This chapter offers commentary on a selection of prophecies that Jesus gave during his public ministry, about 2,000 years ago. Aside from being the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, Jesus also gave prophecies.
He gave prophecies about himself, including that he would be rejected, executed, and resurrected.
He gave prophecies about his followers, including that they would be persecuted and that they would be successful in preaching the Gospel throughout the world.
He also gave prophecies involving his homeland, including that Jerusalem would be destroyed, that the Temple would be demolished, and that the Jews would be forced into exile and scattered throughout the nations.
And he gave prophecies about the future, including that his words would persevere and that he would return again in the future.
In Matthew 5:17, Jesus proclaimed that he is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies:
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." (Matthew 5:17, NIV)
He made similar announcements during other times of his ministry about 2,000 years ago, as recorded in the New Testament. One example can be found in John 4:25,26, where Jesus informed a Samaritan woman that he is the Messiah. Another example can be found in Luke 24:44, where Jesus again spoke of being the subject of Old Testament prophecy.
The Old Testament was written over a period of time that lasted as many as a thousand years, from the time of Moses, who lived about 3,400 years ago, until the time of Malachi, who lived about 2,400 years ago. During that time, Moses, Malachi, and many other Bible prophets gave prophecies involving a Messiah.
Although many people throughout history have claimed to be the Messiah, none, other than Jesus, were able to be taken seriously as being the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies about a Messiah.
The Old Testament contains as many as a thousand years worth of prophecy about a Messiah, and Jesus is unique to the extent to which he is acknowledged as being the fulfillment of those promises.
Jesus is also unique to the extent to which his followers were willing to tell others about him, even at the risk of death. His followers wrote the 27 books of the New Testament, during the first century of this era, which is the century in which Jesus lived. The New Testament explains the life, mission, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah.
The Apostles of Jesus were in a unique position: They were able to see with their own eyes whether Jesus was the fulfillment of various Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah. And, they were able to see whether the prophecies that Jesus gave in regards to himself and his followers were being fulfilled.
Jesus prophesied, for example, that one of the 12 Apostles would betray him:
20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21 And while they were eating, he said, "Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me." (Matthew 26:20,21, NIV)
A short time later, Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus. The betrayal was followed by the arrest, trial, and execution of Jesus.
In Matthew 26:31,32, Jesus alluded to an Old Testament passage found in Zechariah 13:7 and prophesied that his Apostles soon would flee from him:
Then Jesus told them, "This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:
" 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.'
But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee." (Matthew 26:31,32, NIV)
Later, Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus, led a crowd of armed people to the place where Jesus and some of his followers were staying. Jesus was arrested and the Apostles fled:
Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. (Matthew 26:56b, NIV)
After Jesus informed the Apostles, in Matthew 26, that they soon would abandon him, Peter responded that he would never abandon Jesus, even if everyone else did.
Jesus then specifically addressed Peter, prophesying that Peter would deny knowing Jesus:
"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." (Matthew 26:34, NIV)
Soon after, Jesus was arrested and the Apostles scattered away from him. Later that night, as described in Matthew 26:69-75, Peter was approached by people who recognized him as an associate of Jesus. Peter denied what they said, claiming that he didn't know Jesus.
After Peter's denial, a rooster crowed, prompting Peter to remember the words that Jesus had spoken:
Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, "I don't know the man!" Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: "Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:74,75, NIV)
One of the unique qualities about Jesus Christ as a religious figure is that he prophesied his own death and resurrection.
Some examples of this can be found in the Gospel of Matthew, in Matthew 16:21; 17:22,23; and 20:17-19. Jesus prophesied to his Apostles that he would be condemned, handed over to the Gentiles, mocked, flogged, and crucified, and that he would rise from the dead:
17 Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, 18 "We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19 and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!" (Matthew 20:17-19, NIV)
Jesus told his followers that he would die and be resurrected. Had he failed to be resurrected, his followers, obviously, would have had reason to conclude that he was a false prophet. And it would have been difficult, perhaps impossible, for Christianity to have continued as a movement in which its adherents evangelized about Jesus, and his resurrection, even at the risk of losing their own lives.
Each of the four Gospels describe the resurrection of Jesus: Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20. And the resurrection is noted in other portions of the New Testament, including an example found in Acts 9. There, a man named Paul, who had been persecuting Christians, encountered Jesus years after the resurrection. Paul converted to Christianity, became an evangelist, and traveled thousands of miles by land and by sea to tell people about Jesus.
