Reasons to Believe
The Bible was written so long ago. How can we be sure that it is really the word of God? In fact, there is a lot of evidence that the Bible is divinely inspired. In this session we look at two of the many lines of evidence which give us confidence that the Bible did come from God. These are:
- the resurrection of Jesus
- Bible prophecy
Together these show us that the Bible is historically accurate, that it was written by our Creator and hence that we may trust the gospel message.
Resurrection of Jesus
Perhaps the most amazing claim in the whole Bible is that Jesus rose from the dead. If the Bible is inspired, this claim must be true. On the other hand, if Jesus did not rise from the dead, the Bible cannot be the word of God.
The resurrection is extremely important to the Christian faith. Professor Josh McDowell has written
... the resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most wicked, vicious, heartless hoaxes ever foisted upon the minds of men, or it is the most fantastic fact of history.
Evidence That Demands a Verdict
The whole of Christianity hangs on the resurrection. Without it, there is no hope of salvation or hope for the future. The apostle Paul wrote:
If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)
Jesus was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:24-25)
It was also a major part of the message that the apostles taught (see Acts 2:24,32; 4:1-2; 17:18; etc.) So it is important to consider the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus.
1. Joseph asked Pilate for Jesus' body
(Matthew 27:57-58; Mark 15:42-45; Luke 23:50-52; John 19:38)
2. Joseph and Nicodemus laid him in a tomb, wrapped in grave clothes with spices. Some women saw where he was laid.
(Matthew 27:59-61; Mark 15:46-47; Luke 23:53-56; John 19:39-42)
3. The tomb was blocked with a large stone across its entrance.
(Matthew 27:60; Mark 15:46)
4. The Jewish leaders asked for a Roman guard to be placed on the tomb. The guard was granted and the tomb was officially sealed.
5. The women came back later to anoint him but found the stone moved and the grave empty. Two angels appeared to them and explained that Jesus had risen from the dead. Peter and John also saw the empty tomb.
(Matthew 28:1-7; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-8; John 20:1-9)
6. The Jewish leaders bribed the soldiers not to tell anyone what had happened, but to say they had fallen asleep and the disciples had stolen the body.
7. Jesus appeared to some of them, and later to the disciples as a group. They were reluctant to believe, but were convinced when they saw him.
(Matthew 28:8-20; Mark 16:9-14; Luke 24:9-49; John 20:10-31; Acts 1:3-4)
A large number of people claimed to see Jesus after his resurrection. Those we know about are listed below.
- Mary Magdalene
- Women returning from tomb
- Disciples on road to Emmaus
- Apostles, Thomas absent
- Apostles, Thomas present
- Seven by Sea of Galilee
- 500 believers at one time
- At ascension
- Paul in temple
- John on Patmos
In fact, many of them were initially sceptical and Jesus had to give "many convincing proofs that he was alive" (Acts 1:3). The apostle Thomas was not prepared to believe until he saw Jesus for himself (John 20:25). The fact that they all did eventually believe, shows that there must have been convincing evidence.
Their eye-witness accounts were an important part of the gospel message (Acts 2:32; 3:15; 10:39-41; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8).
The disciples had every reason not to believe. By acknowledging their faith in the resurrection, they became subject to fierce persecution. They must have been absolutely convinced that Jesus had risen from the dead. They had no doubts. Anybody with doubts would not have willing suffered as they did.
Compare the behaviour of the apostles before and after Jesus’ resurrection. They had deserted and fled when Jesus was arrested (Matthew 26:56). Peter crept back but when questioned he denied he had ever known Jesus (John 19:15-27). The others did not have the courage to appear at all. Less than three months later, they were all willing to stand up in public and proclaim the resurrection. They rejoiced when they were persecuted (Acts 4:1-21; 5:29-42).
It is amazing to think that a defeated little band of cowards meeting in an upper room one day could, a few months later, be a powerful force withstanding great persecution. Something had convinced these men.
Simon Greenleaf, Royall Professor of Law at Harvard University, has written
They had every possible motive to review carefully the grounds of their faith, and the evidences of the great facts and truths which they asserted ... It was therefore impossible that they could have persisted in affirming the truths they have narrated, had not Jesus actually risen from the dead.
The missing body
Perhaps more than any other reason, the missing body provides ample evidence for the resurrection. The Jews desperately wanted to stop the young Christian movement. They could have done so easily by simply producing the body. In his first public speech in Jerusalem, Peter spoke about Christ's resurrection (Acts 2:24,32). But no one came forward to contradict Peter's claim.
After all, the tomb had been under guard (Matthew 27:62-66; 28:11-15). Because of the guard, the body could not have been taken by anyone other than the Jews or Romans, and apparently neither knew where it was. Therefore Jesus must have been raised.
A very large stone was placed across the entrance to the tomb (Matthew 27:60; Mark 16:4). Such tombs were very common in Israel at that time and many have been studied by archaeologists. They have concluded that the stone probably weighed between one and two tonnes and that the stone stood on a ramp which was gently inclined toward the tomb. So to seal the tomb, the stone was pushed down the slope. But to open the tomb was very difficult and required several strong men.
