“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.’” (Matthew 1:21-23)
Although this passage is in the first chapter of the gospel of Matthew, you can also find it in Isaiah 7:14. Time and time again, Matthew looked to connect with his Jewish audience by referencing the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah, all of which would be fulfilled in the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. By studying these prophecies, we not only learn more about who Christ is and what he accomplished, we can also learn an invaluable lesson about the very nature of God.
What Are the Odds?!?
Throughout the Old Testament, there are well over 300 different prophecies related to the coming Messiah. These range from his birth in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) to the details of his eventual crucifixion (Psalm 22) over 1000 years before Jesus was even born. Taking in the literary history of the Old Testament in conjunction with many of the accepted historical life events of Jesus, a close look at the prophecies concerning Christ becomes a strong apologetic for the validity of the Bible’s inspiration.
Citing Peter Stoner, the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry provides a shocking comparison regarding the statistics of Jesus’ fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies:
By using the modern science of probability in reference to eight prophecies, “we find that the chance that any man might have lived down to the present time and fulfilled all eight prophecies is 1 in 1017.” That would be 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000. In order to help us comprehend this staggering probability, Stoner illustrates it by supposing that “we take 1017 silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They will cover all of the state two feet deep. “Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state. Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one. What chance would he have of getting the right one? Just the same chance that the prophets would have had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man.” Stoner considers 48 prophecies and says, “we find the chance that any one man fulfilled all 48 prophecies to be 1 in 10157, or 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. [By comparison], the estimated number of electrons in the universe is around 1079.1
Seen this way, it appears the life, ministry, and Messianic claims of Jesus were not an accident.
The Bigger Picture
But Jesus’ fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies shows us more than just the authenticity of his claims as Christ; it tells us something fundamental about the very nature of God. Why would God use the Old Testament to provide prophecies and clues about what was to come through the gospel of Jesus? Why would he mention such specific details about the life of the Messiah such as his birthplace and his mother’s virginity? When we remember that the story of the Bible is ultimately about the glory of God, the answer begins to come into view. God did not have to share about the Messiah before the Messiah was born. He did not have to anticipate such minor details… But God wanted to. He wanted to demonstrate that he was sovereignly in control of his people’s redemption. He wanted to demonstrate his creativity in writing a compelling story from start to finish (what we know as human history). Lastly, he wanted to demonstrate his inexhaustible love for his creation, not just in ordaining every detail, but by making promises to his people that he would then get to covenantally fulfill through his Son, Jesus Christ.
The season of Advent is one of anticipation, and studying the Old Testament prophecies of Christ remind us that the world has always been waiting for the salvation and restoration that we now know can be found in Jesus alone. As you prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth in the coming weeks, remember his covenantal love, his infinite creativity, and his sovereign plan in bringing you to himself in salvation, all for his glory.
1Matt Slick. “Prophecy, the Bible, and Jesus.” Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (Accessed December 11, 2014. http://carm.org/prophecy-bible-and-jesus).