shall give the heathen for your inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession.” This king rules a worldwide kingdom. No human rule could fulfill that prophecy, only the messiah.
The writer to the Hebrews in 1:4-5 says it is fulfilled in the messiah. He is the Son of God.
The second quote is from 2 Sam.7:13-14 and/or 1 Chron.17:12-13. In this passage, God is speaking through Nathan the prophet to David. He explains that God will establish the throne of David through his son, Solomon. As he predicts this, he looks forward to the coming of the messiah who will sit on David’s throne forever. 2 Sam.7:13-14 says,
“12And when your days are completed, and you sleep with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who shall proceed out of your loins, and I will establish his kingdom. 13He will build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14I will be his father, and he shall be my son.”
Again, this prophecy has a specific reference, David’s son Solomon and an ultimate reference, the messiah. These prophecies caused the Jews to correctly believe that the messiah would be both the Son of David and the Son of God.
b. In Jn.1:49, Nathanael recognizes the supernatural knowledge that Jesus possesses and immediately calls him the “Son of God.” It says,
“49Nathanael answered and said to him, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.’”
c. At his trial before the leaders of Israel, the high priest asks Jesus plainly if he is claiming to be “the Son of God.”
“63But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said to him, ‘I adjure thee by the living God, that you tell us whether you are the Christ, the Son of God.’ 64Jesus said to him, ‘You have said it. Nevertheless I say to you, Hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven.’”
The messiah was prophesied to be the Son of God in the OT. The Jews recognized that the messiah would be the Son of God. Jesus claimed to be the messiah, the Son of God. Those who believed in Jesus accepted his claim. The high priest and other Jewish leaders would not accept that Jesus was the messiah, the Son of God.
The apostles’ gospel message was that Jesus was the long awaited messiah, the Son of God prophesied in the OT.
In Jn.20:30, John explains why he wrote his gospel.
“30And many other signs Jesus did in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that believing you might have life through his name.”
4. The messiah was prophesied to be the Son of Man, the king, who will come to earth in power and glory and rule over it.
a. In the book of Daniel, God gave to Daniel a revelation of the messiah and Daniel referred to him as “son of man.”
In this vision, Daniel saw “one like the Son of man.” This one came up to God surrounded by clouds and received authority to rule [as the God-man] over the earth and all human beings. His kingdom would exist forever.
In Dan.7:13-14, it says,
“I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom which shall not be destroyed.”
b. Jesus took upon himself this messianic title, “Son of Man” and referred to his fulfillment of this vision of messiah.
1) In Mk. 13:24-27, Jesus declared of his second coming,
“But in those days, after the tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light. The stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. Then they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then he shall send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.”
2) Later, when he was arrested and brought before the Jewish council, the high priest demanded that Jesus tell them whether he was the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus answered him using the title and prophecy of Dan.7:13-14.
In Matt. 26:63-64, it says,
63But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said to him, ‘I adjure you by the living God, that you tell us whether you are the Christ, the Son of God.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have said it; nevertheless I say to you, hereafter shall you see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.
5. The messiah was prophesied to be the cornerstone and foundation of Israel.
In Isaiah 28:16, it was prophesied, “Therefore thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation…”
Paul referred to this prophesy of Jesus in two passages. In Rom. 9:31-33, he wrote,
31But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? They did not seek it by faith, but as if it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone; as it is written, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offence and whoever believes on him shall not be ashamed.’”
In Eph. 2:20, he wrote,
“And the [saints=believers] are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone; in whom all the building fitly framed together grows into an holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are built together for an dwelling of God through the Spirit.”
Another OT passage with a similar theme quoted in the NT is Ps.118:22 which says, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”
In Acts 4:11, Peter proclaims that Jesus is the “stone which was rejected” by Israel, but “which has become the very cornerstone.”
Later, in I Peter 2:6-8, Peter refers to both OT passages about the Christ. It says,
“Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect and precious; he that believes on him shall not be confounded.’ To you therefore who believe he is precious, but to those who are disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same has become the cornerstone, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence…”
1. The messiah’s birth
2. The messiah’s ministry
3. The messiah’s sufferings and death
4. The messiah’s resurrection
The OT prophecies not only predicted the true identity of Jesus the messiah as the Son of God, but also predicted the circumstances of his birth, life and ministry, death, and resurrection.