The Roman guards
The Jewish leaders asked Pontius Pilate (the Roman procurator) for military guards to be posted at the tomb so Jesus' body could not be stolen (Matthew 27:62-65). It is estimated that a Roman guard unit consisted of between 4 to 16 soldiers. Once the guards were posted, no one would dare attempt to remove the stone covering the entrance.
But while the Roman soldiers were on guard, an angel appeared (Matthew 28:2-4), caused an earthquake and rolled back the stone. When the chief priests heard what had happened, they attempted a cover up. They bribed the guards to say the disciples had stolen the body during the night while the guards were asleep!
Leaving a night watch or sleeping while on guard required the death penalty under Roman law. (Compare the jailer's reaction in Acts 16:25-28 when he thought his prisoners had escaped.)
Furthermore, the tomb had been officially sealed (Matt 27:66) and to break the seal without permission would also have been punishable by execution. Even if the disciples could have rolled back the huge stone without waking the Roman soldiers, would they have been willing to defy the Roman authority and fight the guards just to steal the body? Given their actions a few days earlier, it is hardly likely!
Some theories to explain it away
Swoon theory: Jesus could have fainted, revived and escaped from the tomb.
Hallucination theory: All the eye-witnesses hallucinated.
Wrong tomb theory: The disciples went to the wrong tomb.
Hoax theory: The disciples stole the body.
Theft theory: Thieves stole the body
Official cover up theory: Either the Romans or Jewish authorities took the body.
Can you explain why each of these theories cannot be true?
All the evidence points to the truth of Jesus' resurrection. Three days after he was dead and buried, Jesus was resurrected as he said he would be (Matthew 16:21; 28:6).
We can have hope and faith as a result. Jesus' rising from the dead is evidence of a future resurrection of faithful people
(1 Corinthians 15:12-22,51-55).
A Bible prophet did not just foretell the future, but was God's messenger in commanding, encouraging and warning his people. Sometimes this involved relaying God's plans and intentions for the future, but sometimes a prophet's message did not involve any prediction. However, in this session, we will look only at prophecies that predicted events in the future.
It is important to see prophecy from God's perspective. The Bible portrays Him as the controller of future events. He knows the future because He will make it happen. In this way, Bible prophecy is history in advance.
There are different types of prophecy. Some are “short-term” and fulfilled in the lifetime of the prophet. Many are "long-term" and extend beyond the prophet's lifetime. A prophet often proclaimed a combination of both, the short-term fulfilment providing evidence of the truth of the long-term prophecy. Many prophecies have a dual fulfilment, a partial short-term fulfilment and a more complete long-term fulfilment.
Two tests were applied to see if a prophet was genuinely from God. The first test concerned the teaching of the prophet:
If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, "Let us follow other gods" (gods you have not known) "and let us worship them", you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul.
When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists ... To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this [God's] word, they have no light. (Isaiah 8:19-20)
The second test was whether the prophet had shown the ability to predict the future before.
You may say to yourselves, "How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?" If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORDdoes not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him. (Deuteronomy 18:21-22)
The prophet..….will be recognised as one truly sent by the LORD only if his prediction comes true. (Jeremiah 28:9)
So a true prophet was one who taught things consistent with the rest of God's revelation and who gave a short-term prophecy which came true.
The accurate fulfilment of Bible prophecies gives great credibility to the Bible's claim of inspiration. It also gives us confidence in prophecies not yet fulfilled.
The Bible Prophets
KINGS OF ISRAEL AND JUDAH
Assyrian captivity of Israel
Babylonian captivity of Judah
Micah, Isaiah, Hosea
John the Baptist, Jesus
Prophecies about Israel
Israel is the subject of more prophecies than any other nation, simply because the Jews are God's special people. Their entire history has been foretold including events that have taken place in the 20th century. The existence of the people of Israel, the Jews, and the existence of the nation in its biblical land can be considered to be evidence for the reliability of the Bible.
In 1897 at the first Zionist Congress in Basle, Switzerland, a Jew named Theodore Herzl declared his view of the necessity of a homeland for the Jew in the land know at that time as Palestine. It was under the control of Turkey and formed part of the Ottoman empire. At that time, there was only a handful of Jews living in Palestine.
Just 20 years later, at the end of World War 1, the British evicted the Turks from Palestine and liberated Jerusalem. For the next 20 years, Britain clung tenaciously to the mandate over Palestine given it by the League of Nations (the forerunner to the United Nations). Slowly, Jews began to move back to the land of their ancestors. The pace of immigration increased rapidly after World War II and the atrocities of Nazi Germany, and many surviving Jews returned to Palestine. The enormity of Jewish suffering in what was to become known as "the Holocaust", and the concern and guilt of many nations, led to the establishment of the State of Israel, proclaimed on 15 May 1948. This new State of Israel was established nearly 1900 years after the Jews had been exiled by the Romans.
