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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: 10 Reasons to Trust the Bible

Don Stewart :: The Bible’s Ability to Predict the Future

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Reason 6

The Bible’s Ability to Predict the Future

One major feature that separates the Bible from any other book that has ever been written is its ability to correctly predict the future. Indeed, Scripture contains a wealth of prophecies that were made years before they were accurately fulfilled.

Predictive Prophecy Shows That God Does Exist and Is in Control of All Things

Predictive prophecy demonstrates three central truths. First, it shows us that the God of the Bible exists. In fact, God Himself uses the evidence from predictive prophecy to demonstrate His existence.

Second, God also knows what will take place in the future. He has “all knowledge.” Scripture says that everything which has happened in the past, is happening in the present and will happen in the future is known to Him. In other words, nothing will ever take Him by surprise.

Third, God not only knows what will happen, He is also in control of all events. This includes events that have yet to take place. Thus, He controls the events; they do not control Him.

The Claim of the God of the Bible

Scripture records God Himself citing predictive prophecy as evidence of His existence and control over all things. We read Him saying the following:

Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ (Isaiah 46:9-10)

In this passage, the Lord stresses the point that there is no being like Him. Why is this so? For one thing, He alone is able to predict future events. No other being is capable of doing this. Nobody!

Isaiah also records the Lord saying:

I announced events beforehand, I issued the decrees and made the predictions; suddenly I acted and they came to pass... I announced them to you beforehand; before they happened, I predicted them so you could never say, ‘My image did these things, my idol, my cast image, decreed them.’ You have heard; now look at all the evidence! Will you not admit that what I say is true? (Isaiah 48:3, 5-6 New English Translation)

Notice, the Lord says that numerous times He warned the people about what would take place in the future. Furthermore, He says that the reason He did this is so they would not falsely credit their idols. However, despite accurately predicting future events, the people still refused to believe!

Then note well His challenge. They have heard His predictions, now they were to examine the evidence. In doing so, the people would have to admit that what the Lord had said was indeed true.

To sum up, these two passages claim a number of things. First, the God of the Bible is the only God who exists. Furthermore, this God, who has all knowledge, has told us what is going to take place in the future. In addition, He alone is ultimately in control of all future events. These truths set Him apart from all other so-called gods.

God Knows Everything Past, Present and Future

As noted, the Bible records many events that were accurately predicted in advance by God. These fulfilled prophecies are evidence of God’s knowledge of all things. For only God, who is outside of our time-space existence and of our limited knowledge, could accurately and consistently reveal the future.

The New Testament also explains the importance of predictive prophecy:

We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain. We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:18-21)

Ultimately, the ability to predict the future is limited to God alone. It does not derive from the human heart. Indeed, only God can do this sort of thing.

The Biblical Tests of a Prophet: One Hundred Percent Accuracy One Hundred Percent of the Time

Since the biblical prophet was sent by the true and living God to the people, that prophet could never make an incorrect prediction. Indeed, he or she had to be one hundred percent right one hundred percent of the time. We read the Lord saying the following to Moses in the Book of Deuteronomy:

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their people, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death. You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?” If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. No one should be alarmed. (Deuteronomy 18:18-22)

A genuine prophet of God does not make any mistakes.

What Tests Are Needed to Demonstrate Genuine Prophecy?

For any prediction to be considered valid, it must pass a number of tests. They include the following:

  1. The Prophecy Must Be Given Before the Fulfillment Takes Place

    The prophecy must be given before the fulfillment takes place. This is primary. For any prophecy to be considered valid it must be delivered before the events take place, not after the fact. Otherwise we are not dealing with prophecy.

  2. The Prophecy Must Be Explicit

    There is something else which is essential. The prophecy must be of an explicit nature. In other words, it cannot be so general and vague that it can mean anything and everything. It must predict something specific that is going to happen at some time in the future.

  3. In Theory, the Prophecy Must Be Able to Be Proven False

    This brings us to our next point. The prophecy must be of such a nature that it can theoretically be proven to be false. In other words, it must contain specific elements that can be either proven to be true or untrue. Unless a prophecy can potentially be falsified, it is meaningless.

    For example, Jeremiah prophesied the following about the false prophet Hananiah:

    Then the prophet Jeremiah said to Hananiah the prophet, “Listen, Hananiah! The LORD has not sent you, yet you have persuaded this nation to trust in lies. Therefore this is what the LORD says: ‘I am about to remove you from the face of the earth. This very year you are going to die, because you have preached rebellion against the LORD.’” In the seventh month of that same year, Hananiah the prophet died. (Jeremiah 28:15-17)

    Notice the specific prediction; Hananiah was to die within a year of Jeremiah’s prediction. If Hananiah lived longer than one year, then Jeremiah’s prophecy could have been proven false, making him a false prophet. However, as the Bible informs us, Hananiah did die that year. Therefore, the specific prediction of Jeremiah was proven to be true although it had the possibility of being proven false had it not come true.

