“To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” Acts 10:43
The true story of why we celebrate Christmas has to do with the coming of the only-begotten Son of God into the world by taking on a human body in order to redeem the fallen human race. We call this the “First coming of the Messiah.” Because the redemption of all mankind is intrinsically connected to the first coming of Jesus Christ, the Christmas season is celebrated with much joy and thanksgiving for God’s great love for fallen humanity in providing a means of salvation and eternal life. The Apostle John put it in these words:
9 In this was the love of God manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:9-10
The Old Testament saints knew the promises of the coming Redeemer and were eagerly awaiting His arrival. The promises of the prophets concerning the coming Savior, who was known as the Messiah (Hebrew) or Christ (Greek) all through the Old Testament is what provided hope and comfort to penitent sinners. All of the promises of God’s mercy and gracious forgiveness—the very foundation of saving faith—could only be extended to sinful humans on the basis of what Jesus would accomplish for the world at His first coming. The true believers of the Old Testament must have looked with great expectation and joy for the coming of the promised Messiah. Two examples of this were the old man Simeon who had had it revealed to him that he would see the Messiah before he died, and a very old widow, Anna, a prophetess. They were both expecting the blessing of seeing the Redeemer with their own eyes before they died, and so they did.
Those from the Old Testament did of course not understand all of the Old Testament passages and symbols having to do with the coming Messiah as we do today, because we are blessed with the addition of the New Testament Scriptures and the revelations they contain, something they obviously did not have. An example would be; the people in Moses’ day who would have no concept of the manner of execution the Romans used, called crucifixion. They would also not have been totally familiar with how this form of execution was foreshadowed by the serpent of brass being lifted up on the pole in the wilderness. The account of this is found in Numbers 21:8-9. But, Jesus brings this parallel into His discussion with Nicodemus in John 3:14-15. John 12: 32-33 also makes reference to Jesus being “lifted up.” .
14 “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:14-15
32 “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” 33 This He said, signifying by what death He would die.
Another example of what would have been nearly impossible to understand for the Old Testament saints would be the words found in Hosea 11:1: “When Israel was a child, I loved him. And out of Egypt I called My Son…” Israel was in fact called out of Egypt, and God made the way for them through the leadership of Moses and Aaron. They would have had no way of realizing however that this was a dual prophecy referring to when Joseph and Mary were also called back out of Egypt with little Jesus after they had left their home in Israel at the direction of the Lord, to flee the death threat of Herod. The New Testament reference is found in Matthew’s gospel.
13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” 14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” Matthew 2:13-15
With the inspired Word of God, including now the New Testament, we are able to recognize more from the Old Testament as being significant of the coming Messiah.
It is true that every passage of Scripture from the Old Testament foretelling details about our Savior’s humanity could be accepted as a prophecy of the Messiah’s first coming to earth, because it was then that the eternal Son of God became a literal human man. Two examples are found in Genesis 3:15, when God was cursing the serpent and where the prophet Moses foretold the coming Messiah in Deuteronomy 18:15:
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise (or crush) your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”
“The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren, Him you shall hear.”
There are also many prophecies concerning Messiah’s work of redemption (Isaiah 53; Psalm 22) which also presuppose His incarnation, since that redemptive work could not have taken place without Him having the true human nature that He received at His first coming.
4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law; 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Galatians 4:4-5
14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. Hebrews 2:14-15
For the remainder of this writing, I would like to focus primarily on only a few obvious prophecies in which God directly foretold certain details of Jesus’ first coming, such as when the Messiah would come (Genesis 49:10), where He would be born (Micah 5:2), who would give birth to Him (Isaiah 7:14), and what two natures would be possessed by that newborn Baby (Isaiah 9:6)
Even though God did not reveal the exact time of the Messiah’s first arrival on the earth, there was a prophecy given which connected to an event in history, namely, the end of political rule through the descendants of Judah, which provided a clue as to how to recognize the season when He would arrive. These were the words of the patriarch Jacob on his deathbed:
“The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people.” Genesis 49:10
At the time when Jesus was born, there were no more descendants of Judah reigning as kings; but the scepter of political power was continuing in a limited way through the line of Judah in the Sanhedrin, (the Jewish high court). After the death of the puppet king, Herod the Great, the Jews lost a great deal of their political power and independence. The Romans who had occupied Palestine as a colony since the overthrow of the Maccabees in 63 B.C, had limited the Sanhedrin’s powers. The Sanhedrin was now directly under the supervision of the Roman procurator, or governor, such as Pontius Pilate from 26-36 A.D. Then in 70 A.D. Jerusalem was completely destroyed by the Roman general, Titus, who eventually became the Roman Emperor. When Jerusalem was destroyed, all the genealogical records were lost, making it impossible to determine who were actually descendants of Judah, or Levi, or Benjamin. But, in spite of this great loss, a wonderful thing had taken place and should have brought them some solace as well as joy—Shiloh (the peace-bringer, the Messiah) had been born as prophesied. Interesting to note however, the Jews of today who still wait for the Messiah to come are convinced that Genesis 49:10 still points to His coming at some future time, even though political rule long ago already departed from Judah.
