You can count on it. Every Easter there’s a new round of news articles or documentaries which raise questions about who Jesus really was or about the truthfulness of the Bible. So as parents, it’s important to help our kids understand the issues; to listen to the questions and seek answers. The following is an article that you can share with the children in your life to help them see how true and trustworthy God’s Word truly is.
Can you predict the future? If so, you could really impress your friends, right? Sounds cool. Let’s practice.
Can you predict what you are having for dinner tomorrow? The answer is simple. Answer: “I predict we are having food for dinner.” And there’s an almost 100% chance that your prediction would come to pass—at least, let’s hope you’re eating food for dinner!
But to really be impressive, you need to be more specific. You need details. “I predict we are having hot food for dinner tomorrow, served at the kitchen table.” OK, that’s better—more details, but also more of a chance that you’d be wrong. (What if you had cold sandwiches and ate outside, like a picnic?)
But even then, you could be really specific and still not be impressive. Why? Two reasons.
First, you could have seen what’s being prepared in the kitchen, or you know the usual routine (“We always have chicken soup on that night of the week”). Or second, your impressive rating would drop like a rock if your prediction ended up being wrong.
So to be impressive in your ability to predict the future, you need to be right even about the details and have no hints or clues about what might happen.
Did you know the Bible is packed with predictions about the future? Someone even counted them up and decided that there are 1817 predictions in the Bible—1239 in the Old Testament and 578 in the New Testament.
Some of these predictions—like the ones saying that Jesus would come back to earth in the same way he left (Mark 13:26; Acts 1:11)—tell about events that haven’t happened yet. They were predicted or prophesied but haven’t been fulfilled.
But lots and lots of predictions in the Bible (often called prophecies) have already come true exactly as predicted—in all the details, with no prior hints or clues.
What are the Odds?
In 1973, a scholar named J. Barton Payne published a huge book that listed all the prophecies in the Bible.[i] He counted all the predictions that the Old Testament made about Jesus—and he found 191 of them!
But haven’t some other people also tried to predict the future? Yup—and it didn’t go well. Between 1975 and 1981, one group of people made 72 predictions of the future. How many did they get right? Only 6 were even close—and some of those were super easy guesses (example: “There won’t be a world war this year”).[ii]
But in the case of Jesus—not some but all of the 191 predictions came true—even down to the details. But let’s just pretend that there are only 8 specific predictions about Jesus in the Old Testament. What are the chances that all 8 would come exactly true in Jesus’s life?
Experts in math say the chance of 8 specific predictions—all of them, not some of them—coming true are 1 in 1017. That’s taking the number 10 and multiplying it times itself 17 times. Remember, 102 is 10 times 10 (=100). And 103 is 10 times 10 times 10 (=1,000). And 104 is 10 times 10 times 10 times 10 (=10,000). So 1017 would equal a 10 with 17 zeros (=1,000,000,000,000,000,000)!!
What are those odds? Well, if even just 8 prophecies about Jesus all took place, just as they were predicted, the chances are like taking 43 million 5-gallon buckets of regular white sand and adding 1 single grain of black sand, and then reaching in and finding the 1 speck of black sand.
How big a number is 1017? Science expert, Peter Stoner said, “If you take 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas, they will cover all of the state two feet deep. Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir up the coins. Blindfold a man and send him out to pick up the marked silver dollar. The chances that he will pick the right one is 1 in 10 to the 17th power.”
Here’s a sample of various predictions made about Jesus in the Old Testament and how they came true.
Predictions about the Messiah in the Old Testament
|Prediction in the Old Testament||Fulfillment in the New Testament|
|Isaiah predicts that a virgin will have a son (Isaiah 7:14).||The virgin Mary has a son, Jesus (Matthew 1:22–23).|
|Micah predicts that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).||Jesus is born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1–6).|
|Jacob predicts that the Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10).||Jesus belongs to the tribe of Judah (Luke 3:23, 33–34; Hebrews 7:14).|
|Samuel says that the Messiah will be a descendant of King David (2 Samuel 7:14)||Jesus descends from David (Matthew 1:1).|
|Malachi predicts that God would send a messenger to prepare for the Messiah (Malachi 3:1).||John the Baptist is the messenger preparing for Jesus (Matthew 3:1–3).|
|Isaiah predicts that the Messiah would preach good news to the poor (Isaiah 61:1).||Jesus preached the good news to the poor (Luke 4:17–20).|
|Isaiah predicts that the Messiah will heal blindness and deafness (Isaiah 35:5–6).||Jesus came healing the blind and deaf (Matthew 9:35; 11:4–5)|
|Isaiah predicts that the Messiah would be rejected, would suffer, would be wounded for sin, would die, would be assigned the grave of wicked people but would actually be buried in a rich man’s grave (Isaiah 53:3–9).||Jesus experiences rejection, suffering, wounding, death, and was buried in the tomb of a rich man (Joseph of Arimathea) instead of being buried in a common grave like a criminal (Mark 15).|
|David predicts that the Messiah’s hands and feet would be pierced (Psalm 22:16).||Jesus’s hands and feet are pierced when he was crucified (Luke 22:33).|
|David also predicts that people would gamble for the Messiah’s clothes (Psalm 22:18).||Roman soldiers gamble to see who will get Jesus’s clothes (John 19:23–24).|
|Zechariah predicts that the Messiah’s side would be pierced (Zechariah 12:10).||Jesus’s side is pierced by the spear of a Roman soldier (John 19:34).|
Other Predictions in the Old Testament
|Daniel predicts the rise and fall of three kingdoms, after the kingdom of Babylon, before the coming of the Messiah, (Daniel 2:37–42).||After the kingdom of Babylon, there arose three major empires before the time of Jesus: the Medo-Persian empire, the Greek empire, and the Roman empire. Jesus was born during the time of the Roman empire.|
|Daniel predicts that the third kingdom would have four “horns” after its main single “horn” was broken off (Daniel 8:8).||After the Greek empire lost its main ruler (Alexander the Great) in 323 BC, eventually four of his generals took over leadership of the kingdom.|
|Isaiah predicts that a king named Cyrus would one day give the order to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem (Isaiah 44:28–45:1).||150 years after Isaiah made this prediction, a ruler of the Medo-Persian empire—whose name was Cyrus—gave an order to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 1).|
|Obadiah predicts the destruction of the nation of Edom (Obadiah 1–10).||At least 33 years later, the Babylonian empire defeated Edom in 553 BC.|
God’s Word is reliable; its truth is settled, immovable, and unfailing (Psalm 119:89–92). What God says and predicts happens just as he says. Why? Because he is reliable and unchanging (Malachi 3:6). He tells us of past events without error. He speaks into our present lives with timely candor. And when he speaks of the future, he guides us faithfully. How? Because he knows it all and rules it all. He’s the God “who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8).
[i] J. Barton Payne, Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy: The Complete Guide to Scriptural Predictions and Their Fulfillment, (New York: Harper & Row, 1973). For a list of the prophesies about Jesus Christ, see Payne’s summary on pp. 665–670.
[ii] Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 615.
The Really Radical Book for Kids: More truth. More fun.
The Really Radical Book for Kids continues the exciting dive into the roots of the Christian faith started in The Radical Book for Kids. More Bible exploration, more history, and more faith-filled direction for how to live as a believer in the here and now.