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Okay, Boomer! (Part 2) Does Jesus Fulfill Old Testament Prophecy? (BONUS CHAPTER!)


For those who are fans of Jesus of Nazareth but would prefer to dump the Old Testament, Jesus does something even more alarming than constantly referring to it in his teachings (as we saw in Part 1): he applies the Old Testament to himself!

A key example is when Jesus reads from Isaiah at the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth. He says,

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives

and recovering of sight to the blind,

to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. (Luke 4:18–19)

Then, he says,

Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. (Luke 4:21)

Jesus does something interesting here. He reads primarily from Isaiah 61:1–2, though he adapts it by leaving some lines out and adding a line from Isaiah 58:6. This section of Isaiah is speaking of a future time when our broken world will be renewed by God. Interestingly, Jesus stops quoting where the very next line reads, “and the day of vengeance of our God.” This means it’s not yet time for God to carry out justice as he will at the Final Judgment, but Jesus is announcing that the Kingdom of God has arrived on earth [1].

Not only that, but Jesus says these words from Isaiah are about him; he’s the fulfillment of these words written 700 years before his birth! If this seems arrogant to you—as it likely did to the original hearers—Jesus is just getting started! Not only are these ancient prophecies about him, he claims, but the whole Old Testament.

For instance, he tells a group of fellow Jews looking to kill him,

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. (John 5:39–40)

Now, that’s an extraordinary claim! In fact, if it’s not true, it’s an extraordinarily pompous and deranged claim!

So, let’s look at what the Old Testament actually tells us about the Messiah.


When I taught high school English, a big idea I tried to get across to my students was that the key to understanding any writing is understanding it in context. Before we can understand the Messiah (or Jesus), we first need to understand the big story of the Bible.

When I was growing up, my mom brought us to Sunday School. I learned all the standard Bible tales taught to kids: Adam and Eve, Noah’s ark, Joseph and his colorful coat, David versus the massive Goliath, the mighty Samson, Jonah and the whale (or was it a big fish?), and of course, Jesus and his miracles. Yet, I never learned how they were all connected. I never learned the big story of the Bible—the grand narrative.

Similarly, I’ve met adults who no longer attend church who will criticize the Bible in one way or another, yet I find they have a poor understanding of it because they never got past a child’s Sunday School understanding of the Bible.

First, let me point out that these stories aren’t children’s stories! The Bible contains accounts involving mass death, bodily mutilation, rape, human trafficking, as well as one instance of a tent spike being hammered through a human head. Much of the Bible is closer to Game of Thrones than any G-rated Disney classic. For instance, think about all the coloring books and children’s playsets portraying Noah’s ark as an adorable floating zoo. Now, consider the actual story. It’s about humankind’s utter depravity and God’s justice, where God uses water to wipe out much of life on earth. Bloated carcasses would’ve been floating in the water surrounding Noah’s merry ark! Despite your Sunday School teacher’s best efforts, the Bible isn’t a collection of children’s fables.

Secondly, in Sunday School, I was never taught the big picture of the Bible. All of these stories were presented as stand-alone tales; I saw no connection between them other than God being somehow involved. But once you understand the grand narrative—the ongoing story running from Genesis to Revelation—things make much more sense. The Bible isn’t a collection of disconnected morality tales. To put it another way, the Bible isn’t a bunch of stand-alone movies, but instead an extended TV series with several seasons.


Many theologians break the overall story of the Bible into four major eras. Christians believe these define all of history from the beginning of time to the present, as well as the future. These four eras are marked by four key events:

Creation – Fall – Redemption – Restoration

Here’s the super-quick breakdown:

  • Creation – God created all things and created them good.

  • Fall – But mankind fell into sin by rebelling against God, plunging the creation into chaos.

  • Redemption – Then, Jesus came and died on the cross for humankind’s sin to redeem everyone who puts their trust in him.

  • Restoration – Finally, Jesus will return at a future date to restore all of creation.

Here’s a more fleshed-out explanation: At the Creation, God made all things out of nothing. The exact words of Genesis 1:1 are that God created the “heavens and earth,” which is a Hebrew way of saying “everything.” God declared everything good because, well, he made it that way. This included man and woman, who—unlike the rest of creation—are made in “God’s image” (Genesis 1:27). That doesn’t mean humans look like God; God is non-physical and spirit. Also, it doesn’t mean humans are divine in some way; God and his Creation are very much different things. But humanity shares characteristics with God. Primarily, being in God’s image means men and women are God’s representatives on earth, so they were given authority as caretakers of God’s good creation.

