Have you ever had a dream or a thought where something happened in a certain way and then later it did happen? Many people have had intuitive moments like that. Some try to turn it into a career. And I must say, there is money to be made in the world through that sort of thing and there is a long, storied history of people doing that.
So if I have a thought that something is going to happen and it happens, does that make me a prophet? No, it doesn’t. One reason why is because for every instance I could tell you about where I thought something was going to happen and it did, I could tell you of dozens of times where I thought something was going to happen and it didn’t. The biblical requirement for a prophet was 100% accuracy with no margin for error. That fact alone informs us there are no prophets today.
The ending of prophecy is a worthwhile study, but beyond our purposes here. I want to tell you about prophecies of the atonement in this chapter. First, who was a prophet by biblical standard? When we understand that, we understand what a biblical prophecy is, and then we can consider some specific prophecies.
Two primary passages in the law give the biblical requirements for a prophet (Deuteronomy 13:1-5 & 18:18-22). One reason these were given was so Israel could evaluate and authenticate a man’s prophetic ministry. They were also commanded to stone those who were found to be false prophets and put to the sword those prophets who led the people into the worship of any other god. The requirements presuppose liars, hucksters, and charlatans. From these two passages we draw at least four important requirements.
- The man had to be called and sent by God (Deuteronomy 18:18, 20).
- The man had to receive revelation from God the people were required to obey (Deuteronomy 18:18-20).
- The prophecy had to be consistent with Scripture (Deuteronomy 13:1-5; Isaiah 8:20).
- The prophecy had to come to pass as it was prophesied (Deuteronomy 18:21-22).
There were always those claiming to be prophets who did not meet these requirements and God promised to judge them (Jeremiah 14:14-15). We also have a specific example in a false prophet name Hananiah (Jeremiah 28:15-17). A true prophet was a mouthpiece for God. He spoke the words God gave him and those words were authoritative as if God had spoken them directly from heaven to the people.
A prophecy is God’s word by Scripture. That word sometimes included revelation of something God purposed to do beforehand. For example, there was a time when the king of Syria came with his army and besieged and surrounded the city of Samaria in Israel. There began to be a shortage of food that grew so severe two women fought over eating their own sons. Elisha was a prophet who was in the city and he relayed the word God had revealed to him.
Then Elisha said, Hear ye the word of the LORD; Thus saith the LORD, To morrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria.
– 2 Kings 7:1
So God revealed to Elisha that the next day there would be plenty of food. Many were skeptical how that could be true, especially since the army of Syrians was still outside the city. But that night God made the Syrians so afraid that they fled and left their camp behind them (2 Kings 7:5-8). The people in the city found out and went out and plundered the deserted camp and had plenty just as the prophet had prophesied (2 Kings 7:18). So, had Elisha’s prophecy not come true, he should have been stoned to death as a false prophet who falsely claimed to speak for God.
There are many prophecies recorded in the Bible and we can’t cover all of them. We have been considering the atonement, or covering for sin and I want to consider a few prophecies about the atonement. Before God covered Adam and Eve in the garden, he revealed to them that they needed a Savior who would destroy their enemy and deliver them from the death they were cursed with. He revealed to them that the Savior would be the “seed” of the woman (Genesis 3:15). The Savior would be born of a woman.
Many, many years later, God spoke through his prophet Isaiah. Isaiah prophesied that the long-expected seed would be born of a virgin.
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
– Isaiah 7:14
About 700 years after Isaiah prophesied this, a son was indeed born of a virgin in Bethlehem in Judah of Israel. Jesus was born, the long-awaited Savior and seed of the woman.
But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And She shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus.
– Matthew 1:20-25
The angel of the Lord revealed to Mary that her son would indeed be the promised Messiah.
And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
– Luke 1:30-35
There are hundreds of prophecies about the Messiah in Scripture. Jesus fulfilled most of them and the rest he will fulfill when he comes again. He fulfilled prophecies in the circumstances of his birth, family lineage, the things he said and taught, the working of signs and wonders, and in his death and resurrection.
The death of Jesus was not some unfortunate event that otherwise stopped a promising career. Jesus himself testified that he came into the world to die (John 10:11, 14-18; 12:27). Jesus prophesied about his own death and foretold how it would fulfill the prophecies of Scripture.
The he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.
– Luke 18:31-33
After Jesus was resurrected to life, he confirmed that his death and resurrection were according to prophecy.
Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?
– Luke 24:26
And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise form the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
– Luke 24:44-47
His death was purposeful and planned by God (Acts 2:23-24; 4:26-28). Different prophecies in the Old Testament refer to his death, but the most extensive and plain single passage is Isaiah chapter 53. That particular chapter is in a section of Isaiah’s prophecy about the Servant of Yahweh (Jehovah) whom God would send. The chapters leading up to 53 color a picture of the Servant’s work that includes suffering and rejection and even death by chapter 53.
Chapter 53, with verse numbers, is included below for you to read and refer to as I finish this chapter.
- Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?
- For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
- He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
- Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
- But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
- All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
- He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
- He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
- And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
- Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
- He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
- Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
– Isaiah 53:1-12
The chapter has 12 verses in our English Bibles. The verses divide into four groups of three verses each like a poem of four stanzas. Verses 1-3 refer to his coming into the world. These verses foretell him being despised and rejected because of his lowliness. The “we” in verse 3 is the Jewish people of Israel. They confess their rejection of him because they thought him of no worth.
Verses 4-6 speak of his suffering in two ways. First, he would suffer the consequences of sin as a man. He would bear grief and carry sorrows. Second, he would bear the just punishment for sins as a sacrifice. He was wounded, bruised, and chastised for transgressions and iniquities. Again Israel confesses they rejected him because they thought his suffering was punishment from God due him, but they are also confessing that it wasn’t for his sins but for “our” sins he was put to death. These verses also speak of the purpose of his bearing sins for healing and for peace, to make atonement.
Verses 7-9 speak of his death and his burial. His death would be a voluntary death where he fully submitted to suffering. He was the lamb that was slaughtered. Verse 9 is a remarkable prophecy about his grave being with the rich. Criminals that were executed by crucifixion were not given an honorable burial but rather dumped in a mass grave like garbage or the carcass of a dead animal. Being subject to such a death made the burial of Jesus in honor among the rich a most unlikely happening. However, this is exactly what happened when Joseph of Arimathaea, a rich man, sought the body of Jesus and buried him in his own new tomb (Matthew 27:57-60).
Verses 10-12 give God’s estimation of his anointed Servant’s work. God is pleased in every sense and particularly judicially. These verses point to his life after his death and his just reward for his suffering. He will justify many and inherit the kingdom prophesied before. He will make atonement for his people in his death. This is what Jesus has done as was prophesied before.
In the next chapter, I want to break the atonement down into four parts and consider them.
This is a portion of a book that I have been writing. I have decided to post it here in serial form. It is intended to be evangelistic. If the book has merit, I may seek to publish it in some form. Please feel free to share it and I welcome any feedback.
If you wish to read all the chapters in order you may do so here.