What do the Scriptures Prophecy about Jesus?
Prophecy is an inspired utterance of a prophet, viewed as a revelation of God’s will. It is a prediction of the future, made under divine inspiration. Jesus (Isa Al Masih) was well aware that many of the prophets including Moses had predicted not only about him, but also to the details of his birth, life and death. To this the scripture say:
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.... Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures…. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. (Injeel, Luke 24:27,45,51)
At the final hours before his ascension to heaven, why did Jesus take the time to explain to his disciples what the scriptures prophesied about him? What were the prophecies Jesus was talking about that were made by the prophets about him? To answer these questions and gain a better understanding of Jesus and his life that God had spoken about, we will take a look at not only scripture, but also what science has to say about prophecy.
What does God say about Prophecy?
In the scriptures, there are many passages which either explicitly claim to foretell events, or are interpreted as foretelling events. Both of these types of passages are widely distributed and reiterated by many prophets of God. Before we start looking at the specific ones about Jesus, we begin with what God has to say about prophecy and prophets in general.
"Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please." (Prophets, Isaiah 46:9-10)
You may say to yourselves, "How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD ?" If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him. (Taurat, Deuteronomy 18:21-22)
So we see that as far as God is concerned, prophecy is one of the most significant tests to determine if the message and messenger, both are from God.
What did Jesus claim about fulfilling Prophecy?
In the scriptures, there are many times we read Jesus claiming to fulfill prophecy. We begin with one particular prophecy that Jesus claims for himself publicly.
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
"The Spirit of the Lord is on
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." (Injeel, )
During another time of Jesus’ public teaching he elaborates on not abolishing, but fulfilling what was taught by Moses and the prophets. Scripture tells us what Jesus said:
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (Injeel, Matthew 5:17-18)
We see also that at other times Jesus reiterated about fulfilling specific prophecy. This particular one had to deal with being seized by the Jewish authorities in the garden of Gethsemane on false charges
Regarding him being crucified and coming back to life from the dead, he says to his disciples who were confused after the crucifixion as to all that had happened:
He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?"… He told them, This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, (Injeel, Luke 24:25-26,46).
Not only did Jesus claim many of the prophecies about himself, but his closest disciples to whom he had explained and opened their minds to, also bore witness to prophecies he fulfilled. For example, scripture says about Moses’ prophecy about a prophet to come:
"The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him." (Taurat, Deuteronomy 18:15)
Note what Apostle Peter says about it in scripture:
"Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. For Moses said, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. (Injeel, Acts 3:17- 22)
In addition, Apostle Philip also associates this particular passage from Moses to Jesus, as scripture says:
Philip found Nathanael and told him, "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote--Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. (Injeel, John 1:45)
In this particular case, not only the apostles, but also Jesus confirms this claim as he is talking to the Jews, and admonishes them for their lack of belief, as scripture says:
"But do not think I will accuse you before
the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed
Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not
believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?" (Injeel, John 5:54-47).
We have read so far that God has placed a high degree of trust upon prophecy being fulfilled. We have also read that Jesus and his closest disciples confirmed some prophecies that were fulfilled by him. The question remains, does scripture say more about others which Jesus specifically fulfilled? Also, could not other people claim these prophecies for themselves? Does science help us understand the probability of these being successfully fulfilled by anyone other than Jesus? So before we check into the specific prophecies that are attributable only to Jesus; let us take a look at what science has to say about prophecy.
What does Science say of Prophecy?
Mathematical Science of Probability helps us define the typical bounds for assessing if some future chance event, such as a prediction or prophecy will occur. For example if one was to predict who is to be the victor in a battle between two armies, there is only one of two options. Thus the probability of this happening is 1 in 2. In contrast, if one buys a ticket to a lottery and there are 100,000 tickets sold, the chance of buying the winning ticket is 1 in 100,000.
If multiple predictions are considered together, then the combined probability is multiplied. In the case of the battle example above; if one were to predict the victor for 2 independent battles the probability of identifying both victors is 2 times 2, or 1 in 4. Similarly, for the person who buys 1 ticket each in two separate lotteries, first one where 100,000 ticket are sold, and in the second where only 10,000 tickets are sold; the chances of buying two winning tickets is 100,000 times 10,000, or 1 in 1 billion or written in exponential notation, 1 in 109. Similarly, if a third lottery was added where only a 1000 tickets were sold, the combined probability of picking all three winning tickets grows to 1 in 1012.
