Many assume that all religions are equally credible, that religious people all worship the same God and that the holy books of various religions are of equal value. Yet nothing could be further from the truth! Scholars confidently claim that no one can predict the future with assurance—and that only fools try! However, these assertions overlook or ignore the incredible phenomenon of Bible prophecy, which distinguishes the Bible from any other book that has ever been written.
The God of the Bible claims that He can predict the future and bring it to pass! The Bible contains hundreds of prophecies that have come true, and are confirmed by history. The Bible also contains dozens of prophecies that are coming alive today! Bible prophecies explain the real significance of global events making headlines today. Bible prophecies also reveal what is ahead for major nations of our modern world—and for the human race! No other book, religious or secular, does this with such accuracy and detail! Prophecy is clearly the Bible's most striking feature!
Notice this amazing statement by Dr. Gleason Archer, a renowned Old Testament scholar: "The Holy Bible is like no other book in all the world. It is the only book which represents itself as the written revelation of the one true God, intended for the salvation of man, and demonstrating its divine authority by many infallible proofs. Other religious documents, such as the Muhammadan Koran, may claim to be the very word of God, but they contain no such self-authenticating proofs as does the Bible (for example, the phenomena of fulfilled prophecy)" (A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, Archer, p. 9).
Another authoritative source notes: "One of the strongest evidences that the Bible is inspired by God is its predictive prophecy. Unlike any other book, the Bible offers a multitude of specific predictions—some hundreds of years in advance—that have been literally fulfilled or else point to a definite future time when they will come true" (Geisler, p. 609). Old Testament professor Milton C. Fisher recognizes a "sharp distinction between prophetism in Israel and the outwardly similar phenomenon in surrounding cultures… both the type of message and the writings of Israel's prophets is without parallel" (The Origin of the Bible, Bruce, pp. 105–106). Another scholar has noted that "the Bible… is the most remarkable volume that has ever been produced in some five thousand years… it is the only volume that has ever been produced by men, or a group of men, in which is to be found a large body of prophecies relating to individual nations, to Israel, to all the peoples of the earth, to certain cities, and to the coming One who was to be the Messiah. The ancient world had many different devices for determining the future, known as divination, but not in the entire gamut of Greek and Latin literature… can we find any real specific prophecy of a great historic event to come in the distant future, nor any prophecy of a Savior to arise in the human race" (Evidence That Demands a Verdict, McDowell, p. 22). These are absolutely remarkable statements that clearly recognize the unique nature of Bible prophecy!
The Challenge of Prophecy
Being able to predict the future accurately and consistently is simply not a human trait. Even the best strategic planners acknowledge that detailed prediction of future events—especially geopolitical events—is difficult in the short term, and practically impossible in the long term, at least at any level of detail. Yet the Bible repeatedly predicts the rise and fall of prominent individuals, nations and empires with amazing accuracy and in remarkable detail! Bible scholars have determined that more than one quarter of the Bible—about 27 percent—is devoted to prophecy, and that the Bible contains more than 1,800 predictions, many of which are very specific. Hundreds of specific prophecies, given centuries before their exact fulfillment, are undeniable evidence that an all-powerful God is alive and in control of future events!
Scripture makes this plain when the God of the Bible challenges skeptics to predict the future and bring it to pass! Through the pen of the prophet Isaiah, God thunders: "Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods… indeed you are nothing, and your work is nothing; he who chooses you is an abomination" (Isaiah 41:23–24). And again: "Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, 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 my pleasure'" (Isaiah 46:9–10). These verses boldly state that no human being can predict the future and bring it to pass on the scale that the God of the Bible claims He can—and has, and will!
This unique capacity to predict the future accurately sets the Bible apart from any other piece of literature. Bible scholars recognize: "Other books claim divine inspiration, such as the Koran, the Book of Mormon, and parts of the [Hindu] Veda. But none of these books contains predictive prophecy. As a result, fulfilled prophecy is a strong indication of the unique, divine authority of the Bible" (The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, McDowell, p. 13). Bible prophecy stands in marked contrast to human attempts to predict the future. A study of 25 top-rated psychics discovered that 92 percent of their predictions were totally wrong, and that chance or general knowledge of circumstances could explain the remaining 8 percent that were accurate (Geisler, p. 615). Anyone familiar with the so-called prophecies of Nostradamus (Michael de Nostredame), the 16th century French psychic who dabbled in astrology, alchemy and other occult practices, is aware that his vague and nebulous verses simply do not compare to biblical prophecies. Specific prophecies, given centuries before they were accurately and consistently fulfilled, are some of the most stunning proofs that the Bible is the inspired word of God!
