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Prophecy Pointless?



Q. Why should Christians study Bible prophecy? It seems to me that it causes churches to go off the deep end. People who get hung up on prophecy are no better than Edgar Cayce kooks or Nostrodamus freaks. So what's the point?

Answer:

Date Setters&Cults

Hey…good observations and conclusions. It does seem like there is an unhealthy obsession with prophecy at times. The people who become obsessed with it are the same ones who get trapped into New Age schemes and deceptions. They are the ones who join 2012 survival cults and set dates for the world's end. So let's explore why Christians should study prophecy, if at all.

Outside Space/Time Continuum

What are some of the best ways we can prove the Bible is true or that God exists? Probably one thing that would grab our attention is proof that our God exists outside our space/time continuum.

If our God could tell us what's going to happen in the future and it comes true again and again, wouldn't that prove that He exists beyond space and time? Wouldn't that prove that not only is He "real" but He is more reliable than New Age gurus and others who claim fortune-telling abilities?

Surprisingly, that is what God tells us Himself:

"I am God, and there is
no one like Me,
Declaring the end from the
beginning,
And from ancient times
things which have not
been done."

(Isaiah 46:9-10, NASB)




Zero Tolerance for Error

Not only does the God of the Bible say that He alone can foretell the future, He also warns that fake prophets should be put to death! That's zero tolerance for fraudsters.

"But a prophet who shall speak a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he shall speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die" (Deuteronomy 18:20).

The prophet Isaiah gives another example using prophecy as a test for the real, authentic God.

"'Present your case,' says the LORD.
'Set forth your arguments,' says Jacob's King.
'Bring in (your idols) to tell us
what is going to happen.
Tell us what the former things were,
So that we may consider them
And know their final outcome.
Or declare to us the thing to come,
Tell us what the future holds,
So we may know that you are gods.'"

(Isaiah 41:21-23, NIV).





Woefully Inconsistent

This is a good test because we know that secular prophets are woefully inconsistent. They may get something right but then they strike-out over and over again.

For many years New Agers have tried to interpret Nostrodamus' writings. His verses are vague and difficult to pin down to any one thing. So we have numerous variations and interpretations of just what he means from what he writes.

The same holds true for Edgar Cayce, although many of his prophecies are more focused. However, he is just plain wrong time and time again. One example is Cayce's prediction about the year 1999. During that year great cataclysms were supposed to cause California to break off into the sea.

Oh well…so much for that…

In the case of the Bible we know that its communications and prophecies are real. It proves it is of supernatural origin. It proves it through the use of 100% accurate prophecies and scientific probabilities against chance.

Mathematical Probabilities

Ralph Muncaster points out that "hard evidence inevitably involves mathematics that either defines a truth by definition (often as an equation) or as a highly probable statistical event. Prophecy can provide hard evidence of God, Jesus, and the Bible because it can be evaluated using 'absurdly conservative' assumptions and still prove (statistically) the supernatural inspiration of the Bible" (Muncaster 2004, 296).

Astrology? Book of Mormon? Vedas?

Does the Bhagavad-Gita demonstrate 100% prophetic accuracy? What about the Qur'an? How about the Book of Mormon? Do the Vedas or the Upanishads offer any insights about the future that have proved true? What about Tarot Cards or Astrology?

None predict accurately anything about our future.





Astronomical Probabilities

Yet, concerning Jesus alone there more than 300 prophecies relating to his life and death in the Bible proved to have been written centuries before he was born. (The discovery of the Old Testament books found among the Dead Sea Scrolls gives us undeniably early dating). That doesn't include the thousands of accurate prophecies concerning the state of Israel and other nations or events - just solely about Jesus.

According to Muncaster this is astronomically improbable. …"The odds of correctly making 150 perfect prophecies (none wrong) with a 50 percent chance of each is 1 chance in a billion trillion trillion trillion!" (Muncaster 2004, 299).

In other words, the Bible's accuracy record for just half of the 300 prophecies about Jesus is highly improbable - "1 chance in a billion trillion trillion trillion." The accuracy rate for thousands of prophecies coming true about specific world events, the historical Jesus, nations and so forth is beyond chance. Impossible.

