The Bible—A Book of Hope
WILLIAM GLADSTONE, said to be the “greatest British statesman of the 19th century,” once wrote: “Science and research have done much to sustain the historical credit of the Old Testament: . . . in doing this they have added strength to the argument which contends that in them we find a Divine revelation; . . . the evidence, rationally viewed, both of contents and of results, binds us to stand where our forefathers have stood, upon the impregnable rock of Holy Scripture.”
The Bible has indeed weathered the storms of time like an immovable rock. A person who stands upon this rock can see, from its lofty heights, not only way back into the past but far into the future. Let us now examine the internal evidence proving that the Bible is a book of hope that you can trust.
INTERNAL HARMONY AROUND A CENTRAL THEME
The 66 books of the Bible were written over a period of 16 centuries by some 40 different writers. That statement is easy to read. But think about it. Do you know of any book that was started, say, toward the end of the fourth century of our Common Era and continued to be written, off and on, by dozens of different men of all stations of life right up to our day?
No such book exists. But if it did and if it had been written from the time of the Roman Empire, right through the period of the monarchies and into the time of modern-day republics, by people as different as soldiers, kings, priests, fishermen, and even a herdsman and a medical doctor, would you expect every part of that book to have the same basic approach and to follow the same central theme? Hardly!
Yet the Bible actually was written over a similar time period, under various political regimes, by all those categories of men and even more, and in three languages. Nevertheless, it is harmonious throughout. Its basic message has the same thrust from beginning to end. Is that not amazing?
Such internal harmony would have been impossible without some timeless, unifying spirit pervading the entire writing team. That spirit was God’s active force. The apostle Peter bore witness to that fact, saying: “No prophecy of Scripture springs from any private interpretation. 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. 1:20, 21.
Under the one divine editorship, these Bible writers developed a single central theme: The vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty and the ultimate fulfillment of his purpose for the earth by means of his kingdom under Christ, the “Seed” of promise. (See box on page 16.)
A BOOK OF PROPHECY
Perhaps the greatest reason for believing that the Bible is not man’s word but God’s is the fact that it is a book of remarkable prophecies. With all their sophisticated scientific equipment, men are still unable regularly to make accurate weather forecasts, let alone foretell hundreds of events. Yet the Bible contains literally hundreds of prophecies that have proved to be astonishingly accurate. Does this not indicate that the great Mastermind behind such prophesying was the One who stated: “I am God unrivalled God who has no like. From the beginning I foretold the future, and predicted beforehand what is to be”?—Isa. 46:9, 10, The Jerusalem Bible.
Many of the most important prophecies in the Bible tie in with its central theme: God’s vindication through the kingdom of the promised “Seed.” To avoid all doubt about the correct identification of the “Seed,” God inspired many different prophets to provide details about the birth, life and death of this promised deliverer. These prophecies about the “Seed” or “Messiah”—of which over 300 have been counted—were all fulfilled in Jesus Christ.a
Some freethinkers have tried to suggest that Christ fitted himself into these prophecies and thus rigged their fulfillment. Freethinkers generally pride themselves with being very logical. But is it sound thinking to claim that Jesus rigged his own birth in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2; Matt. 2:1, 5, 6), of the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10; Luke 3:23, 33) and as a descendant of King David?—Isa. 9:7; Matt. 1:1.
Others might retort that if Jesus was the Son of God and lived previously in heaven, he could have arranged for his human birth to fulfill such prophecies. True, but a freethinker’s use of that argument would defeat his purpose, which is precisely to deny that Jesus was anything other than a normal man.
And what about the circumstances of Jesus’ death: his being struck, spat on, nailed to a stake, and (something very exceptional for people executed on a stake) having none of his bones broken? (Isa. 50:6; Mic. 5:1; Isa. 53:5; Ps. 34:20; Matt. 27:26, 30; Luke 23:33; John 19:33-36) Did Jesus rig all these things too? Impossible! So these were true prophecies, written over 700 years before their fulfillment. Powerful testimony, indeed, in favor of the Bible’s reliableness!
One of the most remarkable prophecies, and one whose fulfillment has been amply confirmed by secular history, was Jesus’ foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem. This was not just a prediction that any astute political forecaster could have made, in view of the Jews’ chafing under Roman rule. It included details that no futurologist could have foreseen. Who could have imagined that, in 66 C.E., Roman commander Cestius Gallus would withdraw his troops from Jerusalem “without any reason in the world,” as Josephus put it, just when the city was ready to fall into his hands like a ripe plum? But Jesus had predicted some such opportunity for individuals to flee the beleaguered city. (Luke 21:20-22) His disciples, who were watching for this sign, were thus able to escape. Then, nearly four years later, in 70 C.E., the total destruction of Jerusalem and its temple took place, just as Jesus had also foretold.—Luke 19:41-44; Matt. 24:2.
Jesus’ prophecy about the destruction of first-century Jerusalem is of the greatest interest to us, because it is interwoven with his prophecy about the end of the present wicked system and the establishment of God’s kingdom in the hands of the promised “Seed.” Just as Jesus gave first-century Christians a sign that enabled them to know that Jerusalem’s end was near and to flee to safety, so he has given Christians alive today the sign whereby they know that his kingdom is near.
