Messianic Prophecy and the “If” Factor
Messianic prophecy is an important theme in the Bible. Randy Bushey helps us understand the significance of the overwhelming number of fulfilled prophecies about Christ.
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The “If” Factor
She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” [which means “God with us”] (Matthew1:21-23).
What comes to your mind when you hear this word in isolation: if?
If you love literature, you may recall the beloved Rudyard Kipling poem exhibiting Victorian-era stoicism:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise.
If your vintage is similar to mine, you might remember the pop music tune by David Gates and Bread entitled “If” from 1971, (incidentally, forever entrenched in the Top 10 Shortest Title song list).
“If” Is Usually a Mundane Term
But mostly the term is more mundane, simply used in common speech, and often as a grammatical conjunction of condition: Wear your coat if it snows. Join the game if you want to. I’ll attend if you will.
In our current series, Who is Jesus? Why does it matter? we’ve been examining the massively historic juncture where God takes on humanity, the enfleshment of Deity.
But there were many who should have recognized the event – the coming of the Messiah – but entirely ignored (or rejected) it.
Of all those in Hebrew history claiming to be the Messiah, how would the spiritually vigilant people in Israel identify Him? Know the authentic from the counterfeit? Know the genuine from frequent imposters?
God, in the Old Testament, provided a bullet-proof scheme.
Precise predictions. Markers of identity.
If He fits the prophecies, He’s the One.
Like a postage address.
Key Pieces of Information
When my sister lived in Japan, the population of Osaka was approximately 17 million. And yet, I could confidently send her a letter or parcel, if I had a very few key pieces of information.
Of those millions of people, the envelope label identified a single street; of the thousands on her street, a single building, a single floor, and a single apartment. Of those in that unit, only she bore the correct name.
If included, those critical data pieces ensured correct identification.
If she fulfilled each piece, she was the one.
Jesus of Nazareth was the most predicted Person in history. And each prophecy built on the others to confirm His identity to those who knew the word of the prophets of God.
If He fits the prediction, He’s the long-awaited One.
The Baby Pool
When one of our grandchildren was born, several friends and family started a “baby pool”. The game was simple – the winner was the one who most closely guessed the baby’s arrival date…and gender…and birthweight…and…
You get the picture. With each element added to the guess, the mathematical probability of being correct on all became less likely. Some got the date correct, but the wrong gender. Or got the first 2 right, only to miss by 2 or 3 pounds on predicting the birthweight.
In his gospel directed to a Jewish audience, Matthew alludes to – or quotes – 25 Messianic predictions from the Jewish Bible, our Old Testament. The chance of an individual fulfilling one or two was possible; but with each additional prediction, the probability factor diminished significantly.
Silver Dollar Coins and Messianic Prophecy
Do you remember silver dollar coins?
It has been calculated that the chance of 1 person fulfilling just 8 biblical predictive indicators would be 1 in 1017.
That would be analogous to pouring silver dollars over the province of Alberta – filling it to its borders to a depth of 2 feet. Then to illustrate probability, sending a blindfolded person wading into the pile, and hoping to find the single coin marked with an X on her first try. (Based on calculations by Peter Stoner, Professor Emeritus of Science at Westmont College – California).
And that’s only 8. Bible scholars have identified 60 major prophecies, with another 270 ramifications.
Jewish Rabbis and Messianic Prophecy
Jewish-Christian scholar Alfred Edersheim (19th century) has written that Jewish Rabbis have identified 456 passages in the Old Testament pointing to the Messiah.
The biblical account reveals that at the time of Jesus’ birth, Jewish experts in the Scriptures understood the signs, but failed to vigilantly investigate their fulfilment.
Herod the Great heard the rumor of the birth of the King of the Jews and was deeply disturbed.
Matthew tells us,
When [Herod] had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel’ (Matthew 2:4-6 NIV).
Those religious leaders understood predictive prophesy – but they missed the if factor.
It was – and is – an if/then equation. If He fits the predictions – of location, family line, virgin birth, and many others including restoring sight to the blind, and David’s prediction (Psalm 22:16) of having His hands and feet pierced 800 years before Roman crucifixion was invented – then He is unmistakably the One.
The Messiah. Emmanuel.
He is the enfleshment of God
Note: A form of this post originally appeared in December 2016, and again in December 2017.
After completing a 35 year corporate-management career in the general insurance industry, Randy is dedicated to full-time elder’s work at Bethel Gospel Chapel in North Bay (Ontario).
With a primary pastoral focus in Bible teaching (preaching and leading Bible studies). Randy is also engaged in visitation, church music, and helping develop other men in their roles as Christ-followers, preachers and leaders.
He is married to Pat who is investing her life in working with women and children in the local assembly. They are both energized by their 3 children (2 married) and 6 grandchildren!
You can listen to pod casts from Randy’s show, “The Faith Factor,” by clicking here.