“How do we know that Jesus is a true prophet? Deuteronomy 18 and Acts 3 claim that Jesus is the Prophet – upon what basis can we accept that claim?”
Jesus is a true prophet. The answer to the two questions concerning how I and His contemporaries would know is the same: fulfilled prophecy. Deuteronomy 18 establishes the test of a true prophet:
“You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’ “When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him. (Deu 18:21-22, NASB).
Thus, a true prophet is established based off of the legitimacy of the predictions that He makes. The predictions that Jesus made were no different than what was predicted in the Tanakh.
For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers, (Rom 15:8)
What the prophets said was to come, Jesus said had drawn near (e.g. the kingdom and judgement – Daniel 2:44, 7:21-22; Matthew 16:27-28; John also taught that the wrath and the kingdom was at hand – Matthew 3:1ff). So, if we examine the statements made by Jesus concerning the timing of the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies that He applied to His contemporaries, then we can establish whether or not Jesus was a true prophet.
There are two categories of prophecies concerning the work of Jesus: His sufferings and the glories to follow (1 Peter 1:11-12). While the prophets did not understand the timing or the nature of these prophecies, as Peter said in verse 12, Jesus and His disciples reveal to us the true meaning of the prophecies made in the Tanakh concerning the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories to follow (Luke 24:45; Acts 1:3). So, to establish the legitimacy of Jesus’ claim to be the descendant of David who would restore the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6; 3:21; 28:20), we will look at two examples concerning the sufferings of Christ and of the glories to follow.
The sufferings of the Messiah:
“I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.
John tells us that the piercing of Jesus on the cross was in fulfillment of this passage.
“But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe. For these things came to pass to fulfill the Scripture, “NOT A BONE OF HIM SHALL BE BROKEN.” And again another Scripture says, “THEY SHALL LOOK ON HIM WHOM THEY PIERCED.”
Jesus spoke of the manner in which He would die in John 12:32ff.
“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die.
So, we have Jesus being witnessed by His own testimony, but also the witness of the prophets.
The glories to follow:
It is curious that John also applied the Zechariah 12:10 passage to Revelation 1:7.
BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.
This causes us an interesting exegetical problem, but this problem only exists because of the way that we typically view the “second appearing” of Christ. We view it as a separate event from the cross, but we should view it as an act that serves to vindicate what Jesus died to establish – something that works in conjunction with the cross. After all, this is what the Hebrews writer intended by comparing Jesus’ death and Parousia to the work of the High Priest. In fact, when we look to what Paul says concerning the work of Christ, he recognized it as one day.
for He says, “AT THE ACCEPTABLE TIME I LISTENED TO YOU, AND ON THE DAY OF SALVATION I HELPED YOU.” Behold, now is “THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,” behold, now is “THE DAY OF SALVATION”
If we examine the source passage for this (Isaiah 49:8) we will see both the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. Not only is the salvation of the people discussed in this chapter, but the vindication of the saints is as well (Isaiah 49:5-6, 26). This is why John could use Zechariah 12:10 to cover the time between the sufferings of Christ and the coming of the Lord. If you follow Zechariah 12’s “in that days” you will see the fall of Jerusalem as being the telos of that text. Let’s see how this fits within the NT framework by returning to Acts 3.
Acts 3 discusses the forgiveness of sins made possible by the death of Jesus – Acts 3:18-19, but it also speaks of the time when those who rejected the Prophet’s words would be cut off.
‘And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’
This was foretold by all of the prophets (Acts 3:24), and it is something that pertains to Israel’s last days: Acts 3:24. When would those who rejected the Prophet’s words be cut out from among the people? The fall of Jerusalem in AD70: Matthew 8:10-12; 21:33-46; Galatians 4:30.
So, Jesus is a true prophet because He fulfilled prophecy, and He fulfilled it within the lifetime of His contemporaries.