God is Peace…Right?

I attended a meeting of the Secular Student Alliance last night on the campus of the University of Nevada. Actually, it was more of a discussion group than a meeting, and I’ve taken part in many such discussions over the past 6-9 months or so. This group, which consists primarily of atheists and agnostics, has debated and discussed a wide range of issues, from morality to free-will to the demographics of the atheistic community.
Last night’s discussion centered around the question, “Is God peace?” Or, “Is God love?” This question was inspired, I believe, by a bumper sticker someone had seen recently.
Christians, of course, will answer in the affirmative. God is called the “God of peace” in Romans 15:33, and we’re told in 1 John 4:8 that “God is love.”
However, from the perspective of an atheist or skeptic, how can God be characterized by peace and love in light of the following observations:
  • Pain and suffering in the world
  • Birth defects and intellectual disabilities
  • The seemingly unchecked advancement of evil and cruelty
  • Atrocities in the Bible (i.e. genocide)
  • The concept of eternal damnation (which seems cruel and unjust)
All of these objections were raised in last night’s discussion. I must admit that, being the only representative of the Christian faith, it was a bit difficult to answer the flurry of questions. In this article, I’d like to address some of these objections in greater detail. First, I’ll explain the various reasons for suffering in the world today. Then, I’ll address the issue of eternal damnation.
Reasons for Suffering
Some questions are straightforward, and the answer is simple. Other questions are very deep and require a much more detailed response. The question of suffering falls into the latter category. There is no one statement that will address all aspects of human suffering. Biblically speaking, there are many causes of suffering in the world.
Ultimately, most suffering is the result of sin, whether directly or indirectly.
Suffering is the direct result of sin in the following cases:
  • Sin often has physical and/or emotional consequences. The sin of fornication may result in venereal diseases or an unwanted pregnancy. Drinking may result in drunk driving accidents, fatalities, extra-marital affairs and damaged relationships (Proverbs 23:29-35). The Bible – especially the book of Proverbs – warns of the consequences of gossiping, losing your temper, falling prey to lust and adultery, laziness, greed, etc. The suffering isn’t always physical; it is often emotional. There are long term emotional consequences of sin: shame, guilt, bitterness, and so on. We often suffer because we’ve chosen to reject God’s will, or at least we fail to live by His will. “And the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always” (Deuteronomy 6:24).
  • Suffering can also occur when God punishes us individuallybecause of our sin. Hebrews 12:3-7 makes it clear that God chastens His children when they sin. “If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten” (vs. 7).
  • We also find numerous examples in the Bible where God punished an entire nation or region because of its sinfulness. He rained fire and brimstone down on Sodom, Gomorrah and the other cities of the plain in Genesis 19. He often used one nation to punish another nation (Isaiah 10). The book of Revelation lays out God’s judgments against the Roman empire because of its godlessness and persecution of Christians. And believe it or not, the example of genocide (as recorded in the book of Joshua) was actually an expression of God’s justice. The ‘conquering of Canaan’ served a dual-purpose: it allowed the Jews to obtain the land which God had promised to Abraham, while also bringing God’s judgment against the Amorites and other nations which inhabited Canaan (Genesis 15:16).
Suffering can also be the indirect result of sin. Consider these points:
  • A person’s choice to sin not only impacts them, but others as well. No one lives in a bubble. If I cheat on my wife, I’m going to suffer for it. But my wife and six children will suffer for it as well, not to mention the many others that I would disappoint and let down. On a larger scale, a leader of a country may cause untold suffering by pursuing a course of cruelty (i.e. Hitler). In all such cases, God isn’t the cause of the suffering; the suffering is, instead, the result of man’s choice to make ungodly choices.
  • Then there are the natural disasters, the birth defects and diseases. In each of these cases, the suffering does not appear to be tied to anyone’s sin in particular. What about the tsunami that kills a quarter of a million people? What about the innocent baby that is born with with cerebral palsy, severe autism or a mental illness such as schizophrenia? In response, I will quote Romans 8:18-21…

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”

The “creation” here is the natural world. When mankind sinned, the natural world was “subjected to futility” and “corruption.” Whether God adjusted the system, stepped back from the system or allowed Satan to have more sway over the system I cannot say for sure. But what this passage tells me is that man’s sin has corrupted the natural world. If you view sin as a cancer and the natural world as a body, the more that the cancer goes untreated, the more corrupt and infected the earth will become.

In all of this, God allows us to deal with the direct and indirect consequences of sin.

First of all, this is an essential component of free-will. For every cause, there is an effect. If there are no consequences for bad choices, free-will is a game, an illusion.

Secondly, suffering has benefits. “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4). Even the atheist should agree with this in theory. You’ve heard the expression, “No pain, no gain.” Suffering has a way of building our character.

Third, suffering shows us our need for God. Whether the suffering is the direct result of our sin or the indirect result of others’ sin, it reveals our vulnerability and mortality, which, in turn, points us to a God who offers a path to a better life. Jesus says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

So we can’t blame God when we’re suffering. We choose to sin. Those around us choose to sin. Sin has consequences. We live in a fallen world, and in this fallen world, our suffering ought to illuminate, if anything, our desperate need for God.

Finally, there are three forms of suffering that cannot be attributed directly or indirectly to sin:

  • Suffering also exists because of Satan’s influence. The story of Job illustrates this. While God permitted Satan to inflict suffering upon Job, Satan is the one who did it…and he did it because he wanted Job to curse God and abandon his faith. Even today we’re told to “be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom He may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
  • God may allow suffering because He has a greater purpose in mind. In John 9:1-5, we are introduced to a man who had been blind from birth. Jesus’ disciples asking Him, “‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.'” There may be times where God allows suffering or even creates adverse circumstances, not because He’s punishing anyone, but because He has a greater purpose in mind. In this story, the man was born blind so that one day, Jesus could heal him and bring glory to God as a result.
  • Sometimes, there is no particular reason behind a person’s suffering. In other words, God isn’t behind it. We’re told in Ecclesiastes 9:11 that “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all.” Jesus affirms this in Matthew 5:45 when He says that “your Father in heaven…makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Before I move on to my final point about eternal damnation, I want to clarify two things about suffering in the world today. These points are critical.

  1. Rather than look for the reason for each instance of suffering, we ought to react to suffering by recognizing our own mortality and thus our need for God. When asked about a tragedy that had occurred at the hand of Pilate, Jesus responded, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered these things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:2-3).
  2. The question, “Is God peace?” can be answered with a resounding ‘Yes!’ Likewise, we can all affirm without hesitation that He is love. But this is an oversimplication of His character. While this point really merits much deeper analysis and explanation, suffice it to say that (1) God is also a God of justice (Psalm 89:14), and that (2) In His infinite love, He allows suffering to exist because He respects our free-will and wants us to respond by turning to Him. By way of comparison, I deeply love my children. But I will still discipline them when they misbehave (thus robbing them momentarily of peace) and allow them to suffer the consequences of their actions in hopes that they will learn and grow from it. So there is no contradiction.
What About Eternal Damnation?
One of the most common and effective arguments against the love of God is the concept of eternal damnation in a fiery hell. In the discussion last night on campus, the issue of hell was raised on multiple occasions. In the minds of many, it seems unfair and unjust for God to send seemingly good people to hell where they will burn and suffer for eternity without any hope of escape. Some believe that hell in and of itself is proof-positive that the God of the Bible is unloving. Others will admit that hell makes sense, but that eternal hell is unreasonable and unfair.
Listen, I get it. From a human standpoint, it does seem harsh.
My answer is this: if God created this world and all life in it – if I am the product of His creative power – then who am I to argue with Him about the nature or duration of hell? My faith isn’t predicated on the reality of hell. I don’t begin with hell. That’s not my starting point. Through my studies and meditations, I have concluded that there is a God and that the Bible is His inspired word. Therefore, if the Bible teaches an eternal hell, that’s what I’m going to believe.
The fact is, God has made Himself known to all of us (Romans 1:20). The gospel is for all (Matthew 28:18-20; John 3:16). We each have a lifetime to seek God’s truth, embrace His will, and grow in His love and grace. We can debate the nature of hell or the cause of suffering, but none of this negates the reality of God, our need for Him, or the urgency of salvation.
Conclusion
I fully understand how an unbeliever can conclude that the God of the Bible is NOT love or peace. From a Christian perspective, it can be very difficult to give a direct, clear answer for every instance of suffering in the world. I’m not God. I don’t understand or claim to understand why everything in the universe happens. All I can do is examine the Scriptures and relate what the Scriptures teach about suffering in the world. That has been my attempt in this article.

