UP

Predictive Prophecy and Timed Prophecies

by Ronald W. Leigh, Ph.D.
Image of Bible and cross
February 6, 2014
Copyright © 2004 Ronald W. Leigh
Bible quotations are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.
——————————— Contents ———————————
A. Predictive prophecy and its source
B. The apologetic value of genuine predictive prophecy
C. The six tests of predictive prophecy
D. When a fulfillment validates a prophet
E. Survey of several timed prophecies
F. Liberal reaction to Daniel's prophecy of 70 weeks
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A.  Predictive prophecy and its source

In the Bible, a prophecy is essentially a word from God, that is, a statement made by a human being containing information received directly from God.

I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. (Deuteronomy 18:18)

The statement may be a command.  The statement may be an explanation of past or present events that could also be verified by normal observation.  Or, the statement may be a prediction of future events, foreknown by God alone.

Thus, all prophecy is proclamation, and some of it is prediction.  This distinction between proclamation and prediction is sometimes referred to as "forthtelling" versus "foretelling."  In reality, biblical prophecies often include statements about both the past and the future.  Yet, what makes a biblical statement a genuine prophecy has nothing to do with its time reference (past or future), but has everything to do with the source of the information.  The source of a genuine prophecy is God.

The principal concern of this paper is predictive prophecies, so hereafter we will use the term "prophecy" in its predictive sense.  Thus, for our present purposes we will adopt these two simple working definitions:

  1. Prophecy is the announcement of events before they occur
  2. Genuine prophecy is prophecy which comes from God.

The various tests, which help verify that a prophecy's source is God, are discussed in section "C" below.

B.  The apologetic value of genuine predictive prophecy

Genuine predictive prophecy is of great apologetic value.  The simple fact is: man by himself does not know the future, but God does.  When a human being demonstrates a certain knowledge of the future, the most direct implication is that that knowledge came from God, which, in turn, has obvious implications both for God's existence and for his foreknowledge.  Indeed, predictive prophecy is a window on the supernatural.  When a predictive prophecy comes true, it is essentially a supernatural phenomenon made visible – supernatural because God alone knows the future; visible because the prophecies describe real earthly events which in time become observable.  It is one of God's great gifts to mankind.

But not everyone accepts such a simple explanation.  Individuals who do not want to believe the Bible can be very creative in spinning alternate explanations for observable supernatural phenomenon, but their speculations provide no assurance of the truth of their system.  Many reject the Bible because they cannot accept the prophecies (or anything else supernatural).  These are the complete materialists who deny both God's existence and the existence of any spirits, including human spirits.  Because of this naturalistic assumption, they are limited to just two options.  First, they must also deny the existence of genuine prophecy.  Or, second, they must come up with a different explanation for such examples of human knowledge of the future.  When they take the latter alternative, they will describe man as having more powers than he actually has, inventing such fuzzy terms as "prescience" or "mystical knowledge."  Others, who do not believe in God, may believe in various spirits.  They may believe in human spirits who have an earthbound existence after a person's death (ghosts).  Or they may believe in non-human spirits, perhaps with powers similar to human beings, or perhaps with greater powers, some benevolent, some malevolent.

Each of these various approaches follows an oft-repeated pattern: deny the straightforward teachings of scripture and replace them with your own speculations which are based on far less evidence (or perhaps no evidence).

Then there are the theological liberals, who deny that God exists as a personal being, and their nephews, the neo-orthodox, who deny that God has revealed himself in the statements of the Bible.  While the former deny that there is a God, the latter affirm God's existence but claim that he is so distant and different than us that we cannot know anything for sure about God.  Yet, both still talk about "God" and preach faith – a faith very different from that of the apostles!  Their discussions may sound very spiritual since they are filled with spiritual language, but the meanings of their terms are often very different from the traditional, conservative meanings.  In the final analysis, they are limited to the same two options that are available to the complete materialist, as described above.

