Starting very early on, as soon as Adam and Eve broke humanity’s relationship with Him, God promised that Someone would come to fix the problem. Throughout the Old Testament, He gave clues as to what that “Fixer” would be like, and how to recognize Him. Those clues are detailed enough that the odds of anyone accidentally meeting the criteria are astronomical. Jesus does meet that criteria; therefore, the logical conclusion is that He is the Messiah.
Now, for a few specifics…..
“Messiah” means the special “Anointed One”.
In common practice, anointing is what we do when we apply lotion, spreading oil on our skin. When a special ceremonial oil was applied to a person 1, it indicated that they were set aside for a special purpose. Most often, that purpose was to be a prophet, priest or king. When used specifically in reference to the promised Deliverer from God, the Hebrew “mashiach“, “anointed one”, became capitalized into the title we now call “Messiah”.
The clues given show the Messiah to be complex and at times almost contradictory. Below, let’s examine a few of the many examples available.
For a quick skim of the most dramatic predictions, see these major prophecies: Psalm 22, Isaiah 9:1-7, Isaiah 53 and 61, Daniel 7:13-14, and Daniel 9:24-27.
The Messiah would be born in a certain place and time.
He would be born in the town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2, Matthew 2:1-6) but called a Nazarene (Matthew 2:23 2, John 1:45-46). The time of His birth would be within 69 sets of seven years (483 years total) after the decree to rebuild Jerusalem following its destruction and the exile to Babylon (Daniel 9:24-27). That decree was issued in 445 B.C. by Artaxerxes of Persia.
And, the Messiah would die in a certain time and manner.
The prophecy is that the Messiah would “be cut off and have nothing” at the end of the 69 “sevens”. Jesus was about 33 years old when He was crucified in around 30 A.D., 475 years or so after the decree 3. He would be mocked, specifically with the taunt “Let God save you, since you trust in Him!” (Psalm 22:7-8, Matthew 27:39-43). He would be pierced, dehydrated, bones dislocated but not broken (Psalm 22:14-17, Zechariah 12:10, Psalm 34:19-20, Luke 23:33, John 19:28-37). Others would gamble for his clothing (Psalm 22:18, John 19:23-24). He would be killed with the wicked but buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9, Luke 23:32, Matthew 27:57-60).
The Messiah would be a Deliverer.
All of Israel’s enemies would be defeated, and Jerusalem restored to prominence and glory as God’s City (Isaiah 60, Zechariah 9:9-10). Justice would be done (Isaiah 42:1-4, Isaiah 59:15-20, Jeremiah 23:5-6, Jeremiah 33:14-16); the blind would see, and prisoners would be set free (Isaiah 42:6-7).
But, the Messiah would also be a Sacrifice.
The Messiah would suffer in our place (Isaiah 53, especially verses 4-6 and 10-12). The idea of a substitute covering for sin is throughout the Old Testament, with imagery pointing forward to a final, perfect substitute (Luke 22:20). (I’ve covered some of this in previous articles Lamb of God and Power in the Blood.)
The Messiah would be a man of a specific lineage.
The Messiah would be a human man, “seed” or offspring of Eve (Genesis 3:15 4), descendant of Abraham (Genesis 22:18 5) and his grandson Judah (Genesis 49:10 6). He would also be a descendant of Israel’s greatest king, David (Psalm 132:11,17-18).
But, the Messiah would also be more than human.
Many of the “descendant of David” clues say that the Messiah will rule on David’s throne “forever” (Isaiah 9:6-7, Jeremiah 33:14-17, Ezekiel 37:24-28). How could a mere human do that? Other passages speak of overwhelming power and glory (Daniel 7:13-14, Psalm 2, Psalm 110).
The Jesus Paradox
During Jesus’ time on earth, these paradoxes contributed to the doubts of those who were unwilling to accept Him. How could the expected Deliverer suffer and die? How could the obviously-divine Messiah be a normal man born in humble circumstances? The same questions hamper many of our Jewish brothers today 7. However, Jesus and His followers argued their case starting with the Jewish scriptures (Luke 24:25-27, Acts 8:26-35, Acts 3:17-22), and today there are Jews who accept Him as their Messiah 8.
The answer to the paradox is that Jesus came first to provide the turning point of history: His death and resurrection to defeat sin and death. He will come again to provide the end point of history: final judgment and the restoration of all that sin has broken. We are currently in the in-between time, while His church spreads this good news and gives as many people as possible the opportunity to accept it 9.
Jesus Matches the Criteria, So Far
Jesus has already fulfilled an amazing number of these prophecies. The odds of any one person meeting even just eight of the criteria given for the Messiah have been calculated at 1 in 10 to the 17th power (1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000). That has been compared to the number of silver dollars that it would take to cover the entire state of Texas to two feet deep! Over 300 such criteria have been counted, with matching scriptures showing Jesus meeting each of them. The odds start going up to 1 in the total number of electrons in the universe! See these links for more detailed analysis of the odds 10 and a couple of lists of fulfilled prophecies 11 12 13 14.
Jesus Will Match the Remaining Criteria, in the Future
However, there are other prophecies that Jesus has not yet fulfilled. The rest are waiting until God’s proper time to be completed. How do we know that Jesus will continue to live up to the promise of the Messiah?
For one thing, He has a pretty good track record! 😁 More than anything else, though, He proved it by defeating death: Even though He was “cut off” (Daniel 9:26), His body did not know decay (Psalm 16:10). As He Himself predicted, He rose back to life three days after He was killed (Mark 8:31, Mark 10:32-34, John 2:18-22, Luke 24:1-9 15).
Jesus’ resurrection confirms all the other evidence: He is the Anointed One, the Messiah who will make all things new (Revelation 21:5-6)!
Footnotes and Scripture References
- or an object, such as an altar or other Temple implements, see Exodus 40:9-15.
- Matthew was not quoting a specific Scripture that we have available to us. Interpretations of what he meant include 1) “despised” as were the residents of small, backwater Nazareth (Isaiah 49:7); 2) “branch”, Hebrew “netzer“, Isaiah 11:1-10; or 3) a prophet known at the time but lost to us.
- More precise dates can be found here: https://christinprophecy.org/articles/daniels-70-weeks-of-years/
- God speaking to the serpent in the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve sinned
- God speaking to Abraham
- Jacob/Israel’s deathbed prophecy to his sons
- I’ve seen this described as “The lightening has already struck, but the sound of the thunder hasn’t reached us yet”.
- Summary of Professor Peter Stoner’s research
- See articles on Resurrection fact and importance.