THE TEST OF TRUE PROPHECY
by Wayne S. Walker
Christianity is the only religion whose entire existence is based on fulfilled prophecy. Of course, there have been many claims of prophetic ability in other religions, and even claims of prophetic ability outside that recorded in the Bible among some who call themselves Christians. Since the credibility of prophecy is crucial to the substantiation of Christianity, we want to look at the test of true prophecy. "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4.1).
First, true prophecy must be beyond the power of mere men to see. It is possible to make a prediction based on statistics, past events, current trends, or even speculative imagination, and have it come true. For instance, any astute political observer could have looked at the political situation in the middle of 1980 and made a strong prediction that Ronald Reagan would win the presidential election that fall. However, for Moses to have said in Deuteronomy 28:36, around 1500 B.C., that Israel would have a king, an event which did not take place until around 1050 B.C., was beyond the ability of mere men to know.
Second, true prophecy must be shown to have been predicted before the event. It would have been very easy, if the scripture were only the product of mere men, for someone to go back and fill in prophetic utterances based on events which took place after the supposed prophet lived. Isaiah lived around 700 B. C., and prophesied the virgin birth of Christ (Isaiah 7.14). The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls proves beyond doubt that the book of Isaiah was written before the birth of Christ. So it is clear that this was predicted long before the event.
Third, true prophecy must be applicable to the event, in plain language, and the event must be a clear fulfillment of the prophecy. Some like Nostradamus and Jean Dixon are famous for making large numbers of vague, ambiguous predictions. Then when something happens that even remotely seems to fulfill one of them, it is cited as a case of fulfilled prophecy. Biblical prophecy is different. Isaiah prophesied the fate of Babylon–conquered by the Medes, overthrown as Sodom and Gomorrah, never inhabited again, so desolate that Arabians would not pitch their tents there nor shepherds take their flocks there, and inhabited by wild beasts (Isaiah 13:1-22). All this has happened! There can be no doubt as to what Isaiah predicted, of what he was speaking, and the certainty of the fulfillment.
Finally, the acid test of true prophecy is that it must come true. "When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him" (Deuteronomy 18.22). Consider again Nostradamus and Jean Dixon. We hear so much about a few of their predictions which are supposedly said to have come true but seldom hear of their many predictions which have not come true. One failure makes them false prophets. There are no such failures in Biblical prophecy. Yet, even one clear, undeniable Biblical prophecy, proven to have come true, should completely destroy naturalism and silence the critics of the Bible. The next article will discuss Prophecies concerning Israel. (—taken from With All Boldness; April, 1995; Vol. 5, No. 4; p. 10)