Commentary

 

Prophecies About Jesus      

By Rev. George McCurdy

By Meister des Ludwig-Psalters [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Currently at Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

For Christians, Christmas time is one of the most sacred, most joyous celebrations of the year. What about for people who are thinking about it, but who aren't sure about the whole "reason for the season"? What do we really know about what happened in Judea, 2000 years ago?

We're going to try to approach this topic from a neutral standpoint, and see where that leads us.

It's well-established that Jesus existed. He was physically, historically real. There is voluminous evidence from Christian sources, of course. Jesus Christ was also mentioned in non-Christian historical documents that have survived from that period. He's referred to twice by Josephus, the Jewish historian, in his work "Antiquities of the Jews" published in 93-94 AD. Tacitus, the Roman historian, writing in around 116 AD, also refers to "Christus" being put to death by the Romans under Pontius Pilate.

Was Jesus special? Even skeptics would need to wonder why and how this man from a small village in Galilee could launch a religion which would become the biggest, most influential one for at least the next two millennia of human history.

One of the intriguing things about Jesus is that his birth and life seem to have fulfilled prophecies from the Old Testament, which date back to the time of Moses - at least 1500 years BC, and to far older stories in an oral tradition. Those prophecies existed in texts written long before the Christian Era started.

What were some of those prophecies? There are many of them! Swedenborg lists some here, Doctrine of the Lord 6. In this article, we're just going to focus on a few of them.

In this very early prophecy, it's indicated that the Messiah would be born as the son of a woman:

"And Jehovah God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, cursed art thou above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life, and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Genesis 3:14-15. This is confirmed in the story in Matthew 1:20.

In Micah, much later in the Bible, we read that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, in Judea:

"But thou, Beth-lehem Ephrathah, which art little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall one come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting."

Micah 5:2. This is confirmed in the story in Matthew 2:1, and Luke 2:4-6.

In Isaiah, we read that the Messiah would be born to a virgin:

"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Isaiah 7:14. This is confirmed in the story in Matthew 1:22-23, and in Luke 1:26-31.

Lineage was an important factor, too. At least 5 forefathers of the promised Savior are named. First, he was prophesied to come from the line of Abraham, the progenitor of many of the peoples of the modern Middle East, including the Jews, the Arabs, the Lebanese, the Druze, and others. Genesis 12:3, Genesis 22:18. This prophecy is confirmed in Matthew 1:1, and Romans 9:5.

In the next generation, prophecy stated that the Savior would be descended from the line of Isaac, one of Abraham's two sons. See Genesis 17:19, Genesis 21:12. This is confirmed in Luke 3:34.

For the third generation, the Word states that the Messiah would be a descendant of Jacob. It's prophesied in Numbers 24:17, and confirmed in Matthew 1:2.

For the fourth generation, attention focuses on the tribe of Judah, who was one of the twelve sons of Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel). See Genesis 49:10, and then Luke 3:33, and Hebrews 7:14.

Many generations later, in the second book of Samuel, and again in Isaiah, there are prophecies that the Messiah would be heir to King David's throne. Read 2_Samuel 7:12-13, and Isaiah 9:7. Then see Luke 1:32-33, and Romans 1:3.

There are many more prophecies, and we will look at more of them in a future article. But, to summarize these ones that we've just listed, what would Old Testament readers in the time of Caesar Augustus be expecting?

In Bethlehem, a virgin would bear a son. He would be descended from Abraham, through the line of Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and David.

That's the way the story runs, in the Gospels.

It's clear that the Old Testament wasn't altered to suit the "facts on the ground". The prophecies are already there in pre-Christian scrolls. That leaves two possibilities:

1) Scenario A: The New Testament could have been written to twist the facts to match the old prophecies. Faithful Jews were awaiting the Messiah; they would have wanted to find matching stories. In this scenario, Jesus could have been just a regular man, but a standout leader and teacher and healer. He was so inspiring that his apostles endured hardship and death to spread what became a global religion. The stories about him were exaggerated or modified to help match the prophecies.

