Bible Prophecy Relevance to the Modern Christian

And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures like a sound of thunder, saying, Come and see. - Rev 6:1

Introduction

Before entertaining this question, we must first set the groundwork for our discussion. Namely let us first look at the definition of the words regarding a Prophet and Prophecy and then we will look at what Bible Prophecy might be defined as in accordance with the Scriptures.

When one thinks of a prophet or prophecy they would normally think of someone who can tell the future or knows what is going to happen before it happens.

Webster's 1913 Dictionary defines a prophet as "literally, one who speaks for another, especially, one who speaks for God and interprets His will to man." It goes on to define prophecy as, "to be an interpreter of the gods, to prophesy" It can mean, "A declaration of something to come; a foretelling; a prediction; an inspired foretelling." or an "interpretation of Scripture; preaching; exhortation or instruction." It can also mean a prophetic volume or collections of prophecy.

In the case of the Church, however, the most common uses are:

  • Divine foretelling of things to come;
  • A forth telling of Divine things previously revealed.

For the purposes of this article I would like to turn our attention to the first definition, as we are most interested in the 'foretelling' and 'revelations' within Scripture.

If you looked up the word prophecy in a thesaurus you'd find similar words like: prediction, forecast, divination, foresight, etc. If we examine the word as it appears in Scripture, we find that it stems from the New Testament Greek word prophetus(n) or propheteuo(v). Simply put, the word in this context means to speak for God, to be a mouthpiece for the Lord - to speak divine revelation from God.

This begs the question - Is the God of the Bible the only Source for Accurate Prophecy?

What About: Other Religions? Oracles of Ancient Greece?, Nostradamus? Super-market Tabloids? Psychics? Astrology? For-tune Cookies? The Weatherman? Are any of them worth Listening to? (Sorry to the weathermen and women out there, but I couldn't resist)

"And if you say in your heart, 'How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?'- when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.." - Deuteronomy 18:21-22

The Biblical evidence demonstrates that true prophecy always comes to pass. And the mark of a true prophet is one whose revelations are never wrong. While some crystal ball gazers may be able to hit upon something that actually does come to pass, it is not because they have had divine revelation. It has more to do with the law of averages. If you 'predict' enough future events, one of them is bound to happen (or something close) eventually.

A good reminder when considering those that 'appear' to be able to tell the future such as psychics, mediums and the lot, is the saying,

"Even a clock that doesn't work, is correct twice a day"

So many people are caught up in this world reading their horoscopes, or visiting psychics to find out what will happen in their future. Inquiring minds want to know, and it seems that we will go to great lengths to find out what our lives have in store for us in the future. The concept of psychics has always puzzled this writer, for I have always wondered why you never see the headline in the morning paper "Psychic wins lottery?" My friends don't be fooled. Satan is the best liar and deceiver in the world (He's had a lot of practice). He is sly and cunning and only by knowing what God says through Scripture can we be prepared to spot Satan's tricks in an instant.

I recall my one Psychology class at university (secular university). The students were assembled in their seats and the professor told us to write our names and birth dates on a piece of paper. The papers were then passed forward to the professor for collection. The professor announced that he was going to send them out and have our horoscopes done. At that moment I had wished that I could retract my piece of paper, however in light of the outcome of the experiment my concerns were unwarranted.

The following week the professor handed each of us an envelope with our name on the front. Within the envelope was our horoscope. He gave time for everyone to read the contents of their letters, and then he began to ask questions of the students. The most pertinent questions asked were 'How many thought this was a good indication or representations of their lives?' and 'How accurate we felt the horoscopes were?' I refrained from comment, however, it was quite clear from the reaction of many in the room (approximately 200 or so) that the general consensus was that each horoscope was an accurate representation of each of them.

Next, the professor surprised everyone by asking us to pass our papers to the right of us. To the shock of many, the new papers - the new horoscope now before us - were EXACTLY THE SAME as the original one that had our name on it.

So what can we learn from this? Horoscope's, and the belief in them as being something divine, are another one of Satan's ways of undermining one of God's attributes. Only God is omniscient, but the mere suggestion that psychics have some ability to see the future, usurps our faith in God and places it in the occult practice of divination. If I can know what is going to happen from ungodly counsel (or be tricked into thinking that), then why would I need communion with God? Only God has rightly claimed to be all knowing and the master of prophecy. Man's best efforts fall very, very short. Remember even a clock that doesn't work is correct twice a day.