In the case of predicting who will win the battles, one may be able to correctly predict the victors for both battles knowing who is better prepared and other details about the armies, especially since the probability value is small. However in the case of the lotteries some one predicting the winning ticket number for just one, let alone two or three is improbable since the probability value is very high. So we many conclude that man is able to predict with reasonable accurately when the probability value is low, but man cannot predict when the probability value is very high. It would require someone that has accurate knowledge of the future.
What can be said about prophecies fulfilled by Jesus?
Now that we have an appreciation for the mathematical science of probability we take a look at three specific sets of prophecies and their fulfillment by Jesus.
Birth Place of Jesus
In approximately 700 B.C. prophet Micah named the tiny village of Bethlehem as the birthplace of the Messiah (Jesus, Isa Al Masih). The fulfillment of this prophecy is the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Scripture from Prophet Micah says:
"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. (Prophets, Micah 5:2)
After the time of Jesus’ birth wise men came to seek him. Scriptures in the Injeel says:
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written:
" 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
(Injeel, Matthew 2:1-6)
From the scriptures above it is clear that Jesus’ birth place was foretold accurately. Based on work done by scholars1, fulfillment of this prophecy has a mathematical probability of 1 in 105.
Betrayal of Jesus
In the fifth century B.C. the prophet Zechariah declared that the Al Masih would be betrayed for the price of a slave, (thirty pieces of silver according to Jewish law) and also that this money would be used to buy a burial ground for Jerusalem's poor foreigners. According to the scriptures:
I told them, "If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it." So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said to me, "Throw it to the potter"-the handsome price at which they priced me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD to the potter. (Prophets, Zechariah 11:12-13).
The Injeel confirms that Jesus was betrayed, the price paid for his betrayal, and what was done with the blood money. :
When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. "I have sinned," he said, "for I have betrayed innocent blood." "What is that to us?" they replied. "That's your responsibility." So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. The chief priests picked up the coins and said, "It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money." So they decided to use the money to buy the potter's field as a burial place for foreigners. (Injeel, Matthew 27:3-7).
Since this prophecy has multiple facets to it – price of betrayal, use of blood money, where the event took place; scholars have determined that the combined probability of fulfillment is 1 in 1011
Crucifixion of Jesus
Another prophetic fulfillment is events surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus. Some 400 years before crucifixion was even invented, God says through two different prophets, Prophet David and Prophet Zechariah the manner of the Al Masih’s death. Scriptures from David and Zechariah says:
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?...Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan. Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing…. he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken."(Zabur, Psalm 22:1,11-18, Psalm 34:20)
"And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. (Prophets Zechariah 12:10)
We see from the Injeel the fulfillment in the crucifixion of Jesus:
At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"—which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Injeel, Mark 15:33-34)
"When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals -- one on his right, the other on his left." (Injeel, Luke 23:33)
Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads (Injeel, Matthew 27:38-39)
"When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. Let's not tear it, they said to one another. "Let's decide by lot who will get it." This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, "They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing." So this is what the soldiers did." (Injeel, John 19:23-24)
"But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs."…These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: "Not one of his bones will be broken," and, as another scripture says, "They will look on the one they have pierced." (Injeel, John 19:33,36-37)
The Injeel confirms the predictions by the earlier prophets. In addition, Roman and Jewish historians’ confirm3 how Jesus was killed and what transpired during this time. Similar to the earlier prophecy, this is not one, but many related prophecies - what the person being pierced would say; how he was to be killed, by piercing; who was around him, wicked men i.e. criminals; what events were transpiring concurrently, casting lots for clothing; etc. Scholars have determined that the combined probability of fulfillment is 1 in 1013
Resulting effect of combining Prophecies
We have seen a few sets of the many prophecies that are fulfilled by Jesus. The result of combining all three sets of prophecies being fulfilled by anyone is a probability of 1 in 1029. To put this number in perspective, let us take the illustration by Peter Stoner4 of a much smaller number 1 in 1017, and see if we can put it terms to that we can relate. He says if:
"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?”
The same chance that the prophets would have had of predicting two of the three prophecies and having them being fulfilled by Jesus.
Were these fulfillments by Jesus mere chance or accident? Jesus did not think so:
He said to them, This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. (Injeel, Luke 24:44).
We have only considered a few of the prophecies fulfilled by Jesus. Others1,3 have done a more thorough evaluation in prophecy and have come up with Jesus fulfilling many other prophecies with a combined probability of 1 in 10157. This number is unimaginable when one considers that the total number of electrons in the entire universe is 1079.
At this point we are faced with some important questions. Who is the author of the Scriptures (Taurat, Prophets, Zabur and Injeel)? More specifically, who foretold the events, such as the birth, betrayal and crucifixion in the life of Jesus?
We conclude with God’s answer:
Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (Injeel, 2 Peter 1:20-21)
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