What is Prophecy?
When we hear the word “prophecy” images of Nostradamus, Jean Dixon, or television psychics may come to mind. Many times in history people have claimed that an event is fulfilling a previously recorded prophecy. Whether it be that the attack on the Twin Towers was prophesied by Nostradamus, or that President Kennedy was predicted to be assassinated while in office, as Jean Dixon asserted, there have been many attempts to claim that world events have been predicted by a human. The idea that a person could predict the future is compelling. Wouldn’t everyone like to know what is going to happen to them or their loved ones in the future? Perhaps if we could learn what was in store for us in the future, we might be able to act to prevent a disaster or endure a difficult time knowing that a better one lay ahead.

Biblical prophecy claims to be much more than haphazard predictions about future events, like those of its many competitors such as Jean Dixon or Nostradamus. The purpose of Biblical prophecy is not just to foretell coming events, but to reveal the master guiding hand of a moral, living God—a God who is concerned with His creation, and acts in response to it. As such, fulfilled prophecy is an active and powerful witness that God does indeed exist and that the affairs of this earth are being directed according to His will and purpose.

There are other characteristics of Biblical prophecy that are equally unique: As you study Bible prophecy, you will always find it is:

  • Written before the foretold event
NOT after.
  • Specific and intelligible
NOT vague and indefinite.
  • Often unlikely and improbable
NOT expected and probable.
  • In danger of always being false
NOT likely to be fulfilled if given enough time.
  • Outside man's power to control or fulfill
NOT within man's power to fulfill.
  • According to a plan and purpose
NOT random, without direction or purpose.
  • Requiring a moral response from the spectator
NOT dispassionate, intellectual curiosity.

God reveals to us, using Biblical prophecy, not only His power to predict the future, but also His power to direct the future. He tells us that he gives prophecy “in order that the living may know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men.” (Daniel 4:17) God actively challenges other prophets to:

“Produce your defense,” says Yahweh, “present your case,” says Jacob’s king… “Tell us what is to happen in the future, and so convince us you are gods. Do something at least so that we can note it and all see it. No, you are nothing and your works are nothingness; to choose you would be an outrage.” (Isaiah 41:21-24 NEB)

Isaiah says that God’s challengers and their gods are “nothing” and they accomplish “nothingness.” Ironically, as we shall see, sometimes God chooses those things that are the most improbable and least likely in order to challenge our unbelief and bring us to an appropriate humility in His presence [see 1 Corinthians 1:27-29]. This alone can provide a real basis for trusting Him and discovering what He desires to teach us.

Israel, the Focus of All Bible Prophecy
God calls Israel “His witnesses” and “my servants whom I have chosen” for the specific purpose “that men may know and believe me… it is I who have spoken, have saved, have made the proclamation… I act and no one can reverse it.” (Isaiah 43:8-13; see also 41:8-16) It is for this reason that Israel is the central focus of most Bible prophecies. They are, by God’s own appointment, His Witnesses to His existence, His purpose in the earth, and His work of salvation. Prophecies concerning other nations and world empires find their meaning only in the context of their relationship to Israel. As you read the Bible you will find that the prophecies regarding Israel’s past and future: scattering throughout the world, return to the land of Israel, and final glorification as a nation, written by Moses ~1400 BC and recorded well before these events occurred, set forth God’s entire plan for the nation of Israel. These prophecies will be the basis of our investigation and in them we will see God’s intent and desire to save both Israel and all others who would look to Him (see Isaiah 45:21-22).

One significant attribute of God’s prophecies about Israel is that God’s work with Israel was for the express purpose of bringing about their salvation. God made plain one critical factor that would dramatically affect their national existence—Israel’s life in the land was to be based on moral factors: righteousness in behavior and faithfulness to their God were critical to their continued occupation there. Obedience would bring blessing and good; rebellion would bring curses and evil. The outcome either way would be clear, unmistakable, and specific. They, and all the world, would know that their God, the Living God, had acted as He said He would. (For examples see Leviticus 18:24-30; 19:1-37; Deuteronomy 4:1-13; 5:6-21,33; 6:3-5,24-25; 7:9-15; 8:7-20; 11:10-17, 26-28; 30:15-20; 31:16-21.).

