The Prophectic Word Made More Sure

by Joseph Hunting

"We also have the prophetic word made more sure, which you do well to heed as to a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns ..." (2 Peter 1:19).

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalm 119:105).

The prophetic Scriptures have been much maligned because there have been those who have set dates for the fulfilment of certain prophecies that were not fulfilled at the expected time. We can understand the scepticism caused by foolish pronouncements that have failed to materialize, but there is always the danger of "throwing out the baby with the bath water."

In order to have a balanced view of the prophetic Scriptures it is wise to check the track record of the men who prophesied certain events which have been fulfilled precisely as predicted, bearing in mind that: "prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21).

A Prophecy Fulfilled to the Day

The Bible abounds with evidence that supports the claim made by Peter. As space is limited we'll look at only a few examples as illustrations. And it is appropriate that we commence with God's promise to Abraham.

"Then he said to Abram: 'Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve its people and be afflicted by them four hundred years. And also that nation whom they serve I will judge; afterwards they shall come out with great possessions'" (Genesis 15:13,14).

So precisely was that prophecy fulfilled that Moses records that it was "at the end of the four hundred and thirty years -- ON THE VERY SAME DAY -- it came to pass that all the armies of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt ... and it came to pass, ON THAT VERY SAME DAY, that the LORD brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt according to their armies" (Exodus 12:41,51). The actual period Israel spent in Egypt was 215 years, the remainder of the 430 years being in Canaan.

Some have thought that a discrepancy of thirty years exists between the original promise given by God and the fulfilment four hundred and thirty years later. However, the four hundred year period referred to in Genesis is dated from the feast Abraham made for Isaac when he was confirmed as the heir to the promise, whilst the four hundred and thirty year period is dated from the giving of the covenant thirty years earlier.

God Names Cyrus

Not all prophecies have such precise time elements built into them. Indeed, most prophecies are open-ended as to the time of their fulfilment. An interesting prophecy in this regard concerns the naming of a king of a foreign country more than a hundred years prior to his birth. "Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held to subdue nations before him ... that you may know that I, the LORD, who call you by your name, am the God of Israel ... I have even called you by your name; I have named you, though you have not known me ... he shall build my city, and let my exiles go free, not for price nor reward, says the LORD of hosts" (Isaiah 45:1,3,4,13).

Much happened to Israel between the giving of the prophecy and its fulfilment. The ten-tribed northern kingdom of Israel went into captivity, to be followed by the southern kingdom of Judah when Nebuchadnezzar totally destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, the subsequent Babylonian captivity lasting seventy years.

The turning point in Israel's history was the release and return from captivity ordered by King Cyrus as recorded in Ezra chapter 1. "Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, so that the word of the LORD spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, 'Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, "All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD God of heaven has given me. And he has commanded me to build him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. ( The captivity would last seventy years -- 25:11).

"Who is there among you of all his people? May his God be with him! Now let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel"'" (Ezra 1:1-3).

The Messiah to be Born in Bethlehem

Another fascinating prophecy open-ended as to the time element concerns Bethlehem as the birthplace of the Messiah. "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to me the one to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from old, from everlasting" (Micah 5:2).

With hindsight, and two thousand seven hundred years after that prophecy was given, we remember that it was the chief priests and the scribes who advised King Herod where the Messiah was to be born. "So they said to him, 'In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it was written by the prophet …'" (Matthew 2:4,5).

In his effort to slay the infant Yeshua Herod ordered all the male babies born in Bethlehem to be put to death, thus fulfilling the prophecy spoken by Jeremiah: "A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are no more" (31:15).

The Rebirth of Israel

Without a doubt the greatest miracle of this century is the rebirth of Israel on the soil of its ancient homeland. To even begin to appreciate the magnitude of this miracle the preceding nineteen centuries must be taken into account. Rome, at the pinnacle of its power, implemented a program of eliminating all trace of Jerusalem and wiping out the presence of Israel as a nation following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD. The following nineteen centuries saw a series of massacres across Europe by the Crusaders, the infamous Inquisition, pogroms in Russia and the horror of Nazi brutality and the Holocaust.

Whilst the world was still in a state of shock following the disclosure of the most terrible mass slaughter in humanity's history, Jeremiah's prophecy of Israel's rebirth came to pass. "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, that I will bring back from captivity my people Israel and Judah, says the LORD. And I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, AND THEY SHALL POSSESS IT" (30:3).

Again, there was no time element for the fulfilment of the prophecy. Israel had to wait two thousand five hundred years of bloodshed, banishment and persecution until God took a hand in mankind's affairs. Note again the prophecy: "I WILL CAUSE THEM TO RETURN TO THE LAND THAT I GAVE TO THEIR FATHERS, AND THEY SHALL POSSESS IT." That is exactly what happened. And in spite of the implacable hatred of their neighbours and four savage wars to exterminate them and their State, they still possess it.

The Time of Jacob's Trouble

Israel 's rebirth as a nation and continued survival are proof positive of the literal fulfilment of God's Word. And almost every day we are reminded in either the print or electronic media of Israel's role in the world as a nation.

But Jeremiah had more to say. "Now these are the words which the LORD spoke concerning Israel and Judah. For thus says the LORD: 'We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear and not of peace. Ask now, and see, whether a man is ever in labour with child? So why do I see every man with his hands on his loins like a woman in labour, and all faces turned pale? Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; it is the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it'" (30:4-7).

Bible scholars link the "time of Jacob's trouble" with the end-time "Great Tribulation" which concludes this present age with the battle of Armageddon.

Prophecy Concerning the Latter Days

And the New Testament has this to say: "And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: 'The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and he will turn away ungodliness from Jacob, for this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins'" (Romans 11:26 quoting Isaiah 59:20-21).

Daniel sheds light on the time of Jacob's trouble referred to by Jeremiah. Referring to the end of this age he prophesied: "And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered" (12:1).

The Messiah Yeshua also spoke of the time of great tribulation yet to come. "Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation', spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem) ... then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains ... for then will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And if those days had not been shortened, no flesh would be saved ..." (Matthew 24:15-22).

The collapse of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of East and West Germany, plus the overthrow of communism and disintegration of the once mighty Russian union of Soviet states, have caused the maps of Europe and Russia to be re-drawn. At the same time one of the end-time prophecies concerning Israel's exiles is being fulfilled: "I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather them from the west. I will say to the north, 'Give them up!' And to the south, 'Do not keep them back! Bring my sons from afar, and my daughters from the ends of the earth'" (Isaiah 43:5-6). Exiles from Albania, Europe, Ethiopia, and the continuing regathering from Russia and from other countries too numerous to mention confirm God's faithfulness to His word through Isaiah.

Truly, God's prophetic program for Israel is "a light that shines in a dark place." Whilst the nations of the world ricochet from one crises to another Jeremiah has an appropriate prophecy to remember: "Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, 'He who scattered Israel shall gather him, and keep him as a shepherd does his flock'" (31:10).