Friday, April 1

Prophecy and the Death and Resurrection of Christ

It is a well-known historical fact that a man named Jesus of Nazareth was born, lived, and died in Palestine in the 1st Century AD. Non-biblical sources, such as Cornelius Tacitus - Roman historian (ca. 55-120 A.D.), Lucian of Samosata - a Greek satirist (2nd century A.D.), Suetonius - Roman historian and court official under Emperor Hadrian (1st century A.D., Josephus ben Mattathias, Thallus, Phlegon, the Jewish Talmud, and the writings of several Roman Emperors of the time. In past entries, we have attempted to establish (and will continue to do so) the Reliability, Historicity, and Inerrancy of the Bible. This includes the prophecies found therein. In this entry, we will examine the prophecies concerning the death and resurrection of Christ. (Photo credit: ThinkFilm 2003)

Now, let us begin with a quote. "The precise timing of Jesus' crucifixion was also given to the Jews when God revealed to the prophet Daniel (9:24) how the Jews could calculate the day of the revealing of the Messiah. Talking of a 490 year period, the prophet foresaw that it would begin “from the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem” (9:25). In the book of Nehemiah we learn that this command was given "in the month Nisan [on the Hebrew calendar], in the twentieth year of the king" (2:1). The king was Artaxerxes Longimanus who ruled from 465 to 425 B.C. The prophet Daniel said that 483 years from that date, the Messiah would be revealed to Israel, but He would then "be cut off, but not for himself" (9:26). This prophecy refers to the crucifixion when Jesus died, or was cut off, for the sins of the world. 483 years later, to the day, was Sunday, April 6, 32 A.D. On that day, which we commemorate as Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and revealed Himself as Israel's Messiah. He was killed four days later, thus fulfilling the prophecy that He would be revealed and then slain."[1]

Historically, Christ's death and resurrection are typically placed ca. 29-33 AD, so placing it in 32 AD is certainly possible. To note, the prophecy of Daniel was perhaps one of the most comprehensive and important in this regard: it told the Jews when the Messiah would come. This is why there were so many sects waiting for the Messiah. However, many had the wrong impression about the Messiah: they believed He would come to overthrow the Romans, not die for the sins of humanity. Does prophecy allow this? Indeed it does.

Let us now examine the prophecies found within the Hebrew Bible, in their fulfillment in the New Testament. Bear in mind, several of these fulfilled prophecies are historically attested facts, and merely because non-biblical evidence is not found for certain prophecies does not negate their truth in any way. The Bible conveys truth, from the very first verse (Genesis 1:1) to the finale verse (Revelation 22:21). According to Scripture, what then was supposed to happen to the Messiah?

Psalm 118:22 tells us that the Messiah would be rejected by the Jews. 1st Peter 2:7 confirms this.  Psalm 35:19 says, "Do not let those gloat over me who are my enemies without cause; do not let those who hate me without reason maliciously wink the eye." John 15:24-25 shows us that this is Christ, who was hated without reason. Without going into detail about the crucifixion of Jesus, Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 describe the state which the Messiah would find himself in. Psalm 22:1a says, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Christ echoed these same words over 1000 years after David wrote them down. Verse 6, "But I am a worm, not a human being. I am scorned by everyone, despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. 'He trusts in the LORD,' they say, 'let the LORD rescue Him. Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him.'" Verse 15, "My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; I am laid in the dust of death." Verse 16b, "they pierce my hands and my feet." Verse 18 continues, "They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment."

From a clear reading of Psalm 22, it is obviously describing the conditions and speech, perhaps thoughts, of Jesus on the cross. The Hebrew Bible, in several places, refers to the events surrounding the death of Christ. It was prophesied that the Messiah would be rejected (Isaiah 53:3; John 1:10-11; 7:5, 48), that He would be betrayed by a friend (Psalm 41:9; Luke 22:3-4; John 13:18), that He would be sold for thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12; Matthew 26:14-15), that He would be silent before His accusers (Isaiah 53:7; Matthew 27:12-14), and that He would be mocked (Psalm 22:7-8; Matthew 27:31). Bear in mind, these prophecies, through such manuscripts as the Dead Sea Scrolls, have been shown to be older than Christ. These prophecies were not invented after Christ, but were given by God to man hundreds of years before the Messiah was born to the world. There are many more prophecies surrounding the death of Christ. 

For example, Isaiah conveyed in Isaiah 52:14, "Just as there were many who were appalled at Him - His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and His form marred beyond human likeness..." In Matthew 27:26 and all throughout the Gospel accounts of Christ's death, it is evident that He was severely beaten, bruised, battered, scarred, marred, and disfigured beyond recognition. Supporters of the Shroud of Turin like to point to this verse when illustrating that the face on the Shroud is marred beyond recognition. (More on the Shroud in an upcoming entry.)