  4. The Prophet Cannot Have Any Part in the Fulfillment

    Another essential ingredient is that those who gave the prophecies, the biblical prophets, cannot have any part in the fulfillment. The prediction must be completely fulfilled apart from the one giving it. The prophet can have absolutely nothing to do with it coming to pass.

  5. The Fulfillment Must Correspond Exactly to the Prediction

    In addition, for a prophecy to be considered valid, the fulfillment must correspond exactly, and in all points, to the predictions that were given. Partial fulfillment is not enough. Fulfillment must be exact.

    The predictions recorded in Scripture pass all of these tests.

An Example of Fulfilled Prophecy: the Promises to Abraham and His Descendants (the Jews)

One of the greatest examples of fulfilled prophecy concerns the Jew. About 4,000 years ago, God called a man named Abram (later called Abraham) out from a sinful culture into a land which he had been promised. The Bible records God making the following promises to Abraham and his descendants:

The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1-3)

God calls Abram out of his country and promises to create a great nation from him and his descendants. The Lord said that Abram shall be blessed and his name shall be made great. Furthermore, those that bless Abram’s descendants shall be blessed, but those who curse them will themselves be cursed. Through his offspring the entire world will be blessed.

Later, God added further things to His promises to Abram and his descendants. He said:

The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.” (Genesis 13:14-17)

The Lord now says that Abram and his offspring are going to inherit a land with specific borders. This land will be their permanent possession. He also tells Abram that his descendants are going to be innumerable.

There is more. The Lord also promised Abram that their agreement, or covenant, would be everlasting. He said:

I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God. (Genesis 17:7-8)

The agreement which the Lord made with Abram is irrevocable. In other words, it can never be broken.

The Promise Made to Isaac

Abraham had two sons, Isaac and Ishmael. The Lord made it clear that the promises to Abraham would be fulfilled in his son, Isaac. God made the following promise to Isaac:

Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed. (Genesis 26:3-4)

God said that the descendants of Abraham and Isaac would be as numerous as the stars. Their offspring would inherit the Promised Land.

The Promise Made to Jacob

Isaac had two sons, Jacob and Esau. God later promised Isaac’s son Jacob that he would be the heir to the promises. The Bible says:

And God said to him, “I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.” (Genesis 35:11-12)

Many nations will come from Jacob’s descendants. His descendants will also include kings.

There Are Many Specific Promises Made to These People

These passages to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob contain a number of very specific promises. They include the following:

  • Promise 1: A great nation will come from the man Abraham.
  • Promise 2: Abraham’s name shall be blessed.
  • Promise 3: He shall be a blessing to all nations.
  • Promise 4: Those that bless Abraham’s people will be blessed.
  • Promise 5: Those that curse Abraham’s people will be cursed.
  • Promise 6: His descendants, through his son Isaac, will inherit a land with specific boundaries.
  • Promise 7: This land will be theirs forever.
  • Promise 8: His descendants will be countless.
  • Promise 9: Among their descendants would be kings.
    • There Are Further Predictions and Promises

      As God had promised, Abraham’s descendants multiplied. Four hundred years later, the people were about to enter the land of promise. Before the nation went into the Promised Land, God reconfirmed the covenant with them. The Bible says:

      See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land the LORD swore he would give to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—and to their descendants after them. (Deuteronomy 1:8)

      This land was to belong to them. This is what the Lord promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

    • There Will Be Blessings for Obedience

      God also told them about the blessings of obedience. The Lord said:

      If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God. (Deuteronomy 28:1-2)

      If they obeyed Him, they would be blessed.

    • There Will Be Consequences for Disobedience

      The Lord also warned them of the consequences of disobedience. He said the following:

      However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you:.. Then the LORD will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods--gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your ancestors have known. (Deuteronomy 28:15,64)

      While the ownership of the land was theirs forever, their occupancy was linked with their obedience. They would remain in the land as long as they obeyed the Lord. Disobedience to the commandments of the Lord would cause the people to be removed from the land.

      However, God promised to bring back the scattered people. We read the following promises in the Book of Deuteronomy:

      When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the LORD your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. (Deuteronomy 30:1-3)

      From these verses we can observe three further predictions:

  • Promise 10: If the people would remain faithful to God, He would bless them and give them victory over their enemies.
  • Promise 11: Yet, God would remove them from the land if they were unfaithful to Him. They would eventually be scattered across the whole earth as strangers in unfamiliar lands and they would find no rest for their wanderings.
  • Promise 12: However, God, in His faithfulness, did promise to bring them back into the land.