If you’re an atheist or skeptic, I don’t expect this article to totally convince you of anything. After all, you don’t accept my premise that the Bible is God’s inspired word. But hopefully you can have deeper insight into the mind of a Christian and how it is that we reconcile these things.

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7 Examples of Scientific Foreknowledge

While the Bible isn’t a ‘science textbook,’ because it is the inspired word of God, the Creator of the universe (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Psalm 19:1), then statements it makes about the natural world ought to be accurate. 
 
In this brief article, I’d like to discuss what many have termed the ‘scientific foreknowledge’ of the Bible. These are statements about the natural world (i.e. astronomy, meteorology, medicine, etc.) that were written down long before the secular world understood or accepted them as being true. 
 
While some of the commonly cited examples of ‘scientific foreknowledge’ are weak, I’ve chosen to emphasize the ones that I find the most compelling.
 
The placement of earth in space (Job 26:7). According to this verse, the earth “hangs on nothing.” In other words, it’s suspended in space. How could Job have known this? He didn’t have satellite capabilities. 
 
Furthermore, in ancient Hindu, Buddhist and Greek writings, it was believed that the earth was held up by a man or some other creature.
 
The Water Cycle (Job 36:27-28; Ecclesiastes 1:7; Amos 9:6). Job speaks of the process of evaporation and condensation. Solomon and Amos both speak in greater detail of the water cycle when they describes how the “rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; to the place from which the rivers come, there they return again.”

From a historical perspective, in the 1600’s it was finally realized that water could evaporate as a gaseous substance. In 1676, Pierre Perrault and Edme Marriotte made a scientific breakthrough by describing the hydrologic cycle in detail. Yet the Bible described the process thousands of years earlier. Even after people understood the hydrological cycle, they believed that rain, being fresh water, came from rivers and lakes. The discovery that rain comes mostly from seawater as described in the Bible is recent.

Springs on the ocean floor (Job 38:16). The book of Job was written about 4,000 years ago. We might ask how Job knew about what existed on the ocean floor.
 
From a historical perspective, the earliest secular reference to these springs was by the Roman geographer Strabo, who lived from 63 B.C. to 21 A.D. However, scientists really began to understand deep sea vents and springs in the 20th century: 1. In 1965 scientists first theorized that such vents could exist. In the late 1970’s, oceanographers with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute finally saw and photographed one from the deep water submersible Alvin. Until then it was impossible to travel to these depths because of the intense pressures encountered. Since then many more vents have been found. These are usually referred to as “hydrothermal vents” which are composed of steam and minerals flowing at high pressure into the sea as a result of cracks in the earth’s crust.
 
Circumcision on the 8th day (Genesis 17:10-12). The sign of the Abrahamic Covenant was to be circumcision. This surgical procedure remained a requirement for all Jews from that day forward until it was eradicated under the Law of Christ (as a requirement).
 
What is significant here is the day on which circumcision was to be performed. The following quote is from an article by Kyle Butt, M.A.: 
 
“The encyclopedic work Holt Pediatrics remains today one of the most influential works ever written about child care, pediatric disease, and other health concerns as they relate to children. First written in 1896 by L. Emmet Holt, Jr. and going through several revisions until the year 1953, the nearly 1,500-page work is a master compilation of the ‘modern’ medicine of its day. One section, starting on page 125 of the twelfth edition, is titled ‘Hemorrhagic Disease of the Newborn.’ The information included in the section details the occurrence of occasional spontaneous bleeding among newborns that can sometimes cause severe damage to major organs such as the brain, and even death. In the discussion pertaining to the reasons for such bleeding, the authors note that the excessive bleeding is primarily caused by a decreased level of prothrombin, which in turn is caused by insufficient levels of vitamin K. The text also notes that children’s susceptibility is ‘peculiar’ (meaning ‘higher’) ‘between the second and fifth days of life’ (1953, p. 126). In chart form, Holt Pediatrics illustrates that the percent of available prothrombin in a newborn dips from about 90% of normal on its day of birth to about 35% on its third day of life outside the womb. After the third day, the available prothrombin begins to climb. By the eighth day of the child’s life, the available prothrombin level is approximately 110% of normal, about 20% higher than it was on the first day, and about 10% more than it will be during of the child’s life. Such data prove that the eighth day is the perfect day on which to perform a major surgery such as circumcision”
 
Sanitation Laws in the Pentateuch. The Law of Moses promoted standards of sanitation long before germs were well understood. For example…
 
  • They believed in quarantining the diseased (Lev. 13:4-5). 
  • Bodily discharges were considered unclean (Lev. 15). 
  • The “water of purification” (Numbers 19:6-9): 
    • Lye soap is made by pouring water through ashes. 
    • Hyssop contains the antiseptic thymol. 
    • Water itself is useful in sanitation. 
  • They weren’t to touch a corpse (Num. 19:11-16). 
On one hand, these laws were for holiness, not health (Lev. 11:44-45). We might also add that much of this was observable and easily deduced. But on the other hand, the Pentateuch, albeit incidentally, encouraged certain sanitary and medical practices that were/are beneficial.
 
Many societal and medical practices throughout history have reflected a lack of understanding of such sanitary principles.
 
Lightning & the rain (Job 38:25-26; Jeremiah 10:13; 51:16). Jeremiah writes, “He makes lightning for the rain.” Job adds that the “thunderbolt” causes the rain to come forth.
 
David R. Cook of the Argonne National Laboratory has noted: 
 
“The heavier rain after or just about the time of more frequent lightning is probably not a coincidence. Research on lightning frequency and rainfall suggests that the action of hydrometeors (rain and hail) being carried around in the thunderstorm (in updrafts as well as downdrafts) creates electrical charge buildup in the clouds. The more active the storm and the more hydrometeors there are, the more electric charge is built up and the more frequent the lightning is. The more hydrometeors there are, the greater the likelihood of heavy precipitation, although it may occur after most of the lightning, as a downdraft has to set up or the updrafts decline to allow the hydrometeors to fall towards the ground”
 
There is a clear, scientific correlation between lightning and rain, just as the Bible describes in many places.
 
The dimensions of Noah’s ark (Genesis 6:14-17). Many have criticized the account of Noah’s ark. What is fascinating is that this ancient text (ca. 1,400-1,500 B.C.) contains ship dimensions that have been proven to be legitimate, if not perfect.
 
The ratio of 30-5-3 has been proven to be a legitimate, if not perfect, ratio for shipbuilding:
 
  • In 1844, Isambard K. Brunnel built the Great Britain with these same dimensions.
  • Shipbuilders during World War II used these dimensions as well. 
  • “Noah’s Ark was the focus of a major 1993 scientific study headed by Dr. Seon Hong at the world-class ship research center KRISO, based in Daejeon, South Korea. Dr Hong’s team compared twelve hulls of different proportions to discover which design was most practical. No hull shape was found to significantly outperform the 4,300-year-old biblical design. In fact, the Ark’s careful balance is easily lost if the proportions are modified, rendering the vessel either unstable, prone to fracture, or dangerously uncomfortable. The research team found that the proportions of Noah’s Ark carefully balanced the conflicting demands of stability (resistance to capsizing), comfort (“seakeeping”), and strength. In fact, the Ark has the same proportions as a modern cargo ship,” (http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/ am/v2/n2/thinking-outside-the-box) NOTE: Dr. Hong is not a creationist. 
These are a few of the examples of ‘scientific foreknowledge’ found in the pages of the Bible. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, if the Bible is the word of God, its statements and observations about the natural world ought to be correct.
 
