Prophecies of Death and Resurrection
The Crucifixion of Jesus foretold in Psalm 22
One of the most remarkable, indeed overwhelming, evidences of the truth of the Christian faith is the many predictions of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ in passages of the Old Testament dating up to a thousand years before the event. There are two psalms which we will look at in this chapter where both are foretold. We will begin with those that foretell the crucifixion. Psalm 22, one of the greatest Messianic psalms, will be the first example. It begins:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? Psalm 22:1
The psalm is a unique one. It is one of the psalms of David, yet it touches distress, even to death, in a way the great Shepherd-King of Israel could never have personally known. The first words have an echo in the only outcry of Jesus from the cross mentioned in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. In the midst of the crucifixion, at the depth of his despair, he cried out, "Eli, Eli, lama sabach-thani," meaning the same as the first words of the psalm, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34) Jesus would have known the words of the Old Testament text, but it is hardly likely that he was merely repeating them from memory. He cried out from the depth of his eternal soul, and the cry was one which has been described as the strangest which ever went from earth to heaven.
This was the only time Jesus ever prayed, "My God, my God." On all other occasions he called out, "My Father" (Matthew 26:42), or just "Father" (John 12:28), or spoke of him as the "heavenly Father" (Matthew 5:48, Luke 11:13). At this one moment, one of the holiest and most sacred in all human history, he could only cry, "My God." At no point in all history did the Son of God look less like the image of his Father in his eternal glory. More importantly, there was never a time when he felt so cut off and forcibly separated from Him, yet at no other time was the wondrous love of the Father for his followers more splendidly revealed than at this point when both Father and Son endured the anguish and intense pain of separation from each other.
This first verse of Psalm 22 is holy ground and Muslims need to be brought reverently to see its implications. It sets the tone for the rest of the psalm. We will look at particular verses in it that have New Testament parallels. The next text is this one:
All who see me mock at me, they make mouths at me, they wag their heads; "He committed his cause to the Lord; let him deliver him, let him rescue him, for he delights in him." Psalm 22:8
The chief priests who stood at the foot of the cross thought they had finally gained their victory over Jesus. As he hung there, helpless, they unwittingly fulfilled the words of this very text when they mocked Jesus and declared:
He saved others, he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him, for he said "I am the Son of God". Matthew 27:42-43
This is just one instance where you can show Muslims that predictions about the crucifixion of Jesus were fulfilled to the letter a thousand years later. David continues with these words:
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax. It is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws, you lay me in the dust of death. Psalm 22:14-15
This is a perfect description of the anguish of a man being crucified, yet crucifixion was unknown during the time of David. He goes on "They have pierced my hands and feet" (v.16), another specific anticipation of the crucifixion. This psalm is not merely an expression of Davids anguish in a time of trouble, it is a remarkable anticipation of the crucifixion of the Messiah, the eternal Son of David, to follow. One verse particularly stands out in the psalm:
They divide my garments among them, and for my raiment they cast lots. Psalm 22:18
It is not immediately obvious that this is a striking riddle, an exception to the usual style of Hebrew poetry. For the sake of emphasis the same point is often made in Hebrew poetical texts in different words which basically have the same meaning. For example: "Your name, O Lord, endures for ever, your renown, O Lord, throughout all ages" (Psalm 35:13). "Name" and "renown" are synonyms, as are "for ever" and "throughout all ages." The Psalms are saturated with this form of expression. Psalm 22:18, however, is a strange exception. Garments and raiment are synonyms, they are both descriptions for general clothing. Yet "divide" and "cast lots" are antonyms, opposite terms with expressly different meanings.
No Hebrew could ever have worked this riddle out, especially in its unique form of speech. To divide means to separate, but to cast lots means to keep the garment together. What could this have meant? How could they cast lots for his garment, yet at the same time separate it? It seems like a contradiction. For ten centuries no Hebrew scholar could possibly have given the answer, but a simple explanation appears in this brief narrative about the way the Roman soldiers handled the clothing of Jesus at the foot of his cross:
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus they took his garments and made four parts, one for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was without seam, woven from top to bottom; so they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be." John 19:23-24
Now the riddle finally makes sense. The soldiers cast lots for the tunic Jesus had worn but divided his other garments among them. John expressly says that this simple activity of the Roman soldiers was a direct fulfilment of Psalm 22:18 (John 19:24). The soldiers could hardly have been aware that they were directly fulfilling a prophecy made a thousand years earlier.
We will return to the psalm, but at this point you can see how effectively you can witness to the crucifixion of Jesus through specific predictions made centuries earlier. Not just one prediction but many are made in detail in the first twenty-one verses of the psalm. Its a tremendous source of convincing proofs of the crucifixion event.
