Quick answer: All of them. The Jewish Scriptures (the Old Testament) contain dozens of major prophecies concerning the Messiah – the Holy Redeemer sent by God to save the world. The prophecies are remarkably specific for a reason. Any phony wannabe would be easy to spot and dismissed. So why didn’t the Jewish leaders recognize Jesus as being The One? To non-Christian skeptics their refusal to do so just supplies more ammunition for them to fire at believers. They figure the Jewish hierarchy’s near-unanimous rejection of Christ gives them permission to reject Him, too. So it’s important Christians become familiar enough with the Bible to be able to show them Jesus was the only individual who fulfilled all the messianic prophecies 100%. As always, the best place to start is at the beginning. Adam and Eve gobble down the forbidden fruit. God asks why. Eve blames the snake for tricking her. God gets angry. “The LORD God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you above all the wild beasts and all the living creatures of the field! On your belly you will crawl and dust you will eat all the days of your life. And I will put hostility between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring; her offspring will attack your head, and you will attack her offspring’s heel” (Genesis 3:14-15).
This isn’t just a justifiably severe curse God lays on the snake (estrangement from associating with any other creature) but a prophecy. God’s saying there’ll be an ongoing war that’ll last for a very long time. On one side of the battle is the devil’s offspring (demons and people who dwell in darkness). On the other is the entire human race and, ultimately, Jesus Christ. Because this conflict will be waged over many millenniums it’ll often appear, even to God’s faithful, that Satan has won. But God has spoken and He cannot tell a lie. “…When the appropriate time had come, God sent out his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we may be adopted as sons with full rights”(Galatians 4:4-5). Because no human male was the father, Jesus was literally the “offspring of the woman.” The devil, aware of what had occurred, went after Him with everything he had and succeeded in keeping the majority of folks from realizing Jesus was the true Messiah. John 1:11 says of Christ, “He came to what was his own, but his own people did not receive him.” And, like a snake does, Satan attacked Jesus’ exposed foot and the venom killed Him. Satan danced. But not for long. He thought his arch enemy was dead but it turned out he’d only bruised His heel. The devil had forgotten God’s prediction back in Eden. When Jesus walked out of His temporary tomb the tables were turned. Satan had no clue concerning the consequences of the Resurrection but our Lord did. Just before His arrest He said, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out” (John 12:31). When Jesus conquered death He administered a lethal head wound to the devil from which he’ll never recover. Hebrews 2:14-15 reads, “Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, he likewise shared in their humanity, so that through death he could destroy the one who holds the power of death (that is, the devil), and set free those who were held in slavery all their lives by their fear of death.”
I asked one of my brothers in Christ who was raised Jewish why the adherents of that faith don’t acknowledge Jesus as the prophesized Messiah. His simple answer was “The rabbis don’t teach about prophecy, they focus almost exclusively on the first five books of the Bible. To them it’s all about obeying the law.” That explains a lot. If you’re told not to pay much attention to or ask questions about anything that comes after Deuteronomy you might not even know what a prophecy is. Thus what jumps out as obvious to Christians in Isaiah 52:13 – 53:9 is pretty much ignored by the average Jew because they’ve been told all along it’s unimportant. However, in light of what Jesus said in Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”, Isaiah’s prophecy (written circa 700 B.C.) is astoundingly spot on. God speaks to the Israelites: “Look, my servant will succeed! He will be elevated, lifted high, and greatly exalted – (just as many were horrified by the sight of you) he was so disfigured he no longer looked like a man; his form was so marred he no longer looked human – so now he will startle many nations. Kings will be shocked by his exaltation, for they will witness something unannounced to them, and they will understand something they had not heard about. Who would have believed what we just heard? When was the LORD’s power revealed through him? He sprouted up like a twig before God, like a root out of parched soil; he had no stately form or majesty that might catch our attention, no special appearance that we should want to follow him. He was despised and rejected by people, one who experienced pain and was acquainted with illness; people hid their faces from him; he was despised, and we considered him insignificant.” God made identifying the Messiah so easy! No one need be a genius to connect the dots to Christ.
