What’s Wrong With: Biblical Prophecy?

The End is Not NearReligious believers, especially of the Christian persuasion, tend to think their Bible contains “prophecy” or predictions of the future. Over the centuries they’ve distilled out of the Bible many different predictions they claim it makes, especially about “the End of the World.” In particular, the last 19 chapters of the book of Revelation constitute one long prediction of how the world will end. The Bible contains enough text that it’s relatively trivial to sift through it, collect snippets, interpret them metaphorically or gather up numbers from them, and boil those cherry-picked selections down to some specific date.

Obviously, all of the many predictions of “the End” which have been made, have failed to come true. It would be easy to say that all such predictions are bullshit, solely due to this dismal, 100%-wrong track record.

But that alone isn’t why I say that all Biblical prophecies are bullshit. Not at all. That people have rendered bullshit out of the Bible and it’s proven wrong, is almost beside the point!

No, the reason I say that all Biblical prophecy is bullshit, is because most of the specific predictions made in the pages of the New Testament — which are not believers’ distillations, but actual words, on the page — have shown themselves demonstrably and irrefutably false. This may sound hard to believe, but it’s true. Allow me to explain.

Failed Prophecies in the Epistles

In 1 Thessalonians, the apostle Paul describes Jesus’ return, including a timeframe for when it would occur (emphasis in this and all other quotations is mine):

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Th 4:15-17)

Clearly Paul expected that he, and at least some of his readers in Thessalonica, would be alive when Jesus returned. Unfortunately, he and his readers have been dead for well over 1,900 years — yet Jesus has never returned. Thus, his prediction failed. Utterly.

Two other epistles (i.e. the epistle to the Hebrews, and the epistle of James) are much less specific, yet they contain similar statements that Jesus would return very soon:

For yet in a very little while, he who is coming will come, and will not delay. (Heb 10:37)

You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. (Jas 5:8)

End-times apologists argue that the phrases “in a very little while” and “the coming of the Lord is near” may well be true, from God’s perspective (since scripturally, a day for him is 1,000 years for us as stated in 2 Pt 3:8). This rationale probably satisfies the religious mind, but it ignores the consideration that these epistles had originally been written to first-century Christians; it would have made no sense at all to have told them that Jesus would return “soon,” and that he “would not delay,” if his plan had always been to wait over two millennia to return.

Jesus’ Own Prophecies

But much worse than Paul’s prediction failing, and Jesus choosing not to return “soon,” Jesus Christ — the founder of Christianity himself, and according to nearly all Christians, the living God in the flesh — made predictions which plainly turned out not to come true.

Among the best-known gospel passages in which Jesus describes the future in some detail, is chapter 24 of the gospel according to Matthew. He explains what will happen in the days leading up to his own return. Jesus concludes his warnings as follows:

“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” (Mt 24:34)

He was, therefore, telling his listeners that they would live to see his return. Reinforcing this, later in the same gospel, Jesus tells the high priest, Caiaphas, that he too will live to see him return in glory:

Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Mt 26:64)

The very same point is repeated just a short while earlier in Matthew, and in an abbreviated version of Matthew 24 that’s found in the gospel according to Luke:

“Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.” (Mt 23:36)

“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place.” (Lk 21:32)

It would seem fairly clear that Jesus was telling the people in front of him — i.e. others living in the Levant in the early 1st century CE — that he would return in their own lifetimes. Now … some “End Times” apologists often say that, well sure … all those people will see Jesus return; they’ll be dead, and watch him as ghosts (or something), but they will nonetheless see him return. They also point out that, when Jesus was talking about “this generation” seeing his return, he was actually referring to the generation that happens to be alive at the time he returns, not the generation of people standing in front of him while he was talking.

As with the “divine time” objection I mentioned previously, these tend to work on religious people prone to believe such things. But as it turns out, the Bible contains an absolute, unequivocal refutation of both these points, which is also found in Matthew:

“Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” (Mt 16:28)

This same verse is confirmed in both Mark and Luke:

And Jesus was saying to them, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.” (Mk 9:1)

“But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.” (Lk 9:27)

Thus, people standing right in front of Jesus at the time he was alive — not some future generation — would not die prior to his return, meaning they would not watch him come back as ghosts, but rather as living, breathing people.