In John 11, Jesus announced that he is "the resurrection and the life."
In this chapter in the book of John, Jesus is recorded as comforting a woman named Martha. Her brother, Lazarus, had died days earlier. Jesus told her that her brother would rise again:
23 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."
24 Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."
25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
27 "Yes, Lord," she replied, "I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world." (John 11:23-27, NIV)
In verse 25, Jesus informs us that he is the resurrection and that believers who die will be resurrected to eternal life with God.
In Matthew 24:1,2, Jesus prophesied that the Temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed and that its destruction would be so complete that not one stone would be left standing on top of another. This prophecy was fulfilled about 40 years later.
During a war between the Jews and the Romans that ended in 70 AD, the Temple was set on fire and was torn down. The event was recorded by a Jewish historian named Josephus. He wrote that the Temple's demolition was so complete that even the foundation was destroyed:
"And I cannot but wish that we had all died before we had seen that holy city demolished by the hands of our enemies, or the foundations of our holy temple dug up after so profane a manner."
- Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, Book VII, Chapter 8.
Prior to the time of Jesus, the Temple had a long history. The first Temple was built during the time of King Solomon, about 3,000 years ago. It was destroyed by the Babylonians about 2,600 years ago. The Jews later rebuilt the Temple, as a modest structure. Centuries later, King Herod commissioned a project to upgrade the Temple into a magnificent structure.
If we accept commonly assigned dates for milestones involving the Temple's history, the first Temple was destroyed in 586 BC and was rebuilt and re-consecrated about 70 years later. The second Temple stood for about 586 years and was destroyed in 70 AD.
Since the time of the destruction that Jesus had foretold, the Temple has never been rebuilt. In fact, its destruction more than 1,900 years ago was so complete, as Jesus had indicated in Matthew 24:1,2, that its exact location is still debated today.
Here is Matthew 24:1-2:
1 Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2 "Do you see all these things?" he asked. "Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down." (Matthew 24:1-2, NIV)
In Luke 21:24, Jesus prophesied that the Jews would be exiled from their land. This prophecy was fulfilled, beginning about 40 years later.
The Jews fought two wars against the Romans in the hopes of reclaiming independence for their homeland. The first war ended in 70 AD and the second war ended in 135 AD. In both wars, the Jews were defeated and forced into exile.
Josephus, the Jewish historian who witnessed the fall of Jerusalem during the first century, claimed that nearly 100,000 people were forced into exile:
"Now the number of those that were carried captive during this whole war was collected to be ninety-seven thousand;"
- Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, Book VI, Chapter 9.
The conquest during the second century culminated with another exile, as well as a decree prohibiting the exiled Jews from returning to Jerusalem:
"When the siege had lasted a long time, and the rebels had been driven to the last extremity by hunger and thirst, and the instigator of the rebellion had suffered his just punishment, the whole nation was prohibited from this time on by a decree, and by the commands of Adrian, from ever going up to the country about Jerusalem. For the emperor gave orders that they should not even see from a distance the land of their fathers. Such is the account of Aristo of Pella. And thus, when the city had been emptied of the Jewish nation and had suffered the total destruction of its ancient inhabitants, it was colonized by a different race, and the Roman city which subsequently arose changed its name and was called AElia, in honor of the emperor AElius Adrian."
- The Church History of Eusebius, Book IV, Chapter 6.
The extent to which the decree was enforced is unclear. Some Jews later returned from exile. Today, according to some estimates involving the world's Jewish population, about one-third are residing within the modern state of Israel and about two-thirds are residing in communities all over the world.
Here is Luke 21:24:
They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. (Luke 21:24, NIV)
In Luke 19:41-44, Jesus prophesied that Jerusalem would be destroyed because the people "did not recognize the time of God's coming to you."
Although some people accepted Jesus as the Messiah, many rejected him. The rejection was strong enough that Jesus was crucified a short time later.
The destruction of Jerusalem followed about 40 years after the crucifixion, when the Romans suppressed a Jewish uprising for independence.
The Romans surrounded the city, cutting off its food supply and forcing the people within the city into starvation. These events were described by Josephus, a Jewish historian who lived during the first century, in his book, The Wars of the Jews, Book V, Chapters 11 and 12.
