What Old Testament Prophecies Predicted Jesus and the Cross?

Jesus’ atoning sacrifice, the situation surrounding the crucifixion, the means of His death, and His last words all fulfill major Old Testament prophecies that are scattered throughout the Law, Psalms, and Prophets. Jesus is truly the promised Messiah of the Old Testament.

Contributing Writer
Apr 13, 2021
What Old Testament Prophecies Predicted Jesus and the Cross?

The entire Bible points to Jesus Christ. Although Jesus is more visible in the New Testament, the Old Testament is also ultimately about Him as well (Luke 24:27).

In the Old Testament, there are estimated to be hundreds of prophecies about Jesus, including passages that allude to or prefigure Jesus.

These prophecies point to His Messiahship, deity, and character. Many different prophecies also speak of Jesus’ ministry, the most significant being His death, burial, and resurrection.

While entire books have been written examining Jesus’ fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, this article will focus on the prophecies regarding Jesus and the cross.

Specifically, the many prophecies mentioned in Exodus, the Book of Psalms, and Isaiah will be highlighted.

Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecy through His sacrificial act on the cross, the situation and means of His death, and by the words He spoke on the cross.

From the Old Testament to the Cross

One of the most familiar prophecies about Jesus is found in Isaiah 53, which describes “the Suffering Servant.”

In Isaiah 53:4, the prophet mentions how the Suffering Servant “took up our pain and bore our suffering” (NIV).

This is exactly what the New Testament teaches about Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, in that He bore the punishment for mankind’s sins (Hebrews 9:28).

Jesus, who did not sin, took on sin to bring righteousness to all who believe in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Interestingly, part of Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 53:4-5 is quoted directly by the Apostle Peter when talking about Jesus’ death on the cross.

Demonstrating that Jesus had fulfilled this Old Testament prophecy, Peter stated, “‘He himself bore our sins' in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed'” (1 Peter 2:24, NIV).

Even so, the prophet Isaiah did not fully understand his vision, it was fully realized and completed in Jesus Christ, who perfectly fulfilled the role as the Suffering Servant.

Another prophecy, which speaks of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross is found in Deuteronomy 21:23. In this verse, any person who is hanged on a “tree” is described as being cursed.

Jesus fulfilled this passage, since “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’” (Galatians 3:13, ESV). All people are under a curse because of man’s failure to obey the Law (Galatians 3:10).

Therefore, the sacrificial and atoning nature of Jesus’ death is apparent in this prophecy since He took on the curse and punishment that rightly belonged to erring mankind. He did this so that all who believe in Him might have eternal life (John 3:15-16).

The Situation of Jesus' Death

Although it might seem as if it were merely a coincidence that Jesus died during the week of the Passover celebration, this timing is a central part of the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies.

When God sent the last plague on the Egyptians, the death of the firstborn, he commanded the Israelites to sacrifice the Passover lamb and smear its blood over their doorways (Exodus 12:12-13, 22).

In this way, the destroyer would pass over the houses of the Israelites, sparing them from death (Exodus 12:23).

Likewise, Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of the Passover Lamb, who was sacrificed to cover the sins of the world (1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Peter 1:19).

As prophesied in Psalm 34:20, none of Jesus’ bones were broken when He died on the cross (John 19:33-36).

This correlates with the foreshadowing of Jesus in the Old Testament as the Passover lamb, which could not have any of its bones broken (Exodus 12:46).

Also, Jesus was silent before His accusers, just as Isaiah said He would be in comparing Him to a sheep silent before shearers (Isaiah 53:7; Matthew 27:12; 1 Peter 2:23).

Since Jesus died on the week of Passover and held the characteristics of the sacrificial lamb, He fulfilled the prophecies relating to the Passover Lamb.

Just as the surrounding event of the Passover during Jesus’ crucifixion was a significant part of Old Testament prophecy, so also was the dividing up of His garments after they placed Jesus on the cross.

Since the act of crucifixion involved stripping the victim of their clothing, the soldiers chose to divide Jesus’ garments (Matthew 27:35).

However, they did not tear Jesus’ seamless undergarment but rather decided to cast lots to decide who would get this valuable piece of clothing (John 19:23-24).

