This is part of a complete series of evidences for the major claims of the Bible that God exists, the Bible is God's word, and Jesus is God's Son. This article must be studied in context of the whole series of articles. To start at the beginning of the series, please go to www.gospelway.com/god/evidences.php.
Bible writers also repeatedly claimed that God predicted future events through inspired prophets and that these predictions had been (or would be) fulfilled. They claimed that this ability to predict the future gave evidence for the claims we are studying.
Proverbs 27:1 - Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.
James 4:14 - You do not know what will happen tomorrow. Man does not even know he will be alive tomorrow, let alone know what he will do tomorrow.
If the prophets of the Bible did predict the future successfully, and if those predictions invariably came true, consider the significance regarding evidence for the claims of the Bible.
Isaiah 41:21-23 - Jehovah challenged the idols to prove they are gods. God can show us what will happen, declaring things to come hereafter. Man cannot, but God can. If idols cannot, then they are not gods.
Isaiah 42:8,9 - God declares new things before they spring forth. This proves He deserves to be honored as God. That honor should go to no one else. [Isaiah 44:6-8,24-28]
Isaiah 46:8-11 - God is the true God and there is no other, for He can declare the end from the beginning, even from ancient times things that are not yet done. [48:3]
It must take a Supreme Being to consistently foretell the future accurately. If the God of the Bible can do this, then He must exist and must be the true God.
Deuteronomy 18:21,22 - If a man attempts to predict the future and fails, we can know that the Lord did not speak through Him.
Jeremiah 28:9 - When a prophet predicts the future and the prediction comes true, this is evidence that the Lord sent him.
Since mere men cannot infallibly predict the future, if the Bible writers could repeatedly and accurately predict the future in detail, surely this would confirm their claims that God was working through them.
[See also John 16:13; Numbers 16:28-30; 1 Kings 16:27,28; Isaiah 44:24-45:1.]
Luke 24:25-27,44-46 - Jesus said that Old Testament prophets spoke about Him and He fulfilled their predictions.
John 5:46 - He claimed that Moses wrote about Him, therefore we should believe in Him.
Acts 2:23-36; 3:18-24; 17:2,3 - After Jesus ascended to heaven, the apostles often preached that many details of His life, death, and resurrection had been predicted in the Old Testament. This should lead us to conclude that Jesus is both Lord and Christ.
We will see that the prophecies of the Christ included that He would be a prophet (an inspired spokesman for God) and that He would be the Christ, the anointed ruler of God's people. Jesus Himself made such claims and allowed His disciples to make them on His behalf. If He fulfilled these Old Testament prophecies, this would be God's stamp of approval on Him. Surely God would not have allowed Him to fulfill the prophecies if His claims were false.
[1 Cor. 15:1-8; John 5:39; Acts 10:43; 13:27-39; 26:22,23; 2 Peter 1:19].
John 13:19 - Jesus predicted future events (in this case His betrayal by Judas) so that, when the predictions were fulfilled, people would believe in Him.
John 14:29 - He said things before they happened so that, when they came to pass, people would believe. [John 16:4]
Note that Jesus expressly understood and stated why He was predicting the future: so that when His predictions came true, we could know He was from God. But the same would be true of other prophets and Bible writers. If they could predict the future infallibly in detail, this is also proof they were guided by God to speak, just as they claimed.
When men attempt to predict the future but their predictions fail, that constitutes proof that the person is a false prophet, not a true spokesman for God (Deut. 18:21,22). In order to appreciate the predictions of Bible writers, let us first consider some examples of failed prophecies so we can compare them to Bible prophecies.
She became famous by predicting the death of President Kennedy. But one rarely hears about her predictions that failed. These include:
* World War III would begin in 1958. (Did it?)
* Russia would put the first man on the moon. (A good guess since they led the space race at the time. But America was first; Russia still has not done it.)
* Lyndon Johnson would be democratic candidate for president in 1968. (Since he was already president, he would have been the logical choice. But he refused to run.)
* President Ford would resign and Rockefeller would replace him. (Ford never resigned; Rockefeller was never president.)
* Reagan would be the Republican candidate for president in 1976. (Ford won the nomination instead).
[Others: Red China would enter the UN in 1958 - it didn't happen till much later. Vietnam war would end within 90 days of May 7, 1966 - it did not happen till much later. All quotes via: Halbrook, 1974 Florida College lectures; O'Neal, Searching the Scriptures, 6/78]
* Jesus would come within 56 years of 1835
* The temple would be rebuilt within a generation of 1832
* Several Mormon apostles (alive in his day) would live to see Jesus return
* The Civil War would be a "full end of all nations"
Beverly Crowley sued Tilton because he kept sending requests for donations to Mrs. Crowley's husband and promising to heal him. One such letter said, "God spoke to me this morning specifically about you, Tom, and He's going to heal you." When the letter was written, Mrs. Crowley's husband had been dead for five months! - via Greg Gwin, West Knoxville bulletin.
* 22 false predictions in 1975 (R. Harris, Contender, 1/76)
* 14 misses in second half of 1977 (O'Neal, Searching the Scriptures 6/78).
