by David A. Reed COMPLETE BOOK ONLINE
Why Believe Bible Prophecy?
What is the Bible's track record? Unlike fanciful religious writings and fairy tales, the Bible speaks of the real world and its past and future events. The existence of ancient kings and kingdoms described in Scripture has been verified, time and again, by archaeological discoveries. In fact, archaeologists have long used the Bible as a guide, to help them know what to look for and where to dig for it.
Is its prophetic track record equally reliable? Yes. Besides its 'end times' prophecies concerning Messiah's return, his coming Kingdom of God, and the end of the corrupt 'world' as we know it, the Bible also contains many prophecies that have already undergone fulfillment. If we look at these, and at their accurate fulfillment hundreds or thousands of years later, we will find convincing evidence that will enable us to put faith in what the Bible also predicts for the near future.
Although we think of it as a single book, the Bible is actually a collection of more than sixty books written by some forty writers over the course of well over a thousand years. Some of the oldest prophetic passages were already considered 'ancient' writings by those who lived generations afterward, and who likewise heard from God and penned the more recent books of the Bible. They, along with secular historians outside Israel, recorded the events that took place as foretold by the earlier writers.
Is there a chance that later writers 'fudged' these prophecies by writing them, or re-writing them, after the events occurred? No, because the ancient hand-written scrolls were copied and distributed far and wide. No one could possibly have collected all the copies, from Egypt to Babylon, to make such later modifications. And enough copies have been found, nestled among ancient artifacts unearthed during archaelogical digs, to establish that they were written long before the events they accurately predicted.
Prophecy that has already been fulfilled provides some of the strongest motivation to believe the other prophecies of Scripture that remain be fulfilled in the future. Fulfilled prophecy constitutes evidence proving the Bible's authenticity as a product of superhuman divine intelligence, although humans clearly were used as God's scribes to write it down.
Fulfilled biblical prophecies are many in number, and some of them are relatively long and rather complex. That is because they are essentially history written in advance, and history can be long and complex. Have you ever studied the history of England with its violent mixing of Angles, Saxons, Celts and others, and its turbulent succession of kings and queens? Then you know what I am talking about when I refer to length and complexity. The history of ancient Israel and the surrounding empires that encroached on its territory at one time or another forms a tangled web as difficult to untangle as the history of Britain, or more so, and some of the prophecies are equally difficult to understand.
For example, in the book of the Bible bearing his name the prophet Daniel uses symbolic language to predict a succession of world powers who would fight each other for supremacy over a period of hundreds and thousands of years, culminating in the coming of the Jewish Messiah and his eventual supplanting of human governments with the Kingdom of God. An adequate discussion of these prophecies and the world events that have fulfilled them, so far, would fill books -- and has, indeed, proved to be the subject of many books. So, we won't even start to look at them here. (Whew!)
But there are two Bible prophecies in particular that are simple to understand, powerful in their impact, and impossible to deny. They fit within the scope of this web site.
The first of these is the prediction that the God of Israel would eventually be worshiped all over the whole planet earth.
The Bible's prophecies on this matter were written during an era when each nation had its own gods and goddesses. The Ammonites worshipped Molech, and sacrificed their children as part of that worship. The people of Phoenicia and Canaan bowed down to Baal and Ashtoreth. The nation of Moab served their god Chemosh. The Philistines prostrated themselves before Dagon. The Greeks in Ephesus shouted praise to their goddess Artemis. The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all worshipped whole pantheons of gods, including Zeus, Mercury, deified emperors and pharaohs, and many, many others. But the people of Israel worshipped the unseen Creator of the universe, who revealed himself to Abraham and Abraham's offspring by the name Yahweh or Jehovah -- the Hebrew tetragrammaton or word of four letters, YHWH.
How many people today still worship Molech, Chemosh or Dagon? A better question might be, How many have even heard of these long-lost 'gods'? The names of Zeus and Mercury are still recognized today as gods of classical antiquity, but how many cities throughout the world can boast of temples where throngs of people assemble to pray to these Greek and Roman deities? But the God of Abraham has worshipers today in Jewish synagogues throughout the earth. Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox churches devoted to this same God are found on every continent. And a billion Muslims spread across the earth identify Allah of the Koran with the God of Abraham.
