Prediction in Science & Biblical Prophecy – David Watts

Prediction in Science & Biblical Prophecy – David Watts

The Higgs boson is an elementary particle far smaller
than atoms and molecules. For years it was like the
missing piece in a jigsaw puzzle. In 1964 Peter Higgs
predicted its existence but it was not observed until 2012
at the European science research station in Geneva, after
much experimental searching.
Such predictions in science and the predictions made in
biblical prophecy are both only possible because of the
rock-like reliability of God. What we call the laws of
nature, understood theologically, are the regular
patterns of the secondary causes within the physical
world that are subject to God’s will and purposes; not
vice versa. Scientific laws are human approximations to
the actual behaviour that God has established and
maintains. God, as the primary cause, is not just another
cause alongside many others, but the One who upholds
everything that happens.
There are many aspects of created existence that are
particularly complex and – from our human perspective
– exhibit behaviours that we describe as chaotic. In
science, this feature makes exact prediction less certain.
We see this daily in our weather forecasts where
predictions beyond 14-20 days are highly uncertain,
despite powerful computers being used to solve the
equations of global fluid dynamics. When it comes to
predicting human behaviour, we are familiar with many
failed election forecasts!

All of this makes the accuracy of predictions in biblical prophecy all the more remarkable, considering the time spans and complex variables involved.

It is not widely known that Sir Isaac Newton wrote far
more books about biblical prophecy than about
mechanics or physics. Newton thought this worthwhile because of his foundational belief in God as the author of both the natural world and of holy scripture, the primary cause for everything. Admittedly, biblical prophecies are
not always written in the language of today’s physical and biological sciences, for several reasons:


  1. They were originally given in languages and
    cultures long before the time of their fulfilment,
    let alone the 21st Century AD.
  2. They presuppose a belief in an eternal God with
    a capacity to foreknow all human history
    (whereas modern science is only concerned with
    immediate observable causes and so speaks a
    different language). This is why we find Jesus
    rebuking the unbelief of those who refused to listen
    to Moses and the Prophets (Luke 16:31). It was a
    similar unbelief which caused some 19th-century
    scholars to separate the book of Isaiah into sections,
    supposedly written much later by different people,
    simply because they refused to accept predictive
    prophecy, despite the book of Isaiah bursting with
    internal evidence of its unity1.

The Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53
Let’s focus on a particular section of predictive prophecy
from the Book of Isaiah, written centuries before the
birth of Jesus Christ. This passage, beginning at Isaiah
52:13 and continuing throughout chapter 53 speaks of a
suffering servant.
The identity of this suffering servant has been often
debated: (a) Is it the prophet himself? (b) Is it the people
of Israel as a whole or (c) is it another mysterious
individual? For several reasons1, interpretations (a) and
(b) do not fit and – as we discover in the New Testament
– these predictions were fulfilled uniquely by Jesus
Reading the passage, this servant has a hard time right
from his upbringing. He is nothing special to look at; his
background is unpromising; he is despised and rejected:
he is “a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering”
(Isaiah 53:3).
These are sombre words. But the astonishing thing is
that he suffers all this not on his own account but for the
sake of others. He has borne ‘our’ infirmities and carried
‘our’ diseases. It was natural for Isaiah’s readers to
assume that the Servant had been ‘struck down by God’
for his own sins but the revolutionary content of this song
– that is so hard to believe – is that he was pierced for our
transgressions and crushed for our iniquities: and the
end result of his actions is that we are made whole; we
are healed by his wounds (53:6). All of us are sheep that
have gone astray: we are sinful. The evil we have done
has been laid on the innocent suffering servant. Our sins

are atoned for by
substitution of the
Servant in our place.
So much of this and
similar passages
resonate with what the
New Testament tells us
about Jesus. He
remained silent before
his accusers (Isaiah
53:7) and gave his back
to those who struck
him (50:6) when he was scourged. He was struck down
by God when he was cut off from the land of the living as
he endured his agonizing death by crucifixion (52:14;
53:5,8,10). The innocent Jesus was crucified with
criminals but a rich man, Joseph of Arimathea, provided
the grave (53:9).

Death and Resurrection
The final stanza of this amazing song changes key as the
sorrowful theme transitions into hope and triumph
(53:10-12). The resurrection of the Servant is explicitly and
unambiguously foretold. Subsequent to his death and
burial: “He will see his offspring and prolong his days”.
“After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life
and be satisfied”. “Therefore, I will give him a portion
among the great … because he poured out his life unto
Such accuracy in the predictions of biblical prophecy
(like the predictions made in the very different world of
modern science) point to, and depend upon, the rock-
like reliability of God.
No wonder, at Easter, the global Christian Church cries
out: “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!”

1. Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah, IVP 1993