Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 8, 1951
NUMBER 43, PAGE 2-3a

The More Sure Word Of Prophecy

Pat Hardeman, Tampa, Florida

The apostle Peter speaks of "the word of prophecy made more sure." (II Peter 1:19) He had just mentioned his testimony as an eyewitness to the transfiguration of Christ and the voice that came from the holy mouth. True prophecy as evidence has even a greater force than the testimony of eyewitnesses. This is true because the word of prophecy is made more sure by its fulfillment. True prophecy is the greatest evidence for the divine origin of Christianity and the inspiration of the Bible. It is distinguished from mere divination and from heathen oracles in many ways.

1. True prophecy is always connected in some way with the demonstration of the omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence of God, and the scheme of redemption of man. Heathen oracles were sometimes given only to gratify human curiosity about unimportant matters.

2. "The prophecy in old times came not by the will of man." God called certain ones to the prophetic office and spoke through them. In contrast to this, in the case of heathen oracles the so-called "revelations" were made only after many offerings and propositions, and after great cost to the individual.

3. True prophecy is stated in unambiguous language that excludes all but the fulfilling events. Heathen oracles, to the contrary, were often stated in terms so obscure and ambiguous that any event could be claimed as a fulfillment. To give some examples, when Croesus, king of the Lydians, was ready to fight the Persians, under Cyrus, the delphic oracle "revealed" that a great empire would be destroyed. If Cyrus won, the prophecy would be fulfilled, or if Croesus won, the same would be claimed. The language was understood by Croesus to mean victory for him but the opposite was the case. Likewise the fate of Pyrrhus was "revealed" in language that could mean either that Rome would conquer him or he would conquer Rome. The prophecies of the Bible are free from this ambiguity. This does not say that prophecy is fully understood before its fulfillment, but it is true that once the fulfillment is announced the language becomes perfectly clear. There is indeed a "veil untaken away" on the minds of those who read the prophecies and repudiate their fulfillment (both ancient Jews and modern premillennialists). But the language of the prophecy excludes all but the fulfilling event once an inspired man says: "This is that." Acts 2:18)

Negative View Of Prophecy

Negative criticism of the prophets falls into two classes. First there are those critics who reason on atheistic presuppositions and thus are forced to deny real prophecy. They resort to any expedient to turn the predictions either into history or into "edifying poetry." These same critics must treat the historical portions of the prophecy (for example, Dan. 1) which indicate supernatural or divine providence as "highly interesting and edifying romance." (See article in Encyclopedia Britannica on Daniel.) There are other critics who accept some miracles and also accept the evolutionary view of the Israelitish religion who are forced to deny much of the real prophecy. These last critics claim to belong to the realm of Christianity (a false claim). Both classes of critics are forced to give late dates for the authorship of the prophecies or, where this is impossible, to turn the prophecies into poetic speculation that happened to hit the mark. And sometimes even when late dates are given, such as dating Daniel in 185 B.C., the critics are forced to twist the interpretation of the prophecies to make it harmonize with their denial of its predictions. The critical school as a whole regards the four world empires of Daniel as Babylonian, Persian, Median, and Greek. This is the expedient they devise to escape the fact that even the "late date" Daniel still predicted the coming of the Roman empire. But this interpretation of the four empires is too strained to be tenable. The prophecy of Daniel makes as good a battleground as one can wish on which to fight the battle with modernism. Daniel's prophecies are such an accurate description of Jewish affairs down to the time of Antiochus Epiphanes that even critics must concede their accuracy. Some critics even use their accuracy as one "argument" for the late date. Because of archeological discoveries and historical findings, plus the absolute reductio ad absurdum of literary analysis as a method of higher criticism, the trend among the critics is back to earlier datings and more conservative estimates of the prophecies. However they are still far enough away from the truth to convict them of outright infidelity.

Classification Of Prophecy

Let us consider seven classifications of the prophecies of the Bible as a whole:

1. There were many prophecies concerning individuals such as Abraham's prophecy concerning Ishmael. (Gen. 17:20) Jacob's prophecy concerning his sons. (Gen 49: 1-10) The purpose of these prophecies was usually to warn, to impart information and to strengthen the faith of the individual and to prepare in many ways for the Messiah.

2. There are many prophecies concerning nations or cities, such as the prophecies concerning Egypt; (Ez. 29: 32) Tyre; (Ez. 26:3-6) Babylon. (Isa. 13:19-22) The purpose of these prophecies was to demonstrate the omnipotence and perfect justice of God; to prepare for the coming of the Messiah; to warn nations of the necessity of repentance and to serve as a proof of biblical inspiration.

3. There were many prophecies concerning the Jews, such as Gen. 15:17ff; Deut. 28:49-53 and, in the New Testament, Matt. 24. The purpose of these prophecies was to keep the Jewish nation pure, to prepare in type, shadow, and allegory for the new covenant and the Messiah, and to prove the divine origin of Christianity, plus warning the Jews in the New Testament of impending disaster unless they repented.

4. There were numerous prophecies concerning the church, the greatest institution on the earth. Isa. 2, Dan. 2, and Joel 2 all meet in Acts 2, where the establishment of the church is recorded. These prophecies serve to clarify the nature of the church, to prove its divine foundation, to serve as patterns for its members and to confirm divine inspiration.

5. There were prophecies concerning false religious movements, as Dan. 7, II Thess. 2 and Rev. 13. These prophecies warned against apostasy, exalted the church by promising it ultimate victory and encouraged the saints amidst suffering, plus confirming inspiration. For example, I Tim. 4 plainly predicted that some who departed from the faith would forbid to marry and command to abstain from meats. This is a warning against error and a proof of inspiration.

6. Most important of all are the words of prophecy concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. The mathematics of the probability of all these being mere guess-work demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt that "holy men of old" fully described the Christ by "the spirit of Christ which was in them... when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow." Gen. 3:15; Deut. 18:15; Isa. 7:14:53, and Mal. 4 are inexplicable as the product of human wisdom. They prove the divinity of Christ, the inspiration of the Old Testament and clarify the mission of Christ in wonderful ways.

7. Last are the prophecies as to the hereafter. John 5:28-29; John 12:48; Rev. 20:11, and II Thess. 1:6-9 describe confidently "things to come." These prophecies warn against procrastination, reveal the tragedy of disobedience, give assurance of judgment, and exalt the right standard of judgment—the word of God. Thus could Peter say that the word of prophecy is "made more sure."

Readers don't forget, there is not an infidel on earth that can answer the argument from prophecy. If you can find one who will try to answer, let's "sign him up."