"What is Truth?" - Pontius Pilate
Is the Bible from man or from God? Is it myth or Truth?
Did you know that the Bible itself claims to be directly inspired by God, and claims to prove this by accurately telling the future?
In the Bible, God challenges anyone to foretell the future as accurately as He does: Isaiah 44:6-7 (NIV) "This is what the Lord says-Israel's King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God. Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and lay out before me what has happened since I established my ancient people, and what is yet to come- yes, let him foretell what will come."
We are not only going to show that the Bible can really predict the future, we are going to show it can accurately predict things that are very unlikely, in the distant future, things over which people could have no control.
Prophecy: Fact or Hoax?
The following are Bible prophecies written in or before the 4th century A.D. (Old Testament manuscripts date from the 3rd century B.C. and complete New Testament manuscripts date from the 4th century A.D). The fulfillment (or lack of fulfillment) of these are a matter of historical record and/or current events. What we must determine for each one is: is it Accurate, Unlikely, Distant and Uncontrollable?
• The Bible predicted the nation of Israel would be scattered to the ends of the earth and then regathered. Thousands of years ago, Old Testament prophets foretold the nation of Israel's inhabitants would be regathered from the ends of the earth. When this prophecy was written, the inhabitants had not been scattered to the ends of the earth yet, making it an unlikely prophecy: Isaiah 11:12 (NIV) "He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth." Stop and think about this. What an odd thing to predict. It would be much more reasonable to forecast the people would move a short distance away, maybe to the surrounding countries, before coming back a short time later. Why prophesy something as unlikely as its inhabitants being scattered to the ends of the earth and then coming back? But this is exactly what happened. It is quite impressive and unprecedented in any other culture that the Jews retained their identity for thousands of years, until they regained a homeland in 1948.
• The Bible predicted Israel would be born in one day. The Book of Isaiah in the Old Testament contains a very strange prophecy about the rebirth of Israel: Isaiah 66:8 (NIV) "Who has ever heard of such a thing? Who has ever seen such things? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children." This is exactly what happened. The nation known as Israel was occupied and destroyed by the Romans in the 1st century AD. Almost two thousand years passed. Then, in the 20th century, the United Nations devised a plan to divide what was then called Palestine (it was then under a British high commissioner) into a Jewish State, an Arab state, and an international zone. The Jews accepted the plan, but the Arabs rejected it. As the British began to withdraw, Arabs and Jews prepared for war. Israel was proclaimed a nation on the day the British high commissioner for Palestine departed, May 14, 1948. So, Israel was born in a day. Let's not be too easily taken in though. A person or group of people in power could have read that prophecy, and could have made it happen, for their own purposes. Perhaps some members of the UN decided to help it along, for their own reasons. But, at the time this prophecy was made, political entities like the United Nations that could create countries in one day without first having a war to decide it, didn't exist, did they?
• The Bible predicted Israel would become a country before it was fought for: Let's look at the Bible verse right before the one above: Isaiah 66:7 "Before she goes into labor, she gives birth; before the pains come upon her, she delivers a son". This verse talks about Zion (Israel) giving birth before she goes into labor. What could this possibly mean? We saw the verse above that talked about a country being born in one day, but what does it mean when it says she then went into labor? In his book, The Case for Israel, Alan Dershowitz gives a description of what happened to Israel right after she became a nation: "As soon as Israel declared its independence, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon attacked it, with help from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Libya. Arab armies, with the help of Palestinian terrorists, determined to destroy the new Jewish state and exterminate its population." At the time that this prophecy was made, were any countries made before they were fought for? Doesn't a war usually happen before a country is born? What a strange and yet accurate prophecy! Israel indeed did give birth before she went into labor.
Prophecies which have NOT happened and are impossible: Correction- they have not happened yet and they were impossible at the time they were predicted- But they are now literally possible.
• The Bible predicts near world destruction caused by people: The Bible predicts a time of near world destruction: Matthew 24:21-22 "For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now-and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened."
