Looking Deeper into a Famous Christmas Prophecy

By Jason McConahy,

In this weekend’s sermon, Kevin took us through some prophecies in the book of Isaiah, showing how they were fulfilled in the birth of Christ, so that we would be drawn to worship the glory of our Savior this Christmas.  As a result, he took us through the nature of prophecy in the Bible - the pattern of promise and fulfillment.  He spoke of the various “horizons” of fulfillment, what he meant by this is that many prophecies are fulfilled on a few different levels and at different times in redemptive history.  Given the fact that the old covenant was meant to point forward to, and then give way to, the new covenant in Christ, much of the prophecy of the Old Testament has two or three levels of fulfillment: (1) a near-term fulfillment in the context of the time of the prophecy, (2) a fulfillment in the first coming of Jesus, and (3) a final fulfillment in the second coming of Christ and the eternal kingdom.  

This weekend Kevin referred to the familiar Christmas prophecy in Isaiah 7:10-16:

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign; Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” (vs. 14)  

As we know, this amazing prophecy has supernatural and wonderful fulfillment in the birth of Christ, which is the second level (or horizon) of fulfillment for this famous Old Testament prophecy.  But there was an immediate fulfillment back in Isaiah’s day that we often miss.  This prophecy was given to king Ahaz of Judah who was fearing the invasion of two kings (Damascus and Samaria).  Another part of the prophecy is that “before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.” (vs. 16)  If you keep reading in Isaiah Ch. 7 and into Ch. 8, you see how God intends to fulfill this promise in an immediate sense.  Isaiah himself will have a child with the prophetess, who at the time of this prediction was a maiden (virgin), and they will have a son (8:3).  Before that child is able to say “mommy” or “daddy”, God will have used the King of Assyria to come and destroy Damascus and Samaria (8:4).  In other words, in the amount of time it took for Isaiah and the prophetess to have a child and for the child to begin to grow, God kept His promise to Ahaz to deliver him.  God promised: (1) THAT He would deliver, (2) HOW He would deliver, and (3) WHEN He would deliver!  And we see the whole promise unfold and be fulfilled right as we read through Isaiah.  Wow!

Now, granted, this fulfillment may not seem as amazing as the virgin birth.  But let’s not overlook this first horizon of fulfillment, as it is still amazing.  It should give us such encouragement when we see God make promises and then fulfill them.  And how wonderful is it that within one prophecy we can see the various horizons that God intended?  The fact that He kept His promise to send His own son through the virgin birth, is consistent with how He has always kept His promises, including the way He fulfilled that promise more immediately to Ahaz!  

God is a promise-keeping God!  As we see so many promises fulfilled in the first coming of Jesus, let’s let Christmas point us ahead in faith that God will keep all of His promises at the second coming of Jesus!  The coming of the King in the birth of Jesus makes us long for the fulness of His Kingdom when we are with Him face-to-face for all of eternity.  

For the greatest concentration of prophecies finding a horizon of fulfillment in Jesus, consider reading the gospel of Matthew.   

Have a Merry Christmas celebrating the faithfulness of our promise-keeping God!

-Jason