A Sure Word
The truth of the Bible is confirmed in many ways, but none quite so convincing as by prophecy. Anyone who candidly and objectively compares the prophecies of the Bible with the facts of history will be astonished by their accurate fulfillment. And just as there can be no creation without a Creator, there can be no true prophecy without a divine Intellect who “knows the end from the beginning.”
Before man’s fall, the Lord God freely communicated with the sinless pair in the garden of Eden. But after their disobedience it became impossible for man to speak with God face to face. Fear gripped their hearts when they heard the footsteps of their Creator, and they hid themselves.
“And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord amongst the trees of the garden.” Genesis 3:8.
God Speaks to Man
Humanity could no longer see the Almighty when He spoke to them. “And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.” Exodus 33:20. But they could still hear His voice and answer Him, “And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?” Genesis 4:9.
God’s voice was heard by humans again when He thundered His law from the summit of Mount Sinai over the camp of the children of Israel. They trembled with fear at the sound of His voice: “And ye said, Behold, the Lord our God hath shewed us his glory and his greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire: we have seen this day that God doth talk with man, and he liveth. Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us: if we hear the voice of the Lord our God anymore, then we shall die. For who is there of all flesh, that heard the voice of the living god speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived?” Deuteronomy 5:24-26.
The deeper the human race sank into sin the more difficult it became for humanity to communicate with the living God who hates sin.
“But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you, that he will not hear.” Isaiah 59:2.
Sin is the barrier that stands between God and us. But although we are fallen and sinful, God, in His great mercy, has not forgotten us.
God’s Method of Communication
“Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” Amos 3:7.
This is a wonderful promise assuring us that God has not forsaken humanity. Great events, such as the flood, and the advent of Christ were heralded by prophets long before they took place, as a warning to prepare for them.
What sort of men were these prophets? Could anyone qualify to be a prophet, just as he might choose a trade or profession?
“For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” II Peter 1:21.
Because sin separates man from God, no one who openly lived in sin could become the Creator’s spokesman. Only those who walked humbly before God, seeking earnestly to daily overcome their defects of character, were chosen for this holy office. God chose them because of their righteous lives. They were blameless. Therefore God gave them His warnings and admonitions which they were commissioned to pass on to the people, without adding to, or taking from, the message.
Challenge to the Skeptics
All Scripture is established in truth, but prophecy gives the most clear and conclusive proof of divine revelation: “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.” II Peter 1:19.
God challenges skeptics and false prophets to produce prophecies and bring them to pass: “Let them bring them forth, and shew us what shall happen: let them shew the former things, what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; for declare us things for to come. Shew the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods: yea, do good, or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and behold it together.” Isaiah 41:22,23.
“Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” Isaiah 46:9,10.
“I have declared the former things from the beginning; and they went forth out of my mouth, and I shewed them; I did them suddenly, and they came to pass. I have even from the beginning declared it to thee; before it came to pass I shewed it thee.” Isaiah 48:3-5.
Many remarkable prophecies of great cities, kingdoms and events have been accurately fulfilled.
The ancient trading city of Tyre was the pride of the Phoenicians. In the Bible we can read a prophecy about this city:
“Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against thee, O Tyrus, and will cause many nations to come up against thee, as the sea causeth his waves to come up. And they shall destroy the walls of Tyrus, 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 the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord God: and it shall become a spoil to the nations.” Ezekiel 26:3-5.
Notice that many nations would come one after the other against Tyre, like the waves of the sea. History records a period of over 1500 years during which Tyre was attacked by foreign armies. In verse 7 we read: “For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will bring upon Tyrus, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon …” Ezekiel 26:7.
Here the name of the king, his nation, and the manner of his attack are prophesied. These were literally fulfilled. Tyre was built in two areas, one part on the mainland and the remainder, and half a mile into the sea on an island. In the 6th century BC Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the main portion of Tyre on the mainland. The island portion of the city was very strongly fortified. It remained and became known as “New Tyre”.
Several centuries passed. Then in 332 BC Alexander the Great besieged Tyre. In order to reach the island fortress Alexander demolished what remained of Old Tyre and with the debris built a 63-meter wide causeway in the sea. This was an exact fulfillment of verse 12: “And they shall make a spoil of thy riches, and make a prey of thy merchandise: and they shall break down thy walls, and destroy thy pleasant houses: and they shall lay thy stones and thy timber and thy dust in the midst of the water.” Ezekiel 26:12.
New Tyre has not been rebuilt to this day. “And I will make thee like the top of a rock: thou shalt be a place to spread nets upon; thou shalt be built no more; for I the Lord have spoken it, saith the Lord God.” Ezekiel 26:14.