Hundreds of Prophecies About Jesus Christ!
Some of the Bible's most striking examples of fulfilled prophecies are those that accurately foretold specific details about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, centuries before He was born! More than 200 prophecies, written centuries before His birth, foretold specific events in His life that were fulfilled to the letter. He would be born of a virgin and named Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23), in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:3–8). He would be a descendant of David (Matthew 1:1; 22:42–45). He would sojourn in Egypt (Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:13–15). His birth would prompt a massacre of children (Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:16–18). He would live in Galilee (Isaiah 9:1–2; Matthew 2:19–23). He would enter Jerusalem on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:1–5). He would die with transgressors and be buried in the tomb of a rich man (Isaiah 53:9, 12). He would be resurrected after three days (Matthew 12:40; Jonah 1:17).
The remarkable fulfillment of hundreds of specific predictions, recorded centuries earlier in the Hebrew Scriptures, demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt that Jesus was the prophesied Messiah of the Bible and the Son of God. It should be noted that "Mohammedanism cannot point to any prophecies of the coming of Mohammed uttered hundreds of years before his birth. Neither can the founders of any cult… rightly identify any ancient text specifically foretelling their appearance" (McDowell, p. 22). Some Muslim scholars cite Old Testament verses that they say prophesied Muhammad (Deuteronomy 18:15–18), but it was Jesus Christ who actually fulfilled those prophecies (see Matthew 21:11; Luke 1:76; 24:19; Acts 3:18–22) more than 600 years before Muhammad was born! The Bible's prophecies about Jesus Christ are unique among religious writings.
Cities and Kings
The Bible contains more than 1,500 prophecies that foretell in remarkable detail the future of prominent cities, kings and kingdoms. Fulfilled prophecies about the ancient Phoenician city of Tyre stand as a sobering testimony to the power and accuracy of Bible prophecy. When Ezekiel recorded his prophecies (around 585bc), Tyre was one of the great cities of the ancient world. It was situated on an island at the center of a maritime trading network that controlled Mediterranean commerce. Tyre was a wealthy emporium of goods, surrounded by 150-foot-high walls that were considered impregnable. The Bible reports that Tyre's citizens rejoiced when Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian army conquered Jerusalem; they anticipated gaining access to valuable inland trade routes passing through Jerusalem. In response, God delivered a series of specific prophecies of Tyre's future devastation. Ezekiel wrote that, "because Tyre has said against Jerusalem, 'Aha! She is broken who was the gateway of the peoples'… Therefore thus says the Lord God: 'Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and will cause many nations to come up against you, as the sea causes its waves to come up. And they shall destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers; I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her like the top of a rock. It shall be a place for spreading nets in the midst of the sea… they will lay your stones, your timber, and your soil in the midst of the water… you shall never be rebuilt, for I the Lord have spoken, says the Lord God'" (Ezekiel 26:2–14).
To appreciate the power and scope of Ezekiel's prophecies, picture someone trying to predict what will happen to New York or London over the next 2,500 years! Yet history records how Ezekiel's predictions have come to pass. In 585bc, Nebuchadnezzar began a 13-year siege against Tyre. His was the first of many nations that would come like waves against Tyre. Around 530bc, the Persians gained control of Tyre. In 332bc, Alexander destroyed the mainland portion of Tyre and threw the debris into the sea to build a causeway for assaulting the island city. When Alexander conquered the island fortress of Tyre, he battered down the walls and reduced the city to ruins. As Phoenician specialist Glenn Markoe wrote, "The conquest of Alexander… marked the beginning of the end for Tyre and Phoenicia… Tyre would soon recover commercially… yet it would never fully reclaim the pride of place it had enjoyed" (Phoenicians, Markoe, p. 61). Greeks and Romans later dominated what remained of the city. In 638ad, Muslim armies captured Tyre. Crusaders recaptured the city in 1124, and used it as a staging area for military operations. In 1291, the Muslims retook Tyre and laid it in ruins, "after which she never again regained any importance" (Geisler, p. 870). Today, there is a small fishing village near the ruins of the once proud city of Tyre, but the city's ancient power and splendor, and its extensive trade network, are gone. The site of one of the wealthiest cities in the ancient world has become "a place for spreading nets," just as the Bible predicted.
