Bible Prophecy – world history foretold
Prophecy in the Bible predicts what will happen in the future. When that prophecy is fulfilled, it demonstrates that the Bible must come from a powerful God who knows what will happen in the future.
A lot of the prophecies are about God’s people and God’s land. These are the prophecies about Israel. Many of the prophecies are being fulfilled today. This gives us confidence that God inspired the prophecies and that he is very much actively working in the world.
One of the main prophecies about Israel is that the people would be scattered throughout the world but they would eventually return to the land and regain control of Jerusalem. This was fulfilled in 1948 when the nation of Israel was established. Later on in 1967 the Jews recaptured Jerusalem.
If you want to read more about ancient prophecy that is coming to fulfillment in relation to the Jews then please look at Reason number 5 “The Jews: God’s people” and Reason number 6 “Modern Israel” in the “twelve reasons to believe” series.
The remainder of this article (reason 4) will be considering detailed prophecies about other places such as Babylon, the city of Tyre, Nineveh (Assyria) and the world in general.
The rise of prophets in the Bible
In the Old Testament God’s people belonged to the divided kingdom of Israel and Judah. However, these two kingdoms declined because of their disobedience to the commands of God. The kingdom of Israel was eventually overthrown and the people taken captive and exiled. Although Judah continued another 140 years after the overthrow of Israel they in time suffered the same fate and the kingdom of Judah likewise ceased to exist. During the years leading up to the inevitable collapse of Israel and Judah, the disobedient people were continually warned of the impending destruction by righteous prophets of God.
Prophets functioned as channels of communication from God to humans, and from humans to God. The prophets were raised up by God to individually fulfill varying missions. Some brought messages of doom, some brought messages of hope, and some revived and returned the people to the laws of God. Because God’s inspiration (influence) was upon them, their message referred not only to their own days, but to future events concerning Israel, the world, and the Kingdom of God.
Prophecy is not restricted to the foretelling of future events. Its function is much wider than that. When it was given, it was primarily concerned with the present, speaking God’s word to the nation who had forsaken His ways, denouncing their sins, calling them to repentance, warning them of coming judgment. The root meaning of the word prophet is “one who speaks for another”. They were a watchman or one who sees things which are hidden from others. As a result, in the Bible you can frequently read of the visions which the prophets saw, resulting in their impassioned messages of spiritual encouragement and predictions of future events.
Why God uses prophecy
The prophets in the Bible were speaking prophecy. Prophecy is, in part, saying what will happen in the future. From the very beginning, God has had a plan for the earth and the human race and He will see it slowly but surely come to completion. God has used prophecy at various times in past to tell us what will happen next in his plan – so that we can be prepared….and sometimes warned.
Prophecy is a remarkable way of proving the Bible to be true! Consider the following examples.
Example one – Jeremiah and Babylon
The photo at the start of this article came from Babylon circa 604-562 BC. It is a lion in relief made from glazed brick. At the beginning of the 6th century BC, Babylon was visually one of the wonders of the ancient world. It had magnificent gates and walls which were covered in ornate designs. Its hanging gardens were once one of the Seven Wonders of the World and its surrounding countryside was a fertile plain. Babylon was the capital of the land which we now call Iraq (the city was on the river Euphrates 80 kilometers south of modern Baghdad). Babylon had conquered so much territory that she ruled the mightiest empire the world had then seen. However, the prophets of the Bible continually criticised the city for its idolatry and its reliance on astrologers and its treasures.
However, things changed in the book of Jeremiah with regard to Babylon. In that book, the city became the object of rebuke and all that is visually great about the city is threatened with destruction. The Bible said plainly that this city was to be punished for its wickedness. Babylon was to be destroyed and remain a collection of uninhabited ruins.
This is what the prophet Isaiah said about Babylon in about 710 BC:
“And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans’ pride, will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It will never be inhabited, nor will it be settled from generation to generation; nor will the Arabian pitch tents there, nor will the shepherds make their sheepfolds there. But wild beasts of the desert will lie there, and their houses will be full of owls”. Isaiah 13: 19 to 21
This is what the prophet Jeremiah said about Babylon in the sixth century BC:
“It shall be inhabited no more forever, nor shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation…They shall not take from you a stone for a corner, nor a stone for a foundation, but you shall be desolate forever, says the Lord…Babylon shall become a heap, a dwelling place for jackals, an astonishment and a hissing, without an inhabitant”. Jeremiah 50:39; 51:26; 51:37
You can visit the site of the city of Babylon today, and see how precisely the prophecy has been fulfilled. Babylon, whose surrounding countryside was then a fertile plain now lies deserted. When you visit the site now all you see is the deserted heaps of ruins, just waiting to be excavated by archaeologists.
