Simon Pease in an 8- part series considers how understanding of prophecy ‘evolves’
Defenders of the truth of Christianity point to at least 300 specific “Old Testament” prophecies fulfilled by Jesus at His first coming alone. The rest, of course, will be fulfilled in their entirety at His return. The point being that the apparent tensions in Bible prophecy are only resolved by understanding Messiah’s ministry in the context of bothHis first coming and return. Given the extensive range of these prophecies, it would obviously take a considerable amount of space to present them all here. Instead, this material is readily available on the internet and interested readers are referred to it. As a brief summary, however, it is worth stating that these prophecies cover a range of themes, including Messiah’s human ancestry, the circumstances of His birth (where, when, and His birth to a virgin), His wonderful teaching and miraculous healing ministry, His perfect nature, and of course extensive details concerning His death as well as prophecies of His resurrection.
In terms of the “big picture”, there are a couple ofspecific points worth highlighting. As the Tanakh’s narrative of Israel’s spiritual history unfolds, the prophetic details concerning the Messiah gradually become clearer; this is a progressive revelation. We therefore discover that He is not just any Jew, but specifically belongs to the tribe of Judah, and that several significant named individuals are His ancestors. By the time we get to the prophet Isaiah, we also begin to see the Jewish-centric perspective of the Messiah broaden out to include the rest of the world, as in this passage:
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
to restore the tribes of Jacob
and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6)
This is one of a number of key passages such as Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 which are sometimes sufficiently powerful in their own right to persuade religious Jews that Jesus is indeed their Messiah. Others are compelled to conclude that Messiah has already come due to Daniel’s prophecy that He would be killed prior to the destruction of the second temple in AD 70 (Daniel 9:26). Not surprisingly, such texts become hugely contentious battle grounds as theologians of different persuasions seek to align them with their own religious beliefs. These conflicts exist not just between different religions but between different denominations within ostensibly the same religion. What we can know for certain, however, is that Jewish history records that their ruling religious body, the Sanhedrin, believed that the sceptre had indeed departed from Judah (see Genesis 49:10 above) at the time when Jesus was a boy. (They considered Jewish rule to be effectively terminated by Roman’s removing their power to enact the death penalty.) The Sanhedrin’s reaction was one of extreme shock and grief, as they wrongly concluded that Messiah had not come, contrary to what God had promised in their Scriptures. However, Messiah had in fact come and, ironically, they had to turn to the Romans to execute Him on their behalf!
Simon Pease is author of “Ruth – A Prophetic Parable”. Sub-titled “How does the story of Ruth relate to YOU today?” He teaches on the unity of Scripture and contributes to the UK magazine Sword.