Religious Prophecy In Perspective
Prophecy can be rather mystical, metaphysical, and-for lack of a better word-creepy. It conjures up images of séances and other worlds. In Star Wars there is the foretelling of one who would bring balance to the Force. The Lord of the Rings movies weave their imaginary themes around scenes of prophetic utterances. But such is the world of imagination.
Regarding the real world, it has been said that if a person knew just one minute of the future he could rule the world. Think about it. One minute of knowing every hand dealt at the Trump Casino. You’d become the richest person in the world and Donald would become a postal worker.
But in the world of religion, prophecy serves an important function. It becomes one sure way to know if someone is speaking from God or if he is not, for only an omniscient God could exhaustively know the future. And on this point the prophecy in the Old Testament stands as unique, for most of the renowned holy books from other religions are devoid of predictive prophecy. For example, some claim divine inspiration, there is really no means to corroborate their claims; you’re simply left with “Yeah, that sounds like something God might say.”
Bible scholar Wilbur Smith compared the prophecies of the Bible with other historical books, stating that the Bible “is the only volume ever produced by man, 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.” Thus the Bible lays out its claim for inspiration in such a way that it can be either substantiated or disproved.
And if you put this degree of accuracy into everyday perspective, you can see how astounding it is. For example, it would have been miraculous if in 1910 you had predicted that a man named George Bush would win the 2000 election. But imagine if you had included some of these details in your prediction:
- The candidate with the most total votes would lose the election.
- All major TV networks would announce the winner and then reverse themselves.
- One state (Florida) would swing the election.
- The U.S. Supreme Court would ultimately determine the winner.
Had such occurred, there would be churches named after you and dashboard statuettes bearing your likeness. But you didn’t, so there aren’t. As difficult (or impossible) as it would have been in 1910 to have accurately predicted this precise sequence of events, the odds are incredibly more difficult for Jesus, or any one person, to have fulfilled all the Hebrew prophecies for the Messiah. Contained within the Old Testament, written hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, are 61 specific prophecies and nearly 300 references about the Messiah.
According to the Hebrew requirement that a prophecy must have a 100 percent rate of accuracy, the true Messiah of Israel must fulfill them all or else he is not the Messiah. So the question that either vindicates Jesus or makes him culpable for the world’s greatest hoax is, did he fit and fulfill these Old Testament prophecies?