In my last post, I talked about the importance of biblical prophecy in determining whether or not the Bible is truly inspired by God. I offered a list of criteria we could use to examine each prophecy, and that’s the criteria we’ll be considering as we move forward.
The importance of the Bible in our modern society can’t be diminished. It’s arguably the most significant book in Western culture, and many people believe that it is the inspired Word of God. But is it? Greek mythology was vitally important to the Greek and Roman Empires, but did that make it true? Examining the prophecies in the Bible can give us a good indication of whether or not it really is what it claims to be.
The first one I’d like to look at is found in Jeremiah 33. Verse 17 says, “For thus says the Lord: ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel’”. This has long been considered a prophecy of Christ. At the time this was given, it’s likely that Jews believed it referred to the literal, physical kingdom of Judah. After the Babylonian captivity, they probably believed this prophecy pointed toward a reestablishment of that physical kingdom. In fact, the Jews in Christ’s day seemed to believe that very thing, according to the gospels. Of course, Christians have pointed out that this has not happened in a physical sense. So are they right in claiming that this prophecy refers to Christ?
I think an interesting component of that question centers around the next verse: “and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings, and to make sacrifices forever.” In my opinion, this is a real issue. Jeremiah is obviously referring to the Levitical priesthood under the Old Law. So how could verse 17 be referring to a spiritual kingdom? Since these are given together, it really only makes sense to see them as both referring to the physical priesthood and kingdom of Judah.
Of course, the bigger problem is that verse 18 didn’t come true. No Levitical priest has offered sacrifices for almost 2000 years. If we’re following the rule set forth in Deuteronomy 18:22, then apparently Jeremiah is not a true prophet.
How can we explain this issue? Verses 17 and 18 go together, so there’s no way to say verse 17 is talking about Christ and his spiritual kingdom when verse 18 is obviously talking about the Levitical priesthood. We could try to explain it by saying that Christ became our high priest, according to the book of Hebrews. But this doesn’t answer it either since Hebrews tells us he was high priest by the order of Melchizedek – not the order of Levi. Specifying Levites in this passage inarguably sets the context to the physical priesthood of the Old Testament. Honestly, I don’t see a way to really answer this problem. Jeremiah made a prophecy that did not come to pass. More than likely, he was just an individual who loved his country and wanted to see it go on forever. But that didn’t mean he was inspired by God. And when we see that his prophecy didn’t come true, it shows us that fact.
Is it possible for this one area to be wrong, but for the rest of the Bible to still be true? I don’t see how. Why would a perfect being allow his incredibly important message to be corrupted in a way that would cause it to look untrue? I think this one issue is enough to show that the Bible can’t be inspired, but when I was a believer one issue wouldn’t have been enough to convince me of that. But as it stands this is not the only issue. My next post will address that further.
42 thoughts on “Prophecy Part 2: Throne Forever”
Interesting that to most any Christian, one certain inconsistency is enough to invalidate another religion or denomination, but certainly not the Bible! That said, I look forward to your future posts. I appreciate your refreshingly objective thoughts on this subject!!
Graham makes a good point, but I would imagine that everyone tends to look a certain thing a certain way with the sole objective of making it what they want it to be. Just like if people want the Bible to be false, it will appear that way to them.
I can’t speak for other books, but if you approach the bible from the standpoint of gaining instruction and wisdom then you would find that the instruction and wisdom within it validate the bible’s claims. Looking at instances where the Lord’s prophecies seem suspect without the consideration of Jonah’s experience where the Lord changed his mind, out of mercy, and spared the Syrians after they were penitent. The Lord is merciful, and when we see that he has deviated from earlier intentions, we should be thankful that God has shown us mercy and grace.
why not look at the prophecies that have come to pass, the ones that are examples and evidence of his omniscience, like Christ’s birth and death, as well as the countless others?
Graham, thanks for the comment.
Trenton, thanks for stopping back by and adding your two cents. I do think that people often fail to look at things objectively, but I don’t think it always happens that way. It’s not easy to put aside preconceptions, but it can be done.
However, let’s assume for a minute that you’re right. Let’s say that virtually everyone just looks at an issue through their own filter, which keeps them from seeing actual truth. If that’s the case, why would God hold anyone accountable for what they believe? It means he would have given us a nature that keeps us from serving him. How is that fair, just, or reasonable? Instead, if we believe in the God of the Bible, then we must believe that people can look at an issue objectively — in fact, he requires it of them.
