Who Can Know the Future?
“I am the Divine One . . . , the One telling from the beginning the finale, and from long ago the things that have not been done.”—Isaiah 46:9, 10.
IN THESE unstable times, political, financial, and social analysts study history and modern trends in an effort to predict the future. Others, desperate to know what the future holds for them personally, look to astrology or spiritism for answers. Such people are often disappointed with the results. Is it utterly impossible to know what will happen to this world, our families, and us as individuals? In the end, can anyone really foresee the future?
In his words to the prophet Isaiah, quoted above, Almighty God, Jehovah, described his own ability to foretell the future. Through Isaiah, God foretold the release of the ancient Israelites from Babylonian captivity and their return to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. How precise was this prophecy? About 200 years in advance, Isaiah correctly named Babylon’s future conqueror, Cyrus. Furthermore, Isaiah accurately described Cyrus’ strategy—that of diverting the Euphrates River, which served to protect the city. He even foresaw that Cyrus would find the massive two-leaved doors in the city wall carelessly left open, contributing to Cyrus’ easy victory.—Isaiah 44:24–45:7.
Compared with God, man is powerless to peer into the future. “Do not make your boast about the next day,” wrote wise King Solomon, “for you do not know what a day will give birth to.” (Proverbs 27:1) That observation is still true. No human can foresee even his own future. What makes God different? He completely understands everything he has created, including the nature and inclination of man. When he chooses to do so, God can foresee exactly how individuals and entire nations will act. Further, he has unlimited ability to control the outcome of events. When he foretells through his prophets that something will occur, he becomes “the One making the word of his servant come true, and the One that carries out completely the counsel of his own messengers.” (Isaiah 44:26) Only Jehovah God can truthfully make that statement.
Isaiah lived more than 700 years before Jesus, the Messiah. Yet, Isaiah prophesied about the coming of the Messiah. Particularly from the 18th century on, however, critics of the Bible have attacked the authenticity of the book of Isaiah. They have claimed that Isaiah’s prophecies were not truly predictive but were written after the fact, a later writer merely recording what had already happened. Is that true? In 1947 a copy of the book of Isaiah was discovered, along with other ancient scrolls, in a cave near the Dead Sea. Scholars determined that this copy was made more than a hundred years before the birth of the foretold Messiah, or Christ. Yes, the Bible revealed the future!
Isaiah and other Bible writers could not have foretold future events based solely on their own insight. Rather, they “spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21) In the following articles, we will focus on some details of Jesus’ life that were foretold through Isaiah. Then we will consider events that Jesus and his disciples foretold for our day and beyond.