If I had to single out one thing that played the greatest role in initially convincing me of the Bible’s authenticity and the truth of Christianity, I’d choose the Old Testament prophecies, especially those concerning the Messiah. The specificity of some of the individual prophecies is powerfully probative, but the odds against so many of them being fulfilled in the person of Christ by coincidence are utterly breathtaking.
In about 700 B.C., the Prophet Isaiah specifically named the king (Cyrus) who would rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, some 114 years before Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed it and some 150 years before Persia conquered the Babylonians and its king (Cyrus) issued the decree to rebuild the Temple. Josh McDowell summarized it this way: “Thus Isaiah predicted that a man named Cyrus, who would not be born for about 100 years, would give the command to rebuild the temple which was still standing in Isaiah’s day and would not be destroyed for more than 100 years.”
Biblical scholar J. Barton Payne cited 574 Old Testament verses containing messianic prophecies, and countless others have listed and explained them, but my favorite compilation is by McDowell, who highlights some 60 of them as unmistakable predictions. Let me give you just a sampling with the humble suggestion that you read and contemplate these verses yourselves.
The Messiah would: reconcile men to God at painful cost to Himself; come from the seed of a woman (Genesis 3:15); be a Semite (Genesis 9:26); descend through Abraham (Genesis 22:18), Isaac (Genesis 21:12) and Jacob Numbers 24:17) and be from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10); be a prophet, like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15), a priest (Psalm 110:4), the judge (Isaiah 33:22) and king (Psalm 2:6); descend from Jesse’s line (Isaiah 11:1) and David’s line and be eternal king (2 Samuel 7:13); be God, the Father’s Son (Psalm 2:7; 2 Samuel 7:14); ransom men and restore their righteousness (Job 17:3); exist before time began and be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), and young children would be killed (Jeremiah 31:15); be given gifts (Psalm 72:10; Isaiah 60:6); be called Lord (Psalm 110:1); be “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14); be anointed by the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 11:2, 42:1); have zeal for His Father’s house and reproach those who would violate it (Psalm 69:9); be announced in advance (Isaiah 40:3);
begin his ministry in Galilee; heal the blind, deaf, dumb and lame (Isaiah 35:5,6); teach in parables (Psalm 78:2); enter the Temple (Malachi 3:1); enter Jerusalem on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9); be a stumbling block to the Jews (Psalm 118:22, 8:14); be a light to the gentiles (Isaiah 60:3); be resurrected (Psalm 16:10); ascend (Psalm 68:18) and sit at the right hand of God (Psalm 110:1); be betrayed by a friend (Psalm 41:19) and sold for 30 pieces of silver, which he would throw into the Temple and which would be given for the potter’s field (Zechariah 11:12-13); be struck, causing his disciples to scatter (Zechariah 13:7), which Christ affirmed and repeated (Matthew 26:31); be falsely accused (Psalm 35:11); stand silent before His accusers (Isaiah 53:7); be wounded and bruised for people’s sins (Isaiah 53:5), smitten and spit upon (Isaiah 50:6) and mocked (Psalm 22:7); be crucified with thieves and plead for those killing him (Isaiah 53:12); be thirsty (Psalm 69:21); ask God why He had forsaken Him (Psalm 22:1); commit His spirit to God (Psalm 31:5); and be buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9). Darkness would fall over the land (Amos 8:9); His hands, feet (Psalm 22:16) and side (Zechariah 12:10) would be pierced, but none of His bones would be broken (Psalm 34:20); His own people would reject Him (Isaiah 53:3) and hate Him without cause (Psalm 69:4); His friends would witness His ordeal from afar (Psalm 38:11); and people would cast lots for his clothing (Psalm 22:18).
McDowell notes that the Old Testament was completed in about 450 B.C., but if you won’t accept that, you can verify that the Septuagint (Greek translation) was begun during the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-246 B.C.), which means the Hebrew version had to have been completed at least 250 years before Christ was born.
He also notes that while it’s true that Jesus could have arranged to fulfill some of these prophecies, He could not have orchestrated the place, time and manner of His birth, that He would be betrayed, the manner of His death, people’s reactions to His crucifixion, the piercings and the burial. The statistical odds that any man might have fulfilled all eight of those prophecies, let alone 61 (or 574) of them, are 1 in 10 to the 17th power.
If you’re not yet amazed, study Daniel 9:24-27, which many believe predicts, to the precise year, the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.
Who do you say that He is?