* Of 58 predictions, only two were right, and these were easy guesses (Bob Craig, Gospel Anchor, 5/79).
Mohammed once predicted there would be 73 sects of Islam, of which only one would survive. But Moslems admit there have been far more than 73. And today many sects, not just one, still survive. [Encyclopedia Britannica, XII-711]
These examples illustrate how false prophets fail when they attempt to predict the future. By comparison, note the repeated accuracy of Bible predictions.
The Bible contains hundreds of prophecies that have been fulfilled. Notice just a few examples and consider how these predictions were made in detail, often many years or even hundreds of years before their fulfillment.
God made three great promises to Abraham regarding his descendants. Their fulfillment became the basis of much of Bible history.
Genesis 26:3,4; 28:13,14 - These verses state the promises most concisely as God repeated them to Isaac and Jacob. The promises and their fulfillment are as follows:
1) Abraham's descendants would become a great nation, numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore
* The promise: Genesis 22:17; (26:4; 28:14; 12:2; 15:5; 18:18; 32:12; Ex. 32:13). This was promised when Abram and Sarah had no children and were too old to have children (Acts 7:5).
* The fulfillment: Exodus 1:7 - Israel increased in Egypt and became so numerous they filled the land. (Numbers 1:45,46)
2) His descendants would receive the land of Canaan
* The promise: Genesis 12:7 (13:15,17; 15:7,18; 24:7; 26:4; 28:4,13). This was promised at a time when Abram owned none of the land (Acts 7:5).
* The fulfillment: Joshua 21:43-45 - God gave Israel all the land He promised to their fathers. They took possession and dwelt in the land. None of God's promises failed; all came to pass. (Joshua 23:14; 1 Kings 8:56)
3) Someone who would be a blessing on all nations would come through Abraham's descendants.
* The promise: Genesis 12:3 (18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14). The meaning of this promise is the least obvious of the promises. But contrary to what Jews later expected, it involved a blessing on all nations, not just the nation of Israel.
* The fulfillment: Galatians 3:8; Acts 3:25,26 - Jesus was born as an Israelite who brought the blessing of salvation from sin for people of all nations.
Deuteronomy 28:15-64; 30:1-5 (spoken about 1400 BC) - After Israel had become a nation and was about to enter Canaan, Moses warned that, if they disobeyed God, He would bring curses and punishment on them (v15). This included the following:
* They would be defeated and their land overrun by enemies (28:25,47-51)
In the siege people would eat their own children for hunger (vv 52-57; Jeremiah 19:9; Ezekiel 5:10). Fulfillment: 2 Kings 6:24-29; Lamentations 4:10.
(See verses below for other fulfillment.)
* They would be taken captive to foreign lands and scattered among the nations (Deut. 28:36,37,41,64).
Note further specifics prophesied elsewhere:
1 Kings 14:15,16 - When the northern tribes formed a separate nation (chap. 12), a prophet said they would be scattered beyond the River (Euphrates). This was fulfilled when they were taken captive by Assyria hundreds of years and many kings later in 722 BC: 2 Kings 17:1-18,23.
Isaiah 39:3-7 - After Israel had been taken captive (chap. 37), Isaiah predicted that the possessions and descendants of Hezekiah (king of Judah) would be taken to Babylon. This was fulfilled many years and kings later when Judah was besieged by Babylon in 606 BC, 597 BC, and Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 BC: 2 Chronicles 36:11-21; 2 Kings 25:8-21 (24:10-15; 25:1-7).
Jews are still scattered all over the earth. You can see this fulfillment for yourself.
* They would become a reproach and byword (Deut. 28:37; cf. Jer. 19:8; 29:18)
Even today Jews are ridiculed and persecuted (as in the holocaust). This does not justify us in mistreating them, but the Bible accurately predicts the opposition they would face.
* They would not be completely consumed but would return from captivity (Deut. 30:1-5)
Jeremiah 4:27; 5:18; 30:10,11; 46:28; Isaiah 10:20-22 - When Judah went into captivity, Jeremiah said God would not make a complete end of them (in contrast to their enemies).
Jeremiah 25:11,12; 29:10-14 - They would return to Judah after 70 years. Note that the exact length of the captivity was clearly prophesied.
Isaiah 44:24-45:7 (spoken about 710 BC) - When Israel went into captivity, Isaiah said a king named Cyrus would allow God's people to return and rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. Note that Cyrus is here identified by name many years before he was born!
Fulfillment: Cyrus, king of Persia, authorized the rebuilding of the temple - 2 Chronicles 36:22,23; Ezra 1:1-3. Three groups of captives returned: 536 BC, 458 BC, and 444 BC. These returns began 70 years after the captivity began - 2 Chronicles 36:21. [Ezra 9:6-9]
* No descendant of Coniah would reign in Judah (Jeremiah 22:28-30).
Coniah was the direct descendant of David and heir to the throne, hence no heir of David would reign again in Judah. None has from that time till today, but Jesus reigns in heaven over His spiritual kingdom (John 18:36; Colossians 1:12,13).
