Why Believe the Bible?
The Future 101
So tonight’s gonna’ be kind of different. So far at Sunday Nights, we’ve covered parenting, racial reconciliation, how to choose a church, and how to know you’re a Christian–some very pastoral subjects, where we’ve tried to be shepherds and help you with some practical life stuff.
Well tonight is quite different from that, because we’re not looking at how to live life. We are instead asking what does the future hold? How does the world end? And to that end, I want to try something I’ve never done before. Ask Siri, “When will the world end?” Or, “How will the world end?”
Do you agree that at some point or another, the future is on everyone’s mind? Most people wonder what the world will be like in the future. Most people guess how they think the world might end. Over the centuries, people have tried to predict what the end of the world might look like.
Just 18 years ago, we went through the Y2K scare, when people were concerned that every single computer was going to shut down. Time Magazine called it “The End of the World.” People really thought this might be it!
In 1994, Harold Camping predicted the rapture would occur on September 6th. When it failed to happen, he revised the date to September 29th and then again to October 2nd. In all of the hoopla, thousands of people donated millions of dollars to Camping’s prophecy ministry. The one result that was guaranteed is that Camping got rich.
A few years later, Camping offered another prediction that the rapture would occur along with devastating earthquakes on May 21st, 2011. He said that God was going to take 3% of the world’s population to Heaven, and the world would end five months later on October 21st. When the May 21st date came and went without event, he reinterpreted his prophecy so that God’s judgment could be understood to have been a “spiritual judgment”—which, simply stated, means it was invisible.
Now of course Harold Camping is not the only one with end time predictions. I want to start tonight by giving you a brief summary of some of the religious teachings on the future. This is just a scattering of religious views that you may have run into.
The cult of Scientology claims that death is endlessly repeatable through reincarnation. That means that death is inconsequential in Scientology, because a person simply comes back again to live another life.
- Christian Science
In Christian Science (which, by the way, is neither Christian nor scientific), Mary Baker Eddy taught that sinners make their own hell by doing evil things, and saints make their own heaven by doing good things. Heaven and Hell are not places, but they are states of mind. Heaven is an atmosphere of the soul–the reign of divine science in the mind. And therefore a person can experience heaven now on earth and later after death.
The classic Hindu view is of gradually deteriorating conditions on Earth until finally the world is destroyed by fire and it returns to chaos. The world itself goes through cycles of evolution from chaos to order and back to chaos. Hinduism says we are currently in the middle of the last and worst age called Kaliyuga. That means moral decline, suffering, famines, and wars are no surprise because life is devolving back into chaos. Hindus believe that the soul journeys through multiplicities of heavens and hells and eventually arrives in paradise.
Buddhism teaches that people are reborn (or reincarnated) over and over until greed, hatred, and delusion are gone. As this soulless rebirth takes place, people progress through various realms; they go through the hells, the animal world, the hungry ghosts, the humans, the gods, and the demi-gods. And the ultimate goal is to reach Nirvana.
- Mormonism (Church of Latter-day Saints)
In the 1820s, the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, taught that when the Jewish Messiah comes, Mormons will gather in Missouri (here in the US) where they’ll be protected by God as He judges the rest of the world. Eventually everyone is resurrected and they are split into three groups—1) carnal people go to the telestial heaven, 2) Christians who didn’t convert to Mormonism go to the terrestrial heaven, and 3) good Mormons go to the celestial heaven, where they slowly become a god and populate planets of their own.
Islam teaches that people will be resurrected from death for the Day of Judgment on a Friday, the tenth day of the month of Muharram. On that day, all people are judged by Allah according to their good deeds, measured by the degree to which they followed Shari’a Law. In Islam, the afterlife is a place of rivers, carpets, cushions, fruit, and pure maidens. Hell is a place of great torment from fire, boiling water, scalding skin, and the forced eating of bad fruit.