There isn’t even a Bedouin encampment to be found there for the ruins make it to inhospitable to provide grazing for their flocks. The only things that can be found amongst the fallen towers of Babylon are wild beasts and birds.
Jeremiah and Isaiah say that Babylon would lie in waste and that is exactly what happened to it, right through to today.
Example two – Ezekiel and Tyre
Like Babylon, Tyre was a major city. It was a seaport and was the capital city of the Phoenicians. Her navy dominated the Mediterranean, and her traders owned the greatest fleet of merchant ships in the ancient world. The Bible made it clear that Tyre would be punished for its wickedness. But the punishment for Tyre was going to be different to what it was for Babylon – the city of Tyre would also be destroyed but it would not remain in ruins. In her case, the very stones of the city were all to be cast into the sea.
This is what the prophet Ezekiel said about 590 BC:
“They will plunder your riches and pillage your merchandise; they will break down your walls and destroy your pleasant houses; they will lay your stones, your timber, and your soil in the midst of the water…I will make you like the top of a rock; and you shall never be rebuilt, for I the Lord have spoken”. Ezekiel 26:12; 26:14
If you want to look at the ruins of ancient Tyre today, you will need scuba diving gear! History tells how the ruins of the city really were cast into the sea, hundreds of years after Ezekiel had said they would be. In 332 BC, Alexander the Great wanted to subdue an island fortress off the coast, near the ruins of the former city of Tyre. He achieved his aim by building a causeway out to the island, and he used the remains of the ancient city of Tyre for material. Every piece of rubble from the ruins of Tyre was used by Alexander, so that the site really was, as Ezekiel put it, “made like the top of a rock”. In addition, as the prophet foretold, the site of the old city was never built on again. The city of Tyre mentioned in the New Testament, and which still exists today, stands on an entirely different site.
So the prophecy of Ezekiel was completely and accurately fulfilled. Ezekiel says that the city of Tyre would be submerged. If you go to Israel today that is where Tyre is, in the ocean.
Example three – Nahum and Nineveh
In a similar way to Babylon and Tyre, the prophet Nahum said in about 710 BC that the city of Nineveh (capital of the ancient nation of Assyria) would lie empty in the future. Again this is true through to today.
Example four – Daniel and the history of the world
The prophet Daniel gave a prophecy in the second chapter of his book which in the space of 49 verses gives an overview of world history. It predicts what will happen from 600 BC down to now and beyond. He gave this prophecy in about 600 BC.
A long time ago the Israelites had a large battle with the people from a land called Babylon. The battle lasted for quite a while but eventually the Babylonian armies won the battle and the Israelites, as a result, were taken to the land of Babylon. Once they arrived in Babylon the Israelites were held as prisoners there.
The man who had lead the Babylonian armies was a man called Nebuchadnezzar who was the King of Babylon. He was a dominant figure in the world at that time. He was seen as a great soldier because of the fact that in the past he had defeated the mighty peoples of Egypt as well as subduing all the smaller kingdoms of the Middle East. As well as being a great warrior, he was also a great builder and administrator. He practically rebuilt the city of Babylon making it one of the great wonders of the ancient world.
So we now see the Israelites living in this city as prisoners. One of the Israelites who was held captive in Babylon was a young man called Daniel. Daniel had three friends. They liked to talk about God and how He watched over them. One day Daniel and his three friends were chosen to go to the king’s palace with some other young men, to be taught the wisdom, learning and language of the Babylonian people.
Over the next few years God blessed Daniel and his friends and He made them very wise. Daniel found that he was able to understand dreams. After three years, when they were taken to the king, the king found that Daniel and his three friends knew more than anyone else, so they were chosen to stay in the palace to help the king.
