Jesus fulfilled none of the provable Messianic prophecies?
By “provable” Messianic prophecies, I assume you mean prophecies that refer to the Messiah bringing about an end to war and ushering in a universal golden age, or the Messiah regathering the exiles of Israel and rebuilding the Temple. But these are not the only provable Messianic prophecies, and there are some very important, provable prophecies of worldwide significance that Jesus—and only Jesus—has fulfilled, giving us every reason to expect that when he returns to earth, he will fulfill the rest.
I’ll divide my answer into four parts: (1) provable prophecies fulfilled by Yeshua that no one else can ever fulfill, (2) provable prophecies fulfilled by Yeshua of a worldwide, indisputable nature, (3) provable prophecies that continue to be fulfilled, and (4) provable prophecies yet to be fulfilled.
- Provable prophecies fulfilled by Yeshua that no one else can ever fulfill. The Tanakh gives clear indications that the Messiah had to come before the Second Temple was destroyed, since the prophets predicted that the Lord himself would visit that Temple, that its glory would be greater than the glory of the First Temple (Solomon’s Temple), and that final atonement would be made before the Second Temple’s destruction. (For an extensive discussion, see vol. 1, 2.1–2.2.) But that Temple was destroyed in 70 C.E., meaning that either the Messiah came right on schedule, almost two thousand years ago, setting in motion the plan of redemption and deliverance for Israel and the nations, or that there will never be a Messiah, since he failed to come at the appointed, prophesied time. I choose to believe the former.
Was there any Jewish figure other than Yeshua who fulfilled these time-dated prophecies? If it was not Yeshua, who then? And is there no significance to the Talmudic statement that “all the appointed times [lit., “ends,” meaning the appointed times for the Messiah’s coming] have passed and the matter is dependent only on repentance and good deeds” (b. Sanhedrin 97b)?323
In a sense, these are the most important of all the so-called provable prophecies, since they prove the trustworthiness of the ones who prophesied them as much as they prove the trustworthiness of the one who fulfilled them. In other words, how do we know that the end-time predictions of the prophets will really come to pass if their past, dated, already provable prophecies did not come to pass? Conversely, if their initial, now-past prophecies came to pass, we can be confident that their still-future prophecies will come to pass as well. Thus, we can say with assurance that since Yeshua has fulfilled the past prophecies, he will fulfill the future prophecies as well.
- Provable prophecies fulfilled by Yeshua of a worldwide, indisputable nature. Messianic Jews point to many prophecies fulfilled by Jesus (see above, 4.32), but anti-missionaries respond by saying, “These cannot be proven.” For example, we point out that the Messiah was born in Bethlehem, as Micah prophesied (see above, 4.4). Anti-missionaries respond by saying either “Prove it!” or “The Messiah could still be born in Bethlehem.” We point out that his sufferings paralleled in detail those of the righteous sufferer of Psalm 22 (see above, 4.24). Anti-missionaries respond by saying either “Prove it!” or “Anyone could suffer those very things, and that does not make him the Messiah.” But the problem arises for the anti-missionaries when we look at those prophecies pointing to the Messiah’s worldwide influence, especially among the Gentile nations.
According to Genesis 49:10, the obedience of the peoples will be his; according to Isaiah 42:4, the islands will wait for his teaching; according to Isaiah 49:6, he would be a light to the nations, bringing salvation to the ends of the earth; according to Isaiah 52:15, kings will shut their mouths before him in worshipful adoration (see above, 4.1, especially for Gen. 49:10). Yeshua has fulfilled much of this and continues to fulfill this in dramatic fashion. More than one billion people—people of the nations, Gentiles, formerly without God and without hope—have come to worship and adore the God of Israel because of Yeshua’s death and resurrection. This certainly proves something!
Name for me one other human being (let alone one other Jew) who has come anywhere near fulfilling these verses. There is none.324 Therefore, we have confidence that we will see the totality of what is promised in these and related verses (namely, worldwide peace, the destruction of the unrepentant wicked, and the worldwide rule of God), through the one who came when the prophets declared he would come and did what the prophets said he would do.
Just consider how utterly absurd it would have seemed if as you stood at the foot of the cross as Yeshua suffered a torturous, ignominious, shameful death, someone told you, “Two thousand years from now, this man will be the world’s most famous Jew and world history will be divided into the years before his birth and the years after his birth. Hundreds of millions of people from all world religions will forsake their idols and their dead traditions and will instead become followers of the God of Israel through him.” Yet this is literal truth, without a hint of exaggeration.
