The Gospel In Old Testament Prophecies

by - May 15, 2020


Understanding the prophecies of the Old Testament is the key to a more rounded understanding of the New Testament. The prophecies about the Savior, Jesus Christ, are some of the most important prophecies in the Old Testament, greatly affecting the Christian’s faith, because of the great weight they hold in the New Testament.

    The prophets in the Old Covenant were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write down the words of their prophecies. It is important to understand this fact. Paul says that “All Scripture is breathed out by God” in 2 Timothy 3:16 (English Standard Version). These were not just the sayings of men, but the sayings of God. So we must understand the context of these passages, and how they relate to the overarching plan of salvation. 

    We must know who wrote the prophecy, to whom they wrote it, and the reason why they wrote it. To do this is to take an exegetical approach, drawing from the Scripture what it says, not adding to it or taking away from it.

    The prophecies of Christ’s birth are some of the most well known prophecies recorded in Scripture, because they are read at Christmas time, in conjunction with the Christmas story. One of the most commonly known is Isaiah 9. It begins by saying that the people live in darkness, much like John 1:5, 9-10. But in that darkness, a child will be born, who shall rule on the throne of David, and his “empire of grace will forever expand, and every moment better than the last” (Ortlund 1257-1258).

    He is given titles such as Mighty God and Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). These titles show the child will be divine (Ortlund 1257) , not an earthly ruler, but a heavenly one (John 18:36-37). His reign will be forever, and will never cease.

    Another well known prophecy surrounding the birth of Jesus is Micah 5:2-4. This is the prophecy that was read by the High Priest to King Herod the Great when the Magi appeared to the king, wanting to know where the newborn King of the Jews was at. Micah’s prophecy was one of hope and deliverance to Israel; a new King from Bethlehem, the city of David (Craigie 39). The new ruler was to be a shepherd to His people (Micah 5:4). Aucker and Magary say that Christ’s rule and defense of His flock are accomplished by His sovereignty (1703).

    Another prophecy that Matthew uses in Matthew 2:18 is Jeremiah 31:15, where a weeping is heard because of the grief of the mothers during the exile. Matthew applies this to the slaughter of the innocent children by Herod, where the mothers weep for their children “and would not be comforted” (Henry).  According to House, this passage had become “proverbial for the mistreatment of Jewish children” (1429).

    But these are not the only prophecies about Christ. There are also the prophecies about his life, death, and resurrection. When Jesus was reading the Isaiah scroll in the synagogue (Luke 4:16-21), He came to Isaiah 61:1, where a messianic speaker is saying that he will bring “good news to the poor. . . bind up the brokenhearted” and “proclaim liberty to the captives”. Jesus said that Scripture was fulfilled by Him (Luke 4:21). Isaiah, in this verse, describes Christ’s character and actions (Wesley). John Gill says that Jewish writers believed that Isaiah 61 was Isaiah’s own words, but he goes on to say that “there is no doubt but the Messiah is the person speaking.” 

    When Christ rode through the streets of Jerusalem, (John 12:12-15), John says that Jesus had fulfilled Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey”. The verse shows His righteousness and Messianic title, but also “the Hebrew includes both the "lowliness" of His outward state… and His "meekness of disposition," as Matthew 21:5 quotes it” (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown).  

    1 Peter 1:10-11 says, “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.” We must again remember that the prophets were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write down the words they wrote, predicting the death and resurrection of Christ.