- Roman Catholic
Roman Catholics believe in Purgatory. They teach that, just like you can earn favor with God on earth by doing good works, you can also earn for yourself a shorter period in Hell by paying off your own debt of sin in Purgatory. When you die, you go to Purgatory for a while, pay off your debt (and maybe even the debts of others), and then you are released to go to Heaven.
There are a lot of religious end-time views to choose from! Many more than just the seven I’ve mentioned. Every proponent of each religion believes they are correct. Each of these religions urge wholehearted devotion. Compromise is not tolerated and millions of people have made their choices. Billions of people have aligned themselves with one of these views, and by doing so, they have determined their own spiritual destiny.
But here’s the thing–they can’t all be right, right? These views are so divergent that they cannot be harmonized. You can’t have a foot in each camp to cover your bases. You can’t survey the options and simply choose the one that you’re most comfortable with cause it feels the best. The stakes are too high! The last thing you want to do is trust your feelings. Oh, and by the way, there are numerous secular ideas about the future too.
- Nuclear Holocaust
Some people have been concerned that the world will end by nuclear holocaust, where the super nations mount a coordinated attack against each other, simultaneously wiping out millions.
- Interstellar Catastrophe
Or it could happen in the stars. Scientists tell us that in about 300,000 years, WR104 (that’s a triple star) will explode in a Supernova, creating a gamma-ray burst that will take us out. Also, scientists tell us that if an asteroid about one mile wide hit Earth, it would render the entire human race extinct.
- Global Warming
And just a month ago, U.N. scientists released a report that said that if climate change is not brought under control within the next ten years, and if global warming continues at its current rate, then the earth will sustain irreversible damage and that will lead to the unsustainability of life as we know it. A lot of people are concerned about global warming.
- 80’s Movie Theories
Or if you choose not to accept any of those theories, there’s always the theory that machines will take over and destroy us.
Now with all these theories out there, what are we going to believe? Who should we believe? Should we trust Mary Baker Eddy? Harold Camping? The pope? Scientists? Arnold Schwarzenegger? Or are we going to believe what the God of the Bible says about the future?
I think I know what our answer is going to be. Our answer is that we choose to believe the Word of God. We believe that the Bible trumps everything. If there’s a contradiction between views, we’re going to side with Scripture. If there’s an argument between views, we’re going to let the Bible decide. But why? Here’s the question I want to ask tonight–why do we side with the Bible? Why are we so quick to bow to Scripture? I think we need to be able to answer that question. I think we owe people a reason as to why we trust the Bible over all of these other theories.
And frankly, when we call people to faith, we are asking them to turn away from all these other teachings and turn to the biblical view of history (past, present, and future). We’re calling them to change their whole worldview. So we better be able to give them a reason to do that.
So let me ask you–Why do we believe Bible prophecy? Why have we put our trust in what the Bible says about the future? And by the way, if you’re wondering what the Bible says about the future–let me give you a little summary version here. You can see it in the diagram I gave you.
The next big event will be the Rapture of the Church into the sky to meet Christ. And while the Church is in Heaven experiencing the Bema Seat and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, there will be seven years of Tribulation, or judgment, on Earth. At the conclusion of the Tribulation, Christ comes to Earth with his Bride and He conquers Satan’s armies and sets up His kingdom on Earth for 1,000 years.
After that, God judges all people of all time, sending the majority of them to eternal Hell with Satan and his demons, and taking His true worshippers with Him to live on the New Earth for eternity. That’s what the Bible teaches about the future (and we’ll look at that in more detail next week–but why do we believe it?
I want to suggest to you that the reason we believe that future Bible prophecy will come true is because we have already seen past Bible prophecy come true. We’ve already seen God keep His Word in the past. That means we can trust Him to keep His Word in the future.
Now unlike all of the religions I mentioned with all of their teachings, the Bible is the only historic document that contains hundreds of prophecies, which have all already come true. They are proven in history. They are historical facts. There is not one Bible prophecy that should have already been fulfilled, that has not been fulfilled. The Bible has been proven true over and over and over again regarding past prophecies, and so that means there’s no reason to doubt it concerning future prophecies.
