God knows the future, and he tells us in the Bible
What is a prophecy? From where do “prophets” get their information? Is there any truth to these claims and, if so, what purpose do prophecies serve? Looking back through history, it is possible to find the answer to these questions.
The word “prophecy” comes from the Hebrew word “na·va’′ and the Greek word “pro·phe·teu′o.” Contrary to popular belief, the word does not always signify the telling of future events. To “prophecy” as a verb, is to inform, to convey a message, to command. Examples of this are found in the Bible where Jesus’ accusers cover his eyes and demand that he “Prophecy who is it that hit you?” (Matthew 26.67). However, the use of the word “prophecy” in it’s most decisive, and controversial form, means the ability to foretell the future, to “speak history in advance” as one writer puts it. Is such a thing possible? Can the human brain detect events before they occur or, is there another explanation to this phenomenon?
Since the earliest times in mankind’s history, people have desired to know the future. There have been attempts to see into the future by various means, spiritism, tarot readings, economic predictions and even public predictors of events. While some of these have claimed a relative success (amid controversy), none have been able to make any definite predictions which were heeded, witnessed and benefited anyone. So the question remains, can we know the future and, if we could, would there be any benefit in knowing?
To “know” the future would entail one of either two factors; to anticipate an event based on information, tendencies, trends, statistics and past events or, to know an event due to a power which transcends time. The former can be done by humans, to a certain degree, the latter, as far as science knows at present, is highly improbable although, Einstein did theorise the possibility of movement forward in time when an object approached the speed of light. Note though that Einstein never made any references to the past, indicating that the events that have already occurred in history are not relative or changeable. Meteorologists can predict, with a high level of success, the weather patterns of coming days or even months. This, though, is a probability, based on various data and, is not infallible. Economists can make strong predictions for future financial growth but, again, this is based on collected financial data, social trends and computer-assisted calculations. Luck can sway a prediction one way or another. There is no known mechanism for human beings to predict, with absolute certainty, any event which has uncertain variables. So from where then, do those claiming to be prophets get their information?
The majority of those throughout history who have claimed to have visions of the future made the claim that they had received the information from God, the Creator of all things. This is particularly true of the French “Seer” Nostradamus, and the prophets of the Bible, in fact, Nostradamus, a Catholic during the medieval ages, claimed much of his inspiration from the pages of the Bible, particularly the book of Revelation.
The Source of Prophecy
If a Creator exists, it is logical to assume that, he exists outside the framework of his own creation, in other words, he would not be governed by his own laws of physics, including the enigma of time. If, as has already been established, a human, with limited intellectual capability, can use various forms of data to accurately predict an outcome, surely, the Creator of the human brain and the physical universe would be in an even better position to do so, with a much higher degree of accuracy (possibly 100%). This is often how prophecy is presented in the Bible, that God simply warns someone, or a nation, of the future consequences of his, or their, actions. A computer can calculate an almost unlimited number of chess moves in a matter of seconds; surely then, a God who designed all matter, could see all variables and possible outcomes to an event! Yet this is not how the Bible presents all prophecy. The Bible writers claim that God “Sees from the beginning the finale” and that “My (God’s) word (prophecy) will not return to me without results but, it will do that which I have intended” (Isaiah 55.11). This suggests two further factors in Biblical prophecy, namely that, God can arrange events to suit his divine purposes and that, more incredibly, God can actually observe various time periods in history instantly. This is the most challenging and controversial claim of the Bible’s prophets. So, is it possible and, if so, through whom would God transmit these remarkable visions and, for what purpose?
Nostradamus is probably the most well known of all those calling themselves “prophets” throughout history, in fact, when a person mentions the word “prophecy”, it is this man's name that is usually associated with it, not the Bible prophets. The claims of Nostradamus have been examined in great detail by many experts and there have been various conclusions. One estimate is that 7% of Nostradamus’ predictions have been accurately fulfilled. Some may be impressed by this apparent success rate but, on a scientific and historical scale, this would be unimpressive. If the Creator of the universe were really passing information about the future to humans through an individual, would he really do so in such an unconvincing and haphazard manner? Also, assuming that our Creator wanted to inform us of the future, for a reason, of what benefit have Nostradamus’ predictions been? Have they saved any lives? Have they shaped the world we live in or inspired people to do great things? One last thing about Nostradamus, his writings were apparently inspired by “spirits” and astrology, and also the prophetic books of the Bible yet, this would contradict the Bible itself because, it warns humans that involvement with “spirits” and astrology is condemned by God (Deuteronomy 18.10-12). Also, the writings of Revelation and Daniel were said to be revealed only in “The time of the end” or “the final age of this earth” (Daniel 12.4). Nostradamus lived in the 16th century but, civilization still thrives over four hundred years later, the end has obviously not yet come.
