Bible Prophecy - Convincing Proof that God Exists: Part One
The Bible is a most remarkable book. Its account of the origin of evil; its unparalleled record of God's dealings with the nation of Israel; its searching message through their prophets; its "good news" proclaimed by Jesus Christ and his apostles; above all, its unerring analysis of the weaknesses of human nature and its contrasting portrayal of the holiness, the truth and the mercy of God, made especially plain in the person of His Son - all these are outstanding features found in no other book in the world. They prompted Henry Rogers over l00 years ago to declare: "The Bible is not such a book as man would have written if he could, nor could have written if he would."( In The Superhuman Origin of the Bible Deduced from Itself.) In other words, God is needed to explain its existence.
In this short work we shall consider one of the Bible's unique features: its prophecy. Now strictly prophecy is not just foretelling the future. A prophet was one who "spoke for" another, a spokesman; and prophecy was the message the prophet spoke on behalf of God. But since Bible prophecy contains quite a lot of "prediction", or foretelling future events, for our purpose here we shall take the term in that sense.
Who has the Power of Prophecy?
But first we must settle an important question: Does the Bible claim that the power of prophecy belongs only to God and is a proof of His authority?
To this there is a decisive answer in the prophecy of Isaiah. In the 41st chapter God challenges the idols and the idol worshippers of the day to prove that they possess divine powers. This is how He does it:
Produce your cause, saith the Lord; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob, Let them (the idols) bring them, (the reasons) forth, and declare unto us what shall happen: declare ye the former things, what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; and shew us things to come ... (vv.21-22,R.V.)
The basis of this challenge is clear: the pagan worshippers claim that their idols are gods. Very well; let them produce the proofs. And the proofs demanded by God Himself are that the idols shall announce future events, and also declare "the former things", that is, explain how creation took place in the beginning. The point is made crystal clear in the next verse:
Declare the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods ... (v.23).
Here God Himself is asserting that to be able to foretell the future would be a proof of Divine power. More than once in this part of Isaiah's prophecy, God declares that He is the only one who has this power, for only He is God; there is no other:
Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God , and there is none like me ... (46:9)
The God of Israel is here declaring that there is no other worthy object of worship but Himself; and goes on to assert the signs of His power in these terms:
. . . declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure (46:10).
Come to think of it, whoever would dare to say, "My counsel shall stand . . ." -except God? What man is there in the whole world who could say any such thing? To carry it out needs Someone who not only knows future events before they happen, but has the power to see that they take place as He has decreed. In other words, to utter prophecy which will inevitably come true, you need God. No other cause can explain it.
The New Testament makes the same claim. When Jesus was about to leave his disciples, he promised them the help of the Holy Spirit in their task of preaching the Gospel in the world. One of the effects of this gift was to be: "He shall declare unto you the things that are to come" (John 16:13); in other words, the disciples were to be given a knowledge of future events. It is certainly implied that without the special gift they could not have done this. Their ability to declare the future was to be an evidence of the Divine power they had been granted.
Again, in the last book of the Bible, chapter 1, verse 1, it is declared that God gave to Jesus Christ a revelation, "to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly come to pass . . ." (Revelation 1:1) . The knowledge of the future came from God through Jesus; without that revelation, His servants could have known nothing of it.
The conclusion is clear: the Bible says quite definitely that the power to foretell the future belongs to God alone.
Does the Bible foretell the Future?
Well, we have only to examine history and our own experience to realise that men of themselves have no knowledge at all of the future. Why, we do not even know what will happen to us tonight, or tomorrow on our way to work, let alone next year; or of what will happen to the world in l00 years, to say nothing of in 2000 years! If men had the slightest knowledge of the future, how many decisions would have been different! How many accidents would have been avoided! How many disasters would never have been allowed to take place! How many wars would never have been started! The experience of our own lives and of the history of men both convince us that mankind has no sure knowledge at all of what is yet to be.
But suppose the future has been foretold, not once, but many times? And always in the same book, the Bible, and in no other book in the world? Ought not that to make us sit up and take notice? That is why we say that the prophecies of the Bible are most important; they deserve to be carefully examined, for a great deal depends on them,. They are a striking sign that there exists in the world a Power greater than mankind.
Those who do not believe that the Bible is the word of God do not like its prophecy at all. Once grant that it has correctly foretold the future and you have gone a long way to admitting the existence of God. So they try to explain it away. "The prophecies", they say, "were not really forecasts of the future at all- they were written after the events `foretold`"
Now this argument can only be made to appear to have any force if you can prove that the Bible documents, especially those of the Old Testament, were written a long time after the events they claim to foretell. It must be stated clearly that they have no direct evidence for this; the conclusion is the result of interpreting the evidence to support their own theorising. As a matter of fact, all the research of the last 100 years tends to show that the Bible documents are authentic: they really do belong to the age in which they claim to be written.
But there is a short cut in this matter which will do very well for our present purpose. No one can deny that the Old Testament documents were in existence by about 200 BC, because they were being translated into Greek (in what is called the Septuagint Version of the Old Testament) about then, and you cannot translate something that is not there!
Another objection is to say, "Well, these Bible `prophecies` are really clever political forecasts by people who could interpret the events of their day and their likely outcome."
"Clever political forecasts", issued in the centuries before Christ and remaining true for over 2000 years to the present day? What sort of wizards do they imagine the Bible prophets were to be able to accomplish such feats? Merely to state the matter thus is to show how utterly improbable such an explanation of their words would be.
But the surest answer to this objection, as to all others, is to read some of the prophecies themselves. So we begin with prophecy concerning Babylon.