Now by the information from another Old Testament prophecy, the Jews were able to know the location where the Messiah was to be born. About 700 years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Micah, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote these words:
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” Micah 5:2
This verse points out both the divine and human natures of Christ. The words, “whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting,” clearly point to His eternal divinity; and His birthplace, Bethlehem Ephrathah, makes His humanity quite clear. This passage in Micah makes it clear exactly which Bethlehem was being referred to, because at that time there was another Bethlehem farther north in the Galilee. The fact that this prophecy was clearly understood by the Jews as the setting for the birthplace of the coming Messiah is obvious by how quickly the scribes and chief priests were able to answer Herod when he demanded of them where Christ should be born. They answered him, Bethlehem of Judea, for that is what was written by the prophet.”
4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’” Matthew 2:4-6
In another Old Testament prophecy that was later confirmed in the New Testament, God revealed who would give birth to the coming Messiah. The prophecies from the Old Testament don’t reveal the mother’s name but they do foretell a detail that will forever set her aside from every other woman in the world. She was to give birth to a child that had no human father! The prophet Isaiah put it this way:
“…Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14
In Luke 1:35, we find the confirmation in the answer the angel Gabriel gave Mary when she asked how such a thing could come to pass since she had not had relations with any man and was still a virgin…
And the angel answered and said unto her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”
Why was it so important that the Messiah be born of a literal virgin? Ever since the fall in the Garden of Eden when sin entered the world, the death brought by sin was passed on from generation to generation through the bloodline. And since the blood is carried from all male fathers to their children, the Messiah would be born of a human mother but could not have connection with the blood of the father. This is why no great prophet or priest could ever die for the sins of mankind, it had to be God taking on human form, but without the sin-tainted bloodline of the fallen human race, in order to become the Perfect Sacrifice, or the Lamb of God. A more complete passage speaking to the virgin birth is found in Matthew’s gospel:
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph, her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit, 21 and she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Matthew 1:18-23
The lineage of the virgin mother of the Savior was also important, because, according to various other prophecies of the Old Testament, the Messiah needed to be a descendent of King David.
The LORD has sworn in truth to David, He will not turn from it; “I will set upon your throne the fruit of your body.” Psalm 132:11
5 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. 6 In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely. Now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” Jeremiah 23:5-6
Both Mary (Jesus’ biological human mother) and Joseph (Jesus’ assumed father and His legal father of record) were descendants of King David. As we look back into history it is now very clear to us how literal God’s fulfillment was!
2 “…He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh.” Romans 1:2-3
And of course, being a descendent of David also meant that Jesus’ ancestors included Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob just as had been prophesied in many Scriptures.
“In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” Genesis 22:18
Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, ‘ and to seeds, as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed, who is Christ. Galatians 3:16
So far in this writing, we have emphasized mostly the humanity of the Messiah. He, after all, did come into the world as a true human being. When Jesus claimed to be the “Son of Man”, He meant that He truly possessed the full nature of a human man, 100%. However, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that the baby boy who was born of a virgin in the little town of Bethlehem and laid in a manger, is the Eternal and Almighty Lord GOD, Himself! He was both 100% Son of Man and 100% Son of God. This astounding fact was also foretold in the Old Testament. Think on these words written by the prophet Isaiah:
6 For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. Isaiah 9:6-7
The prophet Isaiah, here does, for sure, speak of the birth of a human child, a son; but the titles given to Him describe him as being infinitely more than a mere human. Especially these names, “The Mighty God” and “The Everlasting Father” can only accurately be attributed to one who is Himself GOD. Yes, He who is true God with the Father and with the Holy Spirit, having the same divine glory from eternity, the Creator of all things became a true man in His first coming to this fallen world in order to accomplish our redemption. Note the wording in these three New Testament passages below. The first is an excerpt of Jesus’ prayer for His disciples; the second gives more detail to Jesus’ identity as the Creator of all things; the third points to His taking on flesh as a man.
“And now Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” John 17:5
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. John 1:1-3
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14
The many prophecies of the coming of the Messiah were provided to God’s people of the Old Testament so that they could be comforted and strengthened in their walk with God, and so that they could have their spiritual vision clearly focused so as to be able to recognize the Messiah when He did come. For the people of today, comparing the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning Christ’s first coming with the New Testament’s inspired record of Jesus’ birth should cause all to see that He truly is the promised Messiah. If we open our eyes to see, it will be clear to us that God has seen to it that we have a perfect fulfillment of all things the related prophecies have foretold. The Scriptures are incredibly accurate and reliable. The promised, long-awaited Messiah did most certainly come, at the exact time of God’s choosing, in order to redeem us from our sins and make us heirs of heaven.
4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. Galatians 4:4-7
A question that must be answered: How could it ever be possible that even just the handful of prophecies mentioned in this writing (not even referencing the hundreds more recorded in the Scriptures) be fulfilled in the life of one man, at one specific time in history? Some of the greatest mathematical minds have contemplated this for centuries and have had to admit it is absolutely impossible! How would you answer??
I will conclude with a passage from the first chapter of Revelation, and finally, the last three verses of Psalm 2:
12 I (John) turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the seven lampstands, One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. 14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; 15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters. 16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. 17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid, I am the First and the Last, 18 I am He who lives and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death. Revelation 1:12-18
10 Now therefore, be wise, O kings, be instructed, you judges of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him. Psalm 2:10-12
Last Question: Who do you think that Baby born of a virgin was?? This same Messiah’s promised second coming is at the very door today! Are you ready?
Forever in His Service,