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JULY 31 2016 HOW WE CAN KNOW THE BIBLE IS GOD'S WORD

How We Can Know the Bible is God’s Word

 

Our scripture reading this morning is Daniel 2:1-11; 19-23; 27-45.

 

According to the Barna Research Group those in Generation X - that would be people born in the 1960’s through the 1980’s - 36% do not believe that the Bible is inspired by God. For those born in the 1990’s and later the percentage is about the same. This means that if you are speaking to someone who is 45 years old or younger, the chances are about one out of three that they do not believe the Bible is the word of God.

 

Is the Bible God’s word? If it is, how may we know that? And, if it is, what are the implications for us?

 

The answer is – Yes - the Bible is the word of God. And, we may know that is true for three reasons.

 

God desires us, calls us, requires us to be rational. By rational I mean that we are to only believe things that are supported by the evidence. We should not believe things merely because we desire to. We should not believe things because they make us more comfortable. We should not believe things because our parents or friends believe those same things. We should believe things because they are true and the only way to determine if something is true is if there is evidence for that belief.

 

There are a few beliefs that we hold for which we do not wait for evidence in order to believe but we believe in order to even understand the evidence. These are called presuppositions. For example, that you exist or that you should be rational. But even presuppositions will never contradict the evidence. Evidence will support them, but we need not wait for evidence to believe.

 

The first way in which we know that the Bible is God’s word is because it is self-authenticating, self-validating, and self-evidencing. What does that mean? It does not mean this: “The Bible is the word of God because its states that it is the word of God.” It is true that the Bible claims to be the word of God. As a matter of fact, it does so hundreds of times. It claims to be a book that was breathed out, or created, by God’s Spirit working through and upon a select few individuals. These men were the prophets of the Old Testament and the apostles in the New Testament.

 

It is not the mere fact that the Bible makes this claim that it is self-authenticating. After all, there are a few other books that make this claim, too. What are they? [Answer: the Koran, the Book of Mormon] It is not that a book makes a claim and then we believe that claim.

 

Every claim of any kind is tested by some appeal to authority. If someone claims to have found the ark of the covenant, you know – the one that Indiana Jones was looking for in the first movie, then they would submit that ark to archaeologists and they would subject it to tests to determine its authenticity. They would be able to determine the approximate origin as far as age and location. If someone were not satisfied with their results they might appeal to a group of the three or four best archaeologists in the world respecting ancient Hebrew culture and geography. They would be the final authority.

 

If God speaks, whether by a voice from heaven or through the written word, there is no higher authority by which to subject his speaking. For example, in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve heard the voice of God, for them to say, “We do not know whether that is you speaking, God, therefore we are going to do what we think is best,” would not only have been completely wrong it would have been a sin. In fact, is this not precisely what happened? God told them something. Then the devil came along and said, “God did not say that.” They believed the devil rather than what God had spoken. They took the devil as their final authority.

 

Jesus affirmed this notion, that the Scriptures demand belief in and of themselves in Luke 16.

 

Similarly in John 12:48-49.

 

There is an authority, a wisdom beyond the wisdom of this world; there is a glory in the pages of this book; there is a peace that attends to its reading all beyond that which human works are capable. Because God has spoken, His word must be believed and received in and of itself. This authority, this wisdom, this glory, and this peace are all missing from other pretenders like the Koran and the Book of Mormon.

 

Therefore, we do not need to rely on evidence. But there is evidence! The second reason that we can know that the Bible is the word of God is fulfilled prophecy.

 

In our first scripture reading this morning, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon could not find anyone to either tell him his dream, or accurately interpret it. One reason for that is because people simply do not have to ability to look into the future. In Daniel 2:27-28 we read as Daniel spoke to the king, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show the king the mystery that the king has asked, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.”

 

The wisest men cannot see into the future.  In the 1960s a science fiction series was popular and won literary awards. The name of that series was called the Foundation series, written by Isaac Asimov. The premise of that grand story is that with the help of supercomputers and an advanced knowledge of sociology and psychology one could predict the future. That makes for good science fiction but it is, of course, impossible for two reasons. One, there are so many factors that go into how people make decisions that it is neither possible to know them nor, if you knew them all, to understand what weight they play in decision-making. Second, no matter how many factors there are a person’s free choice cannot be known until after the fact.

 

Only God can know the future since he is outside of time and we are not. Therefore, if there was a book that accurately foretold the future then it only could have come from God. The Bible is that book.