How Do We Gain Confidence in God Through Prophecy?
God’s prophesies about Israel illustrate an important point: God often uses short-term prophecies to prove to the observer that His long-term predictions will also come true. Whether entering the Promised Land, predicted several centuries prior to its occurrence (Genesis 15:16-21), or winning the battle of Jericho, prophesied only days before the victory (Joshua 6:2-5), by witnessing the fulfillment of God’s word, the Israelites were to gain confidence that God’s promises for the future would also be fulfilled. Ultimately, we, as modern observers, are to use prophecy for the same purpose—to allow God to build our faith that He is at work fulfilling the prophesies and promises He has given to our world.

Testing God’s Predictions – Do His Prophecies Come True?
The Old Testament is filled with God’s prophesies about Israel. Two key prophecies, recorded in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, set forth the consequences of Israel’s faithlessness. We can use them to test the veracity of God’s prophetic word. The fulfillment of these prophecies illustrates the powerful evidence of a living God at work and helps demonstrate that we can trust God to fulfill His prophetic word.

To the skeptic, however, it seems odd to use as a proof of fulfilled prophesy, a manuscript that did not date back prior to the time when the prophesies were fulfilled. So, although the fulfillment of much Biblical prophesy recorded in the Old Testament would have helped the Israelites’ understand that God was working in their life as a nation, it becomes necessary for us, as students of prophesy to identify more reliable texts to use as proof—manuscripts that can be dated back prior to the time the prophesies were fulfilled. Fortunately, in 1947 a great treasure trove of ancient Bible texts was found in Israel. These texts, called the “Dead Sea Scrolls,” conclusively prove that the Bible prophecies contained in the texts of the Old Testament were written prior to 200-300 BC. Therefore, anything happening after 200-300 BC provides the ideal conditions under which to test the truthfulness of the Bible’s claims.

The following table chronicles the major elements of prophesies about the nation of Israel found in the Old Testament. These prophecies explain the major events Israel and the rest of the world should look for to prove that God keeps His word. All of these prophecies were verified by the Dead Sea Scrolls as being written at least before 300 B.C., and we can assume that any fulfillments of these predictions after this date are legitimate. (Note: manuscripts dating from 125 to 350 A.D. exist for the books of the New Testament, written prior to the end of the 1st Century. Keep this point in mind when considering the dates of the fulfillment of prophesies from the NT.)

God warned Israel that their persistent faithlessness and disobedience would bring natural disasters, drought, famine, dreadful diseases and plagues, and defeat and oppression at the hand of their enemies. Leviticus 26:14-29; Deuteronomy 28:16-35,38-46; 32:15-25
The land would be wasted by their enemies and eventually left desolate and barren to “enjoy its sabbaths” as long as Israel remained scattered among the nations. Leviticus 26:32-35,43
All formal religious worship, including the great temple in Jerusalem, would be destroyed so that “not one stone would be left upon another.” Leviticus 26:30-31; Daniel 9:26-27; Hosea 3:4-5; Matthew 24:2; Luke 21:5-6
Gentile dominion over God’s land and His special city (Jerusalem) would last for a long, uninterrupted period. Luke 21:20,24
After the destruction of their land and nation, broken by her enemy coming upon them “as the eagle flies,” Israel would be sold as slaves and driven into all nations. Leviticus 26:33,37-38; Deuteronomy 4:27; 28:64,68; Luke 21:24
There, they would wander from nation to nation, a homeless people, without peace or rest, living in constant fear of their lives, suffering from many diseases, plagues and sicknesses. Leviticus 26:36-39; Deuteronomy 28:59-67
Having refused to serve their God, they would be made to serve the gods of their captors. Deuteronomy 4:28; 28:64
Yet, astonishingly, the Jews would remain a distinct and separate people, never allowed to assimilate or be destroyed. Leviticus 26:44; Jeremiah 30:11; 31:35-37; 33:24-26; Amos 9:8-9; Number 23:7-10
For this reason, Gentile antipathy would express itself in derogatory terms memorialized in proverbs and bywords. Deuteronomy 28:37; Jeremiah 24:9

And what do we find from history? Can these prophesies prove that God’s word does come true? Fulfilled throughout the time of the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans, any history book, including the Bible, will fill in the sad details of the consequences of the Israelites’ disobedience to God. The Israelite cities were destroyed by outside invaders, their people scattered throughout the world, and Gentiles had control over God’s land for a long uninterrupted period of time.