Again, therefore, we have several clear instances of Jesus predicting something which quite obviously never came to pass in the timeframe he said it would.

The Value of “Biblical Prophecy”

Given that explicit, plain predictions found within the pages of the Bible have demonstrably proven false, I can’t help but wonder why people like William Miller, Edgar Whisenant, and Harold Camping — to name just a few — think they can possibly have any credibility by taking Biblical metaphors and interpreting dates for Armageddon out of it. The credibility of the Bible as a predictor of the future, is clearly non-existent. Continuing to treat it as though it has any predictive credibility is just plain foolish.

There’s no other logical conclusion one can reach, then, that all Biblical prophecy is just plain bullshit. Period. End of story.

Scripture quotations from the New American Standard Bible.

18 Responses to “What’s Wrong With: Biblical Prophecy?”
  1. […] of Biblical prophecy — whether it comes from Harold Camping or anyone else — is that it’s all complete, unmitigated, unfiltered bullshit. Plain and simple. That’s all it is, and it’s all it ever will be. […]

  2. […] case anyone isn’t already clear on the matter … all Biblical prophecy is bullshit. All of it. All the time. Forever and […]

  3. bobo says:

    You may be putting a little too much stock in the word "generation" …

    Looking the online bible you link to (biblegateway.com) it's footnoted that "generation" here also means "race".

  4. […] stinking last one of them. Every time. All the time. And it will always and forever be so, because the very words of the Bible prove it, beyond the shadow of any possible doubt. It’s not up for debate or interpretation or […]

  5. […] end up being proven a failed prophet. (Of course, that should be news to no sane person. After all, all Biblical prophecy is 100% pure bullshit. It always was, and always will […]

  6. […] might appear to have been ancient predictions of subsequent events, or “prophecies.” As I’ve explained before, though, this approach to the Bible is invalid, because it contains a number of predictions that […]

  7. Elliot Roland says:

    You're an idiot.

  8. Jeff Lange says:

    That prophecy is not "failed," it's just misread. Paul is not referring only to Thessalonian believers, but all believers. He's saying that some of us believers will be alive when Jesus returns, and therefore will not need to be raised from the dead. For example, if Jesus returned today, believers today would not need to be raised, however, Paul and the others will, of course, need to be raised. 1Cor 15 has similar wording on the same topic, "We [i.e. believers] shall not all sleep [i.e. be dead] but we shall be changed [i.e. given new bodies; cp. Philip 3:21]."

    Most of your arguments about a generation not passing away can be explained by realizing that these NT prophecies are not referring to Jesus' return. Much of the prophecy from Mt. Olivet is prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Seeing that Jesus made that prophecy sometime around AD 33, it was certainly true that that generation wouldn't pass away until his words had taken place.

    As for the words in Matt 16 that some would not taste death until they had "seen the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom," this did take place as well. In the very next chapter, three of the disciples, Peter, James, and John, are blessed with the opportunity to see the transfiguration of Christ–a glimpse at the glory and power he will come in when he returns to set up the Kingdom.

    I like your critical thinking, and I think you raised some good discussion points. Nevertheless, the passages brought up are, as demonstrated, very explainable.

  9. Robert says:

    "Would it really hurt you … to admit these predictions didn't actually come true as written?"
    No. Not at all.
    "Would it really hurt … your religion to admit these predictions didn't actually come true as written?"
    Yes. Any provable or demonstrable fault and the entire foundation is swept away. Being that all other religions are false, that would be the end of religion as far as I am concerned. From then on it would be "Eat, drink, be merry, marry and give in marriage, for tomorrow we die." (a compilation)
    As naturalism, which would be all that would be left, appears to predict that the earth is but an infinitesimal speck of dust in an apparently infinite cosmos, and that it is materialistically totally meaningless, along with all of us and all our works, and will be blown to muons, gravitons or something when the sun, an insignificant little glowing ball of gases, explodes, flares out, or goes "poof!" and conks out, nothing materialistic matters.
    Arguing about this sort of thing is a total waste of time, as if that matters.

    "Would it harm you that much to have to make that admission?"
    No. Not at all.

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