These prophecies were to act as the credentials of the messiah.
God wanted His people to know that anyone claiming to be the messiah who did not fulfill the O.T. prophecies simply could not be the messiah. Jesus Himself established His claims to be the messiah, the Savior of the world because He alone fulfilled the O.T. prophecies. These prophecies were given hundreds of years before Jesus was born and when Jesus came He fulfilled them. In fact, he was the only one that has come forward claiming to be the messiah that has fulfilled them.
Henry Liddon, the brilliant nineteenth century Christian Oxford professor found 332 "distinct predictions which were fulfilled in Christ."
Each of these prophecies that Christ fulfilled gives evidence that Jesus was everything He claimed that He was.
1. The messiah’s birth
a. The messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
God had selected Bethlehem to be the birthplace of the messiah. This is foretold by Micah, the prophet.
In Micah 5:2, Micah writes,
“But you, Bethlehem Ephratah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall he who is to be ruler in Israel come forth whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”
The Jewish people knew this prophecy and thus the birthplace of the messiah. When Herod called the Jewish leaders together to find out where messiah was predicted to be born, they quoted to him this prophecy.
In Mat.2:3-6, Matthew states,
“When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet, And you Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the princes of Judah, for out of you shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.’”
This is in fact where Jesus was born. God used a census by Quirinius to move Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem since they were residents of Nazareth.
God predicted that the messiah would be no ordinary child when he was born. He would have a supernatural conception based on his divine nature.
b. The messiah would be born from a virgin
Matthew tells us in his gospel that Jesus was born of a virgin as was prophesied of the messiah in the OT.
In Matt.1:18-25 it says,
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was like this: When his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, had in mind to divorce her privately. While he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, Son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she shall bring forth a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.’ Now all this was done so that what was spoken from the Lord by the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, ‘Behold, a virgin shall be with child and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which means God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him, and took her as his wife. And he did not know her until she had brought forth her firstborn son and he called his name Jesus.”
Matthew under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit says that this supernatural occurrence of Mary, a virgin, having the child Jesus by the Holy Spirit was a fulfillment of the prophecy of messiah and then quotes Isa.7:14. This is a NT confirmation that the prophecy of Isa.7:14 was messianic and was about a virgin, not just a young woman.
In Isa:7:14 Isaiah predicts that God will give a sign to his people of his power and deliverance of Judah and the entire nation of Israel in the future.
14 “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign: ‘Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.’”
The sign would be a virgin who would bear a son.
The Hebrew word "almah" translated "virgin" means "a young unmarried woman of marriageable age." There was an implied virginity in the usage of the word since young unmarried women in Israel were virgins. The word is used nine times in the O.T. and the other eight times it appears, it always refers to young unmarried women who are virgins. (Gromacki, p.146) When the translators of the Septuagint, the Greek version of the O.T. in the 3rd century B.C translated "almah" they translated it "parthenos" the Greek word for "virgin." The word is always used in the N.T. of virgins. This is emphasized by both Matthew and Luke in their inspired accounts of the conception and birth of Jesus Christ. Mary did not have relations with any man is clear. Lu.1:24, Matt.1:18.
This was the sign that no matter what happened to Israel in history, no one could destroy Israel completely because of the messiah’s coming.
2. The messiah’s ministry
a. The messiah would begin his ministry in Galilee
Matthew records that Jesus spent time preaching and teaching in the region of Galilee, which was a fulfillment of an OT prophecy of the messiah. Mat.4:12-17 says,
“Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is on the sea coast, in the area of Zebulun and Nephthali so that what was spoken by Isaiah the prophet night be fulfilled, saying, ‘The land of Zebulun and the land of Nephthali, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people that sat in darkness saw a great light and to them that sat in the region and shadow of death light has risen up. From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”
The OT prophecy this fulfills is Isa.9:1-2. It says,
“Nevertheless there shall be no more dimness in her distress. At the first he afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali and afterward he more grievously afflicted her by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light, they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them the light has shined.”
b. The messiah would have a ministry of preaching and miracles.
Matthew 9:35 records that Jesus preached and healed in his ministry as the messiah. It says,
“And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.”
