By Ron Halbrook
Yes, I believe the Bible because of its genuine, fulfilled prophecies. A “prophecy” means any message claiming to be miraculously inspired of God. It may concern duties or events of the past, present, or future. We are thinking especially of predictive prophecy here.(1) As a forecast of the future, it provides a means by which to test the prophet’s claim that his explanations of past and present events or duties came from God. The veracity of his larger message of prophecy depends upon the success or failure of his predictions. We can prove the larger message of the Bible true by a study of its accurate predictions.
The Bible itself proposes the acid test for all men who claim to speak for God and to foretell the future. Every false prophet must live in dread of the future because man cannot accurately forecast the details of history. Moses told his followers how to expose lies about powers of the occult, magic, enchantment, witchcraft, mediums, palmists, necromancers, and other assorted false prophets:
And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord bath not spoken?
When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet bath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him (Deut. 18:21-22).
Lying prophets are sometimes specific in their predictions, but more often vague. The more specific they are, the more vulnerable to exposure. The ancient arts of soothsaying and astrology always have been notoriously vague in speech.
In Greece, too, oracles were pronounced by the Pythian prophetess, who by vapors and the like was aroused to a practice of the mantic art. In Dodona it was the voice of the divinity in Nature, which they sought to read in the rustling of the trees and the murmuring of the water. How uncertain these sources were was well known to heathen antiquity. The ancients complain of the enigmatical character of the Sibyline utterances and the doubtful nature of what was said.(2)
Even a little investigation exposes William Miller (1782-1849), Joseph Smith, Jr. (1805-44), Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910), Ellen G. White (1827-1915), Charles T. Russell (1852-1916), Joseph F. Rutherford (1869-1942), Edgar Cayce (1872-1945), Jeane Dixon (1918- ), and other so-called “modern prophets” as masters of deceit. They made predictions by the claim of divine insight or assistance, and failed:
1. Miller set the end of the world for 1843, then 1844.
2. Smith said in 1831-32 that the New Jerusalem and Temple would be built at Independence, Missouri “in this generation,” and that the War Between the States (1861-65) was about to begin in 1832, which would engulf and make “a full end of all nations.” At another time, he said the end of the world could not be expected until 1891. He established Mormonism.
3. Eddy’s “Christian Science” writings teach that the Lord revealed to her that such things as pain, physical disease, tumors, broken bone, and death are “illusions” which disappear with the acceptance of her message. She mothered the Christian Science religion.
4. White claimed to relate visions from God in her many writings, but Walter T. Rea documents her plagerism in his book The White Lie, proving that she was neither inspired nor honest. She founded Seventh Day Adventism.
5. Russell and Rutherford fathered Millennial Dawnism or the “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” a religion which from its inception has predicted, recalculated, and re-refigured the date of the world’s “end” 1914, 1918, 1925, and 1975. Presumably, current leaders are back at the drawing boards again.
6. Cayce’s trance “readings” explained dreams as prophecies, told of reincarnated lives, and prescribed dietary and health aids through divine or occult assistance. The Association for Research and Enlightment, Inc. of Virginia Beach, Virginia perpetuated his ideas after his death.
7. Dixon’s so-called accurate prophecies are highly publicized but not her prediction that World War III would occur in 1958 and not her 1965 forecast that “Russia will be the first nation to put a man on the moon.” The vague inspirational vaporings of her horoscopes have appeared in major newspapers for many years.(3)
The amazing thing about the Bible is that it never made a prophecy that failed!
In fact, the Bible is the only book in all history that contains genuine prophecies – predictions that have been consistently, unerringly fulfilled in the events forecast. Since man cannot by human powers foretell the future, the only adequate explanation for the genuine prophecies of Scripture is that God spoke through the authors. I believe the Bible because of its genuine, fulfilled prophecies concerning the Jews~of ancient history and especially concerning the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. Not only was Jesus the subject of Old Testament prophecies, but also he predicted future events with unfailing accuracy. In the form of genuine, fulfilled prophecies, the Bible gives indestructible evidence for (1) the existence of the true God, (2) the divine inspiration of the Bible, and (3) the Deity or divine nature of Jesus Christ.