Yet, man and woman—because they were given freewill (which is also good and essential for being an image-bearer of God)—did something bad. Man and woman rebelled against God; they sinned (Genesis 3). When sin entered creation, this is called the Fall. In short, “sin” is Christianese for evil, but sin isn’t just immorality. There is a relational aspect to it; “sin” stresses that this immorality damages our relationship with God. Sin is not only disobedience of God, but also living out of whack with God’s purposes for creating us. The Greek word for sin captures this idea because it means “to miss the mark”—as an archer missing his target. Our sin forever alienates us from our good, holy Creator.

A lot of bad things were introduced into the world by those appointed to be God’s representatives. This includes not just moral evil, but also natural suffering like droughts, tsunamis, coronavirus, and death. The decisions of God’s image-bearers are so closely linked to creation, their moral corruption warped the physical creation as well. Because of the Fall, all of creation is corrupted by sin.

Now, some will protest, saying, The consequences for the first man and woman disobeying God are too extreme! God gave them one little, silly command—not to eat from a certain tree—and all Adam and Eve did was disobey it once! But, I believe, that’s exactly the point. God gave the first man and woman everything, and everything he gave them was good. But he also gave them one little rule, and they couldn’t even follow that. Let me point out, the oldest son of the first man and woman became the first murderer (Genesis 4:8). People often mock slippery slope arguments, but the message of the earliest chapters of the Bible is clear: once we turn from God, the slope is slick.

All of creation was affected by the Fall, and death and suffering were introduced into God’s good creation. The apostle Paul writes that all people sin and “fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). So, sinful humankind is separated from our perfectly good creator. With this, the “whole of creation” is in “bondage to corruption” and groaning under the weight of this fracture from God (Romans 8:20–21). Because of this, humanity will never find rest or satisfaction, because how we choose to live isn’t how God created us to be. In other words, we’re all lousy archers who miss the mark.

This is why only someone who’s both God and man could win the Redemption of humanity and heal this fracture. The New Testament teaches that Jesus of Nazareth was fully God and fully man. He perfectly obeyed God the Father, never missing the mark, and therefore he was undeserving of any punishment. Yet, he willingly faced torture and execution on the cross to heal the broken relationship between God and humankind. In the Redemption, Jesus won forgiveness for those who will put their trust in him and follow him. They’ll no longer be separated from God in this life or the next.

Finally, Jesus’ mission wasn’t just to save individuals from the consequences of their rebellion, but the full Restoration of all of God’s creation. So, he’ll return at a future date to finish what he started. This is often referred to as his Second Coming. When he returns, all people will be judged for the wrongs they’ve done, and those who have not trusted Jesus for the redemption of their sins will be separated from God’s people. Those who are his people will remain forever with him in the new creation.

So there you have it—the mega-narrative of the Bible. Now, to be clear, I don’t have a problem with any of that, but I do think we can improve on it.


First, I would tweak the Restoration part. Biblically, I think the Restoration isn’t wholly a future event, but also a present event. The Restoration began the moment Jesus died on the cross. The Redemption of sins is the first critical step in restoring creation, and Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was the “firstfruits” of the Restoration (1 Corinthians 15:23). Jesus’ resurrection was the first of what is to come: the resurrection of the dead to life, as well as the resuscitation of all of the fallen creation.

As the good news of the Redemption spreads throughout the world, Jesus’ followers—empowered by the Holy Spirit—are taking an active part in the Restoration of creation. Jesus’ followers are called to be part of the solution of healing this fallen world.

Yet, Jesus’ followers will never succeed on their own. Jesus will return and complete this work, where he’ll put an end to evil, sickness, and death and usher in a new era where his people will live for eternity with him. This is what I call the Completion, because all of Jesus’ work of Redemption and Restoration will be finished.

So, I propose this revision:

Creation – Fall – Redemption – Restoration – Completion

So, according to my version of the timeline, we are living between the Redemption and the Completion in the era of Restoration.

How successful God’s people will be in restoring creation before Jesus’ return is up for debate. If you tend to be a pessimist when it comes to humanity, your hope is that Jesus will return sooner rather than later! Yet, some Christian schools of thought have a more hopeful optimism of what Jesus’ people will accomplish.

Regardless, Christians must remember that this is also the era of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7–15; Acts 1:4–8; 2:1–12). This is the time when the Holy Spirit is doing his primary work, so Jesus’ people must depend on him to accomplish their work.

The phrase Already/Not Yet is often used to speak of the period we currently live in. Jesus has already started the Restoration, but the Completion of the Restoration has not yet arrived.


But, wait! There’s more!