    One cannot neglect Psalm 22 when talking about the crucifixion of Jesus, since He quoted from it when He was on the cross (Mark 15:34, Psalm 22:1). David cannot be writing about himself; it’s full meaning can only be applied to Jesus (Henry). John Wesley wrote that David was a type of Christ, and that many Psalms had a “further… reference to Christ.”  The people mock and scorn Christ (Psalm 22:6, Matthew 27:39). David uses imagery of bulls (Psalm 22:12-13) and dogs (Psalm 22:16) to refer to the enemies of Christ, who divided his garments up by casting lots (Psalm 22:18, Matthew 27:35, John 19:23-24). They roar like lions (Psalm 22:13), shouting “Crucify!” (Augustine) He is “poured out like water” (Psalm 22:14, John 19:34). His tongue is so dry, that it clings to his jaws (22:15, John 19:28-29).
  But out of all the prophecies of the death of Christ, most Christians will point out Isaiah 52:13-52:12, the song of the Suffering Servant. “The genuineness of the passage is certain; for the Jews would not have forged it, since it is opposed to their notion of Messiah, as a triumphant temporal prince. The Christians could not have forged it” (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown).  John Wesley said that it is so clear that Christ is the focal point of this prophecy.

    The Lord says that His servant shall be wise and exalted, though his face and appearance be marred (Isaiah 52:13-14). He will have authority over rulers (Isaiah 52:18-53:1). “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).  He was the One that carried our sins to the cross, (Isaiah 53:4-5), silent, as a sheep to a slaughter (Isaiah 53:7). He was smitten, stricken, and afflicted (Isaiah 53:4), yet he had done no wrong to be punished (Isaiah 53:9). He was buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9, Luke 23:50). This further creates a sense of “suffering and shame” for the servant (Denning 130).

    But all this was in God’s plan to save humanity. He was the sacrifice (Isaiah 53:7, 10). Not like the Old Covenant sacrifice, but the perfect sacrifice, to completely save us from our sins. Hebrews 9:14 tells us “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” 
    But Isaiah 53 continues, with the hope of resurrection. He shall see His children, the church, and His days will be everlasting (Isaiah 53:10). Paul says that Christ was raised from the dead in order to fulfill the Scripture (1 Corinthians 15:4). He bore our sins, and is now the mediator between God and man (Isaiah 53:12, Hebrews 4:14-16).

    Because of what Christ did on the cross, we can be assured of forgiven sins. Jesus said that His blood was the blood of a New Covenant (Matthew 26:28). These prophecies are the assurances of that New Covenant in Christ. Jeremiah 31:31-32 says “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord.”

    This is the covenant of the everlasting kingdom of Isaiah 9:6-7. This is the covenant with a new King from David’s line (Micah 5:2-4). This is the covenant that Jesus came to proclaim (Isaiah 61:1), and His blood was the blood of the New Covenant, which was sacrificed for us on Calvary, becoming the greatest sacrifice and the perfect sacrifice (Isaiah 53:9-10). These prophecies are the prophecies of a new and better Covenant, a more personal relationship to God, and prophecies of forgiven sin and new life in Jesus.

    The writers of the Gospels use these prophecies as proof that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ. To understand the prophecies of the Gospel found in the Old Testament is foundation to Christians , because it gives them a better understanding of the Bible as a whole, and a greater understanding of Jesus’ life and mission on Earth. Hebrews 1:1-2 says: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” The prophets spoke not of themselves, but of a perfect Covenant, and for a perfect salvation of all men, through Jesus Christ.


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Ortlund, Raymond. Isaiah. ESV Study Bible. Crossway, 2008.

Craigie, Peter. Twelve Prophets, Vol. 2. Daily Study Bible Series. Westminster Press, 1985.

Aucker, W., and Dennis Magary. Micah. ESV Study Bible, Crossway, 2008.

Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible (Complete). Vol. 4, 1706. Bible Study Tools, (Accessed 4 November 2019).

House, Paul. Jeremiah. ESV Study Bible, Crossway 2008.

Wesley, John. Wesley’s Explanatory Notes. 1754-1765. Bible Study Tools,
(Accessed 4 November 2019).

Gill, John. John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible. Bible Study Tools,
(Accessed 4 November 2019).

Augustine. Exposition on the Psalms. New Advent, (Accessed 4 November 2019).

Jamieson, Robert, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. 1871. Bible Study Tools,
(Accessed 4 November 2019).

Denning, Lynne. Isaiah. Basic Bible Commentary. Abingdon Press, 1994.

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