The Jews, God’s Witnesses
First, consider the ancient history of the Jews in prophecy. Isaiah compares what spokesmen for God said about the ancient nation of Israel with the actual history of Israel to prove the existence of true Deity. Thus Israel bears testimony or serves as a witness to God’s existence:
Ye are my witness, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.
I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no savior.
I have declared, and have saved, and I have showed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God (Isa. 43:10-12).
God challenged “all the nations” to produce a similar witness and He ridiculed all the idols of heathen religion as “their own witnesses; they see not, nor know” (44:9).
The history of the Jews, Hebrews, or Israelites began about 1800 B.C. when God promised to give Abram a land, to make of him a great nation, and to bring out of him a blessing for men of all nations (Gen. 12:1-3). Abram was told that his seed would be enslaved by another people before possessing the promised land of Canaan, but also that they would take the land some 400 years after Abram’s time (15:13-16). The paradox of slaves leaving the place of bondage “with great substance” is mentioned (15:14). The promises were repeated to Isaac and Jacob. Jacob’s family went into Egypt, multiplied into a host, and were enslaved. When Moses led the Jewish people out of Egyptian bondage, they carried the bounty of Egypt (Ex. 12:33-36). These Hebrews or Israelites took Canaan about 1400 B.C. (see book of Joshua).(4) Every prediction was fulfilled in detail.
Just before the Hebrews entered Canaan, Moses told them on behalf of God exactly what their future history would be (Deut. 28-30). If they served God faithfully, they could expect prosperity and protection from God. Disobedience would bring disaster and destruction – including invasions by foreign nations who would drive the Jews into starvation, cannibalism, defeat, and deportation as slaves (28:36-37, 41, 48-57). But should the Jews truly repent of their sins while in captivity, God promised to return them to their promised land (30:1-10). Moses recorded all of these things in about 1400 B.C. and subsequent prophets reaffirmed them often with added detail. Israel fulfilled every word during the centuries after Moses.
After a period during which God guided His people through judges, Israel chose the rule of kings – Saul, David, and Solomon. Then about 900 B.C., the nation divided into a northern Kingdom called Israel or Samaria and a Southern Kingdom called Judah, with separate kings. Because of Samaria’s rampant idolatry, not long after the division she suffered numerous disasters, including the ravages of cannibalism among her own people during the seige by Syria (2 Kgs. 6:24-29). During the middle 700s, the prophet Isaiah said that Assyria would descend like a flood from the North into Canaan, engulfing Samaria and leaving only the head of Judah – Jerusalem – above the waters (Isa. 8:4-8). History records that Samaria went into Assyrian captivity in 721 B.C. Judah, too, was invaded. But as Assyrian King Sennacherib’s own annals show, Jerusalem escaped his hands: “Himself [Hezekiah], like a bird in a cage in the midst of Jerusalem, his royal city, I shut up.”(5) This face-saving euphemism means that Sennacherib temporarily surrounded the city but could not take it.
The prophet Isaiah predicted the fall of Assyria to Babylon, and that the moral and religious decay of Judah would bring God’s wrath in the form of Babylonian captivity (chap. 39). When the prophecy was made, Assyria and not Babylon was the dominant power! This, too, came to pass in every detail, with the final destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. Not long before the fall came, the prophet Jeremiah foretold that Judah’s people would eat their own children under the Babylonian seige (Jer. 19:9).
Another prophet, Ezekiel, had been taken into Babylon before Jerusalem’s final collapse. Even from the foreign land he continued to accurately predict the details of Judah’s suffering (Ezek. 1:1-3). For instance, he foretold that King Zedekiah could not resist Babylon’s assult, would try to escape his besieged capitol, would be captured while attempting the escape, would be blinded but taken to Babylon alive, and would die there (chap. 12). The very day of the invader’s attack on Jerusalem was named (24:1-2). Thus the prophets spoke “things which lay beyond their natural horizon and which were contrary to all probability. “(6)
Jeremiah specified that Judah’s captivity would last “seventy years” and that God would then destroy Babylon (Jer. 25:11-12). To top it all off, Isaiah said that God would bring Judah’s deliverer “from the east” and called him by name nearly 200 years in advance! In the day of fulfillment, the calculated guesses of lying prognosticators would be confounded:
Thus saith the Lord, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the Lord that maketh all things . . .
That frustrateth the tokens of the liars ….
That confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth and counsel of his messengers; that saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited; and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built, and I will raise up the decayed places thereof . . .
