One of the most commonly used evidences to support the divine origin of the Bible is its fulfilled prophecies. Most books on general apologetics have chapters dedicated to this argument and most apologetic websites have plenty of information on this argument. There is good reason for the attention given to this argument: fulfilled prophecy is a powerful demonstration of the reality of God. In fact, the LORD Himself points to fulfilled prophecy as evidence that He alone is truly God (Isaiah 41:21-29; 44:6-8) predicting the future not just because He knows the future, but because He is Sovereign over all space-time (Isaiah 46:10). Once again, I contend that the God’s revelation model is better, explaining more of the phenomenon more consistently, than any naturalistic model to explain the fulfillment of biblical prophecy.
There are many examples of fulfilled prophecy. Not only are there far more than I can give here; but, as I have pointed out, it is relatively easy to find examples. So why are not more people convinced by this evidence? There are a number of reasons often cited against the use of fulfilled prophecy. Some examples do indeed seem to be forced such as Matthew’s quote in Matthew 2:17, 18 of Jeremiah 40:1. However, we need to realize that the ancient Jewish view of prophecy was more general than ours and considered such references as being a proper use of Scripture. I would also argue that the Holy Spirit Who inspired Matthew and Who knows the end from the beginning is revealing through Matthew what He had intended when He spoke through Jeremiah. The same could be said of similar fulfillments of prophecy.
Others would argue that the New Testament writers created the fulfillments in their narratives to convince the gullible to follow them. This accusation is without any evidence and flies in the face of both the obvious integrity of the writers and their willingness to suffer and die horrendous deaths for what they then would have known to have been lies. Not only so, but the narrative could have been easily investigated by the readers and shown to be false if they were indeed fiction. Furthermore, some of the fulfillments are clearly confirmed by secular sources such as the character and crucifixion of Jesus the Messiah and the reports of His Resurrection.
Probably the most common accusation is that the prophecies were written after the fulfillment. This is especially applied to the amazing prophecies found in Isaiah concerning the permanent destruction of Babylon (13:19) and its becoming a swamp land (14:23), and the rise of Cyrus (Isaiah 44:28-45:13), in Jeremiah concerning Babylon’s seventy-year rule over Jerusalem (Jeremiah 25:11, 12), in Ezekiel concerning the destruction of Tyre (Ezekiel 26:1-28:19) which was fulfilled in amazing detail, and almost everything in the book of Daniel, especially the amazing blow-by-blow account of the contentions and wars between the Ptolemies and the Seleucids after the death of Alexander the Great recorded in Daniel chapter eleven. The arguments for this objection are based largely on technical stylistic and linguistic arguments having no manuscript or historic support. It also begs the question as to the point of the writing since it would be obvious that the prophecy came after the fulfillment when the writing was published. The idea that the writing was purveyed as an older work makes the writers, again against all evidence, to be unethical liars and the people far more gullible than there is evidence to support. Furthermore, there is good evidence, as presented in conservative books on Biblical Introduction that the books were indeed written before the events (for instance, cf. Josh McDowell’s Daniel in the Critic’s Den). But more than that, there are many prophecies that were obviously fulfilled after the prophecies were written. For instance, Daniel’s prediction of the rise of the Roman Empire and its division into two parts (Daniel 2:40, 41) could not possibly have been written after the fulfillment. Also, the many prophecies concerning the Messiah that were literally fulfilled in a way that could not be contrived such as the place of His birth (Micah 5:2), the description of His Triumphal Entry (Zechariah 9:9), the descriptions of the death of Jesus (Psalm 22; Isaiah 53; Zechariah 12:10) and the fact of His Resurrection (Psalm 16:10; Isaiah 53:11, 12). Daniel chapter 9:25, 26, for example, accurately predicted the exact time the Messiah would be revealed to Jerusalem (cf. “Perhaps the Greatest Old Testament Prophecy of All” at coldcasechristianity.com). Josh McDowell points to studies that estimate the odds of just eight prophecies concerning Jesus being fulfilled at one to ten to the seventeenth power (New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, p.193) and yet well over one hundred of such prophecies have been fulfilled.
Another line of reasoning against fulfilled biblical prophecy is based on the idea that there are other prophetic writings that also have been fulfilled such as the prophecies of Nostradamus and many modern-day prophets and psychics. This line of reasoning states that prophecy is a gift from other sources than God and so cannot be used to support the Bible as being from God; or, at the least, say that the Bible is not unique and should not be raised above other sacred writings. This idea is defeated by two arguments. First, many of the supposed fulfillments of others are based on interpretations of very vague prophecies that can be twisted to mean many different things. And, secondly, and most importantly, no example of prophet or prophetess outside of the Bible that can be given are always right. Deuteronomy 18:22 gives the test of 100% accuracy as the standard. If a prophet is truly speaking God’s word and God is truly omniscient, then every prophecy should be fulfilled. The failure of even one prophecy would mark the prophet as a false prophet. Every prophecy fulfilled in the Bible has been fulfilled accurately. There is not one other source of prophetic statements that has anything close to that kind of a record.
However, the main reason why the argument of fulfilled prophecy is rejected and the foundation of all the other objections cited, is because those who reject the argument refuse to give up their world-view. If one stubbornly holds to a naturalistic paradigm, then that person would also reject the very possibility of the kind of prophecy found in the Bible. To such an individual, any other explanation, no matter how convoluted is preferable to admitting that their world-view is wrong, that God might exist, and that they might be brought into judgment by Him. Robert Culver wrote “Sometimes men simply reject fulfillment of prophecy as impossible and without ‘bringing the case to court’ refuse to examine the evidence. When the evidence is thrust upon them, various expedients are devised. In the case of people who endorse outright materialism or atheism, we must seek to convince them of a personal, transcendent Creator-God. Until this is done, they will not even consider the evidence” (Culver, “Old Testament Prophecies” in Vos, ed. Can I trust the Bible?). This refusal to accept the evidence of fulfilled prophecy is not a problem of evidence or reason, but of interpretation based on world-view. It is primarily a spiritual problem of the heart, not an intellectual problem of the mind.
Peter tells us that the testimony of prophecy (probably referring to both foretelling and forthtelling) is “More certain” than his own eye-witness testimony (II Peter 1:16-19) showing that we do not “follow cunningly-devised fables” (1:16). The naturalistic world-view cannot adequately explain how the Bible has such a record of fulfilled prophecies. To believe that the amazing record of fulfilled prophecies found in the Bible can be explained by naturalistic processes requires a far less rational faith than the faith that there is a God Who is sovereign over space-time so can reveal future events through the Bible. Refusing to believe that such a God exists, that He has revealed Himself in the Bible, and that we will give an account to Him does not make those facts disappear. The most logical explanation for the Bible’s record of fulfilled prophecies is that the Bible is a real revelation of the real God.