prophecies of the Bible ever come true?
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 ancient
times, what is still to come.
prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God
as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Peter 1:21 NASB
What is prophecy?
Prophecy is imparting
information gained from God. Prophecies found in the Bible, generally,
are definitive statements made by select people based upon information God
had directly given them. In this manner God raised up individual spokespersons,
or prophets, in order to teach, inform, or warn entire generations. God's
revelation to Moses of the earth's
beginnings is one form of prophecy. Another form is simply the revelation
of God's words or thoughts; what he had to say at the time he said it.
One way in which Israel
could know whether or not a prophet was truly speaking for God was by yet
another form of prophecy: the imparting of knowledge of future events.
If a prophet was truly speaking the message or promises of an omnipotent
and omniscient God, those events or truths would come to fulfillment.
Fulfilled prophecy served
to authenticate that particular prophet's teachings as truly God-inspired.
Unlike today where we often amuse ourselves with the outlandish mistakes
of tabloid swamis and psychics who guess wildly at the future, false prophecy
in ancient Israel was a serious crime punishable by death (Deut. 18:20).
Scripture records this test of a true prophet:
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. (Deut.
The prophecies of events
given long before they actually occurred come to us from God as proof that
he is the Lord. God challenges that if this form of prophecy does not impress
us, we should try and do the same:
'Present your case,'
says the Lord. 'Set forth your arguments,' says Jacob's King. 'Bring in
your idols to tell us what is going to happen. Tell us what the former
things were, so that we may consider them and know their final outcome.
Or declare to us the things to come, tell us what the future holds, so
we may know that you are gods.' (Isaiah 41:21-23a NASB)
Knowledge that both
the prophet and his audience could not possibly have otherwise discerned
was God's proof to them, and is God's proof to us, that he has spoken.
Of the roughly two thousand
prophecies in the Bible, the only ones remaining to be fulfilled are those
concerning the events surrounding the return of Jesus Christ. These are
forecast to come at the end of the age and the judgment of the world. Because
some or all of these end-of-time events may not happen within our lifetimes,
we cannot withhold belief in the Bible until every prophecy has been fulfilled.
So how then can prophecy be used to judge the
believability of the Bible?
How can we use prophecy to judge the Bible?
The Bible's believability,
quite simply, can be judged by whether or not prophecies of the Bible (which
were to have occurred by now) have actually occurred. Of course, the in-depth
study of just any prophecy in the Bible is not necessarily going to be the
best or most convincing proof.
Prophecies which were
fulfilled only a few years or decades after they were given, for example,
are somewhat insufficient to counter the more harsh skepticism that they
may have been written after the fact. Therefore, the prophecies by which
to best gauge the believability of the Bible are the prophecies which
were fulfilled after a significant amount of time passed since their recording.
which of these are the best arguments for the reality of prophecy?
The greatest, most
frequent, and most obviously fulfilled Old Testament prophecies are those
concerning the life and death of the Messiah. For the purpose of emphasizing
that it was Jesus of whom these messianic prophecies spoke, prophecies concerning
Jesus are examined in a separate
section dedicated solely to that purpose.
Of the other biblical
prophecies, most deal with people, specific rulers, and events of war and
destruction. Many also deal with cities that would suffer temporary decline
or would grow in specific locations and directions. The non-messianic prophecies
that I believe offer the clearest argument for the Bible's integrity are
perhaps those dealing with the destruction of major cities; cities prophesied
to never get rebuilt.
Choosing a test case.
The destruction of
a major city, especially when distant in time from when the prophecy was
made, cannot be easily dismissed as some clever action of the prophets or
of their hearers. Additionally, the added detail that such a city is never
to be rebuilt is extraordinary when reconstruction is exactly the normal
course of action taken by any significant metropolis - ancient or modern.
It is also significant because it seems simple enough to disprove prophecy
by permanently re-establishing one of those cities that God said would never
be resurrected. So far this has never happened.
of looking at cities prophesied to be destroyed, what if we looked at cities
prophesied to grow or to avoid destruction?
