Applied Evangelinformatics Tools
There is so much interesting material to discuss as relates to prophecy and evangelism that I am now certain that even two prophecy-related evangelism tools will not be enough—but I will try and keep a little focus. My last post, Prophesy! Who Will Save You?, gave a big picture look at the biblical prophecies fulfilled through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Now it has been previously studied and published by Peter Stoner in Science Speaks using sound mathematic probability technique that even a small subset of fulfilled biblical prophecy is highly unlikely to have occurred in any one person by chance. So let me list this subset:
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Micah 5:2 Born at Bethlehem Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem. Matthew 2:1
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Isaiah 40:3 Preceded by Messenger In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Matthew 3:1,2
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9 He was to enter Jerusalem on a donkey And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near---already on the way down the Mount of Olives---the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God.. Luke 19:35-37a
Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me. Psalm 41:9 Betrayed by a friend Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son pf Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him. Matthew 10:2-4
And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. Zechariah 11:12 Sold for 30 pieces of silver And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. Matthew 26:15
And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord. Zechariah 11:13b Money to be thrown in God’s house/Price given for Potter’s field And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed… Matthew 27:5a
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. Isaiah 53:7 Dumb before accusers 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed. Matthew 27:12-14
For dogs encompass me;a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet. Psalm 22:16 Hands and Feet pierced And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him,.. Luke 23:33
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. Isaiah 53:12 Crucified with thieves Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. Matthew 27:38
There was only 1 chance in 100,000,000,000,000,000 (1 in 1017) that fulfillment of these biblical prophecies happened by random chance. So the odds are highly in favor of these fulfilled prophecies not being by chance and thus leaving little other explanation than being the orchestrated and deliberate plan of an omnipotent being to save sinners. Just how important is the fact of fulfilled prophecies to the Christian faith? Consider that Jesus and the disciples spoke of fulfilled prophecies. Fulfilled prophecy was one of the main ways the disciples appealed to Christ as Messiah. The continued proclamation of prophetic fulfillment by the apostles and New Testament writers is made all the more credible through the examples of martyrdom, the gospel spread from one man to all nations, and the witness of transformed lives. There are several hundred references to the coming Messiah in the Old Testament which was completed in 450 B.C. As if appealing to the sheer unlikelihood of a person of history fulfilling so much prophecy, Isaiah prophesies well in advance of the vicarious work of the Suffering Servant, “Who hath believed our report?” which could also be stated “Who could believe what I am about to tell you?” Here is an excerpt from Christianity is Jewish by Edith Schaeffer that illustrates how I believe all mankind should respond when their minds have been opened to the truths of the gospel as spoken through prophecy. As Edith Schaeffer dialogs with a Jewish family in New York in 1947 she states
“I had been invited for a second evening of conversation with the Austrian Jewish dentist and his daughter, this time with my Bible, to answer some questions. With a Bible open on my lap, engrossed in answering questions, I noticed out of the corner of my eye a stream of university-age fellows passing the arched doorway. ‘My son’s fraternity meeting is here tonight,’ explained the man’s daughter. Soon the son came to the arched opening into the hall, and leaned against a post. He was trying to ask some catch questions concerning the Bible, which I carefully answered, and two other fellows were there to see the results. After a time I said, ‘Now I’ve been answering questions, I’d like to ask you one, if you don’t mind.’”
“‘Sure, go ahead.’”
“’’I’m going to read you a passage from one of your Jewish prophets, Isaiah, who lived seven hundred years before Jesus was born. Remember now, this was written seven hundred years before the birth of Christ.’”
“’Then I read:’ ‘He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid upon him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was there any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief:…He shall see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:3-12)
“’Who was Isaiah referring to?’ The student gave a little snort, an impatient scornful kind of laugh, “Huh, that’s easy; that is a description of Jesus Christ.”
“In the moment of electric silence which followed this outburst I said with amazement, ‘Do you realize what you have just said? Don’t forget I was fair to you in prefacing what I read with telling you it was written seven hundred years before Christ was born.’”
“All three boys sat down as if someone had hit them with a violent blow, this son of the household with his head buried in his hands. Suddenly he looked up at me and said accusingly, ’Tell me then why the Jews don’t accept this Jesus Christ as the Messiah?’”
“My reply came as gently as I could make it. ‘You see, the early Christians all were Jews, because that is exactly what did happen: some Jews who read their Torah carefully and believed and waited for the Messiah, did recognize and accept him as the one who fulfilled the prophecies. You see Christianity is Jewish.’”
