And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ. (Acts 17:2-3)Jesus said it Himself: "Search the Scriptures. For in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me." (John 5:39)
Here is the Apostle Peter on the same topic:
Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you. Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into. (1 Peter 1:11-12)Again, the epistle to the Hebrews says that the Old Testament saints, all those great-greats celebrated in the chapter of faith, Hebrews 11, were "made complete" by the believers who have been given the fuller knowledge of Jesus Christ:
And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise. God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:39-40)There is no getting around the fact that when most of us read the Old Testament, we don't spontaneously "see Jesus on every page," and when some expository preachers try to do it, they sometimes sound a bit strained. But the apostles themselves were constantly talking about the fact that the Old Testament Scriptures spoke of Jesus, and Peter even says that the prophets themselves, at least some of them, realized that the Christ would come later and that they were ministering to a later generation who would actually know him.
Paul refers in Galatians to the idea that Jesus is the hinge of history and the fulfillment of all that had gone before:
But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)When Paul discusses the fact that the Old Testament Scriptures were written "for our admonition," he uses this striking phrase to describe the believers of his own generation: They, and by extension, we, are the ones "upon whom the ends of the ages have come." (I Cor. 10:11) It's the same idea as Galatians. Time and again Paul is saying, "To think that we are the generation to know the Christ, to know who he is! To think that the Christ has been born and lived and died in our time, and that we know the fulfillment of God's plan, which was known in times past only by prophecy!"
One can say that Paul was convinced that Jesus was the Christ because of his experience on the road to Damascus, and that is indeed true. But Paul also obviously believed that he could convince other Jews of the same conclusion even though they had not had his experience, and convince them not merely by reference to that experience but from their own Scriptures.
What all of this means is that the argument from prophecy was a big part of the apostolic and especially the Pauline apologetics. Yet it has gone very much out of fashion now, perhaps because we are seldom doing apologetics to an audience who already grants that there has been genuine prophecy in the past of a Messiah and that we should be attempting to find out who that Messiah might be. Or maybe, even more, the higher criticism and other -isms of the 19th century and early 20th century have made the argument go out of style without conspicuously good reason.
I have an article accepted for this special issue of Philosophia Christi on the argument from a small number of prophecies of the Messiah's death--specifically, Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. The above references show the importance of Isaiah 53 in the apostles' thought, going back to Jesus' teaching on the road to Emmaus--that the Christ must suffer. (Luke 24:25-26)
But since it is now not Passiontide but Christmas time (even though I'm not going to wait to hit "publish" until after sundown), I will instead leave you with this: Professor Hugh Gauch, in a paper presented to the Evangelical Theological Society in 2010 (not available on-line) estimates the Bayes factor--that is, the evidential force--of the fact that Jesus, a first-century Jew, was born in Bethlehem for the conclusion that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah to be about 1/12,000. He bases this on estimates of the population of Jews around the time of Jesus and of the much smaller population of Jews in Bethlehem.
That's just one messianic prophecy. And it is a prophecy only mentioned in Matthew and not even stressed in the extant writings of the Apostle Paul. But I have little doubt he was aware of it and that it formed part of the cumulative case that he made to the Jews when he reasoned with them in the synagogues. Paul's message? This is indeed the Christ!
Alleluia! O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!