In such case, a skeptic
could quite reasonably claim there is nothing unexpected or apparently miraculous
about a city's growth or lack of annihilation. Growth and continuance, even
if divinely inspired, are not as miraculously improbable as is the complete
disappearance of an ancient world superpower. It is also far less likely
to be attributed to God.
if we looked solely at the prophecies of the acts of kings or nations?
In this case, it could
be argued that particular prophets were simply skilled in reading the politics
of their day. This might be said of Nebuchadnezzar in the example
of Tyre. Nebuchadnezzar was mentioned by name by the prophet Ezekiel, but
he was only prophesied as the figurehead of the first of many nations to
come against Tyre.
The prophecy that Tyre
would be scraped bare as a rock, thrown into the sea, and become a place
for fishermen's nets cannot be described in any way as self-fulfilling.
For that to be true, evidence would have to come forward that Alexander
the Great, Antigonus, and one thousand years later a Moslem army,
all conspired together against Tyre for the purpose of making an ancient
Jewish prophet look good. No one believes that to be the case.
Thus the best non-messianic
prophecies for establishing the veracity of biblical prophecy are:
- ones which were
fulfilled long after they were given,
- are of extremely
- were given with sufficient
specificity to be clear to readers today (for our purposes),
- are verifiable, and
- are ones which could
not have been deceptively engineered.
Two of the prophecies
which meet this criteria are the prophecies of the destruction of Babylon
and the destruction of Tyre.
The city-state of Babylon.
The ancient Greek historian
Herodotus, in 460 BC, regarded Babylon to be one of the greatest
wonders of the world. Babylon was founded sometime prior to 2000 BC on the
Euphrates river 50 miles south of what is now Baghdad, Iraq. It was the
political seat of southern Mesopotamia and was greatly expanded in wealth,
size, and influence under Hammurabi (1792-1750 BC).
The city structure actually
spanned the Euphrates and had a perimeter fortification of piled stones
and earth about eleven to fourteen miles long on each side. The height of
these perimeter walls Herodotus records as sometimes exceeding 200 feet.
Upon this, 250 watchtowers were built - themselves up to 100 feet high.
Modern archaeology suggests
that the greatest of Babylon's construction and engineering feats, including
its hanging gardens, were likely constructed under Nabopolassar (626-605
BC) and Nebuchadnezzar II (605-562 BC). These rulers escalated the 196 square
miles of Babylon into one of the best defended, most agriculturally productive,
and greatest commercial developments the world had seen up to that point.
Besides Babylon's contributions to law, science, astronomy, and mathematics,
its military was a significant threat even to its neighboring superpower
of ancient Egypt.
THE BIBLE PROPHECIED
It is against this backdrop
of "Babylon the great" that we find the biblical prophets announcing Babylon's
annihilation. They, of course, do this claiming to be conveying a God-given
revelation. The prophet Isaiah recorded in the late seventh century BC:
'Babylon, the jewel
of kingdoms, the glory of the Babylonians pride, will be overthrown by
God like Sodom and Gomorrah. She will never be inhabited or lived in through
all generations; no Arab will pitch his tent there, no shepherd will rest
his flocks there. But desert creatures will lie there, .. I will turn
her into a place for owls and into a swampland; I will sweep her with
the broom of destruction,' declares the Lord Almighty... (Isaiah 13:19-21,
The prophet Jeremiah
(sixth century BC) wrote extensively of Babylon's coming destruction and
'Flee out of Babylon;
leave the land of the Babylonians, and be like the goats that lead the
flock. For I will stir up and bring against Babylon an alliance of great
nations from the land of the north. They will take up their positions
against her, and from the north she will be captured... So Babylonia will
be plundered;... Like a lion coming up from Jordan's thickets to a rich
pastureland, I will chase Babylon from its land in an instant... Babylon
will suddenly fall and be broken... I will fill you with men, as with
a swarm of locusts, and they will shout in triumph over you... No rock
will be taken from you for a cornerstone, nor any stone for a foundation,
for you will be desolate forever,' declares the Lord.
