December 16, 2001

A PROPHECY OF PEACE

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. Isaiah 9:6-7

When a major event shakes the world, people want to know what the future holds. Quite a few turn to Nostradamus. They believe that this Frenchman from the 1500s made predictions that have already come true, and they count on his writings to tell them what will happen next. Within a few days of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the bestselling book on Amazon.com was Nostradamus: The Complete Prophecies. Five other books about Nostradamus ranked in the top 25 on the list.

The interest in Nostradamus was fueled by emails which said that he predicted the terrorist attacks. One widely circulated email message declared that Nostradamus had written:

In the year of the new century and nine months
From the sky will come a great King of Terror
The sky will burn at forty-five degrees
Fire approaches the new city.

In the city of York there will be a great collapse
Two twin brothers torn apart by chaos
While the fortress falls the great leader will succumb
Third big war will begin when the big city is burning.
On the 11th day of the 9th month …
two metal birds would crash into two tall statues
in the new city and the world will end soon after.

Sounds like quite a prophecy, right? No wonder people rush to buy the writings of Nostradamus. It sounds like he saw exactly what was coming. A new city called York–that’s got to be New York! Twin brothers torn apart, a fortress falling–that’s got to be the twin towers and the Pentagon. Two metal birds crashing into two tall statues–that sure sounds like the attacks on the World Trade Center. What comes next? “Third big war,” World War III, and the end of the world!

Not necessarily. Nostradamus didn’t write what the email claimed he wrote. He never wrote about York. He never wrote about twin brothers torn apart or two tall statues. He never wrote about two metal birds. He never mentioned the eleventh day of the ninth month. Nostradamus didn’t write about any of these things, so he certainly didn’t connect them with World War III or the end of the world. Most of stuff in the supposedly prophetic email was not written by Nostradamus. It was concocted by somebody after the terrorist attacks.

The only thing in the email that resembled anything Nostradamus wrote was the obscure mention of the new century (he didn’t say which century) and fire at 45 degrees. Some people took the degrees to be degrees of latitude on the globe. New York is at 41 degrees, not 45 degrees, so whatever Nostradamus was rambling about, it wasn’t New York. But some people with vivid imaginations decided that 45 degrees was close enough, even though it amounts to hundreds of miles difference.

Some towns and cities are much closer to 45 degrees than New York is. If lightning strikes near such a town and causes a forest fire that roars toward the town, people could claim Nostradamus was talking about them when he spoke of fire in the sky approaching the new city at 45 degrees. That’s the key to Nostradamus’s success as a “prophet.” Nostradamus wrote such vague and obscure things that you can read into them almost anything you want.

The fact is, Nostradamus didn’t predict the events of our time. He was not a prophet. He did not have special insight from God about the future. Nostradamus was a medical doctor who dabbled in astrology, predicting human events based on stars and planets. His writings reveal no more about the future than horoscopes or fortune cookies. The Bible contains many detailed prophecies, all of them accurate, but people often ignore the biblical prophets and instead depend on kooky cookies, hokey horoscopes, and the mysterious mutterings of Nostradamus to make sense of life and reveal the future.

Novels Outguess Nostradamus

A fictional novel could provide more detailed and accurate hints of the future than the writings of Nostradamus. In the year 1898, Morgan Robertson wrote a story about a splendid ship 800 feet long–far bigger than any that had ever been built at that time. Fourteen years later a real ship was built over 800 feet long. The ship in the novel was triple screw; the real ship was triple screw. The ship in the novel could reach speeds of 25 knots; the real ship could reach 25 knots. The ship in the novel could carry about 3,000 people; the real ship had room for about 3,000. The ship in the novel had lifeboats for only a fraction of its passengers, but nobody cared, because the ship was considered unsinkable. The same was true of the real ship.

The ship in Robertson’s story started across the Atlantic with many rich, self-satisfied passengers, struck an iceberg one cold April night, and sank. The real ship started across the Atlantic with many rich, self-satisfied passengers, struck an iceberg one cold April night in 1912, and sank. The real ship was called Titanic.  The imaginary ship in Robertson’s novel of fourteen years earlier was called Titan.

Kind of spooky, isn’t it? But Morgan Robertson was not a prophet and did not claim to be one. People don’t study his writings to find out what else might happen in the future. His novel about the Titan contained some striking similarities to the Titanic, but there were also many differences. The author knew enough about shipbuilding to see where trends were headed in the next decade or two, and he knew enough about human nature to sense what could happen if people weren’t humble and careful, if they trusted technology too much and arrogantly assumed nothing could go wrong. Perhaps, in God’s plan, Robertson’s novel about the Titan even served as a kind of warning against pride, a warning that went unheeded a few years later when the Titanic was not supplied with enough lifeboats and someone foolishly said that even God could not sink the Titanic. Still, Robertson’s novel was not an error-free prophecy inspired by God, and Robertson was not a prophet with direct, God-given vision of future events. Even so, this novelist produced fiction that came closer to the mark than Nostradamus ever did in his so-called prophecies.

