Christ in Prophecy
In this post we will begin to look at some of the ways that we see Christ in the OT. The first is through prophecy. This is perhaps the most well known way of seeing Christ in the OT, and it is the easiest to wrap our minds around for that reason (though the idea of prophecy itself is actually a deep mystery). That makes it a good place to start. Peter says, “God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer” (Acts 3:18). The word “all” (panton) is actually in the verse, and as such it makes for a stunning claim–all the prophets talked about Christ. This idea certainly fits with what Jesus himself taught the disciples on the road to Emmaus (see the Introduction to this series). Let’s look at a few examples.
Isaiah refers to a “suffering servant.” The heart and soul of the prophecies about this Suffering One are found in Isaiah 53. “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief … he was despised … he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows … we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted … he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities” (Isa 53:3-5). While the Jews came to interpret this as referring to the nation, it is clear that the prophet has an individual in mind, and the NT cites verses from this chapter in all four Gospels, Acts, Romans, 1 Peter, 1 John and other books. Each time they say it is fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. Other prophets talk about Christ’s suffering too. In a passage badly misinterpreted by some, Daniel says that Messiah is “cut off” (Dan 9:26), referring to the crucifixion. Zechariah talks about Christ’s being pierced on the cross (Zech 12:10). David goes into great detail about the sufferings of Christ (Ps 22).
But there are other prophecies as well. Micah says he would be born in Bethlehem (Mic 5:2). Isaiah says he would be born of a virgin (Isa 7:14). Hosea says he would be called out of Egypt (Hos 11:1). Jeremiah talks about the weeping concerning the death of the babies when Herod tried to kill the Christ (Jer 31:15). Malachi predicted the messenger John who came to announce the Messiah (Mal 3:1). Joel predicted Christ sending the Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28-32). Moses foresaw Christ being the greatest prophet (Deut 18:15-19). The Apostle Paul uses Habakkuk as a summary of the whole work of Christ saying, “I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told” (Hab 1:5; cf. Acts 13:41). These are not the generic statistically probable predictions of a horoscope, or the mumbling riddles of a Nostradamus that could mean just about anything. They are specific, clear, intelligible, and statistically impossible to occur by chance in the life of a single individual.
All of these things were predicted centuries prior to their taking place in history, and the NT teaches us to be looking for Christ through prophecy where ever prophecy is to be found. Prophecies prove that what took place in the days of Jesus was really and truly from God. “Who is like me,” asks the LORD. “Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen” (Isa 44:7). The point is, only God knows the future. But they also are to strengthen our faith. “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories” (1 Pet 1:10-11).
Perhaps the first and greatest of all these prophecies comes in the Garden of Eden. “I will put enmity between you [Satan] and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he [Christ] shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen 3:15). This prophecy has a multilevel fulfillment. At the cross, Satan bruised Christ’s heel. At the same time, and through the resurrection and ascension, Christ crushed Satan’s head. And very soon, “The God of peace will … crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (Rom 16:20).
(By: Doug Van Dorn)