* Rebuilding of Jericho - Joshua 6:26
After Joshua led Israel to destroy Jericho, he prophesied that the city would be rebuilt. But the man who did it would lose his firstborn son when the foundation was laid, and would lose his youngest son when the gates were set up. Fulfillment: 1 Kings 16:34.
* Prediction of the destruction of Jeroboam's altar - 1 Kings 12:26-30; 13:1-3.
Jeroboam built altars and led the northern tribes of Israel to worship golden calves. A prophet predicted a descendant of David named Josiah would burn men's bones on that altar, and the altar would split and the ashes be poured out. The king who would do this was named generations before he was born! The fulfillment: 2 Kings 23:15,16.
* Prediction of the death of Ahab and Jezebel - 1 Kings 21:19-24
Because of the wickedness of Ahab and Jezebel, Elijah predicted that dogs would lick Ahab's blood in the very place where Jezebel had caused Naboth to be slain, and dogs would eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel. Fulfillment: 1 Kings 22:38; 2 Kings 9:30-36.
* Prediction of relief from famine in a siege of Samaria - 2 Kings 7:1,2
A siege of Samaria caused severe famine. Elisha predicted the famine would be completely lifted within one day. A skeptical officer would see it but not eat of it. Fulfillment: vv 14-20.
* Prediction of relief from the siege of Assyria - 2 Kings 19:3-7
The king of Assyria besieged Jerusalem, boasting that no one could successfully oppose him (18:17-37). Hezekiah prayed and God said the Assyrian king would give up the siege, return home, and be slain. Fulfillment: vv 35-37. [Cf. Isaiah 36,37.)
* Death of Hananiah - Jeremiah 28:10-17
Hananiah falsely prophesied that the Babylonian captivity would end within two years. In contrast, Jeremiah predicted Hananiah would die within one year. He did (v17).
The prophecy (spoken approximately 590 BC)
* Many nations would come against Tyre one after another like waves of the sea (v3).
* Nebuchadnezzar would attack and breach the city (vv 7-11). Note that one attacker is specifically named. [Note that Nebuchadnezzar is referred to as "he," in contrast to the many nations who are referred to as "they" - cf. vv 3-6 to v12. So v12 refers to the nations, not specifically to Nebuchadnezzar.]
* Her stones, timbers, and dust would be laid in the midst of the sea (v12).
* She would be built no more (v14).
Note v6 - "Then they shall know that I am the Lord." This would prove who is God!
In Ezekiel's day, Tyre was a thriving, famous seaport on the mainland of Phoenicia. Predicting its destruction would be like predicting the destruction of modern Boston. However, so far as I can determine, the following is what happened:
* Many nations did attack the city, including Nebuchadnezzar who did defeat the city.
* However, the inhabitants would survive such attacks by fleeing to an island offshore, where the invading armies could not defeat them. When Alexander the Great attacked the city, he took the stones, timber, and dirt from the city and threw it into the sea to make a causeway to the island, thereby capturing it. This fact is well known in history (see encyclopedias). Thereby the stones, timbers, etc., were thrown into the sea as Ezekiel prophesied.
* The city on the mainland still lies in ruins - it has never been rebuilt, as God says. Ezekiel did not say who would finally destroy that city (it may or may not have been Alexander), but it is evident that it would not happen for a long time, since he said "many nations" would attack it. But someone eventually destroyed it till it was not rebuilt, for the ruins of the city are visible.
The site of ancient Tyre can be visited. Pictures show the fulfillment of the prophecy.
[A city now exists on the causeway, which was enlarged till it became a peninsula; but this could not have been the location of the city in Ezekiel's day before Alexander's attack.]
See Jenkins, pp. 99,10; The Posture of Faith, Gordon Wilson, pp. 33-35; cf. World Book Encyclopedia on Tyre.
The prophecy (spoken approximately 590 BC)
Regarding this sister city of Tyre, God said simply that He was against her, so He would send pestilence, blood would flow in her streets, and the sword would come on her from every side. In contrast to Tyre, note that the prophecy nowhere states that the city would be destroyed and especially it never claims the city would never be built again.
In Ezekiel's day Sidon was smaller and less significant than Tyre. If either city would cease to exist, one would have expected it to be Sidon, not Tyre. Yet God predicted the opposite.
Note the significance: Vv 22,23 - "Then they shall know that I am the Lord." It proves God!
Although the city was attacked and defeated, as God predicted, even by many of the same armies that attacked Tyre, the city was never completely destroyed. It stands today on the same spot it has always stood.
Note the contrast: God said Tyre would eventually be destroyed till it was not built again. The site of the ancient city is a ruins even today. Yet God prophesied no such destruction for Sidon, and it exists even today.
Again, the city of Sidon can be visited, and pictures demonstrate the fulfillment of prophecy.
The prophecy (spoken approximately 625 BC)
* Assyria would be destroyed and her capital city Nineveh would be made desolate.
* Nineveh would be dry as a wilderness
* Herds would lie down and beasts would lodge there.
* Those who pass by would mock and shake their fist.
* Nineveh fell to Babylon in 612 BC.
* The eventual destruction of the city was so complete that 200 years later a great army passed by without even realizing a city had stood on that spot.
