A Better Basis for Belief
“The things that are coming announce to us, that we may know their issue. Tell us the things that are coming hereafter, that we may know that you are gods.”—Isa. 41:22, 23, AT.
1. What should our faith not be dependent upon?
FAITH in the Bible does not hinge on what scientists say. When their advancing knowledge comes ever closer to conforming to the Bible, that does not make them become Christians. They still cling to their religion of evolution. Faith does not depend on the archaeologists for establishment either. Their discoveries merely confirm what the Bible has always said, but this confirmation does not convert them to Christianity. And when there is an apparent clash between the Bible and the interpretation they place upon a find, they lean toward their own understanding and not the Bible. (Prov. 3:5) Science and archaeology are not essentials. They may serve a purpose in bringing infidels and atheists to their senses and cause them to examine the Bible more seriously, but faith should not be dependent upon such studies of science and archaeology for its foundation. Our faith should not be dependent upon any discovered harmony between the Bible and such sciences as biology and geology. That harmony in itself does not make the Bible God’s Word. Nor is it any confirmation of the Bible by archaeology that makes it God’s Word. The mere fact that the Bible contains history that archaeology has now confirmed is not the vital point, for men can write true histories. Accurate histories can be written by both God and men.
2. What constitutes a test of inspiration and godly origin for writing?
2 But only Jehovah God can cause history to be written in advance. In other words, he can prophesy, can foretell the future. That is the acid test for disclosing godly qualities and powers. Jehovah God declares that this power of prophecy springs from him alone, and that because of his knowledge of the future his people need not dread any unforeseen events: “Who is like me? Let him come forward with his claim, let him set out his case before me. Who foretold the future long ago? Pray let us hear what is still to be! Fear nothing, dread not in the days to come; have I not foretold it and announced it long ago? You are my witnesses whether there is any god, any Power, any, besides me.” (Isa. 44:7, 8, Mo) If any wish to vie with him as gods, they are invited to support their claims of godship by demonstrating their power to prophesy: “Let them approach and tell us what is to happen: tell us what the former things were, that we may lay them to heart; or the things that are coming announce to us, that we may know their issue. Tell us the things that are coming hereafter, that we may know that you are gods.” (Isa. 41:22, 23, AT) So it is not the ability to write what is scientifically sound that counts, nor is it the power to pen what is historically true that is essential, but it is the producing of that which is prophetically accurate that is vital in establishing it as inspired by God. He is the sole source of prophetic power.
3, 4. What did Peter rely on for confirmation of God’s Word, and on what grounds do you so answer?
3 Peter showed that it was this power, and not scientific or archaeological studies, that confirmed God’s Word. It was the fulfillment of prophecy that made him speak of the “word made more firm”. On one occasion Jesus said to a group of his disciples: “Truly I say to you that there are some of those standing here that will not taste death at all until first they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” This was a prophecy. It was soon fulfilled: “Six days later Jesus took Peter and James and John his brother along and brought them up into a lofty mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone as the sun, and his garments became brilliant as the light.” Out from a bright protecting cloud God’s voice came: “This is my Son, the Beloved, whom I have approved; listen to him.” (Matt. 16:28; 17:1, 2, 5, NW) That this appearance in Kingdom glory was in fulfillment of Jesus’ promise made six days earlier is made certain for us by Peter. When speaking of the power and presence of Christ he said that he and others knew of this glorious time of coming in Kingdom power, not on the basis of “artfully contrived false stories”, but because of “having become eyewitnesses of his magnificence” “in the holy mountain”.—2 Pet. 1:16-18, NW.
4 So Peter referred to fulfilled prophecy, and because of it he said “we have the prophetic word made more firm”. The vision in fulfillment of Jesus’ words made more firm other prophecies about the actual coming or presence in Kingdom power at the end of the times of the nations. (Luke 21:24) As more and more prophecies are fulfilled light increases and conviction strengthens, and we must be guided and enlightened by these things: “Consequently, we have the prophetic word made more firm, and you are doing well in paying attention to it as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and a daystar rises, in your hearts. For you know this first, that no prophecy of Scripture springs from any private release. For prophecy was at no time brought by man’s will, but men spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit.” (2 Pet. 1:19-21, NW) Sound scientific findings and true historical narrations may spring from private release by man’s will, but not prophecy and its fulfillment.