Did the God of Abraham win worshipers worldwide because the nations sponsoring other gods ceased to exist? At first glance, that might seem to be explain why Molech, Chemosh and Dagon find few faithful adherents today. Ammon, Phoenicia and Moab are no longer on the map. But, wait! Israel, too, ceased to exist as a nation some two thousand years ago, and wasn't re-established until very recently in 1948. Yet the God of Israel survived and gained worshipers throughout the earth. Moreover, Egypt still exists as a nation, but the gods of the pharaohs and the pyramids are long gone. The vast majority of Egyptians today worship the God of Abraham. Greece and Rome are still on the map, but the Greeks worship the God of Abraham, and Rome has become synonymous with the Catholic faith that elevates the God of Abraham and his Messiah or Christ.
Is it mere coincidence, then, that the God of Israel has worshipers everywhere, while the gods of Israel's ancient neighbors have faded into oblivion? No, this is exactly what the Bible prophesied would occur.
The Old Testament was written over a period of hundreds of years in the Hebrew language, and it was completed long before the third century B.C., when it was translated into Greek in Alexandria, Egypt. Contained within that Old Testament, while the pantheon of pagan gods were still actively worshiped, were these ancient prophecies about the God of Abraham:
"All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee." (Psalm 22:27)
"All the earth shall worship thee, and shall sing unto thee; they shall sing to thy name." (Psalm 66:4)
"That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations." (Psalm 67:2)
"God shall bless us; and all the ends of the earth shall fear him." (Psalm 67:7)
"All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name." (Psalm 86:9)
"O LORD ...the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit. Shall a man make gods unto himself, and they are no gods." (Jeremiah 16:19-20)
"And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts." (Zechariah 14:16)
How unlikely those words would have seemed to non-Israelites at that time, had they even had the curiosity to read the religious writings of the Jews!
Hundreds of years later the New Testament was completed and began circulating in multiple copies during the lifetime of those who encountered Jesus in the flesh, while pagan Caesars still ruled the world and compelled people to worship them as deified emperors. Yet these early Christian writings, too, prophesy about the God of Abraham:
"Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest." (Revelation 15:4)
How unlikely this, too, must have seemed at a time when the powerful Roman empire had only recently crushed Jewish nationalism, tore down the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, scattered the Jewish captives to the four corners of the empire, and was in the process of hunting down and publicly executing the remaining followers of the Jewish Messiah Jesus!
Yet, in spite of overwhelming odds, these ancient biblical prophecies have proved true. The God of Israel is worshiped today by people of all nations, even by millions in a land as foreign to Israel as China. I myself have visited Japan and shared in worship with Japanese Christians. Besides the Jews, billions of Christians and Muslims throughout the entire world claim to worship the God of Abraham.
Yes, the God of the Jews finds worshipers everywhere today -- just as He prophesied in the Bible thousands of years ago.
But, that isn't all. This is merely one of many, many fulfilled prophecies proving the truthfulness of the Bible as God's inspired Word.
The second prophecy that can be considered in the space allowed here is equally simple, powerful and undeniable. It is the prediction that the Jews would be removed from the Promised Land, would be scattered throughout the earth, but thousands of years later would finally return and reestablish the nation of Israel. This prophecy was made centuries prior to the rise of the Caesars in Rome, yet was fulfilled within my lifetime, and within the recollection of many people alive today.
Through Moses, God brought the nation of Israel into a covenant, a solemn agreement to keep the complete set of laws and commandments He gave them. "These are the words of the covenant which the LORD commanded Moses to make with the sons of Israel." (Deuteronomy 29:1 NASB) If they kept the covenant, they would receive a long string of blessings specifically listed as part of the agreement. But, if they broke the covenant, there would be punishments in store for the nation. The ultimate punishment would be the breakup of the nation and the scattering of the Jewish people to live as strangers in the territories of other nations.