* Jenkins visited the site of ancient Nineveh and observed shepherds grazing their sheep on the ruins of the city (Jenkins, p. 102).
Again, these ruins can be visited, and pictures demonstrate the fulfillment of prophecy.
The prophecy (Isaiah spoke in approximately 710 BC)
* The Medes would come against them.
* Their glory would become like Sodom and Gomorrah (complete destruction - not that the fall would occur in the same manner). (Cf. Jeremiah 50:39,40)
* It would never be inhabited or settled from generation to generation. (Cf. Jeremiah 50:13,39,40; 51:26,29,37,43,62.)
* Arabs would not camp there, shepherds would not make sheepfolds there (cf. the prediction regarding Nineveh), but only wild animals would live there.
* The city would be left as a heap (Jeremiah 51:37).
* The Medes did capture the city in 539 BC (cf. Daniel 5). The city continued to be inhabited for some time, but was completely ruined soon after the time of Christ.
* Jenkins says it is today one of the most desolate ruins he ever. He quotes travelers and archaeologists who describe the complete desolation of the city.
* Unlike Nineveh, where he observed flocks of sheep, Jenkins observed that Arabs and shepherds do not dwell at the site of Babylon. Only wild animals are found. (Jenkins, p. 104)
* The city is completely uninhabited as God predicted. The government has built a few buildings in the area as a tourist attraction and archaeologists have done some excavating, but the city itself is a heap.
Again, these ruins can be visited, and pictures demonstrate the fulfillment of prophecy.
Note Jeremiah 30:10,11; 46:28
God would make a full end of the nations where the Jews were driven (specifically, Assyria and Babylon), but would not make a full end of the Jews. Today, descendants of the Jews are scattered across the world, but who today claims to be an Assyrian or Babylonian? People today dwell in Jerusalem, in Athens the capital of the Greek empire, and in Rome the capital of the Roman Empire. But who dwells in the capital cities of the Assyrian or Babylonian empires?
How did the prophets know all these details so far ahead of time?
The life, work, death, and resurrection of Jesus are the central theme of Scripture. We would expect Biblical prophecy to focus on these events more than any other in Scripture. Here are a few of the more obvious examples of the multitude of prophecies regarding Jesus.
Note that some prophecies are more symbolic than others, and some we might not even understand were it not for the New Testament fulfillment. Furthermore, by themselves not all examples are conclusive evidence regarding Jesus' claims. But taken together, the weight of the evidence is impossible to explain except on the grounds of God's supernatural foreknowledge.
Jeremiah 23:5,6 - Jeremiah prophesied in the days during and after the fall of Judah to Babylon. He predicted a King who would be called the Lord of Righteousness and would reign and prosper as a descendant of David. Judah and Israel would be saved and dwell safely in His reign. [1 Chronicles 17:11; 2 Samuel 7:12; Psalms 132:11]
Acts 13:22,23 - Jesus was born of the seed of David to be a Savior. [Matthew 1:1; Luke 3:31; Acts 2:29-36; Romans 1:3]
Micah 5:2 - Out of Bethlehem Ephrathah would come the ruler of Israel, whose goings forth have been from everlasting. This prophesies a ruler who actually existed from eternity but would come out of Bethlehem.
Matthew 2:1-6 - The Jews of Jesus' day correctly understood this to be a prophecy of the birthplace of the Messiah/Christ. They even used it to direct the wise men to that place. Despite the fact that Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth (across the length of Palestine from Bethlehem), yet Jesus was born in Bethlehem exactly as predicted.
Isaiah 7:14 - The Lord gives a sign that a virgin would conceive and give birth to a Son who would be called Immanuel ("God with us"). The fact this was a "sign" implies it refers to a miracle: a woman would conceive and give birth, although she was a virgin having never had a sexual union with a man. Nothing about this would constitute a sign if a "maiden" simply gave birth as a consequence of a natural relationship with a man.
Further, the name Immanuel implies that the child to be born would cause God's presence to dwell among men.
Matthew 1:18-25 - Joseph was upset to learn that Mary had conceived before they had the physical union of marriage, but the angel explained that she had conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. He then cited this as a fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14. The fulfillment proves beyond doubt that the prophecy predicted conception by a woman who had no physical union with a man (cf. Luke 1:26-38). It also shows that the One to be born would save people from sin (v21).
Note that we have here a prediction of a miracle. The miracle itself was evidence that Jesus was from God. But for such an impossible event to be prophesied ahead of time makes the prediction especially convincing.
Isaiah 40:3,4 - Someone would come crying in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord, smoothing the rough places, straightening the crooked places, etc. [Malachi 3:1; 4:5,6]
Luke 3:2-5 - This was fulfilled by John the Baptist, who came preaching in the wilderness to prepare the people for Jesus' coming. [Mark 1:2,3; Luke 1:16,17; 7:27; John 1:23; Matt. 17:9-13]
Deuteronomy 18:18,19 - Moses predicted one who would be a prophet like he had been, who would speak all that God commanded him. Many men were prophets, but Moses was unique in several ways, specifically in that he was a lawgiver who revealed a covenant system as a basis for man's relationship with God. He did not just add information to a previously existing covenant.