The Apostle Peter talks of this type of trickery and clever tales of man versus God's truth:

"For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty." - 2 Peter 1:16

False religions, superstitions, false predictions are built upon clever tales, or clever tricks but Christianity is built upon God's revelation of Himself to man through Scripture. Unlike the many tales and legends that have transpired throughout the ages, only the Holy Scriptures have withstood the test of time as being the accurate and inerrant Word of a divine and all-knowing God. History attests to the fact that only the God of the Bible has known and foreseen the things that have transpired in the world. God tells us of his abilities in His Word:

"Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executes my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it." - Isaiah 46:9-11

"And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and sets up kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding." - Daniel 2:21

The Lord determines what will happen in history and future and He brings it to pass as He so predestined. The historical precedence of this fact suggests without question that this same omniscient God knows what is yet to come.

A timely message for us today is the foolishness revolving around May 21, 2011 by Harold Camping and his followers proclaiming Judgment Day. Listen to God's ominous warning to those who dare to claim they speak in His name when He did not send them.

"But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die." - Deuteronomy 18:20

With such a warning as this you would wonder why people would even pretend to speak for God, but yet they still do. Deuteronomy continues to instruct on how to identify these false prophets. It is so simple in application, and yet people choose to believe the false prophet regardless of the outcome of this test.

"And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath 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 hath spoken it presumptuously: Thou shalt not be afraid of him." - Deuteronomy 18:21-22

While researching this very topic I came across this old Chinese Proverb that is simple in verse and yet so truthful to the point at hand.

"It is very difficult to prophesy, especially about the future"


Biblical Reliability

Well we all know of the reliability of the local weatherman, and we see the error of horoscopes and psychic readings, but what about the reliability of the Word of God?

"Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." - 2 Peter 1:20-21

"… your word is Truth." - John 17:17

"Your Word is true from the beginning; and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever." - Psalm 119:160

"Surely the LORD God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets."- Amos 3:7

"For the Word of God is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing apart of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." - Hebrews 4:12

So says Scripture, now how about a look at some historical proof?

Prophecy Fulfilled - Christ the Messiah

One of the most amazing events of prophecy occurred many years ago in the birth, life, death and resurrection of the one called 'Christ'.

Many of these prophecies were misunderstood or not recognized at the time of His coming, but Christ on the 'Emmaus road' "And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself." (Luke 24:27)

Christ at that time began to point out in the Scriptures (the Old Testament at that time) everything that was written about Him. Later in the upper room when He had appeared to His disciples he continued:

"And He said to them, These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and in the Prophets and in the Psalms about Me. And He opened their mind to understand the Scriptures." - Luke 24:44-45

Christ is the story. Christ is the scarlet thread of redemption woven throughout Scripture and He spent some time opening their eyes, and showing them where He could (and can) be found within Scripture.

Although there are many more, here is a small sampling of the prophecies that referred to Jesus Christ at his first coming.

  • He would be born of a virgin - Isaiah 7:14
  • He would be the Son of God - Isaiah 9:6
  • He would be born in Bethlehem - Micah 5:2
  • He would ride triumphantly into Jerusalem… yet meek and lowly… and riding on a donkey - Zech. 9:9
  • He would be betrayed by a friend. - Psalm 41:9
  • He would be meek and humble - Isaiah 53:2
  • He would come out of Egypt - Hosea 11:1
  • We would turn our backs on Him and look the other way as He went by. - Isaiah 53:3
  • He would be rejected by Israel. - Isaiah 49:7
  • He would suffer… be brutally beaten and suffer. - Isaiah 52:14
  • He would be beaten, bloodied and die for our sins. - Isaiah 53:5-7
  • Yet he would remain silent during his ordeal. - Isaiah 53:7
  • He would be crucified. - Psalm 22:14-17
  • He would have stakes… nails... driven through his hands. - Zech. 13:6
  • He would be mocked during His time of suffering and death - Psalm 22:7-8
  • His side would be pierced. - Zech. 12:10
  • He would be buried in a rich man's grave. - Isaiah 53:9
  • He was innocent… without guilt… without sin. - Isaiah 53:9
  • He would be raised from the dead. - Psalm 16:10
  • He would be a sacrifice for all our sins. - Isaiah 53:10
  • His side would be pierced. - Zech 12:10
  • He would be buried in a rich man's grave. - Isaiah 53:9
  • He was innocent… without guilt… without sin. - Isaiah 53:9
  • He would be raised from the dead. - Psalm 16:10
  • He would be a sacrifice for all our sins - Isaiah 53:10

The Skeptic Says…

"Maybe Christians inserted those prophecies back into the Old Testament after Jesus lived."

Our Answer?

Hogwash.

There exists today hundreds of manuscript copies of the Old Testament that predate the time of Christ's birth. These ancient copies of the Old Testament, dating back to the third century (300) B.C., verify that these prophecies concerning the Messiah were already in place.

