Jesus Christ, Prophecies about
Prophecies concerning the birth, mortal ministry, and post-Resurrection ministry of Jesus Christ permeate the Bible. Moreover, the latter-day scriptures used by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—the Book of Mormon, which bears the modern subtitle “Another Testament of Jesus Christ,” the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price—contain numerous prophetic utterances about the Messiah that in general are clearer than those in the Bible. For Latter-day Saints, these four volumes of scripture constitute the principal sources for the prophecies about Jesus’ life and mission. This article reviews the prophecies concerning Jesus most often referred to by Latter-day Saints.
The New Testament teaches that the divinity of Jesus Christ was recognized by some during his own lifetime, as well as by God’s ancient prophets. For example, Andrew announced to his brother Simon Peter that he had found the Messiah (John 1:41). The Book of Mormon prophets Abinadi and Nephi2, son of Helaman2, taught that all of God’s prophets, including Moses and Abraham, “have testified of the coming of Christ” (Mosiah 13:33; Hel. 8:16—22; cf. Jacob 4:4).
The scriptures are rich in prophetic detail concerning the birth of Jesus. Isaiah declared, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14), a passage that Matthew cited as having reference to Jesus (Matt. 1:22—23). Micah poetically pronounced, “Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). Among Book of Mormon people, Nephi1 foretold that “even six hundred years from the time that my father [Lehi] left Jerusalem,” the Savior would be raised up (1 Ne. 10:4; 19:8). Samuel the lamanite (c. 6 B.C.) told a doubting generation of the signs to be given in the Western Hemisphere that would accompany the birth of Christ (Hel. 14:2—8). These included the appearance of a new star and two days and one night without darkness (Hel. 14:4—5).
Some prophecies of the Messiah’s birth were fulfilled when the angel of the Lord announced to shepherds near Bethlehem: “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). On the other side of the world, the day before his birth, the Lord announced to his prophet Nephi3 that he should be of “good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets” (3 Ne. 1:13).
Latter-day Saints believe that the mission of Jesus Christ has been known since earliest times. The angel of the Lord declared to Adam that the Son was “the Only Begotten of the Father from the beginning,” and that Adam would “be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will,” if they “repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore” (Moses 5:8—9). The message that Jesus Christ is the Advocate, the Redeemer, and the Intercessor, and that “There is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ” (Hel. 5:9), has been repeated by God’s representatives in all ages (see Moses 5:14—15; Isa. 53:4—5; Acts 4:12; 2 Ne. 2:9—10; 9:6—7; Mosiah 4:8; 5:8; Alma 11:40; D&C 45:3).
Events of Jesus’ mortal life and ministry are found in numerous prophecies. In the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (JST), an insightful passage states “that Jesus grew up with his brethren, and waxed strong, and waited upon the Lord for the time of his ministry to come . . . [and] needed not that any man should teach him” (JST Matt. 3:24—25). Nephi1 saw in a vision, and King benjamin learned from an angel, that the Savior would perform healings, cast out devils, and raise the dead (1 Ne. 11:31; Mosiah 3:5—6). According to New Testament writers, Jesus’ triumphal ride into Jerusalem on a beast of burden was foreknown by Zechariah (Zech. 9:9; Matt. 21:5; John 12:14—15), as was his betrayal for thirty pieces of silver (Zech. 11:12—13; Matt. 27:9—10). From the angel, King Benjamin learned that blood would come “from every pore, so great shall be his [Jesus’] anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people” (Mosiah 3:7). Christ’s rejection by his own people was prophesied both by himself and by others (e.g., Ps. 69:8; Mosiah 15:5; 3 Ne. 9:16; John 1:11).
Many years before the event, prophets such as Enoch and Nephi1 saw the Lord lifted up on the cross (Moses 7:47 , 55; 1 Ne. 11:33). Isaiah prophesied that the suffering servant would make “his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death” (Isa. 53:9). The Book of Mormon prophet Abinadi (c. 150 B.C.) associated that passage in Isaiah with Jesus (Mosiah 15), and its fulfillment was recorded by Luke (23:32—33). Matthew tells of the physical disturbances that occurred at the moment Jesus gave up his life (Matt. 27:50—54), events that zenos saw in a vision hundreds of years earlier (1 Ne. 19:10—12).
Christ foretold his own death and resurrection when he answered a demand for a sign: “Destroy this temple [physical body], and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). Jesus’ eventual victory over death was known by the ancients, for God told Enoch that “righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection of all men” (Moses 7:62). Later, inspired men in the Americas learned of this event. Nephi1, Jacob, Benjamin, and Samuel proclaimed the time when Christ “layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise” (2 Ne. 2:8; cf. 1 Ne. 10:11; Mosiah 3:10; Hel. 14:15—17).
Jesus Christ’s ministry to the spirit prison (1 Pet. 3:18—19) was anticipated by Isaiah when he recorded that “after many days shall [the prisoners gathered in the pit] be visited” (Isa. 24:22). Section 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants records a vision of this event, received by a modern prophet, President Joseph F. Smith, when he saw “the hosts of the dead, both small and great . . . awaiting the advent of the Son of God into the spirit world, to declare their redemption from the bands of death” (D&C 138:11 , 16).
The righteous of earlier ages have looked forward to the second coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus told his disciples to “watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (Matt. 25:13; cf. D&C 49:6—7), and indicated that he would come “as a thief” in the night (1 Thess. 5:2; Rev. 3:3; 16:15). He revealed to Joseph Smith that a universal revelation would be given so that “all flesh shall see me together” (D&C 101:23; cf. Isa. 40:5). Isaiah foresaw events of the second coming (Isa. 63—66), as did Daniel, Micah, Zechariah, and Malachi (Dan . 7:13; Micah 1:3; Zech. 12:10; 13:6; Mal. 3:12). When the resurrected Lord appeared among the Nephites, he spoke about his eventual triumphant return to earth, quoting Malachi, chapters 3 and 4 (3 Ne. 24—25).
The Prophet Joseph Smith clarified and added to prophecies of the events surrounding Jesus’ second coming, including the restoration of the gospel (D&C 133:36—37), the resurrection of the dead (D&C 88:95—102), the beginning of the Millennium (D&C 43:30—31), and the binding of Satan for a thousand years (D&C 88:110; D&C 45:55). Both ancient and modern prophets foretold that, at the end of a thousand years of peace, Satan would be loosed and the final battle between good and evil would be waged (Rev. 20:7—8; D&C 43:31). John the Revelator and the ancient prophet Ether, who both saw in vision all of these events, beheld the renewal of the earth and the establishment of the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21; Ether 13:1—10). This city will have “no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof” (Rev. 21:23).
Jackson, Kent P. “The Beginnings of Christianity in the Book of Mormon.” In The Book of Mormon: The Keystone Scripture, ed. P. Chessman. Provo, Utah, 1988. Matthews, Robert J. “The Doctrine of the Atonement—The Revelation of the Gospel to Adam.” In Studies in Scripture, ed. R. Millet and K. Jackson, Vol. 2, pp. 111—29. Salt Lake City, 1985. ———. A Bible! A Bible! Salt Lake City, 1990. McConkie, Bruce R. The Promised Messiah. Salt Lake City, 1978. ———. The Millennial Messiah. Salt Lake City, 1982.
Draper, Richard D. “The Mortal Ministry of the Savior Understood by the Book of Mormon Prophets.” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 2/1 (Spring 1993): 80—92.
Gary Lee Walker