Acts 3:20-23 (7:37) - Peter claimed Jesus fulfilled Moses' prediction of a prophet like himself. Like Moses, Jesus did not just add new information to a covenantal system that someone else had first revealed, but rather He was the giver of an entirely new covenant (see prophecies listed below regarding the New Testament).
Matthew 17:1-6; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36; 2 Peter 1:16-18 - The appearance of Moses and Elijah at Jesus' transfiguration demonstrates their approval of Him and His work. God sent them back from the dead as miraculous proof that Jesus had their approval and God's approval. God said that Jesus is His Son whom we should hear - He is a prophet.
Note that, if Jesus fulfilled these prophecies, then this would constitute evidence that He was an inspired spokesman from God. Therefore, we ought to accept all He taught as being God's will, including His covenant and His claims to be the Son of God, the Christ, and the Savior. This is one of the purposes of fulfilled prophecy.
Psalms 110:1-4; Zechariah 6:12,13 - The Lord promised that David's Lord would rule at His right hand and be a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. The unique thing about the priesthood of Melchizedek is that he was also a king (Genesis 14:18; Hebrews 7:1). Zechariah said Christ would be a priest on His throne and build the temple of the Lord.
This is recognized as a prophecy of the Christ (see below), but under the Old Testament its fulfillment was an impossibility! Priests came only from the tribe of Levi, but the kings were of the tribe of Judah as the descendants of David. Hence, David here predicted an impossibility under the Law!
Matthew 22:41-45 - Jesus showed that this passage referred to the Christ, who was not only David's descendant but also His Lord (because He was God in the flesh).
Acts 2:32-36 - After His resurrection, Jesus ascended to heaven, where He now reigns at God's right hand. He is Lord and Christ.
Hebrews 7:17; 8:1 - The writer argues that the law would not allow one man to be both priest and king, so the fulfillment required the removal of the Old Testament and its replacement by the New Testament 7:11-19. Jesus is now a priest after the order of Melchizedek (7:17,21), seated at God's right hand (8:1).
So what was impossible under the Law nevertheless was fulfilled by the removal of that Law. Jesus is now priest and King, which means He rules spiritually over all men. Once again, this shows God's approval of Him and His reign.
Zechariah 9:9 - Zion's king would come bringing salvation, yet would be humble riding on a donkey. The people would yet shout and greatly rejoice.
Matthew 21:1-9 - Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey as the people greatly rejoiced.
Despite the fact the king would enter Jerusalem with great rejoicing, the people would yet reject Him and He would die.
Psalm 2:1-6 - The nations, people, and rulers oppose God and His anointed (Christ), but God laughs at them (v4) and still sets His king in Zion (v6). Note that, despite being rejected, He would still become king.
Psalm 118:22,23 - The stone which the builders rejected became the head of the corner. This is the Lord's doing. [Isaiah 28:16]
Isaiah 53:1-12 - Isaiah prophesies one whom men would disbelieve (v1), despise, and reject (v3). He was wounded and bruised for the transgressions of others (v5). He was oppressed and afflicted but did not open His mouth (v7). He was cut off out of the land of the living (v8), his soul was made an offering for sin (v10), he was numbered with the transgressors, and he poured out his soul unto death (v12).
Zechariah 13:7 - The shepherd would be smitten and the sheep scattered.
These passages say just the opposite of what the Jews expected. They believed they would accept their Messiah and follow Him to great victory over their enemies. Yet their own Scriptures said all along that they would reject and kill Him! Then He would become King despite their rejection of Him!
All these prophecies were fulfilled when the Jews rejected Jesus and crucified Him.
Acts 4:24-28 - Psalms 2:1-6 was fulfilled when the Gentiles, the people of Israel, and the rulers opposed Jesus.
Acts 4:10,11 - Psalms 118:22,23 was fulfilled when the Jews rejected Jesus, but God made Him the foundation of the church. [Cf. Matt. 21:33-46; 1 Peter 2:3-10]
Luke 22:37; Acts 8:32-35 - Isaiah 53 was fulfilled when the Jews rejected Jesus and killed Him. [Mark 15:28]
Matthew 26:31 - Zechariah 13:7 was fulfilled when disciples were scattered at Jesus' death.
[Cf. Psalm 22:6-8 to Matt. 27:41-43; cf. Isa. 6:1-3,9f to Matt. 13:10-15; Acts 28:23-27; John 1:11; 12:37-41.]
Psalms 22:16-18 - His hands and feet would be pierced; men would divide His garments among them and cast lots for His clothing.
Psalms 34:20 - None of His bones would be broken (despite the fact He would die the terrible death described already).
Zechariah 12:10 - Jerusalem would mourn for the one whom they had pierced.
John 19:18,23,24 - Jesus was crucified, His hands and feet pierced. The soldiers then divided His garments but cast lots for His tunic. [Matthew 27:35; John 20:25,27]
John 19:31-37 - The bones of the criminals were broken to hasten their deaths, but Jesus had already died. So instead of breaking His bones, they pierced His side with a spear. Note v35 - John's testimony to this truth.