We dare not downplay the significance of this. And remember that it was in Psalm 22 that the world-wide impact of the Messiah’s death and resurrection were foreshadowed, the Scriptures plainly declaring that as a result of his deliverance from death, the Gentiles would turn to the one true God (see above, 4.24). This is very provable, and it has unfolded in the most supernatural ways imaginable (see vol. 1, 2.2), also pointing to the reality of his resurrection, a tremendously important topic that deserves separate discussion (see vol. 4, 5.15).
It is also important to remember that some of the same verses that prophesied the Messiah’s acceptance by the Gentiles also prophesied his (temporary) rejection by his own Jewish people (see, e.g., Isa. 49:1–7; Isa. 52:13–53:12; note also the principle of Ezek. 3:1–7). Of course, someone could easily object to this and say, “The Jewish people have rejected many false Messiahs. Jesus’ rejection by his own people can hardly be used as a proof of his true Messiahship.” And there would certainly be truth to this objection.
The simple fact that Jesus was rejected by the majority of our people and then embraced by (primarily) the Gentiles does not prove that he was the Messiah. However, someone has to fulfill those prophecies. There must be one Jew who would be rejected by his people, who would suffer and die and rise from the dead, whose name would be revered by Gentiles in every nation, who would turn multitudes back to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and who would then be received by his own brothers after the flesh.
Yeshua is that Jew, and it is no coincidence that today there are more Jews following him than at any time since the first century, perhaps numbering as high as two hundred thousand. When you add to all this the fact that he was born at the right time, in the right place, with the right lineage (see vol. 4, 5.10–5.12), there can be no question at all that he is our promised Messiah.
- Provable prophecies that continue to be fulfilled. The prophetic Scriptures also indicated that the Messiah would perform miraculous deeds of healing and deliverance—opening blind eyes, making cripples whole, setting prisoners free from the bondage of sin—thus demonstrating that he was the anointed of the Lord, God’s agent of mercy and restoration (see Isa. 35:1–7; 42:1–7; 49:5–6; 61:1–3).325 The New Testament gives abundant testimony to these very miracles taking place throughout the ministry of Yeshua. Naturally, you could challenge this testimony and ask, “Who says these stories are true?” and I would grant you the validity of that challenge. Many ancient texts contain all kinds of accounts of extravagant miracles and death-defying miracle workers. This is actually the core of many mythological writings. How do we know that the New Testament writings are different?326
My answer might surprise you, but stay with me for a moment and I believe it will make perfect sense. The New Testament records not only that Jesus himself performed these miracles but that his followers also performed these supernatural acts. This served as a proof of the resurrection of the Messiah, which was also an event of extraordinary importance that was prophesied hundreds of years prior to his death. The Book of Acts records that when a man lame from birth was healed through Peter and John in the name of Yeshua, Peter explained to the crowds:
Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see.
The Messiah not only died; he rose from the dead, sending the Holy Spirit down on his followers and thus empowering them to do the same things he did while on the earth.327 If he was not truly the Messiah but rather was an impostor, and if he did not perform miraculous deeds by the power of the Spirit but rather by psychical or demonic power, his counterfeit miracles would have died with him. The New Testament records the exact opposite, demonstrating that he was indeed alive and well, continuing to heal and deliver through his earthly representatives.
“But,” you say, “that still proves nothing. Why should I believe the account you just gave about the lame man? It’s still taken from your New Testament.”
Once again, you raise a good point. How do we know for sure that the witness of the New Testament is true? It is simply because Yeshua our Messiah is alive and not dead, appointed by God his Father to be the Lord of all (Acts 2:36; 10:36)—which means that he is still performing miracles of healing and deliverance for those who call on his name.
I am not claiming that those who follow the Messiah are exempt from hardship and pain, that they are never sick, that they do not die in accidents and natural disasters, that they can simply snap their fingers and receive a miracle, that they are never frustrated by the mystery of unanswered prayer. Not at all. Nor am I saying that other religious groups—and even nonreligious groups—have no claims of contemporary miracles. I am simply saying this: (1) The biblical prophets declared that certain miracles would characterize the ministry of the Messiah on the earth; (2) Yeshua performed those very miracles; and (3) he is still performing them today. For many of my fellow Jewish followers of Jesus, it was not an eloquent argument that persuaded them that he was truly the Messiah, nor was it a study of the Messianic prophecies (although many Jews do, in fact, come to know him through these very texts). Rather, it was the fact that in Jesus, they encountered the reality of the one true God. They experienced God for themselves, either in deep conviction of personal sin and guilt, followed by liberating and transforming forgiveness, or in an undeniably supernatural path that led straight to the Lord, or through a miraculous healing or deliverance when they called on Yeshua’s name.328 In many cases, it was only after experiencing “new birth” and being persuaded beyond a doubt that Jesus was our Messiah and King that these men and women began to engage in serious discussion with rabbis or anti-missionaries, going back to the Scriptures and discovering to their delight that Jesus is the one spoken of by Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms.329
Lest you downplay the importance of personal experience, the Torah emphasizes the importance of each generation having its own encounter with God (see Deut. 5:1–4; 11:1–7), and the psalmist took it as a sign of divine judgment when there were no signs and wonders among the people (Ps. 74:1–9). And what is true for the nation as a whole was true for individuals: God did not want his people to have a merely theoretical knowledge of him, simply knowing about him. He wanted them to know him. This, in fact, is one of the clearly expressed goals of the new covenant, prophesied by Jeremiah, as it is written, “ ‘They will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,’ declares the Lord. ‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more’ ” (Jer. 31:34b). Note also the related prophecy of Ezekiel: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezek. 36:26–27).