    From these promises God made to Abraham and his descendants, we find at least twelve specific things that were predicted for him and his offspring.

The Fulfillment of These Promises

As we look at the verdict of history, we find that each of these promises has been wonderfully and marvelously fulfilled. We can make the following observations:

  • Fulfillment One: a Great Nation Did Come from Abraham

    A great nation did come from Abraham. By the time they were about to enter the Promised Land, his descendants in the nation Israel were numerous. This is especially remarkable when we consider that Abraham and his wife Sarah were beyond the age of child bearing when their first son, Isaac, was born. Therefore, the nation that sprang from Abraham started with a supernatural beginning.

  • Fulfillment Two: Abraham’s Name Has Been Blessed

    Abraham was promised that his name should be blessed among the nations. This too has been literally fulfilled. Three of the great religions of the world: Judaism, Christianity and Islam all look to Abraham as their human founder. His name is still revered around the world.

  • Fulfillment Three: Abraham and His Descendants Have Been a Blessing

    The promise was that the descendants of Abraham shall bless the entire world. This has been literally fulfilled, both nationally and individually.

    Indeed, one particular descendant of Abraham who fulfills this promise was Jesus Christ. The first verse of the New Testament reads as follows:

    This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham. (Matthew 1:1)

    The New Testament proclaims Jesus was Israel’s Messiah and the Savior of the world. The coming of Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of a specific promise that God made to Abraham. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians:

    The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ. (Galatians 3:16)

    Paul says that the prediction to Abraham concerned one particular descendant; that descendant was Jesus Christ. Again, the specific prediction given to Abraham has been fulfilled.

  • Fulfillment Four: Those Who Have Blessed Abraham’s People Have Been Blessed

    The Bible, as well as secular history, records examples of individuals and nations who have helped Israel and found themselves blessed of God.

    For example, Scripture records that God spared the woman Rahab because she hid Israel’s spies from the people of Jericho. When the city was destroyed, her family members were the only ones not killed. Rahab eventually married one of the Israelites. Among their descendants included King David and the Lord Jesus Christ. She was indeed blessed by God.

  • Fulfillment Five: Those Who Have Cursed Abraham’s People Have Been Cursed

    There also is a curse on those peoples who have attempted to destroy Israel. Not only has Israel survived, but the nations that have persecuted them—Moab, Ammon, Edom, Philistia and many others—either have been destroyed, or completely lost their individual identity.

    Have you ever heard of an Austrian Amorite? A Swedish Edomite? A French Jebusite? No! These people have been totally absorbed into other cultures and races. The Jews, however, have not lost their national identity.

    As the Bible predicted, all of the nations that attempted to destroy Israel have been judged, while those who have befriended Israel have prospered.

  • Fulfillment Six: His Descendants Inherited the Promised Land

    The descendants of Abraham, through his son Isaac, did inherit the land of promise. Four hundred years after God spoke to Abraham, a large nation entered into the Promised Land.

  • Fulfillment Seven: This Land Is Still Occupied by Them

    Today, they still are there thousands of years after the initial promise. This is another remarkable fulfillment of the promise, especially given the history of the nation and the fact that it has been exiled twice from their land only to later return.

  • Fulfillment Eight: Countless Numbers of Descendants Did Come from Abraham

    The number of Abraham’s descendants has become countless, as predicted in Scripture. They have numbered in the tens of millions and are continuing to this day. This is remarkable when we consider again that Abraham and Sarah’s first child, Isaac, was born after both of them were beyond the child-bearing age.

  • Fulfillment Nine: the Descendants of Abraham Did Include Kings

    As predicted, Abraham’s descendants were royalty. We find that kings such as David and Solomon ruled the nation.

  • Fulfillment Ten: They Were Blessed When They Obeyed God

    God had promised blessings for His people as long as they remained obedient to Him. The Old Testament records times of great prosperity when Israel was faithful to the Lord. During the reign of David and Solomon, for example, the borders increased and the people were mightily blessed of God.

  • Fulfillment Eleven: God Removed Them Twice for Disobeying Him

    If they were unfaithful, God promised to remove them from the land. This has been literally fulfilled. In 721 B.C., the Assyrians took the Northern kingdom of Israel into captivity. In 606 B.C., King Nebuchadnezzar took the remainder of the people captive to Babylon. In 588-586 B.C., after a long siege, he burned the city and the temple.

    The children of Israel also were scattered in A.D. 70 when Titus the Roman surrounded the city of Jerusalem and burned the rebuilt city and the temple. For almost 1,900 years, the Jews wandered about the earth as strangers being persecuted from every side. The culmination of their persecution occurred in the holocaust of World War II, when six million Jews were put to death in concentration camps. The predictions again were literally fulfilled.