When applied to just 118 prophecies out of thousands concerning the accurate prophecies about nations and world events foretold in the Bible the probabilities are like these:

    - Winning 17 state lotteries in a row with a single ticket for each.

    - Being struck by lightning 24 times in one year.

(Muncaster 2004, 321).


Passover Plot?

Some people would like to think that Jesus "plotted" to fulfill these incredibly accurate prophecies. But, there are too many that he could not deliberately fulfill - even if he wanted. Consider the date and place of his birth, for example. Or consider the type of death he would suffer. Here are just a few of those prophecies - notice their specificity:

    - He would be given gall and vinegar to drink (Psalm 69:21).
    - Enemies would pierce his hands and feet (Psalm 22:16, Zechariah 12:10).
    - He would be born in Bethlehem&called out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1, Micah 5:1-4).
    - Messiah would come 173,880 days from the formal decree to rebuild the temple. Then his life would be snuffed out and Jerusalem would be destroyed (Daniel 9:24-27). Archaeology attests to Artaxerxes Longimanus Decree to rebuild the Temple and Jerusalem at this exact point in time 476 solar years before Christ's entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey, bringing us to March 30 A.D. 33! Awesome! (Anderson 1957, 121) (Muncaster 2004, 348).

These are incredible prophecies! They are unlike anything we have ever seen anywhere else. Edgar Cayce fails in comparison. Nostrodamus fails. None in history have ever been able to prophesy like the Biblical prophets.




Prophesies about Israel

Statistically this is way-way-way beyond chance! But, we haven't even considered the prophecies of Israel and the Jews - times when Jews would be hunted down and killed worldwide. Then they would return to their ancient land reviving their Hebrew language and becoming major exporters of fruits and flowers!

Yes, the Bible is that specific! Let's examine one or two of those.

Israel is currently the third largest exporter of fruits and flowers worldwide. Listen to this prophecy concerning the latter days of Israel:



"In the days to come Jacob
will take root,
Israel will blossom and
sprout,
And they will fill the whole world with
fruit"

(Isaiah 27:6).

That the Jews would return to the land of Israel after a long period of worldwide dispersion is found in Ezekiel 37:21 and Isaiah 11:11 (among other passages):

"I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land…" (Ezekiel 37:21).

"Then it will happen on that day that the Lord will again recover the second time with His hand the remnant of His people…and will gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth" (Isaiah 11:11-12).


The Jews returned to Israel and reformed their ancient nation in 1948. The only reason other nations in the U.N. allowed them to do so is because of the horrid evils Hitler placed them through. No other groups in world history have returned to an ancient land, revived an ancient culture or revived an ancient language as the Jews have done. It is unprecedented.


Proof of Divine, Supernatural Origins

Yes, God wrote the bible and proved it to us in many ways. Prophecy is just one proof. About one-third of the Bible is prophecy and more than 300 of those prophecies have to do with Jesus Christ. It is the most provable witness to the divinity of Christ and the supernatural origins of the Bible we have.

No other religion or cult-figure can claim anywhere near the same accuracy. Once seekers and believers understand this they will never again listen to people like Cayce, Nostrodamus or the 2012 Mayan Calendar. They will find it easy to forget the ridiculous claims of astrology or other bogus methods for divining the future. Nothing compares to the 100% accuracy of prophecy found in the Bible.

Be Aware of Signs

We shouldn't ignore prophecy. Jesus scolded the Pharisees for not recognizing the signs of the times of his first coming. He said, "When it is evening, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.' And in the morning, 'There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.' Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?" (Matthew 16:2-3, NASB).

Unaware of Date

So while He told us that no one knows the exact day or date of His return (Matt 24:36), nevertheless we are to know the general signs signaling His return.



Unprecedented Record

Therefore, we know that the Bible is unlike any other religious text in existence. It has an unprecedented record of accurately foretelling the future of individuals, nations and events.

In fact, the earliest church believers used Old Testament prophecies about Jesus to prove his Messiahship (Acts 2:14-42). The apostle Peter told us to pay close attention to what the prophets wrote because they deserve our confidence and are like a light shining in a dark place (2 Peter 1:16-19).




