A Few Thoughts On Prophecy – Part Four

By Alfred Bouter

“That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses.’” —Matthew 8:17 NKJV

Application Or Fulfillment – An Important Difference
In many prophetic writings the prophets spoke using past tense, speaking of coming events as if they were already accomplished. This emphasized the certainty of those events.

Hebrew grammar is different from English in many ways – its tense is reckoned by the context. For example, if a prophet spoke about a future healing using the past tense it is because the prophet saw himself in the future, and looking back he described how the Messiah suffered and with what results. Consider what was written hundreds of years before Christ died: “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:4-5).

With the grammar differences in mind we need to distinguish between the application of a prophecy, as in Matthew 8:17, and its true fulfillment, as found in 1 Peter 2-3. When we don’t follow these scriptural rules we get confused and mix things up. True, Matthew used the word “fulfilled,” but he used at the same time several means to help us differentiate between the various “categories” of Scripture quotations and their fulfillment:

  1. Literal prophecy + literal fulfillment (see the end of Mt. 2:5);
  2. Literal prophecy + typical fulfillment (read Mt. 2:15);
  3. Literal prophecy + application (consider the end of Mt. 2:17);
  4. Literal prophecy + summary of a theme in prophecy (in several Scriptures, such as Mt. 2:23).

Many fail to understand that the full benefits of Christ’s sufferings on the cross and His accomplished work, namely the atonement (category 1), will be experienced by Israel as a nation only after the resurrection and rapture of the believers living in the present day of grace (see Heb. 11:40).

Furthermore, during the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus, physical healing was a visual aid, an object lesson, to draw attention to Himself (categories 2-4). Being human, Yeshua (Jesus) feelingly identified with those persons. He wanted the Jewish people to see the implied message concerning who He was and why He had come (see Mt. 9:1-6). The Lord’s comments in Nazareth’s synagogue established the general point that there cannot be any fulfillment of prophecy (Lk. 4:16-21) when it is detached from Him, for He is the Center, Object and Essence of prophecy. Let’s also remember that physical healing, as a sign miracle, is not occurring today (read Heb. 2:3-4), even though healings may occur today by God’s grace (Jas. 5:14-16).

Some Prophecies Fulfilled In Messiah’s 1st & 2nd Coming 
The following list gives further impressions of how it is impossible that all these prophecies would be fulfilled in connection with one and the same Person. Yet, this is what Scripture teaches with respect to the Messiah. The exactness with which many prophecies have been fulfilled in regard to His first coming guarantees that the other prophecies will be fulfilled as well.

Brief Summary Of Fulfilled Prophecies
About Messiah’s First Coming
1. The Messiah Would Be Born In Bethlehem.
2. The Messiah Would Be Born Of A Virgin.
3. The Messiah Would Be A Prophet Like Moses.
4. The Messiah Would Be Tempted By Satan.
5. The Messiah Would Enter Jerusalem Triumphantly.
6. The Messiah Would Be Rejected By His Own People.
7. The Messiah Would Be Betrayed By One Of His Followers.
8. The Messiah Would Be Betrayed For 30 Pieces Of Silver.
9. The Messiah Would Be Tried And Condemned.
10. The Messiah Would Be Silent Before His Accusers.
11. The Messiah Would Be Smitten And Spat Upon. 
12. The Messiah Would Be Mocked And Taunted.
13. The Messiah Would Be Crucified, With Pierced Hands And Feet.
14. The Messiah Would Suffer With Sinners.
15. The Messiah’s Garments Would Be Divided By Casting Lots.
16. The Messiah’s Bones Would Not Be Broken.
17. The Messiah Would Die As A Sin Offering. 
18. The Messiah Would See His Seed. 
19. The Messiah Would Be Buried In A Rich Man’s Tomb. 
20. The Messiah Would Be Raised From The Dead. 
21. The Messiah Would Sit At God’s Right Hand.

Search the Scriptures for these prophecies. Some are clearer than others. Nevertheless, the final verdict is unmistakable. Study the typology of the tabernacle, Moses, Joseph and others. See how many of the Old Testament characters, places and objects were prophetic pictures of Messiah.

“His Own Did Not Receive Him” (Jn. 1:11) 
Even though only a few Old Testament passages foreshadow the rejection of the Messiah, each one reveals important facts about Him. When considered together, they give an overall portrayal of our Messiah’s rejection and the purpose of it.

• Rejection by builders. People in a responsible position are the very ones who refused to accept the Messiah, as seen in Psalm 118. This psalm is a hymn of worship and praise, which was sung while a group of priests approached the Lord’s house in order to offer a sacrifice. The sacrificial system was meaningful because it revealed God’s messianic plan of salvation as illustrated by this psalm. Each part expressed something of the messianic theme as worshipers approached, entered the house of God, offered the sacrifice and thanked God for His mercy. “Save now” (v.25), recorded in the Gospels as “Hosanna,” is a plea to be saved by the Messiah.

In the midst of this praise, Psalm 118 makes a startling declaration: “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner” (v.22 KJV). The head stone, or capstone, holds a structure together. Therefore, it is the most crucial part of the building, upon which everything else depends. Yet the psalmist stated that the builders refused this stone. It is common biblical usage for “a stone” to represent the Davidic royal line, and it is a messianic term. Accordingly, this statement indicates that the Messiah was to be rejected by those in a position of responsibility.

Although the builders as a whole rejected the Messiah, anyone who believes in Him will be saved. Isaiah 28:16 explains, “Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.”

• An offence. Unfortunately, prophecy reveals that the longed-for Messiah will be a cause of offence, so some will stumble. Isaiah 8:13-15 shows this dilemma. The Lord of Hosts is to be viewed with reverence (v.13). Yet He will prove to be a stone of stumbling, a rock of offence for both houses of Israel (v.14), that is, Israel and Judah. There will be many who fall in this way (v.15).

• Despised. Scripture indicates that the Messiah would be faced with hideous rejection. “He is despised and rejected of men” (53:3). The “men” spoken of here include the very people who anticipated the coming Messiah. That is why Isaiah, speaking later in this same verse as one of the people of Israel, says that “He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.”

By contrast, let us esteem, holding in the highest regard, our precious Savior!