Then there are some who accept the trustworthiness of the Bible, and also have faith in God and in Jesus Christ, but they hold that God does not have foreknowledge, at least, he does not know the future decisions and actions of free agents.  This notion is at the heart of the "open theology" movement of recent years, which sees God as a risk taker precisely because he does not know ahead of time what decisions human beings will make.  This view is espoused by such writers as Clark Pinnock, Greg Boyd, and John Sanders.  But the "open theology" position is untenable, especially in light of John 13:19, which we will discuss later.

C.  The six tests of predictive prophecy

There are six tests which we use to distinguish between false prophecies and genuine prophecies.  The first three tests come straight from the Bible.  The remaining tests come from common sense and are based on the three biblical tests.  It must be remembered that this bank of six tests is intended for use in the context of apologetics.

Test 1 – The prophet must be faithful to God

The prophet must speak in the name of the one and only God, must speak only what God tells him to say, and the intent of the prophecy must be to encourage people to follow God alone.  Failure requires the death of the false prophet.

A prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death.  (Deuteronomy 18:20)

If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, "Let us follow other gods" (gods you have not known) "and let us worship them," you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he preached rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery; he has tried to turn you from the way the LORD your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.  (Deuteronomy 13:1-5)

This first test is the heart of the matter, and its significance is pointed out in the New Testament.

There were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. (2 Peter 2:1-3)

Test 2 – The predicted event must take place

You may say to yourselves, "How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?" If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.  (Deuteronomy 18:21-22)

Failure of this second test also requires the death of the false prophet, for he has spoken something God did not command him to say (see Deuteronomy 18:20, quoted above).

The biblical statement of this second test is worded in the negative.  A positive statement of the test would be: "If the prediction comes true, it came from God."  But the biblical statement of the test is essentially this: "If the prediction does not come true, it did not come from God."  This negative statement is very important.  It is possible for a false prophet (who did not get his information from God) to predict an event which later did in fact occur.  Perhaps he merely guessed correctly or merely "read" the signs (a violation of test 3 below).  Perhaps he manipulated the event (a violation of test 5 below).  Perhaps evil spirits manipulated both him and the event.  Deuteronomy 13:1-2, quoted earlier, acknowledges that such predictions can occur, and when it does occur it can become a perfect "setup" for misleading the people if it is believed that successful prediction proves that God was the source. Whatever the explanation of the successful prediction, the point is that when a prediction succeeds, that is not a sure proof that the person is a true prophet of God.  However, when a prediction fails, that is a sure proof that the person is not a true prophet of God.

These first two tests come directly from scripture – from Moses, the mightiest prophet (Deuteronomy 34:10-12).  The second test implies the third test.

Test 3 – The prediction must not be merely the prophet's own interpretation of current circumstances

No prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21)

There should be nothing in the current circumstances (current at the time the prophecy is given) which would lead anyone with natural foresight to "predict" the event.  If the biblical prophecies were no more than predictions of what was likely to occur, their impact would be nullified.  However, biblical prophecies are significant because they predict events that are not inherent in the current trends.  This requires a divine source, or as Peter said, "men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."

Test 4 – The prediction must be specific

The prophecy must be specific enough that the fulfilling event can be identified before the event occurs.  This is one point at which many other types of so-called prophecies fall short.  For example, horoscopes are notoriously vague, allowing any number of possible interpretations.  The identifying details of these events are only discovered after the event, and they are discovered from the event, not from the prophecy.

In the temple of Apollo at Delphi, Greece, a priestess would chew leaves of the laurel tree, enter a trance, and utter gibberish.  These "prophecies" were interpreted and recorded in ambiguous verse by the priests of Apollo.  When Croesus, king of Lydia, inquired of the Delphic oracle regarding going to war with Cyrus, king of Persia, the oracle advised that, if he did, he would destroy a great empire.  But which empire would be destroyed?  As it turned out, it was Croesus' own empire Lydia, not Persia, that was destroyed in 546 BC.