And so what I want to do with our time tonight is to give you manifold reason to trust the Bible when it comes to prophecy. I want to show you how God has provided overwhelming evidence of fulfilled prophecy in the past, so that you can have complete confidence as we discuss prophecy that is still to be fulfilled in the future.
And to do this, I need you to turn please to Matthew 21. Take your Bible and turn to Matthew’s gospel, chapter 21. This is the account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It is just one week before He will be crucified, and this is what happened.
“When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, ‘Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, “The Lord has need of them,” and immediately he will send them.’
4 [Then Matthew adds this footnote] This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet [Zechariah 9:9]: 5 ‘Say to the daughter of Zion, “Behold your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”’
6 The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, 7 and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. 8 Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. 9 The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!’
10 When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, ‘Who is this?’ 11 And the crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.’”
This is an amazing scene. Have you ever wondered why the crowds seemed so responsive to Jesus at this time? They were so quick to receive Him into the city as a King. They welcomed Him into Jerusalem with praises, even reciting from Psalm 118:25 to 26 the very words that were reserved for the coming Messiah. They really believed He was the promised King of Israel. But here’s the question–how is it that they were so receptive to Him right now at this time? So eager to shout, and sing, and worship this man, and call Him King?
The answer is this–they were expecting Him. They had been counting down to His appearance. They fully believed that this was the time when their Messiah would come to save them. They had a heart of expectation and excitement. How did they know this was the time? How were they so confident that the timing was right? The scene was set, the circumstances lined up, history was ripe. How did they know that this was the time?
The answer to that question is this–483 years earlier, the Persian king, Artaxerxes, made a decree that the Israelites (who had been in captivity in Babylon) should return to Jerusalem and rebuild their city. And you say, “So what? So a Persian king makes a public statement about sending Israel back to rebuild Jerusalem 483 years before Jesus rides into Jerusalem as a King. So what?”
So here’s the answer. This is why the timing of these two events is so important. I want you to turn to Daniel 9 to see it. The passage is Daniel 9:24 to 26. It’s in your notes too. You’ll need to strap on your boots, cause we’re going deep. Are you ready?
Let me give you some background to Daniel. In this passage, the angel Gabriel is giving Daniel a prophecy about the future of Israel. Now remember, this was still about 500 years before Christ. Daniel was in Babylon while the Israelites were in captivity there. In his ministry, he said much about the future, especially concerning the reestablishment of Israel back into the Holy Land and the years that would follow after that.
Now you’ll remember that the reason why Israel went into captivity was because they had turned their backs on the one true God and had gone after false idols. They failed to keep God’s Law. And among other things, they failed to keep the Sabbath rests. They hadn’t let the land rest every seven years as God had commanded. That’s why God allowed them to be captured by the Babylonians and carried away to Babylon, as a punishment for their sin.
And now Daniel is in captivity, and Gabriel is prophesying to Daniel about their looming return to their land–and this is what Gabriel says in verse 24. “Seventy weeks [sevens] have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place.”
Let me stop there and try to help you with this. First of all, we need to understand that the word translated “weeks” is actually a Hebrew word that simply means seven. The words are up here on the screen, and you can even see that the two words (read right to left) are similar to each other. Sha-bu-im, the word for sevens, and shib-im for seventy.
Sha-bu-im comes from the root word shab-ua, which means a period of seven. It can refer to seven days, i.e., one week. But it can also refer to a period of seven years. So we have to decide which it is. We need to discover how Daniel is using this word here in this particular passage.
And as it turns out it actually isn’t that hard, because if you go back a few verses to verse 2, we discover that Daniel was already thinking in terms of years–that was the context. Seventy years, in fact. Look at this–he says in chapter 9, verse 2,”In the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years [not weeks] which was revealed as the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.”
In other words, Daniel was reading the prophet, Jeremiah, and he noticed there that the Jewish nation would be in exile in Babylon for seventy years, just as Jeremiah predicted it–and then they would be restored to their land. So Daniel then has told us that he is already thinking in terms of years. The nation of Israel would be carried away to Babylon for seventy years, and that sets the scene for us. It gives us the context.
