It takes study to understand prophecy. To gain some understanding of it, it’s essential to remember a very important rule: God is always right. That seems simple enough, but people tend to look at the future in terms of the present. George Washington could never have imagined weapons of today, so he would have no idea how to interpret “And this shall be the plague wherewith the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth” (Zechariah 14:12).
Is this referring to a nuclear explosion?
We also forget that God is all powerful. For instance, the prophet Isaiah said, “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).
Because they didn’t believe God’s word, people who should have known better interpreted this as meaning God’s sign would be a young woman giving birth to the Messiah. Only women give birth, and many are young, so nothing would be unusual about it. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a young virgin when she gave birth to the Messiah. Now, that’s a sign! Although the Pharisees missed the Messiah, many other prophecies proved that Jesus was the long-expected Messiah. The men who should have recognized the Messiah crucified Him instead. That also fulfilled prophecy.
John the Baptist knew who Jesus was. In fact, John fulfilled prophecy. The book of Isaiah contains many warnings to the people of Israel to return to the Lord or face judgment. It also contains many prophecies of comfort. One of those is found in Isaiah chapter 40. Israel is God’s chosen nation, but they spent many years ignoring Him and disobeying Him. The time had come for judgment, and Isaiah had told of the coming Babylonian captivity. In spite of that, Isaiah was directed to speak of comfort to this rebellious nation. This would be a future comfort when the Messiah is finally accepted.
“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’S hand double for all her sins” (Isaiah 40:1-2).
Israel needs to stop fighting God for this to be fulfilled. One day soon, they will stop their rebellion. Isaiah also said someone would announce the arrival of the King. “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3).
John the Baptist announced the Messiah, and he called Israel to repentance. That would clear the way for the King of kings. The Jewish leaders knew of John’s ministry and sent “priests and Levites” to ask who he was. They wanted to know if he was the long-awaited Messiah.
“And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ” (John 1:20).
These men who read Scripture were looking for the Messiah but were looking in the wrong place. “Then said they unto him, Who art thou? That we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees” (John 1:22-24).
They should have paid attention to John’s words and known he was the fulfillment of a prophecy and that meant the Messiah would soon be made known.
There were many more signs that Jesus was the Messiah, and if the religious leaders had believed prophecy as God-breathed it to the prophets of old, they would have recognized that Jesus Christ was the one they were looking for.
An interesting prophecy is found in Daniel. It describes 70 weeks of years. Had the Pharisees paid attention to this prophecy, they would have known exactly the day that the Messiah would ride into Jerusalem. Daniel was young when he was taken captive by the Babylonians when they captured Jerusalem. Although taken to a very pagan nation, Daniel never forgot that he was Jewish and first and foremost served God Almighty. He was given a prophecy of when the Messiah would appear.
“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of the sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.
“And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate” (Daniel 9:24-27).
Daniel was Jewish, and this prophecy is about “thy people” and “thy holy city.” This isn’t about Gentiles or Christians. The 70 weeks prophecy is about Israel.
When was the decree to restore and build Jerusalem issued?
When the Babylonians conquered Judah, they had destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. They took many captives, but God had told Jeremiah the captivity would only last 70 years. When it was over, some returned to Jerusalem, but some stayed in Babylon. Time passed, and when Artaxerxes had been king for 20 years, Nehemiah, cup bearer to the king, felt driven to return to Jerusalem and rebuild it. Many years after Daniel was given the prophecy, Artaxerxes issued the decree to rebuild. According to Daniel’s prophecy, 483 years would pass from that decree until the Messiah appeared. People who are smarter than me, Sir Robert Anderson, for instance, have calculated the time from when Artaxerxes issued the decree to rebuild Jerusalem to the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey as 483 years.
The prophet Zechariah spoke of the Triumphant entry into Jerusalem. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass” (Zechariah 9:9).
The people cheered and sang from Psalm 118 “And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:9).