The Biblical Prophecies
What then of the more ancient prophecies recorded in the Bible, what is their success rate, and have they made a difference to the world?
An outstanding claim of the Bible is that it is a book of prophecy, that is to say, it announces things that are to happen in the future, in advance. How could the Bible do this? The Bible itself answers when it says “Prophecy was a no time brought about by men, as if by some private interpretation but, these men were born along by God’s spirit (God’s active force)” (2 Peter 1.20). One of the books of the Bible, Isaiah, says that God is “The one telling from the beginning the finale, and from long ago, the things that have not been done“ (Isaiah 46.10). So can these prophecies be trusted? Have they come true? Are any yet waiting to be fulfilled? I will now consider some prophecies that dealt with past events, some that apply to our time in history, and finally, some that are still awaiting fulfilment.
The Bible book of Daniel predicts, among other events, the rise and fall of world powers, the coming of the Messiah, and the destruction of Jerusalem. Many scholars have rejected these predictions arguing that they were either written long after the fulfilment of those events or, that they have been misrepresented. They claim that the book of Daniel was written in the 2nd century BC and not in the 7th, as is claimed by the Bible itself. Yet, there are many problems with their accusations, firstly, that Daniel records information about ancient Babylon that was unknown to historians for centuries, information which only came to light when modern archaeologists discovered the remains of ancient Babylon. Secondly, the Bible book of Ezekiel, which is widely acknowledged as having been written in the 7th century BC, actually names the prophet Daniel, proving that he lived at that time (Ezekiel 14.14). Also, parts of the prophecy from Daniel were actually fulfilled long after the 2nd century BC. The destruction of Jerusalem is a remarkable example of this. Daniel warns that, when the Messiah is executed, the holy temple in Jerusalem will be destroyed (Daniel 9.26). Jesus further adds to this prophecy when he warns his disciples that “Not one stone upon another will remain” in the temple (Matthew 24.2). The British Museum records that when the temple in Jerusalem was burned down by the Roman army in the year 70, the gold used to line the temple melted and seeped into the floor stones. The Roman soldiers actually dug up every single stone of the temple to retrieve the gold so, there was no “stone upon another” left!
Isaiah prophesied many things about the Messiah, the destruction of Jerusalem and of Babylon. When speaking of the city of Babylon, Isaiah went further and warned that it would be reduced to dust and that it would “Never be inhabited again.” This was a most daring prediction because Babylon became the world power and the mightiest city ever built up to that time. Unlike most other ancient cities, which have their modern counterparts and much of their antiquity intact, Babylon no longer exists. The remarkable thing about that is that, this didn’t fully come about until the 3rd century CE, centuries after any date ascribed to the writing of Isaiah.
The ancient nation of the Babylonians, or Chaldeans, during the 7th century BC, was the dominant world power, having subdued and conquered the surrounding nations. The city of Babylon was the capital of this powerful empire. Built on the mighty Euphrates river, it was a grand feat of engineering. The walls were over 300 feet high and 80 feet wide, so wide in fact that the Babylonians used to hold chariot races along the tops of the walls. Only one bridge allowed access to the city and this was guarded and fortified by massive doors. The city was, to all onlookers, impregnable. So confident were the people in this great city that, on a night when the combined armies of Media and Persia approached, the Babylonians were busy celebrating with a feast inside the city. Under normal circumstances nothing would have happened to this city and, the seat of power would have remained with the Babylonian empire for many years to come.
To illustrate how dominant this empire was, consider the supremacy of the USA in today’s world. It’s military might and influence are felt all around the world. Imagine though that a person predicts that within the year the USA will be overthrown. They further say that it will no longer exist as a nation. One would consider the person who claimed such a thing as unbalanced. Yet, this is basically what the Bible warned would happen to the Babylonian empire. But, this was written down more than a hundred years before the Babylonian empire actually rose to the level of a world power! Furthermore, the Bible predicted that the city would be captured in just one night and that this would be done by “it’s waters being dried up” (Jeremiah 50.38). It went on to say that the “Men of Babylon have ceased to fight” (Jeremiah 51.30), and that “It’s doors will not be shut” (Isaiah 45.1). When the Bible's prophets spoke of events to come, they spoke of them in a past tense. This was to indicate the certainty of God's prophecies. In the Bible book of Isaiah, God announces “For just as the pouring rain descends, and the snow, from the heavens and does not return to that place, unless it actually saturates the earth and makes it produce and sprout, and seed is actually given to the sower and bread to the eater, so my word that goes forth from my mouth will prove to be. It will not return to me without results, but it will certainly do that in which I have delighted, and it will have certain success in that for which I have sent it” (Isaiah 55.10).