That war lasted about 3.5 years, ending in 70 AD, with a Roman victory and a total destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. According to Josephus, 1.1 million Jews died during the war and thousands of others were forced into exile.
During the second century of this era, when the Jews staged another uprising against the Romans, Jerusalem again was destroyed.
Cassius Dio, a Roman historian who lived during the second and third centuries, claimed that the destruction of the Jewish homeland was complete enough to embolden wild animals that otherwise would shy away from human settlements:
"Thus nearly the whole of Judaea was made desolate, an event of which the people had had indications even before the war. The tomb of Solomon, which these men regarded as one of their sacred objects, fell to pieces of itself and collapsed and many wolves and hyenas rushed howling into their cities."
- Roman History, Book 69, as translated by Herbert Baldwin Foster.
Here is Luke 19:41-44 (NIV):
41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it
42 and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace�but now it is hidden from your eyes.
43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side.
44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you."
Among the prophecies that Jesus gave to his followers was one in which he forewarned that they, like him, would face persecution. In one example, Jesus said:
Remember what I told you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. (John 15:20, NIV)
The Bible records several persecutions of Christians. Here are some examples from the book of Acts, which is a part of the Bible that describes events after the resurrection of Jesus:
• The Apostles Peter and John were jailed after preaching about the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 4:1-4).
• The Apostles were arrested and jailed after performing miracles in which people were healed of various ailments (Acts 5:12-18).
• Many of the Christians in Jerusalem were persecuted and scattered throughout Judea and Samaria, preaching wherever they went. (Acts 8:1-4).
• King Herod (King Herod Agrippa I, grandson of Herod the Great) persecuted Christians. He arrested Peter and executed James the Apostle. (Acts 12:1-2).
• Paul and Silas were jailed in Philippi (Acts 16:16-40). Paul also was arrested in Jerusalem (Acts 21:27-36), imprisoned in Caesarea (Acts 23:23-26:32), and placed under house arrest for two years in Rome (Acts 28:16-31).
Outside of the Bible, there are many other examples of writings depicting the persecutions of Christians. During the first three centuries of its existence, Christianity was not a legally recognized religion within the Roman Empire, and Christians often fell prey to persecutions.
One example is expressed in the writings of Pliny the Younger, who was governor of the Roman province of Bithynia, which is now part of modern-day Turkey. He wrote letters to Roman Emperor Trajan, seeking advice on how to govern. In about the year 112 AD, he wrote the following in requesting advice on how to persecute Christians:
"It is my constant method to apply myself to you for the resolution of all my doubts ; for who can better govern my dilatory way of proceeding, or instruct my ignorance? I have never been present at the examination of the Christians [by others,] on which account I am unacquainted with what uses to be inquired into, and what, and how far, they used to be punished ; nor are my doubts small, whether there be not a distinction to be made between the ages [of the accused]? and whether tender youth ought to have the same punishment with strong men? Whether there be not room for pardon upon repentance? Or whether it may not be an advantage to one that had been a Christian, that he hath forsaken Christianity? Whether the bare name, without any crime besides, or the crimes adhering to that name, be to be punished?
"In the meantime, I have taken this course about those who have been brought before me as Christians. I asked them whether they were Christians or not? If they confessed that they were Christians, I asked them again, and a third time, intermixing threatenings with the questions. If they persevered in their confession, I ordered them to be executed ; for I did not doubt but, let their confession be of any sort whatsoever, this positiveness and inflexible obstinacy deserved to be punished."
- Pliny's Epistle to Trajan, About A.D. 112, as translated by William Whiston.
Despite the persecutions, Christianity spread quickly throughout the Roman world, becoming the predominant religion. Christianity later became the first religion to spread to places throughout the world.
In John 16, Jesus forewarned his followers that there would come a time when their persecutors would think that they were doing God's work by killing Jesus' followers:
2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. (John 16:2-3, NIV)
The Bible's book of Acts records the deaths of some of the first Christians, including Stephen (Acts 7:1-8:3) and James the Apostle (Acts 12:1-2).
And, Paul, while he was evangelizing in Lystra, was attacked by a mob to the extent that it was assumed that he was dead (Acts 14:8-20).