The Bible contains prophecies about other cities near Tyre that would have a bloody history but a different future. Sidon, an idol-worshiping Phoenician city about 20 miles north of Tyre, was noted for artistic metalwork and fine cloth. Bible prophecies reveal that Sidon would have a bloody history and suffer from pestilence, but would come to "know that I am the Lord" (Ezekiel 28:21–23). Nowhere did God prophesy total destruction or oblivion for Sidon. History records that the Assyrians destroyed Sidon in 678bc, but the city was rebuilt, and it submitted to Nebuchadnezzar after suffering from a devastating pestilence. Persians burned the city in about 351bc. Syria and Egypt fought over Sidon, and it became a free city under Roman rule. The Bible indicates that Jesus may have visited Sidon (Matthew 15:21) and that Sidonians heard Jesus preach the gospel (Mark 3:7–8). The Apostle Paul also visited Sidon (Acts 27:3). Today, modern Sidon is known for its gardens and orange groves. Bible prophecy outlined a very different future for Tyre's sister city Sidon—and it came to pass, just as Scripture predicted!
Around 700bc, the prophet Isaiah recorded several specific prophecies about the downfall of the Babylonian Empire and the destruction of the city of Babylon (see Isaiah 13; 14). At the time of Isaiah's prophecy, Babylon was subject to the Assyrians and would not become a major power for another hundred years. Yet Isaiah foresaw the future glory that Babylon would achieve under Nebuchadnezzar with its Hanging Gardens, magnificent palaces, luxurious living, massive walls and military conquests. Isaiah also foresaw the Medes' destruction of Babylon, and the city's ultimate desolation, several hundred years in advance! Isaiah's prophecies foretold: "The burden against Babylon… I will stir up the Medes against them… And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans' pride, will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It will never be inhabited, nor will it be settled from generation to generation; nor will the Arabian pitch tents there… but wild beasts of the desert will lie there… her days will not be prolonged" (Isaiah 13:1–22). History records that these prophecies were fulfilled: "In 539 [bc] Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians... Xerxes destroyed the city in 478, and it was finally abandoned in the 4th century bc" (Eerdmans' Handbook of the Bible, p. 382).
The Chosen People
Some of the Bible's most amazing and surprising prophecies deal with the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—the twelve tribes of Israel, whom God chose to use for a special purpose (Exodus 19:1–6). God promised Abram (Abraham) that in return for obedience, his descendants would become great and be a blessing to the world (Genesis 12:1–3). Later prophecies stated that Jacob's descendants through Manasseh and Ephraim would ultimately become a "great" nation, and a great "multitude [company, commonwealth] of nations," who, along with the other descendants of Jacob, would in Bible prophecy be called Israelites (Genesis 48:14–22). In the Bible, the terms Israel and Israelite generally apply to the descendants of all twelve of Jacob's sons. The Jews are the descendants of Judah, who was just one of Jacob's sons. In a more specific sense, Israel applies to the descendants of the ten tribes that made up the nation of Israel (with its capital in Samaria), which broke away from the nation of Judah (with its capital in Jerusalem) when the kingdom of Solomon was divided (see 1 Kings 12). This biblical distinction between the Jews and the other Israelite nations is an important key to understanding Bible prophecy.
Genesis 49 contains a remarkable series of prophecies foretelling how the Israelites—descendants of Jacob's twelve sons—will be recognized "in the last days." Reuben will become powerful and have notions of grandeur, but will lack national stability; consider how this description could describe France. Judah (the Jews) will provide the Messiah and retain knowledge of the Law of God. Zebulun will dwell by the sea and become a mercantile people; a description evocative of modern Holland. Dan will leave its mark, having traveled from its base in the Middle East; a description evocative of Denmark and Ireland. Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) will become a colonizing people dwelling in the choice places of the earth—and dwelling "separate from his brothers"—a description perfectly apt to describe the former British Commonwealth nations and the U.S. (see Genesis 49:22–26). These remarkable prophecies were not to be fulfilled only by the Jews—to whom the world gives the name "Israel"—but also by eleven other nations that are part of the "whole house" of Israel. These prophecies reveal keys to the identity and location of the modern descendants of Jacob's twelve sons—the children of Israel. For a more detailed discussion of this topic, please request our free booklet, The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy.