That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure; even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid (Isa. 44:24-28).
The prophet here claims that history will verify or confirm the word of God’s true prophet and will expose the fraud of pretenders. History records that the Medo-Persians overthrew Babylon and later the Persian King Cyrus released the Jews from captivity to return home to Canaan. There, they rebuilt Jerusalem and the temple of the Lord.
National success and prosperity were promised to Israel if it obeyed the true and living God – the eternal I AM. Destruction and captivity were promised for disobedience, return and restoration for repentance. The history of Israel was foretold and explained by Moses hundreds of years before the events transpired. Truly, Israel’s history bears testimony to the reality of the living God and proves the Bibe is a divine revelation.
Prophecies of the Messiah
The prophets as messengers of God reached beyond Israel’s restoration in 536 B.C. to explain her ultimate end and purpose. God had told Abram that out of a prepared people in a prepared land would come a blessing to men of all nations (Gen. 12:3). Daniel, in Babylon on the eve of the Medo-Persian period, said that in the time of the fourth kingdom from Babylon God would raise up “the Messiah the Prince.” This would signify the beginning of a new kingdom – new in nature, purpose, and duration. The new King would come to offer divine pardon from sin, would invite men of “the whole world” to share in this kingdom, and – unlike every other king – would rule “for ever” (Dan. 2:41-45; 9:24-27).
The ultimate sin of Israel was foretold: it would “cut off” or put to death God’s anointed King (Dan. 9:26). For this terrible rebellion, God would destroy Israel, leave Jerusalem and the temple “desolate,” and thus abrogate Israel’s national existence (9:27). She had served her purpose – to bear to the world the Savior. There was no reason nor promise for a renewed national existence.
Were the Jews then left without any hope or token of love from God? To the contrary, any Jew can participate in God’s new kingdom, just like men of all other nations. Indeed, if Israel had listened, her prophets had promised this new King and kingdom from the moment of Abram’s call unto the end of her national existence. The prophecies of the Messiah are the crowning evidence and ultimate proof that the Bible is the Word of God! Not the Jews alone, but all men can know there is a true and living God,,and that we have His Word. Notice a sampling of prophecies concerning the Savior by periods of time:
1. 1,800 to 1,400 Years Before Christ. God told Abram, “And in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). About 400 years later, Moses warned the Jews against false prophets, urged them to hear only true prophets of God, and pointed them to one great Prophet who would finally speak for God (Deut. 18:18-19).
2. 1,000 Years Before Christ. Many of David’s Psalms are Messianic. The Second Psalm pictures a time when the power of men would be exercised “against the Lord, and against his anointed” – a word meaning Messiah or Christ. The divine decree is stated: God’s anointed King will be “begotten” or raised up (from the dead, Acts 13:33) to rule.
Psalm 22 begins, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” The one from whom God’s help for the moment is withdrawn cries out to God and is mocked by his enemies who surround him like wild animals. He dies after great thirst, hands and feet pierced, and yet with his bones intact. Amazingly, David describes in detail the disposition of the dying man’s clothes: “They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture” (v. 18). Yet, suddenly, the one who died lives again, breaking forth with praises to God for deliverance. Men from all nations follow him and join in praises to God (vv. 22-31). The brief 110th Psalm shows the Lord God (the Father) telling the Lord Messiah of David, “Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” This King was also to be “a priest” and a judge among the nations.
3. 800 to 400 Years Before Christ. Isaiah’s prophecies further developed the revelation of the Messianic Ruler. He would be:
a. King of peace for men of all nations (2:1-5).
b. Born of a virgin and called Immanuel – God with us (7:14).
c. The ultimate Ruler – “Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (9:6-7).
d. From the royal family of Jesse (David’s father), yet a king uniting Jews and Gentile (11:1-12).
e. God’s suffering servant and the Savior of men lost in sin (chap. 53).
Chapter 53 contains many paradoxes or apparent contradictions and many minute details. That precludes any escape from possible failures of prophecy through the loophole of vague generalities, as commonly practiced by false prophets in every age. For instance, the anointed Servant of God would:
f. Appear without pomp and circumstance (vv. 1-2).
g. Be rejected by his own people (v. 3).
h. Suffer in innocence for the sins of the guilty (vv. 4-6).
i. Suffer without protest (v. 7).
j. Be the victim of gross injustice (v. 8).
k. Be “cut off” or put to death in his suffering (v. 8).
l. Die a dishonorable death and yet receive an honorable burial (v. 9).
m. Return to prolong his days after having died (v. 10).
n. Be glorified through the pardon and justification he would bring to lost sinners (vv. 11-12).