Nowadays, we are aware of at least a few catastrophic scenarios, including nuclear war. But at the time this was prophesied, nuclear war didn't exist yet, of course. They were still fighting with swords. The book of Isaiah contains an unusual description of a war involving Israel: Isaiah 29:4-5 "Brought low, you will speak from the ground; your speech will mumble out of the dust. Your voice will come ghostlike from the earth; out of the dust your speech will whisper. But your many enemies will become like fine dust, the ruthless hordes like blown chaff".
What kind of description of a war is that? People becoming dust? Where are the swords and the chariots? Thousands of years ago, what person would write this? And yet, what an incredibly accurate prophecy. The atomic bomb was first used in war three years before Israel became a nation again. But maybe we are making too much out of a few verses. The "people becoming dust" could be meant symbolically. It's just a lucky coincidence, because it doesn't specifically state how this would happen. Perhaps it's just speaking symbolically, poetically. However, we missed a verse: Revelation 11:18 "The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come ...for destroying those who destroy the earth." How was it possible, almost two thousand years ago, for people to destroy the earth??? This wasn't possible even one hundred years ago...But, of course, it is possible now.
• The Bible predicts a mark without which you cannot buy or sell: The Book of Revelation talks about a future world leader who will require everyone to receive some kind of a mark in order to buy or sell: Revelation 13:16-17 "He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name." This is a prophecy that hasn't happened yet. At this time, you are not required to have a mark on your right hand or forehead to buy or sell (but what a practical solution to identity theft). Is there anything on the horizon about a mark without which you cannot buy or sell? Try Goggling the words "verichip", "cashless society", "RFID" for more information about technology that is fast approaching. A valid criticism of this prophecy not fulfilling the criteria of being distant, unlikely (at the time it was prophesied) or uncontrollable, is that this prophecy could have been fulfilled at any time through tattoos, if some government had required a brand or tattoo in order to buy and sell. On the other hand, we are seeing for the first time technology that could literally fulfill this prophecy, because if we are on the verge of entering a "cashless society" (as some technology magazines claim), then you literally could not buy or sell without the mark (or chip, or bar code) because all monetary transactions would be electronic. So, although this prophecy has not yet been fulfilled, technologically speaking it is possible for it to be fulfilled now more literally than ever before in the past.
• The Bible predicts world government and a leader the whole world follows after: The book of Daniel (Daniel 9:27) in the Old Testament, and the book of Revelation in the New Testament (Revelation 13) both describe world government and a world leader, known as the Antichrist. These books describe specific attributes about this evil leader, and they give a timeline for his future reign: "he will confirm a covenant with many for seven years (Daniel 9:27); the whole world will be astonished and follow the beast (Revelation 13:3); all the inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast (Revelation 13:7-9); ten kings which have received no kingdom as yet will receive power as kings one hour with the beast" (Rev 17:12-13). Do you notice anything strange about these verses? We will give you a hint. Try to imagine this happening over two thousand years ago, at the time it was prophesied. This scenario is talking about world government. How, two thousand years ago, could we see this happening? Countries were fought for with swords, people traveled on foot, on horse, or by ship...how would someone, two thousand years ago, have been able to conquer the whole world? Two of the greatest conquerors in history were Alexander the Great, and Genghis Khan, but neither of these two men conquered the whole world. It took their entire careers just to conquer portions of Asia (Genghis Khan) and Eurasia (Alexander the Great). Although they are considered to be some of the greatest conquerors in history, can we imagine either of these men conquering every continent and island- the whole world? It just wasn't humanly or physically possible. At the time this was prophesied, this could not have been literally fulfilled, short of a miracle, because the necessary technology didn't exist at that time.
However, things are a little different now. Now, we have television, radio, and internet. We have jet airplanes. We have the United Nations. It is possible for the whole world to communicate instantaneously through television, radio, and internet. It's possible for people or countries (as happened with Israel) to "receive power" through means other than war, through peaceable means from organizations like the UN. Our modern communications and transportation make it possible for world leaders to meet and communicate in such organizations, to make this literally possible. You see it would have been miraculous if it had happened when it was prophesied, and it is just as miraculous for something so unlikely to be prophesied and fulfilled through technology invented much later. Now, we know this has not happened yet, so we cannot use this as an example of fulfilled prophecy that meets our criteria. This is just another scenario not possible at the time it was prophesied through the technology existing at that time, but is literally possible now.
