Foretelling the Messiah
KNOWING what Isaiah and other prophets had written about the Messiah, the Jewish nation long anticipated his arrival. By Jesus’ day, in fact, many Jews “were in expectation” of the Messiah’s imminent appearance. (Luke 3:15) Significantly, Bible prophecies include remarkable details of the Messiah’s life. No mere human could either foretell such events or arrange for Jesus to experience them.
Details Surrounding the Messiah’s Birth. Isaiah foretold that the Messiah, or Christ, would be born of a virgin. After describing the miraculous circumstances of Jesus’ birth, the apostle Matthew wrote: “All this actually came about for that to be fulfilled which was spoken by Jehovah through his prophet, saying: ‘Look! The virgin will become pregnant and will give birth to a son.’” (Matthew 1:22, 23; Isaiah 7:14) Isaiah also foretold that Christ would be a descendant of David, specifically mentioning Jesse, David’s father. Jesus did indeed directly descend from David. (Matthew 1:6, 16; Luke 3:23, 31, 32) Thus, before the birth of Jesus, the angel Gabriel told Jesus’ mother, Mary: “God will give him the throne of David his father.”—Luke 1:32, 33; Isaiah 11:1-5, 10; Romans 15:12.
Details of the Messiah’s Life. In the synagogue in Nazareth, the adult Jesus read aloud from Isaiah’s prophecy, including these words: “Jehovah’s spirit is upon me, because he anointed me to declare good news to the poor.” Applying the prophecy to himself, Jesus stated: “Today this scripture that you just heard is fulfilled.” (Luke 4:17-21; Isaiah 61:1, 2) Isaiah also foretold Jesus’ kind, mild, and unassuming way of dealing with those in need of healing. Matthew writes: “Many also followed him, and he cured them all, but he strictly charged them not to make him manifest; that there might be fulfilled what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet . . . ‘He will not wrangle, nor cry aloud . . . No bruised reed will he crush.’”—Matthew 8:16, 17; 12:10-21; Isaiah 42:1-4; 53:4, 5.
Details of the Messiah’s Suffering. Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would not be accepted by the majority in Israel but would instead become “a stone of stumbling” to them. (1 Peter 2:6-8; Isaiah 8:14, 15) And indeed, despite Jesus’ many miracles, the people “were not putting faith in him, so that the word of Isaiah the prophet was fulfilled which he said: ‘Jehovah, who has put faith in the thing heard by us?’” (John 12:37, 38; Isaiah 53:1) Contributing to the Jews’ lack of faith was the popular, though mistaken, belief that the Messiah would immediately rid the nation of Roman rule and restore an independent Davidic kingdom on earth. Because Jesus suffered and died, most Jews could not accept him as the Messiah. But, in fact, Isaiah had foretold that the Messiah would experience suffering before becoming King.
In the book of Isaiah, the Messiah prophetically says: “My back I gave to the strikers . . . My face I did not conceal from humiliating things and spit.” Matthew reports what happened when Jesus was being tried: “They spit into his face and hit him with their fists. Others slapped him in the face.” (Isaiah 50:6; Matthew 26:67) “He was letting himself be afflicted; yet he would not open his mouth,” wrote Isaiah. Thus, when Pilate questioned Jesus about the Jews’ accusations, Jesus “did not answer him, no, not a word, so that the governor wondered very much.”—Isaiah 53:7; Matthew 27:12-14; Acts 8:28, 32-35.
Details of the Messiah’s Death. Isaiah’s prophecy continued to be fulfilled at Jesus’ death and even afterward. Isaiah foretold: “He will make his burial place even with the wicked ones, and with the rich class in his death.” (Isaiah 53:9) How could this apparently contradictory prophecy be fulfilled? When Jesus died, he was impaled between two robbers. (Matthew 27:38) But later, wealthy Joseph of Arimathea laid Jesus’ body in his own newly quarried tomb. (Matthew 27:57-60) Finally, Jesus’ death fulfilled one of the most important elements of Isaiah’s prophecy. Speaking of the Messiah, Isaiah says: “The righteous one, my servant, will bring a righteous standing to many people; and their errors he himself will bear.” Indeed, Jesus’ death provided the ransom so that the burden of sin can be lifted from all faithful people.—Isaiah 53:8, 11; Romans 4:25.
Prophecies Certain of Fulfillment
To establish the identity of the Messiah Scripturally, the apostles and Jesus himself quoted more frequently from the prophecy of Isaiah than from any other Bible book. Still, the book of Isaiah was not the only one to foretell the future. Many other Hebrew Scripture prophecies also find fulfillment in Jesus, his Kingdom, and the good things that the Kingdom will accomplish in the future.a (Acts 28:23; Revelation 19:10) How certain was it that these prophecies would be fulfilled? Jesus told his Jewish listeners: “Do not think I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets [that is, the Hebrew Scriptures]. I came, not to destroy, but to fulfill; for truly I say to you that sooner would heaven and earth pass away than for one smallest letter or one particle of a letter to pass away from the Law by any means and not all things take place.”—Matthew 5:17, 18.
Jesus also pointed to the fulfillment of Bible prophecies in the events unfolding around him and in events to come. (Daniel 9:27; Matthew 15:7-9; 24:15) Further, Jesus and his disciples themselves foretold events that would occur after their day, including many that we have seen take place today. The following article will discuss these and other, yet future, fulfillments of Bible prophecy.
a For more information about prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus, see the book What Does the Bible Really Teach? page 200, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
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“The virgin will . . . give birth to a son”
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“My face I did not conceal from humiliating things”