The difference between Bible prophecy and the predictions of men and women such as Nostradamus, Joseph Smith, William Miller, Jean Dixon, as well as that of modern-day fortune tellers is as contrasting as night and day. Let us notice just a few differences.
First, the prophecies of the Bible are not vague, and untestable. Kenny Barfield has written, “…we know that the responses were often garbled, capable of multiple meanings, and easily misinterpreted. 1. Perhaps the most famous oracular response to an inquiry by Lydia’s King Croesus attempted to learn the outcome of a battle with Persia, he was informed that such a war would destroy a great empire. Regardless of the outcome, the oracle was protected. Croesus did attack (thinking that the great empire to fall was Persia – B.H.). He was defeated.” [The Prophet Motive: Examining the Reliability of the Biblical Prophets (Gospel Advocate Company, Nashville, TN 1995) pages 198-199]. 2. Jean Dixon said of the 1960 Presidential elections, “the symbol of the Presidency is directly over the head of Richard Nixon but unless the Republican party really gets out there and puts forth every effort it will topple.” [Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Handbook of Today’s Religions (Here’s Life Publishers Inc., San Bernardino CA 1983) page 183]. Leaves a bit of wiggle room, doesn’t it? Nostradamus and a great many modern-day fortune-tellers are very vague, ambiguous, evasive, and absent of specifics. Bible prophecy is different. The Bible is specific about coming kingdoms. It calls Cyrus by name before his birth. It’s specific about the time frame and place of Jesus’s birth. It specifies how He was to die. Bible prophecy is testable.
Second, Bible prophecy never fails (Deuteronomy 18:22; Ezekiel 33:33, etc.). 1. (a) On December 25, 1832, Joseph Smith predicted that civil war would occur between North and South. But, he went beyond that saying that this war would be “poured out on all nations” and result in “a full end of all nations” (Doctrine and Covenants – section 87). Such did not happen. (b) Kenny Barfield also writes about Smith, “perhaps the must unusual of Smith’s predictions appear in the journal of Oliver B. Huntington. Huntington has become one of the devoted disciples. He recorded that Smith predicted there were people living on the moon who grew to be approximately six feet tall, dressed like quakers and lived to be 1,000 years old” (Barfield, page 218). Make up your own mind! 2. Jean Dixon missed it predicting: (a) World War III would begin in 1954; (b) Red China would be admitted into the United Nations in 1958 (it didn’t happen until 1971); (c) The Vietnam War would end in 1966 (it ended in 1975); (d) On October 19, 1968, she predicted Jacqueline Kennedy was not thinking about marriage and the next day Mrs. Kennedy married Aristotle Onassis; (e) In 1970 she predicted Castro would be overthrown from Cuba and would have to leave the island (hasn’t occurred yet). But, someone has said, “I thought Jean Dixon did have some predictions come true”? As someone has said, “Fire enough shots, riflemen agree, and eventually you will hit the bull’s eye” (McDowell, page 183). 3. It is well documented, and historically know that William Miller set forth specific dates in the 1800’s for the Lord’s return. The dates came and went but nothing happened. 4. Astrologer James Braha announced in 1986 that U.S. Senator John Glenn of Ohio would be elected president in 1988. The Senator never even entered the race (Barfield, page 210). 5. Barfield also writes of Nostradamus, “Even in an enigmatic sense, Nostradamus never approached perfection. When his predictions do become understandable, they are often wrong. (a) For instance, he predicted he would die in November 1567. He did not. His death came in July 1566, nearly 17 months before the date he predicted. (b) He told Queen Catherine de Medic that all her sons would serve as kings. They did not.” (Barfield, page 214). Biblical prophecy never failed. Joshua 22:45 reads: “There failed not ought of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass” (Also see Joshua 23:14). So it is. God does not lie (Titus 1:2). He keeps His word. It does not fail.
Third, Biblical prophecy is not based upon the obvious. It is not based upon things we can look at now and kind of see what will happen. It does not make future predictions based upon past events in history or present conditions. But, modern-day prophets do. 1. When Joseph Smith made his prediction about the coming Civil War, he was simply reflecting the fears of the times. Barfield has written, “If Smith offered his prophecy on December 25, 1832 (“if” – refers to a question of when exactly this prophecy came forth it may have been given much later – B.H.), he merely reflected widespread public opinion. Worthy of note was a front page editorial in the Painesville Telegraph and the Geauga Free Press, a newspaper published only a few miles from Smith’s temporary home in Kirtland, Ohio. Four days before Smith’s prophecy, the paper criticized Georgia and South Carolina, noting their action, “aiming at once an armed rebellion and civil war”… at the time Smith made his prophecy, the nation expected a war between North and South to begin at the rebellion of South Carolina” (Barfield, page 219). 2. Jean Dixon predicted that the victor of the 1960 Presidential election would either die in office or be assassinated. But, these words appeared in McDowell’s book, “Such a surmise was not illogical for anyone who has studied recent American history. William McKinley was assassinated a year after the turn of the century. Warren Gamaliel Harding and Franklin Delano Roosevelt died in office, and during Harry S. Truman’s tenure, an attempt was made on his life. Moreover, the normal burdens of the presidency are such that it is commonly regarded as a “man-killing” office. Woodrow Wilson and Dwight Eisenhower were critically ill during their terms. Unfortunately for the nation, the odds against Mrs. Dixon’s prophecy being fulfilled were not to great – 7 to 3 based on 20th century experience (to that point – B.H.).” (Quote found in McDowell’s book, page 182). True prophecy is not getting on TV the day before the Super Bowl and making an educated guess. It is not looking at world events and saying, “I think we’ll go to war in the next two years with Iraq, or somewhere in the Middle east.” (I wrote this article several years ago am I a prophet or what??) It is not making an educated stock market prediction for the coming year. Bible prophecy is not like that. Bible prophecy names things not obvious or intellectually predictable (The rise of a nation to be a world power when the nation in view is not a nation or an independent people, the virgin birth, etc.). Bible prophecy, many times, concern things many, many years in the future (critics of the Bible try to redate prophecies, but God has historically protected against this. The LXX version of the Old Testament historically came out in the 3rd century B.C., yet that version does contain minute, detailed prophecy about the coming Christ and His kingdom). Bible prophecy at times occurred centuries before fulfillment.
Study Bible prophecy. Such will no doubt be a faith-building exercise for you.