Revealing knowledge of the future is another way He asserts He is God and we are not. Prophecy is another way He shows us His sovereignty, wisdom and faithfulness.
The other day I was watching an old episode of “To Tell The Truth”, the gameshow from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. And on it was Frank Abignale, the guy famous for impersonating Airline Pilots, Medical Doctors, Lawyers, FBI agents and so on. He’s the guy that Tom Hanks played in the movie “Catch Me If You Can”.
Anyway, the way it worked was that 3 people would come on the show and they would all say they were the same person. Now only one of them was the real person, and the other two were impostors, pretending to be the real person. So on this episode, while the real Frank Abignale was on the show, two guys were with him pretending to be him. (The game here is that no one really knows who the real Frank Abignale is until the end).
To start the show, the host would read a description of the real person to 4 celebrity panelists who would then have the chance to ask questions of each of the contestants – to try and figure out who the real guy was. The fun twist is this: the real guy has to answer questions honestly, but the other 2 can lie all they want. (So ironically, Frank Abignale, who successfully pretended to be so many other people, had to be himself!) After the brief Q&A time for the panelists, they have to then guess who of the 3 guys is the real guy – the real Frank Abignale. The moment of revelation comes when the host says, “Will the real Frank Abignale please stand up!” No one guessed the real Frank was Frank!
Trying to figure out the real guy makes for good gameshows. But, when it comes to the Messiah, making sure you’ve got the right guy is cosmically more important.
This Christmas we ask: How do we know we’ve got the right Messiah? The answer: Prophecy. Our sermon this week is called: Christmas in Prophecy. Last week we looked at Christmas in Eternity, and we saw that Jesus, who was born in a manger, actually didn’t begin to exist in Mary’s womb. He has always existed in eternity as “God the Word”.
This week we look at the powerful voice of prophecy that foretold the coming of Jesus long, long before He ever actually came. There are lots of things about the Bible that are amazing and make an honest person pause to consider that it just may be God’s Word. For one thing the manuscript evidence for the Bible is lightyears beyond any other ancient piece of literature. Then there is that way in which the Bible “knows” us. I remember when I was saved I started reading the Bible and I thought, “Wow, this is not like some textbook. This book seems to know me and speak to what I am as a human being.”
Beyond all this though, objectively, it is the fact of Prophecy that makes the Bible something to be seriously dealt with. How did the Bible know so much about the future? How did the Bible know so much about Jesus so long before He ever came?
This is what makes the Bible stand out in human history. No human being has the ability to know the future. For the these prophecies to be true it requires a God who is all-knowing and therefore knows all the future too, and, it requires that He is willing to share what He knows about the future. This is what He did: He picks out people in history and tells them about the future and then they tell others and write it down. Then it happens.
The Ethiopian reading the prophet Isaiah, foretelling the Messiah’s death. Prophecy was instrumental in leading this man to faith in Christ.
The uniqueness of the Bible. No other religious text makes bold assertions about the future like the Bible does. Doing so means the Bible has a built in test that anyone can apply to see if it really is a book with divine origins. After all, who else can tell the future in such scope and detail as seen in its pages?
We should expect the Bible to have prophecy if we really believe it is God’s message to man. Someone who is eternal, all-knowing, and all-powerful would most certainly be capable of “making known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come” (Isa. 46:10). God appeals to fulfilled prophecy when persuading people to believe in Him: “Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from distant past? Was it not I, the LORD?” (Isa. 45:21). All the fulfilled prophecies prove His existence and His product is the beloved book we call the Bible. To quote Francis Shaeffer: “He is there and He is not silent”. And He is not silent about the future: approximately 25% of Scripture is prophecy. John Walvoord says there are more than 1,000 prophecies in the Bible, and, more than 500 of them have already been fulfilled.
Not only would Someone Who is eternal, all-knowing and all-powerful be capable of telling the future, but, doing so would be have to be inherent in His interactions with finite creatures. Much of what God promises us resides in the future, or in connection with some future event – such as the return of Jesus Christ (resurrection bodies, judgment, incoming kingdom on earth). The core of a relationship with God is faith, and thus, believing God is going to do something He said is what a relationship with Him is all about. Therefore prophecy is very dear to us.
Prophecy is not the same as predicting. Predicting is humans guessing what the future might be. Sports scores, weather, climate, the Stock Market, or human behavior are all only guesses. They may be educated guesses as data is gathered and predictive models are calculated, but, in the end they’re just guesses. That’s because we don’t know tomorrow. We live in today.
Prophecy, however, doesn’t originate in man – or in a computer. It’s not a calculation about probabilities. Prophecy originates in an eternal, all-knowing God and is communicated to man. It is a declaration of fact, not a calculation of the most likely outcome. God, seeing the end from the beginning, working His plans out from the beginning all the way to His ends, knows what tomorrow holds. He will accomplish it. Revealing knowledge of the future is another way He asserts He is God and we are not. Prophecy is another way He shows us His sovereignty, wisdom and faithfulness.
Studying prophecy to understand God’s plans is a noble effort. First Peter 1 explains how the ancient prophets themselves studied prophecy to figure out when and how the Christ would come, “…….”
