Is the Bible the Word of God? How Does Prophecy Establish that the Bible is From God?

                 Prophecy is one of the greatest lines of evidence in proving that the Bible is from God.   Prophetic utterances should be differentiated from wishful thinking, chance circumstances, lucky guesses, or hunches that just happen to come true.  Also, prophesy should be differentiated from a selective rewriting of history whereby individuals are shaping the present to fulfill the past.  People arrive at the conclusion that the message is Divine when they realize that the most reasonable power that links knowledge of an event and the transpiring of that event is God himself.  When the details and lines of history are carefully considered the reader is left like Nicodemus–no man could do these things unless he is from God (cf. John 3:1-2), or Thomas – My Lord and My God (cf. John 20:28)!

                The motive of the prophet is another element worth considering in prophecy.  The prophet’s motivation was to glorify God and they diligently proclaimed the Law of Moses to draw people back to God.  Occasionally, a prophet would foretell the future.  When prophets foretold things that came to pass immediately in their days, they were trusted (cf. Deut. 18:20-22).  These events were readily distinguishable from chance happenings or the work of magicians.  Most of what comes down to us from prophets is teaching instead of foretelling.  However, the elements that foretell are of tremendous benefit in proving the Bible is indeed from God.   

                Further, we want to make sure that we listen to the testimony of the prophet and carefully consider their motive.   Not every prophet then was a true one.  In being an objective listener or reader today, it is certainly reasonable to be open to the possibility that the prophecy was and now is false.   When Jesus spoke with his disciples he said “And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray” (Matt. 24:9).  Elsewhere the Bible reads “many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).  Carefully eliminating false prophecies from true ones is a virtuous enterprise. If the prophecies of Daniel, Joel, or Isaiah were false, what exactly was there immediate motivation?  Generally, lies are told for some immediate fulfillment, perhaps fame, notoriety, or maybe even some material gain of some sort.   For those who disbelieve in the words of Daniel, Isaiah or Joel, what possible motive would they have had to lie about something hundreds of years in the future?  This is not to argue that lying about the future is impossible.  Rather, when you couple the impeccable character, unrelenting faithfulness, and trust worthiness of the prophet along with our 20/20 vision of the historical fulfillment of their testimony a Divine conclusion is most reasonable. 

                Let’s consider the example of John the Baptist.  Consider the prophecy made and fulfilled about his coming.  God reveals his coming through Isaiah and Malachi.  Approximate 740 years prior to the first century, Isaiah prophesied that “A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God’” (Whitcomb n.p.; Is. 40:3).  When one reads “a voice” they may think that this is a bit general and not specific in identifying precisely who that particular voice was that was yet to come.  Isaiah’s prophecy is specific in that it identifies a singular voice, but not exactly who it would be.    Consider another prophetic line of evidence.

                Malachi who prophesied approximately 300 years after Isaiah prophesied “Behold, I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me” (Whitcomb n.p.; Mal 3:1).  Also, Malachi prophesied “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes” (Mal. 4:5).  Prior to the first century we know that a singular voice is coming and that it will be like Elijah.

               When the first century comes, John the Baptist is identified as the precise fulfillment of these prophecies.  Luke records that John the Baptist was like unto Elijah in that he was going before Christ “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17).  Jesus likens John to Elijah (Matt. 11:13-14).  John himself, when pressured by the Jews, admits he was not “the prophet,” referring to Jesus (John 1:19, 21).  Rather, he was the voice of the one crying in the wilderness concerning the Christ who was to come (John 1:19-23).  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all affirm that John the Baptist was the one who fulfilled what Isaiah spoke of so many years before (Matt. 3:3, Mark 1:1-3, Luke 3:4, John 1:23).  

                 How does this prove that the Bible is from God?  Historically, the record of the witnesses comes down to us intact.  They were not selectively rewriting history.  In person John’s life singularly fulfilled what Isaiah and Malachi spoke of hundreds of year prior.  The trustworthy Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Jesus all confirm what God had revealed.  Indeed no man could know these things unless he was from God.  

Whitcomb, John. Chart of Old Testament Patriarchs and Judges. Chicago: Moody Press, 1968.

Couldn’t Anyone Write a Religious Work, Claim it is from God, Gather a Following and Begin a Religion?

Sometimes people wonder - couldn’t just any person write a religiously persuasive work, claim it’s from God, gather a following and begin a religion?  Absolutely!  Religious history is full of just such events.  That is why it is so important that we test human spirits to see whether the information they are giving us is from God or not (1 John 4:1).  Many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1).  We should be willing to “test everything; hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21).   Religious teachers can be persuasive and emotionally moving yet be deceptive, failing to tell people the whole truth. 

So how do we tell a false prophet from a true prophet?   We must compare the words of a teacher with the word of God.  If the teaching does not align, we must move onward always putting our faith in the words of God rather than men.  Such comparisons are essential to be pleasing to God and not locking step with false teachers.

It is also important for all people to give the Bible a fair hearing and not dismiss it outright before hearing the evidence.   We should not dismiss it prejudicially or based upon some preconceived bias.  It was the late Simon Greenleaf, Dane Professor of Law, Harvard University, who wrote:  “In examining the evidences for the Christian religion, it is essential to the discovery of truth that we bring to the investigation a mind freed, as far as possible, from existing prejudice, and open to conviction.  There should be a readiness, on our part, to investigate with candor, to follow the truth wherever it may lead us, and to submit, without reserve or objection, to all the teachings of this religion, if it be found to be of divine origin" (11).  Greenleaf’s words would certainly apply toward a fair hearing of the Bible.

Let me be clear on what is being claimed about the Bible.  The claim being made is not that the Bible is merely a historical word, although it is historically accurate.  The claim is not merely that the Bible is unique, although among books there is none like it.  The claim is not merely that the Bible is supported by the genius of humanity in archeology, geography, higher and lower criticism or science.  The claim is not merely that the Bible is a book of fascinating literary genius containing poetry, history, science, mathematics, sociology, psychology, anthropology, law, philosophy and, of course, theology.  The claim is not merely that the Bible is factually accurate, logically coherent or that its truths correspond to real events in history.  The claim being made reaches up to a level far beyond these, a level that puts the Bible in a category all its own.  The monumental claim being made is that the Bible is Divine

In Acts 5 the apostles are doing good works, performing miracles and preaching Jesus.  Upon hearing this the Jews are outraged and want to kill them (Acts 5:33).  Gamaliel, also a Jew, stops the angry mob and draws their attention to two examples of religious leaders who gathered a following, Theudas and Judas the Galilean.  Theudus rose up, gathered 400 men after him, and died.  His word failed and “all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing” (Acts 5:36).  Similarly, Judas the Galilean gathered a religious following, died, and all his followers were scattered (Acts 5:37).  His word too failed.  Why did so many abandon the words of Theudas and Judas the Galilean?  Their words proved unreliable, untrustworthy and false.  It contrast to what was disbelieved, Gamaliel urges the Jews not to dismiss the Divine in the case of the Apostles.  He states “So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” (Acts 5:38-39).  Surely not every religious teaching is valid, but let us be open and honest enough to examine the evidence, dismiss what is false and clutch with fervor the pure truth of God.  

 

Reference:

Greenleaf, Simon. The Testimony of the Evangelists: The Gospels Examined by the Rules of Evidence. Grand Rapids: Kregel Classics, 1995, 11.