09 Nov, 2011 Prophecy fulfilled – so why the scepticism?
Biblical prophecy is an outstanding area of study, with no comparison.
Norman Geisler and William Nix write,
“Other books claim divine inspiration, such as the Koran, the Book of Mormon,
and parts of the [Hindu] Veda. But none of those books contains
predictive prophecy.” 
This is not to criticise any other writing – but simply to note that prophecy is not what they are about. In contrast, of the Bibles 31,124 verses, an astounding 8,352 contain predictive material. That is 27%! 
I’m completing the fuller version of a booklet on biblical prophecy (titled ‘Better than Nostradamus’). The below is one of the portions of content I am not using in the booklet, but which is interesting reading.
We will look at:
I. The covenantal promise of Deuteronomy 28 – 30, and how that has been fulfilled in the history of Israel
II. Conclude by asking ‘Why the scepticism?’
I. The fulfillment of the covenantal promise to Israel
The Jews left their lives as slaves in Egypt, crossing through the Red Sea with Moses as their leader, in about B.C.1446. Soon after they entered a conditional covenant (agreement) with God. Their actions would determine God’s actions. If they were obedient they would be blessed. If they were disobedient they would be cursed. And if they repented of their wrongs they would be forgiven and restored.
It thus reads like a prophecy, and all we need to now is look at a few predictions, and then for fulfillment of their details at in the history books!
(A) The prediction summarised
–Part 1. Blessings
–Part 2. Curses
–Part 3. Restoration
(B)The fulfillments summarised
–(I) General curses
(A) The prediction
Part 1. Promise of blessings for obedience (Deuteronomy 28:1-14)
“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands… …all these blessings will come upon you… …You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land… … your livestock… …The Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated… …The Lord will establish you … Then all the peoples on the earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord…”
(We note the words ‘all peoples on earth‘. God’s purpose in choosing Israel was not a form of ‘exclusivism’. His plan was that they be a ‘light’ to all nations.)
Part 2. Promise of curses for disobedience (Deuteronomy 28:15-68.)
“However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees… …all these curses will come upon you and overtake you.
a. The replacing of general blessing with general cursing:You will become cursed in the city and cursed in the country… …The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks … plague …diseases …turn the rain of your country into dust…
b. Defeat by enemies:The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies…
c. Invasion by enemies:You will be pledged to be married to a woman, but another will take her and ravish her. You will build a house, but will not live in it… …Your sheep will be given to your enemies…
d. Regional exile: The Lord will drive you and the king you set over you to a nation unknown to you or your fathers…
e. Invasion and merciless siege: The Lord will bring a nation against you from far away … …without respect for the old or pity for the young… …They will devour… …your livestock and the crops… …They will lay siege to all the cities throughout your land… [until they] …fall down. …you will eat the flesh of the sons and daughters…
f. Global dispersion: Then the Lord will scatter you among all the nations, from one end of the earth to the other… …you will find… …no resting place…
Part 3. Physical and Spiritual Restoration (Deuteronomy 30:1-10)
“When all of these come upon you… …wherever the Lord your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart…, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens…”
In case of misunderstanding, we note that this is not the way God deals with every nation – just Israel. It, however, is interesting in that it reveals how God may have been involved in occurrences of nature, politics, battles, health and economics with regard to Israel. 3500 years have past since. Let’s look to the history books.
i. General curses, invasion and restoration
This took place in the time of the ‘Judges’ (see the book of Judges).
The Israelites possessed the land, but had no earthly king, being led by their prophets instead. However the people kept turning to foreign idols, and thus received the general removal of blessing through to the invasion of their land. One example would be the Midianites, who as a traveling nomadic people would swarm through the nation annually, eating, drinking and taking everything in sight, just like in the prophecy (see Judges 6-8). Yet, whenever the Israelites repented and sought after God, God restored their fortunes (see Judges 6-8). The book of Judges shows this ‘cycle’ being repeated five times in that period. Their prosperity directly paralleled the strength of their focus on God.
ii. Curses, invasion, exile (to Egypt and Babylon), and restoration
This took place in in the time of the Kings (see the books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles).
When Israel later had their own kings, their disobedience to the covenant conditions continued. King David (king from B.C.1010 – 970) is one of just a handful of their kings who honoured God, and the land of Israel was – true to prophecy – at its largest, most wealthy and most powerful during his reign, and that of his son Solomon. However their obedience to God did not continue for long. They again worshipped idols and engaged in practices that displeased God (i.e., disobeying the covenant conditions). Curses resulted until in B.C. 722 the northern part of Israel (then called ‘Israel) was overrun, and the people taken to exile in Assyria– just as was predicted. The southern part of Israel (then called ‘Judah’), which included the city of Jerusalem, then also fell in B.C.586, with the people being taken to exile in Babylon.
The prophet Jeremiah predicted that their exile to Babylon would last only 70 years (see Jeremiah 29:10). Israelites began to return to the Lord. The first Jews went to Babylon in B.C.605. The priest Ezra, then begins his book (in the Bible) saying “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken to Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation through his realm…” (Ezra 1:1). What resulted was the release of the Jews to return to their land. The year was B.C.538 – just under 70 years later.