John 19:37 quotes Zechariah 12:10 as being fulfilled when Jesus was pierced on the cross.
Isaiah 53:4-12 - Though He would suffer and die, He was not being punished for His own sins. He was wounded and bruised for our transgressions and iniquities, we are healed by his stripes (v5). The Lord laid our iniquity on Him (v6). He was stricken for the transgressions of the people (v8). Yet He Himself had done no violence or deceit (v9). His soul was an offering for sin (v10). Though He Himself was righteous, He would bear the iniquities of many and thereby justify them (v11). So He bore the sins of many and made intercession for transgressors (v12).
Surely this means the one who died was not dying because He was guilty, but He was dying as a sacrifice on behalf of others who were guilty.
Throughout his trials Jesus was declared to be innocent by all who ought to know:
* Pilate, the Roman governor who condemned Him - Luke 23:4,14,22; Matthew 27:24
* King Herod - Luke 23:15
* The centurion who crucified Him - Luke 23:47
* Judas, who betrayed Him - Matt. 27:4
* The thief crucified with Him - Luke 23:41
Jesus died, not because He was guilty, but because He was sacrificed for the sins of others - 1 Peter 2:21-25; Matthew 20:28; 26:28; 2 Corinthians 5:21.
Isaiah 53:9 - Despite the fact He would be rejected by the people and die as a wicked transgressor (vv 9,12), yet He would be with the rich at His death.
Matthew 27:57-60 - Despite His violent death as though He were a criminal, and despite the fact He had lived in poverty, Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man.
Psalms 16:10 - David prophesied that his flesh would rest in hope, because his soul would not stay in Sheol (abode of departed spirits) nor would he see corruption.
Acts 2:24-32; 13:34-37 - Peter explained that this prophecy could not refer to David himself, since he did die and see corruption. But speaking as a prophet, David predicted the resurrection of His descendant the Christ from the dead. Jesus fulfilled this by being raised the third day, as the apostles and others witnessed. We will study later in detail the evidence that Jesus was raised from the dead.
Despite being rejected and slain to please the people, Jesus would come back to life and would still reign as Christ at God's right hand (vv 33,36).
From the beginning to the end of His ministry, Jesus Himself repeatedly predicted, not just His death, but also His resurrection.
John 2:19-22 - At the very beginning of His public ministry, shortly after His first miracle (v11), Jesus predicted His rejection and death.
Matthew 16:21,22 - After Peter confessed Him to be the Christ (v16), Jesus said He would be rejected by the Jewish leaders, be killed, and then rise again the third day.
Note that Peter immediately disagreed with Jesus' prediction. This shows how Jesus' prediction completely contradicted the Jews' expectation of the Messiah. They believed their great leader would defeat His enemies and reign over a glorious earthly kingdom. Yet Jesus and the Old Testament prophets had predicted the opposite all along.
Matthew 20:18,19 - Note the details: Jesus said He would be betrayed to the Jewish leaders but would be killed by the Gentiles (Romans). They would scourge Him and crucify Him (a uniquely Roman execution), but He would rise again the third day. Note that the Jews would reject Him, but the Romans would kill Him. A general prediction of ones own death and resurrection would be surprising, but such detail is amazing.
Mark 14:27-31 - Just before His betrayal, Jesus predicted that it would happen that very night! He also predicted that Peter would deny Him, the number of times he would deny him, and how soon it would happen (before the rooster crowed twice). All this was fulfilled - Mark 14:66-72. [Matthew 26:31-35]
John 13:21-30 - He also predicted that Judas would betray Him. This also was fulfilled - Matthew 26:14-16, 47-50.
No pretender would make such predictions, for he would know that three days after His death, everyone would know he was a fraud. If he made such predictions and then kept His following after His death, that would be substantial evidence that His claims are true.
Note the amazing fact that the resurrection was prophesied ahead of time would make it a double miracle. It requires miraculous power just to accurately predict future events. But to prophesy a specific miraculous event, such as the resurrection, would be miraculous on both ends - both the act of prophesying and the event predicted would be miraculous.
[Matt. 17:9,22,23; 27:63; Mk. 8:31; 9:9,10,31; 10:33,34; Luke 9:22; 18:31-33; 24:4-7,44f.]
Though a man might fulfill one or two of these predictions by coincidence, to fulfill all of them would be impossible except by plan of God. And for Jesus Himself to makes such predictions and then fulfill them constitutes proof that He Himself possessed supernatural wisdom. Therefore, He stands approved of God as a prophet and inspired spokesman for God, both by His fulfillment of prophecy and by His ability to predict the future.
Not only did the Old Testament predict the life and death of Jesus, it also predicted many aspects of the new covenant that He would begin.
Psalm 110:4; Zechariah 6:12,13
As discussed earlier, these verses predict that the Christ would be both king and priest. Since the law did not allow this, the prediction necessarily implied the law would be changed.
Hebrews 7:11-14 - This was fulfilled by the removal of the Old Testament and its replacement by the New Testament. Hence, the old covenant clearly implied that a new covenant would take effect when the Old Testament was removed and Jesus began to reign as priest.