Really, my big issue with the Creation–Fall–Redemption–Restoration model is this: The Creation and Fall take place in the first three chapters of the Bible, and the Redemption doesn’t take place until the Gospels of the New Testament. What are we missing? Almost the entire Old Testament! If we jump from Fall to Redemption, then what’s the purpose of the vast majority of the Old Testament? Does it hold any significance? Can we just skip it? I don’t think so.

I call all of the Old Testament after the Fall the Preparation because that’s exactly what it is. Preparation for what? The Redemption. So, this is what I propose:

Creation – Fall – Preparation – Redemption – Restoration – Completion

The vast majority of the Old Testament (covering over 2,000 years of history) is preparing the world for the coming of the Messiah and his redemptive work.

Now that we covered all that, let’s look more closely at the Preparation.


“The Bible’s big story, this overarching narrative, is also built out of smaller stories. At the same time, the stories told in the Old Testament work together to set up a mystery resolved in Christ,” writes Dr. James Hamilton [2].

As we covered, the Creation happens in Genesis 1–2 and the Fall happens in Genesis 3. So, how long after these events does the Preparation start? When do we first get word of the coming Messiah? Right away! I’m talking right in Genesis 3.

After the first man and woman rebel against God, God speaks to the serpent, the one who planted the thoughts of rebellion in the head of the first woman, Eve. This serpent is the spiritual creature often called Satan (which means “the accuser” or “the adversary”), who we can infer was created good (like all of creation) but used his freewill to do evil. Though the passage in Genesis 3 doesn’t anywhere call the serpent Satan, Jesus’ apostles certainly connected the two (Revelation 12:9, 20:2; Romans 16:20). Scholar Michael Heiser makes the case that the Hebrew word for serpent (nachash) in Genesis 3 is a play on words pointing towards a spiritual being [3]. Scholar John H. Sailhamer states the serpent was definitely representative of someone or something bigger—something “beyond this particular snake” [4].

After Eve and Adam’s rebellion, God says to Satan,

I will put enmity between you and the woman,

and between your offspring and her offspring;

he shall bruise your head,

and you shall bruise his heel. (Genesis 3:15)

Here, God speaks of the conflict between the woman [5], Satan, and their offspring. Yet, one specific, future descendant of the woman comes into focus, who will wound Satan himself. In fact, Satan will also wound the woman’s descendant. But let me ask: if you were in a fight with a seven-foot ogre, would you rather land a kung-fu strike to his heel or head? Would you rather receive a ninja chop to the heel or head? Satan will strike the descendant of the woman on the heel—a minor wound—but the descendant of the woman will strike Satan’s head. This head strike implies that it’s no insignificant attack, but a deadly blow. This is so strongly implied that some translations render it, “he will crush your head” (NIV). This future descendant of the woman will receive a superficial injury from Satan, but he will counter with a deathblow. Theologians call Genesis 3:15 the protoevangelium, the “first good news.”

But who will this future head-stomper be? Sailhamer writes, “It seems obvious that the purpose of this verse has not been to answer that question but rather to raise it” [6].

We don’t have to read too far before getting our first clue. The official beginning of the Jewish nation is when God revealed himself to Abraham (called Abram at that time). God says to him,

… I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing… and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. (Genesis 12:1–3)

So, through Abraham’s family tree, the whole world will benefit. This promise is passed on to Abraham’s son Isaac and then on to Isaac’s son Jacob (Genesis 26:3, 28:13). Then, much later, God makes a promise to a descendant of Abraham, the renowned King David:

...I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever… Your throne shall be established forever. (2 Samuel 7:12–16)

Based on the three passages above, we know the Messiah will be a descendant of Eve, Abraham, and David. Through these three individuals, God will bless all people, establish a kingdom that will never end, and crush Satan’s head.


Messiah (Hebrew) or Christ (Greek) means “Anointed One.” In the Old Testament, three types of people were anointed with oil to mark them as set apart for God’s special purposes: kings, priests, and prophets.

In the 2 Samuel 7 passage above, we see the Messiah will be a king, but there are passages pointing to him being a priest and prophet as well:

The LORD says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’... The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter… ‘You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.’ (Psalm 110:1–4)

Here, King David is writing of God (“the LORD”) speaking to David’s Lord (the Messiah). A scepter is a staff representing royal authority, so the Messiah is portrayed as a victorious king backed by the power of God. But the Messiah is also called a priest, one similar to the mysterious Melchizedek who appeared to Abraham generations before (Genesis 14:17–24. Also see Hebrews 4:14–10, 7:1–8:13). (Take a moment to say “Melchizedek” out loud a few times for fun.)