The Right Family
The Savior would come in the right family, meaning the family God picked. This is why the NT opens up with the genealogy of Jesus.
The Messiah would be a man.
In Genesis 3:15 God told the serpent (Satan), “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel.” God gave information here: Someone was going to come who would crush Satan’s head, meaning destroy him. This someone would be born of a woman. Two things. First, this is not a proof of the virgin birth, but, it is consistent with it. Second, he would be born – He would enter the human race like everyone else: through birth. Third, this Savior would be a human being, he would be born of the woman. The savior of mankind would not be an angel or an animal, but, himself a man. Neither an angel nor an animal can save mankind – a man needs to save mankind. (This means the animal sacrifices were only predictive, not, propitiative. They could never actually take sins away as Hebrews 10:4 says). Okay, so the importance here is we’re looking for someone out of the whole human family: angels are ruled out, animals are ruled out. The Savior’s gotta be a man.
Second, the Savior would be a descendent of Abraham.
Who among men will be the Messiah though? That is the question over all human history! God gives another clue in Genesis when he singles out a man named Abraham. In Genesis 12:7 God told Abraham, “To your offspring [seed] I will give this land.” Later in Genesis 22:18 God told Abraham, “and through your offspring [seed] all nations on earth will be blessed.” Abraham had no children, was almost 100 years old, and, God keeps repeating to him that he will have a child, and descendents and one of his descendents will be how God blesses all nations. We always make sure to let Scripture interpret Scripture, so in Galatians we are informed that this was a prophecy given by God to Abraham. Galatians 3:16 says, “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds’, meaning many people, but, ‘and to your seed’, meaning one person, who is Christ.” God has always known the precise details of Christ’s entrance into the world. However, He chose to reveal those details a little bit at a time as history progressed. He didn’t do a data-dump and lay it all out at one time in the beginning. He kept narrowing it down as time went on. He would be a man. He would be a descendant of Abraham.
Abraham had one son with Sarah, the promised son. Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90 when Isaac was born. The promised Savior would be from Isaac’s line, not Ishmael. God says in Genesis 22:12, “…it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”
Then, Isaac had two sons, Jacob and Esau. God chose the promise to continue through Jacob, not Esau. Thus, through Jacob, whose name became Israel, the Savior would be born.
Third, the Savior would be from the tribe of Judah
Jacob/Israel would have 12 sons, and, those sons would become the 12 tribes of Israel. The Savior would come from the tribe of Judah. Remember Jesus is called the Lion of the Tribe of Judah in Revelation 5. But it was back in the OT that Judah was selected by God out of all the other Tribes of Israel. Genesis 49:10 says, “The scepter will not depart from Judah … until He comes to whom it belongs, and the obedience of the nations is his.”
Micah 5:2 says, “But, you Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old.”
Hebrews 7:14 says Jesus is a High Priest but not like the ones in the OT who were from the tribe of Levi. “For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe it is clear that Moses said nothing about priests.”
Fourth, we learn that of Judah’s descendents the Savior would come from Jesse’s line.
But who in Judah’s tribe would be selected? A man named Jesse. Isaiah 11:1 says, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” Then the passage goes on to describe the Messiah saying things like “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him” and “with righteousness He will judge” and “He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth; with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked” and so on.
So far prophecy has told us this much about the Savior: he would be a man; he would be a descendent of Abraham, of Isaac, and Jacob; he would be from the tribe of Judah; and from the tribe of Judah he would be a descendent of Jesse.
Fifthly, the Savior would come from David.
Jesse had 8 sons. Which of the 8 would God choose to be the forefather of Messiah? The answer: David. This is the famous David, Jesse’s youngest son, the least of his brothers, the cute-but-overlooked-shepherd boy, the lyrical artist, the Goliath-killer and all-together greatest king Israel has ever known.
- 1,000 years before Christ, 2 Samuel 7:12-14 describes God’s covenant with David, including the promised Messiah.
- 700 years before Christ, Isaiah 9:6-7 says of the child to be born, “…..He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom….”
- 600 years before Christ, Jeremiah 23:5 says, “The days are coming declares the LORD, ‘when I will raise up to David a righteous branch.”
- 450 years before Christ, Ethan wrote Psalm 89. He quotes God talking about the Messiah coming from David’s line and says, “I will also appoint David my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth.” He’s saying, I will appoint my firstborn son to David, to come from David.
All these verses in the OT made it very clear that Messiah would be in the line of David. We see in the NT, during Jesus’ day, that this was so – that everyone understood the OT prophecies pointing to a Davidic descendent.
- The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were well aware that the Messiah would be David’s descendent. In Matthew 22 He asks them who’s son the Messiah would be and they respond correctly in verse 41 by saying “The son of David”. Jesus’ next words are incredible. I’ll let you go read them this afternoon.
- The crowds hailed Jesus as the Son of David as he entered Jerusalem on a donkey, “Hosanna to the Son of God! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD! Hosanna in the highest!”
- Luke records the promise of the angel speaking to Mary about Jesus, “The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David…” (Lk 1:32)
- Apostles in Acts 13:23, “From this man’s [David] descendents God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as He promised.” When did God promise? In all the ancient OT prophecies!