Nostradamus, the French astrologer and physician, first published his so-called prophecies in a book entitled Centuries in 1555.  It contained hundreds of cryptic verses in the form of four-line rhymed verses known as quatrains.  But these quatrains fall short as prophecies for the same reason.  They are so vague that only after a "predicted" event occurs can a person identify the event and describe it in any detail.

It is almost impossible to use Nostradamus to actually predict events. The predictions usually only make sense in hindsight. It is far too easy to predict 'there will be earthquakes, floods, famine'. What distinguishes Nostradamus is the accuracy of his 'hits' when viewed in the rear view mirror. Nostradamus predicts details of the unfolding events [of the French revolution] that are far too close to be coincidence, yet would have made no sense whatsoever when first published. For instance, constant reference to 'a place of tiles' is made (the Tuileries), long before it was constructed. (written in 2003 by J. B. Hare as part of his Introduction to Charles A. Ward's Oracles of Nostradamus, originally published in 1891 by C. Scribner & Welford, New York)

Test 5 – The predicted event must be free of manipulation by the prophet

The fulfilling event should not be able to be influenced directly by the human prophet or the person receiving the prophecy.

Test 6 – The prediction must be recorded and made public prior to the predicted event

The first five tests were adequate for the people who heard the prophecies as they were given and thus had to evaluate the prophet and the prophecy in order to make a personal response to it.  However, for us, who study these prophecies centuries later, there is one more test a prophecy must pass in order to be considered genuine.  It cannot be a statement that is kept hidden until after the occurrence of the predicted event.  For those living at the time of the prophet and hearing the prediction first hand, a written record of the prophecy is unnecessary.  But for us today who attempt to verify prophecies for apologetic purposes, the prediction must be recorded in such a manner that it is clear that the prediction was made before the event.

Additional concerns

Other issues enter the picture with any given prophecy.  (1) We must do everything possible to insure that we have the correct interpretation of the prophecy.  (2) We must make certain that we have adequate knowledge of the event or events which may be its fulfillment.  (3) We must be aware that some predictions are conditional (even if conditions are not explicitly stated) and be able to determine if the conditions have been met.  See the paper "Ancient Israel and the Abrahamic Covenant," especially the section on the question "Is the Abrahamic covenant eternal?".  (4) We must also be careful not to assume that every use of the word "fulfill" in the New Testament means that a prophecy was speaking primarily about the event said to be its fulfillment.  See the paper "'Fulfill,' Matthew 1:22, and Isaiah 7:14," especially the section on "The word 'fulfill' and its usage in the New Testament".

D.  When a fulfillment validates a prophet

Test 2 covers situations in which the predicted event fails to come true.  The failure of the prophecy means the message did not come from God.

However, test 2 does not cover situations in which the predicted event does come true.  It leaves this question unanswered: Does the fulfillment of the prophecy always mean that the message came from God?  This question corresponds to the inverse of the biblical test in the following table, which may be either true or false.

Statement
(true)
Deuteronomy 18:21-22)
  If the predicted event does not take place, then the message did not come from God.
Inverse
(may be true
or false)
  If the predicted event does take place, then the message came from God.
Converse
(may be true
or false)
  If the message did not come from God, then the predicted event does not take place.
Contrapostive
(always true when the
original statement is true)
  If the message came from God, then the predicted event does take place.

As is well known in the field of logic, a true statement will have a true contrapositive, but the statement's inverse and converse may be true or false.  For a more thorough explanation of inverse and converse statements see the section "Improper inference" in chapter 13 of the book Direct Bible Discovery.

Based on Deuteronomy 13:1-5 alone (quoted under Test 1, above), we would have to answer our question in the negative.  This biblical warning cites the possibility that a prophet, whose prediction comes true, might also try to lead his hearers away from God, making him a false prophet subject to the punishment of death.  So, in this case, the fact that the prediction came true does not automatically mean that he is a true prophet.

But there are passages which indicate that, sometimes, the success of a prediction does validate the prophet.  For example, in Isaiah 41 God describes himself as the only true God and challenges the idols and false gods to prove their deity by foretelling future events.

