Who Can Foretell the Future?
Can man do so? Is it possible to know what lies ahead?
IT IS natural to wonder what the future holds. Your particular concern may be the happenings of tomorrow, next week, or later in the year. Will lasting peace soon be established? Will the year ahead be economically prosperous? Will race relations be improved and better living conditions realized?
Who knows? Can anyone reliably foretell these things? Politicians, in campaign speeches, frequently make glowing promises about a brighter tomorrow. But how often these are simply empty words! The future they describe rarely materializes. So, in their quest to know the future, many persons turn elsewhere for information.
CAN ONE SAFELY LOOK TO SPIRITISTIC SOURCES?
Millions have sought out fortunetellers, astrologers and other related sources. Time magazine of December 30, 1966, reported: “The sale of crystal balls, especially the large $25 size, has risen roundly in Los Angeles. . . . Across the nation, the sale of Ouija boards has tripled in the past year, even the Harvard University Co-op sells out whenever it stocks them. Zodiac sign guessing has become part of the social chitchat.”
Hundreds of millions of dollars are paid annually to people who profess to have special ability to foretell the future. One popular astrologer observed that this is because, “in these times of uncertainty, people are groping for an answer.” But can you really learn about the future from such sources? How reliable are they?
There can be no question that spiritistic sources at times do predict the future with regard to personal matters. This was so in the first century of our Common Era. For example, the Bible record tells about a “girl with a spirit, a demon of divination,” who “used to furnish her masters with much gain by practicing the art of prediction.” (Acts 16:16) To have been a source of profit to her masters, the girl must have had a reputation for some accuracy in foretelling the future. However, spiritistic sources also often prove to be wrong in their predictions.
In this connection, a feature article entitled “A Look at Tomorrow Today,” appearing in The Saturday Evening Post of March 26, 1966, commented: “Time and again individual astrologers have been laughably wrong, as was Washington’s Jeane Dixon when she predicted that Walter Reuther would be a candidate for the presidency in 1964. . . . On February 5, 1962, great crowds of Hindu holy men sat up all night waiting for the end of the world that Indian astrologers had predicted . . . In 1939 the leading British astrologers predicted unanimously that there would be no war, and when war came, they predicted it would end the following year with the fall of Hitler.”
No, astrologers, fortune-tellers and other such sources cannot be depended upon to foretell the future reliably. They are frequently mistaken.
However, not only are they unreliable, but looking to them for information will bring God’s disfavor. For their prognosticating efforts are associated with demonism, as was the case with the girl in the first century. They actually receive information from wicked, invisible spirit creatures. Understandably, therefore, God’s Word the Bible commands that no true worshiper should consult “a spirit medium or a professional foreteller of events or anyone who inquires of the dead.” Such sources are not the proper ones to whom to look for information about what lies ahead.—Deut. 18:10-12.
IS IT IMPORTANT TO KNOW THE FUTURE?
It is the popular belief in some places that there is no use in concerning oneself with the future, because one cannot change what is to happen anyway. For example, a Danish priest, Jakob Rod, explains in his book Popular Religion and Church: “The popular religion’s belief in fate has its own special creed: ‘It probably had to be that way,’ or ‘It had to happen.’ Without any doubt this is the creed which is most often expressed here in Denmark today.”
However, such an attitude is not confined to Denmark. You will hear it expressed in many places. Yet, does not sound reasoning indicate that there is real value in knowing what lies ahead? For if one knows in advance what is to occur, he can take action that will benefit himself and his loved ones. For example, it is noted by volcano expert Haroun Tazieff that at volcanoes with well-equipped observatories ‘scientists can forecast eruptions.’ If you lived near such a volcano, would it not be of value to know the time of its next eruption? Most certainly! For then you could take action to avoid disaster.
In many actual cases, accurate knowledge concerning the future has proved beneficial. Although future events were not changed, adjustments were made by individuals to protect themselves. In September of 1965, for instance, weather forecasters warned that a powerful hurricane would sweep into Louisiana and Mississippi from the Gulf of Mexico. Having this advance knowledge, hundreds of thousands of persons fled to higher ground, and avoided disaster.
Similarly, in the first century of our Common Era the warning was given by the Son of God, Jesus Christ, that when they saw Jerusalem surrounded with encamped armies, then the inhabitants should, at the earliest opportunity, flee the city. (Luke 21:20-22) In 66 C.E. this circumstance occurred when the Roman armies encircled Jerusalem to lay siege to it. But then they withdrew. Those who then heeded the prophetic warning by fleeing Jerusalem avoided the terrible calamity when the Roman armies returned in 70 C.E. and devastated the city. Knowledge concerning the future can indeed prove beneficial.
WHAT MAKES FOREKNOWLEDGE POSSIBLE
What makes it possible to predict future events accurately? Important would be having a knowledge of all the factors that might affect the matter. Men possessing a sufficient body of facts have, at times, enjoyed a remarkably accurate view of the future. Yet humans are frequently subject to error, even being wrong in their weather forecasts at times. Men often misinterpret the available evidence, overlook factors that affect the matter, or simply are unacquainted with all the facts of the case.