We thus see Israel’s disobedience resulting in curses, invasion and exile – but her repentance resulting in the promised restoration.
iii. Global dispersion and restoration
These took place in A.D.70 and from 1948 respectively.
By the time of Jesus Israel had been restored to its lands, although under Roman occupation, and the the Temple had been rebuilt (called the ‘second Temple’). However, because of their past experiences they had become ultra-religious, desiring to obey God’s laws in everything. For example, where the law said ‘Keep the Sabbath’ (meaning take a day off from work, and for religious reflection) they made an 300 additional sub-laws, such as how far one could walk on that day (about 2.5 kilometers), and the banning of things such as cooking, cleaning, brushing teeth and combing hair. But their great legalisms did not please God, for they had become blinded to the heart of the law. Around A.D.30 Jesus said of them, you are “…white washed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:27-28). It was a sad irony.
Jesus predicted when their downfall would come, saying, “…I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.” (see Matthew 23:1-39). Indeed, it was just under forty years later that Jerusalem was besieged, beginning a terrible fulfillment of prophecy. More than one million Jews died in the city of starvation (fulfillments promises as under e. and f. above). Those who surrendered were crucified in front of the walls. All trees were cleared within three miles of the city and a fence built so none could escape. The siege and resulting famine became so bad that some ate even the dead and their own children – just as was predicted. From that point onwards the Jews were dispersed – not just regionally – but globally, across all the nations of the world.
Jesus also predicted, speaking of the Jerusalem Temple, that “…not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down” (see Luke 21:5-6, 20-24). The Temple was overlaid with gold, and when Emperor Titus’ armies finally broke into Jerusalem in A.D.70 the temple caught fire causing the gold to melt and run between the stones. The soldiers pried the stones apart, one from the other, so as to collect the gold  – thus fulfilling the prediction.
Jesus then spoke of Israel’s dispersion and regathering saying, “They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations…”, saying this would continue, “…until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:24). A restoration of Israel began in the early 1900s, with their re-establishment of Israel as a nation and of their lands taking place in 1948 and 1967. This indicates to the Christian that we are now entering a change in Biblical seasons. Whether this restoration will extend to include the third building of the Jerusalem temple is yet to be seen, but this is the significant hope of many religious Jews in our times.[See footnote 12]
II. Why the scepticism?
To quote from J. Barton Payne, one of the foremost experts on Biblical prophecy,
“There is no question that if miracles are … …impossible, then prediction is impossible; and those passages which have been accounted predictive, must be explained away as being vague, as applying only to something in the writer’s lifetime, or on some other hypothesis. This is only saying that belief in prediction is not compatible with the theory of atheism…” 
The school of modern critical scholars… …opposes the whole concept of a supernatural, verbalized prediction… Though fulfilled predictions may occasionally “…intervene as an accident…” 
Yet the so-called unjustifiable accident is one which has refused to be silenced…
Which is to say that the real issue is the assumptions one brings to the Bible. Most sceptics are either Atheists or Liberal Christians.
Atheists believe there is no God, nor spiritual realm, and thus can be no miracles. Fulfilled prophecy is a miracle – so their worldview concludes for them that the prophecies cannot have actually been miraculously fulfilled, irrespective of what the evidence actually suggests.
Many Liberal Christians, if not actually atheists, believe God is distant from us (‘Deism’) and thus uninvolved. The conclusion is the same – they assume God is uninvolved, and thus that such miracles are impossible.
So, firstly, the debate has little to do with the Bible or evidence. It is primarily about ones assumptions (worldview).
However Payne points out, as if with amusement, that the miracle stands anyway.
About how the debate about prophecy is progressing
(its forward movement – or lack, there-of?)
What is interesting in these quotes is that the first is actually Payne quoting another guy called Meyrick who ‘long ago observed that…’ (as in footnote 13). With awareness that an intense criticism of Christian belief has been in progress for over 200 years now, what Payne is pointing out is that, from its beginnings, the real issue has been recognised – an anti-Biblical philosophy coming from the belief that God either (a) doesn’t exist, or (b) if He does that He is completely uninvolved with our planet.
The significance of quoting someone from the 1800s is that it demonstrates that the debate has not actually progressed in that time. Despite what many sceptics say, this debate is not really about the evidences. It really is about the opposing world views!
A study of Biblical prophecy leaves most people more than surprised. While sceptics throw rock, copies of the Old Testament exist that well pre-date Jesus. The accusation of fabrication no longer stands, but the evidence does.
However, if truth exists at all, only one view can actually be true. A question thus remains for the intellectual as to which view is the more reasonable. The question for the merely religious person, however, might merely be how they can defend their own position – whether conservative or liberal.
As Payne says, prophecy is a so-called ‘unjustifiable accident’ that has ‘refused to be silenced’!
Look out for my series of 7 booklets next year. I hope to publish the longer versions by around April, and then to make much shorter versions available later in the year.
The longer versions will be around 8,000 to 12,000 word length, and will be a exciting read.