Understanding the true identity of the Israelite nations is not only a key for understanding Bible prophecy; this knowledge is also essential for God's Church, which must fulfill the commission that Jesus gave. Jesus commissioned His disciples to "go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel"—to preach about the coming kingdom of God, and warn the Israelites about terrible trials they would face in the last days because of their disobedience to God's laws (see Jeremiah 30:7–24). Jesus' disciples took this commission seriously. In their day, the tribes of Israel were not "lost." The Apostle James addressed his epistle "to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad" (James 1:1). Josephus revealed that in the days of the apostles, "ten tribes are beyond the Euphrates… and are an immense multitude" (Antiquities of the Jews, Book XI, 5, 2). This explains why several of the apostles, including Peter and Andrew, traveled in that direction.
Historical sources also indicate that Peter, Paul and others traveled to Western Europe and Britain preaching the gospel. The clear implication of these leading apostles' journeys to the West is that Israelite peoples were there! Examine the history of ancient Ireland, and notice which Israelite tribal name appears in the records. When you study the Genesis 49 prophecies about the characteristics and future history of Jacob's descendants, you will notice the connection with peoples that currently reside in, or emigrated from, northwest Europe! When you understand the identities of modern Israelite nations, you can begin to understand from Bible prophecy what lies ahead for these nations—and for other nations mentioned in Bible prophecy!
The Future of Nations
Bible prophecies are not just about ancient history. The book of Daniel contains detailed yet sweeping prophecies that provide an outline of history from the time of Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon through the return of Jesus Christ at the end of the age. Modern critics, seeking to discredit the prophetic and supernatural elements in the book of Daniel, have revived ideas put forward by Porphyrius, a third-century pagan philosopher from Tyre. Porphyrius (also called Porphyry) claimed that the book of Daniel was a fraudulent work produced in the second century bc, after the events it recounts had already taken place! However, this theory does not square with the facts. The book of Daniel gives precise dates, locations and names that can be verified. The prophet Ezekiel was a contemporary of Daniel, and mentioned him very respectfully (Ezekiel 14:20). The book of Daniel was widely accepted as inspired, and was included in the Hebrew Bible in the second century bc. Jesus acknowledged Daniel as the author of the book (Matthew 24:15). One respected source notes: "In NT prophecy Daniel is referred to more than any other book in the OT. Moreover, it contains more fulfilled prophecies than any other book in the Bible" (see The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 3).
Daniel recorded a dream about a huge image (Daniel 2). The four parts of the image—head, chest, belly and thighs, legs and feet—pictured four empires that would arise in the future to dominate the Mediterranean world. Bible scholars now recognize these empires as the Babylonian Empire, the Medo-Persian Empire, the Greco-Macedonian Empire under Alexander the Great and the Roman Empire. Daniel also revealed that Jesus Christ will strike the last remnant of the Roman Empire on its feet and toes (made of iron and clay) when He returns to set up His kingdom on this earth at the end of this age (Daniel 2:41–45). Daniel described the same four empires as four beasts, and gave additional details about each. The third empire (Greco-Macedonian under Alexander) was pictured with four heads (Daniel 7:6). History records that after Alexander's death, his empire split into four parts, about 300 years after Daniel recorded the prophecy. Daniel described the fourth beast (the Roman Empire) as having ten horns representing "ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom" (Daniel 7:7, 24). History records the many attempts to continue or revive the Roman Empire down through the centuries. They have all occurred in Europe, including revivals under Charlemagne, Charles V of the Hapsburgs, Napoleon and Mussolini. According to Bible prophecy, the final revival will be lead by a person labeled "the beast," backed by a religious leader called the "false prophet" (see Revelation 13 and 17). For more information about these end-time prophetic developments, please request our free booklet, The Beast of Revelation.