Now you might ask, “Why is it that God would take the nation away into Babylon for seventy years, and then restore them to the land? Why not sixty years or eighty years? Why is it seventy years?” Here is the answer–this captivity in Babylon is all about giving the Holy Land its proper Sabbath rest. Let me explain.
The Jews historically understood the seven-year system. Every seven years, the land was supposed to be rested (Leviticus 25:3 to 4). God told them that they were to work the land for six years and rest it on the seventh year. In addition to that, after seven periods of seven years (49 years), came the Jubilee year, where the land was rested, all estates where returned to original owners, all debts where forgiven, all slaves were freed. That was God’s command to His people.
And that’s why God took Israel away from their land for seventy years–because they had constantly violated the seventh-year Sabbath. They became greedy and worked the land for profit, and thereby they failed to trust God. So God removed them from the land, because He wanted to give that land its proper Sabbath rest (2 Chronicles 36:21). They went into captivity for seventy years because they had violated seventy Sabbaths.
Now with that in mind then, when you get to verse 24, we can assume that Daniel and Gabriel are continuing in the same vein, thinking about periods of years and not weeks. And what he says now in verse 24 is that, “Even after being restored to the land (they’ve been away for seventy years, and now they’re back), there will be another ‘seventy sevens’ [that’s seventy times seven years, or 490 years] for transgressions to be finished, and sin to end, and for iniquity to be atoned, and for everlasting righteousness to be brought in.”
This is what’s interesting–it would have taken 490 years to violate seventy Sabbaths. Therefore, in the same way, 490 more years would be determined upon their history, i.e., Daniel’s “seventy sevens.”
So read verse 24 with me again, “Seventy weeks [sevens–that’s 490 years] have been decreed for your people [that’s Israel] and your holy city [that’s Jerusalem], to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place [the temple of God].
In other words, that holy place in Jerusalem—the Temple where God dwelt would not be fully ready for use again until another 490 years had passed. And in the meantime, Israel would exist without a fully functioning, anointed Temple with God in residence. And they will wait 490 years for sin to end, and eternal righteousness to begin.
Now they did of course rebuild the Temple in Herod’s days, but it was not the Temple that God envisioned with the King present, sitting on the throne and ruling with righteousness. That ultimate Temple was going to take 490 years to come about. And let me tell you, the Jews were counting down those years. They were counting down to the day when God, the Messiah King, would take His place in Jerusalem.
That’s why they were so eager to welcome Jesus into Jerusalem as a King, because the day that they had been waiting for was upon them. But the problem is that something was going to change these plans. Something was going to interrupt the flow of history and Daniel’s seventy sevens were not going to run sequentially as they expected.
Instead of Israel accepting their King fully and ushering in everlasting righteousness, they murdered Him on a cross. And this murder was prophesied. I want you to see it. Look at verse 25, where Gabriel says to Daniel, “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.” That’s the decree that King Artaxerxes made to let the Israelites go back to rebuild their city.
Read again, “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince.” The time from that decree to the time when the Messiah comes is going to be . . . here it comes . . . It’s going to be “seven weeks [sevens] and sixty-two weeks [sevens]; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.”
So let’s break this down. From the time of that decree, there would be seven sevens and sixty-two sevens–that’s a total of sixty-nine sevens. That’s equal to 483 years from the decree made by Artaxerxes ordering Israel back to their land, till the coming of “Messiah the Prince.” And so now Israel knows exactly when the Messiah is going to come–it’s going to be 483 years.
Now there is a lot of conjecture on how long is a year at this time in history. Is it 365 days, like today? Or is it 360 days, as Noah measured it. In the book of Revelation, a year is measured in terms of 360 days. Whatever it is, what we know is this–it was going to be 483 years from Artaxerxes’ announcement until the Messiah. And what we also know is that even if we aren’t sure how long those years are, or exactly when Artaxerxes made that decree (it was in either 444 or 445 B.C.).