One of the most astonishing parts of the prophecy against Babylon is that the Bible names the king who would overthrow the city, 200 years before he was born! (Isaiah 45.1). The reason for this change of power on the earth? The Bible tells us that it is so that God’s people, the Hebrews in captivity in Babylon, will be released (the captivity of Israel was also prophesied exactly on time). History testifies that all of the above happened. King Cyrus, the one named in the prophecy, captured Babylon in one night, by diverting the river Euphrates away from the city. Because the army was busy celebrating in the city, no guard was left on the gates and they were not barred. King Cyrus had a policy of releasing all captives from cities that he himself captured and so, the Hebrews were released not long after, just as the Bible foretold they would be (Isaiah 44.28). No modern historian or critic can explain how the Bible managed to foretell these events, it is a mystery to them.
Now let us move on in time to the 1st century. The Israelites are expecting a deliverer, a “Messiah” very soon, why? Because of a prophecy in the Bible. The prophet Daniel, while in captivity in Babylon, recorded a series of visions he was given. One of them gave the exact year that the Messiah was to arrive in Israel. It is a complicated prophecy but, basically, it tells that the Messiah would arrive 485 years after the command is given by the Persian king Artaxerxes, to rebuild the temple of Jerusalem, that the Messiah would preach repentance to the Jews for three and a half years, and that then he would be executed (Daniel 9.24-27). That command was given in 455 BC which would bring the prophecy date up to the year 29 AD. This was the year that Jesus was baptised in the Jordan river and proved himself to be the long awaited Messiah. Jesus preached for three and a half years and then was put to death by Rome. In the book of Micah, written over 500 years before Jesus was born, in chapter 5, verse 2, it foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. History records this fact.
“The Final Age of This Earth”
Jesus himself was the greatest prophet in the Bible. He warned of things that would happen during the lifetime of his followers and that would happen far into the future. Consider some of these. Jesus predicted his own execution. He warned that his followers would abandon him. He said that the city would be surrounded yet, he instructed his followers to flee Jerusalem when this happened. He told them that the sacred temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed. This was fulfilled when the Romans, after having surrounded Jerusalem and brought it to it’s knees, suddenly and inexplicably, retreated. This was the opportunity for Jesus’ followers to flee, as he had commanded them. Had they ignored his command, they would have been killed or captured a few years later when the Roman armies returned and completely destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. The parts of the Bible that record Jesus’ instructions have been authenticated as having been written before the events that they record.
But Jesus gave more significant prophecies which reach much further into the future, to our day. Jesus explained that these things would occur, “In the last days”, and when “The appointed times of the nations are ended” (Luke 21.24). He also called it “The conclusion of the system of things” or, as some Bibles put it, “The end of the world” (Matthew 24.3, 2 Timothy 3.15). What did Jesus see?
Matthew chapter 24 warns of “Wars and reports of wars”. It goes on to say that “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom”, in fact, Jesus warned that war would “Take peace away from the earth” (Revelation 6.4), so these wars would engulf the whole earth, not just one or two nations. He saw “A great sword”, or a great weapon, like none seen before. (Matthew 24.14, Revelation 6.4). Consider the new weaponry invented in the twentieth century. It enabled men to slaughter by the hundreds and by the thousands. Jesus further warned that “There will be earthquakes in one place after another”, and plagues and famines. With data obtained from the National Geophysical Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, supplemented by a number of standard reference works, a tabulation was made in 1984 that included only earthquakes that measured 7.5 or more on the Richter scale, or that resulted in destruction of five million dollars (U.S.) or more in property, or that caused 100 or more deaths. It was calculated that there had been 856 of such earthquakes during the 2,000 years before 1914. The same tabulation showed that in just 69 years following 1914 there were 605 of such quakes. These statistics are a means of indicating the extent of suffering from earthquakes during this period of history.
We also live in a new age of disease or, as the Bible says “pestilence”. Despite enormous strides made in medical advancement, there are more diseases and more victims each year now than there has ever been in history. Consider the new or more significant deadly conditions such as AIDS, CJD, Bird Flu, Heart Disease, Asthma and cancers. There is no cure for any of these conditions. Furthermore, as the human race consumes more and more, and strips the planet of it's natural resources, people in developed worlds will become fatter, paler, weaker, less resistant to illness, and more prone to mental illnesses. While this happens, half the world suffers from malnutrition and a lack of medical care, just as the Bible warned, about famine. The human race is a ticking modern time bomb of pestilence and premature death.
