Was Jesus of Nazareth just another wise teacher who happened to show up and say some nice (or startling!) things? Or was He someone the ancient Hebrew scriptures foretold hundreds of years ahead of time?
Christians, who believe that the Old Testament is the very Word of God, also believe that the ancient prophets of Israel recorded for us several predictions that would be fulfilled exactly in the birth of a Messiah — God’s Savior of the human race. Here are nine prophecies that found their fulfillment in the first Christmas 2000 years ago:
1. “Seed of the woman” (Genesis 3:15).
The Messiah would be the “Seed of the woman” (Genesis 3:15). When God pronounces His curses upon Adam, Eve, and the serpent, He also gives the first glimmer of hope that all is not lost. Genesis 3:15 in Christian theology is called “the protoevangelium” (Greek for “first good news”) for a reason. This is God’s first good news that a Redeemer would some day come. God says “I will put enmity between you [the serpent] and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He [the Seed of the woman] shall bruise your [the serpent’s] head, and you shall bruise His heel.”
Many Christian scholars down through the ages have seen a hint at the virgin birth of the Messiah in this passage. This is someone who is specifically called the Seed of the woman (not the seed of Adam), thus hinting that there is not a physical father procreating this Person. This Person, the Seed of the woman, incurs a terrible wound from the serpent (he bruises His heel), yet inflicts a mortal wound upon Satan (the Messiah crushes the serpent’s head).
I think the Apostle Paul has Genesis 3:15 in mind when he writes Galatians 4:4: “But when the fulness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law…”
2. “Seed of Abraham” to bless the nations (Genesis 22:18).
He would be the Seed of Abraham and bless all nations (Genesis 12:3; 18:17,18; 22:18): “… and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” God’s Messiah would not be from any of the powerful Gentile nations like Egypt or Rome or China. Instead, He would enter the human race as a descendent of Abraham, a nomad from Mesopotamia, a dweller in the land of Canaan, and the father of the Jewish and Arab peoples.
The New Testament confirms that the Messiah was indeed born a descendent of father Abraham: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham …” (Matthew 1:1).
3. A Descendant of Isaac (Genesis 17:19).
The Messiah would be born the descendant of Isaac (Genesis 17:16,19; 22:18; 21:12; 26:2-4). Abraham’s first son was Ishmael, born out of Abraham’s faithless decision to “hurry up” God’s promise of an heir. He used Hagar his slave to procreate Ishmael, and the young man would grow up to be the ancestor of the Arab people.
God would bless Ishmael; but His promises of the land of Canaan and blessing the whole world would not fall to Ishmael. Instead, Isaac was the son of promise, and the ancestor of the Messiah.
Jesus said in John 4:22, “… salvation is of the Jews.” The Jewish people are descended from Isaac, not Ishmael. And in the New Testament the ancestry of the Messiah goes through Isaac, the son of promise: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ…the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac …” (Matthew 1:1-2).
4. A Descendant of Jacob (Genesis 28:14).
The Messiah’s genealogy goes through Jacob (Genesis 27:29; 28:4,13,14). Not just any family tree will do. When the Messiah comes, He will be the direct descendent of Jacob, and not his older brother Esau. The Old Testament also records in Numbers 24:17, 19 an unusual prophecy given by an unbelieving pagan named Balaam! This is quite unusual for the Bible, because this passage shows the Spirit of God overwhelming a wicked pagan man who wishes nothing but harm upon Israel.
However, when God comes upon Him, Balaam is rendered helpless to curse Israel and only blessing and predictions about a Deliverer come out! In this passage God predicts “a star coming out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel.” Is this talking about the star of Bethlehem? Perhaps. At the very least it is predicting a Deliverer arising from the descendants of Jacob.
Luke in his Gospel confirms that Jacob is Jesus’ ancestor (Luke 3:23-34) and that He is the rightful King who “will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:33).
5. Born of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:8-10).
Jesus is born of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:8-10); Matthew 1:1-3). There were twelve tribes from Jacob (whose name was also “Israel,” hence “the twelve tribes of Israel”). But God predicted that His King would come specifically from one tribe: Judah.
In the story of King Saul, the first king of Israel, remember that the people picked Saul (who was from the tribe of Benjamin). Saul was not God’s pick (1 Samuel 8). God’s pick was David, and he was from the tribe of Judah.
In the New Testament, Jesus is not only descended from Judah (Matthew 1:1-3; Hebrews 7:14) but He is also called “the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.” God’s Messiah, in order to be legitimate, had to be from Judah.
6. A Descendant of King David (2 Samuel 7:12-13).
Jesus is born the descendent of King David (2 Samuel 7:12-13; Isaiah 9:7; Jeremiah 23:5; Luke 1:32; Acts 2:25-30). God promised David a dynasty. And in that dynasty He promised that one of David’s descendants would sit upon a throne over an everlasting kingdom.
No mere pretender to the throne of Israel would do. The Messiah had to be a direct descendant of King David. In both Matthew 1 and Luke 3 we see genealogies of Jesus tracing His lineage back to David. Many Christian scholars see Matthew’s genealogy going through the legal right to the throne through Joseph, and Luke tracing the physical right to the throne through Mary.
7. Born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14).
The Messiah would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). If Genesis 3:15 strongly hinted at a virgin conception and birth of a Messiah, Isaiah 7:14 teaches it. As I have written in a previous article, Isaiah was making a prediction about a specific young woman who is a pregnant virgin — definitely a miracle!
The New Testament tells us that this prediction by God 700 years before Christ was fulfilled specifically in the virgin birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:22; Luke 1:34-38).
8. The Messiah would be God Himself (Isaiah 9:6-7).
The Messiah would not only come as a child, but would also be God (Isaiah 9:6-7). I wrote another article recently detailing how these amazing names for this Person reveals His supernatural character. He is no ordinary human. He is not a comic book “superhero.”
He is fully human (“for unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given…”), and He is in fact God (“Mighty God, Father of eternity”). Only Yahweh is called “mighty God” (in Hebrew “El Gibbor” in Isaiah 10:21), yet in Isaiah 9:6 the Messiah is called by the same Hebrew title.
In a corollary passage, Zechariah 12:10 tells us that Yahweh Himself will take on flesh. This passage is actually dealing with the Second Coming of the Messiah at the end of the world, but notice what God says about Himself: “… and they shall look upon Me, the One whom they have pierced …” God is identifying Himself as the One whom Israel has pierced, and they will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child.
God became flesh in the womb of the virgin Mary, and years later allowed His own creation to reject Him and pierce Him through with nails and a spear.
9. Born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).
The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). “But you O Bethlehem Ephrathah [cf. Genesis 35:16-19; this is the town that King David hailed from] who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth to me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.”
Not only does Micah, 700 years ahead of time, predict that the future Messiah would be from Judah, but he pinpoints the location of where He would come from in Judah — Bethlehem — the little village just outside of Jerusalem.
And notice something else about the origins of this Person who would come out of Bethlehem. His goings forth are from way back. The King James Version and several other modern versions translate this as “from everlasting,” and that is certainly a legitimate way of translating the Hebrew word “olam.” The Hebrew term literally means “days of immeasurable time.”
So, what do we have here? We have someone coming from eternity, from days of immeasurable time, coming to earth to Bethlehem, to be ruler in Israel. Now, who in all of history, could that be?
The Gospel of John tells us: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made … and the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory of the One and Only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-3,14).
Jesus, the One who is the seed of the woman, descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, of the royal line of King David, fully sinless man and fully Almighty God, born of the virgin Mary, born in Bethlehem, is the only one to fulfill those prophecies. And He did … that first Christmas morning. Amen.