This is why one of the most powerful discoveries Jewish people today find is that the first words in the NT are “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of Abraham, the son of David.” He had to be in the right family.
The Right Address
The Messiah would come in the right location – He’d have the right address. 700 years before Jesus, Micah 5:2 foretold the place Jesus would be born:
“But you o Bethlehem (modern name at the time) Ephrathah (ancient name), 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.”
Are Christians inventing this stuff after the fact? No, this was common knowledge. When the Magi to Jesus, Herod asked the religious leaders where the Christ was supposed to come from. Their answer is recorded in Matthew 2:5, “In Bethlehem in Judea, they replied” and then they quoted Micah 5:2 as proof.
It wasn’t just common knowledge among the leaders, but, the regular Jew on the streets too. John 7:42 records the crowds saying,
“Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from …Bethlehem, the town where David was born?”
So the Savior would be born in David’s line, and, be born in David’s hometown of Bethlehem.
So far Jesus had the right family and the right address.
The Right Time
The Savior would come at the right Time. There was a historical time window for the Messiah’s coming.
- He had to come while the 2nd Temple was still standing. The 2nd Temple was built after the Babylonian Exile in 5th & 4th century BC, and it was destroyed in 70 AD.
- Malachi 3:1, “See, I will send my messenger who will prepare the way before me [John the Baptist]. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to this temple (2nd Temple existed at that time)…”
- Dan 9:26 “After the 62 sevens the Anointed One (“Christ”) will be cut off (die) and will have nothing. The people (Romans) of the ruler who will come (Antichrist) will destroy the city and the sanctuary (2nd Temple)
- These prophets spoke during the 2nd temple period, not the first. This means the messiah could not have come before then during the 1st temple; nor could He have come after it was destroyed in 70 AD.
- Rav Yosef says: May the Master forgive Rabbi Hillel for stating matters with no basis. With regard to Hezekiah, when was his reign? It was during the First Temple period. Whereas Zechariah ben Berechiah, the prophet, prophesied during the Second Temple period and said: “Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion; shout, daughter of Jerusalem; behold, your king will come to you; he is just and victorious; lowly and riding upon a donkey and upon a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). In the generations after Hezekiah, there are prophecies about both redemption and the coming of the Messiah.
- So Messiah had to come during the era of the 2nd Temple, which ended in 70 AD when it was destroyed. But also, Messiah had to come 483 years after the decree to rebuild the 2nd temple.
- According to Daniel 9 a 483 year clock was supposed to start ticking. It would start with the decree to rebuild Jerusalem. When that decree was given the count-down would begin. After 483 years that count-down would end with the Messiah entering the city of Jerusalem to be cut off.
- That decree was given in 444 BC. Archeology has discovered the tablet of that decree.
- There is only one person who was alive at the end of that 483 year period, while the Temple was still standing, who was claiming to be the Jewish Messiah, who was turning Israel upside down with His miraculous powers and amazing teachings, who was a sin of David and was born in Bethlehem. That same person was crucified for claiming to be the Messiah, and, 3 days later He arose from the dead. His followers began preaching He was resurrected and they were eyewitnesses, and that He was the only way for a person to be saved.
The Right Way
Finally, the Savior was coming in a specific way. He would be born of a virgin.
The Virgin Birth
“For us men, and for our salvation,” the Nicene Creed states, “he came down from heaven, begotten by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man”
Later the Chalcedonian Creed states, “Begotten before all worlds of the Father according to the Godhood, but in these latter days for us and for our salvation, was born of the virgin Mary, the mother of God, according to the manhood”
Through the prophet Isaiah God said the Messiah would be born of a virgin. Isaiah 7:14 says, “Therefore the LORD Himself will give you a sign: the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
Now the same Holy Spirit that inspired Isaiah to write those words also inspired the Gospel writer, Matthew. Under inspiration of the same Holy Spirit, Matthew explained that Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled when the virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus. He said in Matthew 1:22 that her impregnation was by the Holy Spirit, that she was still a virgin, and, “All this took place to fulfill what the LORD had said through the prophet Isaiah….”
This is the manner in which the Messiah would enter the world – the Holy Spirit would overshadow the virgin and she would birth the Christ-child.
The theological significance of the virgin birth…..
CONCLUSION: COINCIDENCE? Think Texas.
Someone might think it a coincidence Jesus met each of these prophetic qualifications. But that is nonsense. There are over 100 prophecies Jesus fulfilled when He came….a study found to meet just 8 would be 1 in 10(17)….thats 1 with 17 zeroes behind it. we dont get that number so lets put it intonperspective…..
Peter Stoner? study….AMA approved….
Cover the state of texas 2ft deep with silver dollars….mark 1 silver dillar w a sharpie….blindfold you and you get one chance to wade around and pick that marked silver dollar…..the chance
You have to take Jesus serious. He alone meets the prophetic description of the Messiah.
500 fulfilled, 500 left. Heaven and Hell, Judgement Day…face God….are you going to dismiss the evidence of prophecy and pay the price forever with your soul?