5. How are men as prophets? and how does God compare with them?
5 We know from experience that men cannot prophesy accurately. Just in our own generation men told us that the first world war was to make it safe for democracy. It did not. The League of Nations was to be the political expression of Christ’s kingdom on earth. It was not. The second world war was to rid the earth of dictators. A bigger one now flourishes. The United Nations was to bring the nations together in peaceful co-operation. But they are split into eastern and western blocs, and the two factions fight their wordy battles in the United Nations and their bloody battles in Korea. No, men are not true prophets. They do a lot of predicting, but they do not do much fulfilling. But it is different with Jehovah God. He prophesies, and fulfillments follow. And logically, the more of his prophecies we find fulfilled, the more firmly do we hold in confidence to the yet unfulfilled words of God. So to strengthen still further our faith in the Bible let us ponder a few of the many fulfillments.
SOME STRIKING FULFILLMENTS OF PROPHECY
6. How was God’s power to prophesy shown in the case of Tyre?
6 Some one hundred fifty years before Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the land city of Tyre Isaiah foretold it, and several years before this event both Jeremiah and Ezekiel foretold it. But scores of years afterward Zechariah was still foretelling it. Why? Because about a half mile out in the water from the seacoast city of Tyre was an island on which was the water city of Tyre, and when Nebuchadnezzar overthrew the land city most of the inhabitants had evacuated with their possessions to the island city, and Nebuchadnezzar never did take it. But Alexander the Great did, 333-332 B.C. To do it he built a mole or land bridge out into the water and to the island, and this mole he made out of the ruins and debris of the old land city of Tyre.* Thus were completely fulfilled Ezekiel’s words, “Your walls shall be torn down, and your happy homes destroyed; your stones and timber and dust shall be sunk in the heart of the waters.” (Isa. 23:1-13; Jer. 27:1-11; Ezek. 26:1-14; Zech. 9:2-4, AT) Complete fulfillment came, nearly two hundred years after Zechariah said it, nearly three hundred years after Jeremiah and Ezekiel said it, and more than four hundred years after Isaiah said it!
7. How was it shown in the case of Nineveh?
7 Before the fall of Nineveh the prophet Nahum predicted concerning it: “With an overflowing flood he will make an end of his adversaries; . . . The gates of the rivers are opened, and the palace melts away. And Nineveh is like a pool of water, . . . To your foes the gates of your land will be opened wide; fire will devour your barriers.” (Nah. 1:8; 2:6, 8; 3:13, AT) Nineveh was overthrown by the Chaldeans and Medes in 632 B.C. But note how. The swollen Tigris river made a breach in the city’s wall and overflowed the city, opening the way for the easy entry of the enemy forces. One historical account states that the Assyrian king made a large funeral pyre in the palace, on which he and many of his servants and concubines died when the torch was put to it. The burning and sacking of the city was completed after the foe entered the burning and partly inundated city. Though now known through excavation, Nineveh’s desolation was so complete that it later became like a myth. We read: “They were greatly aided by a sudden rise of the Tigris, which carried away a great part of the city wall and rendered the place indefensible. So complete was the desolation that in Greek and Roman times the departed Nineveh became like a myth. Yet all the while part of the city lay buried under mounds of apparent rubbish.”* Through his prophet Nahum Jehovah foretold its fate and the manner of its fall.
8, 9. What prophecies did Jehovah cause to be made concerning Babylon?
8 Even more remarkable are the prophecies regarding Babylon. Years before Judah fell to Babylon Jeremiah foretold it, yet said a restoration would follow a seventy-year period of desolation. This would be made possible by the overthrow of the Babylonians, at which time they would put up no real fight: “The warriors of Babylon have ceased to fight, they stay in their strongholds; their strength is exhausted, they are turned into women.” The once-mighty world power would become ruins: “Babylon shall become a heap of ruins, a haunt of jackals, a horror and a hissing, without an inhabitant.” (Jer. 29:10; 51:30, 37, AT) That is all Babylon is today, a heap of deserted mounds.
9 Fully one hundred fifty years before the Jews were taken captive to Babylon Isaiah foretold it, and more than two hundred years in advance he foretold the restoration made possible by Babylon’s overthrow, even giving the name of the conquering general. After stating that Jehovah “confirms the word of his servants, and fulfils the predictions of his messengers”, that Cyrus would serve as his shepherd, that Jerusalem would be rebuilt, that the foundations of the temple would be laid, the divine record continues: “Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to bring down nations before him, and to ungird the loins of kings, to open doors before him, and that gates may not be closed: ‘I will go before you, and will level the rugged heights; the doors of bronze will I break in pieces, and the bars of iron will I cut asunder.’”—Isa. 13:17-22; 14:1, 4, 8, 12-16; 39:6, 7; 44:24-28; 45:1, 2, AT.