One specific example of the fulfillment of these prophecies is the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The Romans, an exceedingly fierce Gentile nation, brought swift retribution on the Jews. Easily the most terrible time in history up to that date, the destruction of Jerusalem was accomplished with Roman meticulousness. The Temple, only recently completed under Herod the Great in the 1st Century BC, was again destroyed. There was literally not one Temple stone left on another—a fire in the Temple, set by the Romans, melted the Temple’s gold into the stones. Each stone was later burned by the Romans to extract the gold.

The priesthood and all formal Jewish religious worship also came to an end. Jerusalem was dedicated to Jupiter Capitolinus, and the figure of a pig was placed over the gate leading to Bethlehem– under this polluting shadow no Jew would pass. To this day no Jew has offered a single sacrifice prescribed by the Law in this Temple.

The cities of Israel and the land itself, beginning shortly after the Jewish war of AD 70, succumbed to the promised desolation, especially by the domination of the Arabs and Turks. Josephus, a contemporary historian in the 1st Century AD, indicates that over a million people perished in Jerusalem and approximately 100,000 were taken captive.

After the Bar Kochba rebellion of 135 AD, Emperor Hadrian put the land of Israel up for sale. Gentiles flocked to settle the country from which the Jews were expelled. From that time till the end of the 1800s, the enemies of the Jews have been the possessors of the land.

Jewish history, following the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and the revolt of Bar Kochba in 135 AD, is well documented by many historians. - Any history book or encyclopedia will verify that the Jews have been a despised and hated people, forced to wander from nation to nation. Whenever they sought to lose their identity and fade into their host nation, terrible pogroms and persecutions ensued, driving them out. Among the nations, ugly characterizations have given rise to proverbs and bywords.

Now consider:
  1. It is a fairly safe guess to suggest that the Jews would be overthrown by their enemies, but who would ever predict this would happen when they forsook their God and His Laws – regardless of the international events of that time?
  2. What then can be said of the prophesied desolation of the land? This indeed is a reasonable prediction, but is it reasonable to suppose that desolation would continue in the land despite who occupied it?
  3. Other nations and people have come and gone, but very few, if any, have had such a profound impact on the world. The very name “Jew” has evoked astonishment and hatred and has been used continually as a proverb (“As shrewd as a Jew”) and byword (to “jew” someone means to get something from someone deceitfully). All this has occurred exactly as God said. Was this just a good guess?
  4. Normally a mighty river that flows into the sea makes itself felt for a moment and then is rapidly absorbed into the general chaos of the sea. Soon it can’t be distinguished from the other waters. But not the Jew. Who could know they would perpetually remain a separate and distinct people, despite their fervent desires and persistent attempts to become assimilated into surrounding society? Babylon and their other enemies have ceased as nationalities, but never the Jew, who has always existed from age to age. Was this expected and probable? Surely, given enough time the Jew would cease to exist as an identifiable people!
  5. The Jew has never found rest among the nations of his sojourns. Whenever he became settled and began to lose his identity, some type of persecution arose and again he was uprooted and driven out. It is a singularly striking fact of history that the Jew has never found a permanent resting place; he has always lived in constant fear without power to resist his enemies; he has perished in land after land. Even today examples of anti-Semitism can be found throughout the world. Does this really seem like something likely to happen as a continual pattern of existence?
Israel’s ‘Resurrection’: The Return to their Land
It is not just in Israel’s history two thousand years ago that we see God’s prophesies being accomplished. Perhaps one of the most convincing and exciting fulfillments of God’s predictions about the nation of Israel happened in the last half century! In 1948, the world witnessed one of the most dramatic and improbable elements of Biblical prophecy coming true: the regathering of God’s people from all over the earth and the “resurrection” of a Jewish state.

