What does tomorrow hold in store for each of us? Will it be a good day or a bad day? Will we have success or failure? Will we be healthy or sick, alive or dead? The fact is, not one of us knows. We don’t even know for certain what is in store for the rest of today. If we could see ahead just a few hours, how many accidents, disasters or bad decisions could be avoided! Jesus made this point very clearly in his parable of the rich man in Luke 12. The man was a landowner whose crop was extremely good. Realizing his existing barns were too small for such a good crop he resolved to pull them down and build bigger ones. Then he could live off the fruits of his labour for many years; he said he would,
“take ease, eat, drink and be merry.”
But God said to him,
“You fool, this very night you must surrender your life; you have made your money; who will get it now?”
“That is how it is with the man who amasses wealth for himself and remains a pauper in the sight of God.” (Luke 12:16–21 NEB)
Real prophecies only in the Bible
If someone were to tell us of an event one day into the future, we would surely be impressed, but we may still be inclined to put it down to chance. What if someone were to tell us of thousands of events that came to pass as predicted? That could not possibly be put down to chance, especially if those predictions were not broad general statements, but specific statements containing exact details. What if some of the predictions came to pass before our very eyes? Surely we would stop and take notice. Surely then we would make the most of the information with a view to improving our lives now and into the future.
The Bible is the only book that has predicted world events time and time again, not only well before they occurred, but future events as well, which have still to come to pass. The Bible’s prediction about the establishment of Israel we recall from the last chapter.
Bible prophecies not written after the events
When faced with the evidence, a sceptic invariably says the prophecies were written after the events. What are the facts?
First of all, history bears testimony to the conclusion that the Old Testament books of the Bible existed at least as long ago as 280 BC, as they were being translated into Greek by 70 Jews in Alexandria at that time. That version of the Bible became known as the Septuagint.
Then in the spring of 1947 the first Dead Sea scrolls were discovered by a Bedouin boy in a cave at Qumran on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. Over the next ten years a total of 900 documents were discovered in 11 caves. These included texts from every book of the Hebrew Bible except Esther and Nehemiah, the only known surviving documents made before 100 AD.
There was a complete copy of the book of Isaiah the prophet. The accuracy of each text, compared with all previous known copies, demonstrated the skill of the scribes whose job it was to copy error-free from existing scrolls. Many of the scrolls are now housed in the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem.
Man’s prophecies unreliable
There is a common-sense test of any prophecy: If it comes to pass it is genuine; if it doesn’t, it is false. God stated this obvious truth through His prophet Jeremiah:
“When the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known that the Lord hath truly sent him” (Jer. 28:9).
We recall from the last chapter the prediction that Hitler made:
A. That the Third Reich would last 1000 years.
False: It fell after 13 years.
He also predicted:
B. “The final solution of the Jewish problem” would be
completed before the end of the war. ref 11
False: The Jews were not completely destroyed.
C. That in 1942 the Red Army would be, “beaten in every direction in the summer.”
False: The Red Army won.
All of his predictions proved to be wrong, because man simply cannot see into the future. Any prophecy can be checked against the test of time. Each prophecy is either right or wrong, based on what happens in the future.
The mathematical science of probability
One prophecy has 1 out of 2 chances of being right:
i. right ii. wrong (2)
Two prophecies have 1 out of 4 chances of being right:
i. A and B both right ii. A and B both wrong
iii. A right and B wrong iv. A wrong and B right (4)
Three prophecies have 1 out of 8 chances of being right:
i. A, B and C all right ii. A,B and C all wrong
iii. A right, B right C wrong iv. A right, B wrong, C right
v. A wrong, B right, C right vi. A wrong, B wrong, C right
vii. A wrong, B right, C wrong viii. A right B wrong, C wrong (8)
With each extra prophecy the chances of being right are reduced exponentially. What does exponentially mean? Look at the pattern developed so far:
1 prophecy: 1 in 2 chances of being right. 2
2 prophecies: 1 in 4 chances of both being right. 22 (2 x 2) = 4
3 prophecies: 1 in 8 chances of all being right. 23 (2 x 2 x 2) = 8
Therefore, the number of prophecies becomes the exponent of 2.
4 prophecies:1 in 16 chances of all being right.24 (2 x 2 x 2 x 2) =16
5 prophecies:1 in 32 chances of all being right. 25 = 32
6 prophecies:1 in 64 chances of all being right. 26 etc.
7 prophecies:1 in 128 chances of all being right. 27 etc.