Daniel also mentions a "little horn" that will disown the first three attempts to continue the Roman Empire, but will be intimately involved with subsequent revivals of the Roman Empire in its various forms. This figure is prophesied as speaking "pompous words against the Most High… persecute the saints… [and] change times and law" (Daniel 7:8, 20, 24–25). This "little horn" foreshadows those religious leaders who have claimed to be the "vicar of Christ" (meaning "in place of Christ"), who murdered Bible-believing Christians through an Inquisition and who replaced commanded biblical Holy Days with pagan holidays. Other prophecies identify this "little horn" as a prominent religious figure whose latter-day counterpart will play a key role in events leading to Jesus Christ's return (2 Thessalonians 2; Revelation 13; 17).
The ten toes of Daniel's image (Daniel 2:40–43) correspond to ten kings who will give their power and authority to "the beast," a powerful and deceptive political leader who will emerge on the scene in Europe just before Jesus Christ returns at the end of the age (Revelation 17:1–13). This political leader will receive support from, and be influenced by, a powerful religious leader—the final manifestation of the "little horn." Like his predecessors, this "little horn" will play a key role in world politics (Revelation 13; 17). History records that Roman Catholic popes have crowned the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire, and that popes and bishops have long influenced European politics. The iron and clay of the ten toes of Daniel's image foretells the attempts by squabbling European nations to form a union by surrendering their sovereignty to a central government (akin to what the E.U. has done in Brussels). Current attempts to create a united Europe modeled on the old Roman Empire have been backed by several popes and the Roman Church. Daniel and other books of the Bible indicate that the final fulfillment of these remarkable prophecies will occur in the years just ahead!
It is ironic that while these ancient and detailed prophecies are coming alive today, leaders of the Roman Church insist that the symbolic language used in Daniel and Revelation "is not to be interpreted literally. We should not expect to discover in this book [Revelation] details about the end of the world" (The Times, October 5, 2005)—yet that is exactly what these prophetic books claim to reveal! Today, for people who really want to understand where world events are leading, the challenge is: Whom do you believe, theologians or the Bible? This is why it is important to determine whether or not the Bible is truly the word of God—whether it is fact or fiction!
The End of the World
Sadly, modern skeptics—and even many who claim to believe in Jesus Christ—dismiss ideas about the end of the age as pure fantasy and wild-eyed doomsday talk. Yet the Bible takes a linear view of history, and pictures all events moving toward a climax. The prophecies in Daniel take this view, with the climax being Jesus Christ's return to establish the kingdom of God on this earth. Jesus spoke freely and in detail about specific events that would signal the end of the age. When Jesus' disciples asked Him, "what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age" He did not beat around the bush or try to avoid answering the question, as many theologians do today (Matthew 24:3). He told His disciples to watch for a time when they would see widespread religious confusion and deception, and increasingly frequent reports of violence, wars, ethnic strife, famines, disease epidemics and natural disasters on a global scale (Matthew 24:4–7).
These are the very headlines dominating our news today! Yet Jesus said that this would be just the "beginning of sorrows" (Matthew 24:8). Christ went on to reveal that there will be a global persecution of Christians, but that the true gospel of the coming kingdom of God will nevertheless "be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14). Jesus said that all these events leading up to the climax of this age will occur at a time in history when the very existence of life on this planet will be threatened. Notice Jesus' description that "unless those days were shortened [by Jesus' return], no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened" (Matthew 24:22). Jesus admonished His disciples to watch—to remain alert—so that they will recognize when the civilizations of this world are entering their final hour (Matthew 24:36–44; 25:1–13; Mark 13:32–37; Luke 21:34–38).
In the 1950s, world leaders first realized that, with the development of nuclear weapons, mankind has created the capacity to destroy all life from the face of the earth. This was never possible until the last half of the 20th century! Is it just a coincidence that between 1950 and today we have seen the global spread of HIV-AIDS, the return of drug-resistant tuberculosis and the threat of international pandemics of bird flu and other infectious diseases? Is it just a coincidence that today we are concerned with the emerging threat of global warming and the sobering consequences of global climate change? Is it just a coincidence that all this is happening amid rising fears about international terrorism and escalating conflict in the Middle East—all of which Scripture predicted long ago? Is this all coincidence, or are we seeing the approaching fulfillment of ancient Bible prophecies that describe in detail the end of the age? These astoundingly accurate prophecies distinguish the Bible from any other book on this planet, and they offer proof that the Bible was written by "the finger of God."