In 2016, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series after 108 years of losses. How could anyone have known that this would be their year? Apparently, the show Parks and Recreation predicted this in its final season, which aired in 2015. How did they do that?
In an episode set in 2017, Lucy explained to Tom that he would enjoy living in Chicago since “Everyone is in a really great mood now because of the Cubs winning the Series.”1 The show also made other predictions that came true such as drones delivering packages to homes, as Amazon later did, and a man winning “Woman of the year,” as Bono did in 2016. How did they do it? Is it possible to actually know the future, or are all “prophecies” that come true just lucky predictions?
In evaluating if something is truly prophetic, there are three key aspects to consider. The first is accuracy. How can a source be prophetic if it is wrong sometimes? The final season of Parks and Recreation also predicted that Shai LaBeouf would find his calling as a wedding dress designer, Elton John would purchase Chick-fil-A, and LeBron James would return to the Miami Heat. None of those predictions came true. The writers of Parks and Recreation were only estimating what the future might hold.2 That is not what prophecy claims to be. According to the Torah, prophets cannot be hit or miss. In fact, there were harsh repercussions for those whose predictions failed to come true. The words of a true prophet need to be 100%; otherwise, it is just luck.
In light of the above, the use of precise language is critical, and it is the second point for us to consider. Nostradamus, a well-known sixteenth-century astrologer, made many predictions. His most famous quatrain is interpreted as foretelling the rise and fall of Adolf Hitler:
“Beasts ferocious with hunger will cross the rivers,
The greater part of the battlefield will be against Hister.
Into a cage of iron will the great one be drawn,
When the child of Germany observes nothing.”3
Proponents of Nostradamus say this points to Nazi Germany because it speaks of Germany and Hister,4 but really this could be interpreted to mean whatever you want it to mean. Podcaster Josh Clark said of Nostradamus, “Imprecise language lends itself well to subjective interpretation.”5 The language and context of a prophecy should make the meaning clear; otherwise, it could mean anything.
The source of a prophecy provides the third and most important element for evaluating the predictions of the future. After all, we have no way of knowing the future without drawing from something beyond ourselves, a spiritual source. We need to rely on someone who has insight beyond a well-calculated and informed guess about things to come. The stock market has dashed the prognostications of brilliant economists with endless data at their fingertips. Telling the future and being totally accurate with these predictions requires a superhuman ability.
The truth about psychics, palm readers, and the like is that they are either scam artists or real. If they are scam artists, then they will fail the accuracy and/or precise language aspects of true prophecy already mentioned, and you are wasting your time and money. If they are real, they are getting their information from the spiritual realm, and we need to be sure that the messages are coming from God and not from dangerous sources. God is the only true source of prophecy, as he said, “I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done” (Isaiah 46:9–10). If a spirit is communicating with man, it is either from God or an evil spirit. God does not speak through divination (Deuteronomy 18:9–14) but instead through his prophets (Numbers 12:6), some of whom wrote the Bible. We can only test the messages of the spiritual realm through the tried and true revelation of the Scriptures.
The following are a few examples from the Bible that we hope will give you reason to trust what it says about the future. Take for instance the prophecy about the Persian king, Cyrus the Great. In Isaiah 44:28, God foretold that a man named Cyrus would decree for Jerusalem and the temple to be rebuilt. This prophecy was given 160 years before its fulfillment, before King Cyrus or the Persian Empire even existed.6 History confirms that this prophesied event took place. The Cyrus Cylinder, a clay cylinder chronicling King Cyrus’ conquest of Babylon, records his decree for the Jewish people to return to their land and rebuild the cities of Judah and the temple.7 This prophecy was 100% accurate in its fulfillment, specific in its details, and God-given. It fits all three criteria that we specified above.
The Bible is full of predictions about the future. In fact, 27% of the Bible may be considered predictive prophecies.8 Many examples could be given. It was flawlessly predicted that a descendent of King David named Josiah would desecrate the altars of Israel’s idols (1 Kings 13:1–3; 2 Kings 23:15–16). Nahum rightly foretold that Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrian Empire, would be destroyed by fire (Nahum 3:15). Jeremiah accurately prophesied the Jewish people’s 70-year exile in Babylon and the overthrow of the Babylonian Empire (Jer. 25:11–14). Micah correctly predicted that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1). Ezekiel foretold that the Jewish people would return to the land of Israel from nations all over the world (Ezekiel 36:24). This return started in the 1800s and continues to today. The list could go on and on. Unlike Parks and Recreation and Nostradamus, the Bible has repeatedly proven itself to be accurate. Everything it predicted to occur up to today has taken place in history.
- Parks and Recreation, season 7, episode 12, “Ron & Jammy,” directed by Dean Holland, aired January 13, 2015 on NBC. See minute 11:30.
- Kelyn Soong, “’Parks and Recreation’ very deliberately predicted a Cubs 2016 World Series win,” Chicago Tribune, October 27, 2016, https://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/tv/ct-parks-and-recreation-predicted-cubs-world-series-win-20161027-story.html.
- Josh Clark and Charles Bryant, “Nostradamus: Predictor of the future? Not so much,” January 22, 2015, in Stuff You Should Know, produced by Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant, podcast, MP3 audio, https://www.iheart.com/podcast/105-stuff-you-should-know-26940277/episode/nostradamus-predictor-of-the-future-not-29467609/.
- Those who claim this prophecy is about Nazi Germany equate Hister with Hitler even though “Hister” is actually the Latin name for the Danube River. It is a place, not a man.
- Clark and Bryant, “Nostradamus: Predictor of the future? Not so much.”
- Gary Smith, The New American Commentary: Isaiah 40-66 (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2009), 15B:252.
- Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999) 617.