10, 11. How were these prophecies concerning Babylon’s fall and Israel’s release and restoration for true worship fulfilled?
10 In fulfillment of these prophecies, Cyrus took Babylon in 539 B.C. The city was in the midst of a drunken orgy, the gates had been left unbarred, there was no real resistance put up by the surprised soldiers. In his first regnal year Cyrus issued this proclamation, according to the Scripture record: “All the kingdoms of the earth hath Jehovah, the God of heaven, given me; and he hath charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whosoever there is among you of all his people, his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of Jehovah, the God of Israel, he is the God who is in Jerusalem.” (2 Chron. 36:22, 23; Ezra 1:1-3, AS, margin; AT) Note that he attributes his victory to God. On his own cylinders he records his triumph over Babylon and gives the credit to divine aid, and on one of his bricks he says: “The great gods have delivered all the lands into my hand.”*
11 To allow the Jews to return to Jerusalem to re-establish true worship of Jehovah there was in accord with Cyrus’ policy. Of course, Cyrus was polytheistic in worship and not monotheistic, so we cannot say he became a true worshiper of Jehovah himself. Jehovah used and maneuvered Cyrus for His purpose, as shown by Ezra 1:1 and Isaiah 44:28 and Isa 45:1. He used Cyrus for his purpose in bringing about the Jewish restoration in 537 B.C., just as he had used another heathen king seventy years before to carry faithless Judah into captivity, calling that one “Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant”. (Jer. 25:9) But Cyrus’ policy was to restore images to their former shrines, for one of his cylinders reads: “I returned the gods to their shrines.”* Cyrus recognized that Jehovah was the God of the Jews, and that his temple had been in Jerusalem, so his proclamation ordered the restoration of Jehovah’s worship to be made there, “since he is the God who is in Jerusalem.” (Ezra 1:3, AT) Regardless of Cyrus’ policy, however, the point is that Jehovah foreknew and foretold these things centuries before they happened.
12. What did Daniel foretell at Da chapter 8 verses 3-8 of his book?
12 Jehovah’s prophetic preview of the rise and fall of human governments continues. While Babylon was still the third world power and seemingly impregnable in that position, Daniel identified the fourth and fifth world powers to come, and showed how they would themselves fall in time. We read: “I raised my eyes, and looked, and lo! standing in front of the stream there was a ram with two horns, both of them high, though one was higher than the other, and the higher came up behind the other. I saw the ram butting westward, northward, and southward; none of the beasts could stand before him, nor could anyone rescue from his power; he did as he pleased, and accomplished great exploits. As I was considering the matter, lo! a he-goat from the west advanced over the whole face of the earth, without touching the earth; and the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes. When he came to the ram with the two horns, which I had seen standing in front of the stream, he ran at him in the impetus of his might. As I saw him come close to the ram, he was moved by fierce rage against him, and he smote the ram, and broke his two horns; and as the ram had no power to stand before him, he cast him down to the ground, and trampled upon him, there being none to rescue the ram from his power. Then the he-goat accomplished very great exploits; but when he had reached the height of his power, the great horn was broken, and in its place there came up four other horns, facing the four winds of the heavens.”—Dan. 8:3-8, AT.
13. What is the correct interpretation of these things, and how did fulfillment come about?
13 We are not left in doubt as to the correct interpretation of these things: “The ram which you saw, with the two horns, is the king of Media and Persia. The he-goat is the king of Greece; and the great horn between his eyes is the first king. As the horn was broken, and four others arose in its place, so four kingdoms shall arise from his nation, though not with a power like his.” (Dan. 8:20-22, AT) Some years after Daniel was used to predict these momentous events the dual nation of Medo-Persia did overthrow Babylon to become the fourth world power. It is well symbolized by the two-horned ram, the higher horn coming up last, because the Median power came first, but the Persian power that followed surpassed it in strength. More than two centuries after Daniel recorded this prophecy Alexander the Great rose to power and cast down Medo-Persia, and upon his death in 323 B.C. the fifth world power of Greece was divided into four parts, each part ruled over by one of Alexander’s four generals: Ptolemy in Egypt, Seleucus in Asia, Lysimachus in Asia Minor, and Cassander in Macedonia. Thus did four little horns follow the breakage of the big horn of the he-goat. How utterly impossible for man to make such amazing predictions, and how strikingly does it confirm the Bible as God’s inspired Word!