"But it shall come about, if you do not obey the LORD your God...the LORD will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth." (Deuteronomy 28:15, 64 NASB)
Though the Jewish people would remain in this scattered condition, without a homeland of their own, for a very long, long time, this scattering would not be permanent. They would eventually be returned to the Promised Land:
"...then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee ...from thence will he fetch thee: And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it." (Deuteronomy 30:3-5)
"...the LORD will...assemble the dipersed of Israel, and gather together the scattered of Judah from the four corners of the earth." (Isaiah 11:11-12 Jewish Publication Society of America)
There were relatively brief periods of captivity forced on the Jews by the Assyrian empire and, later, by the Babylonian empire. Much of the population was carried captive to Babylon for about seventy years, with a large number of escapees fleeing in the other direction, to Egypt, around the sixth century B.C. But the real scattering of the Jews to the four corners of the earth was yet future. Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, repeated the prophecy in these words:
"And they shall fall by the edge of the sword and be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." (Luke 21:24)
Within the lifetime of those who witnessed Christ's crucifixion, a Jewish uprising against Rome was crushed brutally by the imperial armies. The Romans demolished Jerusalem and its temple and sold the Jews into slavery throughout the empire, scattering them to the four corners of the earth, into all the nations.
Normally, that would have spelled the end of the Jews as a people and Israel as a nation. To all appearances, there would never again be a Jewish state in Palestine. The Romans ruled the ruins of Jerusalem until the empire began to fall apart. Then the eastern empire ruled from Byzantium. With the rise of Islam, Muslims took control. The land changed hands as European Crusaders and the Arab warriors of Islamic Jihad pushed each other back and forth over the war-torn terrain. For hundreds of years -- nearly two thousand years, in fact -- Gentiles trampled upon Jerusalem. Would the Jewish state ever be restored? You must be joking!!! Only a miracle could bring that about.
However, that miracle had been promised in biblical prophecy. Although it took two world wars to accomplish it, the miracle occurred as the hand of God pushed world events in that direction, and the prophecy was fulfilled.
World War I was still raging, and the Ottoman Turks still held Jerusalem when, on June 4, 1917, Jules Cambon, Secretary General of the French Foreign Ministry, wrote this in an official letter to Jewish Zionist leader Nahum Sokolow:
... it would be a deed of justice and reparation to assist, by the protection of the Allied Powers, in the renaissance of the Jewish nationality in that Land from which the people of Israel were exiled so many centuries ago.
Five months later, on November 2, 1917, British foreign secretary Arthur James Lord Balfour wrote a letter to a Jewish peer in the House of Lords, a letter that has since been dubbed "the Balfour Declaration":
Foreign Office November 2nd, 1917
When British forces under General Allenby took Jerusalem in December, 1917, a Jewish Legion of several thousand Jews from many nations formed part of the victorious army. Under a Mandate from the League of Nations, Britain continued to administer the territory. Meanwhile, a huge steady influx of Jewish immigrants began to arrive.
As though to thwart the fulfillment of prophecy, Hitler's Nazi government arose and began the systematic slaughter of six million Jews in gas chambers and ovens. It took the Second World War to stop this demonic madness and to keep the prophecy on track to fulfillment. But enough Jews survived to see the formation of the State of Israel in 1948. The Bible indeed proved to be a book of true prophecy.
How could the ancient Bible writers see thousands of years ahead into mankind's future? How could they know, in advance, that the gods of the Gentile nations would fade into antiquity, while Israel's God would come to have worshipers in every nation? How could they know that the Jewish nation would be destroyed, its people scattered worldwide, only to be restored once again after thousands of years?
Actually, they did not "know" the future, except in the sense that they wrote down what they were told by God, and they believed what He told them. God, in turn, knew the future, because he could make it happen. Regardless of what men chose to do, using the free will that he granted them, he could intervene in human affairs and cause events to turn out in fulfillment of his inspired prophecies.
These prophecies, undeniably fulfilled thousands of years later, offer indisputable evidence of the truthfulness, inspiration and reliability of the Bible.