It’s true that the Bible contains wisdom and instruction. But it also contains some problems, which I’ll deal with in future posts. Also, there are many books that contain wisdom and instruction — would that alone mean that they’re inspired by God as well? I think the Bible is a magnificent book. It can tell us much about the history of Palestine and the surrounding region. It can tell us a lot about ancient cultures. Wisdom can also be gained from some of its writings. But none of that confirms its claims of divine inspiration. Divine inspiration requires perfection (or so it seems to me), and the Bible is simply not perfect.
My series of posts will continue to examine the prophecies of the Bible. In fact, we’ll be talking about Christ’s birth very soon. Some of these prophecies have more problems than others, but I don’t know of any prophecies in the Bible that actually seem to be true, specific, and fulfilled. If you come across any, please post them.
Thanks again for your comment, and I hope you’ll continue to check back here.
Ok so a couple of comments/questions about this contradiction.
First, verse 17 does talk about the descendants of David sitting on the throne of Israel. So as long as the throne of Israel existed, David’s descendants sat (and possibly in the future will sit) on it. The Bible seems to corroborate that account, so where the inconsistency? Saying the throne of Israel doesn’t exist currently has nothing to do with this prophecy.
Second, how do you know that there are no priests in the order of Levi sacrificing to God, particularly when you look at how numerous these Levitical priests would be in verse 22? Are you saying that we have complete and perfect knowledge of every Levitical priest in existence, and that no one is offering burnt sacrifices to the Lord?
I’m not saying this for a certainty either, but in order to say that the prophecy fails, you have to show conclusive evidence of its failure. I think you’re generalizing a bit too much here. It’s true that the nature of this prophecy makes it a bit hard to either prove or disprove given verse 22, but since we’re talking about evidence of failure, I think that evidence is still lacking. This is probably not the best example for either side to use, so I would say let’s move past this one and see if there are better examples.
When Jerusalem was destroyed in 70AD, the Jewish records were destroyed too. No one knows who is from Levi or Judah, or whatever else.
I think the point being made in this post was that the people often point to this prophecy as evidence that Christ fullfils it by being our “spiritual king” since he is in the linage of David (Judah). This Blog goes on to say that if this is indeed a prophecy of Christ, then what do we make of the latter part referring to Levitical priests, which Christ certainly is not. The New Testament says that Christ is our priest, and made the last great sacrifice for our sins (as a priest would), but that he is not a Levitical priest, but a priest after the order of Melchizedek. He is pointing out that we take only part of that prophecy but discard one whole half of it.
And having to provide proof that a prophecy didnt happen, seems a little silly. One would have to prove that the prophecy was fulfilled if they are arguing that it indeed came true. “it could have come true,” could be said for almost anything.
If you think it’s true, where is your supporting evidence? The lack of spporting evidence so far, is the evidence that it hasn’t come true.
One of all of our favorite quotes seems appropriate here: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
I did make the point that this one is particularly hard to prove or disprove. But since Nate made the claim above that “this prophecy didn’t come true,” there needs to be evidence to support that claim.
I don’t think there’s anything to dispute the part of verse 17 without even using Christ as the continuity of the prophecy. As long as the throne of Israel existed, David’s descendants reigned on it. Where’s the problem?
If there are alleged inconsistencies with the Bible, then these need to be shown conclusively. I’ve made that case that the evidence is at best inconclusive, and at worst either completely irrelevant or patently generalized and therefore faulty. Saying “I don’t see any Levite priests making sacrifices, therefore the prophecy isn’t true” is like me saying “I don’t see any black people at my office, therefore they don’t exist.”
I understand the point Nate is sort of making here, but even if it is shown that the conjecture that Christ is part of the fulfillment of this prophecy is wrong, it doesn’t show any inconsistency in the prophecy itself, and therefore no inconsistency in the Bible. It just shows the incorrect nature of subsequent opinion and interpretation, which I think we can all agree is the area of real flaws.
Maybe we should devote ourselves more to uncovering the flaws of interpretation than trying to poke holes in the actual text itself.
The issue is that practicing Jews no longer practice the sacrifices mandated in the Old Testament. As far as I’m aware, that’s not a debated issue. The temple no longer exists, and I believe William is right about the records issue. This is why modern day Jews are unable to offer sacrifices — there’s no temple to do them in. So that part of the prophecy really does fail.
Sabe, but the holes are there. It’s not that anyone has to poke any. It’s more like people try to cover the holes up. I know you have just begun looking at these issues, so a discussion this maybe premature (my fault). Look at the rest of the issues and you’ll see that it’s much more than translation and grammatical issues.
Also, If you had never seen any black people, it would be understandable if you doubted or never considered their existence. If someone told you that there were black people and when you asked to see one to verify there claim, what if they just responded by saying that no one can see them, or that they dont exist any more and we dont have any photos of them, you’d probably be even more skeptical of their existence. Sure it would be possible, just unlikely as far as you could know.
