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When explaining children and youth ministry to someone, I use the word “nurture” to describe the purpose of nursery, as you want babies and their parents to feel safe and loved. For children’s ministry, I prefer the word “education,” as we teach kids the basic content of the Bible and God’s truth.

And for youth ministry, I use the term “integration,” since we’re trying to help teenagers connect so many of the things they’ve learned to their lives and worldview.

One of the best ways to help students make these connections is to teach messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. The prophets generally preached a message of judgment and salvation. They rebuked God’s people for their sin and violation of the covenant. Then they often offered a promise of deliverance and restoration. At other times, the prophets pointed far into the future to a Messiah who would ultimately redeem the nations through God’s grace and power. We call these predictions “messianic prophecies.”

Here are four reasons messianic prophecies provide an excellent teaching and discipling tool for teenagers, especially in light of the goal of integration in their spiritual formation.

1. Messianic prophecies demonstrate the unity of all of God’s Word––Old and New Testaments––as one, cohesive story.

When teaching messianic prophecies, a person will naturally go back and forth between the testaments. You will look at the prophecies in the Old Testament, and then find their fulfillment in the New Testament.

Messianic prophecies provide an excellent teaching and discipling tool for teenagers, especially in light of the goal of integration in their spiritual formation.

One example is the Suffering Servant text of Isaiah 52–53, which describes the excruciating death of the Messiah in atoning for the sins of God’s people. One can find numerous direct and indirect references to this passage in the Gospels and places like 1 Peter. We can see its concrete fulfillment in the crucifixion.

In teaching on this text, one may also look back at the origins of substitutionary atonement in both Genesis 3 and Leviticus. In this case, a messianic prophecy enables a student to see the theme of substitutionary atonement as pervasive from beginning to end, and thereby, to see the unity of all Scripture.

This toggling back and forth from the Old Testament to the New helps students see the divine authorship of the Bible. They see the continuity of narrative and the theology from beginning to end, and they better understand the whole Bible as one cohesive, unified book. It also provides a strong educational tool whereby students have to integrate and synthesize knowledge from many areas. As a result, they gain a deeper understanding of Scripture and biblical theology.

2. Messianic prophecies provide a powerful apologetic tool.

When I was in high school, I had a typical season of doubt. I questioned whether my faith actually was real and true. I wondered if I was just a Christian because my parents raised me in the church.

One day some evangelists dropped off a tract that included a list of messianic prophecies fulfilled in the life of Christ.

Game. Set. Match. I was sold.

In my mind, it was impossible to explain away as coincidence the dozens of predictions and fulfillments of prophecy. There was no way one could fabricate fulfilled predictions such as the Messiah’s birth place (Mic. 5:2), his Davidic lineage (2 Sam. 7:12–16; Isa. 11:1; Jer. 23:5–6), and the nature of his death (Isa. 52–53). For me, these fulfillments were concrete confirmations of the truth of Christianity.

Teaching messianic prophecies and their realization in the life of Jesus composes one of the best apologetics tools I’ve seen in helping students develop more confidence in their faith.

Teaching messianic prophecies and their realization in the life of Jesus composes one of the best apologetics tools I’ve seen in helping students develop more confidence in their faith.

3. Messianic prophecies give greater insight into the purpose of Christ’s life and work.

When we read through the messianic prophecies, we get a deeper understanding of the function and purpose of Christ’s life and work. In some ways, the Gospels assume the audience has a base of knowledge from the Old Testament about the functions of the Messiah. When readers do not have this previous understanding, many of Jesus’s actions and words fly over their heads.

In studying the major messianic texts, a teenager will see trends in the mission of the Messiah. For example, the messianic prophecy of Zechariah 9 makes clear several elements of Christ’s calling. First, he will be a king, riding on a donkey as a sign of his rule through humility. This emphasizes his victory through weakness, and models the way of meekness as the paradigm of the Christian life.

Second, Zechariah 9 exhibits how Jesus’s rule shall bring peace to all nations. Isaiah, in various places, emphasizes the international scope of his mission as well. This demonstrates Christ’s desire to bring peaceful reconciliation with God to all nations and spurs on our prayers and work for international evangelism.

So many of these texts focus on the purpose of the Messiah’s coming. Thus, in studying them, young people get a deeper understanding of both the mission of Christ and also the design of the Christian life.

4. Messianic prophecies deepen our confidence in God’s faithfulness.

Finally, a big part of ministering to young people involves teaching them the promises of God. We tell students things such as “God is with you,” “Jesus forgives your sins,” “the Lord has a home for you in heaven,” and “Christ can heal your heart.” Learning the promises of God helps build faith as we teach students to rely on the Lord by trusting in his Word. Given that young people have limited life experience, they have not had much time to see God deliver on these promises in their own lives. (Some of the promises, like the promise of heaven, require faith and do not have any experiential confirmation in this life.)

We can show young people that just as the Lord delivered on his promises to his people in the past, he will remain faithful to his Word and people today, too.

As we study these prophecies one by one, we see God’s faithfulness in fulfilling them in the person of Jesus. As we draw these connections, we can show young people that just as the Lord delivered on his promises to his people in the past, he will remain faithful to his Word and people today, too.

Altogether, studying messianic prophecies edifies students on many levels. They grow in their knowledge of Scripture and biblical theology, as well as their apologetics. They’re also encouraged in their relationship with Christ by increasing their confidence in the Lord’s faithfulness.

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