8 prophecies:1 in 256 chances of all being right. 28 etc.
The more prophecies there are the less chance there is that they will all be fulfilled. This exponential increase in values can be shown on a graph.
God’s prophecies reliable
Now consider just eight fulfilled prophecies about Christ:
AWho he was:
i. He would be born of a virgin:
“Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son shall call his name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14)
And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. (Luke 1:26 & 27)
ii. He would be the son of God:
“I will be his father and he shall be my son” (2 Sam. 7:14)
“..therefore that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the son of God.” (Luke 1:35)
BWhat happened at his first advent:
ii. He would be crucified:
“..the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me; they pierced my hands and my feet.” (Psa. 22:16)
“And they crucified him and parted his garments, casting lots.” (Matt. 27:35)
C When he was to come:
“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people…Know therefore and understand that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build again Jerusalem unto the Messiah …shall be seven weeks and threescore and two weeks…And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off… and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease.” (Dan. 9:24–27)
When Christ was crucified: 490 day/years (70 x 7) after the commandment to “restore and build again Jerusalem” i.e. 456 BC. 490 years after 456 BC is AD 34, keeping in mind that in the Authorised Version, “in the midst of the week” means in the latter half of the week. ref 12
DWhere he would be born:
“But thou 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” (Mic. 5:2).
“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.” (Matt. 2:1)
EWhy he came:
i. He brought salvation.
“Rejoice greatly O daughter of Zion; shout O daughter of Jerusalem; behold thy king cometh unto thee; he is just and having salvation” (Zech. 9:9).
“And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith, which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 3:15)
ii. He was a light to the gentiles.
“I will also give thee a light to the gentiles that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth” (Isa. 49:6)
“A light to lighten the gentiles and the glory of thy people Israel.” (Luke 2:32)
We have considered just eight prophecies out of 333 in the Old Testament regarding Christ’s first advent. The eight prophecies give a prophetic picture of Christ in broad brush-strokes. The finer details are provided by the other 325 prophecies. Applying these figures to the graph above, the chances of just those eight prophecies about Christ’s first advent coming to pass should be one chance in 28. That works out to one chance in 256.
However, by introducing the other factors of time and different authors, the chances of the prophecies being fulfilled in just one man are even less likely. The science of probability now has to go to a new level. Professor Emeritus of Science at Westmont College, Peter Stoner, has calculated the probability of one man fulfilling the major prophecies made concerning the Messiah. The estimates were worked out by twelve different classes, representing some 600 university students.
The students carefully weighed all the factors, discussed each prophecy at length and examined the various circumstances which might indicate that men had conspired together to fulfil a particular prophecy. They made their estimates conservative enough, to achieve unanimous agreement, even among the most sceptical students.
Professor Stoner then took their estimates and made them even more conservative. He also encouraged other sceptics or scientists to make their own estimates to see if his conclusions were more than fair. Finally, he submitted his figures for review to a committee of the American Scientific Affiliation. Upon examination they verified that his calculations were dependable and accurate in regard to the scientific material presented. ref 13
For example, concerning Micah 5:2 where it states the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, Stoner and his students determined the average population of Bethlehem from the time of Micah to the present; then they divided it by the average population of the earth during the same period. They concluded that the chance of one man being born in Bethlehem as predicted was one in 2.8 x 105 or one in 280,000.
After examining only eight different prophecies they conservatively estimated that the chance of one man fulfilling all eight prophecies was one in 1017. To illustrate how large the number 1017 is (a number with 17 zeros), Stoner gave this illustration:
“If you mark one of ten tickets and place all the tickets in a hat, and thoroughly stir them, and then ask a blindfolded man to draw one, his chance of getting the right ticket is one in ten. Suppose that we take 1017 silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They’ll cover all of the state two feet deep. Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state. Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one. What chance would he have of getting the right one? Just the same chance that the prophets would’ve had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man, from their day to the present time, providing they wrote them in their own wisdom.”
But of course there are many more than eight prophecies. Stoner then used 48 prophecies (even though he could have used all 333) and arrived at the extremely conservative estimate that the probability of 48 prophecies being fulfilled in one person is one chance in the incredible number 10157. How large is the number 10157? 10157 contains 157 zeros.
Obviously the probability that 333 prophecies would be fulfilled in one man by chance is vastly smaller. As Stoner concludes,
“Any man who rejects Christ as the Son of God is rejecting a fact, proved perhaps more absolutely than any other fact in the world.”