Bring in your idols to tell us what is going to happen. … declare to us the things to come, tell us what the future holds, so we may know that you are gods. (Isaiah 41:22-23, compare 42:9)

Although God's conclusion is that "they are all false" (verses 24, 29), the challenge implies that, if they could foretell the future, they would establish their deity.  In essence, this indicates that, at least in some cases, the success of the prophecy does validate the prophet.

Also consider John 13:10-30, where Jesus predicted that Judas would betray him before his crucifixion, identifying him by giving him a piece of bread.  This prediction has implications for the person of Jesus, as he explained.

I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He. (John 13:19)

Here again, in this case, the success of the prediction is intended to validate the prophet.

So, according to Deuteronomy 13:1-5, successful prediction does not always indicate a true prophet, but according to the passages just quoted, successful prediction can validate a prophet.  This implies that there must be other evidences (in addition to the success of the prediction) which actually determine the validity of a prophet – the very evidences mentioned in test 1.  In other words, what is important is not only what the prophet says about the future event, but also what he says about other things and how he lives.  Only when a prophet gives a successful prediction and is faithful to God, should he be regarded as a true prophet.

Thiessen describes this additional factor is his discussion of the prophet whose prediction has yet to be fulfilled.

By prophecy … we mean the foretelling of events, not by virtue of mere human insight or prescience, but by virtue of a direct communication from God.  But inasmuch as we cannot tell whether an utterance has been thus communicated to a man until the time when it is fulfilled or it becomes evident that it will not be fulfilled, the immediate value of prophecy as a proof of the presence and wisdom of God becomes dependent on the question whether the one who utters it is in living touch with God.  This we can determine only on the basis of his other teaching and godly life.  (Henry C. Thiessen, Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology, Eerdmans, 1949, p. 38)

Moses' warning in Deuteronomy 13:1-5 is still significant for us today.  It is all too easy to assume that, if someone predicts some event correctly (by whatever means), we should pay attention and perhaps even "follow" that person.  But Moses' warning reminds us not to be convinced too quickly.  We need to check that prophet's other teachings as well as his/her life.

E.  Survey of several timed prophecies

There are some prophecies which pass all the above tests except test 2.  That is, the prophecy may be genuine but it has not yet come true.  It may still come true in the future, but we cannot be certain that it will.  Herein lies the significance of timed prophecies.  The prophecies discussed below are not merely statements that a certain event will occur in the future.  They are timed prophecies in the sense that they set either an exact time or a time limit for the predicted event to occur.

1. Genesis 15:13-16 — Time of the return of Abraham's descendants from Egypt

The Bible records God's covenant with Abraham on several occasions (Genesis 12:1-7;  13:14-17;  15:1-21;  17:1 - 18:19;  22:15-18).  One of the aspects of the covenant, mentioned in each of these passages, was that Abraham's descendants would possess the land of Canaan.  However, that possession would not begin immediately after the establishment of the covenant.

Abraham left Haran for Canaan when he was 75 (Genesis 12:4), and Isaac was born when he was 100 (Genesis 21:5), a span of 25 years.  Somewhere within the first 10 years of this 25 year span God informed Abraham that there would be a delay in the possession of the land.  (The 10 years is based on Genesis 16:3, and on the assumption that the main events of Genesis 12 - 21 occurred in the order they are recorded.)  God told Abraham that his descendants would sojourn in Canaan, then in Egypt, then would finally return to possess the land after "four hundred years" (Genesis 15:13), which would be long after Abraham's death and after the sin of the Amorites had reached its full measure (Genesis 15:16).

If we simply add the 25 years Abraham sojourned in Canaan before Isaac was born to the 400 years predicted for Abraham's descendants (starting with Isaac) to sojourn in Canaan and Egypt, we have 425 years for the total time of the sojourn in Canaan and Egypt.  However, the 400 must be a round number, for when Moses records the exodus (Exodus 12:31-41) he says that the total time of the sojourn was 430 years "to the very day."  (This 430 is understood to apply to both Canaan and Egypt, see the NIV marginal note on verse 40.)  This means that the 400 years of Genesis 15:13 is a round number, the actual length of time being 405 years.