Before Paul became a Christian, he too participated in the persecution of Christians, some of whom were executed. Paul admitted this in Acts 26:
9 "I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the Lord's people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities. (Acts 26:9-11, NIV)
Outside of the Bible, some early Christian writers also wrote that some of Jesus' disciples were persecuted to the point of death. One example can be found in the writings of Clement, who lived during the first century. Clement wrote that Peter, Paul, and other early Christian evangelists died as martyrs, due to the "envy" of their persecutors:
"Through envy and jealousy, the greatest and most righteous pillars [of the Church] have been persecuted and put to death. Let us set before our eyes the illustrious apostles. Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours and when he had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him. Owing to envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven times thrown into captivity, compelled to flee, and stoned. After preaching both in the east and west, he gained the illustrious reputation due to his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and come to the extreme limit of the west, and suffered martyrdom under the prefects. Thus was he removed from the world, and went into the holy place, having proved himself a striking example of patience."
- The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, Chapter V.
During the course of Jesus' public ministry, the chief priests and other influential community members in Jerusalem often challenged Jesus and plotted against him.
One example can be found in Luke 20, where Jesus' authority was being questioned. Jesus then gave a parable in which he foretold that he would be rejected. In verse 19, Luke wrote that it was understood by the chief priests and scribes that the parable had been spoken against them.
Some examples of Jesus being rejected can be found in Matthew 26:57-68 and Matthew 27:11-31.
Here is Luke 20:9-19:
9 He went on to tell the people this parable: "A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. 10 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. 12 He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.
13 "Then the owner of the vineyard said, 'What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.'
14 "But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. 'This is the heir,' they said. 'Let's kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
"What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others."
When the people heard this, they said, "God forbid!"
17 Jesus looked directly at them and asked, "Then what is the meaning of that which is written:
"'The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone'? 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed."
19 The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people. (Luke 20:9-19, NIV)
In John 12:20-26, Jesus, referring to himself as the "Son of man," prophesied that his death would have an impact:
23 Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." (John 12:23-24, NIV)
Christianity teaches that through the death of Jesus, our sins are atoned for (1 John 2:2). And, that by believing in Jesus, we are given eternal life in heaven with God (John 3:16). After the death and resurrection of Jesus, evangelists traveled throughout the world to tell others about Jesus and the salvation that is found in him.
Here is John 12:20-26:
20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. "Sir," they said, "we would like to see Jesus." 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
23 Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me." (John 12:20-26, NIV)
As mentioned elsewhere in this book, the Apostles of Jesus were able to see whether the prophecies that Jesus gave about himself were fulfilled. John recorded an example of this in John 2:18-22.
In those verses, Jesus gave a prophecy foretelling his death and resurrection. Later, after Jesus had been executed, the Apostles were able to see that Jesus had been resurrected, three days after the crucifixion. John noted this in verse 22.
Here is John 2:18-22:
18 The Jews then responded to him, "What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?"
19 Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days."
20 They replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken. (John 2:18-22, NIV)
In Matthew 24, Jesus promised that the Gospel would be preached to people throughout the world:
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14, NIV)
The word Gospel means "good news." It refers to the good news that by the grace of God our sins are removed because of the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.
The good news of salvation in Christ, as expressed in John 3:16 and elsewhere in the Bible, has been taught to people throughout the world, and evangelists continue to teach people about the good news of salvation.
Jesus, who had given prophecies about the demise of the Temple and about the end of the world, also prophesied that his words would never pass away:
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. (Luke 21:33, NIV)
Of the hundreds of millions of people who have ever lived, the words of only a small percentage are remembered beyond the generation that follows them. But, 2,000 years later, after Jesus had spoken the prophecy in Luke 21:33, the words of Jesus are everywhere, having been taught to people all over the world.
The words of Jesus are recorded in the Bible, especially in the Gospels, which are the New Testament books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The Bible, by the way, is said to be the most published book of all time. By some estimates, including one published in the book, Top 10 of Everything 2007, by Russell Ash, the Bible has been printed at least 6 billion times throughout history. That would represent, at minimum, about one copy for every man, woman, and child alive today.
The Bible was one of the first books to be produced on the movable-type printing press that was invented during the 1400s by Johannes Gutenberg.
As of 2006, portions of the Bible, ranging from one part of the Bible to the whole Bible, have been translated into more than 2,400 languages, according to the 2006 Scripture Language Report, which was published by the United Bible Societies. According to that report: "By the time UBS celebrated the bicentenary of the Bible Society movement in 2004, 95 per cent of the world's population theoretically had access to Scripture in a language they could understand, although not necessarily their first language."
© Ray Konig | azbible.com