God so thoroughly vindicated Jesus Christ that even mathematicians and statisticians, who were without faith, had to acknowledge that it is scientifically impossible to deny that Jesus is the Messiah. ref 14
We could now examine Old Testament prophecies about Tyre and Sidon, Egypt, Edom, the Philistines, Babylon, Israel, and the history of the Jews, but these can be examined in books such as Wonders of Prophecy by John Urquhart, a standard text on the subject.
We will consider just one—Babylon—in the light of ancient prophecy and recent developments.
Not long after the flood which destroyed the wicked, the children of men built the city of Babel with a tower “to reach unto heaven”, for they didn’t believe God’s promise not to flood the earth again. They didn’t name it Babel —God did—because it was there that the Lord confounded their language. In this way God ensured that groups with the same language would band together and move away from Babylon. The meaning of Babel is ‘confusion’, which is appropriate, not only because of the confusion of languages, but also because it was the city from which false religion spread around the world (Gen 11:9). Babel became the city of Babylon on the Euphrates River, capital of the kingdom of Babylonia and headquarters of Hammurabi the famous lawgiver. It was from the city of Ur in Babylonia that God called Abraham.
In Isaiah 13 the Lord God stated:
“And Babylon the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there. But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there. And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces; and her time is near to come and her days shall not be prolonged.” (Isa. 13:19–21)
The prophecy was not completely fulfilled immediately, for the kings of Media and Persia reigned for some time in Babylon after they had destroyed its inhabitants, fulfilling Isa. 13:17–18. Alexander the Great also intended to restore Babylon, making it the capital of his empire, but he died in 323 BC before he could put his plan into action. The city therefore continued in some form for nearly 400 years after Isaiah’s prophecy, but it was nevertheless doomed to destruction.
The city of Seleucia, which was built nearby by Alexander’s successors in 300 BC, not only drew away inhabitants from Babylon, but also was constructed from materials of the ancient city. Babylon became “heaps, an astonishment and an hissing, without an inhabitant”. The whole of Isaiah 13 is devoted to the fate of Babylon, but in these verses alone there are at least seven separate details which build a prophetic picture of this once great city. Every detail eventually came to pass.
In 1985 Saddam Hussein started rebuilding Babylon on top of the old ruins, for he considered himself a modern-day Nebuchadnezzar. Bricks were inscribed,
“This was built by Saddam Hussein son of Nebuchadnezzar, to glorify Iraq.”
He had plans to restore the hanging gardens, the ancient ziggurat or Tower of Babel, and the Ishtar Gate. Next to Nebuchadnezzar’s old palace he built his own. As the powerful king Nebuchadnezzar had ruled the ancient world so Saddam Hussein hoped to rule over the world’s greatest empire. As Nebuchadnezzar had conquered Jerusalem, so he imagined he would do the same. Saddam Hussein, like Hitler before him, brought upon himself the wrath of God, for not only did he curse God’s people, but also he began to rebuild a city that God’s prophets had said would not be rebuilt. The invasion of Iraq in April 2003 brought the downfall of Saddam Hussein and vandals and looters came to Saddam’s Babylon. His inscribed bricks are now highly sought after as collector’s items.
Before the invasion of 2003 Saddam Hussein had plans to build a cable car line over restored Babylon. After the invasion parts of the site were levelled to provide a landing area for US helicopters. Saddam Hussein’s plans were consigned to history as was the evil man himself. Prophecy had been fulfilled.
In July 2006 United Nations officials announced that they had plans, together with the Iraqi administration, to restore Babylon again. It would have shopping malls, hotels and even a theme park. ref 15 Their ignorance of the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah is apparent for all students of the Bible to see. The UN’s plans for Babylon will meet the same fate as Saddam Hussein’s and “the children of men” of Gen 11.
Enough has been shown of prophecies in the Old Testament regarding the Messiah and Babylon for even the most adamant sceptic finally to take notice. Add to all of the Old Testament prophecies those of the New Testament, especially those made by Christ symbolically in the book of Revelation, and it can be seen that almost the whole Bible is prophecy.
Revelation gives the history of the world in advance from AD 96 onwards, until Christ’s reign during the millennium, or 1000 years of peace. Coupled with Daniel’s prophecies of the history of the world, which also take us through to the millennium, the sincere Bible student becomes not only convinced of the truth of God’s word, but also a dedicated watcher of the signs of the times which indicate that Christ will soon be in the earth.
Prophecy is another good reason to believe the Bible.
If you are not yet convinced, please take the time to consider the following video.