Predictions of the Jews being scattered, and eventually regathered to the land of Israel, were written by several different prophets who lived between 500 and 1,500 years before Christ. Yet, although most of them had no opportunity to collaborate, their theme was consistent:
- Israel would be destroyed.(61)
- Surviving Jews would be scattered to foreign nations.(62)
- Yet God would one day regather his people from the nations.
Tragically, Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times.(63)
- Jerusalem was destroyed in a.d. 70 and a million Jews were killed.
- Jews who escaped the siege fled to other nations. For nearly 1,900 years Israel didn’t exist, and Jerusalem was a “no-man’s land.”
- Yet the Jews survived. The uniqueness of their survival is remarkable, considering the many neighboring nations that no longer exist.
- After the Nazi Holocaust, millions of Jews emigrated to Israel. In 1948, the Jews’ 2,000-year-old dream of Israel’s rebirth became a reality.
No other nation in history has returned to their homeland after being separated from it for so many years. How is it that the Jews survived while most of their neighboring nations didn’t? As a historian, Paul Johnson is struck by their remarkable survival.
Where are the Canaanites? Where are the Edomites? Where are the ancient Hellenes and the Romans, the Byzantines the Franks, the Mamluks, and the Ottomans? They have vanished into time, irrevocably. But the Jews are still in Hebron.(64)
How could this have happened? The desolate land has been restored; the vineyards have been planted. People are drinking the wine and eating the fruit. These 2,500- to 3,000-year-old prophecies about Israel have come true. How could anyone have predicted all these events so precisely—unless he or she had been given a glimpse of the future from God himself?
Prophecies Regarding the Coming of the Messiah
Throughout the Old Testament, it becomes clear that Someone is coming. Bible scholar Ray Stedman says that “Someone” is God’s promised Messiah:
From the very beginning of the Old Testament, there is a sense of hope and expectation, like the sound of approaching footsteps: Someone is coming!… That hope increases…as prophet after prophet declares yet another tantalizing hint: Someone is coming!”(65)
Hundreds of Old Testament prophecies speak of a Messiah (Christ) who would one day bring peace to Israel and the world.(66) About 740 years before Christ, God revealed through Isaiah that the Messiah would be born as a child. Yet in the same passage the prophet tells us that he is to be called “Mighty God.”
To us a child is born, to us a son is given.…
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”(67)
The waiting Jews must have wondered what Isaiah meant by the words, “Mighty God.” How could a child be called God? Apparently the Messiah would be both human and divine. Several other Old Testament clues revealed other details about who the Messiah would be, and how he could be recognized. Let’s look at just a few. The Messiah would be:
- Born of a virgin(68)
- From the lineage of David(69)
- Born in Bethlehem(70)
- Rejected by his own people(71)
- Betrayed by a friend(72)
- Sold for 30 pieces of silver(73)
- Silent before his accusers(74)
- Pierced in his hands and feet(75)
- Crucified with thieves(76)
- Buried in a rich man’s tomb(77)
- Raised from the dead(78)
When Jesus began his ministry, his miraculous deeds led many to believe that he was the Messiah. But it was his fulfillment of nearly 200 Old Testament prophecies that convinced his followers.
Although Jesus performed powerful miracles and taught us how to love one another, he said his primary mission was to save us from our sins.(79) His intense suffering and painful death on the cross for us was foretold in the 53rd chapter of Isaiah. Here are portions of that remarkable prophecy:
He was hated and rejected by people.…
But he took our suffering on him
and felt our pain for us.
We saw his suffering
and thought God was punishing him.
But he was wounded for the wrong we did;
he was crushed for the evil we did.
The punishment, which made us well, was given to him,
and we are healed because of his wounds.
We all have wandered away like sheep;
each of us has gone his own way.
But the Lord has put on him the punishment
for all the evil we have done.
He was beaten down and punished,
but he didn’t say a word.
He was like a lamb being led to be killed.
He was quiet, as a sheep is quiet while its wool is being cut;
he never opened his mouth.…
He died without children to continue his family.
He was put to death;
he was punished for the sins of my people.
He was buried with wicked men,
and he died with the rich.
He had done nothing wrong,
and he had never lied.
But it was the Lord who decided
to crush him and make him suffer.…
He willingly gave his life
and was treated like a criminal.
But he carried away the sins of many people
and asked forgiveness for those who sinned.(80)
When Jesus was accused during his trial, he never opened his mouth. Although Jesus lived a sinless life, he was beaten and killed like a lamb at slaughter. His body was then buried in a rich man’s tomb.