On the site of ancient Tyre fishermen today dry their nets.
Of Sidon it was prophesied that it would be a war-torn city: “Again the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face against Zidon; and I will be glorified in the midst of thee: and they shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall have executed judgments in her, and shall be sanctified in her. For I will send into her pestilence, and blood into her streets; and the wounded shall be judged in the midst of her by the sword upon her on every side; and they shall know that I am the Lord.” Ezekiel 28:20-23.
Sidon was situated about 30 miles north of Tyre on the Mediterranean coast. It was older than Tyre.
Sidon’s fleet was destroyed by the Philistines and the city lay in ashes. Assyria and Babylonia led armies against it and looted her treasures. The Persians ruled over her after the Babylonians and a revolt against Artaxerxes Ochus met with severe punishment.
Note that the prophecy did not state that Sidon would be deserted, destroyed or never to be rebuilt, like Tyre. From human reasoning it would be far more probable that Tyre would continue its existence while Sidon would be destroyed, because Tyre was in a much more favorable position than Sidon. However the divinely inspired Bible was correct.
Another example of Bible prophecy fulfilled is that of Egypt. Once a leading civilization, it was far advanced in science, and arts, luxury, magnificence and power. Supported by the rich, fertile Nile Delta, Egypt was the granary of the world. It seemed virtually impossible that this mighty kingdom would be reduced to become one of the basest nations of the world. It had continued for many centuries, ruled by a great line of ancient dynasties.
“And I will bring again the captivity of Egypt, and will cause them to return into the land of Pathros, into the land of their habitations; neither shall it exalt itself any more above the nations: for I will diminish them, that they shall no more rule over the nations.” Ezekiel 29:14,15.
“And I will make the rivers dry, and sell the land into the hand of the wicked; and I will make the land waste, and all that is therein, by the hand of strangers: I the Lord have spoken it.” Ezekiel 30:12.
How strikingly were these words fulfilled! The country still exists but strangers rule – Arabians, not Egyptians. It has become a waste, desolate country. Its inhabitants are poverty stricken. It continues to exist as “the basest of the kingdoms.” (Ezekiel 29:14).
What does the Bible and history tell of the mighty city of Babylon?
“And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there.” Isaiah 13:19,20.
For 2,500 years the ruins of Babylon have stood as a mute witness to the accuracy of Bible prophecy. It is still a fact that no Arab will pitch his tent there, while the wild creatures of the desert make their abode amongst the ruins of this ancient world metropolis.
How to Distinguish True Prophets from the False
“When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord if the thing follow not nor come to pass that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.” Deuteronomy 18:22.
The first obvious test of a prophet is whether or not the prophecy comes true. If it does not, then he is not from God.
“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word it is because there is no light in them.” Isaiah 8:20.
The second test is whether the prophet’s messages harmonize with the principles of the law of God and the rest of the Bible or not? If not, “there is no light in them”, and the person is a false prophet.
The third, yet clearest, test is given in Matthew 7:20, “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” Matthew 7:20.
“Holy men of God” are chosen to be God’s true prophets, their lives will bear fruits of their righteous character, whereas the false prophets will display the fruits of their unrighteousness, (i.e. lying, greed, pride and deception).
We must not only guard against false prophets, but also be wary of false interpreters of prophecy.
It is the Holy Spirit who gives God’s prophecies, and only with the aid of the Holy Spirit can we understand prophecy aright. Scripture must be compared with Scripture (Isaiah 28:10,13) and no private interpretation should be accepted (II Peter 1:20).
Jesus, the greatest Prophet that ever lived gave us a solemn warning against false prophets who would appear in the last days: “For there shall arise false Christ’s, and false prophets and shall shew great signs and wonders: insomuch that if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” Matthew 24:24.
Prophecy Today, and Me?
Prophecy is as necessary to guide the people of God today as it was in Old Testament times, for “Where there is no vision the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18.
Prophets not only foretell future events but also give warnings and instructions to the people of their generation. Therefore we find that not all messages of the prophets were recorded in the Bible; an example being the four daughters of Philip the evangelist.
“And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy. And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judea a certain prophet, named Agabus.” Acts 21:9,10.
Great and solemn are the warnings given to our present generation by the prophets, therefore we are admonished: “Despise not prophesyings.” I Thessalonians 5:20.
“We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shine in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.” II Peter 1:19.
Will Prophecy Always Be Necessary to Direct God’s People?
“For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” I Corinthians 13:9,10.
When the redeemed will be restored to humanity’s original condition of complete harmony with God, rejoicing in His kingdom, they will once again have open communion with God. Then prophecy will be superseded – we shall see Him face to face and our future will be secure in God.