How could any prophet expect so many diverse and seemingly incongruous elements to be found in one solitary life?
Other prophets added to the mass of predictive prophecies. Messiah’s reign would:
o. Establish a new covenant with Israel and Judah, unlike the Mosaic law in several important ways (Jer. 31:31-34).
p. Unite the divided house of Israel under one King and Shepherd (Ezek. 34:23-31; 37:15-28).
q. Begin in the time of the Roman Empire and continue for ever (Dan. 2:31-45).
r. Be signified by the birth of Israel’s new Ruler in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2).
s. Be heralded by a forerunner like the prophet Eli jah (Mal. 3:1; 4:5-6).
The integrity and genuineness of the Old Testament text cannot be fairly impugned. The prophecies of the Messiah were written before, not during and after, the time of Jesus. The completed Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek about 250 B.C. (the Septuagint translation). The Dead Sea Scrolls are copies of the Old Testament books in the Hebrew language made about 200-100 B.C. All recent discoveries in the field of Old Testament textual studies confirm the genuineness and accuracy of the Masoretic or standard Hebrew text.(7) The prophecies clearly existed before Jesus lived.
Fulfillment In Jesus: The Word of Prophecy Made More Sure!
The New Testament writers testified that Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies – thus confirming them as the true, sure, and certain Word of God (2 Pet. 1:19-21). The New Testament was not written several centuries after Jesus lived, allowing time for myths and legends to grow up, but were written by the contempories and eye witnesses of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.(8)
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John lived in the first century during the time of the Roman Empire. They recorded the birth of Jesus of a virgin, from the lineage of Abraham and David, in an humble setting at Bethlehem. As Jesus neared the time of His public ministry, a forerunner named John announced that God’s new kingdom was at hand. Jesus’ life of unselfish service and His ministry of teaching included miracles which verified His Messianic claims. Yet His own people violated their canons of justice and manipulated the power of Rome to convict Him of capital crimes. His hands and feet were pierced in shameful execution on a cross, from whence He cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” After executing Him, the soldiers split one of His garments into four pieces, a piece for each man, and cast lots for the garment called a vesture.
From that cross He was taken by friends to receive an honorable burial in a rich man’s new tomb. After the third day, Jesus arose from the dead and proved Himself alive by many infallible proofs. The testimony of the gospel writers is unanimous on this point.
The remaining New Testament books – Acts through Revelation – explain how Jesus Christ ascended to heaven and was proclaimed as the Savior of men lost in sin. This preaching began in Jerusalem, spread into Judea, then into Samaria, and by stages into all the world. Jesus was proclaimed the Messiah, both Lord and Christ, the Prophet like Moses, God’s Anointed King, the Prince of Peace, The mighty God, the Shepherd of our souls, the High Priest of a New Covenant, and the Judge of the world! Men of all the world – of Judah and of Samaria, Jews and also Gentiles -were united in the kingdom of this Savior.
God pardoned and united men as they exercised faith in His divine Son by repenting of their sins, by confessing Him, and by being immersed in water (see book of Acts). Their attitudes and conduct were transformed into the image of God’s Son, touching every facet and relationship of life. They received new duties and privileges of worship and service in local assemblies of Christians, meeting to perpetuate the gospel and to publicly praise God. The New Testament pattern of preaching, faith, and conduct made it possible for the kingdom and truth of Christ to go marching on for ever (1 Tim. 3:14-15; 2 Pet. 1:12-15).
