Peter wrote: “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” 2Peter 1:20,21. He also wrote “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” 1Peter 1:15. Christian Apologetics is that discipline that seeks to defend the “truths”, encapsulated in the Christian faith, against objections, and it can take many forms. The one we are concerned with here is that to do with prophecy and how prophecy can have precise and literal fulfillment years, sometimes millennia, after the prophecies were made.
In order not to become sidetracked from the main purpose behind writing this book, I have avoided thus far going down the Christian apologetics route, even when tempted to do so, mindful of discussion made in learned commentaries concerning those prophets that uttered prophecies that often were fulfilled long after they were supposed to have written them, as to whether this was possible, UNLESS God had inspired them. Questions of authorship and date aside, strong arguments can be made that the record shows what the prophet prophesied at the time was not added later, for the question is begged: if the prophecies were genuine; prove it? In a Web article “Fulfilled Prophecy: Evidence for the Reliability of the Bible by Hugh Ross – August 22, 2003” the argument is made: “Unique among all books ever written, the Bible accurately foretells specific events-in detail-many years, sometimes centuries, before they occur. Approximately 2,500 prophecies appear in the pages of the Bible, about 2,000 of which already have been fulfilled to the letter—no errors. The remaining 500 or so reach into the future and may be seen unfolding as days go by.”
We are spoiled for choice but I would cite the following examples Ross made:
- The prophet Daniel proclaimed that Israel’s long-awaited Messiah would begin his public ministry 483 years after the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (Daniel 9:25-26). He further predicted that the Messiah would be “cut off,” which is what happened when Jesus died.
- In approximately 700 BC, Micah named the tiny village of Bethlehem as the birthplace of Israel’s Messiah (Micah 5:2).
- Zechariah declared that the Messiah would be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver, according to Jewish law, and this money would be used to buy a burial ground for Jerusalem’s poor foreigners (Zechariah 11:12-13).
- Some 400 years before crucifixion was invented, David and Zechariah described the Messiah’s death in words that perfectly depict that mode of execution. Further, they said that the body would be pierced and that none of the bones would be broken, contrary to customary procedure in cases of crucifixion (Psalm 22 and 34:20; Zechariah 12:10)
- Isaiah foretold that a conqueror named Cyrus would destroy seemingly impregnable Babylon and subdue Egypt along with most of the rest of the known world. Cyrus would decide to let the Jewish exiles in his territory go free without any payment of ransom (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1; and 45:13). Isaiah made this prophecy 150 years before Cyrus was born,
- Mighty Babylon, 196 miles square, was enclosed not only by a moat, but also by a double wall 330 feet high, each part 90 feet thick. It was said by unanimous popular opinion to be indestructible, yet two Bible prophets declared its doom (which happened when the city of Babylon was sacked just as the prophets said by the Persian invaders). These prophets further claimed that the ruins would be avoided by travelers, that the city would never again be inhabited, and that its stones would not even be moved for use as building material (Isaiah 13:17-22 and Jeremiah 51:26, 43).
- One unnamed prophet said a future king of Judah, named Josiah, would take the bones of all the occultic priests (priests of the “high places”) of King Jeroboam and burn them on Jeroboam’s altar (1 Kings 13:2 and 2 Kings 23:15-18). This event occurred 300 years after it was foretold.
Ross gives a further six solid examples of prophesies being precisely fulfilled centuries after the prophesies were made and, if we were to continue our search of the Internet, several other significant examples could be added to the list. I would refer back to the comment I made in Chapter 12 regarding Daniel 11: it “is about what happens after Alexander the Great dies and the Greek empire is divided among his four generals, and both chapters remarkably details events that have come and gone. One commentator has identified 135 specific prophecies fulfilled in Daniel 11”. Another “favourite” is the prophecy made by Ezekiel (Chapter 26), specifically, and other prophets concerning Tyre. Tyre was considered impregnable, priding itself that it could not be conquered, just as were Nineveh (discussed under Nahum) and Edom (discussed under Obadiah) were. Yet years after the prophecies were made those cities fell (by Alexander the Great in Tyre’s case), and prophecies fulfilled with a remarkable precision.
We can go on and I have not even got on to the numerous Old Testament types, such as the Lamb e.g. in Exodus 12 being a type of Christ prophesied in Isaiah 53 (another example, incidentally, of prophecy being precisely fulfilled). While the subject of prophecy apologetics can be further explored, there is enough here to more than suggest that the Bible record is more than merely credible.