People looking for guidance on relationships, health and careers (even business) read horoscopes. And with the financial world in turmoil, psychics are reporting surging demand for their services among high-powered professionals. Throughout history, people have tried to discover what the future holds in an effort to gain an edge over fate. And it appears we’re no different today.
The thing is, humankind doesn’t have a good track record in predicting the future, although any sentiment toward it can lead to a self-fulfilling end, as those who follow the stock market will testify. History is replete with “if-only” moments:
- “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out anyway,” the then president of Decca Records is alleged to have said in 1962, rejecting a contract with a little known pop band known as The Beatles.
- “Next Christmas the iPod will be dead, finished, gone, kaput,” predicted English entrepreneur Sir Alan Sugar, founder of Amstrad, one of the UK’s leading consumer electronics companies, in 2005.
- “Twitter as we know it will fade away,” said the US news broadcaster CNBC in 2010.
But despite the risk, over many millennia, people have tried to discover the future by divining the lines on their palms, studying tea leaves and even their excrement.
The end of the world?
The ancient Mayan civilisation existed in an area encompassing southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Belize for some 4000 years, from 2500 B.C. to 1500 A.D. Today they exist only in what they left behind, all having disappeared into the Central American jungle.
They were an enigmatic people: they built huge pyramids, temples and cities on an intricate and mathematically amazing scale, but never got beyond using stone implements; they invented the concept of zero in maths, but the idea of the wheel escaped them; they had a highly sophisticated culture and an advanced civilisation, yet they also practised human sacrifice. What they also did was to invent a form of written hieroglyphic script (like the Egyptians) and it is the remnants of their writings that the world’s fascination focuses on today.
As expert astronomers, they recorded and predicted the cyclical movements of astrological bodies, building entire cities that worked as observatories to track the passage of the sun, moon, planets and distant stars. They paid attention to one particular natural phenomenon—solar and lunar eclipses. They were able to predict every such eclipse right down to the present day, long before their demise at the hands of the conquistadors. But nothing beyond December 21, 2012.
Their books, known as codices, were written by professional scribes. Only three codices survived, of which the Dresden is the most complete. Its 74 double-sided pages contain disturbing information based on its highly accurate Long Count Calendar. But on December 21, 2012, the calendar expires.
For many, this is ominous. When the calendar cycle ends, it is literally the end of days. And, if true, that has implications as to how one might live right now.
Three predictions made headlines in May this year, that failed to materialise:
- “Italians are fleeing Rome today over fears a giant earthquake is coming following a seismologist’s 1915 prediction that ‘the big one’ will strike on May 11, 2011,” heralded Sydney’s Daily Telegraph. That day, one in five people stayed away from work and kept their children home from school.
- In Taiwan, more panic ensued as the result of a prediction of a massive earthquake by the self-styled prophet Wang Chao-Hung. He warned of a magnitude-14 quake that would also happen on May 11. It caused so much panic and disruption that authorities considered arresting Wang.
- Christian doomsayer and American Radio broadcaster Harold Camping predicted the rapture of Christians into heaven on May 21, leaving the earth wracked by fire, brimstone and plagues thereafter. He has recalculated and now places the event on October 21, 2011. The Sydney Morning Herald reported his warnings as sending “people into hiding and others into deep depression.”
Are they right?
Can we afford to dismiss such a notion? The answer depends on whether or not you believe. Harold Camping was wrong about the end of the world occurring on May 21 and the Mayans could be too. But what if there was a whole string of prophecies that history testifies to as accurate and fulfilled as predicted?
The prophets of the ancient Hebrew Bible made hundreds of predictions, all with a perfect, unequivocally accurate record, which we can look back on and test against the record of secular history and contemporary observation:
The Egyptian empire lasted thousands of years. The river Nile created Egypt and without it would not exist. Egypt was built on the annual cycle of flooding that watered the crops a few miles to the east and west of the waterway. Today, this narrow, fertile strip still grows just about anything, rich in produce, feeding tens of millions. Everything, in fact, except for the papyrus reed, a plant once so prolific that it was used to produce “paper” and features in the decorations of ancient tombs and temples. It was the symbol of the kingdom of Lower Egypt.
It would take a brave man to predict its demise and complete disappearance. But that’s what Isaiah, a Jewish prophet of the Bible, recorded for posterity, saying, “The papyrus reeds by the river . . . will wither, be driven away, and be no more” (Isaiah 19:7, NKJV*).
Walk along the bank of the Nile today and you won’t see a flourishing blade of papyrus. The only place it grows in Egypt is in a small plot in front of the Cairo Museum, and that’s a miserable specimen. What happened? No-one knows.
Or take the prediction of Ezekiel, another Jewish prophet living in the time of Rameses II and Tutmose III, when Egypt was a superpower. Wrote Ezekiel: “No longer will there be a prince in Egypt . . . ” (Ezekiel 30:13).
Believe it or not, from 500 B.C. until today, the land of the pharaohs has never had an Egyptian prince. There’s been Persian, Greek and Roman kings and princes in ancient history, then the Turk, French and British rulers in modern times. In recent times, nominally democratic presidents have ruled it. But never Egyptian royalty.
The grand city of Memphis used to be the religious and political capital of ancient Egypt, not Cairo. In Memphis is a colossal idol of Rameses II, along with idols to the many other gods the Egyptians worshipped. But, there’s not much to look at in Memphis today. Tourists wonder why they even go there, it’s so drab and unspectacular in comparison to other such sites. Interestingly, what idols you do see are all broken. Only remnants remain, dug from beneath the sand.
Again, it was Ezekiel who said, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘I will destroy the idols and put an end to the images in Memphis’ ” (Ezekiel 30:13).
Excavations show that Memphis was a huge city. Even in the Middle Ages it extended a half-day’s journey in every direction! Memphis was one of the most spectacular cities of the ancient world, filled with gleaming stone temples and palaces. But today, unlike most other such Egyptian archaeological sites, its idols and colonnades are destroyed. All that exists there is ruin and rubbish. The desolation of Memphis is unique—everything is broken.
Cities rise and fall, empires come and go; but what are the chances of such long-term predictions—of prince, papyrus and a perished city—being correct?
The ancient Bible prophets made more than 1000 similar predictions and as history attests, they’ve proven to be accurate in every instance. But in making their predictions about events so remote, they risked not only their own reputations but their God’s as well. Every Bible prophecy is an open invitation to the world to prove God wrong, and although many have tried, no-one ever has.
So, if you’re interested in knowing what’s in store for the future, you need to look no further than to the pages of a Bible, particularly those of the Book of Revelation.
* Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.