Additionally, Moses tells about the coming of a mysterious prophet:

And the LORD said to me… I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him… (Deuteronomy 18:15–19)

We’re told this prophet will be “like” Moses. As far as prophets go, Moses is a tough act to live up to. He had a familiarity with God like no other prophet; he spoke with God “face to face.” God tells him, “you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name” (Numbers 12:8; Deuteronomy 34:10; Exodus 33:17) [7]. So, whoever this coming prophet will be has to be at least as big of a deal as Moses.

Jesus said John the Baptist was the greatest prophet because he ushered in the era of the Messiah (Matthew 11:9, 11), yet John didn’t speak with God “face to face” and was likened to Elijah, not Moses (Matthew 11:14; Luke 1:16–17). Muslims attempt to make this passage about Muhammad, but this is a good example of inserting into the text something that’s plainly not there. Muhammad never spoke with Allah “face to face” anyway.

All this to say, I don’t think it’s a stretch to speculate that this coming prophet will also be the Messiah.

So, we can say the Messiah is not only a king, priest, and prophet, but also the antitype king, priest, and prophet. Now, in order to understand what I mean by that, we need to talk about something called typology.


When most people think of prophecy, they think of predictions. They want detailed, Nostradamus-like foretellings about yet-to-happen events that just aren’t lucky guesses. Something like: On June 5, 2026, Vladimir Putin will get a green bean stuck up his nose for three whole weeks. Here’s an example of what most would consider a proper biblical prophecy:

The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet (Genesis 49:10)

The prediction (given as a promise from God) is that the Messiah will rule forever. Yet upon a closer look, it predicts something else as well: the Messiah will be from the tribe of Judah, one of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Here’s another prophecy:

And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for from you shall come a ruler

who will shepherd my people Israel. (Micah 5:2)

This one is quoted in Matthew’s gospel when the magi arrive in Jerusalem and ask Herod and his religious experts where the Messiah would be born (Matthew 2:6). The religious experts reference this passage by the prophet Micah and answer Bethlehem.

So, Micah 5:2 is another example of what most people think about when they think about prophecies and “fulfillment.” Yet, the problem is, there are other Old Testament passages Jesus “fulfills” according to the New Testament writers that sure don’t seem to be predicting anything at all!

For instance, Joseph and Mary fled with the young Jesus to Egypt because of Herod’s command to kill the male children. Matthew writes,

This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’ (Matthew 2:15)

Here, Matthew is quoting Hosea 11:1, but when you read Hosea in context it isn’t speaking about the Messiah at all. The verse is plainly referring to the Exodus, when God used Moses to led Israel out of slavery in Egypt. Even if Jesus is the Messiah, how does he “fulfill” a passage that has nothing to do with the Messiah?

In order to understand this, we have to understand something called typology. The idea behind typology is that there are patterns repeated throughout scripture. These are called types. These types may be people, events, themes, or even institutions (like the priesthood). These types are like echoes that repeat until they’re ultimately fulfilled in an antitype.

For example, King David and King Solomon are Messiah types that are ultimately fulfilled in the ultimate king, the Messiah—the antitype. If you think back to the fall into sin and the protoevangelium in Genesis 3:15, God speaks of the future descendant of Eve who would crush Satan’s head; David and Solomon foreshadow this person, but the Messiah is the one the protoevangelium is actually about. These two godly (but flawed) rulers are pointing towards the antitype, the ultimate fulfillment, Jesus of Nazareth.

Another example of typology would be the Old Testament sacrificial system. It points towards the ultimate need for redemption through a perfect sacrifice, which Jesus’ death on the cross fulfilled. The writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews explains that no forgiveness of sins is possible without the shedding of blood, and the Old Testament sacrificial system (a type) is “but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities.” He tells us “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin,” but speaking of Jesus’ death on the cross (the antitype), he writes, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 9:22, 10:1, 4, 14) [8].

So, when Matthew writes that Jesus fulfilled the event of God’s son coming out of Egypt, he isn’t speaking of predictions or prophecies, but of typology—of Jesus “fulfilling” a pattern we see in scripture. When Matthew refers to Hosea 11:1, “Out of Egypt I called my son,” he’s drawing a connection to the Exodus, to God freeing Israel from enslavement in Egypt. Like Israel, Jesus went into Egypt and returned. But Israel is God’s disobedient “son” (Exodus 4:22–23). Jesus is God’s true Son, who is perfectly obedient. God used Moses to lead Israel to freedom, but Jesus will lead his people to freedom as the one who’s greater than Moses. Matthew is pointing to Jesus’ work as “the even greater work of deliverance” [9]. Jesus—the antitype—is the ultimate exodus to freedom.


