Here’s a quiz question: When Jesus came riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, was he received as (a) the long awaited Messiah, or (b) a prophet? It might surprise you, but the answer is (b):
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet…” (Matt. 21:10-11)
The Judeans recognized Jesus as the prophet of God and we think, “He was much more than that. Jesus is the Son of God.” Yet the Judeans weren’t wrong – Jesus was a prophet and a remarkable one at that.
These days just about anyone can call themselves a prophet and we don’t think much of it. But in Biblical times there was a high standard: To be a prophet of God meant prophesying with 100% accuracy (Deu. 18:20-22). If someone prophecies or foretells an event that doesn’t come to pass, they weren’t speaking for God, because God never lies.
In scripture, Jesus is called the prophet. He is the ultimate Prophet to whom the other prophets pointed. Yet in nearly 50 years of church-going I don’t think I’ve ever heard a sermon entitled “Jesus the Prophet.” Have you? Perhaps it’s because we think the label is demeaning. “Better to call him Lord than prophet.” But if we paid more attention to the prophecies of Jesus the Prophet, we would be less susceptible to the misleading claims of false prophets.
Jesus said it. It happened. That settles it.
Jesus predicted many remarkable things that we miss because we don’t know history. When I was doing the research for my AD70 book, I dug deep into the events of the first-century and was regularly struck with the thought, “This is exactly what Jesus said would happen!”
Obscure prophecies, like the one about the eagles gathering around the carcass (Matt. 24:28), seem strange to us. We have no idea what Jesus was talking about. But his meaning would have been perfectly obvious to a Judean living in the first century.
It’s the same when Jesus is talking about shortened days and fleeing to the mountains. These prophecies seem mysterious to us, but those who heard them and saw them fulfilled knew exactly what was going on. The prophecies of Jesus were as plain as day and those who heeded them were saved by them.
You probably know that Jesus predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, but what you may not know is that Jesus painted a very detailed picture of when, where, and how that destruction would unfold. He was not vague. In fact, Jesus made no less than 40 predictions in connection with that event – that’s 40 signposts even Blind Freddy could see. Yet we don’t see the signposts because they are obscured by the mists of time.
Take this signpost for example: Jesus said that when the temple fell, “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light” (Matt. 24:29). What was he talking about? Lacking a frame of reference we supply our own. “Jesus was talking about astronomy.” Nope. Jesus was describing a political event using the same language adopted by Old Testament prophets such as Isaiah (13:10) and Ezekiel (32:7). He was saying the lights were about to go out on Jerusalem and the old temple system. This interpretation would have been perfectly obvious to a Jew raised on the Jewish scriptures (the Old Testament).
Why does this matter?
Last year several prominent ministries predicted that “something big” would happen in September 2017. Few actually said Jesus would return or that we would be raptured, but those are the sorts of things implied by “something big.” It was an exciting prophecy, repeated countless times on social media.
Yet September came and nothing happened. Jesus did not return. There was no rapture, no antichrist, no Armageddon.
The prognosticators were wrong. This should not surprise us. Those who force-fit contemporary events to scriptures meant for another generation are wrong 100% of the time. Yet the market for bad predictions thrives because people love this sensational stuff. Write a book on blood moons or make a rapture movie and you’ll find a ready audience. In the absence of good prophecies, bad ones thrive.
It is not my intent to badmouth anyone, but if we spent as much time studying the prophecies of Jesus as we did listening to end times’ doomsayers, we wouldn’t listen to end times’ doomsayers. If we were better acquainted with the truth of what Jesus said we would not be conned by eschatological hucksters.
Last year was a bad year for the self-proclaimed prophets, but I guarantee it’s only a matter of time before the next false prophecy comes along to seduce and unsettle you. How can you protect yourself from these distractions? You may say, “I’ve been fooled before, but I now I know better.” But each new prophecy sounds convincing. It seems to fit the scriptures and the times. “That last one was wrong, but this one seems spot on. Take my money!”
People hijack or misinterpret Christ’s prophecies because they don’t know history. Their ignorance of the past leads them to make wrong predictions about the future. Christ’s prophecies save lives, but bad prophecies hurt people and embarrass the church. To help you tell the difference, here is a table listing 40 fulfilled prophecies made by Jesus in connection with the destruction of Jerusalem. (Click the image below for a larger version.) The stories behind each fulfilled prophecy, along with citations to the original source material, can be found in my AD70 book. I encourage you to check them out. The stories are stunning and will leave you in awe of Jesus the Prophet.
These 40 fulfilled prophecies are a sign to make you wonder. Eusebius, the father of church history, said they were “truly divine and marvelously strange.” They are proof that the Son of God sees the end from the beginning. But more than that, they reveal the caring heart of Jesus.
Jesus could have said nothing about Jerusalem’s dark future. He could have come and died on the cross and left it at that. But as he wandered the streets of Jerusalem, a great ache caused him to speak up again and again. Even as he bore the cross to Calvary he stopped to prophesy about the tragedy he saw coming (see Luke 23:28-29).
“Pretty table, Paul. But I don’t believe these 40 signs had anything to do with the fall of Jerusalem.” You have the luxury of believing that, but first-century Judeans who dismissed the 40 signs paid a high price. Within 40 years, every one of the Lord’s 40 prophecies had been fulfilled. Those who heeded them lived; those who didn’t died brutal deaths.
The 40 fulfilled prophecies were for then, but they also encourage us now. These ancient prophecies leave us in awe of a good Savior who cares enough to speak into our lives. Here’s the lesson: Those who hear and believe Jesus will live. It was true then and it’s remains true today.
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