But not only are these statements correct, but the element offoreknowledge ought to make any honest observer ask, “How did they know?” If it was once or twice, we might say that they got lucky. It may even be that other ancient cultures had incredible insight into the natural world as well. They also got a lot of things wrong. However, for the Bible to be so consistent and so accurate is one of many evidences of the Bible’s divine authorship.
 
At least, I think so.

The Bible’s Greatest Defense: Itself!

Quotation-Bill-Maher-religion-bible-humor-Meetville-Quotes-141746Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who would agree with this statement by Bill Maher (at left). I have spoken with many atheists who view the Bible as a collection of fairy tales that classify as either horrific or unintelligible. Sure, they will admit that there are some nuggets of wisdom here and there – the famous “Golden Rule” or “Judge not that you be not judged” – but they cannot seem to get past the exclusivity, the apparent ‘contradictions’ or the simple fact that it’s a 2,000-3,000 year old collection of letters written by middle eastern goat herders.

I’ve been a Christian for almost 11 years, but I’ve been a Bible student for 15 years. While I can understand why many people are quick to ridicule or mock the Bible, I am convinced that they do so only because they don’t truly understand it. Now they will respond that it’s because they understand it that they ridicule and mock it.

After 15 years of studying the Bible, I’m still unlocking its secrets; I’m still trying to understand it’s deeper messages. I’ve often said that the more I delve into the Scriptures, the more I agree with the statement in Hebrews 4:12 that the word of God is “living and powerful.”
When I defend the inspiration of the Bible, I often point to its fulfilled prophecies, its historical accuracy, archaeological confirmation and internal consistency. But to be honest, what impresses me the most about the Bible is its deep, intrinsic beauty.
Allow me to explain…
Honesty About the Human Condition
As a creative writer, I know a thing or two about “selling a story.” While the heroes and heroins are allowed (and expected) to experience hardship along the way, in the end, they must learn the lesson and win the day. They always defeat the enemy, conquer evil and ride off into the sunset with the damsel-in-distress. I’m reminded of one of my favorite Alan Jackson songs:

“Cowboys don’t cry, and heroes don’t die. Good always wins, again and again. And love is a sweet dream that always comes true. Oh, if life were like the movies, I’d never be blue. But here in the real world, it’s not that easy at all. When hearts get broken, it’s real tears that fall. And darling, it’s sad but true, but the one thing I’ve learned from you, is how the boy don’t always get the girl here in the real world.”

 

When we go to the movies, we want the hero to beat the bad guy and get the girl. We’re entertained by that. But we know that real life doesn’t work that way! Movies can make us feel good, but they don’t match reality.
And this is where the Bible offers something that movies and books do not.
Adam and Eve disobeyed God (Gen. 3). By Noah’s day, “every intent of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). On more than one occasion, Abraham, the “father of faith,” failed to trust God as he should have (Gen. 12:10-20; Gen. 20). We again witness the depths of depravity in Genesis 19 when God rains down fire and brimstone on the cities of the plain…an act of divine judgment from which not even Lot and his family escaped unscathed. Isaac and Rebekah had a divided marriage (Gen. 25-27). Jacob showed favoritism to his second-youngest son, Joseph, and unintentionally created such a poisonous environment that Joseph’s brothers felt justified in selling him into slavery (Gen. 37). Moses committed murder (Gen. 2:12), argued with God (Gen. 3), and even later disobeyed God in front of all of the people of Israel (Numbers 20). The Judges were not always the most righteous of people (e.g. Samson). King David committed adultery and murder (2 Sam. 11). The wise King Solomon is known as much for his apostasy as for his wisdom (1 Kings 11). It’s almost depressing at times to read through the annals of the kings of Judah because some of the best and most righteous kings departed from God in the end. Job is the story of a righteous and blameless man who suffered tremendous pain and loss. The prophets were mistreated and persecuted, even by God’s own people.
In the New Testament, Judas betrayed Jesus, Peter denied Jesus, His own brothers didn’t believe in Him (John 7:5) and His own countrymen – the same ones who witnessed His miracles – were the same ones who cried out “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” And if you think that the churches of the first century were perfectly unified and free of problems, you’re mistaken; just read 1 Corinthians, or the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3.
A Hollywood actor, Robert Duvall, once said that “We either accept weaknesses in good people or we have to tear pages out of the Bible.” And former president, Ronald Reagan, added, “Within the covers of the Bible are the answers for all the problems men face.”
The Bible isn’t always pleasant, but it’s honest, and its honesty is what convicts us, helps us and inspires us. Not only can we learn from David’s sin with Bathsheba and Peter’s denial of the Lord, but these stories assure us that, if such imperfect men could be so useful in God’s kingdom, maybe we can be as well!
How could a collection of mostly Jewish men from 2,000-3,000 years ago – some educated, most uneducated – have such insight? And why would they have been so honest about the men and women of whom they wrote? This isn’t how you “sell” a story!
American novelist, John Barth, once said that “The Bible is not man’s word about God, but God’s word about man.” I couldn’t agree more! There is no greater psychology textbook, no greater insight into the human condition, than the Bible.
Poetic Beauty
Have you ever read the book of Job? Or Psalms? The writings of Paul? While the entire Bible is beautifully and elegantly written, the poetic and linguistic beauty of these particular sections are unparalleled. Consider a few examples:

“Remember to magnify His work, of which men have sung. Everyone has seen it; man looks on it from afar. Behold, God is great, and we do not know Him; nor can the number of His years be discovered. For He draws up drops of water, which distill as rain from the mist, which the clouds drop down and pour abundantly on man. Indeed, can anyone understand the spreading of the clouds, the thunder from His canopy?” (Job 36:24-29).

 

“For you formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them” (Psalm 139:14-15).

 

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

 

On the surface, this doesn’t prove that the Bible is divinely inspired. But as an avid Bible student, the more that I read and study its elegant and touching words, and the more I see their relevance and simple beauty, the more I am convinced that they must come from God alone.
Maya Angelou echoed these sentiments when she said, “I read the Bible to myself; I’ll take any translation, any edition, and read it aloud, just to hear the language, hear the rhythm, and remind myself how beautiful English is.”
Layered…Like an Onion
I’m not a big fan of the movie Shrek, but I always liked the scene where Shrek tries to explain to Donkey that “Ogres are like onions” because they have “layers.” While I’m not comparing the Bible to onions, I am saying that the Bible has layers.
 