Several years ago, Charles Colson wrote a novel in which an American terrorist bombed a federal building. Shortly after Colson wrote it, Timothy McVeigh bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City. Tom Clancy has written novels in which terrorists devise a plan to use airliners as weapons to crash into buildings. Now some terrorists have done exactly that. Colson and Clancy didn’t see the future, but their fiction came closer to actual events than anything Nostradamus and other stargazers have written.

If you want true prophecy that really comes from God and accurately portrays the future, you must look not to modern novels or to the medieval astrologer Nostradamus. You must look in the Bible. The Bible doesn’t contain hit-and-miss fortune-telling or educated guesses. It contains specific, accurate prophecies. Many of these prophecies have already come true, while others await final fulfillment. On today’s program, we’ll focus on biblical prophecies related to Christmas, and we’ll zero in on one particular prophecy about Jesus as Prince of Peace and what that prophecy means for us now and in the future.

True Prophecy

The Bible is one book, a big book. It’s the one, unified Word of God. At the same time, this big book is a collection of 66 smaller books. These books were written by various human authors. All were directed by God to write as they did, and they wrote without error. The Old Testament part of the Bible contains 39 books that were written in the centuries before Jesus was born. The New Testament part of the Bible contains 27 books that were written after Jesus life, death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven. Amazingly, the events of Jesus’ life described in the New Testament were predicted far in advance in the Old Testament. It takes an amazing book to predict things centuries in advance, and it takes an amazing person to fulfill many different prophecies written by many different people over the course of many different centuries. The Bible is such a book, and Jesus is such a person.

The books of the Old Testament contain many predictions about the birth of a future ruler and rescuer whom God would send to overcome evil and give people new life. These were not just vague predictions. Some details were quite specific. For example, the prophet Micah said that this ruler would be born in Bethlehem (5:2). The prophet Hosea said that God’s Son would be called out of Egypt (11:1). The prophet Isaiah said that a virgin would become pregnant and give birth to a son (7:14), and Isaiah also said that a great light would shine in the region of Galilee when the special child was born (9:1-2).

Now, it’s a stunning prediction to say a virgin will give birth, and it sounds like an outright contradiction for different prophets to predict a child being born in Bethlehem, coming out of Egypt, and shining in Galilee. Bethlehem and Galilee are quite a ways apart in the land of Israel, and Egypt is another country altogether. How could prophecies referring to Bethlehem, Egypt, and Galilee all be fulfilled in the same child? Sounds impossible, doesn’t it?

Well, centuries later, a young woman from Nazareth in Galilee became pregnant without being with a man. This woman, Mary, was betrothed to Joseph. At first Joseph could not believe that Mary’s pregnancy was a miracle, but an angel convinced him. The couple lived in Nazareth, so it seemed obvious that their baby would be born there, not in Bethlehem, far to the south. But then the Roman emperor called for a census and required people to register in the towns of their ancestry. Joseph and Mary had to go to Bethlehem because Joseph’s family line went back to King David, and Bethlehem was the city of David. While they were in Bethlehem for the census, Mary went into labor, and the baby Jesus was born in Bethlehem, just as the prophet Micah predicted.

King Herod, the vicious ruler in that region, heard that a special baby had been born, and Herod felt threatened. He ordered all the babies in Bethlehem killed. Before the order could be carried out, however, an angel warned Joseph about what Herod was planning. Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt with baby Jesus. A while later, King Herod died, and Jesus came up out of Egypt with Joseph and Mary, just as the prophet Hosea had predicted.

After leaving Egypt, the family went back to Israel, to the town of Nazareth in Galilee, where they had originally come from. There Jesus grew up and began his ministry, bringing God’s light to the region of Galilee, just as the prophet Isaiah predicted. Amazing! The seemingly contradictory prophecies all came true in the Christ child: he was born in Bethlehem, came out of Egypt, and was God’s light in Galilee.

I sometimes meet people who are confused by the different religions in the world. They don’t know what to believe. With a number of different religions to choose from, is there any way to know if one is any more true than another? Maybe you’ve wondered about this yourself. Why depend on the Bible instead of the supposedly sacred books of other religions? Why believe in the God of the Bible and in the Lord Jesus Christ instead of putting your faith somewhere else? Well, the Bible stands apart from all other books in the accuracy of its prophecies, and Jesus stands apart from all other religious figures in the way those prophecies, written centuries before his birth, came true in him.