If you invest time, effort, and prayer to God in making a decision about the reliability and authenticity of the Old Testament translations and the historical reality of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection, then you also should suffer a ‘violent blow’ as you realize that all which was prophesied concerning this Suffering Servant Christ in the Old Testament has indeed been fulfilled in this same Jesus. Oswald Chambers states that “The reason some of us are such poor examples of Christianity is that we have failed to recognize that Christ is almighty. We have Christian attributes and experiences, but there is no abandonment or surrender to Jesus Christ.” May the “violent blow” of fulfilled prophecy be used by the Holy Spirit to help us fully surrender to Christ as Almighty Lord and Savior and abandon our lives to the gospel. In addition to the “improbable” prophecies tool, I have also included a listing of instances where Jesus and the disciples make specific reference to Old Testament writings and prophecies noted as fulfilled in Christ.
In an age of reason, science, and relativism, a belief in prophecy, both spoken and fulfilled, is likely hard to elicit from most people. I would describe prophecy as foreknowledge of actual events being revealed to man through the inspiration of men by an omniscient being. I was taught very early in my studies of the Bible to break the bible into various sections. There is the obvious Old Testament/New Testament division, but the 39 Old Testament books can be further divided into the Books of the Law, Books of History, Books of Prose/Poetry, Major Prophets, and Minor Prophets. 17 of the Old Testament books fall into the Major or Minor Prophet division. The Old Testament can be reliably understood to be available and complete by 250 B.C. I’ll admit that even though that was over 2250 years ago, it seems quite unnatural to me for there to have been periods of time when an omniscient being would provide concentrated inspirational foreknowledge to a small people group in a small corner of the world. So what factors make me a believer in the truth of biblical prophecy? What discussion or evidences might pique the interest of a non-Christian regarding biblical prophecy both revealed and fulfilled? I cannot provide comprehensive answers to these questions for it is a matter of ongoing learning for me. But as I have been pondering this aspect of biblical truth, I have stumbled across some material that I hope might solidify belief in biblical prophecy among believers and provide the evangelist with some organized thoughts and content so that the rich history of fulfilled biblical prophecy especially regarding Jesus Christ (God with us, Messiah, and Lord) might become a viable evangelism tool even in this skeptical age.
In the book Betrayed, Stanley Telchin, from a traditional Jewish family, recounts his journey comparing the Hebrew Old Testament with the English version, looking to find all the erroneous translations, and convince his daughter to turn away from this false Messiah called Jesus whom she had discovered. An important part of his investigation involved answering some critical questions:
-Do I believe that the Jewish Bible (The Tenach) is the divinely inspired word of God?
-Does the Bible prophesy about a coming Messiah?
-Is Jesus the Messiah?
His intense spiritual journey of study, solitude, and contemplation result in resounding Yes, Yes, Yes answers. His scholarly yet personal endeavor confirming the validity of translation of prophecies from the Jewish to English Old Testament should allow for confidence to the Christian unversed in Hebrew when confronted by the skeptic on issues of translational integrity and authenticity.
A distinct transition takes place once the life and teachings of Jesus begin to be documented. The very first sentence of the book of Hebrews clearly presents this transition by stating that “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (emphasis added) A critical turning point in history ordained by God places us on the other side of the bulk of Christian prophecy (but certainly not all prophecy as one considers the book of Revelation as well as the passages on new heaven and earth in the book of Isaiah). This could be illustrated by considering such cultural artifacts as gas street lamps, horse and carriage for long distance travel, and film cameras. In the same way that human invention brought new modes of light, transport, and photography rendering prior methods nearly obsolete, God has appeared in human history as Jesus, our Emmanuel, speaking for Himself rather than through the prophets. The appearance and person of Christ provides all the evidence I need to overcome the seemingly “unnatural” placement of biblical prophecy in time in relation to my place in time. Put in another fashion, I don’t sit around doubting the existence of gas lamps just because I have lived my entire life in an age after the discovery of electricity, therefore I should not doubt the existence and relevance of prophecy just because I have lived my entire life in “days he has spoken to us by his Son”! The decision one must make about the existence and person of Christ cannot be minimized. Consider this verse from Acts 10:
Biblical Old Testament prophecy is ultimately about Christ and Peter clearly states the reason for the prophecy is to point people to believe in Christ as the answer for their sin problem. Jesus Himself pointed out that some would “miss the boat” when it comes to understanding what the Law and the prophecies were pointing to when He stated the following:
Stay tuned as I further explore these issues of biblical prophecy next time but make sure to check out one of the most famous prophecy links of all as performed by Linus taken from the book of Luke giving fulfillment to the Isaiah 9:6 verse in the photo montage above. Wise men still seek Him!