Why Believe the Bible Is God’s Word?
The Apostle Peter claimed that prophecy within the pages of the Bible was “. . . not something concocted in the human heart. Prophecy resulted when the Holy Spirit prompted men and women to speak God’s Word.” (2 Peter 1:21 MSG) If that is true, then accurately fulfilled prophecy should convince us that the Bible was inspired by a Being who exists outside of time and can see past, present, and future events simultaneously. Additionally, if such prophetic words were embedded in text penned by over 60 individuals of varying levels of education, living in diverse cultures over a span of 1,500 years, then the fulfillment of those prophecies thousands of years later would be even more convincing.
Sweeping aside the 300 or so prophecies fulfilled in the birth, life, and death of Jesus the Messiah, we can, instead, focus on the history of the Jewish people and the formation of the modern State of Israel as an example of the Bible’s authenticity.
Three thousand seven hundred years ago, God promised Abraham, “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore . . . and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 22:16-18 NIV) Abraham’s descendants became the nation of Israel when they were delivered from slavery in Egypt and at Mount Sinai entered into a covenant relationship with God. Moses warned them that if they broke their promise to obey the Mosaic Law, they would be scattered among the nations—“Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the LORD will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart.” (Deut. 28:64, 65 NIV)
The Old Testament is a history of the Israelites’ constant struggle and overall failure to follow God’s Law. In 721 BC, the northern ten tribes of Israel were scattered among the surrounding nations by their Assyrian conqueror. A similar thing happened to the Kingdom of Judah when Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 BC by the Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar. Interestingly, the Jews were not scattered like the 10 northern tribes, but were literally moved to Babylon and became a servant class of people. Because they were not “scattered,” they remained as a nation down to the time of Christ.
In 539 BC, Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon and the Jews were allowed to return to their homeland and rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple. This fact was prophesied about 150 years earlier by Isaiah the prophet. Isaiah prophesied that God would raise up a conquering king named Cyrus to open the gates of Babylon and vanquish the city, all of which Cyrus did. Isaiah 45:1 (NIV) says, “This is what the LORD says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut.”
God did this for the sake of His chosen people who were still exiled there in Babylon. This also was a fulfillment of another prophecy made by Jeremiah 70 years earlier. “This whole country [Judea] will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations [Jews] will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.” (Jeremiah 25:11 NIV) After the 70 years of servitude were completed at Babylon, God told them He would cause them to return to this place [Jerusalem]. “This is what the LORD says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.’” (Jeremiah 29:10)
Following the writings of Nehemiah and Ezra regarding the building of the Temple and Jerusalem’s walls, the Old Testament is silent for about 400 years until Jesus the Messiah makes his appearance. He was a direct descendant of Abraham and fulfilled God’s Genesis 22:18 prophecy by becoming the means through whom “. . . all the nations on earth will be blessed.” Jesus did this by sacrificing himself bodily for the sins of the people of all nations.
Just two days before his death (Wednesday), Jesus gave a significant prophecy regarding the last days. At Matthew 23:37-39 (NIV), he said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'"
What did Jesus mean by this statement? Only four days earlier (Sunday), the common people of Jerusalem had welcomed him in that fashion. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9 NIV) But at the same time, Jerusalem’s rulers rejected him and were planning his assassination. Jesus, knowing this, made the above statement, saying that they [the common people] would not “see” him again until they say, “Blessed is he [Jesus] who comes in the name of the Lord.” Jesus was referring, prophetically, to his Second Coming when all the remaining Jews in the modern State of Israel would face total destruction by their enemies with no hope of deliverance. Only then will they call on Jesus the Messiah to rescue them.
This event will also fulfill the prophecy of Acts 1:10-11 (NIV), which says: “They were looking intently up into the sky as he [Jesus] was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back [to Jerusalem] in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’”
According to Paul, after rejecting their Messiah, the Jews’ hearts and minds experienced a “hardening.” But their hardening will end when the full number of Gentile Christians is gathered. Paul said at Romans 11:25-26 (NIV), “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The deliverer will come from Zion [heaven]; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob [Jews].’” This “deliverer” is the Messiah Jesus who will come in prophetic fulfillment of his previous words found at Matthew 23:39.
Two days after Jesus made this end-time prediction (Friday), he was crucified and on the third day (Sunday), he raised himself from the dead. (John 10:18; John 2:19-21) It is also to be noted that two days before his death (Wednesday), Jesus predicted that Jerusalem would be destroyed. “Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. ‘Do you see all these things?’ he asked. ‘I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one [stone] will be thrown down.’" (Matthew 24:l, 2 (NIV)
This prophecy made by Jesus was in fulfillment of an earlier prophecy made by Daniel in about the year 522 BC. Daniel said, “After the sixty-two 'sevens,' the Anointed One [Jesus the Messiah] will be cut off and will have nothing. The people [the Romans] of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.” (Daniel 9:26 NIV)
Without going into a lot of detail, Daniel speaks of the time when Jesus, the Anointed One, will be cut off [be crucified]. Following this, those who crucified Jesus, will “destroy the city and the sanctuary.” Rome fulfilled Daniel’s prophecy by totally destroying the city of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD. Most of its inhabitants were either killed or enslaved, with a few managing to escape. However, many of these escaped Jews apparently returned to the area, and 62 years later they rebelled again. This was called the Bar Kokhba revolt that took place from 132 to 136 AD. It resulted in a second destruction of the city of Jerusalem. The Romans even plowed the whole area and completely fulfilled Jesus’ prophecy of “not one stone here will be left on another.” This was also a fulfillment of Moses’ prophecy we reviewed earlier when he said that the remaining disobedient Jews would be dispersed throughout the known world of that time. (Deuteronomy 28:64)
Interestingly, after the last Jewish rebellion, it is a historical fact that the Jews as a nationality became the most persecuted group of people in all of human history. “Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot.” (Deuteronomy 28:65) They have had to flee persecution from one nation to another. Numerous pogroms have been brought against them, and there have been many attempts to destroy them completely, such as the holocaust, but without success. They have maintained their national identity ever since the promise was made to Abraham by God. “The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God." (Genesis 17:8) We saw the beginning of this prophecy’s fulfillment on May 14, 1948, with the formation of the modern State of Israel.