Casting lots could be likened to gambling or to drawing sticks to decide an outcome. This event was not a random act but rather had been foretold in the Old Testament (Psalm 22:18).

The Means of Jesus' Death

Furthermore, the Old Testament also prophesied about the means of Jesus’ death: being pierced and hanged on wood.

As has been shown, Deuteronomy specifically stated that anyone hanged on a tree was cursed (Deuteronomy 21:23; Galatians 3:13).

While Jesus was not hanged on a living tree, He was hanged on a tree in the form of the wooden beams of the cross.

Within the multiple passages, which foresaw Christ’s death, it is described that Jesus would have His hands and feet pierced by “dogs” and “villains,” which probably points to His crucifixion at the hand of Gentile Romans (Psalm 22:16; Matthew 27:26).

Isaiah also prophesied that Jesus would be “pierced for our transgressions” (Isaiah 53:6). Zechariah 12:10, a prophecy that has been fulfilled by Christ but still has a future component as well, includes the detail of God being pierced (John 19:37; Revelation 1:7).

In considering these passages, the Messiah’s death via being pierced in the hands and feet was foretold in the writings of the Old Testament.

Jesus’ Words on the Cross

Jesus’ final words on the cross were also fulfillments of prophecies in the Old Testament, specifically in the Book of Psalms. On the cross, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, NIV).

Jesus took on the sins of the world, which is why the Father had to look away from Him. These words are a fulfillment of Psalm 22:1, which Jesus quoted while hanging on the cross.

Another psalm, which Jesus fulfilled is found in Psalm 31:5, in which He again quoted the words of the Psalmist: “Into your hands I commit my spirit” (NIV). In completing this Old Testament prophecy, Jesus showed that He willingly gave up His life by His own volition (Luke 23:46).

The Romans did crucify Him, but no one took His life since Jesus explicitly stated: “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again” (John 10:18, NIV).

Finally, an overlooked prophecy of the Old Testament is that the Messiah would grow thirsty on the cross and would be offered sour vinegar and gall for His thirst.

In the Gospel of John, it is specifically recorded that Jesus said He was thirsty, which fulfilled Scripture (John 19:28).

Psalm 22:15 prophesied Jesus’ intense thirst as He died on the cross, likening His dry mouth to hard pieces of potsherd.

Although Jesus refused the offer of wine mixed with myrrh, which would have lessened the pain of crucifixion, He did drink the sour vinegar to quench His thirst before He died (Mark 15:23, 36).

Jesus chose to endure the pain of crucifixion without the easing effects of wine mixed with myrrh because He was willing to “drink from the cup” the Father had given Him (John 18:11).

The Psalmist already foresaw this future offer of “gall” and “sour wine,” which occurred at the crucifixion (Psalm 69:21).

Therefore, Jesus’ words on the cross, even a statement indicating His thirst, fulfilled important Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah.

Jesus' Last Words: ‘It Is Finished’

When Jesus yelled out, “It is finished,” He was referring to His redemptive work on the cross and the completion of Old Testament prophecies (John 19:30).

While hundreds of prophecies speak of Jesus’ life, ministry, and Messiahship, numerous prophecies also look forward to His work on the cross.

His atoning sacrifice, the situation surrounding the crucifixion, the means of His death, and His last words all fulfill major Old Testament prophecies that are scattered throughout the Law, Psalms, and Prophets. Jesus is truly the promised Messiah of the Old Testament.

For further reading:

What Are the Prophecies about Jesus?       

How Can I Identify Messianic Prophecies in the Old Testament?

Is Isaiah 53 ‘The Suffering Servant’ a Prophecy about Jesus?

What Is the Significance of Jesus’ Last Words on the Cross?

The Cup He Drank for Us

Who Is to Blame for Jesus’ Death?

What Happened During Jesus’ Last Hours Before His Death?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/artisteer

Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. She holds a BA in Ministry, a MA in Ministry, and is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing to develop her writing craft. As someone who is passionate about the Bible and faith in Jesus, her mission is to help others learn about Christ and glorify Him in her writing. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening. 


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