Matthew’s gospel references another Old Testament passage when King Herod attempts to eradicate Jesus, the new king of the Jews, by having all males ages two and under in Bethlehem slaughtered. This time it appears to be an odd use of Jeremiah 31:15:

Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

‘A voice was heard in Ramah,

weeping and loud lamentation,

Rachel weeping for her children;

she refused to be comforted,

because they are no more.’ (Matthew 2:17–18)

Again, in the original context, this has absolutely nothing to do with the Messiah! Rachel, wife of the Jewish forefather Jacob (Genesis 29) and considered a symbolic mother of the people of Israel, is said to be weeping. About what? The context of Jeremiah’s writing makes it clear that she’s weeping over the Babylonian Exile, when Israel was conquered and driven from their homeland by the pagan superpower Babylon—a devastating event for the Jews. So, why on earth does Matthew connect this with Herod’s command to slaughter the boys in Bethlehem? How does this poetic passage speaking of this “mother” of Israel weeping over the Babylonian Exile have anything to do with Jesus or Herod? Certainly, both tragic events were reasons for the Jews to mourn, and ancient warfare usually involved slaughtering the children of your enemies (as Babylon surely practiced), but it’s more than that.

Matthew is pointing to a bigger picture of hope. He’s stirring his readers’ memories to scripture they would likely know. When the New Testament writers quote scripture, they usually don’t just mean for the reader to think of those specific words, but the whole section of scripture it appears in. If we turn to Jeremiah 31 and read the verses in context, we find a description of a future era of glory. Jeremiah speaks of a “new covenant” God will make with his people, where God “will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people… For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:31–34).

By referencing this section of Jeremiah, Matthew is saying, Yes, there’s reason to mourn, but remember God’s promises, Israel! Jesus is here to fulfill them! Be comforted!


As we move through time and the Old Testament, the Messiah comes into sharper focus. For instance, in the Psalms, David writes some compelling stuff:

[10a] For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, [10b] or let your holy one see corruption. (Psalm 16:10)

The subject in the first part (10a) says God won’t leave him in the place of the dead (i.e., “Sheol”). The second part (10b) says God won’t let “your holy one see corruption,” which can be translated as “see decay” or even “see the grave.” So, 10b is right in line with the thought of 10a; “corruption” here doesn’t have anything to do with immorality, but physical death and decomposition.

The first part appears to be about the author, King David. David is confident that he will have eternal life with God after death. But what about the second part? Is David the “holy one” or is the “holy one” someone else—the Messiah? Furthermore, does this verse imply a physical resurrection, as many Jewish theologians have believed [10]? Does it go even further, implying that the holy one’s body won’t even decompose before being resurrected? Jesus’ apostles Peter and Paul certainly understood the passage this way—that the body of the “holy one” would not decompose as all dead bodies do (Acts 2:27, 31; 13:35). And this isn’t just a novel Christian interpretation either; non-Christian Jews have interpreted it this way too [11].

Clearly, David, the author, is confident that his death won’t be his end. But we have to also recognize something else that’s undeniable: King David died. And King David is still dead. David’s body has, in fact, decayed. Unless we take the second part of Psalm 16:10 as purely poetic, the second part can’t possibly be about David! The first followers of Jesus understood Psalm 16:10 to be about Jesus, who they testified to resurrecting after three days in a tomb (Acts 2:27, 31; 13:35). The “holy one” of Psalm 16:10 doesn’t appear to be David but the Messiah.

Similarly, another Psalm, Psalm 22, gives us some mysterious imagery—imagery that easily brings Jesus’ crucifixion to mind:

...a company of evildoers encircles me;

they have pierced my hands and feet—

I can count all my bones—

they stare and gloat over me;

they divide my garments among them,

and for my clothing they cast lots. (Psalm 22:16–18)

In the Gospels, we see Jesus mocked as he hangs with his arms and feet pierced on a cross. Roman soldiers even “cast lots” (the ancient equivalent of playing dice) to see who gets his tunic (his outer garment) and they distribute his clothes among themselves, likely to sell for money (Matthew 27:35; Luke 23:34; Mark 15:24; John 19:23–24). John’s gospel specifically references Psalm 22:18 as well as other Old Testament passages as being fulfilled in Jesus’ execution. This includes Zechariah 12:10, which speaks of the inhabitants of Jerusalem looking upon the narrator of this passage “whom they have pierced” (John 19:23–25, 37). Take note: the narrator of Zechariah 12:10 is God!