The Jews of Jesus’ day did know what it was, and that’s why they were so excitedly awaiting their Messiah. They knew without a doubt that the day was near. And in exact precision, Jesus Christ fulfilled the prophecy about Him 500 years after it was made. It’s incredible–God’s Word was perfectly accomplished. This is why we trust biblical prophecy about the future. It’s because past biblical prophecy has already proven to be true.
But it doesn’t stop there, because look at verse 26. “Then after the sixty-two weeks [sevens] the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing.” Literally, having waited 483 years, the Messiah comes to Israel, offers Himself as their King, and they cut Him off. They kill Him. They destroy Him. They execute Him as a criminal. They crucify Him, just as Daniel prophesied.
And verse 26 continues, “And the people of the prince who is to come [that’s the Romans] will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.” And that is exactly what happened when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The Messiah came just when He was supposed to. He was crucified just when He was supposed to be. And Jerusalem was destroyed just when it was supposed to be.
This is simply astonishing! Daniel’s prophecy, which was written down twenty years before Artaxerxes, and 500 years before Jesus came, was fulfilled to the letter. Nothing was left wanting. This is why the Jews were so eager to receive Jesus into the city as their Messiah King. It’s because Daniel’s prophecy was being fulfilled before their very eyes, and they knew it. They knew it without a doubt. And that’s why we know without a doubt that biblical prophecy can be trusted. It’s been proven true in the past. It’s going to be proven true again in the future.
Now listen, that was Daniel 9. It’s quite a complicated example. But I have some easier ones for you. I’ve listed these at the bottom of your page there–listen to these.
1) Fourteen hundred years before Christ, Moses said in Genesis 49:10 that “when the Messiah comes, He will come from the tribe of Judah.” Guess what tribe Jesus came from? (Luke 3:23 to 33).
2) Seven hundred years before Christ, Isaiah said in Isaiah 9:6 that a child would be born, and that child would be called “the Mighty God.” Jesus came as a baby. He grew. He claimed to be God. And He proved Himself to be Mighty God by doing impossible things–miracles. Amazing signs that showed He was indeed God on Earth, just as Isaiah said (Matthew 1:23).
3) Isaiah also said in Isaiah 9:7 that the Messiah would be a King in the line of David. And guess what–when you get to the genealogies in both Matthew and Luke, Jesus is shown to have descended directly from the kingly line of David. Jesus was a King, just as it was prophesied 700 years before (Matthew 1:1).
4) The prophet Micah lived in 700 BC and he said in Micah 5:2 that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Guess where Jesus was born? (Matthew 2:1).
5) Malachi lived 400 years before Christ. He said in Malachi 3:6 that a forerunner, who would prepare the way, would precede the Messiah. That’s exactly what happened, because John the Baptist came right before Jesus and preached a message of repentance. And he identified Jesus as the Messiah and told people to follow Him (Mark 1:2 to 8).
6) Isaiah 7:14 said Messiah would be born of a virgin. And you know what happened 700 years later? Jesus’ mother, Mary, became pregnant as a virgin! (Matthew 1:18).
7) In Hosea 11:1, Hosea said 750 years ahead of time that the Messiah would come out of Egypt. And you know the story–soon after Jesus was born, His parents took Him away to Egypt for His safety. And when it was safe, they returned again (Matthew 2:14 to 15).
8) Isaiah 53:3 said the Messiah would be “despised, rejected, acquainted with grief, and not esteemed.” That’s exactly how the Jews treated Jesus 700 years later (John 1:11).
9) Zechariah 9:9 said Israel’s Messiah King would enter into Jerusalem on a donkey. How did Jesus enter Jerusalem? Yea– on a donkey! And the crowds welcomed Him as their King (John 12:13 to 14).
10) Psalm 41:9 said that the Messiah would be betrayed by a friend, who would eat of the Messiah’s bread. Well, Judas Iscariot ate the bread from Jesus’ own hand and then went out and betrayed Him into His murderers’ hands–just as it was prophesied (Mark 14:10).