Similar Prophecies in Psalm 69
A very similar psalm of David, Psalm 69, also contains a number of specific predictions of the crucifixion, some in fine detail. It begins:
I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God. More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause. Psalm 69:3-4
The dryness in his throat is another typical experience of a man crucified. Once again we behold a victim in terrible distress as his life ebbs away. Jesus applied the following words to himself, saying:
Now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. It is to fulfil the word that is written in their law, "they hated me without a cause." John 15:25
Here again you have specific material to show Muslims that the crucifixion, which the Quran denies (Surah 4:157), was specifically predicted in great detail in the Psalms (Zabur) of David a thousand years earlier. David proceeds, in his own anguish, to confess his folly and wrongdoings (v.5) which Jesus would take on himself on the cross, but the whole unfolding drama again takes on Messianic dimensions in these words:
For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that shame has covered my face. Psalm 69:7
The Apostle Paul also applies these words directly to Jesus when he says:
For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached you have fallen on me." Romans 15:3
The next text also has a direct sequel in the life of Jesus: "For zeal for your house has consumed me" (Psalm 69:9). When Jesus drove the moneychangers out of the Temple and poured out their coins, overturning their tables, and told the Jews not to make his Fathers house a house of trade, his disciples remembered that it was written "zeal for your house will consume me" (John 2:17).
The psalm continues with growing cries of anguish as the victim nears his death. "I am in distress," he cries (v.17), "I am in despair. I looked for pity but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none" (v.20). Then comes another very specific statement which has a remarkable fulfilment at the foot of Jesus cross:
They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. Psalm 69:21
When Jesus cried out from the cross, "I thirst" (John 19:28), a bowl of vinegar stood next to the cross, "so they put a sponge full of vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth" (v.29). It is amazing to see how many predictions of the crucifixion were fulfilled in such detail when Jesus died. Christians have emphatic proofs of the truth of the death of Jesus on the cross in these exceptional passages. Psalm 69:25 is also quoted in Acts 1:20 as a deliberate prediction of the desolate end of Judas Iscariot for betraying Jesus. It is very useful, in Muslim homes, to go slowly through both psalms (22 and 69) and to draw Muslims to the very experience of the Son of God as he hung there that fateful Friday.
Both psalms bring the agony to a climax as the suffering victim finally breathes his last and expires. The first concludes the anguish in these heart-rending cries:
Deliver my soul from the sword, my life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion, my afflicted soul from the horns of the wild oxen! Psalm 22:20-21
The second also builds up to a crescendo as the distress and suffering reach their peak. The psalmist cries out " But I am afflicted and in pain; let your salvation, O God, set me on high" (Psalm 69:29). There the anguish ends in both psalms, yet the narrative goes on. The tone changes, the confidence returns, and in perfect health the sufferer praises God for his redemption from the pit.
The Resurrection of Jesus in both Psalms
Not only is the crucifixion of Jesus foretold in these two psalms but we also find clear evidences of his resurrection as well. As we have seen, Jesus cried out to his Father on the cross in the exact words Psalm 22 begins with, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" The psalm then covers the anguish and pain of a man in great distress, who had committed his cause to the Lord, and who prayed to him for deliverance. The suffering part of the psalm reaches a final crescendo in the heart-rending cries, "O Lord, be not far off! Hasten to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword. Save my afflicted soul!" (vv. 19-21) Suddenly the tone of the psalm changes:
I will tell of your name to my brethren; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you. From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him. Psalm 22:22,25
There is a dramatic change here, an immediate transformation. Now the psalmist speaks confidently, resolutely, triumphantly, and with complete composure. He has triumphed over his affliction. He calls on all true believers to praise God, to glorify him and stand in awe of him. For, he declares, the Lord has not hidden his face from his affliction but has heard when he cried to him! (Psalm 22:23-24) The rest of the psalm follows the same pattern – triumph, praise and complete composure. The afflicted one, whose anguish increased to the point of total desolation, is now delivered!
The resurrection of Jesus is the scene foreshadowed in the second part of the psalm. No one reading the whole song can miss the sharp contrast between the victims growing, intensifying anguish (vv. 1-21), and the victors glory and triumph (vv. 22-31). It is a vivid picture of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. You can point out to Muslims that the words of Psalm 22:22 quoted above are expressly applied to Jesus in Hebrews 2:12. You may not be able to work through this line of witness with obstinate Muslims who will seek only to ridicule and refute everything you say, but with seeking Muslims whose eyes and hearts are opened, this subject is a powerful witness of the fact that Jesus Christ is the ultimate figurehead, Gods chosen Messiah, whose death and resurrection were not only prophesied but revealed in the deep, personal emotions that he was destined to experience, no less than a thousand years before these great events occurred.