The people praised their Messiah, but Jesus knew the Pharisees hadn’t paid attention to prophecy; He grieved over their ignorance. “And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation” (Luke 19:41-44).
Prophecy had been very clear that these events would happen, but the Pharisees wouldn’t believe God’s word was being fulfilled and that Jesus was the Messiah. Because of their ignorance, the nation of Israel would face judgment.
Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem fulfilled Zechariah 9:9. “All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass” (Matthew 21:4-5).
Had the Pharisees believed God’s word, they would have known that they were watching prophecy being fulfilled. God knew they wouldn’t accept Jesus as the Messiah, and more prophecy describes the horrible things they did to Him. Daniel’s prophecy says that Messiah would be cut off…killed. He was. One of the men who had followed Jesus and was considered a disciple betrayed Him. Jesus knew that Judas was the traitor.
“When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me” (John 13:21).
During this final gathering with His disciples, they shared a last supper, and then Judas went off to betray Jesus. This betrayal fulfilled prophecy. “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9).
Judas fulfilled the prophecy in this Psalm, but he also fulfilled one in Zechariah. “And I said unto them, if ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver” (Zechariah 11:12).
Brothers and sisters, we need to take warning from this. Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, but let’s look to our own hearts. Every time we follow the way of the world rather than the way of our Lord, we betray Him. Are you filled with pride? Do you anger easily, feel that other people are beneath you, or gossip? Jesus said to love one another, and He demonstrated that love by washing Judas’ feet even though He knew Judas would soon betray Him. Jesus knows that you’ll betray His love for you when you behave like the world dictates, but He loves you anyway and is willing to forgive you.
Prophecy continued to be fulfilled. Judas led the band of scoundrels to arrest Jesus but then regretted his actions because he had betrayed an innocent Man. He threw the silver into the temple, and the Pharisees bought a “potter’s field” in which to bury strangers, fulfilling Zechariah 11:13. Jesus was arrested and tortured. He was tried by both the Jewish leaders and by the Gentiles. No one person or ethnic group can be blamed. The prophet Isaiah gives graphic detail of the torture.
“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him: and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Isaiah said that He would be led as a lamb to the slaughter and remain silent (Isaiah 53:7). He was “…cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken” (Isaiah 53:8b). He made his grave with the wicked and the rich (Isaiah 53:9), and Jesus was buried in a rich man’s tomb.
Psalm 22 also describes the crucifixion. “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death” (Psalm 22:14-15). This Psalm seems as if it’s an eyewitness account of Jesus on the cross.
I’ve just mentioned a few of the prophecies about Jesus’ life among men and His crucifixion. Fulfilled prophecy proves we can believe God, but many prophecies are yet to be fulfilled.
When Daniel was given the 70-week prophecy, it says Messiah would be cut off (Daniel 9:26). When that happened, there was a “pause” in the prophetic timeline. This pause is where we are today. We live in the age of grace. If anyone today is convicted of their sin, they can turn to Jesus in repentance and accept His death, burial, and resurrection for salvation.
“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in” (Romans 11:25).
People will continue to come to Jesus until the “fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” At that time, Christians will be called home in the Harpazō – the Rapture. The pre-trib Rapture will fulfill prophecy. When that happens, the world will face tribulation like never seen before; God’s word says so. Many prophecies cover this time period, and it would be wise for you to study them. We are very close to the Rapture, and many things are swiftly falling into place. The books of Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Zechariah contain prophecies of the end times. Jesus told of the end times, and Revelation, beginning in chapter 6, tells what will happen after the Rapture. The stage is being set, and if you have an understanding of prophecy, you will be listening for the call to “Come up hither.”
It’s easy to look back in time and see the ignorance of the Pharisees, but many people today are just as ignorant of prophecy. Many prophecies are being fulfilled today. Study Biblical prophecy, and you’ll be able to understand the times in which we live.
God bless you all,
All original scripture is “theopneustos,” God-breathed.
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