God continues: “But he lifted up our illnesses, he carried our pain; even though we thought he was being punished, attacked by God, and afflicted for something he had done. He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds, crushed because of our sins; he endured punishment that made us well; because of his wounds we have been healed. All of us had wandered off like sheep; each of us had strayed off on his own path, but the LORD caused the sin of all of us to attack him. He was treated harshly and afflicted, but he did not even open his mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughtering block, like a sheep silent before her shearers, he did not even open his mouth. He was led away after an unjust trial – but who even cared? Indeed, he was cut off from the land of the living; because of the rebellion of his own people he was wounded. They intended to bury him with criminals, but he ended up in a rich man’s tomb, because he had committed no violent deeds, nor had he spoken deceitfully.” The clincher’s in verses 11 and12; “My servant will acquit many for he carried their sins. So I will assign him a portion with the multitudes, he will divide the spoils of victory with the powerful, because he willingly submitted to death and was numbered with the rebels, when he lifted up the sin of many and intervened on behalf of the rebels.”
(I find the footnote in the New English Translation (NET) Bible corresponding to this passage thought-provoking: “It does seem unfair for the innocent to die for the guilty. But what is God to do when all have sinned and wandered off like stray sheep? Covenant law demands punishment, but punishment in this case would mean annihilation of what God has created. God’s justice, as demanded by the law, must be satisfied. To satisfy His justice, He does something seemingly unjust. He punishes His sinless servant, the only one who has not strayed off! In the process of biblical revelation, we discover that the sinless servant is really God in the flesh, who offers Himself because He’s committed to the world He’s created. If His justice can only be satisfied if He Himself endures the punishment, then so be it. What appears to be an act of injustice is really love satisfying the demands of justice!” Well put.)
Isaiah also prophesized the Messiah would be born of a virgin. “Therefore the LORD himself shall give you a sign: Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (7:14). Mary was a virgin. In Micah 5:2 (from the same time frame as Isaiah) we find another jaw-dropping prophecy; “As for you, Bethlehem… seemingly insignificant among the clans of Judah – from you a king will emerge who will rule over Israel on my behalf, one whose origins are in the distant past.” Now, if Micah had said the Messiah would be born in a sprawling metropolis it could be chalked up as him making a low-risk guess. But tiny Bethlehem? The average Joe in Jerusalem would’ve probably responded with, “Where’s that?” Here in tornado alley all our local TV stations have acquired “storm-tracking” software they employ every time severe weather arrives. I’ve lived in north Texas for more than six decades but inevitably when they display a list of towns sitting in a dangerous storm’s path in my vicinity at least half will be towns I’ve never heard of. In other words, what Micah did would be akin to me prognosticating the president elected in the year 2716 will be born in Bazette, Texas (pop. 40). Right. There’s more. The books of Genesis and Jeremiah meticulously map out His ancestry as a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (from the tribe of Judah and the house of David). Speaking of David, in the Psalms the Messiah’s betrayal, the accusations by false witnesses, the cruel way He’d be executed (“pierced in the hands and feet”, although crucifixion hadn’t yet been invented in David’s time) and His miraculous rising from the grave (His body “wouldn’t decay” but actually “ascend to heaven”) are predicted. Those are just the tip of the iceberg. There are at least 300 prophesies in the Old Testament that came to fruition in the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Of course, there are folks who’ll dispute even the most compelling evidence concerning anything. (For instance, there really is a “Flat Earth Society” and, yes, they have a loyal flock.) As I’ve tried to show throughout this series of essays, the data that backs up the proof indicating Jesus is God is overwhelming. Yet skeptics abound and they rarely restrain themselves from voicing their opposition to Christianity. One of their arguments is that Christ fulfilled all the OT prophesies by accident. That it’s all a matter of coincidence. But by using basic mathematics we can rip their implausible theory of serendipitous chance to shreds in a nanosecond. Fact: the odds of even eight of the 300 prophesies being fulfilled is one in a hundred million billion. That number’s more than the total of all human beings who’ve been born on earth since day one. Here’s an illustration my pastor uses. Imagine the state of Texas (an expanse so wide it takes at least fifteen hours of non-stop driving on multi-lane Interstate highways to go from Texarkana to El Paso. I know. I’ve done it. Sans cruise control, at that. Ugh.) covered over in silver dollars two feet deep. Let’s say one of those coins is a shade lighter than the others and you’re asked to go out and find it. Your odds would be the same as Jesus’ fulfilling just eight of the prophecies. You’d have better luck winning a billion dollar Powerball lottery. A couple of times in a row, no less. Noted mathematician Peter Stoner computed the probability of Christ’s fulfilling forty-eight of the 300. Get this. It’s one chance in a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion! It goes without saying our brains can’t comprehend a measurement that immense. It’s equal to the number of atoms in a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, billion universes the size of the one we’re spinning around in. It’s safe to label such an occurrence as being impossible to accomplish. Yet Jesus did just that.