It can be said that the long awaited “last days” began with the formation of the State of Israel. “For the Israelites will live many days [years and years] without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, [no temple] without ephod or idol. [no idol worship]. Afterward the Israelites will return [come back to their land] and seek the LORD their God and David their king [Jesus son of David]. They will come trembling to the LORD and to His blessings in the last days.” (Hosea 3:4, 5 NIV) Isaiah also described a time when Messiah would rule and gather his people a second time to bring them back to their land. Isaiah 11:10-12 states, “In that day the root of Jesse [Jesus] will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious. In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people . . . He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.”
Another somewhat mysterious prophecy was also fulfilled with the establishment of the State of Israel. It is the Ezekiel 37 prophecy of the valley of dry bones. On January 27, 2010, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, spoke at a ceremony marking 65 years since the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. A world-wide audience heard him state that the Israeli State fulfilled Ezekiel’s “dry bones” prophecy:
“[After the Holocaust,]” the Jewish people rose from ashes and destruction, from a terrible pain that can never be healed. Armed with the Jewish spirit, the justice of man, and the vision of the prophets, we sprouted new branches and grew deep roots. Dry bones became covered with flesh, a spirit filled them, and they lived and stood on their own feet. As Ezekiel prophesied:
‘Then He said unto me: These bones are the whole House of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, our hope is gone; we are doomed.’ Prophecy [sic], therefore, and say to them: Thus said the Lord God: I am going to open your graves and lift you out of your graves, O My people, and bring you to the land of Israel.’
Without the holocaust [valley of dry bones], the modern State of Israel could not have been formed at that time. The Hollywood story of “Exodus” illustrates to us how the world was forced to allow the Jews to return to their land and establish the State of Israel. Because world opinion sympathized with the Jewish Holocaust, the Jews were able to return to their land.
The prophet Isaiah described the very day on which modern Israel was born, saying at Isaiah 68:7-8 (NIV): “Before she [Zion] goes into labor, she gives birth; before the pains come upon her, she delivers a son. Who has ever heard of such a thing? Who has ever seen such things? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children [Israel].”
The woman giving birth before going into labor indicates that a rapid process would produce the Nation State of Israel. This accurately describes what happened on May 14, 1948, when "the world" briefly felt sorry for the Jews and returned the promised land of Israel to them, and they were able to declare independence as a united and sovereign nation for the first time since Jerusalem was destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar. During that same day, President Truman of the United States issued a formal statement recognizing Israel's sovereignty. In addition, only hours beforehand, a United Nations’ mandate expired, ending British control of the land. During a 24-hour span of time, foreign control of the land of Israel had formally ceased, and Israel had declared its independence, and its independence was acknowledged by other nations. Modern Israel was literally was born in a single day.
This discussion in which we followed the prophetic development of the descendants of Abraham over a period of about 3,700 years should, in my opinion, be convincing evidence for the existence of God and the reliability of His written word the Bible. After Jesus was crucified, there was no longer a need for a genealogical record that would be necessary to prove that a professed Messiah was a legitimate descendant of King David. Think about that. The period during Jesus’ lifetime was the last opportunity for a Messiah figure to offer credible evidence to substantiate his claim.
I believe that if you want to know where we are in the stream of history leading up to Jesus’ second coming, just keep your eyes on the Jews. Chapter 37 of Ezekiel tells of the events leading up to the establishment of the modern State of Israel. In chapters 38 & 39, there are prophecies yet to be fulfilled concerning the movements of the modern governments as they seek to destroy the nation of Israel and all Jewish people. The devil is the motivating factor behind Israel’s enemies in seeking to prevent the Jewish people, particularly the inhabitants of Jerusalem, from fulfilling Jesus’ prediction discussed previously. Remember, Jesus said that the inhabitants Jerusalem would not see him again until they say: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Matthew 23z;37-39). We can anticipate that the devil will do everything within his power to prevent this from happening.
By contrast, note what Jehovah’s Witnesses, (JW.org) have to say about the modern Jewish State: “No, they [Jehovah’s Witnesses] are not Zionists. Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christians who base their beliefs on the Scriptures. While some religions teach that the gathering of Jews in Palestine is related to Scriptural prophecy, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not hold this view. They do not believe that this political development was specifically foretold in the Scriptures. In fact, the Scriptures do not promote any one human government or exalt one ethnic group or people over another. The Watchtower, the official magazine of Jehovah’s Witnesses, has unequivocally stated: ‘There [is] no Scriptural support for political Zionism.’”