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 Jesus Christ was also mentioned in non-Christian historical documents that have survived from that period.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.

From Swedenborg's Works

 

The Lord #6

The Lord (Dole)      

Study this Passage

Go to section / 65  

← Previous   Next →

6. Here I may add some passages that speak openly of the Lord’s Coming, as follows:

The Lord himself is giving you a sign. Behold, a virgin will conceive and bear a son, and she will call his name “God with us.” (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:22-23)

A Child has been born to us; a Son has been given to us. Leadership will be upon his shoulder; and his name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, God, Hero, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace. There will be no end of the increase of his leadership and peace, upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it in judgment and in justice from now on, even to eternity. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

A shoot will go forth from the trunk of Jesse, and a sprout from its roots will bear fruit. The spirit of Jehovah will rest upon him, a spirit of wisdom and intelligence, a spirit of counsel and strength. Justice will be a belt around his waist and truth a belt around his hips. Therefore it will happen on that day that the nations will seek the root of Jesse, the one who stands as a sign for the peoples, and glory will be his rest. (Isaiah 11:1-2, 5, 10)

Send the Lamb of the ruler of the earth from the rock by the wilderness to the mountain of the daughter of Zion. The throne has been established through mercy; he sits upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging and seeking a judgment, and hastening justice. (Isaiah 16:1, 5)

It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him to set us free. This is Jehovah; we have waited for him. Let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.” (Isaiah 25:9)

A voice of someone in the wilderness crying out, “Prepare a pathway for Jehovah; make level in the desert a highway for our God. The glory of Jehovah will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together.” Behold, the Lord Jehovih is coming in strength, and his arm will rule for him. Behold, his reward is with him. Like a shepherd he will feed his flock. (Isaiah 40:3, 5, 10-11)

My chosen one, in whom my soul has pleasure: I, Jehovah, have called you in righteousness. I will make you a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open blind eyes, and to lead the captives out of prison and those who are sitting in darkness out of the house of confinement. I am Jehovah. This is my name; I will not give my glory to another. (Isaiah 42:1, 6-8)

Who has believed our word and to whom has the arm of Jehovah been revealed? He has no form: we have seen him, but he has no beauty. He bore our diseases and carried our sorrows. (Isaiah 53:1-12)

“Who is this who is coming from Edom, with spattered garments from Bozrah, approaching in the immensity of his strength?” “I who speak justice and have the power to save, because the day of vengeance is in my heart and the year of my redeemed has arrived.” Therefore he became their Savior. (Isaiah 63:1, 4, 8)

Behold, the days are coming in which I will raise up for David a righteous branch who will rule as king, and prosper, and bring about judgment and justice on earth. And this is his name: they will call him “Jehovah our Righteousness.” (Jeremiah 23:5-6; 33:15-16)

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Sound the trumpet, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and having salvation. He will speak peace to the nations. His dominion will extend from sea to sea and from the river even to the ends of the earth. (Zechariah 9:9-10)

Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Zion! Behold, I am coming to dwell in your midst. Then many nations will be joined to Jehovah on that day and will become my people. (Zechariah 2:10-11)

As for you, Bethlehem Ephrata, as little as you are among the thousands of Judah, one will come forth from you for me who will become the ruler in Israel; his coming forth is from ancient times, from the days of eternity. He will stand firm and feed [his flock] in the strength of Jehovah. (Micah 5:2, 4)

Behold, I am sending my angel, who will prepare the way before me; and the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to his Temple, the angel of the covenant whom you desire. Behold, he is coming. But who can bear the day of his coming? Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrifying day of Jehovah comes. (Malachi 3:1-2; 4:5)

I was watching, and behold, someone like the Son of Humanity was coming with the clouds of the heavens. To him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom; and all peoples, nations, and tongues will worship him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, one that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will not perish. All dominions will worship and obey him. (Daniel 7:13-14, 27)

Seventy weeks have been allotted for your people and your holy city to put an end to sinning, to seal the vision and the prophet, and to anoint the Most Holy. Know then and understand: from [the time] the word goes forth that Jerusalem must be restored and built until [the time of] Messiah the Leader will be seven weeks. (Daniel 9:24-25)

I will place his hand on the sea and his right hand on the rivers. He will cry out to me, “You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.” I will also make him the firstborn, high above the monarchs of the earth. I will make his seed endure to eternity and his throne as the days of the heavens. (Psalms 89:25-27, 29)

Jehovah said to my Lord: “Sit at my right until I make your enemies a stool for your feet. Jehovah will send the scepter of your strength from Zion, to rule in the midst of your enemies. You are a priest forever after the manner of Melchizedek.” (Psalms 110:1-2, 4; Matthew 22:44; Luke 20:42-43)

“I have anointed [him as] my king over Zion, which is my holy mountain.” “I will proclaim concerning the statute, ‘Jehovah has said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.”’” Kiss the Son or he will become angry and you will perish on the way. Blessed are all who trust in him. (Psalms 2:6-8, 12)

You have indeed made him lack little in comparison with angels, and have crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have placed all things under his feet. (Psalms 8:5-6)

O Jehovah, be mindful of David, who swore to Jehovah, who vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob, “[God forbid] that I enter the tent of my home, go up to my bed, and grant sleep to my eyes, until I have found a place for Jehovah, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob. Behold, we have heard of him in Ephrata; we have found him in the fields of the forest. We will enter his dwelling and bow down at the stool for his feet. Let your priests be clothed with justice, and let your saints rejoice.” (Psalms 132:1-9)

But the passages cited here are only a few.

(References: Isaiah 53:1-2, 53:4-12, 53:4, 63:1-8; Luke 20:42; Matthew 1:23; Psalms 132:7, 132:9; Revelation 19:10)


Go to section / 65  

← Previous   Next →

   Study this Passage
From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

Apocalypse Revealed 472, 819

Divine Providence 172

The Lord 37

Sacred Scripture 89

Other New Christian Commentary

Thanks to the Swedenborg Foundation for the permission to use this translation.


Translate: