A Few Thoughts On PROPHECY / Part Three

By Alfred Bouter

Prophecy Is Reliable And Precise
Some researchers list hundreds of specific prophecies about Christ in the Bible, many of which have been fulfilled, and others are still to be fulfilled. There are no mistakes in these prophecies, even though we cannot always understand and explain all their facets.

The statistical impossibility, according to the mathematical laws of probability, that all these prophecies in connection with one and the same Person be fulfilled by chance, confirm in an indirect way that God is the Author and Executor of them. Recognizing this leads us to worship Him (Rom. 11:36; Rev. 4:11), which is proper in view of His greatness.

Mathematical Probability And Messianic Prophecy 
Prophecy clearly indicates the divine authorship of the Scriptures and testifies to the trustworthiness of its message. Anyone can make predictions, which is quite simple to do. However, writing detailed prophecies and having them fulfilled is vastly different. In fact, the more statements made about the future and more details given reduce the chances of a precise fulfillment. For instance, what is the probability of a person about 3,000 years ago being able to predict the exact city in which the birth of a future leader would take place? This is what the prophet Micah did 700 years before the Messiah was born. What is the likelihood of predicting the precise manner of death that a new, unknown religious leader would experience a thousand years from now, a manner of death presently unknown and to remain unknown for hundreds of years? Yet, this is indeed what David did in about 1000 BC in Psalm 22. Again, what is the probability of predicting the specific date of the appearance of some great future leader hundreds of years in advance? This is what Daniel did over 500 years before Christ came.

If one were to picture 50 specific prophecies about a person in the future, one he never met, just what is the likelihood that this person would fulfill all 50 of the predictions? How much less would this possibility be if 25 of these predictions were about what other people would do to him, and were completely beyond his control?

For example, how does someone “arrange” to be born in a specific family? How does one “arrange” to be born in a certain city – and that in which his parents do not actually live? How does one “arrange” his own death – specifically by crucifixion with two others – and then “arrange” to have his executioners gamble for his clothing? How does one “arrange” to be betrayed in advance? How does one “arrange” to have the executioners carry out the regular practice of breaking the legs of the two victims on either side, but not his own? Finally, how does one “arrange” to be God? How does one escape from a grave and appear to people after having been killed?

Indeed, it may be possible for someone to fake one or two of the Messianic prophecies, but it would be impossible for any one person to arrange and fulfill all of these prophecies. How true it must be that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah since 456 identifying characteristics about Him were mentioned well in advance and He fulfilled them all!

What does the science of probability make of this? It attempts to determine the chance that a given event will occur. The value and accuracy of the science of probability has been well established and can be summarized as follows: Anyone rejecting Christ as the Son of God rejects a fact proven perhaps more absolutely than any other in the world.

Interpreting The Biblical Prophecies 
We may discern four groups of prophecies about Messiah’s coming: 

  1. The first coming only (such as Mic. 5:2);
  2. The second coming only (seen in Isa. 63:1-6);
  3. Both the first and second coming (consider Zech. 9:9-10; Isa. 11, 61); and
  4. His whole career: both comings and His glorious reign (an example in Ps. 110). 

The Lord Himself is the great Interpreter of prophecy, as we see in His discussion with the two disciples who were on the road to Emmaus (Lk. 24:13-35). Our risen Lord Jesus showed them from the three divisions of the Hebrew Bible (the Tenach) the things concerning Himself (24:27,44-46). He quoted from Moses’ writings (the Torah), from the early and latter prophets (the Naviim) and from the Writings (the Chetuvim). The word Tenach refers to the complete Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) and is composed from these three terms (TeNaCh). Jesus presented the Scriptures, showing these disciples God’s program:

  • Messiah’s first coming and His sufferings; and
  • Messiah’s coming in glory – “the glories to follow” (Lk. 24:26; 1 Pet. 1:11).

The Lord opened the understanding of the disciples (Lk. 24:45). As exalted, He still does so through His Spirit (1 Cor. 2:10-16) whom He sent from heaven. The Holy Spirit has dwelt in the believers since the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:2), and He will teach and guide us in all truth, now and forever (Jn. 14-16; Rom. 8). 

The Dispensation Of The Fullness Of The Times 
God’s purpose (Eph. 1:10) implies that He has a plan for the Lord Jesus and His Church (Assembly) – a plan already revealed in mystery form in Genesis 1-2 with Adam and Eve (Eph. 5:31-32). It is to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under the leadership of Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who is the Son of Man and Ancient of Days (Ps. 8, 80; Dan. 7). He is the God-Man whose wondrous Person will remain a mystery, as we learn from the New Testament (1 Tim. 3:16; Jn. 1:14). These and other passages present to us the blessed wonders of Christ’s person, as God found fit to reveal them (see for example Jn. 1:1-18, 20:31; Eph. 1:10-23; Col. 1:1-2:6; Heb. 1:2-3; Rev. 1:1-18, 4:1-5:14). Still, His Person – God and Man in One – remains forever a mystery beyond our understanding, as is true also of the Godhead – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The term “fullness of the times” (Eph. 1:10) refers to Christ’s soon-coming public reign when all things will be subjected to Him – not only in principle as is the case now (Mt. 28:18), but also in the actual display of His power and blessings. He will reign as the promised Messiah (Ps. 2) and as the King of the nations from sea to sea and to the ends of the earth (Ps. 72; Isa. 2:2, 9:6-7, 11:1-9, 65-66; Zech. 14). The various dispensations1 before that glorious reign, despite man’s failures, already contain elements that point to this wonderful rule. The fact that God could give such foreshadows is in itself an amazing thing.

Psalm 8 succinctly summarizes the Messiah’s rule of the world to come. Part of the psalm is quoted in Hebrews 2, emphasizing the present glories of Christ as the Son of Man in heaven, yet linked with the believers on earth (Heb. 2:8-17). The psalm is also quoted in Ephesians 1 to show that the Church will not be put under Messiah’s feet (Eph. 1:20-23), but that He, glorified at God’s right hand, is given to the Church already, before His glorious reign starts. We also find that Paul quoted Psalm 8 in 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 to indicate that, even though Christ will reign over the universe, the Son2 Himself will be subject to God who has subjected everything to Him (1 Cor. 15:27). Therefore, in the eternal state God will be all in all3 (v.28).

Praise God!

1. This term is derived from the Greek compound word oikonomia (Eph. 1:10), which literally means “law [or rule] of the house.” A dispensation refers to a period of time during which God puts man to the test in respect to obedience of God’s revealed will. A good translation of the term oikonomia, as related to the world to come, is “administration” (Eph. 1:10 JND) signifying the coming millennial reign of the Messiah over heaven and earth. 
2. As to the Son, it is not possible for us to fully distinguish between His divinity and humanity (see the beginning of Mt. 11:27). 
3. Today, the eternal state is morally displayed in those who belong to the new creation while living in the context of the old, in a fallen world (Col. 3:10-11). This is a great privilege and a great challenge.