• The Bible predicts the Gospel will be preached to the whole world: The Bible talks about the Gospel of Jesus Christ being preached to the whole world as a sign of the end times: Matthew 24:14 "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." The technology making this possible (radio, TV, satellite, and other advanced means of communication, not to mention aircraft travel, which allows anyone to travel to any destination in the world much more quickly than ever before) is the same technology we saw in the prophecies above. The same technology that didn't exist at the time the prophecy was made. Think about it. Even the printing press wasn't invented until the 1400's AD. Before the printing press, Bibles were hand-copied and were much rarer and harder to obtain. We now have the technology to print Bibles in any language, broadcast the gospel in any language to anywhere in the world, and a fast and convenient way for missionaries to travel all over the world.
• The Bible prophesies an increase in war, famine, and earthquakes in conjunction with the other events: Matthew 24:3-8 (NIV) "As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. 'Tell us,' they said, 'when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?' Jesus answered: 'Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains." This verse discusses wars, famines, and earthquakes as being some signs of the second coming. Well, that's not a very useful prophecy, is it? There have always been wars, famines, and earthquakes, so those prophecies can't meet our criteria of being unlikely and distant. But, when we look up some statistics for these we see something unusual. The deadliest wars in history occurred within the last century. The war with the highest death toll of all time (so far), was World War II, a war which ended just prior to the birth of Israel. Arguably, the deadliest famines also occurred within the last century. To be fair, we won't look at earthquakes because the accurate measurement of earthquakes was not possible until relatively recently.
We see in this prophecy and the prophecies above that the Bible predicts certain events will happen in conjunction with each other. Before "the end" (the prophesied return of Jesus): a) the gospel would be preached to the whole world; b) there would be an evil world ruler “the Antichrist” and world government; c) Israel would have to become a country again (because the Bible predicts that the Antichrist would attack Israel, see Daniel 9:27); d) people would have to receive a mark in order to buy or sell; e) there would be increased famine and war; and f) there would be near world destruction. Looking at all of these predictions, we see something very interesting: The Bible describes these as "signs of the end" and they ALL occurred or became possible within the space of the last century. What makes this coincidence even stranger is the century they occurred and/or became possible in was at least seventeen centuries after we can prove they were written. What is the probability of all of them occurring or becoming possible together, at least seventeen centuries after they were predicted?
If we call the probability of event (a) happening 17 centuries away "17(a)", then the probability of all six events happening 17 centuries away is 1/ (17(a) x 17(b) x 17(c) x 17(d) x 17(e)x 17(f)). We don't know exactly what the actual probability is, but each of the six factors must be a very small number in itself. One percent would be a very generous estimate of the probability of an event which is impossible at the time it is written occurring or becoming possible in a particular, distant century. If all six individual factors are 1%, or .01, then the combined probability is: .01 x .01 x .01 x .01 x .01 x .01 = 10 -12 = .000000000001. This is not one in a million, it is one in a million million. Events which are this unlikely, for all practical purposes, never happen.
When we look at all of these prophecies, what pattern are we seeing? They were all impossible and/or wildly improbable at the time they were predicted, -They have already been fulfilled or it is now possible for them to be literally fulfilled. - They were all prophesied as "signs of the end" and they were fulfilled and/or became literally possible concurrently, long after they were prophesied.
The Bible says that Jesus Christ and God are One (Hebrew: echad), and Jesus Christ was sent to a fallen world as a substitutionary sacrifice, to die for the sins of all mankind. Also, the Bible says each person must accept Jesus Christ as Lord in order to be saved from his or her own sins. The Bible is very clear that Jesus is not one path to God, He is THE path to God and salvation: Romans 14:11 "It is written: 'As surely as I live,' says the Lord, 'every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.'" Philippians 2:10 "...that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth." John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."