FULFILLMENTS IN OUR DAY
14 Still more prophetic insight into the parade of human governments unfolds at Revelation 17:8, 10-14, NW: “The wild beast that you saw was, but is not, and yet is destined to ascend out of the abyss, and it is to go off into destruction. . . . And there are seven kings: five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet arrived, but when he does arrive he must remain a short while. And the wild beast that was but is not, it is also itself an eighth king, but owes its existence to the seven, and it goes off into destruction. And the ten horns that you saw mean ten kings, who have not yet received a kingdom, but they do receive authority as kings one hour with the wild beast. These have one purpose, and so they give their power and authority to the wild beast. These will battle with the Lamb, but, because he is Lord of lords and King of kings, the Lamb will conquer them.” At the time the apostle John was used to write this, five world powers had come and gone, the sixth, the Roman empire, then existed, and the seventh, the Anglo-American world power, was yet to come. It is here now, but so is an eighth, the international combine known as the United Nations, which owes its existence to the nations and receives its authority from them. It first existed as the League of Nations, then went into the abyss of inactivity and death, but now has ascended out as the present United Nations. It and all the nations will go into destruction when they war with the Lamb of God, Christ Jesus, at Armageddon. Then Christ’s kingdom will hold undisputed sway over a new earth arrangement.
15. What prophecies were fulfilled concerning Christ’s first presence, relative to both chronology and physical events?
15 There are many other equally remarkable prophecies that have been fulfilled in vindication of the Bible as Jehovah’s inspired Word. Space limits us to a brief consideration of only a few concerning the first presence of Jesus as Messiah and his second presence as enthroned King. More than five centuries in advance Daniel foretold the exact year of Messiah’s appearance, and when that year came the Jews were expecting some development concerning Messiah. (Dan. 9:24-27; Luke 3:15) Daniel’s prophecy also foretold that Jesus would be put to death three and one-half years later.* Other Hebrew Scripture prophecies predicted that he would be born in Bethlehem, of a virgin, be hated, rejected, betrayed by a follower for thirty pieces of silver, convicted by false witnesses, impaled with sinners, lots being cast for garments, be resurrected, and many other points. (Ps. 16:10; 22:16, 18; 35:11; 41:9; 69:4; Isa. 7:14; 53:3, 8, 12; Mic. 5:2; Zech. 11:12) In fact, one Bible scholar computed that “there are three hundred and thirty-two distinct prophecies in the Old Testament which have been literally fulfilled in Christ”. A mathematician figured out that the chance of one man’s fulfilling all those things was one in eighty-four followed by ninety-seven zeros!* The possibility of its happening is so overwhelmingly remote that we must acknowledge Jehovah as the author of these prophecies.
16. What chronological and physical evidences prove we are now in the time of his second presence?
16 As for the time of Christ’s second presence, Daniel’s prophecy is again the one that gives the chronology for it. (Dan. 4:16) It was figured out as pointing to A.D. 1914, and The Watchtower called notice to the significance of 1914 in the year 1879. The Christian Greek Scriptures foretell many physical evidences that would be observable at the time of Christ’s second presence, so that persons on earth would know of his presence, Christ himself being a spirit creature and invisible to human eyes. (John 14:19) Predicted were world war, famine, pestilence, earthquakes, sectarian divisions, persecution of his followers, world-wide preaching of the good news of the established Kingdom, widespread delinquency and general breakdown of morals, and many other developments that we have seen since 1914. The generation experiencing the beginning of these things will survive to see their end at Armageddon.* (Matt. 24:1-34; 2 Tim. 3:1-5, 13) Thereafter eternal life in endless blessings will begin for obedient persons in a new world.—2 Pet. 3:13.
17. Why should our reliance on God’s prophecies be stronger now than ever before?
17 But can we rely upon these predictions concerning Armageddon and the new world of righteousness that will follow? Well, if someone has told you the truth a hundred times, are you suddenly going to doubt him when he tells you something new? If you have never found him a falsifier, if he has been correct a hundred times, will you suddenly doubt his integrity for no cause? How unreasonable and illogical that would be! Jehovah has caused to be recorded many prophecies, and in remarkable ways many of them have been fulfilled, as we have seen in this study. The fulfillments of some of his prophecies are yet future. Can we not confidently rely upon their coming to pass in his due time, in view of the record he has built up, the reputation for truthfulness he has earned despite the opposing views of scientists and atheists and higher critics? They have been wrong so often, but Jehovah never. So when men dispute his Word and judge him false, we know the men are false and God is true: “Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, even as it is written: ‘That you might be vindicated in your words and might win when you are being judged.’”—Rom. 3:4, NW.