Every prophecy was fulfilled – including every minute detail and every paradox, which precludes deception. We may add that Jesus personally, and also through Him ambassadors or apostles, made a number of propehcies. These in like manner have come to pass unerringly:
1. His betrayal by Judas (Matt. 26:17-25).
2. His death by crucifixion (20:19).
3. His resurrection on the third day (16:21; 20:19).
4. The establishment of his kingdom in the generation of His contemporaries (16:18-19, 28; Mk. 9:1).
5. The fall of Jerusalem in the same generation (Matt. 24:1-34).
6. Various apostasies or fallings away from the truth of His kingdom (24:10-12; Acts 20:29-30; 1 Tim. 4:1-3).
7. The preservation of the Word of God (1 Pet. 1:23-25).
Prophecies which remain to be fulfilled await the patience of God, who is offering every possible opportunity for men to enter Christ’s kingdom. But those prophecies of the end of time, the final judgment of all men, and the committal of men to their eternal destinies (Jn. 5:28-29; 2 Pet. 3) are as sure and certain as the prophecies which went before. Every Word of God is sure.
And we can be sure. The evidence is overwhelming. God exists! Jesus Christ is God’s Son! We can be sure that the Bible is God’s true Word because of its genuine, fulfilled prophecies! Predictive prophecy confirms the larger
message. The more we examine the Bible, the more certain we will be. Truly, we are without excuse for not accepting God, His Word, and His Son. Why not obey the gospel of Christ today!
1. On the definition of prophecy, see: 1. The Bible (Ex. 4:10-16; 7:1; Deut. 18:18-19; Jet. 1:4-10; 2 Pet. 1:20-21); 2. Greek-English dictionaries (as Thayer’s Lexicon: “an interpreter or spokesman for God; one through whom God speaks . . . . one who speaks forth by divine inspiration,” p. 553); and 3. James Orr, gen. ed., International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Chicago: Howard-Severance Co., 1915), IV:2461 (“. . . the contents of the prophetic discourses are not at all confined to the future. Everything that God has to announce to mankind, revelations concerning His will, admonitions, warnings, He is able to announce through the mouth of the prophet . . . . The prophets interpret also for the people that which is happening and that which has occurred . . . . They lay bare the inner reason for external occurrences and explain such events in their connection with the providential government of God.”).
For Smith On Independence, see Doctrines and Covenants 84:2-5 & 31; 57:1-3; 101:17, 20, 70-74; on War, D. & C. 87; on “end,” D. & C. 130:15.
On Eddy, see her Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures.
On White, see Rea, The White Lie (Turlock, Cal.: M. & R. Publ., 1982) and review in Time Magazine, 2 Aug. 1982, p. 49.
On Russell, Rutherford, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, see Edmond C. Gruss, Apostles of Deceit (Presbyterian & Reformed Publ. Co., 1970) and Robert A. Morey, “A Jehovah’s Witness? . . . ,” Christianity Today XXVI, 14 (3 Sept. 1982):37-39.
On Cayce and Dixon, see Ron Halbrook, “The Challenge to Scriptural Authority: Witchcraft,” in Biblical Authority: Its Meaning and Application, Florida College Annual Lectures 1974 (Marion, Ind.: Cogdill Foundation Publ., 1973), pp. 5-24. For Dixon on Russia, see Ruth Montgomery, A Gift of Prophecy: The Phenomenal Jeane Dixon (New York: Bantam Books, 1966, reprint from 1965), p. 186.
4. On the date of the exodus from Egypt and the taking of Canaan, 1 Kings 6:1 says that Solomon began to build the temple “in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt.” Solomon lived in the 10th century B.C., the 900s. Therefore, the exodus dates about 1400 B.C.
7. On the Scrolls, see A. Douglas Tushingham, “The Men Who Hid the Dead Sea Scrolls,” National Geographic Magazine CXIV, 6 (Dec. 1958):784-808; “Dead Sea Scrolls,” in Charles F. Pfeiffer, ed., The Biblical World: A Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1966), pp. 184-92.
See also the excellent bibliography and article by Alan R. Millard, “In Praise of Ancient Scribes,” Biblical Archeologist 45, 3 (Summer 1982):143-53, which says, “The Dead Sea Scrolls make explicit what had previously been supposed by many, that the Massoretic text preserves an earlier text-type current in the century or so prior to the Fall of Jerusalem. Between the completion of some books of the Old Testament and the Scrolls there is a relatively short period of time” (p. 152).
8. John A.T. Robinson is of a modernist school of biblical scholars who have questioned the authenticity of New Testament books, but even he finally admitted that the New Testament was written totally in the first century. A good summary of his two books, Redating the New Testament and Can We Trust the New Testament?, appears in Time Magazine, 21 March 1977, p. 95.
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 1, pp. 6-10
January 6, 1983