As one would expect, non-Christians give pushback against this understanding of Psalm 22. They prefer an alternative wording—a variant—that exists in some old manuscripts without the “pierced” part. Debates like this usually come down to two words that are spelled nearly the same, so a scribe making an honest mistake is understandable. In this situation, we have ka’aru (“pierced”) versus ka’ari (“like a lion”). Two very similar words with vastly different meanings! Instead of reading “they have pierced my hands and feet,” it could read, “Like a lion, they are at my hands and my feet.”

So, let’s throw these two readings of Psalm 22 into an arena, let them duke it out, and see who wins.

First, the authoritative manuscript tradition of traditional Jews, the Masoretic manuscript line, does not read ka’ari (“like a lion”). Likewise, the Greek Septuagint, the oldest known translation of the Jewish scripture (which dates to over 200 years before Jesus) contains “pierced.” Finally, the oldest surviving Hebrew manuscripts—the Dead Sea Scrolls (dated to shortly before Jesus walked the earth)—also contain ka’aru (“pierced”). So, based on the manuscript evidence, we can declare ka’aru (“pierced”) the winner by technical knockout.

Psalm 22 contains some common themes found in passages about the Messiah, including language about people from all over the earth becoming worshippers of the God of the Jews. Jesus himself quotes Psalm 22 as he hangs on the cross, crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I, like others, believe Jesus isn’t just lamenting while in the throes of agony, but he’s pointing the witnesses of his execution to the significance of it. He wants his Jewish audience to think of Psalm 22 because—not only do the specific words he quotes apply to him—but the whole of Psalm 22. His death will lead people of all nations to “turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship” God (Psalm 22:1, 27–28), fulfilling God’s promise to Abraham, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).


The prophet Isaiah wrote some pretty compelling stuff as well. Isaiah contains more prophecies about the Messiah than any other Old Testament book. The passage that likely gets the most attention by both Christians and skeptics alike is:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign.

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,

and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

A favorite during the Christmas season, “Immanuel” means “God with us,” which Christians take quite literally. But the controversy surrounding this passage has to do primarily with the word translated as “virgin.” The original Hebrew word is ‘almah. Those against applying this passage to Jesus’ virgin birth are quick to point out that ‘almah doesn’t mean virgin, but a young woman.

But not so fast, speedy-pants.

First, maybe ‘almah doesn’t specifically mean “virgin,” but it does mean a young, sexually mature, unmarried female. Though not the case today in western culture, in ancient Hebrew culture any young, unmarried woman would certainly be assumed (and expected) to be a virgin. Secondly, no single word in biblical Hebrew always and only means “virgin” [12]. Yet, a more specific Hebrew word for “wife” or “mature woman” exists and could’ve been used, eliminating any possibility of “virgin” as an interpretation (but it wasn’t).

Finally, the Septuagint (the Old Testament translation for Greek-speaking Jews), dated at least 200 years before Jesus, uses the Greek word parthenos. Parthenos unarguably means “virgin.” This proves that “virgin” wasn’t a novel interpretation developed later by Christians. It was an accepted understanding among Jews long before Jesus was born from Mary’s womb. So, “virgin” is a reasonable understanding of ‘almah.

Now that I’ve defended this passage’s virginity, let me move on to other matters concerning Isaiah 7:14.


Another challenge some point out is that the language of Isaiah 7:14 is not speaking of the far future, but of a child who will be “God with us” in the near future—that is, in Isaiah’s day. The language and context makes this possible. Jesus wouldn’t come for another 700 years. How can Isaiah 7:14, then, possibly be about the future Messiah?

Admittedly, this is a difficult challenge—in my opinion, more challenging than the one concerning ‘almah that we looked at above. So, bear with me as I give a somewhat long-winded explanation for understanding the passage.

First, we need to consider that we have no historical evidence of this special person being born in Isaiah’s day, not in the Old Testament or elsewhere. The original Hebrew wording denotes a birth of great significance, so it seems odd neither scripture nor Jewish history testify to this important birth and the life that follows.

Secondly, this could be understood with our friend typology. Perhaps there was an important birth in Isaiah’s day, one showing that God was with them, but this birth was a “type” foreshadowing “the antitype”—the ultimate fulfillment—the future birth of the Messiah. So, in a sense, this verse could be about two births—one in the near future and another (the ultimate fulfillment) in the more distant future.

Also remember: Never read just one verse. You need to read all around a verse to understand the context. Context, context, context! If we read more of Isaiah, we see something big is going on. Chapters 7, 9, and 11 are filled with language about the future reign of the Messiah. Chapter 7 speaks of the Messiah’s coming birth. Chapter 9 speaks of the Messiah born and being declared king. Chapter 11 speaks of the Messiah ruling and reigning and of the peace—the shalom—that will follow. I don’t think this pattern is a happy accident. This section of Isaiah covering chapters 7 through 12 (called “The Book of Immanuel” by scholars) is accepted as being all about the Messiah.