I’ve read through the Bible many times. I read parts of it every day. So I’m constantly cycling back through the same passages and the same stories. It may sound boring and redundant – and I imagine it is with most books – but not so with the Bible…because each time I read a passage, I fold back a new layer and find new and deeper lessons. It’s one of the most rewarding and faith-building exercises that Christians experience in their walk with Christ.
Take David’s sin with Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11-12 as an example. You might read through it the first time and be appalled that such a godly man could do such a thing. The next time you read it, you might gain insight into temptation and how it unfolds. You might begin to relate to David. Then, the third time, you might notice how Psalm 32 gives us insight into David’s mind during the months following his sin. Then you might notice that David’s psalm of repentance (Psalm 51) relates to this incident. Now you’re beginning to understand not only the power of temptation, but the true nature of repentance. But then what about Bathsheba? And what about her husband, Uriah? What about David’s commander, Joab, and his role in the debacle? What about the parable of the ewe lamb at the beginning of chapter 12? How did David’s sin affect his family in the subsequent chapters? What lessons can be learned from the way David mourned his son’s death? What about divine chastisement? How has God used David’s temporary apostasy to impart lessons to untold millions of people, even today?
This is just one of countless examples that I could relate to you.
When I restudy a passage, it may be a word or phrase that stands out to me for the first time. It may be that my recent studies in another passage grant me new insight here in this one. It could be deeper reflection upon the character of the story. In any event, the Bible is layered, and the more I study it, the more I uncover its subtle messages.
In the words of John D. Rockefeller, “We are never too old to study the Bible. Each time the lessons are studied comes some new meaning, some new thought which will make us better.”
A Consistent Message
As a writer, I can say that it’s harder than you might realize to write a novel that has a consistent, harmonious story line. It’s difficult enough to fully develop the characters; now try bringing the plot to its climax smoothly and gracefully. Then try tying up all the loose ends by joining the different story lines and answering the questions that you’ve asked throughout the book. It’s one thing to come up with an entertaining plot, but it’s another thing to write a book so that, when the reader finishes the last chapter, he/she is satisfied.
The Bible is not a book. It’s a collection of 66 books written by over 40 different authors from three different continents, from all walks of life, in three different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek). From a purely human standpoint, it would be impossible for this many diverse authors to articulate a strong, consistent message.
And yet that’s exactly what we find in the Bible. Augustine, who lived from 354-430 A.D., said that “The New Testament lies hidden in the Old, and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.”
In Ephesians 3:3-5, we read the following about the Bible’s message:
“…how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets…”

If you’ve ever read a mystery novel (or seen a movie along these lines), you know how, at the end of the story, you say to yourself, “Ohhhh, I see! Now it all makes sense!” The Bible is like that. The Old Testament contains the mysterious plot, with hints and clues along the way. Then, in the New Testament, we find the climax – Jesus’ death on the cross – followed by a careful and precise explanation of the mystery and what it means for us.

From the prophecies of a coming Messiah that fill the pages of the Old Testament to the foreshadowing and symbology that is initiated in the Old and explained in the New; from the way that the prophets of old follow the messianic lineage through Seth, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Ruth and David, to the way that God’s character and nature are expressed fully through Jesus in the gospels, the 66 books of the Bible are intricately woven like a tapestry.
Bible skeptics are often familiar with the messianic prophecies of the Bible. They often respond by saying that they are “self-fulfilling prophecies.” Or, they say that the interpretations of such prophecies are subjective. It’s easy for them to make such accusations and to cite an example or two to back up their point. But a deeper and more honest examination of the Scriptures eliminates this objection swiftly and completely. There’s just too much.
Here’s a [very] partial list:
  • Jesus is contrasted with Adam in Romans 5:12-21.
  • The tree of life lost in Genesis 3:22-24, but regained in Rev. 22:1-5, 14.
  • Jesus is compared to Moses in Acts 3:19-26.
  • Jesus inherited the “throne of David” (Acts 2:30-31).
  • David crossed over the Brook Kidron when he was betrayed by his son, Absalom (2 Sam. 15:22-23). Jesus crossed over the Brook Kidron just before being betrayed by Judas (John 18:1).
  • Read Galatians and the entire book of Hebrews.
  • The symbolism of Revelation is based in Ezekiel and Daniel.
Perhaps this is why Jesus, when He was on the cross, said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). He came to fulfill/complete the Old Testament plan (Matt. 5:17-18), to solve the mystery, to explain God’s plan, and to reconcile us to the God we lost in Eden.
This quote from William P. White sums up this point well: “The Bible is a harp with a thousand strings. Play on one to the exclusion of its relationship to the others, and you will develop discord. Play on all of them, keeping them in their places in the divine scale, and you will hear heavenly music all the time.”
It Answers Our Deepest Questions
Finally, the Bible is so impressive to me because it answers the deepest and most universal (and yet basic) of man’s questions. Where did we come from? Why are we here? What is our destiny? I have never come across a book that so succinctly and yet so intricately answers these and other questions of life. It’s so much more than just a book of history or facts or knowledge.
And this is vitally important!
In Acts 17, the apostle Paul arrived in the city of Athens. He encountered an audience that “spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing” (vs. 21). These people loved knowledge; they found it entertaining. I can’t help but think that a lot of people today are just like the Athenians; knowledge is abstract, even esoteric. The pleasure is in learning and knowing.
Paul proceeded not only to tell them about God, but to make Him personal and relevant. He told the Athenians that God had made them and wanted to have a relationship with them (vs. 26-29) and concluded by saying, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (vs. 30-31).
In a few sentences, Paul answered the three fundamental questions of human existence. Where did we come from? Why are we here? What is our destiny? He made it clear that abstract or intellectual knowledge, though a source of great pleasure, is NOT sufficient.
I love science. I love history. I love politics. I love to debate. I love philosophy. I love to be intellectually stimulated. But no amount of knowledge in these areas – no amount of scientific knowledge – will ever be able to address the deepest questions that every man and woman asks internally and meditates upon throughout life.

Having said that, these questions aren’t neatly listed and answered in any one place. Again, the Bible is layered and answers these questions at different times and in different ways. The more that we study the Scriptures – and I mean truly study – the more that we understand the answers to these questions. It’s not just that the Bible answers these questions; it’s how it answers them.

A skeptic might respond by saying that these questions, although natural, do not demand or justify a religious response. In other words, the fact that we ponder a higher purpose and life after death doesn’t mean that such exist. I disagree. The fact that we all ask these same questions is proof-positive to me that we have been created by a common designer. Indeed, Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God has put eternity in our hearts.

Conclusion
Bill Maher and other skeptics like him will continue to judge the Bible without truly knowing and understanding it. They will cherry-pick and lift verses out of context in an effort to mock it and ‘prove’ its absurdity, ineffectiveness or inaccuracies. I’ve seen it time and time again.
For me, there is a preponderance of evidence in favor of the divine inspiration of the Bible. The prophecies, the scientific foreknowledge, the historical accuracy and archaeological confirmation of the Bible are all compelling and overwhelming.
But my faith in the message of the Bible is not derived from any one piece of evidence, or even a mass of evidence that can be laid out on the table for all to see. For me, it is my deep, daily and very personal study of the Bible that sparks my soul, enriches my faith and provides me with a calm, unwavering, unfettered assurance in the reality of my God.
For some, it is circular reasoning, but for me, it is not.
“There’s no better book with which to defend the Bible than the Bible itself.” -Dwight L. Moody

