There are many prophecies in the Old Testament that foretell how, where, and in what manner the Messiah would come. It seems that during Advent season, we hear many of these prophecies quoted at church, in songs, and even in A Charlie Brown Christmas. As a Christian, I grew up hearing about the hundreds of prophecies in the Old Testament that were fulfilled in Jesus’ first advent, yet it was hard to use these prophecies as a means of sharing the Gospel with my friends. It seems to me that the fulfillment of prophecy is a very strong argument for Christians to use in order to show that Jesus must have been the promised Messiah. Because of this, I want to share with you a good argument that you can use to show your friends and family that Jesus did fulfill prophecies that are beyond mere coincidence. My hope is that you will have many opportunities to share the Gospel through using this argument during this Advent season.
In order to be prepared, we need to understand the common objections to the argument that Jesus fulfilled prophecy. One such objection is that Jesus could have purposefully fulfilled many of the prophecies spoken of in the Old Testament. An example would be Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Zechariah 9:9 speaks about the triumphal entry of the Messiah coming to Jerusalem seated on a colt, which Jesus fulfilled as recorded in Matthew 21:1-11 and John 12:12-16. The argument goes that Jesus, knowing what Zechariah 9:9 said, purposefully fulfilled this prophecy by asking for a colt and presenting Himself as the Messiah. Another objection is that the prophecies that we now find in the Old Testament did not predate Jesus, and therefore the things He did were not fulfillments of prophecy. Many of your friends will bring this objection up by asking “How do you know that those prophecies were written prior to Jesus.” The third common objection is that the fulfillments of prophecy were merely coincidental. Examples of fulfilled prophecy, such as the writings of Nostradamus, are often sighted. It seems that in order to show the uniqueness of Jesus’ fulfilment of prophecy, we need to demonstrate three things:
1. Jesus did not manipulate His situation to fulfill prophecy.
2. The Old Testament prophecies did in fact predate His fulfillment of them.
3. The fulfillment of these prophecies could not be mere coincidence.
With these three criteria in mind, let’s analyze our first prophecy, Micah 5:2
“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity.”
This prophecy tells the exact location of the Messiahs birth, Bethlehem. It obvious that Jesus could not even try to purposefully fulfill this prophecy, since infants do not have a choice over where they are born. So, this prophecy meets our first criteria because Jesus could not manipulate His own place of birth. We have the New Testament writers giving us the historical account of Jesus birth in Matthew 2:1 and Luke 2:1-7. Most likely, after you have shared this point with your skeptical friend, they will move on to the second objection and ask how you know that the prophecy predated Jesus’ birth.
In order to answer this objection, we need to ask when the prophet Micah wrote his book, and also when the manuscripts of Micah we possess today date to. The prophet Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah and lived during the 8th century B.C.E. This means that the prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem predates Christ by about 700 years. But how can we be sure that the prophecy from Micah 5:2 was not added after Christ’s birth? It would help us if we had a manuscript with Micah 5:2 in it that predates the birth of Jesus. Thankfully, this is exactly what we have. Among the manuscripts discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls is a scroll of the Twelve Minor Prophets which was found in the Cave Horror at Nahal Hever. Within this scroll is the prophecy from Micah 5:2 and it dates to 50 B.C.E. This manuscript is catalogue as 8HEVXII, and you can see an amazing digital image of it here. With this manuscript being uncovered, the prophecy of Micah 5:2 meets our second criteria since we can be certain that the prophecy predates the fulfillment of Jesus birth by at least 50 years. At this point, I hope your skeptical friends will be taking this prophecy a little more seriously, but they may brush off the evidence as being mere coincidence.
Lastly do we respond when a skeptical friend claims that the prophecies Jesus fulfilled are merely a coincidence? The first thing we should ask is, “What do you mean by a coincidence?”, and the follow-up question should be “How many fulfilled prophecies would there need to be to convince you that it was not merely a coincidence?” Throughout the rest of the month of December, I will be sharing other prophecies that Jesus fulfilled, which hold up to our three criteria. After we look into the other prophecies, we will develop a very good response to the argument of coincidence.
I hope that these posts about fulfilled prophecy do two things. First of all, I hope that they strengthen your faith in seeing that something supernatural had to be behind the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled, and that you have good reason to trust that Jesus was the Messiah. Secondly, I hope that you will use these posts to lovingly engage with your skeptical friends and help them to see the tremendous evidence that God has given us. We are called to give a good defense for the hope we have in Jesus. This Advent season, let’s be intentional about making a good defense with our skeptical friends, and sharing the reasons we have for the hope that is in us.