Prophecy and the Prophets
Man’s perennial desire to peer into the future has always assured prophetic subjects a fair measure of interest. This popularity has enticed not a few into the dubious practice of fanciful interpretations, unfounded dogmatisms and extravagant date-fixing. The last of these has so consistently misfired that many honest and thoughtful people have been adversely affected and have come to discredit the accuracy of the Scriptures and to treat “prophetic truth” with a measure of disdain.
The words “Prophetic Truth”, strictly used, convey the idea of communicating that which is divinely inspired. It encompasses both proclamatory and predictive truth. It is the latter we shall here consider.
First, we should define these terms. Proclamatory truth is the forth-telling of the mind of God, something proclaimed. Predictive truth is the foretelling of the purposes of God before they happen in history. So then, we can say that true predictive prophecy is the fore-telling of future events by virtue of direct communication from God, without which divine revelation the events foretold would not be foreknown.
General Considerations Of The Prophetic Scriptures
The Value of Prophetic Scripture: The import and the imperative of prophetic study can be readily assessed by the fact that a greater body of Scripture is devoted to prophecy than to any other single subject. Peter wrote, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed” (2 Peter 1:19).
The General Purpose of Prophetic Scripture: This is mainly three-fold. To reveal the existence of an Omniscient God who knows the course of future events in detail, since in fact He has decreed them. “There is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets” cried out Nebuchadnezzar, when Daniel revealed to him the meaning of the dream he had and its prophetic significance. Secondly, it is To reveal the purpose and the character of God. The Lord said (Isaiah 46:9-10), “I am God and there is none else. I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times the things that are not yet done.” Thirdly, to produce a salutory effect in the moral behaviour and spiritual attitudes of the recipients of the prophetic message. “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness” (2 Peter 3:11).
The Nature of Prophetic Scripture: First it is miraculous. Miraculous occurences proceed from divine power. Miraculous utterances proceed from divine wisdom. Every divine prophecy is a miracle. It is also moral. “If that nation against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.” Of course Nineveh is a prime example of this. The powerful effect of Jonah’s prophetic message caused repentance and therefore preserved the city, for that time at least. Prophetic Scripture is however, primarily messianic. That is, relating to the Messiah of Israel. “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). This will be developed in our study at a later point.
The Effect Of Prophetic Scripture Upon Us Today
As we consider the prophetic Scriptures that have already been fulfilled to the letter, we are strengthened in our faith concerning the future. “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed as unto a light that shineth in a dark place until the day dawn, and the daystar arise in your hearts” (1 Peter 1:19). So a consideration of the prophetic Scriptures strengthens faith in a day of unbelief.
It also promotes stability in a day of upheaval. When old values are cast aside, and patterns and principles that seemed unshakable are being torn down, we are enabled to stand fast in view of soon-to-be-fulfilled promises. “…Our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself … therefore… stand fast…” (Philippians 3:20-4:1).
Prophecy provides light in a day of darkness. When heaven seems silent and no special revelations shine upon the path, there is always the sure word of prophecy shining in the dark place. Habakkuk learned this in his dark day. God spoke from heaven and gave him the assurance He was not idle and presented him with a principle that enabled him to write one of the most assuring psalms in all the Bible.
Prophecy also preserves from deception in a day of departure. “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them” (2 Timothy 3:13-14). Since these and other warnings of coming deceivers are plainly declared in the prophetic Scriptures, we can recognize the dangers and be preserved.
In like manner prophecy permeates peace in a day of crisis. The student of Scripture is rarely taken aback by current events. He is aware of the trend of things and knows where they are heading. So he is able to rest in the sure knowledge that God is but working out His decreed purposes to one glorious end. “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless” (2 Peter 3:14).
These considerations of the value, purpose, nature and effects of the prophetic Scriptures may call us to a more diligent and balanced study of them.
(To be continued - Next: “What has prophecy to tell us?”)