Christmas: Prophecy and Fulfillment
by Derek Thomas
The Bible has a fondness for the number seven. For example, there are seven creation days, and Joshua and his men marched around Jericho seven times. And then, the book of Revelation features seven letters written by Jesus to seven churches, as well as seven seals, seven bowls, and seven trumpets. Seven, then, is often referred to as a “perfect number.” Even the infamous number 666 is alluding to the fact that it is not 777.
Matthew employs the number seven in the first section of his gospel (Matt. 1:17–4:17). As he describes the birth of Jesus and the period before Jesus begins to preach, he cites seven Old Testament fulfillments: the child, Jesus, is born of a virgin (1:22–23); His birth is in the city of Bethlehem (2:5–6); the flight to Egypt and the consequent return (2:15); the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem (2:17–18); the home-base of Nazareth (2:23); the ministry of the forerunner, John the Baptist (3:1–3); and the start of Jesus’ ministry in the northern regions, where people who walked in darkness saw a great light (4:13–14). Careful checking of each of these seven events will reveal Old Testament prophecies fulfilled.
Christmas, and what follows, lies deep in the Old Testament. At every turn, Jesus was fulfilling a role that was shaped by more than a millennium of prediction. No aspect of the Messiah’s ministry of redemption was without anticipatory reflection. At the moment of Jesus’ birth, the entire scope and focus of the Old Testament came into sharp relief: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law” (Gal. 4:4).
Our salvation is something God has been planning for a very long time—outside of time, to be exact: in the counsels of eternity, in a covenant that was made between the three persons of the Trinity, namely, the so-called covenant of redemption. Scripture speaks of the Lamb as “slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). The second psalm seems to depict a pre-temporal account of the terms of the covenant established between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:
I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” (Ps. 2:7–9)
From eternity, the Lord has loved His people. Christmas is the visible demonstration of it; Calvary, the cost of it; resurrection and ascension, the triumph and effectiveness of it. Little wonder, then, that creatures surrounding the Lamb’s throne in heaven exclaim, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev. 5:12)—a sevenfold blessing.