In the previous chapters we have looked at historical facts and stories told or predicted in the Bible. All the texts telling about future events that really came to happen should get us to think about the validity of those words. In the bible we do find God’s Plan with the world and as such can not only find prophecies which became already a reality but encounter also some prophecies which still have to come true.
Later on, after we looked at the scattering and persecution of the Jews which is to be reversed, we shall have an other closer look at Jews their fulfilled Bible Prophecy
But there is more …
But the most incredible feature of the prophecies about the destiny of Israel is yet to be told, for the prophets also clearly foretell an unexpected change in Israel’s fortunes. Consider, for instance, these predictions through the prophet Jeremiah, delivered nearly 600 years before Christ:
“For, lo, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah … and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.” (30:3)
“Now therefore thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel … Behold, I will gather them out of all the countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger … and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God …” (32:36-38)
“I will cause the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel to return, and will build them, as at the first. And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity …” (33:7)
Again there is no doubt about what the prophet is saying. The process of Israel’s scattering and persecution is to be reversed. The Jews are to return to the very land from which they were expelled over 1,900 years ago, and to dwell there in comparative peace. The three brief quotations from Jeremiah, given above, could be multiplied many times over by similar declarations from Isaiah and Ezekiel.
We have little need to go into great detail to show how these prophecies of Israel’s restoration have been most accurately fulfilled. The Zionist Movement was active among the dispersed Jews in many countries in the late 19th century. The establishment of Palestine as a National Home for the Jews in 1917 led to a rapid increase in their numbers in the land. When this provoked the hostility of the Arabs, the Jews fought off an attempt to suppress them in 1948, and established their own Jewish State. This was enlarged in 1967 after a second attempt in the Six Day War; as a result Israel recovered much of their ancient historical territory, and Jerusalem became the capital of their State under their own rule, for the first time in 2,500 years. In short, the emergence of an independent Jewish State in the Middle East has been a most unexpected development. Less than 100 years ago no political observers would have thought it possible.
We are not here concerned with the “politics” of the situation. We are concerned solely with Bible prophecy. There are other things the Bible has to say about the Jews. The prophets tell us, for instance, that there is to be a great crisis in the Middle East, and that Israel will be brought to repentance before their God. Only then will the prophecies of final restoration and peace come to pass. Here we wish solely to emphasise that the prophets foretold the return of Israel to their land, and over the last century we have actually seen their predictions begin to be fulfilled.
Three prophesies – Three destinies
It will be useful at this point to summarise what we have reviewed:
Babylon, that great power in the Middle East, was to lose its empire and its magnificent capital city was to become a site of desolate ruins, shunned by man and beast. And so it came to pass.
Egypt, also a great empire, was to remain a recognisable kingdom. The Egyptians were to continue to inhabit their own land. But they would be constantly dominated by other powers, remaining “a lowly kingdom”. And so they have been.
The fate of Israel was not to be like either of these. Scattered from their own land into other countries, and suffering severe persecutions and constant contempt, they were to return to the very land from which they were scattered, and to establish themselves there once again.
Let us note carefully the following facts:
- The prophecies concerning these nations were uttered about 2,500 years ago.
- Their truth has been demonstrated in history right up to the present day.
- The three cases quoted concern three different powers with three entirely different fates. One was to disappear into oblivion; the second was to remain, but be subject to other nations; the third was to be destroyed, its people expelled and scattered all over the earth, and yet eventually to be restored in the original land.
- These are not “political forecasts” of clever political observers, but accurate predictions.
Who could have known?
How is prophecy on this scale of time possible?
There is only one reasonable answer:
somebody must have known beforehand.
But who could have known?
Certainly no men of 2,500 years ago, or indeed since, could possibly have known. On purely human grounds these prophecies are inexplicable. But then, the prophets of the Old Testament did not claim human powers for their predictions. They said they were speaking words inspired by God.
“Thus saith the LORD”
is the constant introduction to what they say. If God was behind what they said, we realise Who it was who “knew”. There is no other reasonable explanation. The prophecies we have considered require the existence of God as their author. That makes sense.
The three examples already quoted were intentionally chosen to illustrate the variety of the Bible’s prophecies. But there are many other examples. We could, for instance, examine those concerning Jesus Christ: he was to be in the line of Abraham, and of David; he was to be born in Bethlehem; he was to be rejected by his own people, and yet die an atoning death on their behalf; and many other details – all uttered centuries before he was born, and all strikingly fulfilled in Jesus’ birth, ministry, death and resurrection.
But we will conclude our brief survey with two further examples which will bring the prophetic programme right up to our own day.
The Bible and the Nations
The prophecy of Daniel contains an impressive outline of the rise and fall of empires, and of the state of the nations in what used to be called “the civilised world” – that is, the nations of Europe, the Middle East, Egypt and the North African coast, all surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. The prophecy was uttered when Daniel was captive in the court of Babylon, in the 6th century BCE. Its truth has been demonstrated in history from that day to the present time.
Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, full of his own pride and glory, saw in a dream a great image of a man, made up of five parts (see picture below):
Then a stone appeared, “cut out of the mountain without hands”. It fell upon the feet of the image, brought it all crashing to the ground, and then ground into powder all its elements, so that the wind swept them away. The stone then became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
Nebuchadnezzar was much troubled by the fate of this image, for none of his wise men could tell him what it meant. But Daniel, the prophet of Israel, declared:
“There is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and he hath made known to king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days.” (Daniel 2:28)
So Daniel explained the meaning of the image. The head of gold represented the dominion of Nebuchadnezzar himself. It was to be succeeded by another, inferior kingdom (the breast and arms of silver); and that in turn by a third (of brass); then the fourth kingdom (the legs of iron) was to be strong and violent, but the feet and toes represented divided kingdoms, “partly strong and partly broken” (verses 37-42).
One thing is clear: this image represented a succession of powerful kingdoms, and it is not hard to identify them. The first we know: it was the Empire of Babylon. In Daniel chapter 8 (verses 20,21) we are told that the successors were to be Persia and Greece. The fourth power, “great and terrible”, is not explicitly named in Daniel’s prophecy. History abundantly verifies these predictions. About 530 BCE the Babylonian power was overthrown by the Medes and Persians, who eventually established the Persian Empire. It lasted for 200 years, and was then overthrown about 330 BCE by Alexander the Great who set up the Empire of Greece.
What great power succeeded the kingdoms of the successor of Alexander? There can be no doubt about the answer: it was the Empire of Rome. The Romans invaded the territories of the former Greek Empire from the 2nd century BC onwards. In the next 500 years Rome became the greatest power on earth. Its Empire covered practically all the territories of the first three, and spread far and wide into Europe, the Middle East, and all the countries surrounding the Mediterranean. Its conquests were carried out with ruthless efficiency, well symbolised by the description, “strong as iron”. In the last two centuries of its existence it was divided into two parts: the Western Empire, based on Rome, and the Eastern, based on Constantinople – the two “legs” of the image.
A God that revealeth secrets
But what happened after the break-up of the Roman Empire in the 5th century CE onwards? It was not replaced by another great empire – there has in fact never been a fifth empire of comparable dominion, despite the efforts of ambitious men to establish one. The territory of the Roman Empire broke up under the attacks of the barbarian tribes of Huns, Goths, Visigoths and Vandals, who formed separate kingdoms of their own. The nations of the present day Europe are the successors of these kingdoms. Throughout their history of 1,500 years to the present day, those nations have remained in a divided state, well symbolised by the image’s feet, part iron and part clay:
“partly strong and partly broken … they shall not cleave one to another” (Daniel 2:42,43).
How could Daniel have known that the great dominion of Nebuchadnezzar would be succeeded by three others, the fourth being exceptionally strong, but would never be succeeded by a fifth? How could he have known that after the fall of the fourth, its empire would disintegrate into divided states, with little unity between them? Of course, of himself he could know no such thing, nor could any other man. But Daniel does not leave us without an explanation:
“There is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets … The great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: the dream is certain and the interpretation thereof sure.” (verses 28,45)
How else can you explain that the prophecy of Daniel chapter 2 should be in existence centuries before Christ, and yet contain a forecast of the course of empires and nations accurate right up to the present day, well over 2,000 years ago? If there is indeed “a God in heaven”, you can understand it. Without Him, there is no reasonable explanation.
We shall comment in the concluding section on the last phase of the image vision, when the stone strikes the image on the feet and brings it all down. But for our final prophetic example we turn to:
OUR OWN TIMES
Although their fulfilments have extended right up to the present day, the prophecies so far considered have concerned events long in the past (with the exception of the recent regathering of Israel to their ancient land). Has Bible prophecy anything to say about modern times, as a guide to us in these days?
Indeed it has: and what a contrast it makes with the confident expectations of human thinking!
The 19th century was an age of optimism. Great developments were taking place. Increased scientific knowledge led to rapid technical progress, bringing greater industrial production. This in turn meant more wealth (though not for the poorest people). Education was being made available to all sections of society, and beneficial results were confidently expected. Better educated people would take more interest, it was argued, in arts like literature, music and painting. The general moral tone of society would be improved. Politicians promised a new social order of justice and equality for all. As people became better off, they would cease to envy one another. “Banish poverty, and you’ll banish crime” was the slogan. When the finest powers of the human mind were developed, peace would be established among the nations. Church leaders confidently looked forward to the spreading of the Gospel all over the world. Human progress and improvement, both in individuals and in society, were taken for granted. The future was bright.
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