11) Five hundred years before it was fulfilled, Zechariah 11:12 said that the betrayal price would be thirty pieces of silver. That’s exactly the price the religious leaders paid Judas to betray Jesus (Matthew 26:15).
12) And Zechariah also said in 11:13, that the money would be used to purchase a potter’s field. Well, when the Jewish leaders paid Judas, he threw the thirty pieces of silver back at them, and they took that money and bought a potter’s field in order to bury strangers (Matthew 27:5 to 7).
13) Isaiah 53:7 said the Messiah would stay silent when falsely accused. And when they brought charges against Jesus, He did not defend Himself or plead His case. He was silent (Mark 14:60 to 61).
14) Isaiah 53:5 said the Messiah would be wounded, bruised, chastised, and striped. And just hours before His crucifixion, they took Jesus out and scourged Him, almost to death (Matthew 27:26).
15) Isaiah 53:12 said the Messiah would die with wicked men–numbered with transgressors. Jesus died between two thieves (Matthew 27:38). This was all described in detail 700 years before it took place.
16) One thousand years before Christ, David prophesied in Psalm 22:16 that the Messiah’s hands and feet would be pierced. In His crucifixion, that’s exactly what happened. They took Jesus’ hands and feet and nailed them to the cross of wood (John 20:27).
17) David also predicted, in Psalm 69:21, that they would give Messiah vinegar to drink. And as Jesus hung on the cross, they lifted up a sponge with vinegar for Him to drink (John 19:29).
18) In 500 B.C., Zechariah 12:10 said the Messiah’s side would be pierced. When they were checking to see if Jesus was dead, the soldier thrust a spear into His side and pierced Him (John 19:34).
19) Psalm 22:18 said His garments would be divided up and dispersed according to lots. After Jesus died, the soldiers collected His garments, cast lots, and decided who would get what (Mark 15:24).
20) Psalm 34:20 said none of the Messiah’s bones would be broken. And just as it was promised 1,000 years earlier, none of Jesus’ bones were broken (John 19:33).
21) Isaiah 53:9 said that He would die with the rich. Well, 700 years later, just as prophesied, Joseph of Arimathaea pled for Jesus’ body. Pilate gave it to him, and Joseph, a rich man, arranged for Jesus to be laid in his own new tomb (Matthew 27:57 to 60).
22) Psalm 16:10 said the Messiah’s soul would not be left in Hell and His body would not see corruption. And just as David promised, 1,000 years later Jesus was resurrected from the dead on the third day, came back to life, and was seen walking and talking, and eating, and drinking, and cooking, and traveling, and doing even more miracles. A lot of people confirmed this. His disciples who were willing to die for this Jesus whom they were convinced was the Messiah promised of old–this one who died and came back from the dead. And over 500 witnesses saw the resurrected Christ over the next forty days and confirmed the very same thing (Luke 24:4 to 6; 1 Corinthians 15:6).
23) David also said in Psalm 68:18 that the Messiah would ascend into the sky. And you know how Jesus retuned to Heaven? He was transported up through the clouds, witnessed by His disciples who reported the events for years to follow (Acts 1:9).
This is amazing! I just listed for you twenty-four Old Testament passages that were prophetic in nature. Now when you look at these and others (there are many others), it’s possible to single out the specifics of these prophecies and list over 300 variables. And they were all perfectly fulfilled with specificity in every single detail. There are zero prophecies concerning Christ that have failed to come true. Over 300 specific prophecies were realized with observable, flawless precision and undeniable confirmation.
Do you know how remarkable that is? It’s an incredible thing. It’s an impossible thing. Let me give you some numbers. The odds of dying in a car accident in the US are 1 in 77. The odds of being born with an extra finger or toe are 1 in 1,000. The odds of being struck by lightning are 1 in 3,000. The odds of being killed by fireworks are 1 in 340,000. The odds of being murdered at the Grand Canyon are 1 in 8 million. The odds of becoming an American president are 1 in 200 million. And the odds of winning the recent jumbo lotto–1 in 300 million.