Five Reasons to Believe in Six Literal Days

In the face of such “compelling” evidence for the evolutionary timeline, many Christians have abandoned a literal interpretation of the creation account in Genesis 1. Others have gone a step further, denying the literal nature of Genesis 1-11. There are many different viewpoints that allow for what we call “Theistic Evolution,” which is the belief that God used the evolutionary process (and billions of years) to form the universe as we know it. These viewpoints, such as the “Day-Age Theory” and the “Literary Framework Theory,” paint the early chapters of Genesis as symbolic and/or poetic in nature.
In this article, I’d like to give you five reasons to believe in six literal days…and why you should view the early chapters of Genesis, not as legend or poetry, but as historical narrative.
  1. The natural reading of the text demands literal days. It’s true that we find symbolic and poetic texts in the Bible, but these texts are clearly identified. In Psalms, for example, we’re told in many cases that these were songs. The metaphors and hyperbole are obvious. In Revelation, we’re told in the very first verse that this is a book of symbols and signs. However, there is no such indicator in the first eleven chapters of Genesis. These chapters read as historical narrative. In Genesis 1, an “evening and…morning” are attributed to each day. If we’re going to make the case that Genesis 1, or that Genesis 1-11, are symbolic or poetic in nature, we need to have some strong internal evidence.
  2. While many religious people attempt to harmonize the theory of evolution with the creation account, there are blatant contradictions between the order of evolution and the order of biblical creation. The Bible says that fruit trees came before fish, but the evolutionary theory says that fish came first. The Bible says that birds came before reptiles, but the evolutionary theory posits that reptiles evolved into birds. The Bible says that mankind came before thorns and thistles (which were a consequence of man’s sin in Genesis 3), but the evolutionary theory says the opposite. Consider this: in Romans 5:12, we’re told that “through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” So there was no death before Adam’s sin. But, of course, the evolutionary theory sets forth that death dominated the earth for hundreds of millions of years before man ever emerged in the evolutionary process. By accepting even the timeline and order of Darwinian evolution, we are saying that Paul was wrong in Romans 5.
  3. Moses believed in six literal days. In Exodus 20, as God gave the Ten Commandments, He compared the work-week of man to the work-week of God (in creation). “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh is the Sabbath of the Lord your God…For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day” (vs. 9, 11). Clearly, Moses, the author of Genesis, viewed the days as literal days.
  4. The genealogies in Genesis 1-11 match the genealogies found elsewhere in the Bible. First of all, if Genesis 1-11 are not historical in nature – if these were just stories and legends – then why do we find genealogical lists included in the first place (Gen. 5, 10-11)? As one preacher put it, the very presence of these genealogical lists prove the historical nature and intent of Genesis 1-11. Beyond that, these genealogical lists are repeated with precision in other places in the Bible. Compare, for example, the list in Genesis 5 with that in 1 Chronicles 1:1 and Luke 3:23-38. And this is especially significant when you realize that in Genesis 5:1, we’re told that 130 years passed from Adam’s creation (on the 6th day) to the birth of Seth (after he was out of the Garden).
  5. Jesus and His apostles viewed Genesis 1-11 as “historical narrative.” Wouldn’t you agree that if Jesus viewed the creation account (and all of Genesis 1-11) as literal and true, that we should as well? In Matthew 19:4, Jesus quoted from Genesis 1:26-27 and then, in verse 5, quoted from Genesis 2:24. Rather than placing man’s creation later in the earth’s history, He placed man’s creation “in the beginning” and viewed the account of the first marriage as literal. He also believed that Abel’s blood had really been shed (Gen. 4 – Mt. 23:35). In Matthew 24:37-39, Jesus reminded His audience of the account of Noah and the flood; He believed in the flood! Later in the New Testament, the apostles (inspired by the Holy Spirit), compared Jesus to Adam (Rom. 5:12-19; 1 Cor. 15:45), made reference to the account of Cain and Abel (Heb. 11:4; 1 John 2:12), and believed strongly in the account of the flood (Heb. 11:7; 1 Peter 3:20-21; 2 Peter 3:1-7).
There are other reasons to believe in the literal nature of Genesis 1-11. Historical and archaeological evidence abounds for a young earth, a global flood and even the scattering of mankind (Gen. 11). But these five reasons from within the Bible itself ought to convince us (if we believe in the inspiration of the Bible) that the days of creation were literal days and that the events of Genesis 1-11 really happened.
Rather than interpret the Bible in light of man’s wisdom, let us interpret man’s wisdom in light of the Bible. The Bible is not a collection of fables and myths, but contains the literal history of the world. And considering its source, it is the most reliable and accurate historical record.
In closing, Genesis 1-11 serves as the foundation of the Scriptures. If we cannot trust these accounts, how can we trust any of the Bible? If we cannot believe in the literal nature of Genesis 1-11 because these things are “unscientific,” how can we accept the virgin birth of Christ or the resurrection? Christians must not compromise the inspiration of the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16-17). With patience and study, you will in fact discover that true science lines up with the biblical record.

The Prophecy of Tyre

Introduction
Shakespeare’s, Julius Caesar. Homer’s, The Iliad. Tolstoy’s, War and Peace.
 
These are all examples of classic literature that are highly regarded by people all over the world. They are praised for their quality, studied by university students and so beloved that they are placed in personal home libraries alongside other such classic and even modern works.
 
Is the Bible just another example of classic literature? Is it placed on your bookshelf next to Tom Sawyer, Crime and Punishment, Tale of Two Cities and perhaps even the Koran? 
 
Or is the Bible the inspired word of God as many believe…and as its own pages attest?
 
As a Christian, I believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God and therefore deserves a spot on our desks – open, pages dog-eared, verses highlighted, notes in the side-columns – because it is the one book that should truly guide and govern our lives (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
 
But why do I elevate the Bible above Uncle Tom’s Cabin or Adam Smith’sThe Wealth of Nations? Simply because it says that it’s the inspired word of God? Am I blindly making a claim about this book without any evidence to back it up?
 
Not at all.
 
There are many evidences of the Bible’s inspiration, but in this series of articles, I’m appealing to the general prophecies of the Bible as evidence. So far, I’ve explained…
In this article, I’d like to focus on Ezekiel’s prophecy of Tyre.
 
The Context of Ezekiel 26
The Babylonian army came against the city of Jerusalem on multiple occasions before finally conquering and destroying the city in 586 B.C. Ezekiel was one of the earlier captives carted off to Babylon. It was during his captivity in Babylon that “the heavens were opened” to Ezekiel and he saw “visions of God” (Ezek. 1:1). It is generally believed that his ministry stretched from about 593-573 B.C.
 
Ezekiel’s job as a prophet of God in Babylon was to admonish and teach the other Jewish captives who were in Babylon (2:2-8) and to serve as a “watchman” for Israel” (3:16-21).
 
He would have been a contemporary of Daniel, whose prophecies we’ve already considered. He also would have been in Babylon when Nebuchadnezzar ultimately conquered Jerusalem in 586 B.C. – something that, though expected, would have been devastating news for the Jewish captives.
 
While Ezekiel’s ministry was largely focused on the captive Jews, he also made prophecies about other nations and cities. In Ezekiel 26, we find a detailed prophecy of the destruction of Tyre, a Phoenician port city that would have been one of the leading cities in that region at that time.
 
The Prophecy Itself
Here’s the prophecy, from Ezekiel 26:1-14…
 

“1 And it came to pass in the eleventh year, on the first day of the month, that the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, because Tyre has said against Jerusalem, ‘Aha! She is broken who was the gateway of the peoples; now she is turned over to me; I shall be filled; she is laid waste.’ 3 Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and will cause many nations to come up against you, as the sea causes its waves to come up. 4 And they shall destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers; I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her like the top of a rock. 5 It shall be a place for spreading nets in the midst of the sea, for I have spoken,’ says the Lord God; ‘it shall become plunder for the nations. 6 Also her daughter villages which are in the fields shall be slain by the sword. Then they shall know that I am the Lord.’7 “For thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I will bring against Tyre from the north Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, king of kings, with horses, with chariots, and with horsemen, and an army with many people. 8 He will slay with the sword your daughter villages in the fields; he will heap up a siege mound against you, build a wall against you, and raise a defense against you. 9 He will direct his battering rams against your walls, and with his axes he will break down your towers. 10 Because of the abundance of his horses, their dust will cover you; your walls will shake at the noise of the horsemen, the wagons, and the chariots, when he enters your gates, as men enter a city that has been breached. 11 With the hooves of his horses he will trample all your streets; he will slay your people by the sword, and your strong pillars will fall to the ground. 12 They will plunder your riches and pillage your merchandise; they will break down your walls and destroy your pleasant houses; they will lay your stones, your timber, and your soil in the midst of the water.13 I will put an end to the sound of your songs, and the sound of your harps shall be heard no more. 14 I will make you like the top of a rock; you shall be a place for spreading nets, and you shall never be rebuilt, for I the Lord have spoken,’ says the Lord God.”

