In the book of 2 Timothy, Paul makes the bold claim that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). The English phrase “given by inspiration of God” in the King James Version was translated from one Greek word, theopneustos, which Strong’s Concordance defines as “divinely breathed”. A picture is painted in our mind’s eye of God figuratively exhaling out the words of Scripture – that is to say, that the Bible’s ultimate source is God Himself.
As with any other claim, we cannot blindly believe in this claim of Biblical divine inspiration unless we find persuasive evidence that supports it. Today, let us consider that the fulfilment of prophecies in the Bible is a piece of proof that supports the claim that the Bible is God’s Word.
What is a prophecy, and how is it distinguished from a mere prediction? While men have always been trying to foretell the future, biblical prophecies have a divine origin. For example, the apostle Peter recorded that “the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:20-21). Furthermore, true biblical prophecies would come to fruition, even in the smallest of details. That is why God used the prophet Isaiah to tell the nation Judah, who had fallen into idolatry, to ask their idols to “shew the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods…” (Isaiah 41:21-24). If someone / something could describe the future precisely, and then that prophecy is fulfilled in every detail, then that is evidence that the source of the prophecy is God Himself, because only God knows the future.
There are hundreds of fulfilled prophecies in the Bible – let us now consider two of them.
#1 – THE ETERNAL KING’S BIRTHPLACE FORETOLD
Although Jesus’ hometown was Nazareth (John 1:45-46), He was not born there, but was born in the lowly town of Bethlehem of Judaea, a few miles south of Jerusalem. When Herod the Great heard of the birth of the “King of the Jews” (Matthew 2:1-3), he demanded that the chief priests and scribes tell him where the Christ was to be born (Matthew 2:4). The chief priests and scribes informed Herod that the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem of Judaea, for “thus it is written by the prophet” (Matthew 2:5). They then proceed to quote from Micah 5:2 (cf. Matthew 2:6).
Over 700 years before Jesus was born, Micah recorded that “thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). Notice that Micah specified the Bethlehem in Judah, as opposed to the Bethlehem in Zebulun (cf. Joshua 19:15-16). Micah also specified that this ruler has been “from everlasting”, that is, He has existed eternally. John 1:1-3 states plainly that the Word, who is Jesus Christ, has had an eternal existence, because He is God.
Can anyone possibly know the exact birthplace of their children, let alone the specific place of birth of their descendants 700 years in the future? Every year, there are mothers who deliver their children in unusual and unexpected places like the back of a taxi. They could not possibly know with full certainty where their children would ultimately be born. Yet Micah was able to specify that the Christ-child would be born in Bethlehem of Judah. Who told him this information? It is only logical to conclude that the God who knows all and sees all told him this.
#2 – THE SUFFERING SAVIOR’S DEATH DESCRIBED
John chapter 19 is one of the most agonizing passages of Scripture to read. The crucifixion of Jesus is described, culminating in His death in John 19:30. After his death, the Jews desired of Pilate that the legs of the three crucified men might be broken, to expedite their deaths so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the next day, which was the sabbath day (John 19:31). Breaking the legs of the crucified individual would make them unable to stand up straight to take a breath, leading to an expedited death via asphyxiation. The Roman soldiers broke the legs of the two thieves on either side of Jesus, but when they saw that Jesus was dead already, they did not break His legs (John 19:32-33). Instead, a soldier pierced his side with a spear, likely to ensure that Jesus was well and truly dead, and blood and water came out (John 19:34).
Can you control what people do to your body after you die? We of course can hope that people will treat our physical bodies with care and respect, but the fact remains that we have absolutely zero control over what they choose to do, because we are already dead. Yet, the psalmist David, writing 1,000 years before Jesus, recorded in Psalm 34:20 that “He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken”. The prophet Zechariah, writing 500 years before Jesus, recorded that “they shall look upon me whom they have pierced” (Zechariah 12:10). Indeed, John records that the actions of the soldiers who did not break the legs of Jesus but pierced His side instead, did so that the scriptures should be fulfilled (John 19:36-37). Which is more plausible – that a group of unbelieving Roman soldiers did these specific actions of their own free will to align themselves with Old Testament prophecies written hundreds of years earlier? Or that our God, who knows all and sees all, knew in advance what the soldiers would do of their own free will, and told David and Zechariah to record down these things?
Brethren, the Bible makes the bold claim that it is inspired of God. We cannot simply believe this claim blindly, but must put it to the test. We can be confident in the veracity of this claim, in part because of the fulfilment of prophecies in the Bible – proving that it came from a God who knows the future.