After speaking of international wars, great earthquakes, pestilences, food shortages and persecution of true Christians, Jesus mentioned “anguish of nations [not just of the Jews],” and predicted that men would become “faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth [not just upon Jerusalem].” (Luke 21:10-19, 25, 26) These expressions alone give the lie to the assertion that his prophecy was completely fulfilled by the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. His prophecy obviously had much wider scope and extended down to the time when not only apostate Jerusalem but all false religions and the rest of Satan’s wicked system of things would be destroyed to make way for the righteous “new earth that we are awaiting according to his [God’s] promise.”—2 Pet. 3:13.
This is confirmed by the very question Jesus’ disciples put to him, namely: “Tell us, When will these things be [he had just spoken about the destruction of Jerusalem], and what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things [end of this world, Phillips]?”—Matt. 24:3.
Further showing that Jesus’ mind went far beyond the destruction of Jerusalem and on to the time when he would come again in power and God’s kingdom would be established, he stated: “And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. . . . Note the fig tree and all the other trees: When they are already in the bud, by observing it you know for yourselves that now the summer is near. In this way you also, when you see these things occurring [wars, earthquakes, pestilences, food shortages, persecution of Christians, anguish of nations], know that the kingdom of God is near.”—Luke 21:10-31.
Just as surely as Jesus’ prophecy concerning the destruction of Jerusalem turned out to be truthful in its minutest details, so also his prophecy on the end of the present wicked system of things will be fulfilled. Since 1914, we see abundant evidence that Jesus’ prophecies recorded in Matthew chapters 24 and 25, Mark chapter 13 and Luke chapter 21 are in the course of fulfillment. After stating that “all these things are a beginning of pangs of distress,” Jesus added: “And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.”—Matt. 24:8, 14.
Yes, the present time of “distress” harbingers the fulfillment of a glorious hope. “This good news of the kingdom” is today being preached “in all the inhabited earth” by Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are heralding far and wide the grandest of news, that soon Jehovah God’s sovereignty will be vindicated and his purpose for the earth will be fulfilled, when the Kingdom of the “Seed,” Jesus Christ, destroys the wicked and sees to it that God’s will is done on earth as in heaven. (Matt. 6:9, 10) Then all men and women who love righteousness, both those who survive the end of the present system and the millions of resurrected ones, will have the opportunity of living forever on a paradise earth.—John 5:28, 29.
Such is the wonderful hope held out to mankind in the Bible. The philosophers, scientists and politicians of this world can offer you no such hope. So why reject the only book of hope that exists today, THE BIBLE? Jehovah’s Witnesses will be happy to help you to get to know the Bible better.
a For a partial list of these Messianic prophecies, see the book “All Scriptures Is Inspired of God and Beneficial,” pages 343-345, published by the Watch Tower Society.
[Box on page 16]
THE BIBLE DEVELOPS ONE CENTRAL THEME:
The vindication of Jehovah God’s sovereignty and the ultimate fulfillment of his purpose for the earth, by means of his kingdom under Christ, the promised “Seed”
THE PRIMARY TRUTH:
“In the beginning God . . .”—Gen. 1:1
GOD GAVE MAN A GOOD START:
“God saw everything he had made and, look! it was very good.”—Gen. 1:31
GOD PURPOSED AN EARTH-WIDE PARADISE:
“God said to them: ‘Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it.’”—Gen. 1:27, 28; 2:8
THE FIRST MAN REBELLED AND TRANSMITTED DEATH TO HIS DESCENDANTS:
“Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men.”—Rom. 5:12
GOD PROMISED DELIVERANCE THROUGH THE “SEED”:
“By means of your seed [Abraham’s] all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves.”—Gen. 22:17, 18; compare Genesis 3:15
CHRIST IS THE PROMISED “SEED”:
“Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. It says, not: ‘And to seeds,’ as in the case of many such, but as in the case of one: ‘And to your seed,’ who is Christ.”—Gal. 3:16
GOD’S KINGDOM UNDER THE “SEED” WILL FULFILL GOD’S PURPOSE FOR THE EARTH:
“You must pray, then, this way: ‘Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.’”—Matt. 6:9, 10; Rev. 12:10
THE DESTRUCTION OF ALL REBELS WILL VINDICATE GOD’S NAME AND SOVEREIGNTY:
“O may they be ashamed and be disturbed for all times, and may they become abashed and perish; that people may know that you, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.”—Ps. 83:17, 18
CHRIST’S 1,000-YEAR KINGDOM RULE WILL RESTORE PARADISE AMONG MANKIND:
“Happy and holy is anyone having part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no authority, but they will be priests of God and of the Christ, and will rule as kings with him for the thousand years.”—Rev. 20:6
THE EFFECTS OF SIN WILL BE WIPED OUT:
“Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and 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 anymore. The former things have passed away.”—Rev. 21:3, 4
ORDER WILL BE RESTORED AND GOD FINALLY VINDICATED:
“Next, the end, when he [Christ] hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has brought to nothing all government and all authority and power. For he must rule as king until God has put all enemies under his feet. As the last enemy, death is to be brought to nothing. . . . But when all things will have been subjected to him, then the Son himself will also subject himself to the One who subjected all things to him, that God may be all things to everyone.”—1 Cor. 15:24-28