Let’s break down the many components of the prophecy itself:
  • Many nations would come against Tyre (vs. 3).
  • The city would be destroyed (vs. 4).
  • The city would become bare as a rock (vs. 4).
  • Fishermen would one day spread their nets where the city itself once was, proving its complete destruction (vs. 5, 14).
  • Nebuchadnezzar would come against the city (vs. 7).
  • The rubble of the city would be cast into the sea (vs. 12).
  • The city would never be rebuilt (vs. 14).
Were these prophecies fulfilled? Was Tyre destroyed in this manner? What about the details of this passage? For example, was the rubble of the city cast into the sea? Is there any way for us to know, historically, whether these things came to pass?
 
Yes!
 
After capturing Jerusalem in 586 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar (king of Babylon) besieged Tyre for 13 years, until 573 B.C. The people of Tyre fled to an island that was half a mile offshore. 
 
Later in history, Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.) arrived at Tyre after having conquered another Phoenician port city, Sidon. When they refused to grant him access to their city, it was war! Using the rubble from the old city (destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar), Alexander’s men build a land bridge to the island. The siege lasted until 332 B.C. when the Greeks conquered Tyre completely!
 
This website details Alexander’s siege of Tyre in great detail and even explains how he built a land bridge, or “mole,” from the shoreline to the island. You can see the picture (at right) for a better understanding of this part of the siege.
 
So, Ezekiel’s prophecy was fulfilled exactly!

  • Multiple nations came against Tyre – Babylon, Greece.
  • Nebuchadnezzar led the first assault.
  • The rubble of the city was cast into the sea – Alexander’s “mole.”
  • The city was scraped bare as a rock.
  • Fishermen did use the old city foundation as a place for spreading their nets.
  • The city was never rebuilt.
Why This is So Amazing!
One might argue that it wouldn’t have been so spectacular for Ezekiel to prophecy about Nebuchadnezzar’s offensive against the city of Tyre. Tyre was, after all, a leading city in that region, and the Babylonian forces were conquering that very region. In fact, even though Ezekiel’s prophecy of Nebuchadnezzar was stated in terms of what would happen (in the future), one might argue that Ezekiel technically may have been alive when it happened and could have written about it after the fact.
 
However, that doesn’t account for the second half of the prophecy. 
 
How could Ezekiel have known that a second nation would besiege the city? How could he have known that they would have cast the city’s rubble into the sea? These things didn’t happen for at least another 200 years. Ezekiel would have been long dead by then!
 
This is yet another example of a Bible prophecy that is so specific in nature that can be confirmed historically by even reputable secular sources.
 
Objections
As with any powerful evidence such as this, there are always going to be the skeptics and naysayers who try to discredit some aspect of the evidence. This is understandable when we know that many of these skeptics begin with the presupposition that there isn’t a God. Nevertheless, let’s address these questions in some detail here before we conclude our brief study.
 
Some will contend that the city of Tyre was rebuilt and therefore, the prophecy falls flat. This is an understandable objection. Here are two possible solutions (I think both are true):
  1. “The modern city of Tyre is of modest size and is near the ancient site, though not identical to it. Archaeological photographs of the ancient site show ruins from ancient Tyre scattered over many acres of land. No city has been rebuilt over these ruins, however, in fulfillment of this prophecy.” (Dennis and Grudem, “Tyre,” The ESV Study Bible) 
  2. “In point of fact, the mainland city of Tyre later was rebuilt and assumed some of its former importance during the Hellenistic period. But as for the island city, it apparently sank below the surface of the Mediterranean…All that remains of it is a series of black reefs offshore from Tyre, which surely could not have been there in the first and second millennia b.c., since they pose such a threat to navigation. The promontory that now juts out from the coastline probably was washed up along the barrier of Alexander’s causeway, but the island itself broke off and sank away when the subsidence took place; and we have no evidence at all that it ever was built up again after Alexander’s terrible act of vengeance. In the light of these data, then, the predictions of chapter 26, improbable though they must have seemed in Ezekiel’s time, were duly fulfilled to the letter—first by Nebuchadnezzar in the sixth century, and then by Alexander in the fourth.” (Archer, “Tyre,” Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties)
Others will contend that Ezekiel must have written this prophecy after the fact, or that somehow, these prophecies were written by someone else after the fact. To respond, I will quote part of an article from Apologetics Press (click here for the full article). Here are the facts (from the article) regarding the timing of Ezekiel’s ministry and writings:
  • “No evidence supports the thesis that Ezekiel’s predictions were penned later than 400 B.C. Moreover, the book (Ezek. 1:1; 8:1; 33:1; 40:1-4) claims to have been composed by the prophet sometime in the sixth century, B.C., and Josephus attributes the book to the Hebrew prophet during the time in question” (The Prophet Motive, Kenny Barfield,1995, p. 98).
  • In addition, Ezekiel was included in the Septuagint, which is the “earliest version of the Old Testament Scriptures” available—a translation from Hebrew to Greek which was “executed at Alexandria in the third century before the Christian era” (Septuagint, 1998,p. i).
  • Simon Greenleaf, the lawyer who is renowned for having played a major role in the founding of Harvard Law School and for having written the Treatise on the Law of Evidence, scrutinized several biblical documents in light of the procedures practiced in a court of law. He noted one of the primary laws regarding ancient documents: “Every document, apparently ancient, coming from the proper repository or custody, and bearing on its face no evident marks of forgery, the law presumes to be genuine, and devolves the opposing party the burden of proving it to be otherwise” (1995, p. 16).
Conclusion
How is it that Isaiah, Daniel and Ezekiel had such intimate knowledge of future events…most of which occurred long after they were dead and gone? If I made such prophetic statements today, I would astound the world…and rightly so.
 
A skeptic might not think much about one such prophecy…but three? Don’t you see that a pattern is emerging in this book that claims to be divinely inspired and has been viewed as such for thousands of years by so many people in the world? Doesn’t this at least cause you to think?
 

“And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:19-21).

The Cyrus Prophecy

Introduction – God’s Word
If you were to say that the Christian faith is predicated on Christ, you would be absolutely correct. But how do we know about Christ? What tells us that He died for our sins and was resurrected on the third day? What tells us that He is “the way, the truth, and the life?”
The Bible!
 
While the Christian faith is predicated on Christ, there is another sense in which it is predicated on the Bible, and specifically, the belief that the Bible is the inspired word of God! Yes, everything that defines me as a Christian – rather than a simple theist – is found in the Bible.
 

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

“For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe” (1 Thess. 2:13).

Like the Thessalonians, I welcome the Bible as “the word of God.” I am a Christian because of the message it contains, and my belief that said message is from my Creator.

But how can I know that the Bible’s message is from God? Is this something I accept blindly, or because of tradition? While many Christians do not have solid reasons for their faith, I do. Yes, a degree of faith is essential, but by no means is it a blind faith.

In yesterday’s article, I explained Daniel’s Prophecy of the five kingdoms. In today’s article, I’d like to touch on another very detailed, very specific prophecy from the Old Testament that, once again, illuminates the divine inspiration of the word of God.

The Context of Isaiah 44:28
In just a moment, I’ll quote the prophecy about Cyrus in Isaiah 44:28, but first, I’d like to establish some very important context. This will aid us in our understanding of the prophecy.
 
The prophet Isaiah ministered from about 740-700 B.C. (dates vary slightly depending on the source, but these are approximate). According to Isaiah 1:1, he worked primarily with “Judah and Jerusalem” during the days of “Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.”
 
During Isaiah’s ministry, the northern kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrians. This took place in 722 B.C. Isaiah even prophesied of this in Isaiah 10:5-11. Apparently, after they laid waste to the Jews in the north, the Assyrians were planning to take Jerusalem as well. It was a stressful time for King Hezekiah and the Jews in the south, but God intervened and they were spared from war (Isaiah 36-37)
 
Despite the fall of Israel (in the north), the pressure against Judah and the moral decay of the Jews at large, the city of Jerusalem – the heart of the southern kingdom – was preserved. Even the famous temple of Solomon endured this stressful time relatively unscathed.
 