2) Scenario B: The Old Testament text contains deep inner meaning, and its prophecies were actually prophetic and true. The facts of Jesus' birth and life and ministry actually did match and fulfull the prophecies. In this scenario, Jesus was truly a miracle baby.

Which scenario is right? In both, there's a recognition that the teachings of Jesus contained wisdom, and that there is great value in them. In New Christian thought, the choice is for Scenario B -- that Jesus really was the Christ, the long-awaited Messiah, or Savior.

This of course requires some level of belief in miracles - prophecy, fulfillment, the virgin birth, angels bearing tidings, healings, feeding the multitudes. Can miracles really happen? Is it scientifically possible? Maybe they can... maybe as science advances, we will begin to understand those boundaries better. At some level, don't most of us believe in miracles -- in the miracle of the very existence of the universe, and of living organisms that can reproduce, and of human life, and of love?

How to end this article? The whole subject of miracles needs more thought. And, here it is, December 22, and... instead of getting more analytical, I find that right now I just want to "be" in the holy days of Christmas.

If you're feeling skeptical, have a look at Arcana Coelestia 2568, Arcana Coelestia 2588. They offer an interesting perspective!

---

One source for this article was "100 Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus: Messianic Prophecies Made Before the Birth of Christ", by Rose Publishing.

The Bible

 

Luke 2:4-6

English: King James Version         

Study the Inner Meaning

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4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

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   Study the Inner Meaning
From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 4594


References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Scriptural Confirmations 6, 67

Other New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:


  Spiritual Topics:



Hop to Similar Bible Verses

1 Samuel 20:6

Word/Phrase Explanations

galilee
Galilee was the northernmost province of Biblical Judea, a hilly area relatively remote from the center of Jewish culture in Jerusalem and bordered by foreigners...

city
Cities of the mountain and cities of the plain (Jer. 33:13) signify doctrines of charity and faith.

bethlehem
There is a strong relationship between Ephrath and Bethlehem in the Bible; they might be two different names for the same town, or it’s possible...

Resources for parents and teachers

The items listed here are provided courtesy of our friends at the General Church of the New Jerusalem. You can search/browse their whole library at the New Church Vineyard website.


 A Child Is Born
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 Adoration of the Shepherds
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Adventus Domini
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Angel Appears to the Shepherds
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Angelic Appearances at the Time of the Advent
A sermon about the angel Gabriel's appearances to different people and how this pictures aspects of the preparation we must do for the Lord's birth in our own lives. 
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Angel of the Lord
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Angels and Stars at Christmas Time
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 Angel with Shepherds
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Anna and Simeon
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Anna and Simeon
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 A Sign to the Shepherds
An in-depth sermon exploring the internal meaning of the Lord's birth on earth and the circumstances surrounding it.
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Baby Jesus
This lesson discusses a story from the Word and suggests projects and activities for young children.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 Baby Jesus and Shepherd
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Baby Jesus in a Manger Scene
A simple representation of the nativity which shows the baby Lord, Mary, Joseph, and two sheep. 
Project | Ages 4 - 14

 Baby Lord with Sheep Trip-tych
When finished, the triptych pictures sheep on either side of the baby Lord in the manger.
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Behold His Glory
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Birth of the Lord
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 Born in a Stable
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Born in the City of David
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Christmas Candles
A family article on how beautiful candles at Christmastime can remind us of the "glory of the Lord" that shone around the angel who appeared to the Shepherds on the first Christmas.
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Compare Joshua with Jesus
Complete a chart comparing Joshua and Jesus. Who were theys fighting? Where did they go? How did they show courage?
Activity | Ages 9 - 13

