How could you know if a message was from God or not? How about if that message was itself miraculous? How about if that message contained accurate predictions about the future? In fact, this is exactly the test the Bible provides for judging whether a messenger is from God:
- When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously (Deut 18:22).
- As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet (Jer 28:9).
Obviously not all predictions are going to be as convincing as others. There seem to be three criteria:
- That the prediction is made before the event it predicts (otherwise it’s not a prediction).
- That the predicted event can be verified with reasonable certainty (otherwise how would you know if the prediction was successful?).
- That the predicted event is sufficiently unlikely, to make the prediction significant.
Old Testament prophecies about Jesus
The Bible contains numerous prophecies. Some are short-term prophecies so aren’t easy to verify historically, but there are plenty of long-term prophecies. Here we’ll just look at one group of prophecies to make the point. These are the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus, which accurately predict many of the events of Jesus’ life. These include:
- being a descendant of King David (2 Sam 7:12-13)
- being born in Bethlehem (Mic 5:2)
- being betrayed by a friend (Ps 41:9)
- being valued at thirty pieces of silver (Zech 11:13)
- having no bones broken in his execution (Ex 12:46)
- having hands and feet pierced (Ps 22:16; Zech 12:10)
- having his clothing divided by lot (Ps 22:18)
- being buried in the grave of a rich man (Isa 53:9)
- being raised from the dead (Ps 16:9-11)
These predictions all converge on the person of Jesus.
In Daniel 9:24-27 a prophecy is made about set period of time in the history of the Jewish people. It is described in terms of weeks but all scholars agree that these weeks are periods of seven years. The interpretation of the prophecy can be technical because of some unusual Hebrew words and the fact that Daniel was using 360-day years. But in essence what the prophecy says is that from the command to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem to the coming of the Messiah would be 69 “weeks”. If you do the maths, the time between the Persian command that the wall of Jerusalem should be rebuilt to the time of Jesus is exactly the period specified by Daniel 9. Even if you wanted to quibble about the exact year of the command or the exact year of Jesus’ ministry, the timing is still so accurate that it cannot be ignored.