One important emphasis in Matthew’s Gospel is prophetic fulfillment. Some version of the phrase, “This happened in order to fulfill what was said through the prophet,” appears 12 times in this book.
Biblical prophets served two important functions. First, they were preachers of righteousness. Much of their preaching was intended to call Israel to be faithful to what God had already revealed through His Word. Second, they foretold things that would come to pass. The predictive nature of their ministry gave the prophets unique authority. When a prophetic prediction was fulfilled, it was one proof that they spoke from God: “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed” (Deut. 18:22).
Prophetic fulfillment, however, was not always immediate. Prophecies mentioned in Matthew’s Gospel were often given centuries before they came to pass. Short-term predictions validated the authenticity of prophecies to be fulfilled much later in the future (see Isa. 7:16). Biblical predictions were focused on God’s unfolding plan of redemption and the fulfillment of His promises to His people.
The prophecies in the Gospel of Matthew revolve around the advent and ministry of Jesus Christ as Israel’s Messiah, revealing a Christological emphasis. Revelation 19:10 says, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” This does not mean that every prophecy in the Bible is explicitly about Jesus but rather that Jesus is at the heart of everything that biblical prophecy reveals. The message that God spoke through the prophets finds its culmination in the life and work of the Savior (see Heb. 1:1–2).
Prediction alone does not indicate that a true prophecy from God has been uttered. A prophet’s message must also correspond with the truth that God has already revealed through His Word (see Deut. 13:2). A prophet who exalts other gods or who denies Jesus Christ is a false prophet. Any prophet who makes an accurate prediction but whose teaching is contrary to God’s Word should be ignored.
To learn more, read Christ’s Prophetic Plans by John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue (Moody Publishers).