All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
—Matthew 1:22–23 NIV
There are just over 330 prophecies of Christ in the Old Testament. The likelihood of all of them coming to fruition is so infinitesimally small it is considered next to impossible. Yet each came into being exactly as foretold.
Matthew refers to four remarkable prophecies surrounding the birth of Jesus. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, the Holy Spirit came upon her and she conceived. Joseph was told in a dream to take Mary home as his wife because what she had conceived was from the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:23 says, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son…” Isaiah 7:14 prophesied this over 700 years before it happened.
Christ would have been born in Nazareth, where Mary and Joseph lived, but Caesar Augustus wanted a census taken of all the people in the Roman Empire. Every family was to go to the hometown of the father and register. Joseph came from Bethlehem, so they made the arduous journey and Jesus was born the night they arrived in Bethlehem. Matthew 2:6 says, “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.” In Micah 5:2, this was foretold 700 years before Christ was born.
Herod, fearing a new king of the Jews being born, decreed that all baby boys two years and under in Bethlehem and vicinity were to be killed. Joseph was warned in a dream and told to take Mary and the baby and escape to Egypt, where they were to stay until the death of Herod. Matthew 2:15 says: “And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said to the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’” Hosea 11:1 is a prophecy of this, written 800 years earlier.
After Herod died, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus returned to Nazareth, where Jesus grew up. Matthew 2:23 says, “He will be called a Nazarene.” This goes back to Isaiah 11:1, written over 700 years before, which says, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” In Hebrew, the word for branch is “nazir”, and this was read and understood as “Out of the stump of Jesse a Nazarene will bear fruit.” This is remarkable, as the town of Nazareth did not exist at the time.
For centuries the birth of Jesus was anticipated. He came into this world “to save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
Hundreds of years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the Old Testament prophets predicted His coming. There are messianic prophecies of His birth, His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, His betrayal by Judas, His trial, His crucifixion, and His burial and triumphant resurrection. Their predictions were not just general ones that “a messiah will come,” but specific prophecies about places, times, and events that have been fulfilled in only one person—Jesus Christ.
Nearly 750 years before Christ’s birth, the Old Testament prophet Isaiah prophesied, “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) As you know, Mary was a virgin engaged to be married to Joseph, a carpenter of Nazareth, when the angel appeared to her, saying, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35) Immanuel means “God with us,” and that’s who Jesus is when we receive Him; God is with us.
Another prophecy from Isaiah tells us, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6, 750 B.C.) This shows that the ancient Jews believed that God had a son—who was to be born of the flesh who the prophecy said was to be called “the mighty God.”
Micah, prophesying in the eighth century B.C., predicted: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” (Micah 5:2, 750 B.C.) Although the Jewish nation didn’t accept Him as their ruler, the prophecy says that He “is to be ruler.” This takes place spiritually now for those who voluntarily accept His messiahship, and will take place literally at His Second Coming.
Jesus’ “goings forth” or existence “have been of old, from everlasting.” Jesus said, “Before Abraham was [approximately 2000 B.C.], I AM.” (John 8:58) He was here referring to Himself as the God who revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush as “I AM THAT I AM” (Exodus 3:14) —the eternal present Son of God.
A prophecy from Isaiah tells us: “He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare His generation? For He was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was He stricken.” (Isaiah 53:8) In the course of Jesus’ trial, Pilate asked the Jews, “Will ye therefore that I release unto you [from prison] the King of the Jews? Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas.” (John 18:39–40) Pilate, after questioning Jesus, went before the Jews three times, proclaiming, “I find no fault in Him.” His judgment, therefore, was that He was innocent of the charges laid against Him. (John 18:38; 19:4, 6)
But the people weren’t satisfied with leaving Him in prison nor with the judgment of His innocence, and by using their political leverage on Pilate, they finally got Pilate to give in to the bloodthirsty mob. And he took Jesus “from prison and from judgment” and “delivered Him therefore unto them to be crucified.” (John 19:16)
About 1000 B.C. King David prophesied: “Dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.” (Psalm 22:16–18; 1000 B.C. See also Zechariah 12:10; 13:6)
We see the fulfillment of this prophecy in the New Testament, “Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus [pierced hands and feet], took His garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also His coat [His vesture]: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be.” (John 19:23–24) Crucifixion was not practiced by the Jews of David’s time (they used stoning), but David predicted this type of death for the Messiah, a method of execution virtually unknown to the Jews of his time—foretold 1,000 years before it happened!
Who else was born of a virgin in Bethlehem, was called God, was proclaimed innocent yet condemned unjustly to crucifixion while soldiers parted His garments, was associated with the wicked, was buried in a rich man’s tomb and rose from the dead—all in fulfillment of prophecy? The answer, of course, is no one else but Jesus.
Jesus came to this earth and died on that cross because He loved you and me. He loved us enough to take our punishment, to die and be separated from His Father so that He could bring us the love of God and eternal life. As another prophecy says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all … neither was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief: when thou shalt make His soul [Jesus’] an offering for sin [ours]. … By His knowledge shall My righteous servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:6, 9–11; 750 B.C)
Jesus died for us; it’s just that simple—and God gave all these prophecies and had them written down and preserved so that our faith might be strengthened by them to believe that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
—David Brandt Berg
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