Angels Watching Us

This good news of Christ's coming has been announced to the world and is so wonderful that even angels are watching these things happen (1 Peter 1:10-12). Paul tells us that God uses the church to "display his wisdom" to the "unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 3:10).

We Christians are a living drama of God's grace and redemption. Angels, demons, aliens and whatever forces are out there, watch us carefully. We are a spectacle to everyone and the entire universe watches us: …"we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men" (1 Cor 4:9).


Sanctification&Holy Living

Because prophecy leads to conviction of the truth it also leads to sanctified lives and holy living. Paul proclaims,

"Another reason for right living is that you know how late it is. Time is running out. Wake up, for the coming of our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed" (Romans 13:11, NLT).

Clear Thinking - Self-Control

Peter notes, "So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the special blessings that will come to you at the return of Jesus Christ. Obey God because you are his children. Don't slip back into your old ways of doing evil - you didn't know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God - who chose you to be his children - is holy" (1 Peter 1:13-15, NLT).

Developing Patience

The apostle James underscored bible prophecy in developing patience in the lives of believers:

"Dear brothers and sisters, you must be patient as you wait for the Lord's return. Consider the farmers who eagerly look for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They patiently wait for the precious harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient. And take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near" (James 5:7-8, NLT).

Discernment

Paul admonishes us to study bible prophecy so that we can discern what is good and what is evil:

"Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Keep away from every kind of evil" (1 Thess 5:19-22, NLT).

We are to examine the Word of God and use it to evaluate what is true. We are encouraged to be like the Bereans who "searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth" (Acts 17:11, NLT).




A Special Blessing or Loss?

Finally, the greatest rewards or blessings are given to those who study prophecy and the Book of Revelation concerning its own, internal prophecies. It tells us this:

"God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and he blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says. For the time is near when these things will happen" (Revelation 1:3).

As if that isn't reason enough to heed prophecy, there are also warnings to those who diminish or change the internal prophecies found in the Book of Revelation:

"And I solemnly declare to everyone who hears the words of prophecy written in this book: If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book. And if anyone removes any of the words from this book of prophecy, God will remove that person's share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book" (Revelation 22:18-19, NLT).

A Prize?

Paul says a prize awaits those who eagerly look forward to Christ's return - a crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8). Yet, Peter warns us that in the last days there will be scoffers who mock us for eagerly awaiting Christ's return.

This is amazing because today we see more "signs of the times" than ever before in world history. Yet, at this very time believers and unbelievers alike ridicule those who study and love Bible prophecy. There are entire church denominations who feel that a study of Bible prophecy ignores the need for good works and aid to a hurting world.

A Complete Message System

Yet, we have seen that prophecy is a valid part of the gospel message. It identifies Christ's coming from a study of Old Testament prophecies and it causes us to heed Christ's prophetic warnings of our perilous future.

The bible gives us a complete message system. So we need to heed the Word and follow Christ. We should do good works. But we need to study and listen to prophecy, too. Both are important and interdependent. Both are proclaimed by our Lord. Both are relevant to our lives giving us the power to accurately proclaim the gospel among the populaces of a hurting world.

The Holy Spirit convicts us of the truth and teaches us about the unique supernatural qualities of the Bible. This is often given to us through prophetic ministries. Belief in the lordship of Christ and His redemptive powers grants us salvation from death and sin. We need both for effective salvation and sanctification in our lives.
_____________________________________________________________




References:


Anderson, Sir Robert. 1957. The coming prince.(Grand Rapids, MI: Kregal.

McDowell, Josh. 1999. The new evidence that demands a verdict. Nashville, TN: Nelson.

Muncaster, Ralph O. 2004. Examine the evidence. Eugene, OR: Harvest House.

Walvoord, John F. 1991. Major Bible prophecies. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.



Authors Valorie Emilio holds an M.A. in History from UCLA specializing in early church history. Ken received an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Louisiana Baptist University. Both hold V.O.M. Certificates in Persecuted Church Ministries from Oklahoma Wesleyan University.







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