Some will say the Gospel authors “monkeyed” with the info in order to make it look like Jesus was the prophesized Messiah. That perhaps they conveniently made up stories about things like the Lord’s legs remaining unbroken (aka Psalm 34:20) or Judas’ selling out his master for 30 pieces of silver (aka Zechariah 11:12-13) to bolster their claims. But that’s been dealt with in a previous essay. I pointed out the biographies of Jesus were written while many witnesses who were around at the time were still living and would’ve called them on the carpet for fabricating lies. Plus, the Jewish leaders would’ve loved to expose any falsehoods in the Christian records so no doubt they triple-checked every dotted i and every crossed t. But even though they didn’t hesitate to denigrate Jesus repeatedly in the Jewish Talmud, never once did they proclaim His fulfillment of the prophesies bogus. Not once.
Other critics accuse Jesus of deliberately conducting his life in a way that’d match up with the prophetic criteria. They’ll say something like, “Perhaps he rode a donkey into Jerusalem because Zechariah said the Messiah would.” It’s possible. But for every one of those supposedly “intentional maneuvers” there are ten He could in no way have pulled off. Could He have made the Sanhedrin offer Judas exactly 30 pieces of silver? Could He have manipulated His family tree, or His time and place of birth, or how the Romans would kill Him, or cause the soldiers to throw dice for His clothes or bring Himself back from the dead? We can shut the door permanently on this frivolous objection by informing them of the intricacies of Daniel 9:24-26 wherein it’s foretold precisely when the Messiah would be born. Tell them to “Google” it.
Some skeptics will throw in the towel at this juncture and say it’s we fanatical Christians who’ve taken all the messianic prophesies out of context, not them. They’ll accuse us of being so obsessed with Jesus that we’ve lost the ability to be objective about what’s in the Old Testament. If that debate arises lob the ball back into their court by challenging them to research it on their own. The information is out there on the web to peruse and it’s free. If they really want to get to the bottom of the fulfilled prophecy issue they’ll investigate and, if they do, I trust God will open their eyes to the truth. If they don’t bother then you’ll know they were just trying to start an argument for the sake of bickering. Leave those troublemakers be. Jesus warned us, “Do not give what is holy to dogs or throw your pearls before pigs; otherwise they will trample them under their feet and turn around and tear you to pieces” (Matthew 7:6).
One of my favorite theologians is the late Martyn Lloyd-Jones. In one of his books, “The Gospel in Genesis – From Fig Leaves to Faith” he boldly stated that everything we need to know about the mess we humans have made of civilization and God’s beautiful green and blue earth is contained in the 3rd chapter of Genesis. We screwed paradise up and then God, due to His merciful love and compassion for His disloyal children, put into motion His failsafe plan to redeem all who’ll acknowledge and be humbled by the sacrifice His Son made on our behalf 2,000 years ago. It’s all laid out for us in the front of His Holy Word if we’ll simply take the time to read it. Lloyd-Jones wrote, “The bible is not a book that tells us what we must do to put ourselves right. The Bible is not just a book with an appeal to us to do this, that, or the other, to accept certain ideas and put them into practice. It is not a book that teaches morality or ethics. It is not primarily a book that asks us to do anything. I’ll tell you what it is – it is a great announcement of what God has done. It is God acting, God coming into the garden to the man and woman in their utter hopelessness. What if He had not done that? Then we would have no gospel. There would be no light. The world would be in darkness at this moment. There would be nothing to say. There would be no hope. But God has come, and God has spoken, and He has revealed a plan and a program.” Jesus is the complete, flawless fulfillment of the Heavenly Father’s glorious plan of salvation. The prophets told the world He was on the way. He came. He conquered. The curse has been erased by the shed blood of our Savior. Hallelujah!