The possession of the land is recorded in the book of Joshua.

Test 1 – Irrelevant – There was no prophet; God spoke directly to Abraham.
Test 2 – Pass
Test 3 – Pass
Test 4 – Pass
Test 5 – Pass – There was no prophet, and Abraham died long before the exodus.
Test 6 – Fail – The prediction and the exodus were probably both recorded by Moses after the exodus

2. Genesis 17:21;  18:14;  21:1-2 , Sarah will have a son next year

Even before Isaac was born, God told Abraham that he would establish his covenant with Isaac.  Then God tells Abraham that Sarah will give birth to Isaac "by this time next year" (Genesis 17:21) and "at the appointed time next year" (Genesis 18:14).  The fulfillment of this promise is recorded in Genesis 21:1-2.

Test 1 – Irrelevant – There was no prophet; God spoke directly to Abraham.
Test 2 – Pass
Test 3 – Pass
Test 4 – Pass
Test 5 – Pass – It was beyond the natural capability of both Abraham and Sarah to have a child.
Test 6 – Fail – Recorded later by Moses

3. Genesis 40, Time of the release of the Pharaoh's cupbearer and baker

Joseph, after being sold into slavery in Egypt, and after being falsely accused by Potiphar's wife, finds himself in prison (Genesis chapters 37, 39).  Two of Pharaoh's officials, his cupbearer and his baker, are thrown into the same prison, where they both have dreams which Joseph interprets.  The cupbearer's dream involves three branches on a grape vine, and the baker's dream involves three baskets of bread (Genesis 40).  Joseph explains to the cupbearer that "within three days" Pharaoh will release him from prison and restore him to his former position.  He then explains to the baker that "within three days" Pharaoh will also release him, not to restore him, but to kill him.  On the third day Pharaoh does just as Joseph had said (Genesis 40:20-22; 41:13).

Test 1 – Pass – Joseph's example to the Egyptians was blameless, and he gave credit to the Lord as the real interpreter of the dreams (verse 8).
Test 2 – Pass
Test 3 – Pass – There appears to be nothing in the dreams or the circumstances that would favor these particular interpretations.
Test 4 – Pass
Test 5 – Pass – At this point in the history of Joseph in Egypt, he was in no position to influence the decisions of Pharaoh.
Test 6 – Fail – Recorded later by Moses

4. Genesis 41, Time of the start of the famine in Egypt

Pharaoh had a dream involving seven fat cows that were eaten by seven thin cows, and another dream involving seven full heads of grain that were eaten by seven thin heads.  Joseph is called in from prison to interpret the dream.  Joseph explains that God is revealing to Pharaoh that there will be seven years of abundance followed by seven years of severe famine, and that Egypt should store up food in preparation for the famine.  Pharaoh elevates Joseph to second in command so he can direct the preparations.  After seven years of abundance, the famine hits Egypt just as Joseph had predicted (verses 47, 53-56), but Egypt is now ready to preserve itself and the family of Jacob (Genesis 41:57 - 42:2).

Test 1 – Pass – Joseph remains blameless before the Egyptians, and states that God is the one who reveals the future (verses 16, 25, 28, 32)
Test 2 – Pass
Test 3 – Pass – There must have been a complete absence of natural indicators regarding the abundance and famine during the next fourteen years, otherwise Pharaoh's own wise men would have been able to make the connection between those circumstances and his dreams.
Test 4 – Pass
Test 5 – Pass – The many factors that cause abundance or famine are far out of the reach of Joseph or anyone else.
Test 6 – Fail – Recorded later by Moses

