From Josh McDowell "A Ready Defense"
Jesus had various credentials to support His claims to being Messiah, God's son. One credential often overlooked, one of the most profound, is the fulfillment of prophecy in His life.
Over and over again Jesus appealed to the prophecies of the Old Testament to substantiate His claims as the Messiah. Galatians 4:4 says, "But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law." Here we have reference to the prophecies being fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures (Luke 24:27).
Jesus said to them, "These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled" (Luke 24:44). He said, "For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote of Me" (John 5:46). He also said, "Abraham rejoiced to see My day" (John 8:56).
The apostles, the New Testament writers, etc., constantly appealed to fulfilled prophecy to substantiate the claims of Jesus as the Son of God, the Savior, the Messiah.
But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ should suffer, He has thus fulfilled (Acts 3:18).
And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures [meaning the Old Testaments], explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ" (Acts 17:2,3).
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures [in other words, Christ's death was prophesied in the Old Testament], and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3,4).
In the Old Testament there are sixty major messianic prophecies and approximately 270 ramifications that were fulfilled in one person, Jesus Christ. It is helpful to look at all these predictions fulfilled in Christ as His "address." You've probably never realized how important the details of you r name and address are -and yet these details set you apart from the five billion other people who also inhabit this planet.
An Address in History
With even greater detail, God wrote an address in history to single out His Son, the Messiah, the Savior of mankind, from anyone who has ever lived in history -past, present, or future. The specifics of this address can be found in the Old Testament, a document written over a period of a thousand years, which contains more than three hundred references to His coming. Using the science of probability, we find the chances of just forty-eight of these prophecies being fulfilled in one person to be right at one in 10157 (a one followed by 157 zeros!).
The task of matching up God's address with one man is further complicated by the fact that all the prophecies of the Messiah were made at least 400 years before He was to appear. Some might disagree and say that these prophecies were written down after the time of Christ and fabricated to coincide with His life. This might sound feasible until you realize that the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, was translated around 150-200 B.C. This Greek translation shows that there was at least a two-hundred-year gap between the prophecies being recorded and their fulfillment in Christ.
Certainly God was writing an address in history that only the Messiah could fulfill. Approximately forty major claims to be the Jewish Messiah have been made by men. Only one-Jesus Christ-appealed to fulfilled prophecy to substantiate His claims, and only His credentials back up those claims.
What were some of those details? And what events had to precede and coincide with the appearance of God's Son?
To begin, we need to go way back to Genesis 3:15. Here we have the first messianic prophecy. In all of Scripture, only one man was "born of the seed of a woman" -all others are born of the seed of a man. Here is the one who will come into the world and undo the works of Satan ("bruise His head").
In Genesis 9 and 10 God narrowed the address down further. Noah had three sons, Shem, Japheth, and Ham. Today all of the nations of the world can be traced back to these three men. But in this passage, God effectively eliminated two-thirds of them from the line of Messiahship. The Messiah will come through the lineage of Shem.
Continuing on to the year 2000 B.C., we find God calling a man named Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees. With Abraham, God became still more specific, stating that the Messiah will be one of his descendants (Genesis 12; 17; 22). All the families of the earth will be blessed through Abraham. Abraham had two sons, Isaac and Ishmael, but many of his descendants were eliminated when God selected his second son, Isaac (Genesis 17;21).
Isaac had two sons, Jacob and Esau, and God chose the line of Jacob (Genesis 28; 35:10-12; Numbers 24:17). Jacob had twelve sons, out of whom developed the twelve tribes of Israel. God singled out the tribe of Judah for Messiahship and eliminated 11/12ths of the Israelite tribes. And of all the family lines within Judah's tribe, the line of Jesse was the divine choice (Isaiah 11:1-5). One can see the probability of Jesus being the Messiah building.
Jesse had eight children and in 2 Samuel 7:12-16 and Jeremiah 23:5 God eliminated 7/8ths of Jesse's family line: We read that God's man will not only be of the seed of a woman, the lineage of Shem, the race of the Jews, the line of Isaac, the line of Jacob, the tribe of Judah, but that He will also be of the house of David.
A prophecy dating 1012 B.C. (Psalm 22:6-18; cf. Zechariah 12:10 and Galatians 3:13) also predicts that this man's hands and feet will be pierced (i.e., He will be crucified). This description was written eight hundred years before crucifixion began to be practiced by the Romans.