 Correspondences of Light
Illustrations of three stories in the Word that talk about light. (Quotations are the King James translation.)
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Do Not Be Afraid
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Dramatize the Story of the Lord's Birth
Dramatize the story of the shepherds while someone reads the story from the Word.
Activity | Ages 4 - 10

 Five Christmas Scenes
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 For Unto You Is Born This Day
A beautiful illustration of the angel Gabriel appearing to the shepherds.
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 For Unto You Stained Glass Window
A lovely picture drawn in the style of a stained glass window.
Project | Ages 4 - 14

 Glory, Peace and Good Will
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Glory to God
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Glory to God in the Highest
Beautiful coloring page of the angels appearing to the shepherds.
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Glory to God in the Highest
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Glory to God (join 2 pages together)
Join two coloring pages to make a larger version of this project, showing the angels appearing to the shepherds.
Project | Ages 7 - 17

 Good Tidings of Great Joy
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Heavenly Host of Angels Mobile
Project | Ages 4 - 10

 Host of Angels Stenciled Wall Hanging
Use the stencil to create lovely wall hanging of the host of angels.
Project | Ages 4 - 14

 Immanuel
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 In a Manger
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 In Your Hearts Make Speedy Room
Let us be like the shepherds and the wise men by making sure that there is room for the Lord in our minds and in our hearts. 
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Jesus Amazes Scholars
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Jesus Amazes the Scholars
This lesson discusses a story from the Word and suggests projects and activities for young children.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 Jesus at Twelve Years Old
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Jesus' Childhood
People are born without a set purpose and develop a purpose as they learn and choose a pathway. Jesus was born with an identity and a purpose; He had to discover His identity and become true to it.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Jesus in the Temple
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Jesus, Mary, and Joseph
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Jesus with Scholars at the Temple
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Joy in the Coming of Our Lord
Like the star that led the wise men, the truth will lead us to the Lord and make us happy. But the real joy in our lives will be when we come to the Lord offering gifts to Him, as the wise men did.
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Joy to the World the Lord Is Born
Article | Ages 7 - 14

 Looking for the Lord
Simeon was a wise, old man who had been looking for the Lord. Would he have recognized the Lord, had he not been looking for Him? What are some ways that we can look for the Lord? 
Activity | Ages over 15

 Mary and Joseph Travel to Bethlehem
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Mary and the Baby Lord
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Memory Verse: Glory of the Lord
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Memory Verse: Good Tidings of Great Joy
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Memory Verse: Unto Us a Child Is Born
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Mother and Child
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Nativity
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 No Room at the Inn
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 No Room in the Inn
Worship Talk | Ages 4 - 6

 Our Innocent Reception of the Christmas Story
All the particulars of the Christmas story are designed to raise our thoughts to the Lord as God-Man.
Article | Ages over 18

 Our Savior
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 Picture of the Angels Appearing to the Shepherds
Explains how you can depict this story with oil pastels on dark paper.
Project | Ages 7 - 10

 Pop-up Crèche Card for Christmas
A lovely project to color and assemble. Designed by Eudora Sellner Walsh.
Project | Ages 7 - 17

 Presentation at the Temple
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Presentation at the Temple
Because he was such a good man, the Lord opened Simeon's spiritual eyes so that he could see immediately that this baby was the Lord come to earth. Sample from the Jacob's Ladder Program, Level 3, for ages 8-9.
Religion Lesson | Ages 8 - 9

 Quotes: Glory of the Lord
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Quotes: Prophecies of the Advent
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Quotes: Unto Us a Child Is Born
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Scroll of Angelic Appearances in Christmas Story
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Shepherd and Lamb Stained Glass Window
Use the pattern to make a window showing a shepherd looking upward.
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Shepherding Our Children
As parents we have the opportunity and the responsibility to do what shepherds are meant to do for our children--our flock.
Article | Ages over 18