 

The book of Daniel was written by Daniel, even though he sometimes speaks of himself in the third person, and sometimes in the first person. We know it was written by Daniel because Jesus said it was in Matthew 24:15. Daniel was taken into exile in 605 BC and the book ends during the third year of the reign of King Cyrus, which was in 536 BC.

 

This prophecy in chapter 2 amazingly foresees the future. There are four kingdoms. The first one is that of Nebuchadnezzar: the Babylonian Empire. It was the golden kingdom of the golden age. In splendor it was never rivaled by any of its successors. It was laid out in a perfect square sixty miles in circumference, fifteen miles on each side, surrounded by a wall that was 300 feet high and 87 feet thick. A moat surrounded the entire city outside the walls. Within, the entire city was divided into perfect 150 ft. squares, the squares created by perfectly aligned streets. Each square were either a magnificent building, a group of buildings, or a garden for which Babylon was famous for all over the known world.  The wonders of Babylon were such that instead of the Seven Wonders of the World you could have the seven wonders of Babylon alone. To just name a few: The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, The Ishtar Gate, and the Temple of Marduk. But this great city would fall; and how it fell is a story all its own.

 

Daniel, under the foresight of God, says that another kingdom would arise inferior to Babylon. This happened even in Daniel’s lifetime. The Medo-Persian Empire under Cyrus arose and defeated Babylon. They were of greater power but never matched the splendor of Babylon. Hence, they are depicted as silver in the vision. Then a third kingdom arises which will rule over the whole earth. That is the Grecian Empire under Alexander the Great. What is amazing is the detail with which it is described in Daniel chapter 7 where the same vision, this time given to Daniel himself, is portrayed not with a statue, but with animals. The third kingdom, representing Greece, is depicted as a leopard with four heads and four wings. The four wings represent swiftness. Alexander the Great conquered the whole world faster than any conqueror before hi or after him. The four heads represent four leaders. After Alexander’s death, because he had no heir, the kingdom was divided into four parts each headed by a general. This was foreseen by Daniel!

 

The fourth and last kingdom is represented by iron and would be the most powerful of all. This represents Rome. During this kingdom, God’s kingdom would be set up. This is the church – a kingdom greater than all the others, not in power, but in influence and it would stand forever, says Daniel.

 

This is precisely how history played out. The church was established by Jesus during the time of the Roman Empire and soon the Roman empire, being weak (the clay!) fell and there was no other great kingdom that rivaled any of these four until the British Empire rose in the 1600’s – 1,300 years after the collapse of the Roman empire! There was no other world power for all those many centuries. Yet, the church has continued to grow century after century and it will, indeed, stand forever because the Lord Jesus Christ is its Head.

 

But I will show you an even more amazing prophecy. In Daniel chapter 9 we read this beginning at verse 24:

 

            “Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”

 

(Daniel 9:24-27 ESV)

 

Time does not permit a review of each element in this prophecy. But, considering mainly its time predictions we ought to be astounded by its accuracy.

 

Verse 24 begins, “Seventy weeks are decreed…” First we note that the word translated “weeks” is actually “sevens.” Thus, “seventy sevens” are decreed.” But –seventy-sevens of what? Seventy hours? Days? Weeks? Months? Or years? We know Daniel meant years for more than one reason.

 

  1. When we come to the 70th “seven” we find that it is mentioned elsewhere in Daniel and the book of Revelation and in both places we are told that half of the last “seven” is “42 months,” which is three and a half years. Daniel, in another place, identifies it as 1,260 days, which again, is three and a half years.
  2. Daniel is concerned about years as he contemplates Jeremiah’s prophecy leading up to Daniel’s own prophecy in 9:2 – “In the first year of his reign (Darius), I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolation of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.”
  3. A third reason why it must be years and no other unit of time is because years are the only periods that make any sense. This shall be evident momentarily.

 

Seventy sevens then, or 490 years were allotted to Jerusalem for transgression to be finished, “to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness.” The word for “sin” there doubles for both “sin” and “sin offering” since there was no separate word for “sin offering” in Hebrew. All of this took place – an ending of sin offering; an atonement for iniquity, and everlasting righteousness given to God’s people – when the offering of Christ was made at the cross.

 

Verse 25 says, “Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks.” NOT ONLY IS THE EVENT GIVEN WHICH DETERMINES THE TIME OF THE COMMENCEMENT of this period but, in verses 26 and 27, those events that mark its close are also described. Thus, a double test is provided to identify the time of the prophecy.

 

Note that there are three divisions: 7 “weeks,” 62 weeks, and a final week. Or; 49 years, 434 years, and 7 years.