Psalm 69 follows the exact same pattern, not out of coincidence, but divine intention. Once again, the first part of the psalm (vv. 1-29) follows the same pattern of victimisation, leading up to a climax of suffering and anguish. The theme stands out: "Save me, O God! I am in distress. Draw near to me, redeem me. Set me free! I am afflicted and in pain. Let your salvation, O God, set me on high!" (vv. 1,17,18,29) Suddenly, as in Psalm 22, the tone and setting change dramatically. Victimisation gives way to victory. The lamb becomes the lion:
I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving. Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves therein. Psalm 69:30,34
Once again, it is a song of praise, in complete composure, in the dawn of victory, that characterises the remaining verses of the psalm (vv. 30-36). The suffering servant has become the risen deliverer! Anguish has given way to triumph! Jesus Christ has risen from the dead! Yet the passage in the psalms chosen by the disciples of Jesus more than any other to prove that the resurrection of Jesus from the dead was foretold a millennium earlier is this one:
I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also dwells secure. For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your godly one see the pit. You do show me the path of life; in your presence there is fulness of joy, in your right hand are pleasures for evermore. Psalm 16:8-11
Once again, this is a psalm of David, but the New Testament aggressively takes it away from him and applies it directly to the person of Jesus Christ. On the day of Pentecost, just after the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the disciples so that they faced the whole Jewish nation with confidence and assurance, Simon Peter declared that, even though they had crucified Jesus by the hands of lawless men, God has raised him from the dead, having loosed the pangs of death, because he could not be held by them (Acts 2:23-24). He then went on to quote this same passage from Psalm 16 and, when he had finished, he declared that everyone knew that David had died, was buried, and that the site of his tomb was well known. So he could not be speaking of himself, but, knowing that God had sworn to him with an oath that one of his descendants would sit on his throne for all eternity, "he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ," that he did not go down to Sheol, nor did his flesh see corruption (Acts 2:29-31). Peter then concluded:
This Jesus God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses. Acts 2:32
Going on to quote Psalm 110:1 ("The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand till I make your enemies a stool for your feet."), he added that David had not ascended into heaven and so, in this declaration, foretold the ascension of the Christ, the same Jesus whom they had now betrayed and crucified (Acts 2:34-36).
In all these passages from the Psalms, you have tremendous material to show Muslims that the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension to heaven of Jesus were foretold by David in his Psalms a thousand years before the events happened. Not only were they predicted, but they were outlined in such fine detail that the deepest emotions of the Christ were set out in such detail that you could know exactly what he was experiencing within his eternal soul.
The Deity of Jesus Christ in the Psalms
The fact that Jesus is the eternal Son of God is also foretold in the Psalms of David. Nothing, it appears, was overlooked. The evidences are there for all to see and are sufficient to convince any sincere seeker of the truth. There is, quite simply, no ambiguity in this declaration:
I will tell of the decree of the Lord: He 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." Psalm 2:7-8
We are not speculating when we apply this passage to the Lord Jesus Christ (there hardly appears to be a contender for its application!). The Apostle Paul deliberately applied this text to Jesus in his sermon to the Jews who were gathered together in the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia on the sabbath day (Acts 13:33). To what angel, another New Testament text enquires, did God ever say "You are my Son, today I have begotten you"? (Hebrews 1:5) The immediately succeeding verses are also applied to Jesus in Acts 4:25-26.
Perhaps the most moving and descriptive passage incorporating a prediction of the deity of the son of David to come is found in another psalm. It begins with these words:
Of old you spoke in a vision to your faithful one, and said: "I have set the crown upon one who is mighty, I have exalted one chosen from the people." Psalm 89:19
The next verse specifically applies this prophecy to David himself but, like the others we have considered, it soon becomes obvious that this is a double-barrelled prophecy and ultimately applies to the descendant of David to come, who would rule over the throne of God forever, and whom the Jews would subsequently call the son of David. God speaks and says of this great Messiah to come:
My faithfulness and my steadfast love will be with him, and in my name shall his horn be exalted. I will set his hand on the sea and his right hand on the rivers. Psalm 89:24-25
Once again we hear words of triumph and victory as the Son of God, who became the Son of man, takes his eternal throne and establishes complete authority over all the earth. The declaration reaches its climax, and identifies the one of whom it speaks, in these words:
He shall cry to me, "You are my Father, my God and the Rock of my salvation." And I will make him the first-born, the highest of the kings of earth. My steadfast love I will keep for him forever, and my covenant will stand firm for him. I will establish his line for ever and his throne as the days of the heavens. Psalm 89:25-29
The Quran does not say much about David. He is seen as one of the great patriarchs and prophets of old and some Biblical narratives about him are repeated in a somewhat disjointed fashion in the book. But it does say of him:
We strengthened his kingdom, and gave him wisdom and sound judgment in speech and decision. Surah 38:20
These words are only a shadow of the Christ whose coming, crucifixion, death, resurrection, ascension to glory, and eternal deity David foretold. In these great predictions, hundreds of years before they came to pass, Christians have more than sufficient material to witness to Muslims of who Jesus Christ really was and why he came to earth. God has left us a persuasive record in the songs of David of the Son of God to come, who would cry to him as both his God and Father, and to whom all authority over earth and the heavens would ultimately be given.
Sharing the Gospel with Muslims [Table of Contents]
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