Through the prophet Isaiah, writing 700 years before Jesus’ birth, God not only predicted that a baby would be born of a virgin and would be God with us (7:14), but God also predicted that at the Messiah’s coming, the eyes of the blind would be opened, the ears of the deaf would hear, and the lame would leap for joy (35:5). Even the most skeptical people who knew Jesus couldn’t deny that he enabled blind people to see and deaf people to hear. Nobody could deny that Jesus made paralyzed people walk and leap and praise God.  Even Jesus’ worst enemies had to admit that he was doing amazing things.  These miracles weren’t just marvels to astonish people; they were signs that Jesus was the person the prophets predicted.

Along with other prophets of God, Isaiah predicted that the Messiah would be “pierced for our transgressions” and be “assigned a grave with the wicked.” He also predicted that after “he poured out his life unto death,” the Savior would again “see the light of life” (53:5-12). Seven centuries after these things were written, Jesus was pierced on a cross, died to pay for the sins of the world, and then rose from the dead.

In a world with many religions and many ideas about how to have eternal life, it’s tempting to think there’s no way to know which faith stands apart from the others. But faith in the Christ of the Bible isn’t just a shot in the dark. It’s not just one more item on a crowed religious menu. A clear mark which sets the true God apart from false religion is that God declares things long in advance– and those things actually come true.

In the Bible book of Isaiah, the Lord challenges the gods of false religions and says, “Bring in your idols to tell us what is going to happen… tell us what the future holds, so that we may know that you are gods” (Isaiah 41:22-23). False gods don’t know the future or shape the future or do anything at all. But the God of the Bible declares, “I am the Lord; that is my name! … See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being, I announce them to you” (42:8-9). “Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the Lord? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me. Turn to me and be saved… for I am God, and there is no other” (45:21-22).

The Lord doesn’t just leave us to guess at where to put our faith. You don’t need Nostradamus nonsense. You don’t need other religions that don’t regard Jesus as God with us, or that offer other books besides the Bible and other sources of salvation besides Jesus. You need the Christ of the Bible. Read the Bible’s prophecies made in advance of Jesus’ coming. See the amazing fulfillment of prophecy in the birth of the Christ child, in his miracles and teachings, and in his death and resurrection. Then turn to him and be saved. There is no other Savior.

Prince of Peace

Jesus is the only one who can save individuals like you and me from our sin. He’s also the only one who can save the world from war and strife. He is the Prince of Peace. In his first coming at Christmas, Jesus shone the light of his peace into the world, with a wondrous effect on many people and nations. At his second coming, the Prince of Peace will banish all remaining sin and conflict, we will take away all hatred and weapons of war, and he will perfect his new creation. Biblical prophecy was totally accurate about Jesus’ first coming, so we can be sure that what it says about his second coming and his kingdom of perfect peace is also totally accurate. And we can rejoice!

Rejoicing comes when we know that the Bible’s prophecies about Jesus Christ are accurate and are full of bright promise. In Isaiah 9, God says to those who are grim and war-weary:

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy… You have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, and rod of their oppressor. Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. (9:2-7)

What a wonderful promise! All oppression removed, all combat boots and bloody uniforms burned, then peace without end! A bit earlier in Isaiah’s prophecy, God says, “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4). Death-dealing weapons of war will be transformed into life-cultivating farm tools under the reign of Christ.

The peace of Christ is so complete that when his kingdom comes fully, all created things, even animals, will live in harmony: “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together, and a little child will lead them” (Isaiah 11:6).

Peace on earth is sure to come, because Jesus Christ has come, and he is coming again. To enjoy that eternal peace in the future, you must first receive peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ right now. You must have his peace in your heart already in this world in order to enter the perfect peace of the world to come. If you reject Christ and refuse to repent of sin, you will have no peace, only pain and sorrow without end.

But if you know Jesus Christ, if you’ve already tasted his peace and become a peacemaker in his service, then you know that it’s just a matter of time till his almighty peace transforms people, nations, animals, and the whole creation.

If that kind of peace sounds far-fetched or impossible, remember that the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, has already fulfilled countless other prophecies. He will surely fulfill those that still need to be completed. If the Lord could be born of a virgin if he could give sight to the blind if he could rise from the dead, is there anything he can’t do?

PRAYER

Father in heaven, thank you for Jesus. Thank you for prophecies and promises that have come true in the Prince of Peace and those that are still going to come true. Open our minds to your truth and our hearts to your peace, through Jesus our Lord. Amen.

By David Feddes. Originally broadcasted on the Back to God Hour and published in The Radio Pulpit.