OT Jews didn’t need the Temple to sacrifice in–look at Elijah post-Temple construction. So what makes now any different?
And arguing practicing Jews is a little bit interesting, particularly when orthodox Jews don’t believe in Christ as the Messiah. Perhaps you should be looking at Messianic Jews as your basis first, and I would say you would probably have a hard time making that judgment without generalizing.
So I don’t see failure yet, I see conjecture.
Hi — and thanks again for the comments.
After doing a little more research, I still can’t find any Jewish groups that claim to sacrifice today. In fact, most say that prayer has taken the place of sacrifice. I wouldn’t say this is just conjecture… I mean, if you’re saying that we would need all knowledge of every practice every Jewish person on the planet does, then don’t you think that’s setting the bar a little high? If that’s the standard we have to reach, then there’s no point in trying to question the Bible, because we’d never be able to let ourselves come to a conclusion on anything.
All the available evidence points toward Jews abandoning this practice, which does make the prophecy invalid. But it’s not worth getting hung up on this one. I think there are other issues that are clearer.
I agree with your conclusion in the comment. The nature of the prophecy sets the bar high, so that’s why I said this is probably not a good example for either side. I think some of the other examples might be more interesting. We’ll see when I get there.
Where are the holes in this particular one? I’ve already asked twice for the refutation of verse 17, and it hasn’t even been addressed. We’ve discussed below the high bar set for the proving and refutation of verse 18 given verse 22, so as far as I can tell there is still no solid refutation of the consistency in these passages.
To your second paragraph, by this logic I should also doubt or disregard the existence of George Washington. Never saw him, doesn’t exist anymore and there are no photos (portraits are out the window because there are portraits of all types of figures considered mythical by today’s standards). So I should believe George Washington was mythical? And if not, by what method would I arrive at this conclusion?
Not really the same, because while you may not have actually seen George Washington there have been many other leaders of that sort that you have seen. In other words, the claims made by George’s history are entirely believable without needing anything miraculous. The history we have of him is not at all miraculous or beyond what could happen naturally, we may doubt some events are true or 100% accurate, sure, but the bible isnt even viewed that way by believers. It is all just true.
the high bar set by prophecy is for the prophet to jump, not the one who doubts the prophet. he said something would happen… well, did it?
OT Jews did need Levites to perform the sacrifice, and from what I’ve seen, no one knows who the Levites are anymore – therefore, no Jewish sacrifices.
No, the high bar is for the claimant to jump, which in this case are the skeptics. (See above point).
“From what I’ve seen…”
That is a dangerous position to be making a logical argument from. Unless you’re willing to claim omniscience, that is called an argument from ignorance.
I understand the point you’re attempting to make, friend, which is why I have repeatedly said this is not the best example on either side. Let’s agree to disagree and move on.
So the standard for belief is whether or not it can be explained without the miraculous?
A miracle is defined (Dictionary.com) as an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.
So all I have to do to shoot down your argument is to show you something you believe in that is consistent with the above definition.
That one’s easy: the origin of the universe surpasses all known human or natural powers. It is an unobserved singularity that can’t be observed, measured or repeated, so it defies scientific reason and method.
So unless you don’t believe that our universe exists, your logic is flawed.
Sabe, is there an appropriate argument someone can make where they would say, “well, all my research shows “x” so then “y” must be true? Is that really more logical? From what you’ve seen so far, you believe the bible is true, correct? Now, would it be logical for you to say that the bible is not from God, when what you have seen so far tells you differently?
From what I have seen, or found, there does not seem to be anyone who knows what tribe any present day Jew belongs to. How is that illogical?
I can certainly be wrong, true. But if you are aware of any information I am apparently missing, please let me know. If you are unaware of any, and have not really investigated this on your own, it’s really illogical for you quarrel over this. I do agree, that we should probably move on, though. Look through the rest of these issues presented within this blog, and then we’ll all be better equipped to discuss these things.
One last thought, concerning a comment you made regarding the gentleman in the video. If taking a position on something means that you are no longer looking for the truth, then wouldn’t we all be in that boat? I mean, you believe and think you know that the bible is from God, right? would you say that you are no longer looking for truth, or that your search for truth has brought you here, and at the moment you are very convinced of its accuracy? I think many people are in that same position, but with differing beliefs.
Jer 28:9 seems to place the burden of proof on the Prophet. If a prophet’s prophecies are not fulfilled then he is not from God. It doesn’t say that if you cannot prove his prophecies didn’t happen, then he is from God.