After God gave His people all He had declared and the “times of the Gentiles” had run their course, God promised His People that they would:

Return completely to their own land from every nation where they had been scattered. Deuteronomy 30:1-5; Isaiah 11:11-12; Jeremiah 16:14-17; 30:3,10-11; 31:10; 32:37; 33:7; Ezekiel 34:11-16; 37:1-14; Amos 9:14; Zechariah 10:8-10
Return in a state of unbelief and irreligion. Ezekiel 36:21-29
Become a nation again. Ezekiel 37:15-22
Regain Jerusalem under their control. Jeremiah 30:18; Luke 21:24
Rebuild their cities. Ezekiel 36:33-38; Amos 9:14
Have the fruitfulness of their land and people restored. Jeremiah 31:10-14; 33:12-13; Ezekiel 36:8-15, 29-30,33-38; Amos 9:13-14

Israel’s rejection and crucifixion of Christ, their Messiah, brought on them the full weight of the prophecies in Deuteronomy and Leviticus. Jesus summarized Israel’s future from the first century forward stating that because of their actions “they shall fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive into all nations and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24)

The Old Testament prophesies of the same event state that as a result of their wickedness the Israelites will be “scattered throughout all nations” and countries. But, God explains, He will then collect them from the ends of the earth and bring them back into their own land. Ezekiel records this prophecy stating:

“Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came … For I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land.”
(Ezekiel 36:22-24)

At the end of the nineteenth century a remarkable change began to take place: The ‘resurrection’ of God’s people from their international “graves.” Beginning with the First Zionist Congress in 1897, through the painful and horrific years that included two world wars and the Holocaust, God’s mighty hand in world affairs would not be stayed. On May 14, 1948 Israel became a nation again by an international vote taken in the United Nations assembly. Neither international threats nor four fierce wars against an overwhelmingly larger enemy could quench God’s purpose for Israel. And to this day, Jews continue to pour back into their land from all corners of the earth.

Now consider:
  1. The emergence of a Jewish State in Palestine depended on the collapse of both the Ottoman and Russian empires. The Ottoman empire, which formerly included the land of Israel, would need to disintegrate, but Russia—the “Holy Russia” of the Romanoffs—would also need to be destroyed, otherwise Russia would ensure that the Holy Places, including Jerusalem, would remain under the protection of a Christian power or powers, preferably Orthodox Russia herself, rather than the Jews. Thus, both the fall of the Ottoman and Holy Russian Empire were necessary for the State of Israel to come into existence. At precisely the right time, Communism rose to power in Russia and reigned for 70 years, suppressing the power of the Russian Orthodox Church to effect its desires. How is it that all the necessary international events so crucial to the rebirth of Israel as a people and nation ‘just happened’ to occur at the right time?
  2. Again, what great insight allowed the prophets of Israel to foretell that Israel would return to her land in a state of unbelief at the end of a train of devastating experiences? All this was accomplished despite Britain’s powerful resistance in the 1930’s, Nazi Germany’s near annihilation of Jews in Europe, the devastation of the Jews in the land when German forces swept across Africa to the edge of Egypt, multitudes of Arab attacks aimed to crush the new Jewish state, and four other attempts to ‘push Israel into the sea.’ Israel’s return has been in the face of circumstances that were overwhelmingly against this return.

The Conclusion?
Is the Bible true? Does the God of the Bible, the self-proclaimed Maker of Heaven and Earth, exist? Is there evidence that a real purpose and direction to all events exists? A purpose and direction that can have a profound effect on my life? In this lesson we have attempted to put before you, the reader, evidence that would answer these questions with a “yes.” It is your turn now to carefully weigh the evidence, and to determine your response.

“This is what the LORD says—the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker: Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands? It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts... I am the LORD and there is no other. I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob’s descendants, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I, the LORD, speak the truth; I declare what is right... Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God and there is no other.” (Isaiah 45:11-12, 18-91, 22-25 NEB)


But doesn’t modern science demonstrate that parts of the Bible are clearly untrue?

Maybe some of these predictions have come true, but why would I necessarily trust all the Bible as true?

But all these predictions are in the past. Are there any Bible predictions about what will happen in the future?

I’m convinced this demonstrates the truth of the Bible – so what response from me is God looking for?