In Luke 24:44, Jesus told his disciples that everything written about him in the Jewish Scriptures must be fulfilled. This article will look at this claim that Jesus made. Was everything written about him in the Old Testament fulfilled? Or has some of the Old Testament prophecy about Jesus been left unfulfilled?
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Table of contents
It is important to read this verse in its context to answer the questions raised above.
He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”Luke 24:44-47 NIV
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
This passage is part of Jesus’s conversation with his disciples after his resurrection. As he was sharing this with them, they still did not understand what had happened. And why it had happened. So, Jesus took the time to explain to his disciples that what had happened was not unexpected.
Jesus wanted them to understand that his suffering and death were a part of God’s plan from the beginning. As was his resurrection from the dead on the third day. All that had happened to him over the previous few days was expected and had been long foretold.
Jesus was not trying to tell his disciples that he had checked off all the Old Testament prophecies about himself. Instead, he was comforting them by letting them know that all had been proceeding according to plan.
Prophecy About Jesus
Old Testament prophecy about Jesus can be organized in several ways. Sometimes it is an implicit foreshadowing. The sacrifice on the Day of Atonement is an example of this. There is nothing in the narrative about this sacrifice that points explicitly to Jesus. But we can look back at it after Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and see that the Day of Atonement was pointing to Jesus and was fulfilled by him.
The second type of prophecy is one with double fulfillment. An example of this is found in Isaiah 7:14-17. In this passage, Isaiah gave a sign to King Ahaz about the armies that he feared. A sign that was fulfilled within a few short years. But Matthew (Matt. 1:22-23) quotes the beginning of this passage in Isaiah, about the virgin being with child, to refer to the birth of Jesus, seeing a second fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.
The third form of prophecy in the Old Testament is one that is more explicit. The people often did not correctly understand what was being foretold. But there was no question but that it was referring to something that lay ahead. And it is these prophecies that this article will investigate.
Prophecies of a Coming King
Some of the more explicit prophecies concern a coming messiah. A messiah who was described as a king descended from David who would rule over the nation. He would defeat all their enemies and would bring back all those who have been exiled by Assyria and Babylon.
- Isaiah 9:1-7 looks to a time when a child would be born who would reign on David’s throne forever. He would rule over a kingdom that was at peace and would uphold justice and righteousness. And this king would be known as a “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
- Isaiah 11:1-16 looks forward to this same kingdom. A kingdom that would draw all the exiled Jews back to Israel and that would defeat all their enemies. And this king would judge the earth, slaying all the wicked on the earth.
- In Jeremiah 23:1-8, a righteous branch from David would rise who would rule over the remnant of Israel and bring the exiles back home.
- Daniel 7:13-14 contains a vision of one like a son of man coming with the clouds. He was brought before God and given authority to rule over a kingdom that would last forever. And all the world would worship him.
A Refiner’s Fire
The writing prophets are filled with condemnation for the nations of Israel and Judah. Their idolatry and social injustice were defiling the nations and were the cause of their eventual destruction. Malachi 3:1-5 was written well after the return from exile. Yet many of the same issues persisted. And he looked to a time when the Lord would come and purify the nation. He would be like a refiner’s fire who would judge the wicked and purify his people.
The Suffering Servant
In contrast to the conquering king that is pictured in the passages above are those like the Servant Songs of Isaiah that point to a different type of Messiah. Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is the most explicit of these Servant Songs. This servant would be despised and rejected by mankind. He would be pierced for our iniquity and suffer death as an offering for sin. And afterward, he would justify many and be assigned a portion among the great.
The picture painted here of this servant contrasts with that of the king who would come and rule over an eternal kingdom. But it bears some resemblance to the refiner of Malachi who would purify his people.
Did Jesus Fulfill All of These Prophecies?
The common expectation during the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry was that the Messiah would come as a conquering king from the line of David. A king who would free Israel from Roman domination, setting up a kingdom that would rule the world. And this was the expectation of Jesus’ disciples during their three years with him, and up to Pentecost.
Jesus’ words to his disciples in Luke 24:44-47 told them that he had not come as a conquering king. Instead, he had come as the suffering servant of Isaiah who would give his life as a sin offering to justify many. This is a theme that is most explicit in Isaiah, but, as Jesus said, can be found throughout the Old Testament.
There is a sense in which Jesus also fulfilled those prophecies that looked forward to a descendant of David taking the throne of his kingdom. Jesus was a physical descendant of David. And he does now reign over a kingdom that will never end. But that kingdom, and his rule, have not yet reached their final state. We look forward to a fuller realization of his kingdom and rule.
But the judgment spoken of in Isaiah 11:3-5 and the restoration of Eden foretold in Isaiah 11:6-9 are still awaiting fulfillment. Jesus will return at the conclusion of this age to usher in his fully realized kingdom, execute judgment on his enemies, and bring peace.
In his death, burial, and resurrection, as well as the proclamation of the gospel, everything foretold by the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms has been fulfilled. But there is still more that lies ahead in the future, still awaiting fulfillment.
This article was originally published at Christianity.com on July 28, 2022
The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.
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