Are there Levites making sacrifices on the alter for God today? I’ve looked, and found that the answer is no. If you have other info, then you can share it. It makes no sense to say that since I cant disprove that a Levite somewhere could be sacrificing something on some alter, then this prophecy has to be given the benefit of the doubt. That’s really just absurd.
Again, i disagree. While I cant explain how the universe came to be, I can plainly see that it is indeed here. I dont know how my cell phone works either, but I dont know anyone who would say that God created it, or that the mystical mushroom gnomes must have made it in their flying Winnebago. Because I cant explain something, doesnt automatically mean that it’s miracle, or that God did it – it does exclude that idea either.
I’m not even saying that miracles do not exist. I’m just saying that all people are skeptical of something – and with good reason. It is a detriment to us to be gullible. If someone tells me something those against all of my own knowledge and experience, i do not just except what they have to say – I try think it trough, research it, and test it. The most likely solution typically wins. Does this not seem reasonable?
meant to say, “doesn’t exclude that idea…”
Does God exist? I think so, but I cant prove that.
Id the bible his word? some think so, but they cant prove that. I dont think so. Why would God make a book that looked like it had flaws in it, at least to many people, and then punish the people for thinking that man was behind those flaws, because God would not be flawed?
Is Big Foot real, or aliens from outer space? Most people would say no, yet we have photo and video evidence, eye witness testimony. And that’s more than we have for the bible.
Well look who’s back. I can see my work is not done here yet. Why do you ignore verses 15-16 of that chapter? It is very specific, very pointed, very clear as to the time of which this prophecy speaks. It is very exact, very certain, and very blunt. How could you miss this? In those days and in that time…a king from David’s line…in that day Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. The Messiah may have come in the form of a baby, but this is not the time referred to because he did not seek to overthrow Rome and certainly did not bring Jerusalem into safety “YET”. This very obviously speaks of things shown in Revelation when there will be a heavenly Sanhedrin of 24 Elders around the throne, and crowns upon their heads. (Rev 4:4 & 10). You assume too much. If you are implying that you completely understand the book of Revelation, and the events taking place there, and somehow know they will not fulfill Jeremiah’s prophecy, when it very specifically speaks of such a time, of which you already showed your error in somehow missing that, then I fail to follow your reasoning. You do not think there will be the saved of the Levitical priesthood there? Not to mention that we all have become priest in Christ, of the line of Melchisedec for sure, through Christ. The Levites, while still in the loins of Abraham, gave sacrifice to Melchisedec when Abraham gave the tithe, (Heb. 7:8), and it will be so again in that great day spoken of here. This is all spiritual and all future. You may choose to reject what I am saying here, but close examination of verses 15-16, the ones you chose to ignore for some reason, does prove I may have a point, and must be admitted as a possible fulfillment of the prophecy. Frankly, it seems very plain to me, but I’m merely trying to show possibilities so that you will realize your absolutes are not absolute. I took your first prophecy here because it was simply the first one. I did not try to pick something I thought I could shoot down. So do you see the very specific time period of verses 15-16, or am I beating my head against a wall?
So, here’s the whole passage:
Which promise do you think he’s referring to in verse 14?
You said the following:
So you’re saying that Jesus birth and life on earth could not be what was being referenced, because Jesus didn’t overthrow Rome, right? I don’t see how you can say this “obviously speaks of things shown in Revelation…” — I just don’t see it. Where do you make that connection? Just from “crowns”? What’s the significance of 24, aside from it being twice the number 12 (12 tribes, 12 apostles, etc)? Where are we told that these 24 elders have anything to do with the line of David?
Furthermore, how do you know Judah and Jerusalem aren’t being referred to figuratively? Jesus repeatedly tells his disciples that his kingdom was not earthly. In other words, their expectation that he would overthrow Rome and begin an everlasting Jewish monarchy was completely wrong. Paul also spends a lot of time teaching that God’s people are no longer limited to a nationality, but are comprised of all those who serve him. So why would God still be interested in physical Judah and Jerusalem?
But here’s the real problem: there’s nothing in this passage that indicates the author had anything in mind other than the physical kingdom of Judah and its capitol, Jerusalem. The prophet gives every indication that he thinks a literal kingdom of Israel will be reestablished, and literal priests will continue to offer sacrifices. Your suggestion that this refers to Heaven is interesting, but I just don’t see any context clues to make that case. Nor does Revelation seem to make that case, though you seem adamant that such is the case. Do you think there will be animals in Heaven? Wouldn’t there have to be for the priests to have something to sacrifice? And why would the sacrifices be necessary at all, if Jesus was the ultimate offering (Heb 9:11-14, 25-28)?