The sea will rise
over Babylon; its roaring waves will cover her. Her towns will be desolate,
a dry and desert land, a land where no one lives... I will make her officials
and wise men drunk,... they will sleep forever and not awake... Babylon's
thick walls will be leveled... When you finish reading this scroll, tie
a stone to it and throw it into the Euphrates. Then say, 'So will Babylon
sink to rise no more...' (from
Jeremiah chapters 50 and 51 NASB)
At the time this prophecy
was given, Babylon was arguably one of the most influential powers in the
world, and continued to be for another 200 years. Babylon marched on Jerusalem
at least twice, taking many Israelites into captivity and devastating Jerusalem
in August of 587 BC. Yet how is it that today Jerusalem
has become a major city and Babylon remains largely in ruins?
-- HOW HISTORY TURNED OUT
In 539 BC, Cyrus
the Great, of Persia, circumvented Babylon's impenetrable walls and
gates by cleverly redirecting the Euphrates River with deep trenches. Culminating
on October 13, Persian troops then marched out of the north along the shallow
riverbed beneath Babylon's walls and secured the city in a single night.
The night of the attack caught the Babylonians by surprise as it corresponded
with an annual festival they were celebrating. From this point in history,
Babylon only declined.
of Cyrus, plundered the city of much of its treasures during his reign of
485-465 BC. Alexander the Great, conqueror of the Persian Empire, decided
in 323 BC that he would rebuild the city to become his worldwide capital.
However, he died a few days after work had begun.
generals struggled for portions of the empire and the great Babylon found
itself to be the unlikely battleground for the bloody contest of the Persian
Empire's new successor. By the time the Seleucids finally took possession
of Babylon, the city and fortifications had been sufficiently wracked by
destruction and plundering that it was abandoned for a new city being built
forty miles to the north. Though this ended Babylon as a city-state, its
protective walls remained sufficiently intact to allow armies to safely
inhabit its enclosure.
Babylon was not utterly
destroyed until some 600 years later during the reign of Julian the Apostate;
the Emperor of Rome who sought to rid the Roman Empire of Christianity.
While battling the Persian army in AD 363, he ordered that the remaining
walls of the former city be destroyed so as to never again afford the Persian
Since the fourth century,
the prophecies for the destruction of Babylon have appeared to be almost
completely fulfilled. Even the paradox that Babylon would both be covered
by waves and be a dry and desert land seems to be true. Ruins on the original
site are largely below a barren and sand swept surface that is occasionally
flooded by the Euphrates. Meanwhile, the Encyclopedia Britannica observes
A large part of the
old city buried under a deep bed of silt remains to be found, and the
Babylon of Hammurabi, of which only the slenderest traces have been detected,
now lies beneath the water table. 1
Literally and figuratively
concerning this part of the city, "So will Babylon sink to rise no more...".
The latest development
concerning Babylon has actually occurred within the last decade. U.S. News
and World Report has cited Iraq's designs for reconstructing parts of Babylon
for the sake of family-oriented tourism. However, evidence of state sponsored
genocide, terrorism, routine torture of its citizenry, and frequent calls
for Muslims worldwide to destroy the West seem to present formidable obstacles
for Iraq to successfully host any kind of Middle East Disneyland.
Though Iraq's plans
appear improbable for the near future, some kind of effort has reportedly
begun. Given the apparent success with which heavenly forces have had in
continually returning Babylon to ruins, however, potential visitors to any
recreated Babylon would do well to remember the biblical prophecies rate
of success so far.
The biblical writers
had foretold Babylon's destiny long before it came to be. Even at the close
of the Old Testament and later during the time of Christ, Babylon was still
a substantial city. By that time, much of what had been foretold of Babylon's
decline, had come true, but some prophecies had not yet been fulfilled.
Its last destruction was brought about, not by zealous followers trying
to fulfill Scripture, but by antagonists one thousand years later who were
out to destroy Christianity.