5. Isaiah 7-8, Time of the disappearance of Israel and Aram

Ahaz, king of Judah, reigned from 735 - 715 BC.  Aram and Israel made an alliance to take over Judah, but Isaiah encouraged Ahaz to trust the Lord by prophesying that the take-over would not happen because within 65 years Israel would be a shattered nation (Isaiah 7:1-9, esp. v. 8).  Later, the Lord spoke to Ahaz again, telling him that "the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste," and that this would happen in less time than it takes for a child to be conceived, born, and attain the age when he knows right from wrong (verses 14-16) – certainly less than 10 years.  (For a more complete explanation of Isaiah 7:14, see the paper "Fulfill," Matthew 1:22, and Isaiah 7:14.)  Still later, God tells Isaiah that Israel and Aram will be destroyed by Assyria before his newborn son, Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, knows how to say "my father" or "my mother" (Isaiah 8:1-4) – probably less than 2 years.  The northern tribes of Israel were taken captive by Tiglath-pileser (2 Kings 15:29) as was Aram (2 Kings 16:9).  Chronologists tell us that these events took place in 733 and 732 respectively.

Test 1 – Pass
Test 2 – Pass
Test 3 – Pass
Test 4 – Pass
Test 5 – Pass – It is unlikely that either Isaiah or Ahaz influenced Assyria
Test 6 – Fail – Isaiah was probably written after the predicted events occurred

6. Jeremiah 25:11-12; 29:10, Time of the return from Babylonian captivity

Judah was besieged by Babylon over a period of several years.  In 605 BC Daniel and several others were deported to Babylon (Daniel 1:1-7), and then Jerusalem was finally destroyed in 586  (2 Kings 24:20 - 25:11).  Between those two dates, Hananiah falsely prophesied that the Babylonian exile would last less than two years (Jeremiah 28), but Jeremiah prophesied more than once that the exile would last 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11-12;  29:10).  And before the fall of Jerusalem, a written copy of Jeremiah's prophecy was sent by Jeremiah (through King Zedekiah of Judah, through king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon) to the elders and others who had already been deported to Babylon (Jeremiah 29:1-3).  This is the letter Daniel was reading before he received his vision of the 70 weeks.  In 538 Cyrus, king of Persia, allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:1-8).  If the year 605 is used as the starting date of the exile, then the exile actually lasted 67 years and Jeremiah's prediction of 70 is a round number.

Test 1 – Pass
Test 2 – Pass
Test 3 – Pass
Test 4 – Pass
Test 5 – Pass – Instead of Jeremiah (or his prophecy) influencing Cyrus, God influenced Cyrus directly (Ezra 1:1).
Test 6 – Perhaps – The letter containing a record of Jeremiah's prophecy was sent to Babylon no later than the year 586 BC, while Zedekiah was still king of Judah.  Thus, the prophecy was recorded at least 48 years before Cyrus allowed Jews to return in 538.  However, the two books that record this letter and refer to this letter (Jeremiah and Daniel) were themselves probably written after the return.

7. Daniel 8:14 -- (under construction)

8. Daniel 9:24-27, Time of the arrival of true righteousness and the prince

Daniel was given a vision indicating that a span of 70 weeks of years or 490 years would be required to "put an end to sin" and "bring in everlasting righteousness" (verse 24).  The messiah will arrive after the first 69 weeks or 483 years (verse 25).  The starting date for the 483 year span is the decree to rebuild Jerusalem (verse 25) which was given by Artaxerxes' in 458 BC.  Counting 483 years ahead comes to AD 26, the year of Christ's baptism and the beginning of his ministry.  Christ's death in the middle of the last week (after his 3½ year ministry) is foretold by the phrases "the Anointed One will be cut off" (verse 26) and "he will put an end to sacrifice and offering" (verse 27).  And the destruction of Jerusalem is foretold: "The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary" (verse 26).

This is such a remarkable timed prophecy that we can only summarize it here.  For a more complete discussion see the paper "Daniel 9".