Two of the OT Scriptures Jesus applied to himself revealed his true identity as the messiah who would preach and heal.
1) In Nazareth, Jesus applied Isa.61:1-2 to himself and his ministry of preaching the gospel. In Lu.4:16-21, it says,
“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And there was delivered to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, and to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.’ And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all those who were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say to them, ‘This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.’”
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek, he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, release from darkness for the prisoners, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
2) Jesus also applied another passage from Isaiah to himself, which predicts his healing ministry as he answers the question of the disciples of John the Baptist.
It was revealed to John the Baptist that Jesus was the messiah and that he would come to fulfill the prophecies of messiah in the OT. The prophecies spoke of both Jesus’ first coming when he would save the world by preaching, healing, and his death on the cross and his second coming when he would judge the world by coming in great authority and destruction of the ungodly and setting up his kingdom in Israel. It was not revealed to John that there would be two separate comings of the messiah.
After John was imprisoned by Herod and he saw the signs of his first coming, but not the second, he sent his disciples to confirm with Jesus that he was indeed the messiah. Jesus answered his disciple by pointing out he was fulfilling the first coming signs of the messiah just as it was prophesied. Matthew records this in Mat.11:1-6. It says,
“And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities. Now when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said to him, ‘Are you he that should come, or do we look for another?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Go and show John again those things which you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who shall not be offended by me.’”
Jesus quotes part of an OT prophecy of the messiah in Isa.35:3-6. It says,
“Strengthen your weak hands and feeble knees. Say to them who are fearful, ‘Be strong, do not fear: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer and the tongue of the mute sing, for in the wilderness waters come forth and there will be streams in the desert.”
This Isaiah passage actually speaks of both the first and second coming of the Lord. Jesus at that time applies the first coming predictions to himself and will later fulfill the second coming predictions.
3. The messiah’s suffering and death
There are two major passages that prophesy of the suffering and death of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
a. Isaiah 53
This predicts that the messiah would be despised and rejected by men (v.3) be a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief (v.3) bear our griefs and carry our sorrows, yet esteemed as stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted (v.4) be wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities (v.5) have sufferings which provided peace and healing (v.5) have the iniquity of all laid upon him by God (v.6) be oppressed and afflicted and yet be silent before His persecutors as a lamb led to the slaughter (v.7) be stricken for the transgression of his people (v.8) be with the wicked when he died, but buried with the rich (v.9) have ‘done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth’” (v.9)
The record of Jesus sufferings in the Gospels demonstrate the fulfillment of these prophecies.
In Matt.27:46, Matthew records, “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is to say, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’”
This is a quote from Ps.22 which predicts the suffering of the messiah.
The messiah would be forsaken of God (v.1) be ridiculed and taunted (vv. 6-8); suffer unspeakable agony (vv. 14-16); have his bones pulled out of joint (v. 14) ; suffer thirst (v. 15) have his hands and feet pierced (v.16) have his garments divided with the exception of His vesture, for which they would cast lots (v. 18) be brought to death (v. 15).
The record of Jesus sufferings in the Gospels demonstrate the fulfillment of these prophecies.
4. The messiah’s resurrection
a. The messiah would die and rise again from the dead.
In Acts 2:22-32, Peter, the apostle, preached to a Jewish multitude about the prophecy in the psalms about the death and resurrection of the messiah. It says,
“Men of Israel, hear these words. Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the your midst, as you yourselves also know. This man, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain. God has raised him up, having loosed the pains of death because it was not possible that he should be held by it. For David speaks concerning him, ‘I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved. Therefore my heart rejoiced and my tongue was glad; moreover my flesh also shall rest in hope because you will not leave my soul in the grave, neither will you allow your Holy One to see corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; you shall make me full of joy with your countenance. Men and brethren, let me freely speak to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us to this day.
Therefore being a prophet and knowing that God had sworn to him with an oath, that he would raise up the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, Christ, to sit on his throne. Seeing this beforehand he spoke of the resurrection of Christ; that is, his soul was not left in the grave, neither did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, to which we are all witnesses.
Peter quotes Ps.16:8-11. It says,
“I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also shall rest in hope. For you will not leave my soul in the grave, neither will you allow your Holy One to see corruption. You will show me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”
In Acts 13:34-37, Paul also appeals to this psalm as a prediction that Jesus, the messiah, would be resurrected from the dead.
