When Jesus was born of Mary in Bethlehem this was the fulﬁlment of age-long divine promises at the “midpoint” between distinct eras (BC/AD). The Messiah (Hebrew: Anointed One or, in Greek: Christos) was to receive universal dominion as God’s supreme Servant-King. Many facets of Jesus’ life and ministry were foretold or foreshadowed in prophecy, including his cruciﬁxion, burial and resurrection (eg. Psalm 22; Isaiah 53). Here we focus upon other aspects of his ﬁrst advent,
Primaeval Promises: In the temptation narrative of Genesis 3: speaking to the serpent, God announced the protoevangelium – i.e. the earliest promise of the Gospel: Eve will become the progenitor of One who will deliver a mortal blow to the serpent’s head: “I will put enmity … between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel.”
Abraham receives promises of blessing: Genesis chapters 12, 15, 17-25 tell how God called a man named Abram, a citizen of Ur of the Chaldees near the Persian Gulf. The LORD said to Abram: “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you … And all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” This was all part of God’s plan to create the nation, culture and society of Israel within which the line of descent would lead to Jesus.
Israel in Egypt; the Exodus; desert wanderings and entry into the promised land. During this extensive period, narrated in Exodus through to Judges, messianic promise was developed – via typical deliverances from bondage and by the structural symbolism of the Tabernacle, or Tent of Meeting. This foreshadowed the later Temple in Jerusalem and ultimately the Temple of Christ’s body.
The historical books of Samuel and Chronicles: These books develop the theme of kingship, notably in the lives of David and Solomon. The future character of the Messianic king Jesus is foreshadowed by contrast with their sins and deﬁciencies. In 2 Samuel 7: God promises to King David: “I will establish a house for you: … I will raise up your o‑spring to succeed you … and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. … Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” This promise received partial fulﬁlment in Solomon, but ultimate fulﬁlment in great David’s greater Son
Prophecy in Psalms, Isaiah, Micah and Daniel: Extensive Messianic promises are found in the Psalms, beginning with Psalm 2: “You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.”
Some of the best-known Messianic prophecies are found in Isaiah 7:14; 9:2, 6f; 11: 1-11:
“The Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel”.
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light”.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders … Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it …”.
“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him”.
And through Isaiah’s contemporary, Micah (5:2), the character – as Shepherd king – and location of Messiah’s advent was speciﬁed. “But you, Bethlehem …out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old”.
Finally, amongst the mysterious prophecies recorded in Daniel, (9: 20-27) during the Exile in Babylon, there is an indication (duration is expressed in multiple “sevens” of years) of the approximate time of the advent of the Anointed One (= Messiah) and the subsequent destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, in AD 70. The Gospel According to Matthew (2: 1-12) records the visit to the Christ-child of the star-led Magi from the East (or Babylon) who were probably familiar with the prophetic elements of Daniel.
Likewise, the faithfulness of God in fulﬁlling his age-long promises remains our comfort and joy throughout times of trouble.