Ask Pastor Roger Barrier - Church Leadership

What Is the Probability of the Reality of Jesus Christ?

  • Dr. Roger Barrier Preach It, Teach It
  • 2020 7 Jan
  • COMMENTS
What Is the Probability of the Reality of Jesus Christ?

Dear Roger,

My friends and I recently bought a couple of lottery tickets. We don’t do it often, but the potential payout was over several million so we decided to try our luck. Then when I got to thinking that our chances were one in 7 million I vowed never to buy another one. I decided buying lottery tickets is like driving by the store and tossing $20 bills out the window. But I do have a question. Does the Bible give us the probability of the reality of Jesus Christ?

Sincerely, Crystal

Dear Crystal, 

No, the Bible does not give us a clear-cut probability of the reality of Jesus Christ. 

Nevertheless, using probability theory (found in any high school algebra textbook) we can still come up with a rather close approximation. 

It’s not hard to use a few fulfilled prophecies to get an idea of the probability that Christ is alive and well – and exactly who he said he was!

Let’s say that “X” is three, “Y” is four and “Z” is five.

The probability of all three coming together, independently, is 1 in “X” times “Y” times “Z”, OR 3×4×5 =60. The odds of all three things happening simultaneously and independently from one another is 1 in 60 (This is not the same as flipping a coin 10 times in a row and getting heads each time.)

Let’s imagine that one in 10 men are bald and that one in 1,000 men have lost a finger. Then, one in how many are both bald and lost a finger? The answer is that 1 in 10×1000 equals one in 10,000 men are both bald and have lost a finger!

Some 300 Old Testament prophecies predict things about Jesus. Can we figure out the probability that all will be accurately fulfilled in one person? Yes! Certainly!

When I was a teenager, I came across a probability chart regarding the reality of Jesus Christ. As best I can remember the chart came from the Moody Bible Science Series. I’ve included some details from it in sentence structure within this article to use it as a guideline. I want to help illustrate the fact that believing in Jesus is a wise and rational decision.

10 Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus

Out of 300 predictions, we will examine 10. Notice that all 10 are Old Testament prophecies which begin with Micah (742 B.C.) and continued down to Jesus’ day.

You may feel free to adjust the odds as you see fit. I’ve tried to be conservative in my estimates, which I imagine will be generally in the ballpark with yours. However, no matter how much we adjust the odds, the chance of all 10 prophecies coming true in one person is incredibly remote.

1. Prophecy: Bethlehem Born

Prediction: Micah 5:2, Fulfillment: Matthew 2:1, Probability: 1 in 57,000 

2. Prophecy: Virgin Born  

Prediction: Isaiah 7:14, Fulfillment: Luke 1:26, Probability: 1 in 100,000,000

3. Prophecy: Gambled For His Clothes At Death 

Prediction: Psalm 22:18, Fulfillment: Mark 15:24, Probability: 1 in 10,000

4. Prophecy: Triumphal Entry Into Jerusalem On A Donkey

Prediction: Zechariah 9:9, Fulfillment: Matthew 21:1-11, Probability: 1 in 20,000 

5. Betrayed By A Friend 

Prediction: Psalm 41:9, Fulfillment: Mark 14:10, Probability: 1 in 10,000

6. For 30 pieces of silver

Prediction: Zechariah 11:, Fulfillment: Matthew 26:15, Probability: 1 1n 50,000

7. Death By Crucifixion 

Prediction: Psalm 22:16, Fulfillment: John 19:17, Probability: 1 in 250,000 

8. Pierced In His Side By Sword 

Prediction: Zechariah 12:10, Fulfillment: John 19:34, Probability: 1 in 50,000 

9. Buried With Rich And The Poor 

Prediction: Isaiah 53:9, Fulfillment: Luke 23:32, Probability: 1 in 50,000

10. Resurrection 

Prediction: Psalm 16:10, Fulfillment: Luke 24:6-7, Probability: 1 in 100,000,000

When we total up the probabilities, we discover that the odds of one man independently and simultaneously fulfilling all 10 prophecies are 1 in 1,642,500,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. 

That’s 1 in 16,425 with 47 zeros behind it.

Or, scientific notation looks like this: 16,425 x 1047

How Vast Is This Improbability?

How big is this number? It is huge. We’re talking about virtually impossible odds.

For example, let’s put 10 silver dollars in a hat. Then, let’s mark one of them with a distinctive mark. Ask a blind man to pick up the marked silver dollar. His chance of doing it is one in 10.

Or, let’s cover an entire parking lot with silver dollars 2 feet deep. Ask the blind man to pick out the marked silver dollar. But, a parking lot is way too small when we try to visualize our extravagant number.

Let’s cover the entire state of Texas with silver dollars 2 feet deep. Then stir them all up and again asked the blind man to pick out the right one. He doesn’t have a chance.

But, again, this is still too small.

Now, blanket the entire earth landmass with silver dollars 120 feet high. That’s still not enough. 

So, imagine a huge sphere filled with silver dollars stretching from the center of the Sun 2,793 billion miles to the center of the planet Neptune. Notice, we are describing a sphere, not a circle. That’s just about right.

We know in our hearts that the blind man will never find the marked coin. But, Jesus hit it right on the button! Only Jesus fulfilled the improbable.

Sharing the Probability of Jesus Being Real is a Faith Builder

Dwelling on the incredible probability that Jesus Christ is real is a great faith builder.

You see, Christians seem to come in two categories. 

It’s my observation that some Christians, like my wife, have a very simple faith with which they seldom or ever doubt the reality of Jesus.

I’m more like doubting Thomas. I want to see it to believe it. I do all sorts of studies and have experiences that help build my faith because I tend to doubt. So, sharing the probability of Jesus Christ being real may be used in evangelism.

We never know when sharing this reality may be just what we need to help someone find Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Understanding the meaning of the fulfillment of 10 prophecies provides assurance that Christ is who he said he was—and that our faith in him is well placed.

If any of the 10 prophecies failed to come true then we are faced with two conclusions. First, the prophet made a mistake. However, as best we can tell none of them made a mistake. That means that if Jesus failed to fulfill even one prophecy then he is not Christ. 

However, since he did fulfill all 10, the only conclusion is that he really is the Christ. That's a faith builder!

Surveys reveal that about 80 % of all Christians who come to Christ do so out of a sense of compassion. About 20% respond to commitment. A few respond to reason.

We never know when sharing this reality may be just what we need to help someone find Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Crystal, I hope this answer is helpful to you and your friends.

Love, Roger

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Ryan Rad

Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at roger@preachitteachit.org.

Ask RogerDr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.




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