Out Of His Control
Imagine winning a Powerball lottery with merely one ticket among tens of millions sold. Now imagine winning a hundred of these lotteries in a row. What would people think? Right, “It was rigged!”
And over the years a similar claim has been made by skeptics about Jesus’ fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. They have granted that Jesus fulfilled messianic prophecies but have accused him of living his life in such a way as to intentionally fulfill them. A reasonable objection, but not as plausible as it might seem.
Consider the nature of just four of the messianic prophecies:
- His lineage would come from David (Jeremiah 23:5).
- His birth would occur in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).
- He would migrate to Egypt (Hosea 11:1).
- He would live in Nazareth (Isaiah 11:1).
Now, what could Jesus do about fulfilling these prophecies? Neither he nor his parents had any control over his ancestry. His birth in Bethlehem was the result of a census mandated by Caesar Augustus. His parents’ move to Egypt was prompted by King Herod’s persecution. And once Herod died, Jesus’ parents naturally decided to resettle in Nazareth.
Even if at a young age an imposter Jesus looked at the prophecies he had accidentally fulfilled and decided to go for it and see if he could make the rest (like someone deciding to shoot the moon in the card game Hearts), the deck would still have been impossibly stacked against him. Consider some of the factors in the prophecies we’ve already looked at: the Messiah would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver; he would be killed by means of crucifixion; and people would cast lots for his clothes. These prophecies all came true for Jesus, yet what control did he have over the fulfillment of any of them?
Bible scholars tell us that nearly 300 references to 61 specific prophecies of the Messiah were fulfilled by Jesus Christ. The odds against one person fulfilling that many prophecies would be beyond all mathematical possibility. It could never happen, no matter how much time was allotted. One mathematician’s estimate of those impossible odds is “one chance in a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion.”
Bertrand Russell, adamant atheist, was asked in a Look magazine interview what evidence it would take for him to believe in God. Russell responded, “Well, if I heard a voice from heaven and it predicted a series of things and they came to pass, then I guess I’d have to believe there’s some kind of supernatural being.”
Bible scholar Norman Geisler responded to Russell’s skepticism. “I’d say, ‘Mr. Russell, there has been a voice from heaven; it has predicted many things; and we’ve seen them undeniably come to pass.'” Geisler was alluding to the fact that only a transcendent Being outside of time would be able to accurately predict future events.