Thursday, October 22, 2015

Evidence For Faith

There is only one person in history whose life was accurately written about in explicit detail before he was ever born. The details of this man’s life included information about the circumstances in which he would be born, things that would be accomplished in his life, the type of death he would die and the fact that he would be brought back to life after he died. In fact he is the only person who has ever been raised from the dead and remained alive, leaving an empty tomb which remains empty to this day. This same person also had much detail written about his life after he was born in the form of biographies written by those who knew him.

The details about this man’s singular life that were written before he was born are included in the prophecies of the Old Testament, the sacred book that was given by God to the Jews. The details about his life starting with his birth and following are documented in the New Testament. The Old Testament was written between 400 and 1500 years before his birth by multiple writers, many of whom were not contemporaries of each other, and these writings were widely distributed centuries BEFORE his birth. The details about this person’s life in the New Testament fit the details that were written ahead of time with astonishing precision. We know of nothing that has ever rivaled this level of precise prophecy that was later fulfilled in the details of one man’s life in the history of the world.

By now you may have concluded that I am speaking about Jesus Christ of Nazareth, unique among men. Can you imagine, just for a moment, how absurd you would think it was if I talked this way about any other well-known historical figure? Who could have accurately written the precise details of the life of Einstein, Aristotle, Napoleon, Shakespeare, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander the Great, Thomas Jefferson, Henry VIII, Joseph Stalin, Mozart, Plato, you, your neighbor or any other character 500 or 800 or 1000 or 1500 years ahead of their lives? Nowhere in any of the literature on earth, secular or religious, is this duplicated. Not even close. The fact that Christ would be accurately written about in the Old Testament and the subsequent biography of Christ in the New Testament is nothing short of astounding!

We have historical evidence that the Old Testament was written well in advance of the New Testament. And because of this reality we can begin to think clearly about what it means that events were written about in a history book BEFORE they ever happened. Your mind might try to come up with feasible ways to explain how writings of this level of specificity could be written in advance of someone’s life, but one valid explanation is that this happened in a supernatural way. By supernatural I am meaning that God himself stepped into history and worked through the lives of writers to make sure that the details of Jesus Christ’s life would be in books written centuries before he was born.

The last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, was written about 443 B.C. The first book of the New Testament, Matthew, was written about 40 A.D. leaving approximately a 500-year gap between the Old and New Testament books. We know with certainty the Old Testament existed hundreds of years before the beginning of the New Testament because of the existence of the Septuagint, a translation of the Old Testament into Greek about 200 B.C. This translation was begun during the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus about 280 B.C. and was completed not long after. This confirms the fact that the Old Testament is much older than the New Testament.

God has chosen to show that the Bible is His communication to every man and every woman in a very unique way but he has backed his writings up in an amazing way by making sure we would know they are true. That way is through the giving of specific, detailed prophecy and the fulfillment, hundreds of years later, of this specific detailed prophecy. Prophecy is God’s own method of proving His truth.

If God wanted people to know he was a trustworthy person to listen to, what better way than to do something no one else in history could do? And that was to predict things hundreds of years in advance that he knew were all going to come true. The teachings of the Bible are so unique and different from all other religions, and so very important to the human beings God created. Events predicted centuries in advance confirm the Bible to be a heavenly decree, the absolute and final Word of God and that its message is fully authorized by the Almighty. It has His divine seal, letting all people know He has spoken.

This type of authentication for the truth of God’s writings can never be counterfeited by other writers because only God has foreknowledge of the actions of free and intelligent agents, men and women. It is the unique ability of the Almighty, the all-knowing God, to be aware of new things, new people and new events before they ever even exist or take place. The true God alone foreknows and foretells the future. And He has chosen to confine his foretelling to the pages of Scripture. Sensing the tremendous force of this fact, the philosopher and apologist Justin Martyr said, “To declare a thing shall come to pass long before it is in being, and to bring it to pass, this or nothing is the work of God.”

In the entire history of man’s existence, except for the prophecies of Scripture, there is not a single instance of a prediction, being expressed in unequivocal language, which included objective measurable detail, which boasts the slightest claim to fulfillment.

Suppose there were only 50 prophecies in the Old Testament (instead of the known 333) concerning the first coming of Christ, giving details of the coming Messiah and which all come together in the life of Jesus. The probability of chance fulfillment as calculated by mathematicians according to the theory of probabilities is less than one in 1,125,000,000,000,000. Now add only two more elements to these 50 prophecies, and precisely pre-state the TIME and the PLACE at which they would happen and the immense improbability that they will take place by chance exceeds all the power of numbers to express or the human mind of man to grasp.

The divine perfections of foreknowledge and fulfillment can best be seen in the realm of prophecies concerning Messiah, more than any other sphere. The Messiah was the person the Jews were waiting for who was coming to save their people from their sins. It is easy to see, if enough characteristic details are given, identification can be clear and precise when it comes to prophecy. So many details of Messiah are given in prophecy hundreds of years ahead of time and each one is exactly fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, so identification is positive.

Christ’s coming is the central theme of the Bible. The coming of Christ promised in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New Testament; His birth, character, work, teachings, sufferings, death and resurrection; are the overarching and central themes of the Bible. Christ is the bond that ties the two Testaments together. The Old Testament is in the New Testament revealed, the New Testament is in the Old Testament concealed.