Isaiah 7:14 adds that this man will be born of a virgin -a natural birth of unnatural conception, a criterion beyond human planning and control. Several prophecies recorded in Isaiah and the psalms describe the social climate and response that God's man will encounter: His own people, the Jews, will reject Him and the Gentiles will believe in Him (Isaiah 8:14; 28:16; 49:6; 50:6; 52:53; 60:3; Psalms 22:7,8; 118:22). There will be a forerunner for Him (Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1), a voice in the wilderness, one preparing the way before the Lord, a John the Baptist.
Thirty Pieces of Silver
Notice, too, the seven ramifications of a prophecy (Zechariah 11:11-13; cf. Psalm 41, Jeremiah 32:6-15, and Matthew 27:3-10) that narrows the drama down even further. Here God indicates the Messiah will be (1) betrayed, (2) by a friend, (3) for thirty pieces, (4) of silver, that will be (5) cast onto the floor, (6) of the Temple, and (7) used to buy a potter's field.
In Micah 5:2 God eliminated all the cities of the world and selected Bethlehem, with a population of less than a thousand, as the Messiah's birthplace.
Then through a series of prophecies He even defined the time sequence that would set His man apart. For example, Malachi 3:1 and four other Old Testament verses (Psalm 118:26; Daniel 9:26; Zechariah 11:13; Haggai 2:7-9) require the Messiah to come while the Temple of Jerusalem is still standing. This is of great significance when we realize that the Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70 and has not since been rebuilt.
The precise lineage; the place, time, and manner of birth; people's reactions; the betrayal; the manner of death. These are just a fraction of the hundreds of details that made up the address to identify God's Son, the Messiah, the Savior of the world.
Objection: Such Fulfilled Prophecy Was Coincidental
"Why, you could find some of these prophecies fulfilled in Kennedy'. King, Nassar, etc." replies a critic. Yes, one could possibly find one or two prophecies fulfilled in other men, but not all 60 major prophecies and 270 ramifications. H. Harold Artzler, of the American Scientific Affiliation, in the foreword of a book by Peter W. Stoner writes:
The manuscript for Science Speaks has been carefully reviewed by a committee of the American Scientific Affiliation members and by the Executive Council of the same group and has been found, in general, to be dependable and accurate in regard to the scientific material presented. The mathematical analysis included is based upon principles of probability which are thoroughly sound, and Professor Stoner has applied these principles in a proper and convincing way. 74
The following probabilities are taken from that book to show that coincidence is ruled out by the science of probability. Stoner says that by using the modern science of probability in reference to just eight prophecies, "we find that the chance that any man might have lived down to the present time and fulfilled all eight prophecies is 1 in 1017." That would be 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000. In order to help us comprehend this staggering probability, Stoner illustrates it by supposing that
Now these prophecies were either given by inspiration of God or the prophets just wrote them as they thought they should be. In such a case the prophets had just one chance in 10 17 of having them come true in any man, but they all came true in Christ.
This means that the fulfillment of these eight prophecies alone proves that God inspired the writing of those prophecies to a definiteness which lacks only one chance in 1017 of being absolute.
Objection: Jesus Tried to Fulfill Prophecies
Another objection is that Jesus deliberately attempted to fulfill the Jewish prophecies. This objection seems plausible until we realize that many of the details of the Messiah's coming were totally beyond human control.
For example, the place of birth. I can just hear Jesus in Mary's womb as she rode on the donkey: "Mom, we won't make it!"
When Herod asked the chief priests and scribes, "Where is the Christ to be born?" they said, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it has been written by the prophet" (Matthew 2:5). The time of His coming. The manner of His birth. Betrayal by Judas and the betrayal price. The manner of His death. The people's reaction. The mocking and spitting, the staring. The casting of dice for His clothes. The non-tearing of His garment, etc. Half the prophecies are beyond His fulfillment. He couldn't work it out to be born of the seed of the woman, the lineage of Shem, the descendants of Abraham, etc. No wonder Jesus and the apostles appealed to fulfilled prophecy to substantiate His claim.
Why did God go to all this trouble? I believe He wanted Jesus Christ to have all the credentials He needed when He came into the world. Yet the most exciting thing about Jesus Christ is that He came to change lives. He alone proved the hundreds of Old Testament prophecies that described His coming to be correct. He alone can fulfill the greatest prophecy of all for those who will accept it -the promise of new life: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you" (Ezekiel 36:25-27). "Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come" (2 Corinthians 5:17).