 

When was the “going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem?”  Daniel’s prophecy was given to him when he was in exile in Babylon. Sixty-eight years prior, Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, and all the prominent people taken captive into Babylon.  The city lay in ruins. King Cyrus of Medo-Persia would give an order to rebuild the temple in 536 BC. That order is found in Ezra chapter 1. However, this prophecy is to restore the city in addition to the temple. This word, or decree, is found in Ezra 7. It is the decree of King Artaxerxes of Persia. In fact, the decree is given word for word. We know it is a quote from the actual decree because it is in Aramaic rather than Hebrew. Ezra is written in Hebrew and when you come to the decree in Ezra 7 it is in Aramaic, the language of the people still in captivity.

 

We know from secular history when King Artaxerxes gave that decree. He gave it in 457 BC. The building of the temple and the restoration of the walls of Jerusalem went on together for 49 years. They were completed in 408 BC.

 

Then, “after 62 sevens,” or 434 years, it shall be “built again.”  This is truly amazing because the rebuilt temple would be massively reconstructed and expanded under Herod in the two decades before Jesus’s birth.

 

Verse 25 says that from the decree to restore Jerusalem shall be “7 weeks and 62 weeks” (NAS), or 69 “sevens,” to the coming of an anointed One. That is 483 years from the decree in 457 BC to the coming of the Anointed One. That brings us to 27 AD.

 

Do you know what happened in 27 AD? Jesus began his public ministry and he was baptized by John the Baptist. According to Jewish custom you were to wait until 30 years of age to minister publicly and Jesus followed this custom. Jesus was actually born in 4 BC because of a 4-year mistake in our calendar, meaning that his baptism took place in 27 AD. Recall that, at his baptism, the voice of God from heaven declared, “This is my beloved Son.”

 

Then Jesus began to preach and the first words recorded by Mark in 1:15 are “The time is fulfilled.” He was likely referring to this very prophecy in Daniel 9.

 

Verse 27 says, “After half a week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering.” After 3 ½ years the prince of God’s people would put and end to sacrifice. This is exactly what happened for 3 ½ years after Jesus began his ministry he was crucified and his crucifixion was the sacrifice for our sins, which did away with animal sacrifices forever.

 

These were only 2 prophecies. We could easily look at a dozen more. Fulfilled prophecy is a powerful reason demonstrating that the Bible is God’s word.

 

The third reason and, in my view, the most prevailing of all is that Jesus believed the Scriptures to be the word of God. One does not need to see that the Bible is God’s word initially in order to understand this. Merely recognizing that the disciples of Jesus recorded his words as a matter of historical record is sufficient to understand this.

 

Life is full of uncertainty. Many times what we thought to be true turns out to be untrue. Those we trusted we sometimes learn should not have been trusted. But:

 

  • There was one person who always spoke the truth.
  • He lived the truth.
  • He was the truth.

That person is Jesus Christ. He can be trusted. He is the only one who can be trusted.

 

  • He had a wisdom that was beyond earthly wisdom.
  • He had a life that transcended anything the world has ever seen in purity and holiness.
  • He had an insight into reality that no other has ever matched.

 

It was this person, Jesus, who believed the Scriptures to be of God.

 

In John 10:35 Jesus said, “The Scripture cannot be broken.”

 

Matthew 19:3-5 – “And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?”

 

Note that Jesus says that God Himself says something about marriage and then Jesus quotes the book of Genesis!

 

Kevin DeYoung, a pastor and scholar, summarizes Jesus’s view of Scripture this way: “Jesus held Scripture in the highest possible esteem. He knew his Bible intimately and loved it deeply. He often spoke with language of Scripture. He easily alluded to Scripture. And in his moments of greatest trial and weakness—like being tempted by the devil or being killed on a cross—he quoted Scripture.

His mission was to fulfill Scripture, and his teaching always upheld Scripture.

He never disrespected, never disregarded, never disagreed with a single text of Scripture.

He affirmed every bit of law, prophecy, narrative, and poetry. He shuddered to think of anyone anywhere violating, ignoring, or rejecting Scripture.”

It was this person, Jesus, who knew the Scriptures to be of God. Therefore, we too can know them to be because of Him.

 

We can know the Bible to be God’s word because:

 

  • It is self-authenticating with authority inherent within itself since it is God’s word. All people are required to listen to it and live according to it.
  • It is evidenced by fulfilled prophecy. No human being can look into the future. Only God can. He has. And he has placed it in a holy record as proof.
  • Jesus knew the Scriptures to be the word of God and we can trust him.