The 66 books in the Bible tell a story, a narrative. There is a plot with a story of promise and fulfillment, and it all points to Jesus. In all of the connections between the Old Testament and New Testament, the story weaves together like a mosaic with thousands of pieces, or like a gem with innumerable facets that gleam with beauty.
The first story in the Bible is the story of Adam and Eve (Genesis 1–3). God created them and placed them in the garden as priest-kings to rule the world for God under His lordship. But Adam and Eve refused to trust in and obey God, and the sin and death that devastate our world spread like a cancer throughout the human race. But thankfully, that is not the end of the story.
Jesus is the new and better Adam, the last Adam. The Son of God took on human flesh (John 1:14) and conquered sin and death as the last Adam (Romans 5:12–19; 1 Corinthians 15:20–21) so that we enjoy life and stand in God’s presence cleansed of our sin—if we put our trust in Jesus.
Now think about the story of Abraham. God promised Abraham that He would bless him with children and land. And the blessing didn’t end there. The whole world—all peoples everywhere—would be blessed through Abraham. God made that promise around 2000 B.C., but after many years of history for the Israelites (they were the children of Abraham) the promise of blessing for the whole world wasn’t realized. The New Testament tells us, however, that Jesus is the true child of Abraham (Matthew 1:1; Galatians 3:16). The promise of worldwide blessing would become a reality through Him. And we see how this is true in our own day—4,000 years after the promise was first made to Abraham.
People from nearly every tribe, language and nation have found salvation through Jesus Christ (Revelation 7:9). Yes, there is more work to do in proclaiming the Gospel to all peoples, but the Gospel has gone to the end of the world in astonishing ways, and salvation, redemption and eternal joy now belong to all peoples everywhere who receive Jesus as Lord and Savior.
The Lord also promised David around 1000 B.C. that his dynasty would last forever, that the kingship would not depart from his family. By the time of Jesus’ birth, this promise to David seemed like it would never be fulfilled. Nor did anyone expect that a Jewish carpenter from Nazareth would be the King (Matthew 2:23). But Jesus was the true King, the true Son of David, and He is celebrated in the New Testament as the Messiah, as the King of Israel, and as the King of the world. The astonishing thing is that He is more than a king. He is also the Son of God, the “Mighty God” and “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). He is Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14; 8:8; Matthew 1:23), “God with us,” strengthening us every day, abiding with us in every joy and every sorrow.
Jesus also identifies Himself as the mysterious and glorious Son of Man that we read about in Daniel 7. In Daniel, the Son of Man is given “authority, glory and sovereign power” and will be worshipped throughout the Earth. He is promised an eternal Kingdom, which means that He will fulfill the task that is originally given to Adam and Eve to rule the world for God. Again and again in the Gospels, Jesus teaches that He is the Son of Man from Daniel 7. He is the true human being, the only one who trusted and obeyed God completely. And now all of us who belong to Jesus as the Son of Man have a new calling and vocation as well. We are His ambassadors, proclaiming to the world that there is a new world coming and that all those who are reconciled to God will rule the world under the lordship of Jesus.
The number of Old Testament prophecies that Jesus fulfilled is astonishing: His virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14); His birthplace in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2); His triumphal entry (Zechariah 9:9); His being beaten and spat upon (Isaiah 50:6); His crucifixion (Psalm 22); the piercing of His side (Zechariah 12:10); and many others.
But when we think of fulfillment, we think of perhaps the most surprising prophecy of all, the prophecy in Isaiah 53. There we read about the Suffering Servant. Amazingly, the Word that became flesh (John 1:14), the last Adam, the true Son of Abraham, the King of Israel, died on a cross. But Isaiah tells us that “he was pierced because of our rebellion, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on him, and we are healed by his wounds. We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished him for the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:5–6 CSB).
Many people in Jesus’ day concluded He could not be the Messiah since He died on a cross. They thought the Messiah would come as a king and would not suffer. But Jesus’ resurrection, which also fulfills Old Testament prophecy (Psalm 16:8–11), shows that He is not a failed Messiah but the true and only King. He is the key to all of history, and the hope of every heart, and that is the message of Christmas. ©2023 Thomas R. Schreiner
The Scripture quotation marked CSB is taken from The Holy Bible, Christian Standard Version, ©2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers, all rights reserved.
Thomas R. Schreiner is the James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.