As a young Christian, I didn’t know much about the Bible and knew even less about Bible prophecy, yet as I looked for answers, I soon discovered that fulfilled prophecy sets the Bible apart from all other religious writings. Fulfilled prophecy was objective, not philosophical. Every bone in my skeptical body wanted proof. I think that prophecy (something said in advance that later happened) is powerful evidence that the Bible is, in fact, God’s Word.
Have you ever enjoyed a fortune cookie after Chinese takeout? You break open the cookie, pop it in your mouth, and read your fortune. They usually say something positive, kind of like this . . . “A really amazingly good thing will happen to you sometime soon” or “You will meet someone very soon who will completely change your life for the better.” The fortunes are so vague that I often can’t help but laugh.
Prophecy is not a vague fortune cookie, it is detailed and specific. Prophecy is one of God’s litmus tests that He used to prove He really is the One true God versus all the other religious claims. One hundred percent of the time, God accurately predicts, often in great detail, what will happen, hundreds and even thousands of years before it happens.
Throughout the book of Isaiah, we see God use prophecy as proof of His authority. The children of Israel were not doing well, and they put their hope for the future in idols they made with their own hands. God challenged the children of Israel to put their trust in the One who could accurately foretell the future. Who would it be? Israel’s idols or God Himself?
Remember the former things, those of long ago;
I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me.
I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say, “My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please.” (Isa. 46:9–10)
God said, I am the One true God. Yahweh. “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come” is kind of a poetic way to say, I know the end from the beginning, and notice He said, “My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.”
Let’s take a look at a few biblical prophecies and see if what God foretold really came to pass. The first biblical prophecy I would like to examine is important, because it is so specific and appears improbable, even impossible, that it could happen.
First, the judgment of the ancient city of Tyre. Ezekiel’s prophecy in chapter 26 included five points:
- Nebuchadnezzar would besiege and absolutely destroy the city.
- Multiple nations would come against it.
- The ruins would be scraped from the site and thrown into the sea.
- The site would become a place for fishermen to spread their nets.
- The city would never be rebuilt again.
The city of Tyre was one of the biggest and most powerful and successful cities of the early seventh century—like our modern cities of San Francisco, Hong Kong, Sydney, Los Angeles, or New York. For Tyre to be completely destroyed and never rebuilt was unimaginable.
Let’s see what happened to Tyre. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, attacked the city for thirteen years. With all his wealth and supplies to back his campaign, he decimated the city and turned it to rubble. During this time, the wealthy and the powerful people of Tyre escaped about a half mile outside of the original city to an island. It became the new fortified city of Tyre. Nebuchadnezzar decided that he had done enough and left.
If I was reading that prophecy, I would think to myself that God was close, but He didn’t get it quite right. The prophecy was not completely fulfilled at that time. But wait, there is more to come.
Three hundred years later, about 322 BC, Alexander the Great was determined to take over as much of the entire world as he could. On his march to Egypt, he got to the powerful city of Tyre and decided that Tyre was a threat that must be destroyed. He used his small fleet to attack the huge fortress of Tyre, but because they were using catapults, he realized his methods were not going to be successful.
For three years he paused his larger campaign, and his soldiers built a causeway a half mile from the shore all the way to the city and focused their fighting power on Tyre. When the siege was done, Alexander the Great completely decimated the city. Nothing was left. To this day, the original city of Tyre is just a flat, barren piece of rock where fishermen dry their nets. You can still see the remains of the causeway his soldiers built. And although another city was renamed Tyre, that original city has never been rebuilt. God’s accuracy rate was 100 percent.
Let’s look at another prophecy. This one is about the succession of world empires found in the book of Daniel.
Most of us have heard the story of Daniel in the lions’ den but don’t understand the man behind the story. After Israel’s disobedience, the Babylonians invaded Israel in 586 BC and Daniel was taken captive to Babylon.
Daniel’s time in Babylon spanned three dynasties. He knew God promised to bring His people back together, but after so many years, he wondered when it would actually happen. In response to Daniel’s prayer, God gave Daniel an image of a statue. God showed Daniel the four major empires of the world over the next several hundred years. Each empire was represented by a different building material in a different location of the large statue (Dan. 2).
The empires in order were the Babylonians, the Medo-Persians, the Greeks, then the Romans. Daniel’s prophecy concerning the Greek era was especially interesting, as it outlined a ruler with a worldwide kingdom that would later be divided into four parts. That person would be Alexander the Great, whose empire was divided and given to his four generals.
God described specific kingdoms and what they would be like hundreds of years before they rose to power.
As a young Christian, I began to read through these prophecies in the Bible, and the more I read, the more convinced I became of the supernatural nature of the Bible.
As amazing as these prophecies are, I believe the most astounding prophecies are about Christ. There are over three hundred specific prophecies of Jesus’ first coming. They describe who He would be, what would happen to Him, where He would be born, and much more. These detailed prophecies were made hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of years before He was born.
These are just thirty of the over three hundred prophecies about Jesus:
- He would be born of a woman (Gen. 3:15).
- He would be born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14).
- He would be a descendent of Abraham (Gen. 12:3; 18:18).
- He would be from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10).
- He would be from the house of David (Ps. 132:11; Jer. 23:5; 33:15; Isa. 11:10).
- He would be born in Bethlehem (Mic .5:2).
- There would be a forerunner who would prepare the way (Isa. 40:3–5).
- He would be anointed with the Holy Spirit (Isa. 11:2).
- He would have a preaching ministry (Isa. 61:1–2).
- He would speak in parables (Ps. 78:2).
- He would have a healing ministry (Isa. 35:5–6).
- He would be a prophet (Deut. 18:15, 19).
- He would also function as a priest (Ps. 110:4).
- The time of His appearance was foretold (Dan. 9:24–26).
- His death was foretold (Ps. 22; Ps. 69:21).
- He would have a triumphal entry on a donkey (Zech. 9:9).
- He would be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver (Zech. 11:12–13).
- He would remain silent before His accusers (Isa. 53:7).
- He would be abandoned by His disciples (Zech. 13:7).
- He would be beaten (Isa. 50:6).
- He would be spat upon (Isa. 50:6).
- He would be mocked (Isa. 50:6).
- His hands and feet would be pierced (Ps. 22:6).
- He would be crucified with transgressors (Isa. 53:12).
- Lots would be cast for His garments (Ps. 22:18).
- He would cry out from the cross (Ps. 22:1).
- None of His bones would be broken (Ps. 22:17; Exod. 12:46; Ps. 34:20).
- He would be buried with the rich (Isa. 53:9).
- He would be resurrected (Ps. 16:10).
- He would be exalted (Ps. 110:1).
Peter Stoner was the chairman of the department of mathematics and astronomy at Pasadena City College. He later went on to teach and have the same role at Westmont College. Being a mathematician, he wanted to know the probability of eight fulfilled prophecies. He figured out that the probability of any man fulfilling eight prophecies would be one in ten to the seventeenth power. That’s 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000! He knew that a number might not mean that much to us, so he gave us this picture to help us comprehend this staggering probability.
Chip Ingram, Why I Believe: Straight Answers to Honest Questions about God, the Bible, and Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2017).