Test 1 – Irrelevant, God's angel, Gabriel, provided this prophecy
Test 2 – Pass
Test 3 – Pass
Test 4 – Pass
Test 5 – Pass
Test 6 – Pass

9. Daniel 12:11-12 -- (under construction)

10. Matthew 24, Time of the destruction of the temple

As Jesus and his disciples were walking away from the temple, he told them that the temple buildings would be destroyed.  After they crossed over the Kidron valley and came to the Mount of Olives, his disciples asked him, among other questions, "when will this happen?" (Matthew 24:1-3).  The remainder of chapter 24 and 25 contains Jesus' answer to these several questions, the answer to the question about the time of the destruction of the temple being explicitly answered in 24:34.

I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.

Some claim that the above statement pertains to the second coming of Christ, so they take the word "generation" to refer, not to the disciples themselves, but to the Hebrew race.  This has the effect of extending the time indefinitely in view of God's promise that, although the Hebrew nation will be destroyed, the Hebrew race (the people) will continue to live ().

However, the structure of the passage indicates that Jesus was speaking of his hearers when he said "this generation."

Test 1 – Irrelevant – Jesus (God) speaks directly to his disciples
Test 2 – Pass – the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70
Test 3 – Pass – at the time Jesus made this prediction, there were no large scale Jewish revolts
Test 4 – Pass – Jesus describes complete destruction saying, "not one stone here will be left on another" (verse 2)
Test 5 – Pass
Test 6 – Pass – The prophecy was given around A.D. 30 and recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  Conservative scholars date these three synoptic gospels well before A.D. 70

11. John 13:38, Time of the denials of Peter

Shortly before Jesus was arrested, he told Peter, "before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!"  (John 13:38).  The first instance took place when Jesus was arrested and taken before Annas, where the girl at the door asked Peter if he were a disciple of Jesus.  Peter said "I am not" (John 18:17).  The second and third instances took place when Jesus was before Caiaphas the high priest.  An unnamed person asked Peter if he was one of Jesus' disciples, and Peter replied "I am not"  (John 18:25).  Then the priest's servant said to Peter that he thought he had seen him with Jesus in the olive grove, and again Peter denied it, and immediately a rooster began to crow.

Test 1 – Irrelevant – Jesus (God) speaks directly to Peter
Test 2 – Pass
Test 3 – Pass
Test 4 – Pass
Test 5 – Pass – Jesus would not cause Peter to deny him, and Peter, who said he would lay down his life for Jesus (John 13:37) would not plan these three denials.
Test 6 – Fail – John records these events decades later

12. Several passages, Time of Jesus' resurrection

On several occasions Jesus said he would rise from death shortly after his crucifixion.  After Jesus cleansed the temple, the Jews asked him for a sign, to which he replied, speaking of his body, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days" (John 2:19-21).  Also, following Peter's statement, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God," Jesus began explaining that he had to go to Jerusalem to die "and on the third day be raised to life" (Matthew 16:16, 21; compare Mark 8:31).  See also Matthew 12:40; 27:63; Mark 9:31; 10:34.  The concluding chapters of each of the gospels record the fulfillment of this prophecy.

Test 1 – Irrelevant – Jesus (God) speaks directly to his disciples and others.
Test 2 – Pass
Test 3 – Pass – From the perspective of "natural" history, this is an outlandish prediction.  All human experience would indicate otherwise.
Test 4 – Pass
Test 5 – Irrelevant – Jesus is no mere human prophet.
Test 6 – Fail – The gospel writers record these events years later

F.  Liberal reaction to Daniel's prophecy of 70 weeks

According to the liberal mind, the miracle of prophecy is disqualified out of hand.  So when faced with prophecies which would establish the fact of an omniscient God who knows and reveals furute events, liberals must either redate the prophecies or reinterpret them.  Actually, they do both.  The liberal approach is to claim that Daniel did not write the book of Daniel, but someone else wrote it much later.  Also, a common liberal interpretation of the prophecy in Daniel 9 is that it was fulfilled during the intertestamental period.  How predictable – the liberals go to such lengths to preserve their naturalistic assumptions.