Finally, reading carefully all of Isaiah Chapter 7 in the original Hebrew brings things into clearer focus. What is lost in an English translation is that Hebrew verbs and pronouns (like “you”) have both singular and plural forms.

Hebrew: You (singular) ran (singular). = English: You ran.

Hebrew: You (plural) ran (plural). = English: You ran.

As you can see above, a word-for-word translation of the Hebrew when “ran” and “you” are plural would appear the same in English whether singular or plural. To make the plural pronoun clear in an English translation, we would have to add a word like “all” or “y’all” or even “you guys (and gals)” to make it clear that “you” refers to multiple people:

Hebrew: You (plural) ran (plural).


English: You all ran.

Southern English: Y’all ran.

New Jersey English: You guys ran.

In 7:10–11, God (through Isaiah) tells King Ahaz to ask him for a sign and God will give it. This is an unusual and priceless offer from God! Yet, King Ahaz has turned from God, so with fake piety he says he will not “put the LORD to the test” (7:12). Unsurprisingly, God’s words to King Ahaz here are singular because God is only speaking to King Ahaz (7:10–12). But then in 7:13–14 they abruptly change to plural. These subtle shifts in grammar (as well as the word “Behold” in 7:14) are clues something big is going on. The shift from singular to plural tells us Isaiah 7:13–14 are not words for only King Ahaz, but a proclamation to all of Israel (and to all the readers of Isaiah). But then the language shifts again back to singular in 7:16.

Keep in mind, ancient Hebrew manuscripts were not broken into paragraphs or sections. What I’m proposing is that 7:13–14 gives us the “Far View” prophecy of the coming birth of the Messiah (the antitype) and 7:15–17 gives us the “Near View” prophecy of another son (the type) who would be a sign to King Ahaz. The view holds even more weight when you realize the children of Isaiah and his wife (“the prophetess”) are spoken of as signs and symbols from God to confirm Isaiah’s words (8:3–5, 8:18). I propose that the boy spoken of in 7:16 is not the future Messiah, but Isaiah’s son Shear-jashub, who is with him at this time (7:3), and the son born to the virgin in 7:14 is the future Messiah. So, we have a “Near View” sign of Isaiah’s son Shear-jashub that will take place in Ahaz’s lifetime and we have a “Far View” sign to take place in the far future of Ahaz’s day:

10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: 11 “Ask a sign of the Lord your [singular] God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.”


13 And he said, “Hear [plural] then, O house of David! Is it too little for you [plural] to weary men, that you [plural] weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you [plural] a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.


15 He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the boy [Isaiah’s son Shear-jashub] knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you [singular] dread will be deserted. 17 The Lord will bring upon you [singular] and upon your [singular] people and upon your [singular] father’s house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria!”


If Isaiah 7:14 isn’t clear enough, Isaiah 9:6 (another Christmas favorite) brings things into sharper focus. The section of Isaiah this verse appears in is undoubtedly about the Messiah, who’s a “great light” to those in darkness, a bringer of joy and peace, a liberator of the oppressed, and the forever ruler of God’s kingdom (9:1–7. Also see Matthew 4:14–16). This passage is without a doubt about the Messiah’s birth:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

Try as some might, it’s hard to deny that two of those four titles above—Mighty God, Everlasting Father—declare that the Messiah will be much more than a mere man. Not long after this, Isaiah uses “mighty God”—the same exact phrase—when speaking of the one-and-only divine Creator of the universe (Isaiah 10:20–21), and what other “father” is external other than God? In fact, “Wonderful Counselor” is likely a divine title as well because “wonderful” is used throughout the Old Testament to describe the works of God, and elsewhere Isaiah calls God “wonderful in council” (28:29).

Isaiah 9:6 tells us the Messiah is literally “God with us.”


Before ending this long, information-stuffed, somewhat-meandering (extra) chapter, we have one last essential stop. Isaiah 53 is known as the passage of the “Suffering Servant.” Michael Brown, a Messianic Jew (i.e., a Jewish Christian), who holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern languages and literature, writes, “I would not be exaggerating to say that more Jews have put their faith in Jesus as Messiah after reading this passage of Scripture than after reading any other passage in the [Old Testament]” [13].

