Keys To Understanding Bible Prophecy!
Lesson four (b) - History Proves the Accuracy of Bible Prophecy
Can you believe Bible prophecy? The history of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah is a powerful testimony to the accuracy and precision of Bible prophecy. Consider, for example, God's prophecies of the fate of Israel if the Israelites rebelled against Him.
The story begins with Israel's split into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah, in 928 BC., soon after Solomon's death. Jeroboam, king of Israel (928-907), instituted idolatry as part of his kingdom's pattern of worship (1 Kings 12:26-33). This angered God because Solomon's idolatry had earlier caused God to choose Jeroboam to lead the northern kingdom (1 Kings 11:30-33).
God warned Jeroboam's wife of the consequences of his, and the kingdom's, idolatry: "For the Lord will strike Israel . . . He will uproot Israel from this good land which He gave to their fathers, and will scatter them beyond the River [the Euphrates], because they have made their wooden images, provoking the Lord to anger" (1 Kings 14:15).
God continued, through His prophets, to warn of the punishment sure to come if the Israelites would not turn from their sinful ways. He waited, patiently and mercifully, for a repentance that never came.
One such prophet was Micah (ca. 749-722), author of the biblical book that bears his name. "The word of the Lord that came to Micah . . . which he saw concerning Samaria [Israel's capital] and Jerusalem. Hear, all you peoples! Listen, O earth, and all that is in it! Let the Lord God be a witness against you . . . I will make Samaria a heap of ruins in the field, places for planting a vineyard; I will pour down her stones into the valley, and I will uncover her foundations" (Micah 1:1-2, 6).
Finally, after successive invasions, the Assyrian Empire devastated Israel, the northern kingdom, and took most of its population captive (722 BC.).
"Now the king of Assyria went throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria and besieged it for three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria took Samaria and carried Israel away to Assyria . . . For so it was that the children of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God . . . And they rejected His statutes and His covenant that He had made with their fathers, and His testimonies which He had testified against them; they followed idols, became idolaters, and went after the nations who were all around them, concerning whom the Lord had charged them that they should not do like them" (2 Kings 17:5-7, 15).
As noted above, God had prophesied almost 200 years earlier that He would "uproot Israel from this good land which He gave to their fathers, and will scatter them beyond the [Euphrates] River . . ." This and many other details of the prophecies and historical account of the Assyrian invasions and resulting Israelite captivity are verified by Assyrian records and other archaeological discoveries.
Judah fails to learn a lesson
Even after witnessing the downfall of their northern cousins in the kingdom of Israel, citizens of the kingdom of Judah themselves drifted into idolatry and disobedience. God sent prophets to warn them of their fate if they failed to repent.
Through the prophet Jeremiah (ca. 626-587), God delivered a remarkable prophecy of Judah's future:
". . . The Lord has sent to you all His servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, but you have not listened nor inclined your ear to hear. They said, Repent now everyone of his evil way and his evil doings, and dwell in the land that the Lord has given to you and your fathers forever and ever. Do not go after other gods to serve them and worship them, and do not provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands; and I will not harm you. Yet you have not listened to Me . . . Because you have not heard My words, behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, says the Lord, and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land, against its inhabitants, and against these nations all around, and will utterly destroy them . . . And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. Then it will come to pass, when seventy years are completed, that I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity,' says the Lord; and I will make it a perpetual desolation" (Jeremiah 25:4-12).
Judah would fall to the Babylonians, God warned, and would go into captivity in Babylon for 70 years. At the end of the 70 years God would, in turn, punish Babylon. In another astonishing prophecy, God revealed through Isaiah the name of the ruler-Cyrus, king of Persia-who would, many years in the future, permit the Jews' return (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1-4).
Jeremiah's prophecy came to pass. After several invasions (in 597 and 587) Judah fell to the Babylonians. "[God] brought against them the king of the Chaldeans, who killed their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion . . . He gave them all into his hand . . . Then they burned the house of God, broke down the wall of Jerusalem, burned all its palaces with fire, and destroyed all its precious possessions. And those who escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon, where they became servants to him and his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah . . ." (2 Chronicles 36:17-21).
God's fulfills His promise of restoration
The 70 years in exile passed. Daniel 5 records that the Babylonian monarch Belshazzar held a great and blasphemous feast at which he and his guests drank wine from gold and silver vessels looted from the Jerusalem temple years before by Nebuchadnezzar. The king watched as a ghostly hand appeared and wrote a mysterious message on the wall. The king "was so frightened that his knees knocked together and his legs gave way" (verse 6, NIV).
The prophet Daniel revealed that this original handwriting on the wall signified God's judgment that Babylon's dominance had come to an end. He told the king, "Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians' . . . [and] that very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain . . ." (verses 28, 30, NIV).
A century later the Greek historian Herodotus (484-420) confirmed Daniel's account of the fall of Babylon: "The Persians, drawing off the river [Euphrates] by a canal into the lake, which was till now a marsh, he [Cyrus] made the stream to sink till its former channel could be forded. When this happened, the Persians who were posted with this intent made their way into Babylon by the channel of the Euphrates, which had now sunk to about the height of the middle of a man's thigh . . . The Persians thus entered the city . . . and the inhabitants who lived in the central part of Babylon were unaware of the enemies presence due to the great size of the city and since they were celebrating a festival. They continued dancing and exchanging gifts until they were suddenly told of their sad fate. In this manner was Babylon conquered" (History, book 1, paragraphs 191-192).
Daniel's prediction, along with the prophecies of other prophets of God about the downfall of Babylon, was suddenly and dramatically fulfilled.
Jeremiah's prophecy of a 70-year captivity and Isaiah's prophecy of Cyrus allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar were also fulfilled down to the last detail. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah record the Jews' return.
Fulfilled prophecy's meaning for us
A series of remarkable prophecies spanning hundreds of years, five kingdoms and many prophets and rulers precisely came to pass. As God had said through Isaiah when He foretold Judah's downfall at the hands of the Babylonians: ". . . I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure . . . Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it" (Isaiah 46:9-11).
God alone has the power to prophesy events, then bring them to pass. He will yet bring to pass the many other unfulfilled prophecies recorded in His Word.
Proceed to lesson five - The International Scope of Prophecy!