by Robert G. WittyThe Bible: Fact or Fiction
The Bible: Fact or Fiction? - Part 4 of 10
Editor's note: In his book, The Bible: Fact or Fiction, Dr. Witty first acknowledges that neither a believer's testimony nor scientific evidences can fully satisfy a skeptic's questions as to the claims of the Bible. Instead, he proposes a series of tests by which a doubter who is willing to set aside his biases, and judge the Bible as he would judge other books, can be convinced it is the Word of God. In this installment the author elaborates on the Fulfilled Prophecy Test.
Our present purpose limits discussion of prophecy to the predictive ministry of foretelling the future. Fair judgment of biblical prophetic prediction requires a firm standard for testing true prophecy, an appreciation of the diversity in the life and work of Bible prophets, a recognition of the amount of biblical prophecy, and examples of detailed prophecy with specific fulfillment.
A Sure Standard for Testing True Prophecy
The Bible asks a negative question: How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord? The Bible answer gives the most rigid test: If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously (Deut. 18:21,22). The Bible test allowed no compromise. The fulfillment must correspond to the prediction in time, place, person, and even detailed circumstances. No evaluation can boast a more sure test.
The Amazing Diversity of the Bible Prophets
Prophets whose writings are preserved as a part of the Old Testament present a profile of complete cultural and educational diversity. Consider godly Samuel, princely Isaiah, rural Amos, statesman Daniel, weeping Jeremiah, sorrowing Hosea. None had special training. Each had simply responded to God's call.
As the prophets differ, so do their predictions; yet no prophecy contradicts others. All progressively unfold God's plan and program for human history through a God-called and God-inspired spokesman.
The Incredible Amount of Bible Prophecy
Dr. J. Barton Payne exhaustively studied Bible predictions. He found that 28-1/2% of the Old Testament and 21-1/2% of the New Testament are predictive (8,352 of 31,124 verses). No other book, sacred or secular, approaches the Bible record for the sheer amount of prophecy.
Counting repeats in different books, Dr. Payne found 1,817 predictions. Thus, the Bible tests its own validity nearly two thousand times. No other book, sacred or secular, can equal this record.
Examples of Bible Prophecy and Fulfillment
Ezekiel 26:3-5, 7 declared Tyre's destruction as follows: ".…I will bring many nations against you, like the sea casting up its waves. They will destroy the walls of Tyre and pull down her towers; I will scrape away her rubble and make her a bare rock. Out in the sea she will become a place to spread fishnets….I am going to bring against Tyre Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon…." In the sixth century Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the old city of Tyre, the mainland part. Then in 332 B.C. Alexander the Great scraped its ruins into the Mediterranean to make a causeway so that his army could destroy the remaining island city, thereby completing the prophecy's fulfillment in every detail.
When Jeremiah saw his nation led into captivity, God inspired him to promise that the captivity would end in seventy years (Jer. 29:10,11). What prophesy promised, history has recorded to the exact date.
When Jesus' disciples pointed out the massive stones of Jerusalem, the Lord prophesied, "not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down" (Matt. 24:2). In 70 A.D. the Roman general Titus and his army completely fulfilled Jesus' prophecy.
These three examples of prophecy and fulfillment, selected from the imposing array designated by Dr. Payne, demonstrate that exact fulfillment distinguishes the Bible prophecies from all other prophetic writings. What the Bible prophet predicted equated accurately with the fulfillment. Of equal importance, history has contradicted none.
The Chain-Reference Bible utilizes the results of thirty-one years of Bible study by Dr. Frank Charles Thompson. Included in this monumental system is a list of thirty-eight Old Testament prophecies and their New Testament fulfillment in the earthly ministry of Jesus. Hundreds of years separated the enunciation of the prophecy and its fulfillment.
Consider these seven specific Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming Messiah :
• The place of Jesus' birth (Mic. 5:2).
• His rejection by the Jews (Is. 53:3).
• He would be crucified with sinners (Is. 53:12).
• His hands and feet would be pierced (Ps. 22:16).
• His bones would not be broken (Ps. 34:20).
• He would be resurrected (Ps. 16:10).
These and all the other prophesies were fulfilled so accurately that Jesus could say, "Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me…" (Luke 24:44). In all of human history the life of no other person has matched what the prophets stated. In fact, a modern statistician declared that the possibility of any one life matching all the prophecies is astronomical.
Skeptics have attempted in vain to discredit the accuracy of biblical predictions. Every accusation has resulted in another vindication by the strict standard that the Bible has established. Nor could accidental coincidence possibly account for the mass of biblical prediction and subsequent fulfillment.
Dr. W. A. Criswell summed up: "No man with a fair and open mind could read the prophecies in the Old Testament…without seeing that it all was inspired by the Lord of heaven and recorded according to the dictation of the Spirit."
Dr. Witty founded the Luther Rice Seminary and served as its president for twenty years. In addition to a radio and Internet ministry, he is presently a semi-retired Bible teacher, church consultant, and writer. The Bible: Fact or Fiction? was published in 2001 by CLC Publications, Fort Washington, PA 19034.