 Shepherd Ornament
Use pipe-cleaners, a wooden bead (for the head), polyfill, and fabric to make this shepherd boy.
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Shepherds Coming to See the Baby Lord Diorama
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Shepherds in the Same Country: Raising Our Children in Cooperation with the Lord
If we are blessed to be parents, the Lord has entrusted us with human lives who may become angels in heaven.
Article | Ages over 18

 Shepherds Visit Baby
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Shepherds Watching Their Flock
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Shepherds with Flock at Night
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Signs of the Lord’s Birth
Things that are precious must be protected. We wrap them up, we put them into a strong box or in a locked room. Nothing could be more precious than the infant Savior who was born that first Christmas.
Worship Talk | Ages 15 - 17

 Simeon
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 Simeon and Anna
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Simeon and Anna Witness
Simeon and Anna were led by the Spirit into the temple to witness baby Jesus. What is Jesus' birth in our lives? How and where can we witness it?
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Simeon and the Baby Lord
Simeon had waited every day in the temple, patiently for many years, for he had been told that he would not “see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”
Worship Talk | Ages 4 - 6

 Simeon Holds the Infant Lord
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Simeon: Just and Devout, Waiting
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Simeon Prophesies
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Simeon's Blessing
Simeon's blessing on the baby Lord from Luke 2 in a color border.
Picture | Ages over 15

 Standing Sheep
Use the pattern to cut out a paper sheep, then add some fluffy cotton to the sides.
Project | Ages 4 - 10

 Star Out of Jacob
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Suddenly, a Multitude
The great God of the universe took on a human nature and came down into His creation.
Worship Talk | Ages over 15

 Swaddling Clothes
A family talk describing what swaddling clothes are and how they were used in Biblical times to keep babies safe and warm.
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Angels Bring Good News
A poem about the shepherds in the Christmas story.
Activity | Ages 4 - 12

 The Angels Rejoice
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Birth of the Lord
A New Church Bible story explanation for teaching Sunday school. Includes lesson materials for Primary (3-8 years), Junior (9-11 years), Intermediate (12-14 years), Senior (15-17 years) and Adults.
Teaching Support | Ages over 3

 The Birth of the Lord
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 The Birthplace of the Lord
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Boy Jesus Amazes the Scholars
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 The Glory of the Lord
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Herald Angel
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Joy of the Angels at the Lord’s Birth
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Light Shineth in Darkness
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 The Lord Is Born
Just like the shepherds, the Lord wants you to know about this beautiful story, too.
Story | Ages 4 - 6

 The Lord’s State at Birth
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Number Twelve in the Word Crossword Puzzle
Discover times when the number twelve appears throughout the Word.
Activity | Ages 9 - 13

 The Savior and the Shepherds
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Shepherds Come
This lesson discusses a story from the Word and suggests projects and activities for young children.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The Shepherds Visit
The Word is the story of ourselves. What are our "sheep", "shepherds", and the miracle of the Lord's birth in our lives?
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 The Spread of the Lord's Word
We can be like the shepherds and others who have spread the good news as we learn about the Lord and find ways to tell people. Maybe this Christmas you can share your enjoyment of the story of the Lord’s birth with a friend or neighbor. Sample from the Jacob’s Ladder Program, Level 5, for ages 10-11.
Religion Lesson | Ages 10 - 11

 They Came With Haste
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 They Found Him in a Manger
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Those Who Saw the Lord
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Three Christmas Initial Letters
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Three Christmas Scenes
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Turned Away from the Inn
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Unto You Is Born This Day
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Where Can We Find the Lord?
There was no room for the Lord in the inn so the Lord was born in a stable and laid in a manger. Fold a piece of paper in half and picture the Lord in a manger on one half. On the other half, show where we can find the Lord—in His Word. 
Project | Ages 4 - 14

 Where The Lord Was Born
This family talk explains why the Lord wasn’t born in a special place where all the important people could find Him and why the shepherds were the first people to see the Lord. 
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Wrapped in Swaddling Clothes
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Young Jesus Amazes the Scholars
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6


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