18. What has happened to the worldly assailants of God’s Word?
18 When the wisdom of this world ranges itself against the Bible it can only meet defeat: “It is written: ‘I will make the wisdom of the wise men perish, and I will shove the intelligence of the intellectual aside.’ Where is the wise man? Where the scribe? Where the debater of this system of things? Did not God make the wisdom of the world foolish?” (1 Cor. 1:19, 20, NW) Scientists have used their knowledge to down the Bible, but their own further findings shatter their theories and they have to concoct more. On the gallows of science that they make to hang the Bible their own theories perish. (Esther 7:10) Atheists and higher critics use their secular history to prove the Bible false, but as more historical facts are dug up their own weapon turns on them and vindicates the Bible. “They set a net to catch my feet, and they were caught in it themselves; they dug a pit in front of me, and they fell into it!” (Ps. 57:6, Mo) Fundamentalists accuse us of denying God by our teachings, and their own teachings are pagan. They try to use the Bible to prove us wrong, and it boomerangs and proves them pagan. “The pagans have sunk in the pit they dug; in the net they set, their feet are snared.”—Ps. 9:15, Mo.
19. How is faith gained? and how can it be now strengthened?
19 The multitudinous assaults against our faith that come in these modern times may test it, but if it is founded on knowledge and not credulity it will endure. “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you meet with various trials, knowing as you do that this tested quality of your faith works out endurance.” (Jas. 1:2, 3; 1 Pet. 1:6, 7, NW) To the Hebrews Paul wrote: “Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, . . . without faith it is impossible to win his good pleasure.” (Heb. 11:1, 6, NW) So we must have it, and our expectations concerning it must be held with assurance, confidence, without waverings or doubts. (Jas. 1:6-8) Unshakable faith comes from knowledge. Paul said: “‘Anyone that calls upon the name of Jehovah will be saved’. However, how will they call upon him in whom they have not put faith? How, in turn, will they put faith in him of whom they have not heard? . . . So faith follows the report.” (Rom. 10:13, 14, 17, NW) You have to hear the report of these things from God’s Word before you can build up real faith, a faith that is not credulous or superstitious or dead, a faith that is alive and shows its aliveness by works. (Jas. 2:14-26) That faith is not just blind credulity, but is based upon knowledge is shown by Jesus’ prayer: “I make request, not concerning these only, but also concerning those putting faith in me through their word.” (John 17:20, NW) It is through the words preached that new disciples to come would put faith in Jesus. Fulfilled prophecies now learned about confirm faith and buttress the basis for belief.
20. How can we endure, along with God’s Word?
20 “The word spoken by Jehovah endures forever,” quotes the apostle Peter. (Isa. 40:8; 1 Pet. 1:25, NW) Jehovah God assures us that his Word will be fulfilled, that it will not return unto him void, but will accomplish the purpose for which it is sent out. (Isa. 46:10, 11; 55:11) Yes, God’s Word will endure. But will we endure with it? Will we by our study of it and works in harmony with it make our faith strong enough to endure all trials, to withstand all the assaults that come against it in these last days? We can if we study, for though worldly men like to smear us and say only the ignorant believe the Bible, advancing knowledge is proving the reverse to be true! It is the willfully ignorant that shut their eyes to its vindication by means of scientific findings and archaeological diggings, and above all to its vindication made manifest by the increasing number of fulfilled prophecies illuminating our times. So study God’s Word, act in accord with it, build on rock foundation, and your faith will stand the assaults of men now and the storm of Armageddon later. Thus we can endure along with God’s Word to enjoy life in the foretold new world of righteousness.
Archaeology and Bible History, pages 262-264; Rimmer’s Internal Evidence of Inspiration, pages 202-204.
Westminster Dictionary of the Bible, pages 428, 429; see also the Prologue of Nebuchadnezzar, by G. R. Tabouis, and Internal Evidence of Inspiration, pages 204-206.
The Bible and Archaeology, pages 54, 141.
The Bible and Archaeology, page 141.
For a detailed consideration of this chronology see The Watchtower, December 1, 1946.
Archaeology and Bible History, page 284.
The Watchtower of May 1, 1952, contains a detailed consideration of the chronology of 1914 and the physical evidences in support of it.