What is Bible Prophecy?

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Bible Prophecy Provides Evidence That God Exists For All To SEE

What is Bible Prophecy?

What is Prophecy For?

Webster’s Dictionary defines prophecy as “A foretelling; prediction; a declaration of something to come”. It continues by rightly saying:

“As God only knows future events with certainty, no being but God or some person informed by Him, can utter a real prophecy. The prophecies recorded in Scripture, when fulfilled, afford most convincing evidence of the divine origin of the Scriptures, as those who uttered the prophecies could not have foreknown the events predicted without supernatural instruction”.

This is what the Apostle Peter says:

… no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20–21).

As we have already seen, God is the controller of all past, present and future events. He knows the future and will make it happen. In this way Bible Prophecy is history written in advance.

Short and Long Term

A Bible prophet often had a twofold role. He was a mouthpiece for God in (1) instructing His people and (2) in foretelling events that would certainly come to pass. In this series we are concentrating mainly on the latter aspect. According to the two tests of a prophet given in the book of Deuteronomy

(13:1-3 and 18:21-22), a true prophet was one who:

·       Taught things consistent with the rest of what God had revealed, and

·       Gave a short-term prophecy which came true.

There are different types of prophecy. Some are “short-term” which established the prophet’s credentials; many are “long-term” and extend into the near or distant future from the prophet’s own time. Often the prophecies were a combination of both, with sometimes dual or even multiple fulfilments.

Let’s consider Psalm 2 as an example, the full text of which is shown below. This is a Psalm of David which clearly had a primary fulfilment in his own day. He was God’s anointed king and, under the hand of God, his capital was established in Jerusalem (Zion). This did not happen immediately; first David had to fight many wars with the nations round about who challenged his rule. Eventually they became subject to him and accepted the rulership of the king that God had set upon what God describes as “my holy hill of Zion” (Psalm 2:6).  The psalm refers to that process of submission to God’s intended purpose.

First Century Application

It may come as a surprise if you are unfamiliar with the New Testament, but this same Psalm – rooted in the history of David’s conquest of Jerusalem – is given a first century application by the inspired apostles of Jesus. They had been opposed by the Jewish religious leaders who had commanded them not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:18). The apostles refused that request and when they returned to the others this was what was said:

They raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the  outh of Your servant David have said: ‘Why did the nations rage, and the people plot vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ.’ For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done” (Acts 4:24–28).

Psalm 2

1. Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing?

2. The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,

3. “Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away their cords from us.”

4. He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision.

5. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure:

6. “Yet I have set my King on My holy hill of Zion.”

7. “I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten you.

8. Ask of Me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for your possession.

9. You shall break them with a rod of iron; you shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.’”

10. Now therefore, be wise, O kings; be instructed, you judges of the earth.

11. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

12. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in him.

So verses 1 and 2 of Psalm 2, at the very least, also had a fulfilment in the first century in the plot to do away with Jesus. Again we see that God is in control.

Future Application

But the prophetic nature of that Psalm is not exhausted by that First Century application. It has a future fulfilment.

Its latter day fulfilment predicts a time to come when some nations will oppose the rulership of King Jesus when he establishes Jerusalem as the capital of the Kingdom of God, as we shall see in later articles. God has a plan for this world and He will bring it to pass.

With some prophecies – such as those already fulfilled and some future ones, like those concerning the return of the Lord Jesus Christ – we can be dogmatic about their fulfilment. With others – such as those which concern events prior to the Lord’s return – we cannot be dogmatic as to how and when they will be fulfilled. For prophecy is primarily a tool to help build up our faith when we see how God has fulfilled His Word, and is still fulfilling it to the very letter. This gives us great confidence that those prophecies yet remaining will also be fulfilled in their entirety. It can also give us a wonderful insight into the plan and purpose of God.

The Time of the End

There are many books and films that predict cataclysmic events happening to this world, things that would bring it to the brink of destruction. There are so many scenarios which portray the end of the world. With the spectre of global terror, the rampant spread of infectious diseases, man-made environmental disasters and other natural catastrophes, many believe that the days of civilisation as we know it are truly numbered. The Bible does in fact speak of a time coming on earth when there will be no way out for some people:

There will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken (Luke 21:25–26).The City of Jerusalem

These are the words of the Lord Jesus, part of a prophecy he gave upon the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem when he was asked about events in the world just prior to his return.

The original word translated “perplexity” literally means “at a loss for a way” with the sense of being at one’s wits end, not knowing how to proceed, or without resources. The prophet Daniel describes this time like this:

At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book (Daniel 12:1).

Scriptural Expression

The “Time of the End” is actually a Scriptural phrase which occurs five times in the Book of Daniel. Here are two of those occurrences: “But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase” (Daniel 12:4);

And he said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end” (Daniel 12:9).

This is a time when God will once again openly intervene in the affairs of this world, in order to save it from destruction and establish His righteousness in the earth. This time is referred to in many ways in Scripture with phrases such as “the last days”, “the day of the Lord” and the “end of the age” also being used.

… knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and

saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:3–4);

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up (2 Peter 3:10);

Now as (Jesus) sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3)

We will look at these and other events concerning this time in more detail later on in this series. For now, let us note that God will bring His purpose about through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. This is what the Apostle Paul told the philosophers of Athens when he was invited to address them:

Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:29–31).

By John Shepley

Glad Tidings Magazine of the Kingdom of God on Earth