II. His pre-incarnate appearances in the OT
A. The Son of God was called the Angel or Messenger of the Lord when he appeared in the OT.
In the Old Testament, a being appears who is called the “Messenger of the Lord” or the “Messenger of God” and is also called “Lord” and “God.”
He is described as separate from the Lord (Jehovah) and yet is called Lord (Jehovah). He is described as separate from God (Elohim) and yet is called God (Elohim). This perfectly coincides with how the Son of God is described in the New Testament.
The Hebrew word translated “angel” also means “messenger” (one who brings a message from another).
Although it is often translated as “Angel of the Lord.” However, he is clearly not an angelic spirit being as can be seen from context of the various passages where he appears.
The appearances of the Son of God as the “Messenger of the Lord” in the OT are given below in chronological order.
1. The Messenger of the Lord, the Son of God, appears to Hagar in Gen.16:7-14
In Gen.16:7-14, Hagar the slave woman was cast out of the house by Sarah, Abraham’s wife. She went into the wilderness and sat down wondering what to do. The “Angel of the Lord” then appeared to her.
“7And the angel of the Lord found her [Hagar] by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain on the way to Shur. 8And he said, ‘Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where did you come from? And where will you go?’ And she said, “I am fleeing from the face of my mistress Sarai.’ 9And the angel [messenger] of the Lord said to her, ‘Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hands.’
In v.10-13 it says,
“And the angel of the Lord said to her, ‘I will multiply your seed exceedingly, that it shall not be able to be numbered.’ And the angel of the Lord said to her, ‘Behold, you are with child, and shall bear a son, and shall call his name Ishmael; because the Lord has heard your affliction. 12And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren. 13And she gave this name to the Lord that spoke to her, ‘You God see me’ for she said, ‘Have I also here looked after him that sees me?’ 14Wherefore the well was called Beerlahairoi. Behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.”
How do we know the “messenger of the Lord” is not an angelic being, but the Lord?
1) The Angel of the Lord exercises the divine attribute of making humans fertile while using the pronoun “I” when he says in 10, “I will multiply your seed exceedingly.” This demonstrates that he is the Lord, not an angel.
2) In v.13 Hagar identifies the Angel of the Lord as the Lord himself when Moses writes, “And she gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her, ‘You are the God who sees me.’
The Angel of the Lord must be the second person of the Trinity, the Son of God who is both the messenger of the Lord and the Lord. This is most likely a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ since 1 Tim.6:16 says that no man has seen God the Father at any time.
The name “Yahweh” or “Jehovah” denotes the divine nature which is a trinity so that both the Father and the Son can be called Lord and God at the same time and yet be separate persons.
John the Apostle says the same thing when he says in Jn.1:1, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”
2. The Messenger of the Lord appears to Abraham when he was about to sacrifice Isaac Gen.22:9-19
In Gen.22:9-14 the Angel of the Lord called out to Abraham from heaven and identified himself as God when he said, “you have not withheld your only son from me.” (v.12)
“9And they came to the place which God had told him. Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. 10And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. 11And the angel of the Lord called to him out of heaven, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham. And he said, ‘Here I am.’ 12And he said, “Do not lay your hand upon the boy, neither do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son from me.’ 13And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram was caught in a thicket by his horns. Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering instead of his son. 14And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh, as it is said to this day, ‘In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.’”
3. The Messenger of God speaks to Jacob in a dream and calls himself God.
“And the angel of God spoke to me in a dream, saying, ‘Jacob.’ And I said, ‘Here I am.’ And he said, ‘Now lift up your eyes and see that all the rams which leap upon the cattle are streaked, speckled, and gray spotted for I have seen all that Laban does to you. I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and where you vowed a vow to me. Now arise, get out of this land, and return to the land of your relatives.’”
4. The Messenger of the Lord appears to Moses in the burning bush in Exod.3:1-6.
The Angel of the Lord appears to Moses in the burning bush and is called God and calls himself the Lord.