The Prophecy

“Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and He who formed you from the womb: I am the Lord, who makes all things, who stretches out the heavens all alone…Who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd, and he shall perform all My pleasure, saying to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be built,’ and to the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’ Thus says the Lord to His anointed, toCyrus, whose right hand I have held – to subdue nations before him and loose the armor of kings” (Isaiah 44:24, 28-45:1).

There are a few highlights in this passage worth hitting:
  • God would use an individual named Cyrus to accomplish His will.
  • Cyrus would order the reconstruction of the city of Jerusalem.
  • Cyrus would order the reconstruction of the temple.
Did these things come to pass? Was there even a man named Cyrus?
 
Yes!
 
Cyrus was a Persian king who reigned from 559-529 B.C., approximately 150 years after Isaiah’s ministry in Judah. He was the king who conquered the city and empire of Babylon in October of 539 B.C. This was during the captivity of the Jews in Babylon. Because Babylon came under the control of Persia, the Jewish people became subjects of Persia. Thankfully, their new king was benevolent. He gave them permission to return to their homeland, rebuild their city and their temple!
 
There is both biblical and historical evidence that these things really happened!
 
First, from the Bible:
 

“Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, ‘Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is among you of all His people? May the Lord his God be with him, and let him go up'” (2 Chronicles 36:22-23).

First of all, the prophecy of Jeremiah that is mentioned here can be found in Jeremiah 29:10. This was a prophecy that God would bring the Jewish people back to their homeland. Cyrus certainly fulfilled that prophecy!

But Cyrus also fulfilled the prophecy in Isaiah 44:28. As king of Persia, his heart was “stirred up” by God to order the reconstruction of the temple in Jerusalem!
 
But there is also historical evidence of this as well.
 
The Cyrus Cylinder (pictured at right). This is a clay cylinder inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform that records Cyrus’ conquest of Babylon in 539 B.C. On the cylinder, Cyrus claimed to have brought relief to the inhabitants of Babylon, return a number of the religious images of the captives to them, and even restore their temples!
 
Why This is So Amazing!
First of all, Isaiah made the prophecy about Cyrus over 100 years before Cyrus was even born! How did Isaiah know anything about Cyrus? I mean, it would be one thing if Isaiah had prophesied that a nameless “king” would come and help the Jewish people. That would be very generic and we could easily glance over this text without giving it a second thought.
 
Imagine if I said that, “100 years from now, a president will…rebuild Washington D.C.” Okay, that’s possible. But what if I said, “100 years from now, a president by the name of Julius Randle will rebuild Washington D.C.” Would you be impressed? Absolutely! Note: I picked Julius Randle because I’m a fan of Kentucky basketball.
 
But not only did Isaiah mention the king by name, he was specific about what Cyrus would do. And remember, both Jerusalem and the temple were standing during Isaiah’s time. So Isaiah was implying that they would be destroyed (which they were in 586 B.C.), would therefore need to be rebuilt…and that Cyrus would be the one to give the order.
 
Here’s the question…
 
How did Isaiah know this? How could he have known this?
 
There is no human explanation. Not for a prophecy like this that is so specific and that has both biblical and historical confirmation!
 
An Objection
There is always some kind of objection to information as powerful as this. As I pointed out with the Daniel prophecy, the only viable objection is that Isaiah’s prophecy wasn’t written during the ministry or time of Isaiah (in the 8th century), but later, after these events had already happened.
 
The argument is made that Isaiah 1-39 were written by Isaiah during his lifetime, and that Isaiah 40-66 must have been written by various other authors later on. Some will point out that there is a clear transition in the text of chapter 40 – that while the first 39 chapters were written in the land of Israel before its fall to Babylon, the latter part of Isaiah was written from the land of Babylon.
 
Please note that this is NOT stated in the text.
 
While it may appear that the events and prophecies of Isaiah 40-66 were written at a later date, this position doesn’t take into account the very nature of prophecy and foreknowledge. In other words, the only real reason to assign Isaiah 40-66 to a different author(s) and a later date is because many struggle to believe that Isaiah could have prophesied so accurately about the future.
 
Furthermore, Jesus assigned the later chapters of the book of Isaiah to Isaiah himself, not to some other author. See Matthew 3:3; 12:17-18; John 12:38-41; Acts 8:28.
 
An excellent article on this object can be accessed here.
 
Conclusion
I’d like to think that I’m a reasonable person. If a prophecy is generic or potentially self-fulfilling, I’m not going to present it as strong evidence of the Bible’s inspiration (even though, from a Christian perspective, I still view such prophecies as valid).
 
But the prophecy of Cyrus in Isaiah 44:28 is very specific. Just like the prophecy of the sequence of kingdoms in Daniel 2 was very specific.
 
In other words, there’s a pattern in the Bible. We’re starting to see that the authors of Scripture, especially the Old Testament, had special insight into future events. The only explanation for this pattern is that these men were inspired by the God they claimed to serve, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
 
And just as Daniel’s prophecy included details of the kingdom of Christ, Isaiah’s writings have a similar impact. If Isaiah 44:28 is impressive, what about Isaiah 53 where we find a detailed prophecy of a man who “bore the sins of many” (Is. 53:12)?
 
Did Isaiah just get lucky? There’s no way.
 
Can his writings be assigned to a later date? No.
 
Was Isaiah a prophet of the God of heaven?
 
I believe so…and if he was…
 
…there’s a Savior named Jesus who is willing to bear your sins.

Daniel’s Prophecy: Five Kingdoms

Introduction
I conclude that there is a God based on my examination of the natural world – its order, beauty and complexity. The Scriptures even indicate that the natural world proves the reality of a Creator (Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:20). 
 
However, my Christian faith is predicated, not on the natural world, but the Bible. If it weren’t for the Bible, I would be a deist in the very least, but because of the Bible, I am a Christian.
There are a lot of Christians out there who believe the Bible simply because they grew up in a Christian home, or in America, a so-called “Christian nation.” Others may have other motivations for seeing the Bible as God’s revelation to mankind. 
 
For me, there is an abundance of both internal and external evidence of the Bible’s divine authorship. In other words, my studies and research have led me to believe that the Bible could not possibly have been written by uninspired men.
 
While there is an abundance of evidence, in this article, I’d like to focus on the evidence of prophecy. To keep it simple, I’m going to discuss one particular prophecy in the Bible: Daniel’s prophecy of the kingdoms.
 
A Succession of Four Kingdoms
In Daniel 2, we learn that King Nebuchadnezzar (a historical figure) dreamed of a statue which consisted of four parts:
 
  1. A head of gold
  2. Chest and arms of silver
  3. Belly and thighs of bronze
  4. Feet of iron and clay

The prophet Daniel interpreted the king’s dream in Daniel 2:36-45. He prophesied that each of these four parts represented a kingdom. This is spelled out in the text.

“You, O king, are a king of kings…you are this head of gold. But after you shall arise another kingdom, inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron…(44)And in the days of these kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed…” 

 
So the “head of gold” is identified in this passage as being the kingdom of Babylon…a kingdom which we know existed. It was the Babylonians who had conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, and carried the Jewish people into captivity. Daniel was one of those captives.
 
The second kingdom that followed Babylon, though not named in the text, is named elsewhere in the book of Daniel. In Daniel 5:26-31, Daniel told the Babylonian king Belshazzar that “Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.” So the second kingdom, the kingdom that followed Babylon, was the Medo-Persian kingdom. This is stated in the book, and this is a well-known historical fact.
 
What about the third kingdom? 
 
In Daniel 8, we find the vision of the ram and goat. To make a long story short, a male goat with one horn obliterated a ram with two horns. In verses 20-23, it says, “The ram which you saw, having the two horns – they are the kings of Media and Persia. And the male goat is the kingdom of GREECE. The large horn that is between its eyes is the first king. As for the broken horn and the four that stood up in its place, four kingdoms shall arise out of that nation, but not with its power.”
 