The prophecies also inform us that the Messiah would be spit upon (Isaiah 50:6; Matthew 27:30), that He would be crucified with thieves (Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 27:38), that He would pray for those who persecuted Him (Psalm 109:4; Isaiah 53:12; Luke 23:24), that His side would be pierced (Zechariah 12:10; John 19:34), that He would be given gall and vinegar to drink (Psalm 69:21; Matthew 27:34; Luke 23:26), and that He would have no broken bones (Psalm 34:20; John 19:32-36). These prophecies also inform us that the Messiah would be buried in a Rich Man's tomb (Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 27:57-60), that lots would be cast for His garments, as seen in Psalm 22:18, and that He would rise from the dead. (Psalm 16:10; Mark 16:6; Acts 2:31Psalm 38:11 conveys, "My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbors stay far away." (cf. Luke 23:49) At the crucifixion site, aside from Mary and John, very few of Jesus' friends and companions could be found there. In fact, they stood far off. Before the death of Jesus, He entered into Jerusalem as King. Matthew 21:1-8 says:

"As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, 'Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.' This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 'Say to Daughter Zion, 'See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.' [Zechariah 9:9] The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road."

As noted earlier, it was prophesied that the Messiah would be betrayed, specifically by a close friend, more specifically through 30 pieces of silver. (Psalm 41:9; Zechariah 11:12) Zechariah 11:13 tells us that this silver would be cast onto the floor of the Temple, and that (Judas must have come back to get it) it would be used to purchase a potter's field. Jesus himself prophesied His death and subsequent resurrection several times. (Matthew 12:40, 16:21-28, 17:22-23, 20:17-19; Mark 8:31-33, 9:30-37, 10:32-34; Luke 9:21-27, 9:43-50, 18:31-34, John 2:19, 12:20-36, etc.) All throughout the four Gospels, yet more so in Matthew, we see the Gospel writers utilizing prophecy and explaining their fulfillment in Christ. Let us examine the events surrounding the Crucifixion in regard to what occurred around Christ. All three Synoptic Gospels convey that, about noon on Good Friday, the sky became darkened and remained so for three hours. (See Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44-45).

This is significant because, nearly eight hundred years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Amos wrote, "On that day, I, the LORD God, will make the sun go down at noon, and I will turn daylight into darkness." (Amos 8:9) God pulled through, as He always does. By peeking through history, most connect this prophecy with the event that occurred during the crucifixion on the day of Jesus' death. Notably, Psalm 22:14 says, "My heart is like wax; It is melted within me." John 19:34 reads, "...but one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water." The blood and water that came forth from Christ's pierced body (note two verses later, in Psalm 22, "they pierce my hands and my feet.") - is evidence that His heart literally burst. Both the prophecy and the fulfillment appear to support this. It is not hard to believe, due to the intense stress and trauma He had gone through.[2]

Psalm 31:5 says, "Into your hands I commit my spirit..." This was fulfilled in Luke 23:46, "And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, 'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." Psalm 109:24-25 says, "My knees give way from fasting; my body is thin and gaunt. I am an object of scorn to my accusers; when they see me, they shake their heads." Many glean from this that Jesus fell under the cross (fulfilled Luke 23:26; Matthew 27:31-32). There are about 61 prophecies, all of which Jesus fulfilled. In 1969, mathematician Peter W. Stoner gave his students eight prophecies which were fulfilled by Christ, and he inquired if the students would calculate the probability of their fulfillment. He chose the prophecies which stated the the Messiah would: 1) Be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), 2) Be preceded by a messenger (Isaiah 40:3-5; Malachi 3:1), 3) Ride on a donkey as king (Zechariah 9:9), 4) Be betrayed by a friend (Psalm 41:9), 5) Be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12), 6) That the silver be used to purchase a potter's field (Zechariah 11:13), 7) The Messiah be silent as a lamb (Isaiah 53:7), and 8) The Messiah would have his hands and feet pierced. (Psalm 22:16; Zechariah 12:10) According to Stan Campbell, "The class came up with a whopping number: the combined probability of one person's fulfilling eight of the Old Testament prophecies would be one chance in 1017. (Yes, that's one followed by seventeen zeroes.) And since the initial finding by Stoner's students, his grandson Don has updated the number to 1018, since the world's population is now larger."[3] How can this be? Could it be that Jesus of Nazareth, a seemingly small figure living in 1st Century Palestine, is actually the Messiah?

Troy Hillman

[1] Peter and Paul LaLonde, 301 Startling Proofs; Prophecies (Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada: Prophecy Partners, Inc., 1996)
[2] McDowell, Josh. Evidence That Demands A Verdict. 1st ed. Arrowhead Springs, San Bernardino, CA: Campus Crusade for Christ International, 1972. 173. Print.
[3] Stan Campbell, et. al, . "A Life Foretold ." Inside The Mysteries Of The Bible: New Perspectives On Ancient Truths. 2010: 60-61. Print.

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