As a kid I remember counting down the days till Christmas. Every flap I opened on the advent calendar brought me one step closer to my favorite celebration of the year. Sometimes it felt like I had to wait forever for that blessed morning.
Christmas is when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Son of God. Historically, the first Christians did have to wait for what felt like an eternity. As Jews, they’d grown up hearing the prophecies of the messiah — ancient texts passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years. Through centuries of oppression under foreign rulers, they waited and hoped for the day a savior would be born to deliver them. They waited and waited and waited, and then Jesus was born in a humble animal stable about 2,000 years ago.
But many did not see Jesus as the fulfillment of those prophecies. They were looking for a political ruler, not a crucified religious teacher. Despite his hundreds of miracles and his profound teaching, most of his own people wrote him off as a false messiah — another pretender, a disappointment.
But when Jesus rose from the dead and showed himself, flesh and bone, to hundreds of people, his followers began to look to the ancient prophecies for answers. They discovered that God had sent the messiah — that the ancient prophecies actually made more sense now. Instead of requiring the messiah to match the mold of a military ruler, they trusted God’s wisdom in having the true savior conquer evil through his humble, sacrificial death.
The Bible has several prophecies that describe the coming messiah. Some even depict how he would die a sacrificial death for the salvation of others. Here are seven of those prophecies. You may notice some curious or even compelling congruences with the life of Jesus.
1. Virgin birth foretold
(over 600 years before)
The Gospel of Luke records how a young virgin named Mary miraculously conceived a child through the action of the Holy Spirit after being visited by an angel and without being intimate with a man. This was foretold in Isaiah 7:14: Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Immanuel means “God with us. Jesus told His disciples, “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:7). Jesus was referring to Himself as “God with them.”
2. Birthplace foreknown
(over 700 years before)
In the Gospel of Luke we can also read about Jesus’ humble birth in Bethlehem. The prophet Micah predicted that the messiah would be born there: "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times" (Micah 5:2).
3. Ancestry predetermined
(over 500 years before)
Jeremiah 23:5 says the messiah will be from the lineage of King David: “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.” The first chapter of the New Testament traces Jesus’ ancestry all the way back to David.
4. Divine qualities foretold
(over 600 years before)
At the age of 30, Jesus began his public ministry of miracles and teaching. He shocked people by claiming to be the Son of God (Matthew 16:16-17) and to have all authority from God (Matthew 28:18). These remarkable qualities were spoken of hundreds of years prior by the prophet Isaiah: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6).
5. Kingly entry into Jerusalem described
(over 400 years before)
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, he was riding a donkey on a carpet of palm branches laid down by the crowd. Zechariah 9:9 foretold that the messiah would enter Jerusalem on such an animal: "Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
6. Crucifixion detailed
(approximately 1,000 years before)
But it didn’t take long for the crowds to turn against Jesus. They mocked him viciously as soldiers arrested, whipped, and nailed him to rough planks of wood. Though severely beaten and crucified, not one of his bones were broken. And after his death, the soldiers ripped his cloak apart to gamble for its pieces (John 19:33-36 and John 19:24). It’s striking how clearly these details of Jesus’ death are foretold in Psalm 22:16-18: "Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment."
7. Significance of Jesus’ death described
(over 600 years before)
Many Christians say Isaiah 53 is the clearest prophecy of Jesus’ death. This excerpt even expresses the Christian belief that the messiah died to pay for the consequences of our wrongdoing, so that we could make peace with God and receive his complete forgiveness.
"But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:5-6).
Is this mere coincidence?
Or course, some people do find ways to explain away these prophecies. There are a lot of ways to interpret the same thing if you’re determined to make it match what you believe (or don’t want to believe). That’s why I look at them as a whole and ask, “Is there a compelling picture here?” When I add up all these prophecies written hundreds of years before the events and examine who Jesus was, they don’t come off to me as mere coincidence or the result of Christians playing games with the ancient texts. It’s quite curious how the details in these prophecies match so closely what was recorded about Jesus hundreds of years later.
I would encourage you to open up your heart to the possibility that Jesus is the messiah. You may discover that he is the most amazing person to have ever lived. His legacy lives on like no other, and it’s not because he demonstrated political cunning or military might; it’s because each year, millions more experience their lives transformed by how he lived, died, and rose again over two millennia ago. This is the message of hope we celebrate at Christmas.
Jesus is alive and real today, inviting you to experience true forgiveness, cleansing, and peace through him. If you want to experience that, just take these steps:
- Tell God you are sorry for your sins — that you are tired of making yourself the focus of your choices rathen than following his will.
- Affirm that Jesus died to pay for the consequences of your selfishness.
- Believe that Jesus was resurrected from the dead to offer you hope of a new life with him.
- Turn control of your life over to God. Then, you can embrace his destiny for your life.
You can use your own words or this simple prayer to start a new life with God:
“God, I’ve made my life about me for far too long. I believe that Jesus lived and died to free me from my selfishness. Please forgive my sins. I want to make my life all about you. Thank you that Jesus didn’t stay dead. You raised him to eternal life and seated him at your right hand. I invite you to resurrect me from my destructive ways and show me how to love like Jesus. I want your destiny for my life. Amen.”