Nearly fifteen hundred years before Jesus’ birth, Moses prophesied in Deuteronomy 18:15, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear.” God validates the prophecy a few verses later: “I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him” (verse 18). Clearly, this is a Messianic prophecy, as most Bible translations and commentaries recognize.
Many first-century Jews also considered it Messianic, for they were expecting the Prophet to arise in their day. They asked John the Baptist: “‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the Prophet?’ And he answered, ‘No’” (John 1:21). After explaining that he was the herald of the Messiah, “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” (verse 23), he explains, “It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose” (verse 27). The following day, seeing Jesus approaching, John declares, “This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me’” (verse 30).
We tend not to think of Jesus as a prophet—He was the Christ, the Savior, God in the flesh, far more than a prophet. Indeed, He transcends easy classification; He is all these things and much more. Yet, in His ministry He did fulfill the role of the Great Prophet to Israel, to the church, and to the world. Moses, to whom the Prophet is compared, casts a pale shadow beside Jesus Christ, as Hebrews 3:1-6 attests. Moses was a mere servant, sent to speak on God’s behalf before Pharaoh and Israel, “but Christ as a Son over His own house” (verse 6). If Moses is considered the pinnacle of human prophets, then Jesus is yet a magnitude greater.
The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke contain a well-known scene, the Transfiguration, that illustrates this point. Jesus, accompanied only by Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, hikes up to the summit of a lofty mountain—traditionally, Mount Tabor, but perhaps Mount Hermon—where He is “transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light” (Matthew 17:2). In addition, the disciples envision Moses and Elijah beside Him, holding a conversation with Him (verse 3). Later, in verse 9, Jesus confirms that what they saw was a vision; it was a sign in the form of a tableau designed to instruct them in a vital fact.
Seeing this spectacular sight, Peter exclaims, in paraphrase, “We’re so glad you chose us to see this! We’ll set up three booths: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah!” (verse 4). But before he could even finish his sentence, a voice boomed from heaven, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (verse 5). Peter failed to understand the point of the scene, so God had to step in and make it plain. Jesus, Moses, and Elijah were not equals by any means and should not be treated as such. Jesus Christ is God’s beloved Son; He is the Master, and the other two His servants. What Jesus says sets the standard, so we must give His instruction priority.
The primacy of Jesus applies to prophecy too. Paul in Ephesians 2:20 and Peter in I Peter 2:7 recall the image of the chief cornerstone from the prophecy of Christ in Psalm 118:22. In stone construction, the cornerstone is the most important foundational stone in the building, often the stone laid in the corner upon which most of the building’s weight would rest. It can also be thought of as a keystone, the stone at the apex of an arch that locks the other stones in place. Without the cornerstone or the keystone, the whole structure falls into a pile of rubble. Additionally, Zechariah 4:7 uses the image of a capstone, the final, finishing element that completes the building.
In terms of prophecy, then, what Jesus says is foundational, pivotal, and ultimately refining. Thus, what Jesus prophesies to occur—both in the gospels and in Revelation, in which the glorified Jesus is the Revelator—should be our starting point, our map, and our compass in our search to understand what will come to pass in these last days. The other prophecies lend support and detail, but if a question or seeming contradiction arises between two prophetic statements, if one is from Jesus’ lips, it takes precedence.
His chief prophetic discourse is the Olivet Prophecy, which He gave to His disciples just prior to His crucifixion. Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, and Luke 21 record His words. His prophecy is in large part His answer to the disciples’ questions, “Tell us, when will these things be [when not one stone of the Temple will be left upon another (verse 2)]? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3). He begins by giving six signs—parallel to the first six seals of Revelation 6—of world events leading up to His second coming. He tells of the horrors of the Great Tribulation before describing His glorious return in power to bring order and peace to the earth.
From this point, His prophecy, while still predictive, turns to exhortation and warning. He urges us to be aware of the signs, while cautioning that we will not know exactly when He will return, so we must be ready at all times. He refines what course our preparations are to take: We must be faithfully at work, growing in godly character. To illustrate His points, He presents three parables in Matthew 25: the Parables of the Ten Virgins, the Talents, and the Sheep and the Goats, all of which describe the good and bad characteristics of those waiting for Christ to return. Of course, He wants us to imitate the Wise Virgins, the Good and Faithful Servants, and the caring Sheep.
However, Jesus’ prophecies are not all confined to the Olivet Prophecy. Obviously, He predicted His death at the hands of His enemies, as well as His resurrection after three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. He foretold of Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s denials, the disciples’ scattering, and even Peter’s martyrdom and John’s long life. Yet, there are many more prophecies hidden within parables and sayings throughout the gospels. And, as mentioned earlier, the entire book of Revelation contains scores of detailed prophecies focused on the Day of the Lord and the years leading up to it—not to mention the glorious aftermath, Christ’s millennial reign, the White Throne Judgment, and the New Heavens and the New Earth.
Deuteronomy 18:19 adds a warning from God concerning the Prophet: “And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.” In other words, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” Sounds like excellent advice.