With the solar eclipse, hurricanes, rising sea levels, political and social unrest, many people have been asking me about biblical prophecy. They want to know if these things are signs of the times. To which I reply as the apostle Paul did. While he thought that Jesus would return anytime, he remained vague, saying, “For you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed (Romans 13:11).”[i] That’s because Jesus Himself warned us not to try to predict the end, telling us that “no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows (Matthew 24:36).” But that doesn’t stop some people from trying. It seems like there’s always one doomsday forecaster or another trying to find some obscure prophecy, and attaching a date to it. Recently, David Meade predicted that the alignment of Virgo and Leo on September 23, 2017, would signal the beginning of the end.[ii] Yet that date has come and gone, with no sign of the apocalypse. Meade should have taken Jesus’ advice before trying to figure out a date.
The fact that there are crackpots predicting the end of the world does not, however, mean that we should discount all prophecy. The Old Testament is filled with predictions of the Messiah (perhaps over 300 of them!) that find their fulfillment in Jesus. As we continue our study through the book of John, we come across some of these fulfilled prophecies. John 19:23-24 tells the story of the crucifixion and how…
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they divided his clothes among the four of them. They also took his robe, but it was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. So they said, “Rather than tearing it apart, let’s throw dice for it.” This fulfilled the Scripture that says, “They divided my garments among themselves and threw dice for my clothing.” So that is what they did.
This fulfills a prophecy in Psalm 22:18, which says, “They divide my garments among themselves and throw dice for my clothing.” Then, we see the fulfillment of Psalm 22:17, “I can count all my bones,” together with Psalm 34:20, which says, “For the LORD protects the bones of the righteous; not one of them is broken!” These come to fruition in John 19:31-33, which says:
It was the day of preparation, and the Jewish leaders didn’t want the bodies hanging there the next day, which was the Sabbath (and a very special Sabbath, because it was Passover week). So they asked Pilate to hasten their deaths by ordering that their legs be broken. Then their bodies could be taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the two men crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead, so they didn’t break his legs.
Psalm 22:14 also says, “My life is poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax, melting within me.” This parallels John 19:34-37:
One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out. (This report is from an eyewitness giving an accurate account. He speaks the truth so that you also may continue to believe. These things happened in fulfillment of the Scriptures that say, “Not one of his bones will be broken,”and “They will look on the one they pierced.”
Finally, we have a prophecy that says, “He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man's grave (Isaiah 53:9).” This finds its fulfillment in John 19:38-42, which reads:
Afterward Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate for permission to take down Jesus’ body. When Pilate gave permission, Joseph came and took the body away. With him came Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night. He brought about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes. Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth. The place of crucifixion was near a garden, where there was a new tomb, never used before. And so, because it was the day of preparation for the Jewish Passover and since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.
Generations before Jesus was crucified and buried like a criminal yet given a rich man’s grave, it was foretold by Isaiah through a prophecy from God. A thousand years before Jesus hung on the cross, David predicted the flow water, his pierced hands and feet (Psalm 22:16), his intact bones, and the soldiers gambling for his clothing. Why is so much detail given through prophecy and later fulfilled in Jesus’ death? So that the evidence will be overwhelming, that Jesus is who he says he is. So that, after examining all the prophecies of the Messiah, along with their fulfillments in Jesus[iii], you too might believe and say as the Roman centurion at the crucifixion, “This man truly was the Son of God (Mark 15:39)!”
When you read predictions made by people like David Meade, be careful. When you hear preachers talking about how an event in the news is the fulfillment of scripture, be cautious. While interest in the End Times can be fascinating, it’s better to focus on the greatest subject of prophecy found in the Bible—the atoning work of Jesus, done for us on the cross. In that respect the Bible interprets itself, and demonstrates how Jesus is the both the subject and fulfillment of prophecy, and how by God’s grace we can put our trust in him.
[i] All scripture quotations are taken from the NLT.
[ii] “Biblical signs in tonight’s sky?” By Christopher M. Graney in ASTRONOMY ESSENTIALS | HUMAN WORLD | September 23, 2017http://earthsky.org/human-world/biblical-signs-in-the-sky-september-23-2017. September 28, 2017.