[Zechariah 6:12,13 - The "Branch" (Messiah) would rule on His throne as priest in the "temple of the Lord," which He would build. 1 Corinthians 3:16 - Speaking to the church (1:2) Paul said, "You are the temple of God." Hence, the temple has been built and is the church. Cf. 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:19-22.]
God promised a new covenant not like the covenant made at Mt. Sinai. The new would come when the old was removed, and under the new covenant sins would be remembered no more.
Hebrews 8:6-12 quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34 showing we now have a new covenant that fulfills the prophecy of Jer. 31.
Hebrews 9:15-17 - Jesus is now the Mediator of the covenant. To be Mediator he had to die to redeem men from sin. [Col. 2:14; Eph. 2:11-16]
Hebrews 10:1-4,9,10,14-18 - Under the old covenant the sacrifices could not take away sins. But Jesus removed the first will and established the second, by which we are sanctified through His own sacrifice. This fulfills the prophecy of Jer. 31 that our sins are remembered no more!
Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:1,6-10 [Micah 4:1,2]
Isaiah 2:2-4 - When the Lord's house would be established on the top of the mountains, the law (the word of the Lord) would go forth from Jerusalem (Zion), and all nations would flow in.
Luke 24:47; Mark 16:15,16; Acts 2:14-47 - This was fulfilled when the gospel was preached to all nations beginning at Jerusalem. "The Lord's House," which is the church, was established so people could enter it - Acts 2:47; 1 Timothy 3:15; 1 Peter 2:5; (cf. 2 Samuel 7:12-14).
This was in "the latter days" ("last days" - KJV) - Acts 2:16,17; Hebrews 1:1,2. Jews were present from "every nation under heaven," and all who received the teaching were added to the church (Acts 2:5,14-4041,47; cf. Ephesians 2:11-19; Acts 11:18; Galatians 3:27,28). So "all nations" were "flowing into" God's house.
["The mountain" refers to authority or government in the house - see Hebrews 12:22,23; Daniel 2:35,44; Psalm 2:6 (cf. v1-9). The "plowshares to pruning hooks" refer to spiritual peace. The spiritual law caused people to enter a spiritual house, resulting in spiritual peace. Cf. Isaiah 11:1,6-10 to Rom. 15:12-16; John 14:27; Eph. 2:14-16; Rom. 5:1 Col. 1:20-22; 3:15; Micah 5:2-5.]
We will list first several prophecies, then we will prove they were fulfilled in the beginning of the church at Pentecost.
Old Testament predictions
Daniel 2:31-45 - By inspiration Daniel interpreted a dream for Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon. The king saw an image that represented four kingdoms:
* The head of gold = Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom, Babylon (v37).
* The breast and arms of silver = a later inferior kingdom (v39). This is Persia.
* The belly and thighs of brass = a third kingdom ruling all the earth (v39). This is Greece.
* The legs and feet of iron mixed with clay = a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, but divided (vv 40,41). This is Rome.
A stone cut without hands smote the image on the feet and destroyed it, then it became a mountain and filled the whole earth. This meant that, in the days of those kings (Rome), God would set up a kingdom that would consume the others but would never be destroyed (v44).
Daniel 7 - Here is another vision of the same four kingdoms represented as four beasts (vv 3-7): a lion (Babylon), a bear (Persia), a leopard (Greece), and a fourth beast different from the others (Rome). Again people agree about the meaning of these beasts (vv 15-23).
Vv 13,14 - One like a son of man came with clouds to the Ancient of Days and was given glory, dominion, and a kingdom, everlasting dominion, a kingdom never to be destroyed. This is very similar to the vision in Daniel 2.
Predictions during Jesus' Lifetime
Matthew 3:2 - John the Baptist preached the Kingdom of Heaven was "at hand." Note that John preached during the reign of Tiberius Caesar - the Roman Empire (Luke 3:1). ["At hand" means "to draw near or come near, to approach" - Thayer.]
Mark 1:14,15 - Jesus preached: "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand." This shows that "at hand," as used here, means the time was fulfilled.
Matthew 10:7 - Jesus sent the twelve to preach the "kingdom is at hand."
Luke 10:9,11 - He sent seventy others to preach the "kingdom has come near to you." [Matthew 12:25-28; Luke 11:17-20]
Mark 9:1 - The kingdom would come with power. Some standing before Jesus would not die till they saw it come. [Matthew 16:28; Luke 9:27]
Luke 22:18,29,30 - Jesus would not drink of the fruit of the vine till the kingdom comes. The disciples would eat and drink at His table in His kingdom.
Acts 1:3-8 - After His resurrection but before His ascension (vv 9-11) Jesus was still speaking about the kingdom (cf. v3). The kingdom had not yet come, but the power (and the kingdom, cf. Mark 9:1) would come when the Holy Spirit would come and the apostles would be witnesses. This would happen in Jerusalem, not many days from then (vv 8,4,5).
[See on Luke 1:32,33; Matthew 16:19; Mark 11:10; Luke 19:11-27; Matthew 20:20,21 cf. Mark 10:37 and Zech. 6:12,13; Matthew 23:13; 4:17,23; Luke 16:16; 12:31,32; 21;29-33; Mark 15:43; 1 Thessalonians 2:12]
Fulfillment of the Kingdom on the Day of Pentecost
Note how the events on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 fulfill all these prophecies regarding the kingdom.
