You might be surprised to learn that consistently when the gospel went out in the book of Acts, messianic prophecies were shared alongside it. The apostles felt it so important to mention, that they were constantly used.
Some calculate there to be over 300 messianic prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament). They are of different sorts. Some are clearly predictive. Some have dual meanings: one historical and another typological (a parallel, pattern, or metaphor of what Jesus would do, but not overtly predictive).
1. The prophecies persuade people to believe.
Paul “explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening. And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken” (Acts 28:23-25). The prophecies offer supernatural evidence that Jesus is the promised Savior of the world who can forgive sins.
The Bereans served as posterchildren for the effects of fulfilled prophecy:
“These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.” (Acts 17:11,12)
Jew and Greek turned to Christ because of studying the Scriptures; they weren’t studying the walls of Jericho falling or Naaman dipping in the Jordan, they were studying the many messianic passages. These ancient predictions alone could identify the Savior of the world, which God used to bring them and many others to faith.
“The scientific probability that any one person could fulfill just eight specific prophecies is 1 in 10 to the 17th power.”
In Luke 24:32, after the road to Emmaus encounter, the disciples said: “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” God touches hearts and opens eyes to His Son through the prophecies. The intellect plays an important role in salvation; repeatedly we hear of people being persuaded from the Scriptures and following Christ. Acts 17:2-4 says Paul “reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead…And some of them were persuaded.” In a book that is expressly written “so that you may believe” (Jn. 19:35), John quotes fulfilled messianic prophecy as he describes Jesus’ crucifixion (Jn. 19:36,37), as well as at the empty tomb (Jn. 20:9); he also includes multiple prophecies interlaced throughout his book, which is the pattern found in all of the Gospels. Paul ends witnessing to King Agrippa with his silver-bullet: “Do you believe the prophets? I know you believe” (Acts 26:27).
The astounding mathematical impossibility of someone fulfilling these prophecies is mind-blowing (see our booklet, “Scientific Facts in the Bible” for more). The scientific probability that any one person could fulfill just eight specific prophecies is 1 in 10 to the 17th power. If we took that number of silver dollars (100,000,000,000,000,000), drew a black X on only one, and laid them over the state of Texas, they would cover the entire state two feet deep. Now blindfold a man and tell him to travel as far as he wishes and then pick up only one silver dollar, and it must be the marked one. What chance would he have of picking up the right one? It would be exactly the same odds that just eight of the messianic prophecies would all come true in any one person—yet they all came true in Christ (adapted from Science Speaks by Peter Stoner).
2. The prophecies most compellingly reveal Christ.
Before sharing dozens of fulfilled prophecies, Justin Martyr wrote to the Roman Emperor 150 years after Jesus’ birth: “We will now offer proof, not trusting mere assertions, but being of necessity persuaded by those who prophesied [of Him] before these things came to pass…and this will, we think appear even to you the strongest and truest evidence.” Justin saw the prophecies as his key argument for the truth of Christ, and for good reason: the prophecies prove Jesus truly is the One who can forgive sins.
3. Fulfilled messianic prophecy removes a monumental roadblock
I was witnessing to two teens at Huntington Beach tonight, and one of them mentioned he was raised in church, but no longer believes because he doesn’t want to commit to any religion as they’re all basically the same thing, and none can be proven. I used the messianic prophecies to show him the absolute truth of Christ; there was no comparison. He got supernatural proof. God used these prophecies to show me that Jesus is the true Savior of all mankind when I was as a Jewish teen, with a Muslim stepfather, who wanted the truth, no matter what road that took me down. Sincere questions like, “Aren’t all religions just different paths to the same place?” or “How can we really know that Jesus is the way?” have a very logical answer through these fulfilled predictions. Show a Muslim, Hindu, an atheist, or anyone else the prophecies; let them see it’s not blind faith, but that God has revealed Himself—it’ll help them reevaluate their own beliefs and the lack of proof for them, and provide the obvious path to God. Show these mind-blowing prophecies that span centuries; it’s one of life’s biggest game-changers. Anyone can know for certain, intellectually, that in Jesus our sins can be forgiven. The world doesn’t offer such supernatural confidence for anything, nor do other religions.