Of note, they will also never claim Christianity to be true or the Bible reliable. Their goal is to present the reasons why many Christians believe these things to be the case, thus leaving the reader with both sides of the argument from which to draw their own conclusions. (They are for non-believers, as much as for believers!)
– – – FOOTNOTES – – –
1. N Geisler and W Nix, A General introduction to the Bible, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1096), p196 as quoted in Josh McDowell, New Evidence That Demands A Verdict, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999), p12.
2. J. Barton Payne, Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy (Baker House Books, 1991), p13.
3. Old Testament Chronology, NIV Study Bible (Zondervan, 1985).
4. Just in case of misunderstanding, this does not mean that when bad things happen to us it is God cursing us. According to the Bible God is not the cause cause of suffering and evil. Additionally, it affirms that bad things happen to all people, including the ‘good’ people – and that good things happen to the ‘bad’ people too (Psalm 73:3). This prediction was specifically for Israel.
5. Old Testament Chronology, NIV Study Bible (Zondervan, 1985).
6. In the third year of Jehoiakim, as in Daniel 1:1.
7. This being the first year of the reign of Cyrus, who came to power in March, B.C.538 he captured Babylon in October 539. Cyrus founded the Persian empire. See footnotes in the NIV Study Bible (Zondervan, 1985), Ezra 1:1.
8. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Activities_prohibited_on_Shabbat for 39 categories of forbidden activities in our times.
9. Note in the dating of these prophecies that the earliest dated Old Testament documents which we currently have date around 250B.C., and so skeptics will question the validity of all prophecies mentioned before this time on that basis. Note regarding Jesus’ predictions that “…Respected Archaeologist William Albright says, “We can say emphatically that there is no longer any solid basis for dating any book of the New Testament after about A.D.80, two full generations before the date between 130-150 given by the more radical New Testament critics of today.”[See William F. Albright, “Toward a More Conservative View,” Christianity Today, Jan., 1963, p359.] Liberal Theologian John A.T. Robinson makes a similar statement about the New Testament, believing that all were written probably between 50 and 75A.D. [See John A.T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament, (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976), p352.]. In other words, the prophecies of Jesus regarding the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple can be proven to be real (not fabricated), just like those of the Old Testament after 250B.C. Regarding those before, there is no reason to suspect them, unless you do not believe miracles are possible (in which case all predictions are suspect). Jews and Christians believe they as reliable, but without copies of the prophecies that pre-date the events they predict this cannot be confirm beyond a doubt. This is our point.
10. Josephus, Jewish War, 5.5.6., as noted in the NIV Study Bible references (Zondervan, 1985).
11. In 1917, Great Britain moved to allocate the land of Palestine as the “national homeland for the Jews” (The Balfour Declaration). This was followed by the British Mandate over Palestine and immediately followed by a modern Jewish exodus from nations all around the world back to their ancient homeland. Finally, in 1948, the State of Israel was born. Since then, the State of Israel has been filled by millions of Jews returning from all over the earth. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balfour_Declaration_of_1917 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Israel https://kenraggio.com/KRPN-Daniels-Seventy-Weeks.html
12. Rabbi Richman is chairman and spokesman for the Temple Institute (as at 2011). All needed implements and clothing for a Jewish Temple are already prepared, as are the priesthood, specifically needed animals for sacrifices, and building plans. He says it would take less than 2 years to build. They are, however, not interested in military action or involvement. They believe God will make it possible for them to build on the Temple Mount. The ‘Dome of the Rock’ currently stands on the Temple Mount, this being the third most holy site in the world to Muslims. While there is enough physical room on the Temple Mount for a Jewish Temple to be built alongside it, it would take a miracle for there to be enough political or religious room. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWmrgaAqbC0 or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pHXZyNNes0&feature=player_embedded or, for a Christian write up showing one Christian interpretation, see https://kenraggio.com/KRPN-TheThirdTemple.htm Some Christians do not see the rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple as a necessary prophetic expectation. While its existence is implied in verses such as 2 Thessalonians 2:4, they suggest the word ‘temple’ is used metaphorically (compare to 1 Cor 3:17, 2 Cor 6:1, Eph 2:21). It could be predicting that the ‘antichrist’ will ‘sit as a judge or ruler in the place of God, seeking to supplant Him as the object of men’s devotion’ (Payne, Encyclopedia of biblical Prophecy, p564). Others, however, expect a more literal fulfillment.
13. In this paragraph Payne (J. Barton Payne, Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy (Baker House Books, 1991), p11.) quotes Meyrick who ‘long ago observed…’ (F Meyrick, “Prophet,” in Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, p2597. In this context Payne notes regarding the suggestion that God is uninvolved with our planet that, if man is not affected by spiritual forces, it means that religion becomes essentially irrelevant to real life. The belief in God’s existence and involvement with our planet is thus the real issue – and the quote, being from a person involved early on in this debate, is there to show us that the debate has not really progressed in that time.
14. J. Barton Payne, Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy (Baker House Books, 1991), p11.
15. R. H. Charles, Critical Commentary on the Book of Daniel, p xxvi I take some liberty in the way I phrase this to make it concise, but believe it true to intended meaning.
16. J. Barton Payne, Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy (Baker House Books, 1991), p11.