* Jesus had ascended to the right hand of the Father - Acts 1:9-11; 2:33-35.
* Events in Acts 2 occurred in Jerusalem (vv 5,14) on Pentecost (v1).
* This was during the Roman Empire (Matthew 22:17,21; Acts 25:11). [John 11:48]
* It was about three years after Jesus said the kingdom was "at hand."
* It was "not many days" after Jesus' promise (Pentecost was 50 days after Jesus' died at the Passover).
* The apostles were gathered together (v1). Hence, some to whom Jesus had spoken were still living.
* The Holy Spirit came with power on the apostles (vv 2-4,17,33). The Holy Spirit gave the twelve power to speak in tongues (vv 4-13). The apostles acted as witnesses of Jesus' resurrection (v32). The coming of the Holy Spirit proved Jesus was at the right hand of God (v33).
The kingdom would come when the power came, and the power would come when the Holy Spirit enabled the apostles to be witnesses. This began on Pentecost, hence the kingdom was then in existence.
* Those who were baptized continued steadfastly in the breaking of bread (v42), which is called the Lord's Table (1 Corinthians 10:16,21). 1 Corinthians 11:26 - We will not have the Lord's Supper (table) after Jesus returns. Hence the kingdom that Jesus prophesied must be in existence now; it cannot come after He returns.
* The conclusion is stated in vv 30-36. Jesus is now reigning as Lord and Christ on the throne of David at God's right hand. Hence, He is King. All prophecies regarding the beginning of Jesus' kingdom were fulfilled at Pentecost. Therefore, His kingdom must exist and people began to enter it at Pentecost.
[Jesus was then in His glory. Cf. Matthew 20:20,21 and Mark 10:37 and Zech. 6:12,13 to Acts 2:33-35; Luke 24:26; 1 Peter 1:21; John 17:5.]
The Kingdom after Pentecost
After Pentecost several passages confirm that the kingdom did exist.
* Colossians 1:13,14 - Paul and the Colossian Christians were in the kingdom. That could not be unless the kingdom was in existence.
* Revelation 1:9 - John and the Christians he addressed were companions (partakers - ASV) in the kingdom of Jesus Christ.
* 1 Corinthians 15:22-28 - Vv 22,23 - The righteous dead will be raised at Jesus' return. Vv 25,26 - Jesus is now reigning (all things are being made subject to Him - v28). He will continue to reign until he defeats the last enemy, which is death (cf. Psalm 110:1,2). Death will be defeated by the resurrection when Jesus returns.
[Cf. Hebrews 12:25-29 to Haggai 2:6.]
All this evidence shows that the predictions of Jesus' kingdom have been fulfilled.
We have now examined more than 60 quotations (passages) containing predictions regarding more than 45 events (or specific aspects of events). These predictions were made by at least 15 different prophets and were recorded in more than 15 different books of the Bible. Fulfillments of these prophecies are recorded by at least 12 different historians (writers) in more than 15 different books of the Bible. In addition, people today can observe for themselves the fact that at least 6 of the predictions remain fulfilled till this day. And we have considered just a few of the many Bible passages that predict future events (albeit some of the more obvious ones).
Many prophecies predicted things that were completely opposite of what people expected, many were highly unlikely or improbable, some were contrary to the law in existence at the time, and some were downright impossible by natural law. Many prophecies provided great detail about specific events, sometimes even naming specific individuals, nations, cities, or countries, yet the predictions were often made hundreds of years before the events and sometimes hundreds of years before the people who fulfilled the prophecies were even born.
Compare Bible prophecies to attempted predictions by other "prophets" who falsely claim to speak for God or to be able to predict the future.
Such false prophets usually make vague, general statements that anyone could guess or that would almost surely come true with someone somewhere. Yet when they attempt specific prophecies (even approaching the degree of detail in Bible prophecies), they fail again and again and are in fact usually wrong.
If Bible writers were not from God, we should be able to prove their predictions wrong the vast majority of the time. Why is there no evidence of obvious repeated errors in the majority of their prophecies, like the errors repeatedly made by false prophets?
Why were Bible writers able to predict the distant future in such detail and get it right time and time again? Why weren't they repeatedly and obviously wrong like false teachers are wrong? Mere men, writing by their own human wisdom, could never have predicted the future like this. But the Bible writers did so time and again. No other religious system in the world even comes close to having the evidence of fulfilled prophecy such as we see in the Bible.
This witness testifies that God exists and that He spoke through these men. Since Jesus fulfilled these prophecies and since He Himself repeatedly predicted the future accurately, He must be the Messiah, the King, the Prophet, and Savior God sent into the world.
This is part of a complete series of evidences for the major claims of the Bible that God exists, the Bible is God's word, and Jesus is God's Son. To continue with the next article in the series, please go to www.gospelway.com/god/evidences-john-baptist.php To start at the beginning of the series, please go to www.gospelway.com/god/evidences.php.
Copyright 2006 David E. Pratte
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