Forget about it! Listen, if you’re not planning to become president, and not planning to be murdered at the Grand Canyon, you might as well give up buying lotto tickets. It’s not worth it. It’s not gonna happen. Forget about it!
Now just by way of comparison, when it comes to the odds of some random person fulfilling all the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah–we’re talking about the calculations of probability. And mathematicians have put a lot of effort into figuring this out. In fact, one mathematician named Peter Stoner took just eight of the prophecies I’ve already mentioned and this is what he discovered. And by the way, he calculated these numbers in a very conservative fashion.
This is what he said. First he asked, how many men have been born in Bethlehem? He took the average population of Bethlehem from the time of Micah to the time he did his calculations in 1958 and said that was 7,150. Then he divided that number by the average population of the earth during the same period (2 billion). And he got a probability of 1 in every 280,000 men would potentially be born in Bethlehem.
Add to that, how many men in the history of the world have ever had a forerunner to prepare his way? For this, Stoner made a guess–and he said maybe 1 in 1,000 men have had someone act as a forerunner to their lifetime. I think that’s a very conservative number.
Then, how many Jewish rulers have entered into Jerusalem on a donkey? He estimated that 1 in every 100 Jewish authorities have ridden a mule into that city. Then he asked, how many men, the world over, have been betrayed by a friend, resulting in wounds in his hands? He estimated 1 in 1,000. Again, I think that’s conservative.
Then, how many men have been betrayed for exactly thirty pieces of silver? His estimate is 1 in 1,000. Then, how many men, after receiving a bribe for the betrayal of a friend, have returned the money, had it refused, and then experienced it being used to buy a potter’s field? He guessed around 1 in 100,000.
Then, how many persecuted individuals, when oppressed and afflicted though innocent, would make no defense of themselves? Stoner estimated about 1 in 1,000 men might go to their undeserved execution without complaint or self-defense. Then lastly, how many men since the time of David have been crucified? Peter Stoner counted the population of the world during those years and estimated that 1 in 10,000 men have been nailed to a cross during that time.
Now when you take all eight odds and multiply these probabilities together, it produces a number (rounded off) to 10 to the 1028th power–that’s a 10 with 28 zeros behind it. But then what you have to do with that number is divide it by the number of people who have lived since the time these prophecies were made (that’s around 88 billion), and that produces a probability of all eight prophecies being fulfilled accidently in the life of one person. That probability is 10 to the 1017th power–that’s one chance in one hundred quadrillion!
But now remember–that’s only taking eight of the Old Testament prophecies into consideration. If you were to consider 48 Old Testament prophecies, that probability of one person fulfilling 48 prophecies is 10 to the 10,157th power! But now remember, 48 prophecies is still just scratching the surface, because there are actually over 300 Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah that have already been fulfilled.
The odds of that happening are something unimaginable. Only God could do this. Only Jesus could be the One. Only Bible prophecy does anything like this when it comes to providing overwhelming evidence as to the certainty and veracity of Scripture. This is why we trust the Bible. This is why we totally believe without any doubt.
God has proven Himself to be trustworthy. He kept His Word in the past, and He is going to do it again in the future. This is why we reject Harold Camping, Scientology, Christian Science, Hinduism, Buddhism, Mormonism, Islam, nuclear holocaust, interstellar catastrophe, global warming, and other Hollywood fantasies–because none of them have anything close to this amount of proven evidence.
In fact, many of them have failed, prophecy after failed prophecy, which relegates them to the trash heap of lies and deceit. There is nothing so certain in the universe than the Word of the Living God. That’s why we believe in Bible prophecy. Next week, I’m going to show you what that Bible prophecy is. I’ll show you what’s coming next. I’m going to take you on a tour through all the major prophecy passages in chronological order, so you can be fully aware of what God’s future plans are for this world and for you. Come back and see what’s to come. Let’s pray.