It’s worth pausing to read this passage about the Suffering Servant in its entirety. (It actually starts at 52:11 and continues through the whole of 53.) But, if you’re feeling lazy at the moment, here are some highlights:

Surely he has borne our griefs

and carried our sorrows;

yet we esteemed him stricken,

smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;

we have turned—every one—to his own way;

and the LORD has laid on him

the iniquity of us all. (53:4–6)

And they made his grave with the wicked

and with a rich man in his death,

although he had done no violence,

and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;

he has put him to grief;

when his soul makes an offering for guilt,

he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;

the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;

by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,

make many to be accounted righteous,

and he shall bear their iniquities. (53:9–11)

... he poured out his soul to death

and was numbered with the transgressors;

yet he bore the sin of many,

and makes intercession for the transgressors. (53:12)

For those familiar with the Gospels, one doesn’t have to squint hard to see Jesus in this passage written centuries before Jesus died on a cross. The most prominent theme of the passage has to do with the Servant being punished by God for the immorality of others. We’re told quite plainly, “the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” He was “smitten by God” and “pierced” for the crimes of others. He “bore the sins of many,” made “intercession for the transgressors,” and “poured out his soul to death.” This would satisfy God, making many “righteous” and bringing them peace because they’d be healed through his death (Isaiah 53:4–5). This passage mirrors what Christians call “the good news”—the Gospel of Jesus Christ—the idea that Jesus died for the wrongs of the world, freeing his people from facing God’s justice. In fact, some have nicknamed the Book of Isaiah “the Fifth Gospel.”

Notice, the righteous Servant, who has no kingly “majesty,” would be buried among the wicked and “a rich man” (Isaiah 53:2, 9). This is an odd detail that jumps out at the reader. Who is this singular rich man? Those familiar with the Gospels can’t help but draw a connection to Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man who took Jesus’ mangled corpse and enclosed it in his own unused tomb (Matthew 27:57–60. Also see Mark 15:43–46; Luke 23:50–52; John 19:38–41).

Another detail that can’t be overlooked is that the Suffering Servant was killed according to God’s will and placed in a grave, yet “he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days” (Isaiah 53:10). So, God will kill him, but God will prolong his life? This certainly seems like a contradiction that only makes sense once we look at the Gospels where God raised Jesus from the dead. Despite his execution, Jesus’ followers (his “offspring”) increased!

Again, pushback from those who don’t accept Jesus as Messiah can be expected. A popular argument is that the Suffering Servant isn’t an individual but symbolic of the nation of Israel. Even if we put aside the fact that the passage is plainly speaking of an individual, Dr. Michael Brown shoots down this explanation like a Navy SEAL sniper: “For almost one thousand years after the birth of [Jesus], not one rabbi, not one Talmudic teacher, not one Jewish sage, left us an interpretation showing that Isaiah 53 should be interpreted with reference to the nation of Israel” [14].


Jesus certainly believed that the Jewish scripture—Old Testament—was all about him.

After Jesus’ resurrection, he drops some bombs on his disciples. He says, I told you that “everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44). He says it was written in the Old Testament “that the Christ should suffer and on the third day [15] rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations.” To two clueless disciples who didn’t connect the dots, he says, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (There’s nothing like getting reprimanded by your rabbi for not expecting to see him alive after he was brutally murdered.) Since they had missed it, Jesus “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” and “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:25, 45–47, 27).

Oh, to be present during that conversation! (It certainly would’ve made writing this chapter easier.)


[1] This is similar to the answer Jesus sent John the Baptist when John was in prison. Matthew 11:2–6.

[2] James M. Hamilton, What is Biblical Theology? A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns, (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2014), Kindle, Loc 112.

[3] Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm. Bellingham, (WA: Lexingham, 2015), Kindle, Loc 1486.

[4] John H. Sailhamer, “Genesis, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990), 50, 55.

[5] It’s interesting that God signals out the woman and not the man. Many Christians see this as foreshadowing the virgin birth of Jesus.

[6] John H. Sailhamer, “Genesis, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990), 56.

[7] These are to be understood as idioms of familiarity rather than literal details.

[8] Other sacrifice typology in the Old Testament pointing towards Jesus’ sacrificial death include the original Passover event (Exodus 12) and the near-sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham (Genesis 22).

[9] R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, New International Commentary on the New Testament. ed. Gordon D. Fee, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2007), 81.

[10] Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Vol. 3: Messianic Prophecy Objections, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2003), 115–116.

[11] Same as above.

[12] Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Vol. 3: Messianic Prophecy Objections, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2003), 21.

[13] Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Vol. 3: Messianic Prophecy Objections, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2003), 41.

[14] Same as above.

[15] Third-day typology and clues: Hosea 6:1–2; Jonah 1:17 (Also see Matthew 12:40); Genesis 22:4; Exodus 19.


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