One night King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream. Although it impressed him greatly, he could not recall it. He summoned his astrologers and magicians and demanded that they reveal to him the dream; and give him the interpretation of it. The court magicians replied that they could only interpret the dream if the king revealed it. Because of this, the king became very angry and sentenced them to death, claiming that they were frauds. Daniel and his three friends were among those who were to die. It was at this time that Daniel informed the king that the God of Israel would make known by him both the dream and what it means.
Daniel and his friends prayed to God for guidance. As a result the dream was revealed to them. Daniel thanked God for the wisdom that had been given to him and then Daniel asked to be taken before the king. Once he stood before the king, Daniel took no credit for himself, he made it clear to Nebuchadnezzar that God in heaven had given him the interpretation. God wanted to make known to Nebuchadnezzar what would happen to his kingdom and also to subsequent kingdoms. God revealed this to him through the medium of a dream concerning a great image which was very bright and awesome. The image was in the shape of a man:
It had a head of gold, arms and breast of silver, thighs and belly of brass, iron legs and feet which were partly of iron and partly of clay.
All of these things represented something.
The head of gold stood for the Babylonian Empire of which Nebuchadnezzar was the king.
The arms and breast of silver represented the Medes and Persians, who some years later defeated Babylonia and became the chief world power in 538 B.C.
The thighs and belly of brass stood for Greece. The armies of Greece under Alexander defeated Persia and became a mighty empire in 336 B.C.
The iron legs stood for the Roman Empire which defeated the Greeks in 68 B.C. This was the fourth world empire.
The feet which were partly of iron and partly of clay represented the divided state of the nations today. These nations were formed after the Roman Empire was destroyed. The iron represents those nations that are strong and the clay represents those that are weak.
What happens in the dream after the statue has been revealed is that a large stone comes down a hill and hits the image in the feet, which is the statues weakest point because of the feet being only made of iron and clay.
The statue falls and is ground into powder, which the wind then blows away. The stone will then grow and fill the whole earth. So what does this last bit with the stone represent?
The large stone represents the kingdom of God. So when we see the stone striking the statue we are being told that the kingdom of God will destroy the kingdoms of men. And when we see this stone grow in size so as to fill the whole earth, then we are being told that the kingdom of God will completely replace the kingdoms of men once it has destroyed them.
The glory and value of the metals representing the kingdoms of men decreased from top to bottom but the strength of the metal increases.
|Part of statue||Material||Nation|
|Arms and Breast||Silver||Medo-Persia|
|Belly and thighs||Brass||Greece|
|Feet||Iron and clay||Many nations both strong and weak|
|Stone||Kingdom of God|
So there we have the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar and what Daniel said, so as to interpret that dream. King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished at what Daniel had said. He knew, however, that it was true. Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged that the God of Israel was the God of gods and the Lord of kings. He then rewarded Daniel and promoted him in his service.
We see that Daniel had acted as a prophet when he interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. He was telling Nebuchadnezzar what would happen in the future. And indeed we have seen that the first five parts of Daniel prophecy did indeed come true.
Babylon was taken over by the Medes and Persians. The Medes and Persians were then taken over by the Greeks. The Greeks were then taken over by the Romans. And the Roman Empire was ultimately destroyed and replaced with many nations which were a mixture of weak and strong nations.
So we have seen all these events take place in history. The only part we haven’t seen take place is the stone, representing the kingdom of God, rolling down the hill and destroying once and for all these nations and kingdoms of men.
And indeed this is something that we should all look forward to. For when the stone destroys the kingdoms of men we will then see the setting up of the fifth world empire that will be ruled over by God’s own son, The Lord Jesus Christ. Christ will come to this earth so as to bring all nations into subjection to God.
We now all await the return of Christ to set up the Kingdom of God, for we all know that it is a certainty that it will happen.
We have seen a few examples of where the prophets in the Bible predicted something would happen, and many years later it did happen. How did each of these predictions become so accurate? Clearly no man using his own thought processes could have known. The prophets only knew because they were told by God. It was God who knew what would happen in the future.
The conclusion from this is that we ought to treat the Bible seriously. For if it was proved so right in what it has said about events centuries before they happened, is it not highly likely to be right in its prophecies of events that have not yet come to pass ? Common sense would suggest that we would note carefully what more it has to say about the future of the earth and mankind.
If you want to see more about ancient prophecy that is coming to fulfillment right now then please look at Reason number 5 “The Jews: God’s people” and Reason number 6 “Modern Israel” in the twelve reasons to believe series.