Elsewhere in the Bible it expands on Jesus' great prophecy and tells us that there will be “Anguish of nations not knowing the way out”, that “Due to the increasing of lawlessness, the love of the greater number will cool off.” The Bible further says that “In the final age of this earth people will be lovers of money, lovers of themselves, unreasonable, puffed up with pride, disobedient to parents, unthankful, fierce, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3).
The Bible also warns of negative developments in religion for our day. Jesus foretold that there will be “False prophets” (Matthew 7.15). It warned that men will bring in their own religious doctrines “Forbidding men to marry and commanding to abstain from foods God has freely given” (1 Timothy 4.1-3). Many religions do ban certain foods and marriage. About religious leaders, the Bible warned that there would be “False Christs” and “wicked impostors advancing from bad to worse” (2 Timothy 3.13), and that, on account of them, the word (the Bible) would be “spoken of abusively” (2 Peter 2.1,2). Have not the so-called “Christian” religions of the world, both past and present, given the Bible a bad name? Incredibly Jesus foretold that, at the end, when he brings people to account for their behaviour, most religions in the world would be rejected by him, because of their behaviour and hypocrisy. He stated that “Broad and spacious is the road leading to destruction and many are there on it”, whereas, the path that leads to life would only have a “few” on it (Matthew 7.13). Of most of those that claim to represent him he will say “Get away from me you workers of lawlessness” (Matthew 7.23). Jesus foretold that “The hour is coming when everyone that kills you will imagine he has rendered a sacred service to God” (John 16.2). How many lives have been claimed in the name of religion, yes, even in Jesus' name? How does Jesus feel about such acts? “They will do these things because they have not come to know either the father or me”. He then tells them “I never knew you, get away from me” (Matthew 7.23).
Most disturbing of all is that Jesus warned us that nations would be “Ruining the earth” (Revelation 11.18). This was written long before any pollution began to take hold of our planet and can only be applied to our generation, as the Bible indicated it would.
These are but a few examples of outcomes of Biblical prophecies, outcomes which are inexplicable, unless one allows for an agent acting outside of the confinements of time.
But, is there a meaning and a benefit to knowing these things, after all, Jerusalem was still destroyed and people are still ruining the earth? The meaning of these prophecies is twofold, as the Bible itself explains. First, that “Your people may escape” the things that are “coming upon the world” (Daniel 12.1, Luke 21.26). The Bible provides warnings for people to take action to avoid calamity. It does this through prophecy and principle. One example of this is the escape of Christians from Jerusalem just before it was destroyed. They were only able to do this because Jesus had warned them, in prophecy, what was going to happen in their lifetime. They recognised the fulfilment of his words. Had they ignored his warning, Christianity might not have taken hold in the world in the powerful way that it has. Secondly, and more importantly, fulfilled prophecy gives indisputable evidence that the Bible is a message from our Creator. Just as Jesus used miracles to confirm his being sent by God, so too the Bible uses prophecy to establish it’s credentials as having been “Inspired of God” or “God breathed” (2 Timothy 3.16). Lastly, these prophecies, past and present, help those who study them to recognise that the time we are living in is a pivotal moment in history, an unprecedented time of calamity and upheaval. Jesus warned that there will be a “Great tribulation such as the world has never seen before and will never see again” (Matthew 24.21), and that there would be “Anguish of nations not knowing the way out, while men become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken" (Luke 21.25,26).
Have there ever been times like these in history? The world reels from one disaster to another. All the foundations of modern society are crumbling, financial, religious, moral and social. Listening to prophecy helps people to understand the present conditions in the world and also, provides comfort with the message that “When you see all these things occur (all these prophecies), lift your heads high because your deliverance is near“ (Luke 21.28).
There are many more prophecies in the Bible, fulfilled in staggering detail. Please contact the writer if you wish to know more. Reading these writings might unsettle people because they paint a grim picture for our immediate future but, that is not the whole story. Jesus concluded his great prophecy for our time with these words;
“This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth, for a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24.14).
So Jesus had good news for mankind. What was it? And what was the “end” that Jesus warned of? An astonishing prospect for our earth and all humans upon it is covered in a later article. Remarkable though it sounds in this modern age, prophecy does exist, in the Bible, and it has told us everything that we can expect in the near future. It is up to individuals to take note and take action or, to ignore these warnings.