How Can I Identify Messianic Prophecies in the Old Testament?

There are prophetic types and shadows all throughout the Old Testament pointing to Jesus Christ. From the tabernacle and the feasts to the offerings and the High Priest, we can identify the Messiah who was, and is and is to come.

Dawn Hill
Manger and the crosses on Calvary

There are more than 300 Old Testament prophecies fulfilled by Jesus Christ, revealing the true Messiah who would come to atone for sin and to redeem both Jew and Gentile unto Himself.

In order for Christians to identify Messianic prophecies and prophetic types and shadows within the Old Testament, it is important to be a student of the Word of God and to understand that the New Testament is needed to understand the Old Testament and vice versa.

Both the Old Testament and the New Testament testify of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament predicts the One to come. The New Testament reveals the One who has come and will come again.

You may be familiar with the account in Luke 24 where Cleopas and another disciple are walking along the road to Emmaus following the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As they walked along, Jesus drew near and began asking them questions about their conversation. Unable to recognize Jesus, they told of what had happened and of their languishing hope that He was the one to redeem Israel.

Jesus rebuked them saying, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (Luke 24:25,26).

He then went on to interpret to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself, beginning with Moses and all the Prophets (Luke 24:27).

These passages along with countless others in the New Testament are interwoven with Old Testament prophecies and types, clearly identifying Jesus Christ as the Messiah who was foretold hundreds of years before His birth.

According to Walter Kaiser, “There is no finer teacher on whether Jesus is to be found in the Old Testament than the teaching of our Lord Jesus Himself.”

Along with Luke 24, we find Jesus saying to the crowd in the Sermon on the Mount, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17).

He also rebuked the Jewish people in John 5:39 saying, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me.” Something worth noting here is that the scriptures Jesus referenced were from the Old Testament.

The Partnership of the Testaments

Identifying Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament requires reading and understanding the New Testament.

For instance, by studying and understanding the earthly life and ministry of Jesus Christ, we can recognize the scriptures that foretold of Him in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New Testament. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament partner together to point to Jesus Christ.

Details surrounding the life and ministry of Christ Jesus and Old Testament prophecy become evident when reading the New Testament. Matthew 1:22-23 quotes the prophet Isaiah concerning the virgin birth of Christ (Isaiah 7:14).

Jeremiah 31:22 foretells of Him being conceived by the Holy Spirit, and this is fulfilled in Matthew 1:20 and Luke 1:35. The place of Christ’s birth as Bethlehem is noted in two of the gospels with it first prophesied in Micah 5:1-5.

Details surrounding His ministry, such as the blind seeing and the deaf hearing (Matthew 11:5) were prophesied by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 29:18,19; Isaiah 35:5).

Psalm 78:2 says, “I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old.” We know from the New Testament that Jesus spoke many times in parables (Matthew 13:34-35:34).

The Old Testament speaks of Judas who would fulfill prophecy in betraying Christ for 30 pieces of silver (Psalm 41:9; Zechariah 11:12,13).

Several of the Psalms mention the piercing of a righteous Sufferer’s hands and feet (Psalm 22:16), soldiers casting lots for this same individual’s coat (Psalm 22:18), this One having no bones broken (Psalm 34:20), and His resurrection (Psalm 49:15).

Even the cry of Jesus Christ from the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” would have brought this Psalm to the crowd’s remembrance, recognizing its source from the Old Testament. Jesus Christ was the One in Psalm 22.

From Genesis to Malachi

In the very beginning of the Old Testament, we find the first prophecy recorded in the garden after the fall, which would tell of the Seed from a woman who would crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15).

All throughout the Old Testament, Messianic prophecies can be found pointing to Jesus Christ. According to Walter Kaiser, there are at least six direct Messianic predictions in the Pentateuch: Genesis 3:15; 9:27; 12:2-3; 49:8-12, Numbers 24:15-19, and Deuteronomy 18:15-18.

The One to come would defeat Satan, dwell with His people, and bless the nations of the earth through Abraham’s seed, which would come through Judah. He would be a star to come out of Jacob and a scepter to rise out of Israel, and He would be a prophet.

The scriptures tell us that the throne of David would be established forever, and this is prophesied in 2 Samuel 7:12,13, 1 Chronicles 17:11-14, and 2 Chronicles 21:7.

The promised Redeemer is mentioned in Job 19:25-27. A priest like Melchizedek is noted in Psalm 110:1-7. Proverbs 30:4 declares the Son of God.

The prophets of the Old Testament foretold of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Isaiah proclaimed more prophecies concerning Christ than anyone, particularly the well-known verses in Isaiah 53.

A description of the New Covenant brought forth by Christ is described in Jeremiah 31:31-34. Ezekiel 34:23 says, “I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd.”

This is referring to the Messiah, the Good Shepherd. Daniel speaks of His everlasting Kingdom (Daniel 7:13,14).

As we continue on with the minor prophets, we see Messianic prophecies of Israel’s restoration (Hosea 3:5), the promise of the Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28-32), the establishment of the Kingdom (Micah 4:1-8), the Lamb on the throne (Zechariah 2:10-13), a heavenly High Priest (Zechariah 6:12,13), and the light of the world (Malachi 4:2,3).

These are but a fraction of the Old Testament prophecies proclaiming the Messiah, Jesus Christ, and these prophecies are fulfilled through Jesus Christ and found within the gospels, Romans, Acts, the Epistles, and Revelation.

According to The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, the early church held the responsibility of showing how the Old Testament prophecies pointed to Jesus and that He came into the world as the Son of David, “a title closely linked with the Messiah as a royal person.”

The early church would rely on the Old Testament to minister the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to testify of Him.

What Does This Mean?

There are prophetic types and shadows all throughout the Old Testament pointing to Jesus Christ. From the tabernacle and the feasts to the offerings and the High Priest, we can identify the Messiah who was, and is and is to come.

The importance of staying in the Word of God, understanding the New Testament and its harmony with the Old Testament, cannot be overemphasized. To understand one is to understand the other, and they both testify of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/jchizhe


C.com authorDawn Hill is a Christian blogger known as The Lovesick Scribe and the host of The Lovesick Scribe Podcast. She is passionate about sharing the truth and pointing others back to Jesus Christ through the written Word as the standard of authority for Christian living and instruction while being led by the Holy Spirit into maturity. She is the author of NonProphet Woke: The Reformation of a Modern-Day Disciple. She is a wife to Nicholas and a mother to Anabel and Ephraim. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram


Originally published December 14, 2020.