1) In Ex. 3:1-6, Moses calls the being that appears in the burning bush the Messenger of the Lord (v.2), then calls him the Lord (v.4). He writes,
“1Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian. He led the flock to the backside of the desert and came to the mountain of God, to Horeb. 2And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, but the bush was not consumed. 3And Moses said, ‘I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.’ 4And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the midst of the bush, and said, ‘Moses, Moses.’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ 5And he said, ‘Do not draw closer; take off your shoes from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.’
2) Then in v. 6, the Angel of the Lord refers to himself as God. V. 6 says,
Moreover he said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.”
The Angel of the Lord is the Lord God.
5. The Angel of the Lord appears to Gideon in Jud.6:11-22.
In Jud.6:11-13, the Angel of the Lord comes to Gideon and tells him that he will lead Israel to defeat the Midianites because the Angel of the Lord will be with him. It says,
“11And there came the Angel of the Lord, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite. His son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. 12And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, ‘The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor.’
1) Then in v.14 the writer of the book of Judges calls the “Angel of the Lord” by the name “Lord” (Jehovah). It says,
“14And the Lord [refers to the Angel of the Lord who was speaking to Gideon] looked upon him, and said, ‘Go in this your strength and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have not I sent you?’ 15And he said to him, ‘Sir, How shall I save Israel? Behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.’ 16And the Lord said to him, ‘Surely I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.’
2) In v.16 above, the Lord speaks of his personal divine deliverance of Gideon (“I will be with you” - see Exod.3:12, Josh.1:5)
Then Gideon asks him for a sign that he who was telling him this was the Angel of the Lord. Gideon asked him to wait so he could make an offering to him.
In v. 19, Gideon brings his offering and sets it before the Angel of the Lord. It says,
“And Gideon went in, and made ready a young goat and unleavened cakes of an ephah of flour. The flesh he put in a basket and he put the broth in a pot and brought it out to him under the oak, and presented it. 20And the Angel of God said to him, ‘Take the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and lay them upon this rock and pour out the broth.’ And he did so. 21Then the Angel of the Lord put forth the end of the staff that was in his hand and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes. There arose fire out of the rock and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. Then the Angel of the Lord departed out of his sight.”
6. Other passages where the Son of God appears as the Angel or Messenger of Jehovah are Gen. 48:15-16 Exodus 13:21 and Exodus 14:19 Judges 2:1-5 Jud.13:1-22
John Walvoord, in his book, Jesus Christ Our Lord, writes that the Son of God is the person of the Trinity who appears in human form in the OT. These are pre-incarnate appearances of Christ. He states,
“The second Person is the visible God of the New Testament. Neither the Father nor the Spirit is characteristically revealed in bodily and visible form. While the Father’s voice is heard from heaven, and the Holy Spirit is seen descending in the form of a dove, Christ, the second Person, is the full manifestation of God in visible form. It is logical that the same Person of the Trinity should appear in bodily form in both Testaments.
Confirming this induction is the fact that the Angel of Jehovah of the Old Testament no longer appears after the incarnation. References to angels in the New Testament seem to refer to either angelic or human messengers. It is a natural inference that the Angel of Jehovah is now the incarnate Christ.
The similarity of function between the Angel of Jehovah and Christ can be observed in the fact that both are sent by the Father. In the Old Testament, the Angel of Jehovah is sent by Jehovah to reveal truth, to lead Israel and to defend and judge them. In the New Testament, Christ is sent by God the Father to reveal God in the flesh, to reveal truth and to become the Savior. It is characteristic for the Father to send and the Son to be the sent One. These facts again point to the identification of the Angel of Jehovah with Christ.
By the process of elimination, it can be demonstrated that the Angel of Jehovah could not be either the first Person or the third Person. According to John 1:18 (RSV) “No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.” This passage seems to imply that only Christ could be visible to man and that the first Person and the third Person did not reveal themselves in visible fashion.
As the Angel of Jehovah is the sent One, He could not be the Father for the Father is the Sender. As the Angel of Jehovah characteristically appears in bodily, usually human form, He could not be the Holy Spirit who does not appear bodily, except in the rare instance of appearing in the form of a dove at the baptism of Christ. It may, therefore, be concluded that the Angel of Jehovah is the second Person of the Trinity. The other theophanies of the Old Testament tend to confirm this judgment.” (Walvoord, p.45-46)
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