Questions About the Bible: What’s the deal with prophecy?

This is the third post of a series about the Bible—specifically some of those central and important questions asked about the Bible. The first post in this series introduced the acronym M-A-P-S as a way to remember the answer to the question, “How can we know the Bible is the Word of God?” In that first post, I discussed what the first letter represented: Manuscript Evidence. The second post addressed the A, which stands for Archeological Evidence. We saw that the Bible is trustworthy regarding its historical claims, but what about its spiritual claims? Some of the Bible’s spiritual claims are contained in its prophecies. This post is going to address the P, which stands for Prophecy. I know there is someone reading this and already thinking, “There are a lot of other ancient books that contain prophecies, what makes the Bible any different?” The difference between the Bible and other ancient books of prophecy is that the prophecies in the Bible are specific and they are fulfilled. We are going to examine just a couple of those prophecies in this post because of space constraints. My goal in this post is to demonstrate the nature of some of these prophecies and their fulfillment. It is not my intention to give an exhaustive treatment regarding all of the prophecies in the Bible that have been fulfilled.

With all of that being said, there is probably still someone thinking, “The Bible is not the only book to have prophecies that have been fulfilled. Nostradamus wrote many prophecies that have been fulfilled.” This argument simply does not hold water when all the facts are known. Did Nostradamus write prophecies? Yes, he wrote a lot of prophecies contained in what is known as Les Propheties. He recorded all of his prophecies in a particular form known as quatrains. He also used veiled language. He did this in a purposeful attempt to make it difficult to understand his prophecies. Why might he do this? It was to avoid persecution by the church. The method Nostradamus used in order to come by his predictions was Alchemy. During his lifetime, this was viewed in a bad light by the church and had even been condemned by the church in previous years. So the prophecies that people proclaim are so clearer fulfilled were written to avoid being understood by his contemporaries. Now we read them some 500 years removed and think we can understand them, I think not.

The prophecies in the Bible (for the most part) do not use veiled language but are very clear and easy to either demonstrate as fulfilled or false. Take for example the prophecy that the Israelites would be allowed to return the their homeland and rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. This was predicted in Isaiah and Jeremiah:

I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness: I will make all his ways straight. He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free, but not for a price or reward, says the Lord Almighty.” (Isaiah 45:13, NIV)

This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. (Jeremiah 29:10, NIV)

Isaiah’s prophecy was given roughly 150 years before the Persian King Cyrus would rise to power and issue the decree that the Israelites could return and rebuild (Ezra 1:1 ff.). Jeremiah’s prophecy in chapter 29 was given about 60 years before Cyrus would issue his decree. It would have been easy for the Persians to prove Isaiah and Jeremiah wrong, all it would have taken would be for (1) a king named Cyrus to never have been born (2) Cyrus to never have written the decree (3) or for it to not have been 70 years since Babylon conquered Israel. There is also no evidence that these prophesies were written after the events took place, as some have suggested.

There are also numerous prophecies concerning the Messiah or Christ to come. Estimates range into the hundreds of individual prophecies concerning the coming Messiah. The prophecy I am going to consider in this post is from Micah 5:2:

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
The fulfillment of this prophecy is contained in Matthew 2 and Luke 2. This prophecy was written around 700 years before Jesus Christ would be born in Bethlehem. It was also a well-known prophecy that could not have been faked, as the Jews would surely have looked to prove the truthfulness or lack thereof with any such claim.

Jesus prophesied the destruction of the temple that would take place in 70 A.D.

Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” (Matthew 24:1-2, NIV)
When Jesus gave this prediction, the disciples understood that he was talking about things to come and they wanted to know more about it. Jesus’ prophecy was given around 30 years before the Roman government would come into Jerusalem and destroy the temple.

We have seen three different examples of prophecies from the Bible that are not just given, but were also fulfilled. The Bible contains much prophecy. The biblical prophecy that has been fulfilled stands in contrast to the prophecies given from ancient prophets who used veiled language and vague references. These first three posts have demonstrated that the Bible is reliable in regard to transmission, accurate in regard to historicity, and trustworthy in regard to its spiritual claims; however, couldn’t men have artificially generated the Bible? We will look at the possibility of that in the next post.
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