The prophecies of Babylon
were clearly not written after the fact nor did they simply predict generalized
and highly likely events. Remember that the Babylon of which Isaiah and
Jeremiah spoke was the equivalent to an England or Germany of today. Babylon's
location on a major waterway was, and still is, ideal for commerce. Yet
it remains desolate while many obviously lesser cities in the surrounding
Middle East have been destroyed and rebuilt many times over. The fall of
Babylon was completely outside the capabilities of the biblical prophets
to estimate or to bring about.
How did those prophets
know what would happen? It was their claim that God revealed these things
to them. The fact that these prophecies and every other biblical prophecy
of old has been fulfilled, save for Christ's return, gives great support
to that claim.
The city of Tyre.
-- WHAT THE BIBLE PROPHECIED
In the eleventh
year, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came to me:
'...I am against you, O Tyre, and I will bring many nations against you,
like the sea casting up its waves. They will destroy the walls of Tyre
and pull down her towers; I will scrape away her rubble make her a bare
rock... From the north I am going to bring against Tyre Nebuchadnezzar
king of Babylon, king of kings, with horses and chariots, with horsemen
and a great army... They will plunder your wealth and loot your merchandise;
they will break down your walls and demolish your fine houses and throw
your stones, timber and rubble into the sea... I will make you a bare
rock, and you will become a place to spread fishnets. You will never be
rebuilt, for I the Lord have spoken, declares the Sovereign Lord.'
(from Ezekiel chapter 26 NASB)
This prophecy for the
city of Tyre, which came through the prophet Ezekiel around 588 BC, is a
picture of destruction similar to that which was given for Babylon. Also
similar is the great length of time over which these specific prophetic
events came to pass. Ezekiel prophesied about a number of cities; each with
different futures, but none was so interesting and fulfilled in such an
unusually literal way as the destruction of Tyre.
-- HOW HISTORY TURNED OUT
Tyre was a significant
coastal city located west of the mountains of Lebanon on the Mediterranean.
It had a natural harbor that was protected by an island one-half mile off
shore. Tyre fell under siege to Nebuchadnezzar as prophesied. The siege
dragged on for thirteen years. During this time, the entire city of Tyre
was moved to its much more defensible harbor island. Babylon took the mainland
city of Tyre by 573 BC but, without a navy, was unable to pursue the war
to the island stronghold. For more than two centuries, the city remained
centralized on their island fortification.
In 332 BC, Alexander
the Great marched on Tyre when it refused to deny the use of its harbors
to his enemies. The Encyclopedia Britannica writes,
Possessing no fleet,
he demolished old Tyre, on the mainland, and with the debris built a new
mole 200 ft. (60m.) wide across the straits separating the old and new
towns, erecting towers and war engines at the farther end. 2
When the use of every
rock and remnant of old Tyre fell short of reaching the island by about
one hundred yards, Alexander called on the help of other nations. With over
two hundred ships which they supplied to him, he finally seized and ravaged
the island city. Tyre thereafter recovered, but was again laid siege to
and burned by Antigonus in 314 BC.
The next blow to the
city was the gradual shifting of commerce to the south. Tyre continued to
exist, but in declining wealth and influence. As late as AD 1291 the island
city was intensely fought over and eventually won by the Moslems. They massacred
the inhabitants and the city was utterly destroyed to prevent its use against
Moslems in the future. Today, the harbor is port only to local fishing boats.
A small fishing village exists on the island, but in a location opposite
of where the island sheltered the extinct city of Tyre. As secular historian
Philip Myers writes,
The larger part of
the site of the once great city is now bare as the top of a rock - a place
where the fishermen that still frequent the spot spread their nets to
Clearly, the 2,600 years
of history which have passed since Ezekiel's day all look favorably upon
his claim that he received special revelations of future events.
The Bible's legitimate
foretelling of major events before their occurrence indicates something
beyond natural human capability. The Bible's claim that fulfilled prophecy
is an act of an all-knowing and all-powerful God is a very plausible explanation.
If you desire more examples of fulfilled prophecy that can be substantiated
with explicit archaeological evidence, research the following cities: Edom,
Petra - the capital of Edom, Nineveh, Thebes, Memphis, Gaza, Ashkelon, Samaria,
Do miracles really happen?
do we determine the age of the documents?
Does Jesus fulfill the