About 30% of the Bible is devoted to prophecy. Prophecy is the forth telling of things in the future. Biblical prophecies are specific and do not lend themselves to arbitrary interpretation. The number and detail in these prophecies, as also their precise fulfillment, constitute evidence that Jehovah, the God behind the Bible is real and true, and that the Bible is His authentic message to man. Some prophecies are yet to be fulfilled. I have concentrated on prophecies in the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Genesis. First I list down different prophecies and their fulfillment, then I clarify a few points.
The following are lists of prophecies along with their fulfillment:
"Under the Christian religion, I find actual prophecy, and I find it in no other" – Blaise Pascal, French mathematician
"To declare a thing should come to pass long before it is in being, and to bring it to pass, this or nothing is the work of God." – Justin Martyr, second century Greek/Roman scholar who became convinced of the Bible's divine origin after studying prophecy
Prophetic literature contains statements whose context is very different, spaced closely together:-
Example 1: In Psalm 22, David begins complaining that although he cries out to God in his distress, God seems to be far away from him. He describes his distress. David had a long and eventful career: he was shepherd, army general, fugitive, and king; from what we know of his life, it is easy to understand David writing Psalm 22:2-7 about himself. But he goes on to say: "They pierced my hands and feet...they cast lots for my robe" (Psalm 22:16, 18). These things never happened to David, but they happened to Jesus when he died (John 19:24). Thus, David's personal suffering, and the sufferings of Christ - two completely different things, are mentioned in close separation.
Example 2: In Isaiah 7, God is speaking to the wicked king Ahaz through Isaiah the prophet in about 730 BC. God invites Ahaz to ask for a sign from Him, but Ahaz refuses. God replies that He himself will give a sign: a virgin shall conceive and give birth to One called "God with us" (Isaiah 7:11-14). Nothing of the sort happened during Ahaz's reign, but it did happen seven centuries later when the Son of God came in human form to the earth as Jesus Christ, born of the virgin Mary. Skeptics who complain that this prophecy is interpreted "out of context" by Christians always fail to answer:-
Thus when we read prophecy, we must watch out for statements completely removed from the apparent context.
If you were studying prophecy at Bible College, the "textbook" example of this would have to be the following:
"The Spirit of the Lord Jehovah is upon Me; because Jehovah has anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of Jehovah and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to appoint to those who mourn in Zion, to give to them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the mantle of praise for the spirit of heaviness; so that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of Jehovah, that He might be glorified." – Isaiah 61:1-3
The Jewish prophet Isaiah made this prophecy in about 698 BC. Now look what happens in a small town in northern Israel called Nazareth, in about AD 30:
"So Jesus came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free with deliverance those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. And He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your ears." – Luke 4:16-18
We find Jesus reading from a passage in Isaiah. He claims that that scripture was being fulfilled in front of them. Why? Because he was the subject of the prophecy. He was going from place to place doing exactly what Isaiah had said he would do - preach the gospel to the poor, free captives, and proclaim the "acceptable year of Jehovah". Isaiah has more to say, but what does Jesus do? He closes the book! Why? Because the rest of Isaiah's prophecy refers to his second coming, which was future then (and still is), as we can make out from the rest of scripture. Lesson: Two points may be mentioned adjacent to each other in prophecy but their fulfillments may be separated by thousands of years, and be in completely different contexts.
The Bible's prophecies match history so well that several critics (who refuse to believe that God could have inspired the authors) have claimed that the prophetic books are fakes that were written after the events took place. The following are my reasons for rejecting such a hypothesis:
Further reading on the authenticity of the prophetic books of the Bible:
The Bible's ability to predict the distant future accurately makes it a class apart from other books. Biblical prophecy also proves that the Bible is not just a human composition, but God's word.
Further reading on prophecy: