Can We Know the Amount of Biblical Prophecy That Has Been Fulfilled?
In this post Matt Tingblad gives a brief overview of the two types of prophecies, answering the question of whether the Bible continues to prove itself reliable. Read on!
Prophecy: Several Factors to Consider
Calculating the number of fulfilled prophecies in the Bible is difficult for two reasons. Here’s what I mean:
1. Not all prophecy is the same.
When most people think of prophecy, they think of predictive prophecy. That is, they think of prophecy that foretells the future. The prophecy predicts what will happen. Another kind of prophecy is called forthtelling prophecy. Forthtelling prophecy is when God speaks a word concerning the present hour.1See Playing with Fire by Dr. Walt Russell, Chapter 9
When we talk about the number of prophecies fulfilled, we are interested in predictive prophecies — prophecies that will be fulfilled in God’s timing.
Yet predictive prophecy is not always easy to identify. For instance, in Psalm 22:1 David writes, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” This doesn’t initially sound like predictive prophecy, but we see Jesus alluding to its fulfillment when He cried these same words from the cross (Matthew 27:46).
Prophecy shows us that God has a plan for this world. By the foretelling of persons, places, and events — even hundreds of years before they are fulfilled — Scripture gives a strong testimony to its own inspiration.
2. Not all fulfillments are the same.
Some predictive prophecies concerning Jesus can be easily understood. But many predictive prophecies about events after Jesus are difficult to understand. So scholars continue to debate whether these biblical prophecies were fulfilled in the events of the late first century, are progressively being fulfilled across history, or are yet to be fulfilled in a cataclysmic event immediately preceding the return of Christ.
Regardless, we can say that a lot of prophecies in the Bible have been fulfilled, with some of the clearest ones about the life and ministry of Jesus. The number of fulfilled messianic (Jesus-related) prophecies is over 300. This is truly remarkable, as Josh McDowell demonstrates in this video. Christians, as far back as the Bible authors themselves, have rightfully stressed these fulfilled prophecies to show Jesus to be the Messiah.
In addition to messianic prophecies, the Old Testament continually prophesies about events that have happened: Israel’s future into exile, nations that will be destroyed, Israel’s kingdom being restored, etc. These predictions further demonstrate that we can trust the Bible as truly inspired by God.
The Bible itself gives the purpose of prophecy: “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done… ” (Isaiah 46:9-10, NASB).
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- To grow your knowledge of the Bible, read 77 FAQs about God and the Bible by Josh and Sean McDowell.
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