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The Messiah: Old Testament Prophecy and New Testament Fulfillment

This series offers an overview of the chief teachings of the Christian church.

Sometimes a curious unbeliever will ask a Christian acquaintance, “What’s the Bible all about?” One can imagine different answers that could be given. When I ask a similar question in religion class, I typically get the short answer, “Jesus.” The long answer sounds something like this: The Bible proclaims to all the one true God and His saving will for mankind in the person and work of His Son as the promised Savior of the world. The Bible was written to reveal the Gospel of the Messiah, the Christ, as God’s own solution to the human problem of sin and death.

The Bible’s revelation of Christ divides nicely into two parts. The Old Testament looks ahead with promises and predictions of the Savior to come. The New Testament looks back to the history of Who Christ was and what He did to accomplish our salvation. Unlike any other religious system known to man, the Gospel of Christ has prophecy and fulfillment baked right into its message, to serve multiple purposes in bringing Christ to many people and convincing them of His soul-saving truth.

Allotted space does not permit exploring in detail the wondrous and unique announcements that God made in advance about His plan to save fallen humanity through the sending and sacrificing of His Son as Christ crucified. From Genesis 3:15 to Malachi 4:1-6, God foretold through His prophets the victory that His Son would win on earth. The blueprint of this victory called for the holy Son of God to be born of a virgin in Bethlehem and to live a lowly yet righteous life in Galilee, where His ministry would become saving light for those in darkness. The Messianic blueprint would include the promise to David that a future Descendant would cause the Davidic kingdom to become the eternal kingdom of God, ruled forever by David’s Son and Lord. That same blueprint also ordained the eternal King to be the Lamb of God Whose sacrifice on the cross would remove the sins of His people, and Whose resurrection from the dead would convey eternal life to all who trust in Him.

When God proclaimed His promises and predictions of the Messiah, there were no unexpected contingencies to account for, no ifs or maybes involved. He spoke in terms of guarantees announced beforehand as the truth which Old Testament believers like Abraham or David clung to in faith. Even a New Testament believer like Timothy would have the Old Testament Gospel as the faith-producing Holy Scriptures known “from childhood” and able to make him “wise for salvation” through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (2 Tim. 3:15)

Likewise, people with Messianic expectations who met Jesus in person could use the Old Testament prophecies as an accurate way to identify Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ that God had promised to send. Jesus even said to those who disputed such a claim: “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” (John 5:39) Jesus was the only One Who could pass the Messianic prophecies test, since He was the only One Who fulfilled all that was foretold about the Messiah.

This reality would become a prominent theme proclaimed by Paul to Jewish audiences, as he engaged them in the synagogues and demonstrated “from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.” (Acts 18:28) The divine pattern of Messianic prophecy and fulfillment is both an effective missionary message and a built-in defense of the Bible’s claim of truth, especially the truth from God that His promise of salvation was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, Whose death and resurrection victory we get to claim by Spirit-worked faith in Him.

Steven Sippert is a professor at Immanuel Lutheran College in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.