The nation has survived against incredible odds with its hostile neighbours seeking to destroy it on numerous occasions. The most notable of these wars occurred in 1967 when an extraordinary event took place. The city of Jerusalem, divided since partition of Palestine in 1948, and out of Jewish control for nearly 2000 years, was once again united and brought under sovereign Jewish control.
Why has Israel survived? Because God said it would. Consistently through the prophets, God repeated his intention that despite their wickedness and despite his punishment of them, ultimately he would remember the promises which he made to their faithful ancestors, and bring them again to their own land.
Some prophecies about Israel
1. Israel's national birth was predicted by God to Abraham.
Genesis 15 ……………………………………………………………….. 2000 BC Fulfilled through Abraham's descendants.
2. Israel's disobedience, scattering, preservation and revival was predicted by Moses.
Deuteronomy 28 …………………………………………………………...1500 BC Fulfilled: taken captive to Babylon in 600 BC, returned to land in 538 BC
Fulfilled: scattered in AD 70, returned to land in 20th century, nation reborn 1948.
3. Israel is a continuing witness to God's existence
Isaiah 43:1-2, 10-12 …………………………………………………………700 BC
4. Though scattered throughout the world, Israel would be preserved.
Jeremiah 30:10-11; 31:10……………………………………………600 BC
Fulfilled: The Jews have survived the Spanish inquisition, the Russian pogroms, the Nazi holocaust, and many other attempts to destroy them. Throughout their history, God has preserved a remnant of his people.
5. They would return to the land and regain control of Jerusalem.
Luke 21:24-31 ………………………………………………………………..AD 30 Fulfilled: nation reborn 1948, Jerusalem recaptured 1967.
History of Israel
2000 BC: Abraham, the father of the Jews
1400 BC: Israel invades and conquers Canaan and is established as a nation.
1000 BC: King David
605 BC: Jews taken captive to Babylon
538 BC: Jews return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city
AD 70: Romans capture Jerusalem. Jews scattered throughout the world.
AD 1882: First wave of Jewish immigration as a result of Russian pogroms.
AD 1897: First Zionist congress in Basle, Switzerland
AD 1900: A handful of Jews living in Palestine; Turks in charge.
AD 1904: Second wave of Jewish immigration.
AD 1917: British capture Palestine; Jews begin to move there.
AD 1945-1948: Many Jews who survived WW2 migrated to Palestine.
AD 1948: State of Israel proclaimed
AD 1948-: Many wars with Arabs; Israel maintains independence; Jews migrate in large numbers.
AD 1994-: Attempted peace settlements with surrounding Arab nations.
AD 2000-: Jerusalem continues to be the “immovable rock”
The attempts to bring lasting peace to the Middle East will certainly fail. One of the consistent stumbling blocks to peace in the region is the status of the city of Jerusalem. God, through the prophet Zechariah, says of Jerusalem:
I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling ... I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves. (Zechariah 12:2-3)
Ezekiel's vision of the valley of drybones
Reference: Ezekiel 37:1-14
Ezekiel prophesied in about 590 BC when the nation of Israel was in captivity in Babylon. He gave many fascinating prophecies, including this vision of a valley of dry bones. The well-known Negro spiritual song "Dem dry bones" refers to this prophecy. It is a very clear prophecy with each element of the prophecy being clearly explained.
Ezekiel's vision was of a collection of dry bones lying at the bottom of a valley. The bones come together and were covered with tendons, flesh and skin but the bodies that were formed remained dead. Then breath entered the bodies and they become a vast living army.
In verses 11-14, the prophecy is explained. It depicts Israel's revival in two stages.
bones come together
breath in bones
house of Israel
hope gone, cut off
Jews return to land of Israel
spirit of God in Jews
The prophecy is unambiguous and clearly explained. The Jews were to be gathered out of many nations around the world and become one nation in the land their ancestors originally lived in, the land of Israel. This is precisely what has happened over the past century.
No other nation has maintained a national identity after more than 1800 years of exile. But no other nation has had these prophecies made concerning their history. Other nations that have been dispossessed of their land have lost their identity within a few years. What has happened to Israel is extraordinary. The Jews are a standing miracle, a monument of fulfilled prophecy. The fact that their history was predicted so accurately shows the Bible is God's book.
We have only seen the first stage of Ezekiel's prophecy fulfilled. Israel has returned to their land as predicted, but they remain a secular nation uncommitted to God. God's spirit does not yet dwell in them. A survey conducted in the mid-1980s revealed that most Israelis do not consider that God is responsible for their current position and survival in the land. These prophecies indicate they are yet to become a religious nation relying on God and obeying him.
The last stage in the prophecy is described in verses 24-28. After the Jews turn back to God, they will have a new king "David" who will rule over them forever in peace. Luke 1:30-33 makes it clear that this king will be Jesus who was a descendant of the earlier King David of Israel. He is to sit on David's throne in Jerusalem.
We can be confident that the Jews will turn back to God and that Jesus will return to be king because the first part of this vision has been fulfilled. The Jews are back in the promised land as predicted in the Bible.
Lesson 4 Questions
Please check the correct answer to each question, and then press submit. A personal tutor will mark your answers and send them back to you.
Sometimes a question may require more than one answer.