The storyline of redemption unfolds throughout the Holy Scriptures and reveals God’s intent to reconcile people to Himself and establish His kingdom on earth. With each turn of the page we find a piece of His plan fall into place, His promises kept, and His prophecies fulfilled. The book of Isaiah is one of the clearest depictions of all Scripture being divinely inspired and breathed by God (2 Timothy 3:16). This prophetic book contains specific elements of prophecy that were inarguably fulfilled over the hundreds of years following its original transcription. Not only was the prophecy fulfilled in the lifetime of the prophet and in the kingdoms following his lifetime, but also the Messiah who came fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecies exactly as described.
In this paper we will look specifically at the passages in Isaiah that speak of the coming Messiah and the way his words were fulfilled in the New Testament by Jesus Christ. He was the Word of God spoken into existence to fulfill the promises of God (John 1:1). We can stand firm in our belief that God was orchestrating the words of Isaiah to give not only Israel, but also the world, hope of a coming King that would be blameless and able to take away the sins of the world (Isaiah 9:7). Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would come, how He would come, what He would do when He came, and how He would die.
The Promises that Jesus Would Come
Before we can understand the specific prophecies about how the Messiah would come, we must acknowledge the passages that speak to the fact that God would send such a Messiah to earth. In Isaiah 9:6-7 and 22:22 the prophet tells us that the Messiah would “rule on the throne of David and over his kingdom” and the “Keys would be given to Him.” The fact that the Messiah would come from the line of David was a promise of God upheld all throughout the Old Testament and then proven upon Christ’s birth in the New Testament. In Luke 1:32–33 Jesus was described as the promised Messiah, stating that the “Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” The Messiah was also foretold in Isaiah to be from the root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1-2, 10), also fulfilled in Christ by being from the line of David (Luke 1:32-33). The spirit of the Lord was to rest on this ruler as ordained by God (Luke 3:21-22); in so much as the provision of the Spirit, coupled with the providential reign of Christ on the throne of David, proved true the promises of God given in the book of Isaiah.
The Promises of How Jesus Would Come
God specified through Isaiah that a Messiah would come, but He was very clear about how He would arrive. The words of Isaiah about His birth and His death are seemingly some of the clearest and most specific passages in Isaiah about the coming King. We were told that He would be the Son of God (Isaiah 9:6-7) and sinless (Isaiah 53:9, 1 Peter 2:22). He was not of the seed of Adam but born from a virgin (Matthew 1:18-23, Luke 1:26-35), just as Isaiah prophesied (Isaiah 7:14). This is significant because Jesus is the only instance of an immaculate conception born to a virgin. Therefore, at the very beginning of His life, before any other foretold elements of His ministry were accomplished, we are given the indisputable proof that Christ is indeed the promised Messiah who had come to rule and save the people.
The Promises of What Jesus Would Do When He Came
The prophet Isaiah was very specific about what Jesus would do when He came to earth. An element of His ministry that is clearly described in the passages of the Old Testament prophet was that there would be a forerunner to call the modern world’s attention to the coming Messiah (Isaiah 40:3-5). In the gospels this forerunner came, namely John the Baptist (Matthew 3:3, Mark 1:3, Luke 3:4, John 1:23). After John the Baptist fulfilled this prophecy, Jesus arrived on the scene as the chosen Servant of the Lord (Matthew 12:15-21), just as the prophet Isaiah had said in chapter 42:1-4. As we read the gospel accounts of Christ we see that the Jews and others struggled with Christ’s claim of being from God and to be the chosen servant called to save the world. The contemporary rulers of Jesus’ day saw him as a “stumbling block” and “offensive” (1 Peter 2:7-8). Though this was hard for His disciples to accept, or the modern day students of the Bible to read, we knew this was going to happen according to what Isaiah had written (Isaiah 8:14). They rejected Him as the given Messiah from God and therefore did not accept the salvation offered to them. This also is not a surprise because Isaiah (6:9-10) told us people would not listen, perceive, and understand. Without fail, we can see in all four gospels that people did not accept the gift of God in Christ Jesus (Matthew 13, Mark 4:12, Luke 8:10, John 12).
In addition to the specifics about how the Messiah would come, we are told where he would do his ministry. Isaiah foretold of Christ’s ministry to commence in Galilee (Isaiah 9:1-2). Just as it was written, Christ came and ‘brought light to the dark place on the other side of the Jordan, in Galilee’. Matthew 4:13-16 quotes Isaiah word for word in reference to Jesus’ ministry. Two of the other gospels give specific reference to Christ coming to Galilee and beginning His ministry (Mark 1:14-15, Luke 4:14-15). He came to call both Jew and Gentile to salvation and reconciliation to God (Romans 15:12), just as we were told (Isaiah 11:10). His ministries in Galilee, as well as the other places He visited, were laced with miracles (Luke 7:22, Matthew 11:4-6). We knew He would do such things because Isaiah told us over 800 years prior (Isaiah 35:5-6).
The Prophecies and Promises of the Messiah’s Death
The original readers of Isaiah, and hearer of His prophecy, were surely comforted by the thought that a chosen one of God would be sent. It would have been easy to believe in the statements about how He would come and where He would live, yet difficult to interpret the statements about how He would die. Isaiah made many specific comments about the death of the Messiah that were fulfilled by Christ’s death on the cross. After the final supper with the disciples, Jesus was captured and scourged as He underwent trial and waited for His execution. Isaiah had said prophetic statements of the Messiah’s beating such as, “I gave My back to those who strike Me, and My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting” (Isaiah 50:6). All this came to pass as Jesus was ridiculed (Matthew 27:26-30), spit upon (Mark 15:19, Matthew 26:67), beaten and mocked (Luke 22:63), and scourged along His path to the cross (John 19:1).
This suffering servant foretold to us through Isaiah (Isaiah 53:7-8) was confirmed to be Jesus, not only by John the Baptist (John 1:29, 36), but also by Philip’s testimony to the man who was reading Isaiah in Acts 8:30-35. When Philip was asked specifically who this prophet Isaiah was speaking of when it said that the “Lamb would be taken like a sheep to the slaughter,” Philip “began from the scripture [in Isaiah] and preached Jesus to Him” (Acts 8:35). Upon His death, Jesus took on the sins of the world (Luke 22:37), which was a promised event prognosticated by Isaiah (Isaiah 53:12) for the salvation of mankind.
In conclusion, we are able to see that God does keep His promises. This fact is most clearly displayed for us in Christ as proclaimed prior to His earthly ministry in the book of Isaiah. Surely the rest of the world can rejoice with Israel, as we have been able to witness the statements of Isaiah come to pass in Christ. We have been reconciled to God through His son Jesus Christ if we have saving faith in the work He accomplished exactly the way it was prescribed for Him. We can rest assured that even the future promises of Christ’s return, including that every knee will bow before Him (Isaiah 45:23), will come true in the final days (Romans 14:11, Philippians 2:10).
(For a PDF version of this paper, click here: Weidmann, The Messiah in the Book of Isaiah Paper)