  • Fulfillment Twelve: God Has Brought Them Back Twice

    However, as God promised, He allowed all those who desired to return to the land. In 537-536 B.C., or after seventy years, those who had been taken captive to Babylon were allowed to return (Ezra chapter 1).

    Though removed from their homeland a second time in A.D. 70, once again the people returned. Against all odds, the state of Israel was reborn on May 14, 1948, and the Jews began to return to their homeland from all points of the compass. This is the second time in their history they have come back into their land after being forcibly removed.

    Since 1948, they have survived some terrible conflicts, including the Six-Day War in 1967 and the 1973 Holy Day War. Conflicts continue to this day, yet they still survive.

    Through all of this, the nation neither perished nor lost its national identity. History has demonstrated that any people who leave their homeland will, after about five generations, lose their national identity by being absorbed into a new culture, but the Jews remained a distinct entity.

Conclusion

From the above evidence, we can make a number of conclusions:

  1. The Jews Are Unique

    Middle East expert, Lance Lambert, noted the unique experiences of the Jews. He wrote:

    God has dealt with no nation as he has dealt with the Jewish people. In their 4,000-year-long history, they have been exiled from their land twice, and have been restored to it twice... No other nation in the history of mankind has twice been uprooted from its land, scattered to the ends of the earth and then brought back again to that same territory. If the first exile and restoration were remarkable, the second is miraculous. Israel has twice lost its statehood and its national sovereignty, twice had its capital and hub of religious life destroyed, its towns and cities razed to the ground, its people deported and dispersed, and then twice had it restored again. Furthermore, no other nation or ethnic group has been scattered to the four corners of the earth, and yet survived as an easily identifiable and recognizable group... From the Far East to the Far West there is hardly a nation that has not had Jewish citizens within it. The remarkable fact is that the Jewish people have been able to survive as a people, instead of being absorbed and assimilated into the larger Gentile majorities among whom it was scattered. We must remember that we are not considering a period of one generation, or even one century, but nearly two thousand years. (Lance Lambert, Israel, Wheaton, Illinois, Tyndale, 1981, pp. 55,56)

    The Jewish nation has had experiences like no other nation on the earth.

  2. They Are a Living Miracle

    The author once attended a debate at a California college concerning the Person of Jesus Christ. Among the participants was a rabbi. During the question period the rabbi was asked why he didn’t believe in Jesus. He replied, “I don’t believe in the New Testament miracles.”

    A student immediately asked him why he rejected the New Testament miracles, but accepted the Old Testament miracles. The rabbi said, “I don’t believe in the Old Testament miracles either, I believe they are all myths.” It was incredible to hear that particular person make such a statement. The mere fact that he, as a Jew, had survived is one of the greatest miracles of all history.

    Mark Twain wrote the following insightful comment about the Jew:

    If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one per cent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of stardust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of; but he is heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine... are also way out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world, in all the ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it. The Egyptian, the Babylonian and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendour, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality? (Mark Twain, Concerning the Jews, 1899)

    The Jew is indeed a living testimony to the God of Scripture.

  3. God Is Faithful to His Promises!

    The God of Scripture is faithful. He has demonstrated His existence and faithfulness by dealing with the nation Israel as a living sign to the world that He keeps His promises. Fulfilled biblical prophecy is convincing evidence of God’s knowledge of all things?past, present and future. It is indeed one of the reasons to trust the Bible and a true wonder!

Summary - Reason 6
The Bible’s Ability to Predict the Future

The Bible claims the ability to accurately predict events before they occur. Indeed, Scripture says that we can know that God exists and that He is in control of history by the fact that He can tell us what will take place in the future.

In addition, the predictions in Scripture are specific, not vague. Furthermore, many of the predictions were fulfilled beyond the lifetime of the human prophet. The evidence bears this out. The record shows that whenever the Scripture does predict the future it always occurs as predicted. Never do we find the biblical writers making a mistake in their predictions of what will take place.

An example of this can be seen in the predictions made about the descendants of Abraham—the Jew. God has marvelously fulfilled a number of specific prophecies that were made to Abraham and his descendants. Each and every one of them has been literally fulfilled exactly as Scripture predicted. In some cases, these prophecies were fulfilled thousands of years after they were given.

The testimony of the Jew clearly shows that the God of Scripture not only exists, He is also controlling history. It is not possible that these fulfillments could have been a product of chance or lucky guesses. To the contrary, it makes it clear that a supernatural God exists. Predictive prophecy is a true wonder of the Bible. In fact, there is nothing like it anywhere else.

The Bible’s Scientific Respectability ← Prior Section
The Bible’s Honesty Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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