"Don't make me come down there."
You might have seen the above statement on a billboard. It puts a smile on the face of the Christian who believes that Jesus is coming back. While it is exciting to delve into biblical prophecies about the return of Christ, it is equally inspiring and encouraging to our faith to understand the prophecies foretelling His first arrival on this planet.
Hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus many godly people from Moses to Malachi prophesied about the coming Messiah, the King who would deliver Israel. In fact the prophets revealed so many details about the coming Christ that it is difficult to believe that the people around Him didn't recognize who Jesus was. But it's still like that today, isn't it? Despite much evidence, many refuse to acknowledge Him.
Let's look at just a few of the predictions and see if they seem to point to the One whose birth we celebrate every December. Before we start, it is important to note that some critics say that Jesus intentionally tried to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies so He could claim to be the foretold Messiah. In fact there were quite a few people who did try to claim that title both before and after Jesus walked the earth. Following are some of the predictions with which they would have been familiar when they made their claims, most of which were fulfilled in Christ's birth alone.
If we turn the pages of our Bibles to Micah 5:2, we'll see that out of the insignificant village of Bethlehem would come one who would rule over Israel. We also read that kings from distant shores would present Him with gifts (Ps. 72:10). You can start singing, "We three kings of Orient are …" right about now. Besides the Magi, Jesus was, of course, recognized as the Messiah by the shepherds and even by the evil king Herod, who tried to have Him killed while He was still an infant.
As if that weren't enough, we see predictions that the Messiah would be a descendant of Abraham (Gen. 22:18) and of Jacob (Num. 24:17), from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10), and a descendant of Jesse (Isa. 11:1) and David (Jer. 23:5). See the genealogy of Jesus in the first chapter of Matthew for confirmation that all these predictions were fulfilled.
The ancient Scriptures say that He would be a prophet (Deut. 18:18), a priest (Ps. 110:4), and a king (Ps. 2:6). All these titles are attributed to Jesus in the pages of the New Testament. The prophets predicted that He would be preceded by a messenger (Mal. 3:1). John the Baptist showed that he clearly understood his own prophetic role when he said that he was not fit even to carry the sandals of the One who would come after him (Matt. 3:11). The Messiah would minister in Galilee (Isa. 9:1) and perform miracles (35:5–6). He would be pierced (Zech. 12:10), and His accusers would divide His garments among themselves (Ps. 22:18). It's easy to see the fulfillment of these prophecies in the life and crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
These as well as other predictions about the Messiah were recorded many centuries before Jesus' first advent. It should be as obvious to anyone as it was to the shepherds that this baby lying in the manger was and is the chosen One of God. Many throughout history, from the original disciples to modern-day martyrs, have suffered and died because they truly believed that Jesus fulfilled these ancient prophecies.
All those with open minds should examine these predictions and decide whether it is reasonable to conclude that Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment of the prophesied Messiah of Israel—the One who would take on Himself the sins that you and I have committed so that we might one day share the glory of heaven with Him.
God in the flesh has already "come down here" and He is due for a second visit any time. "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!"
Keith D. Yates (MA[BS], 1983) is Dallas Seminary's deputy director of Communications and design director for Kindred Spirit.