Here is a brief summary of the prophecies concerning Messiah, assuring His identity:

- The work of the redeeming of mankind was to be accomplished by one person, the promised Messiah

- As the “Seed of the woman” He was to bruise Satan’s head

- As the “Seed of Abraham” and the ‘Seed of David” He was to come from the tribe of Judah

- This Messiah must come at a specified time

- He was to be born of a virgin

- He was to be born at Bethlehem of Judea

- Great persons were to visit and adore Him

- He was to be called out of Egypt

- He was to be raised in Nazareth

- He was to be preceded by a person who was a forerunner/foreteller of him before beginning His public ministry

- He was to be a prophet like Moses

- He was to have a special anointing of the Holy Spirit

- He was to be a priest after the order of Melchizedeck

- As the “Servant of the Lord” He was to be a faithful and patient Redeemer for the Gentiles

- As the “Servant of the Lord” He was to be a faithful and patient Redeemer for the Jews

- His ministry was to begin in Galilee

- Later He was to enter Jerusalem to bring salvation (the saving of people from the penalty of their sins)

- He was to enter the temple

- His manner of teaching was to be by parables

- His ministry was to be characterized by miracles

- He was to be a ‘Stone of stumbling” to the Jews, and a ‘Rock of offense’ (he was going to offend people by what he said!)

- He was to be hated without a cause

- He was to be rejected by the rulers

- He was to be betrayed by a friend

- He was to be forsaken by His disciples

- He was to be sold for 30 pieces of silver

- His price was to be given for the potter’s field

- He was to be hit on the cheek

- He was to be mocked

- He was to be beaten

- His garments were to be parted four ways and lots were to be cast for his clothing

- He was to die by crucifixion

- His death was to pay for the sins of all people who ever would commit sin

- His hands and His feet were to be pierced

- Not a bone of His body was to be broken

- He was to suffer thirst

- He was to be given vinegar to drink

- He was to be “numbered with the transgressors”

- His body was to be buried with the rich in His death

- His body was not to see decay

- He was to be raised from the dead on the third day after he was buried

- He was to ascend to the right hand of God

- He was to make intercession before God on behalf of all who trust Him for the rescuing of them from the penalty of their sins.

Remember, there are actually 333 specific predictions concerning the coming Messiah in the Old Testament! These I’ve listed are just highlights. Here indeed is Jesus, God’s Rock of Ages, faith’s unshakable standing place!

You are invited, you individually, you the reader, to research these facts on your own regarding their prediction in writing in the Old Testament by multiple writers who lived at least 400 years before their occurrence; up to 1500 years before their occurrence; and the detailed writing of their fulfilment in the New Testament, especially the four gospel writings. For example, take the opportunity to read Isaiah 53 and compare it to the accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion in the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

It is mathematically impossible for even a fraction of these clearly stated prophecies to be fulfilled by chance by any single person. Instead of chance happenings, what you have before you is an explosive, mathematical impossibility. And evidence for your faith.

But wait? Evidence for my faith? Why does any of my faith get exercised when God tells the truth about something hundreds of years in advance just by predicting it? I may even think it’s amazing that God has this power and knowledge but what does that have to do with me? Today?

Try to step for just a minute into God’s shoes. He knew He needed to communicate who he was to the people he made. But he had more to communicate than that. He had to communicate how to avoid some very serious land mines that would come up in every single human being’s life. And in the writing of this book that had such a critical message to life on the planet he had to do it in a form people could understand and relate to. People across all of history! And he had to write it in such a way that it would speak across language barriers and across all cultures. Tall order, right? And from God’s perspective this was the most important book in the world to the most important people in the world. We his amazing creation!

It was a book about him but it was also a book about us. God looked into our existence and knew there was something that was going to damage and hurt us and something that was bad enough that the only answer was something his own son would have to do for us. So while the Bible, Old and New Testaments combined, was written for people who would live in any age, God had to write it in such a way that people would actually pick it up! I have wondered if one of the reasons he put such extensive prophecy in his book is because he knew it would be a draw. To the mathematician and scholar who would KNOW that his prophecies could not be coincidence . . . and had to be orchestrated by a phenomenal mind . . . but more . . . by a God with a phenomenal purpose.

So while God used irrefutable factual evidence of the kind he intended you to have so you might have a faith based on information . . . and based on the facts that God Himself tells ahead of time, he also had a deeper work he was doing. He needed all of us to understand that a disease entered the human system that was going to take us down. All of us! And that disease was sin and the impact sin would have on us. Not just sin we would commit that would harm us who share this planet, but even bring harm to our relationship and ability to communicate with God. He also needed all of us to understand things he would describe in great detail that would show exactly what He had planned in the way of salvation for us; a Messiah; because of His indescribable and immeasurable love for each of us!

If only you could know His love for you, you would run to Him and never leave His side!

This is my hope for you, that you would know this love of Christ and by knowing His love be changed for good, forever!

What if you were to go do some digging and find out this truth for yourself? Or what if maybe you wrote to me and allowed me to connect you with resources and books that have these prophecies and their fulfillment laid out for you. This couldn’t be more important! This could not be more important for you . . . today, and for you for all of your tomorrows.

God spent a lot of time getting these prophecies written just to reach out to you, reader, in 2015 in the circumstances you find yourself in. Let His love pour over you through all this amazing truth!

Mark Phelps