Despite this, the possibility of possessing an accurate view of the future is recognized by learned men. In fact, they acknowledge that, with sufficient knowledge and wisdom, it is possible for one to predict all events that are yet to occur. Commenting on this, Professors Robert B. Lindsay and Henry Margenau wrote in their book Foundations of Physics: “An intelligence powerful enough to know all these differential equations together with the values of coordinates and derivatives at a given time, and able to solve them, would have a complete survey of all events, future and past.”
SOURCE OF TRUE PROPHECY
Whereas humans are generally incapable of knowing all the necessary information, and of analyzing it properly, there does exist “One perfect in knowledge” and who is thus able accurately to foretell the future. (Job 37:16) That One is the Grand Creator of this marvelous universe and of its living creatures. Yes, he is the Most High God, Jehovah; the One who knows “from the beginning the finale, and from long ago the things that have not been done.”—Isa. 46:10; Ps. 83:18.
Jehovah God is unlimited in his powers to foretell the future, because not only does he possess all the facts, but he can control all the factors. He has a perfect record of accuracy in foretelling the future. Even events that all evidence available to men would indicate are very unlikely to occur, Jehovah God can foretell perfectly.
For example, would it be logical to expect that a famine-stricken city surrounded by enemy armies would have food in abundance the following day? Yet, this is what Jehovah inspired his prophet Elisha to foretell in the tenth century before our Common Era when Syrian armies were besieging Samaria. The Bible record says:
“Elisha now said: ‘Listen, you men, to the word of Jehovah. This is what Jehovah has said, “Tomorrow about this time a seah measure of fine flour will be worth a shekel, and two seah measures of barley worth a shekel [a very cheap price] in the gateway of Samaria.’” At that the adjutant upon whose hand the king was supporting himself answered the man of the true God and said: ‘If Jehovah were making floodgates in the heavens, could this thing take place?’ To this he said: ‘Here you are seeing it with your own eyes, but from it you will not eat.’”—2 Ki. 7:1, 2.
The king’s adjutant, a high officer, could not believe it. The population was starving, with mothers even eating their own children. (2 Ki. 6:24-29) How possibly could such a prophecy come true? The One with unlimited knowledge knew.
During the night God caused the encamped Syrians to hear the sound of a great military force. They assumed that the Israelites had hired the help of the Hittites and the Egyptians. So, in great fear, they fled toward their own borders, leaving their possessions behind. The Bible explains what then occurred:
“The people proceeded to go out and plunder the camp of the Syrians; and so a seah measure of fine flour came to be worth a shekel, and two seah measures of barley worth a shekel, according to the word of Jehovah. And the king himself had appointed the adjutant upon whose hand he was supporting himself to have charge of the gateway; and the people kept trampling him in the gateway, so that he died, just as the man of the true God had spoken.”—2 Ki. 7:16, 17.
What a remarkable fulfillment of prophecy! Yet for Jehovah God it is nothing extraordinary. There are scores of similar prophecies recorded in the Bible that have undergone such amazing fulfillment. Why, when Babylon was a mighty, apparently invincible power, Jehovah foretold her downfall. (Jer. 51:53-58; Dan. 5:22-30) He even named the Persian conqueror, Cyrus—and that well over a hundred years before Cyrus was born! (Isa. 44:26–45:1) Jehovah also foretold the fall of Medo-Persia to Greece, and how the kingdom of the conquering ruler, Alexander the Great, would be divided into four kingdoms, as it, of course, was.—Dan. 8:3-8, 20-22.
After a consideration of the fulfillment of such astounding Bible prophecies, Thomas Newton wrote in his book Dissertations on the Prophecies: “What can be plainer? You see or may see with your own eyes the Scripture-prophecies accomplished: and if the Scripture-prophecies are accomplished, the Scripture must be the word of God.” Yes, we can be absolutely confident that what the Bible foretells for the future will be fulfilled!
WHAT NOW LIES AHEAD
What, then, does the Bible foretell for our immediate future? Will lasting peace be established, race relations improved and better living conditions realized? Or, are we approaching a time when world conditions will grow even worse?
The greatest prophet of God to walk the earth, Jesus Christ, pointed forward to “the conclusion of the system of things,” and foretold that there would be ‘nation rising against nation, food shortages, pestilences, earthquakes, and increased lawlessness,’ yes, the very conditions being experienced in unparalleled doses since 1914! So, according to God’s Word, not only will the nations continue to experience a time of unprecedented distress that will yet grow worse, but in the very near future this entire system of things will suffer complete destruction.—Matt. 24:3-21; Luke 21:7-19.
Does this mean that life is hopeless? that there is no future for which to live? Not at all! For Jehovah God promises in his Word that all those who love and serve Him will be preserved alive through the end of this system of things into His righteous new system of things. (1 John 2:17; 2 Pet. 3:13) Yes, God’s assurance is that at that time “he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be any more. The former things have passed away.”—Rev. 21:3, 4.
What a grand future the Bible describes for mankind! What a precious, close relationship with Jehovah God! Will it really be fulfilled? Can we confidently trust in what God foretells? Check the record. Examine your own copy of the Bible, and see how accurate God has been in the past in describing events before they occur. You will find out that there is every reason to have confidence in the all-powerful One, who alone can accurately foretell the future.