Historically, the Grecian empire conquered the Persian empire. We also know that the Grecian empire was led by a famous king, Alexander the Great. However, Daniel prophesied that the first king would be broken and the Grecian kingdom would be divided four ways. We know, historically, that Alexander died at an early age, following which, his kingdom was split and given to his generals. The two strongest Grecian kingdoms were those of Ptolemy and Seleucid.
 
And finally, the FOURTH kingdom – the one following Greece – was the Roman empire. We know this is what happened historically, but even within the book of Daniel, there is evidence, I believe, of this. In Daniel 11, as Daniel explains in great detail the downfall of Persia, the emergence of Greece, and the political turmoil that Greece would experience, he eventually makes mention of “ships from Kittim” (vs. 29), which many translate as Rome.
 
In closing, the sequence of kingdoms prophesied in Daniel are:
 
  1. Babylon
  2. Medo-Persia
  3. Greece
  4. Rome

Biblically and historically, we know this to be true.

 
The Fifth Kingdom
You may recall from Daniel 2 that during the fourth kingdom, God would set up a kingdom.

“In the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.”

In Daniel 7, Daniel “had a dream and visions in his head,” the details of which correspond to what we’ve read in Daniel 2. Instead of a statue made up of four parts, Daniel sees a vision of four beasts (lion, bear, leopard, and a “dreadful and terrible” fourth beast) that represent the same four kingdoms that have already been mentioned.
 
But in the Daniel 7 prophecy, MUCH more attention is given to the kingdom that God would set up during the days of this fourth earthly kingdom (i.e. Rome). I could easily devote a lot of attention to this prophecy of God’s kingdom, but here are the highlights:
 
  • God, the “Ancient of Days” sits in His judgment seat (vs. 9-10).
  • “One like the Son of Man” goes to the Ancient of Days (vs. 13).
  • The Son of Man is given “dominion and glory and a kingdom” (vs. 14).
  • One of the Roman kings (vs.7-8, 11-12) makes “war with the saints” (vs. 21) until God is seen coming in judgment against it (vs. 21-22).
Regarding the fulfillment of these prophecies of God’s kingdom from Daniel 2 and Daniel 7, consider with me the following points from the New Testament:
  • Jesus was alive, not during the days of Persia or Greece, but of Rome (the fourth kingdom).
  • His ministry revolved around the teaching that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). When asked by Pilate if He (Jesus) was a king, He answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth” (John 18:38).
  • 40 days after Jesus was resurrected, He ascended “to the Ancient of Days.” His ascension is recorded in Acts 1:9-11.
  • Not long thereafter, while preaching the first gospel sermon to the Jews on the Day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter said that Christ was raised up “to sit on his throne” (Acts 2:30) at the right hand of God (vs. 34). In other words, when Jesus came to the Ancient of Days, He received “dominion and glory and a kingdom.”
While some might object on the basis that Christ never set up a kingdom that has filled the earth, the answer is in understanding the spiritual nature of the kingdom. Jesus Himself said the following…
 
“The kingdom of God does not come with observation…for indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21).
 
“My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36).
 
The kingdom of Christ was/is spiritual in nature. It wasn’t going to fill the earth and dominate these other kingdoms by means of war and violence, but by means of salvation and persuasion. In fact, the prophecy in Daniel 7 confirms the spiritual nature of the kingdom because it would be persecuted by the Roman empire (another detail of the prophecy); this wasn’t a kingdom that would conquer with a sword. 
 
From a Christian perspective, the kingdom of God has taken on the form of the church (Matthew 16:18-19; Colossians 1:13-14; Phil. 3:20-21; Revelation 1:9, et al).
 
What Makes This So Amazing
Daniel’s life and ministry in Babylon took place in the sixth century B.C. while many of the Jews were in captivity in Babylon. As historical references, Jerusalem was conquered in 586 B.C. and the temple was rebuilt by 516 B.C.
 
Regarding the rise and fall of the subsequent kingdoms:
 
  • King Cyrus of Persia conquered the city of Babylon in 539 B.C.
  • Alexander the Great was born in 356 B.C. in Pelia. He died in 324 B.C. It was in the second century B.C. that a weakened Grecian empire was overtaken by Rome, becoming part of the emerging Roman empire.
  • While Rome existed as a city-state as early as 753 B.C., it wasn’t until 338 B.C. that it really began to aggressively assert itself.
What’s clear from these dates is that Daniel prophesied in great detail of the rise and fall of these four kingdoms long before these events happened. Granted, Daniel was alive when Persia conquered Babylon in 539 B.C., and it’s not hard to believe that he could have seen this coming. 
 
But how could he have known of the eventual rise of Greece and Rome? Both of these nations were but city-states at the time. It would be comparable to a political analyst today predicting that Mexico will become a dominant world empire within the next 200 years, and that South Africa will conquer Mexico and dominate the world next.
 
And don’t forget that Daniel prophesied, not only that Greece would conquer Persia, but that Greece would be led by a powerful king whose kingdom would be divided four ways following his death. How could Daniel have known these details?
 
There’s no way that anyone can reasonably argue that Daniel just “got lucky.” Yes, political gurus today can make predictions about elections and world events based on current trends and statistics, but not only do they often get it wrong, they cannot accurately predict the details of world events that will transpire over the next four hundred years.
 
With regard to God’s kingdom, how could Daniel have known when Jesus would be born? How could he have known of the conflict between Rome and the church?
 
Objection: The Book of Daniel Was Written After the Fact
The only viable objection that a skeptic can make is that the book of Daniel was NOT written by Daniel or by anyone in the 6th century B.C., but that it was written after the fact. A common “late date” proposed by skeptics is 168-165 B.C. Of course, by this point, the main events of Daniel’s prophesied (with the exception of God’s kingdom) would have already transpired.
 
The main problem with this objection is that there is ample evidence for an early date.
 
First of all, the writings of Daniel were included in the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament. The Septuagint was translated between 300-200 B.C.  For the writings of Daniel to have been included, they would had to have been widely known and accepted by the Jewish people.
 
Also, three scrolls containing excerpts of Daniel were found in the caves at Qumran among what have become known as “the Dead Sea Scrolls.” The earliest scroll has been dated to 168 B.C., but again, the ultra-conservative Jews who lived at Qumran would only have accepted the writings of Daniel if they were widely known, trusted and validated.
 
It has also been observed by scholars and linguists, of which I am neither, that the language of Daniel matches an early date.
 
Here are two additional articles that delve into the dating of Daniel:

 
 
Conclusion
Daniel’s prophecies of the five kingdoms are just a sampling of the many prophecies found in the pages of the Bible that were specific, detailed…and fulfilled in history. The question then becomes: how could Daniel and these others have foreknown such information? Any honest observer, after carefully weighing the evidence, will conclude that no human could so accurately predict the future. This is evidence, in my mind, that Daniel was inspired by someone who did know what would come to pass. Daniel is clear – and I think the implication is clear – that He was inspired by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
 
If the writings of Daniel were divinely inspired, and if he accurately described the sequence of kingdoms that would rise and fall, from Babylon to Rome…what does that say about Daniel’s prophecy of God’s kingdom and “the son of man?”
 
The potential impact of these prophecies cannot be understated. If Daniel wrote by divine inspiration:
 
  • There is a God.
  • He is the God of the Old Testament.
  • Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of God’s kingdom.
  • Jesus is King over an eternal, spiritual kingdom.
  • We are subject to the rule and reign of Christ.
Where does that leave you, dear reader?

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Debate at UNR

Debate at UNRSeptember 23rd, 2014
"Evolution or Creationism: Which Has More Scientific Evidence?" I'll be defending the creationist position in this debate which will be held at the University of Nevada.