In 1947 a shepherd boy, tending his father's sheep in Qumran (to the north and west of the dead sea), made an amazing discovery while looking for a lost sheep.

There in Qumran, in a cave that had laid untouched for nearly two thousand years, he discovered an ancient collection of hand written copies of the Old Testament. These scrolls had been hidden in caves by the Essenes, a Jewish sect living in Qumran, 2000 years ago.

These scrolls and writings (now known as the Dead Sea Scrolls) contained at least fragments of every book of the Old Testament except the Book of Esther. They are considered one of the greatest discoveries in modern times. It is manuscript evidence like this that proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the Old Testament, and its many prophecies concerning the Messiah, was finished long before Jesus was even born.

The Skeptic Says…

"Perhaps Jesus was not the Messiah, but just accidentally or even deliberately set out to fulfill these prophecies"

Deliberately?

Well firstly it would be hard to think of anyone deliberately setting out to fulfill prophecies that would result in a short life and an excruciating, drawn out death on a cross. Secondly; it would be impossible for a man to deliberately choose, the lineage he was born into, the time period in which he was born or even the city in which he is born.

There are 332 distinct prophecies about Christ that can be found in the Old Testament. These prophecies were written down hundreds to thousands of years prior to Christ's birth and death.

Accidentally?

To offer some compelling evidence and thinking towards answering this question, let us assume that the probability of fulfilling any of these 332 prophecies was given a 50/50 chance. That is, let us assume that the chance of any of these occurring in one man's life was given a 'coin flip' chance of coming to pass.

For an example, let's take a couple of the prophecies and apply this probability to each one. Let's say for starters:

  • He would be born in Bethlehem - Micah 5:2

Remember now, for the sake of argument we are saying that at the historical time of Christ's birth a person had a 50% chance of being born in Bethlehem. Now you and I both know that the probability was much lower than 50%. The world was a very large world by then, and there were many cities and towns. However, for the sake of our experiment, we are assuming that everyone born in the time of Christ had a 50% chance of being born in Bethlehem. That means we had 1 chance in 2 of being born there.

Ok, now on with another.

  • He would be born of a virgin - Isaiah 7:14

Let's say there is a 50% chance of being born to a virgin in the time of Christ's birth. Now we can recognize the ludicrous nature of this assumption, but for the sake of the argument we apply a 50/50 chance that someone could be born of a virgin in that time. We have two distinct prophecies, each with an arbitrary 50% chance of occurrence. Mathematically then it means that the probability of one man fulfilling both of them is:

1 chance in 4 (25%)

and so on…

Assuming then that each of the remaining prophecies were given a 50/50 chance of occurring, I have calculated the probability of one man fulfilling all of these prophecies as:

1 chance in 1,329,227,995,784,920,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000

To put this in perspective, the chances of winning Canada's Lotto 649 jackpot is 1 chance in 13,983,816.

Peter Stoner, a mathematician, and Professor Emeritus of Science at Westmont College, in his book Science Speaks (Moody, 1963) calculated the odds of a single man fulfilling just eight of the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled as the mathematical improbability of:

1 chance in 100,000,000,000,000,000

That is one chance in 100 quadrillion of fulfilling just 8 of the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled. To put this into perspective we need a word picture. If we had 100 quadrillion 1 x 1½ inch tiles we could cover every square inch of dry land on planet earth. That's a lot of tiles!

No charlatan soothsayer, crystal ball gazer, horoscope or weatherman could ever hope for the kind of odds demonstrated by the 100% fulfillment of all prophecies in Scripture. And the reason is simple.

"I, the Lord, have spoken it; It shall come to pass, and I will do it; …" Ezekiel 24:14a

Conclusion

When examining the prophetic abilities of anything or anyone outside those written in the Holy Scriptures, one thing becomes clearly evident:

In order to accurately predict the future one must either be an omniscient God or one must have a direct connection with the ONE who does meet that requirement - a prophet of God.

We have so far looked at some exciting prophecies and proofs that demonstrate the accuracy of God's Word and the amazing fulfillment of prophecy at Christ's first coming.

"… For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." - Rev 19:10

Even more amazing is that there are 7 times more prophecies about His second coming, than there were about His first.

There are 2,163 prophecies about The Second Coming of Christ in the Bible. References of His Second Coming are found in 17 books of the Old Testament, and every author of the New Testament mention his Second Coming at least once. The Second Coming is mentioned in every book but three of the New Testament. Based on the historical evidence of the accuracy of the first coming predictions we can have seven times more assurance that Christ will return! Although we do not know the day, nor the hour, we must however remain diligently working in the harvest field. We can be certain that our Lord is coming soon.

And so I must ask.

What will he find you doing?

Until Next time.

Go Serve your King.

- J.R. Hall