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Monday, February 28, 2011

NT Use of OT Part 6: Literal Prophetic Fulfillment

On many occasions the NT writers used the OT to indicate a literal fulfillment of something explicitly promised or predicted in the OT in verbal form. Thus, what was explicitly promised in the OT is now said to be fulfilled in the NT. We can call this category of OT usage "Literal Prophetic Fulfillment." This category is usually accepted by most Evangelicals and is one of the least controversial of the categories. Since the examples of Literal Prophetic Fulfillment are numerous we will have to document these cases in multiple blog entries. Below are nine such cases:

Matt 2:4-6 / Micah 5:2  
"Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:
   ‘AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH,
         ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH;
         FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER
         WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL."


This is a straightforward literal fulfillment of an OT passage. Micah 5:2 predicts that the ruler of Israel would come from Bethlehem and this is fulfilled with Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem just as Micah predicted. The chief priests and scribes understood Micah 5:2 literally which is why they could declare to Herod that the Ruler would come from Bethlehem.

Matt 3:3 / Isa 40:3 
"For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said,
         ‘THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS,
         ‘MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD,
         MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!’"


This is a literal fulfillment of Isa 40:3. Isaiah 40 predicts future blessings for Israel including "her warfare has ended" and "her iniquity has been removed" (40:2). It is also tied to the "glory of the LORD" being "revealed (40:5). John the Baptist literally fulfills the prophecy that there would be a "voice" who would be "crying in the wilderness" preparing the way for the Lord.

Mark 1:2-3 /Mal 3:1 and Isa 40:3 
"As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
         ‘BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER AHEAD OF YOU,
         WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY;
     THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS,
         'MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD,
         MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT.’"


Mark combines quotations from Malachi 3:1 and Isa 40:3 to indicate that John the Baptist is the direct prophetic fulfillment of OT prophecy in which a "messenger" and a "voice" would come to "make ready the way of the Lord."

John 1:23 
"He [John the Baptist] said, ‘I am A VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD,’ as Isaiah the prophet said."

Here the priests and Levites came to John the Baptist asking him who he was. John the Baptist quotes Isa 40:3 to indicate that he is not the Christ but the one who prepared the way for the Christ.

Matt 4:13-16 / Isa 9:1-2 
"and leaving Nazareth, He [Jesus] came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali.
 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet:
    ‘THE LAND OF ZEBULUN AND THE LAND OF NAPHTALI,
         BY THE WAY OF THE SEA, BEYOND THE JORDAN, GALILEE OF THE GENTILES--‘THE PEOPLE WHO WERE SITTING IN DARKNESS SAW A GREAT LIGHT, AND THOSE WHO WERE SITTING IN THE LAND AND SHADOW OF DEATH, UPON THEM A LIGHT DAWNED.’"


Matthew is highlighting Jesus’ ministry to Gentile regions, which is quite striking since the Messiah is from Israel. But Messiah’s ministry of going to Gentiles was predicted in the OT. Jesus quotes Isa 9:1-2 to discuss this mission to the Gentiles. Isaiah 9 is a messianic chapter, especially verses 6-7 which speak of a future child that will be born who will rule over Israel. He is the "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:1-2 predicted blessings to Zebulun and Naphtali. With Jesus’ coming and ministry to Gentiles, Isaiah’s prophecy has been literally fulfilled. Again, we have Literal Prophetic Fulfillment.

Matt 8:16-17 / Isa 53:4 
"When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: ‘HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASES.’"

This is a literal fulfillment of Isa 53:4 in which it was predicted that the suffering Servant would bear the sicknesses and carry the pains of His people. Jesus brought spiritual salvation and physical healing with His kingdom ministry and both are part of His ministry.

Matt 11:2-5 / Isa 35:5 and Isa 61:1 
"Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, ‘Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Go and report to John what you hear and see: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM.’"

John the Baptist, startled and perhaps discouraged with his imprisonment, wants verification that Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus responds in the affirmative by appealing to the OT’s teaching that the messianic era is associated with miracles and proclamation to the poor. Isa 35:5 may be the context for the blind receiving sight reference. Isa 61:1 also may be the context for the poor having the gospel preached to them. The context of Isa 35 is heavily messianic and eschatological as it describes Israel’s future blessings. The coming of Messiah means recovery of sight to the blind as well as other physical blessings. Isa 61:1 is also heavily eschatological. This verse is a literal fulfillment of these messianic texts and others which speak of the Messiah’s ministry of physical and spiritual deliverance.

Matt 11:10 / Mal 3:1 
"This is the one about whom it is written,
         ‘BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER AHEAD OF YOU,
         WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY BEFORE YOU.’"


The reference here is to Mal 3:1 which is an eschatological passage. John the Baptist literally fulfills Mal 3:1.

Matt 12:15-21 / Isa 42:1-4 
"But Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. Many followed Him, and He healed them all, and warned them not to tell who He was.
 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet:
    ‘BEHOLD, MY SERVANT WHOM I HAVE CHOSEN;
         MY BELOVED IN WHOM MY SOUL is WELL-PLEASED;
         I WILL PUT MY SPIRIT UPON HIM,
         AND HE SHALL PROCLAIM JUSTICE TO THE GENTILES.
    ‘HE WILL NOT QUARREL, NOR CRY OUT;
         NOR WILL ANYONE HEAR HIS VOICE IN THE STREETS.
    ‘A BATTERED REED HE WILL NOT BREAK OFF,
         AND A SMOLDERING WICK HE WILL NOT PUT OUT,
         UNTIL HE LEADS JUSTICE TO VICTORY.
    ‘AND IN HIS NAME THE GENTILES WILL HOPE.’"


Matthew’s citation of Isa 42:1-4 is the longest OT passage cited in Matthew. Matthew declares that Jesus fulfills Isa 42:1-4 which is a passage about who the Servant of the Lord is and what He will do. First, this "Servant" is God’s "Beloved" who will have God’s Spirit placed upon Him. Second, He will do his ministry in gentleness which is in contrast to the hostile intentions of the Jewish religious leaders who in 12:14 were said to be conspiring against Him to destroy Him. Third, His ministry will bring hope to the Gentiles, thus recognizing a positive response of Gentiles to His ministry. All of these predictions were fulfilled with Jesus.

In a future blog entry I will document other cased of Literal Prophetic Fulfillment.

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