Do you know him? Have all your sins and wicked deeds been forgiven? Has the old heart of stone been replaced by a heart of flesh? Does God’s Spirit really live in you? If you say, “But that is reserved for the Messianic age!” I reply, “But the Messianic age has already begun!” This too is provable—and of great importance, since in the end, everything comes down to your relationship with God and the condition of your own soul. These weighty issues are ultimately personal matters between you and him. You will stand alone before God when you give account for your life, and only you can decide how you will respond to his Word today, while you are alive and breathing.
The prophet Joel declared that God would pour out his Spirit on all flesh, a promise that began its journey to fulfillment in Acts 2:1–21, fifty days after the resurrection of the Messiah on the biblical Feast of Weeks (Shavuot, or Pentecost).330 Joel then declared, “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:32a[3:5a]), a text quoted several times in the New Testament with reference to Yeshua (e.g., Rom. 10:13). This too is a provable prophecy!
So, if you recognize your need for forgiveness and mercy; if you understand that God is holy and you are not; if you understand that he desires to deliver you from every bondage and addiction—physical, emotional, and spiritual—and remake you in his image; if you are ready to surrender your life and will to his service, becoming part of his family; if you are considering whether Jesus is really the Messiah, the anointed of the Lord, then call out to God in his name, asking him to save you from your uncleanness and guilt, putting yourself completely in his hands. He will answer from heaven!
- Provable prophecies yet to be fulfilled. What then of the Messianic prophecies that remain to be fulfilled, such as Isaiah 2:1–5 and Isaiah 11:1–9, which predict universal peace? The answer is obvious: The one who already fulfilled every provable prophecy that had to be fulfilled up until this time is the one who will fulfill the rest. Certainly, this is the only reasonable, logical, and scripturally consistent answer. It is no mystery, then, who this Messiah will be that will come with the clouds of heaven. He will be the one who was despised and rejected by his own people, the one who became a light to the nations, and the one who will return and establish his Father’s kingdom in Jerusalem.
323 See the discussion in Touger, Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 247.
324 Of course, someone might point out that the followers of Muhammad number more than one billion as well, and they too are monotheists. The fundamental difference, however, is that they do not regard the Tanakh (as we now have it) as the Word of God, and therefore the Koran does not quote the Hebrew Bible as sacred Scripture (in contrast with the New Testament, which does hundreds of times; see vol. 4, 5.1), nor is Allah, the God of the Muslims, the same as Yahweh, the God of the Tanakh (whereas Christians around the world worship the God of Israel as the one true God, revealed to us in and through the Messiah; see vol. 2, 3.1–3.4). Therefore, it is not fair to compare Jesus with Muhammad, since Jesus came in fulfillment of what was written in the Hebrew Scriptures, coming at the time he was required to come, whereas Muhammad simply founded a new religion.
325 Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, 2:996, notes that, “Is. 35:5, 6 is repeatedly applied to Messianic times. Thus, in Yalkut i. 78 c, and 157 a; in Ber. R. 95; and in Midrash on Ps. 146:8.”
326 For studies on the veracity of the New Testament witness, cf. Craig L. Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1987); J. P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City: A Defense of Christianity (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987); the older study of F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (repr., Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1994), is still valuable.
327 For further discussion, with reference to the relevant scholarly literature, cf. Brown, Israel’s Divine Healer, 218–20; idem, The Revival Answer Book: Rightly Discerning the Contemporary Revival Movements (Ventura, Calif.: Renew, 2001), 138–61.
328 For representative testimonies, cf. the literature cited in vol. 1, p. 221, n. 56; see also above, n. 170.
329 This was the case in my own life: I first experienced the life-transforming power of the God of Israel through Jesus the Messiah, then began to study the Scriptures and learn of the Messianic prophecies, and then entered into dialogue with rabbis and anti-missionaries. Each stage of this process ultimately resulted in my faith growing stronger, not weaker.
330 For literature on the Messianic symbolism of the feasts, cf. vol. 1, 2.1 and p. 225, n. 22.