4. Jesus and the Gospel authors strategically wove messianic prophecy throughout the Gospels.
In the Gospels alone there are over 45 references to fulfilled messianic prophecy. On the road to Emmaus an incognito resurrected Jesus rebuked the disciples for being slow to believe the messianic prophecies about Himself, and then Scripture narrates: “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Lk. 24:27). Jesus pointed quite a bit to the prophecies about Himself during His earthly ministry as well. “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me…For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me” (Lk. 5:39, 46). On the cross Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”—a prophetic passage from Psalms 22. After Jesus rose from the grave he said, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me” (Lk. 24:44). Prophecy wasn’t an afterthought; throughout Jesus’ ministry He had pointed His disciples to the fact that He would fulfill prophecy, as that was the supernatural evidence people needed to identify Him as the promised Savior of the world.
Of course, the prophecies aren’t just mentioned in the Gospels; they are throughout the New Testament. As a quick example, in the very second verse of Romans, Paul states he was separated to the gospel, which God “promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures” (Rom. 1:2). Then he sandwiches the point in the closing benediction of Romans 16 stating that the gospel was revealed “by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith” (Rom. 16:25,26). Prophecy references are everywhere, and as Paul said, they are there “for obedience to the faith.”
“Many a martyr has died for a noble cause, and in many religions. Their death attests to their sincerity, not to the truth of what they died for.”
5. The prophecies authenticate who Jesus is.
Many a martyr has died for a noble cause, and in many religions. Their death attests to their sincerity, not to the truth of what they died for. Paul “vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 18:28). Going back to the Scriptures to show Jesus was the promised Messiah proved Him no mere mortal dying for a noble cause He truly believed in; those prophecies gave Him the credentials of the One who could die for their sins, and reconcile them to God.
6. The prophecies generate the breathtaking warmth of hope.
Colossians 1:23 refers to “the hope of the gospel.” It’s easy to speak strictly of the intellectual purposes of prophecy, but to someone living in the shadow of death who has spent a lifetime questioning which religion is the correct one—each religion claiming to come from God, each with sincere followers, each with holy books—looking for some sort of true direction from God, the prophecies give them the insurmountable joy of knowing that God has revealed His path, that He is knowable, and that their sins can be forgiven. A genuinely fulfilled prophecy is a testable miracle. It’s awe-inspiring, and brings the sincere soul the greatest of joys.
How to Use the Prophecies
You can summarize them, or quote them, or read a few off the Bible app on your phone. An approach you could try is to say, “I think I can show you quickly that Jesus wasn’t just a good teacher or a prophet, would that be okay? First, let me throw a few Bible questions at you and get a sense of where your Bible knowledge is at, just play along if this is a little easy for you…what’s the first book of the Bible? [Let them respond.] The Bible is made up of two parts, the Old Testament and the ____? [They reply.] I’m going to read a brief Bible passage, and you tell me who it’s speaking of.” Then, read them Isaiah 53:4-6 (you can keep a screenshot on your phone so you have it handy). Instantly many will identify it as speaking of Jesus, but whether they do or don’t, you can say, “That is speaking of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Mary, but do you know when that was written? The astonishing thing is that it was written 700 years before His birth in the Hebrew Bible book of Isaiah. I didn’t even have to explain who it was about—you knew on your own, that’s how clear it is. Throughout the Bible there are numerous supernaturally fulfilled prophecies that foretell the coming of a Savior who could rescue us from our sins, and every one of them points to Jesus Christ. Centuries before His birth it was prophesied that He would suffer and die for the sins of the people, that He would be born in Bethlehem, that He would be Jewish, from the tribe of Judah, and be a descendant of King David, that His hands and feet would be pierced, that He would die between criminals but be buried with the rich, to name a few. I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but the exact year the Savior would die for the sins of the people was foretold 500 years in advance in the Bible book of Daniel; the year it fell on was the year Jesus died on the cross. Within that same prophecy, it said the Savior would come before the city of Jerusalem and the temple, which was built like a castle, would be destroyed, as happened in 70 A.D. This is nothing shy of miraculous, Divine intervention. Every prophecy was literally fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth. God made it so that we could intellectually know that the Bible is His Word, and that Jesus is the Savior of the world, the One who could forgive your sins and reconcile you with God. Jesus performed incredible miracles like opening blind eyes, making the crippled walk, and bringing the dead back to life. His teachings were unlike any before or since. His coming was so colossal and impactful that it split how we look at time, from B.C. to A.D. But knowing He is the Way isn’t enough. We have to choose to follow Him, repent and believe, and then we will have the forgiveness that He died to make available.”