FACTS ABOUT BIBLICAL PROPHECY
2. Not all prophecies are meant to come true but are warnings of what is at stake (Jonah 1-4).
3. Not all prophecies are directed at everyone, though most people can learn from them (Dan 4).
5. Not all prophecies are meant to be scary. Some communicate the ultimate reason for trusting and following God. (Revelation, 21).
When you come across the term“prophecies,” they almost exclusively refer to future events' foretelling. The messages are talked about as if they’re unchangeable and requiring fulfillment. They usually rely heavily on the themes of fate and destiny. The biblical definition of prophecy is a lot simpler. It’s a message from God, communicated to a man or woman raised to speak prophetically. It can be one isolated case, or God raises individuals to carry a prophetic mantel and then shares it with the intended audience. Both the prophet and prophecy must be tested. The only way for testing is "time." See the many references to prophecies in the Bible. That’s it. The definition stops there. However, there are many different types of prophecies—more than you might think. Prophecies foretell future events; they come to bring God's people to repentance and forewarning of judgments as well as rebukes. Today, a majority of prophecies come to edify and restore the soul of man.
WHAT ARE THE REASONS FOR
PROPHECIES IN THE BIBLE?
Human beings—even God’s chosen people in the Bible—aren’t perfect. They (and we) possess a tendency toward selfishness or tunnel vision and the spirit of presumption. In recent days most all prophets predicted Donal Trump to win, but all were wrong. Why? There was an influence of their own tunnel vision, and their site was locked on Donald Trump winning because none could accept the alternative. It is called the spirit of presumption. God had another plan! Prophets must remain objective, uninfluenced by their own ideology or political affiliation.
1. All the prophets and evangelical leaders who prophesied Donald Trump's reelection spoke presumptuously; we call this the sin of presumption. The sin of presumption is rooted in arrogance and pride because it elevates human reasoning above God's sovereignty; His ways are not our ways.
Deuteronomy 18: 22"If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.
Hence, some situations call for additional insight or a good old-fashioned wake-up call. Throughout the life of the Israelites, prophets spoke forth the word of God as the prophet served as the vocal cords if you will of the Will of God. Following the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, or Shavuot, God would inhabit His people through the indwelling Holy Spirit. But the Prophetic office remains an operational expression of the KIngdom. Looking at the many, many prophecies throughout the history depicted in Scripture, here are the primary reasons for these messages from God, through humans, to humans.
TO WARN OF POTENTIAL CONSEQUENCES (AND HOPEFULLY INSPIRE CHANGE)
There are several prophecies of this type throughout the Bible. Some can be looked at as “predictive,” as they explain the consequences in store unless there’s a behavior change. However, in these cases, keep in mind that God doesn’t want any of these prophecies to come true. The whole point is to bring attention to a problem, explain its consequences and repercussions, and leave the prophecy recipient(s) with a more informed choice of how to proceed with their lives. God actually explains this to his prophet Jeremiah:
“Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ... ‘Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, and if that nation ... turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. And the instant I speak concerning a nation or kingdom, to build and to plant it if it does evil in My sight and does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.’” (Jeremiah 18:5-10, NKJV, my emphasis added).
One example of this is in 1 Samuel 2-3. The High Priest of the time, Eli, had already heard a message from God about what would happen if his wayward sons’ behavior wasn’t appropriately addressed. If he continued to let them regularly commit adultery and manipulate the ceremonial sacrificial system in their favor, their lives and his lineage would be “cut short.” But as time passed, their behavior persisted. So God used a new prophet, the young boy Samuel, who was already close to Eli, to deliver a message. It was solely to remind Eli that he already knew what would happen if he “did not restrain” his sons from desecrating the community’s place of worship.
2. Donald Trump and his administration were informed that God wanted his heart turned towards the suffering and broken nation to show mercy, empathy, and comfort. He and the Apostles, Prophets, and Evangelical leaders in his orbit, turned their backs on the people. This second area was the sin of omission, resulting from not doing something God’s Word teaches that we should do when confronted with it.
Matthew 25:38-40, "When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? And the king will answer me, Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these, my brothers, you did it to me."
Colossians 3:12" So, as those who have been chosen o
God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion,
kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience;
Proverbs 21:13 He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor Will also cry himself and not be answered.
Deuteronomy 15:11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.
Since nothing had changed since the first warning, the consequences revealed to him earlier must now come to pass. Then his sons died in battle, followed by Eli’s passing upon hearing of their deaths. Sometimes we can know the information but never really take it to heart. God knows that, and if need be, He can strategically send a messenger to call attention to what’s been forgotten or pushed away. In other cases, this prophetic method succeeded! In the book of Jonah (though there’s a different lesson we can learn from his behavior), God told him to prophesy to the large city of Nineveh. He was to bring them word that their “wickedness” was so great, He would allow their city to be overthrown in 40 days—unless they repented and changed their ways.
“The people of Nineveh believed God. They proclaimed a fast and dressed in sackcloth [symbol of mourning]—from the greatest of them to the least. ... God saw their actions—that they had turned from their evil ways—so God relented from the disaster he had threatened them with. And He did not do it.” (Jonah 3:5, 10, CSB)
TO EXPOSE COMMON PITFALLS
OF HUMAN NATURE
Sometimes God had to send a human messenger to remind His people what it meant to live a godly life. Most knew God's commandments, but it was easy to become blind to issues close to home. Throughout the Old Testament, particularly in Jeremiah and Lamentations', God’s chosen nation kept ping-ponging back and forth. They’d follow God with fervor for one generation, then fall away from the next. Some kings followed God, and some chose to rule the nation according to their own desires. To keep this fickle group of people in check, God sent numerous prophets to get their attention. They often needed a stern reminder that their hardships were a consequence of choosing their own way over God’s. Instead, they opted for the temporary satisfaction of their desires and temptations.
Hosea,whom God called to proclaim a message to Israel and Judah, wasn’t a message of words or preached from a platform in front of a listening crowd—instead, it was a message lived out in a symbolic example. Since these nations went back and forth on their commitment to God, He commanded Hosea to marry and start a family with an “unfaithful woman”—“for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.”Sure enough, Hosea’s wife, Gomer, would occasionally run off with other men as they tempted her with gifts, wealth, and flattery. But God instructed Hosea to welcome her back with love every time, just as God accepted His chosen people back every time they repented.
TO HELP US UNDERSTAND
Notice, it’s not “to tell us the future, but to prepare us for the future! That does, however, include some details about what to look for as time goes on.
Many of the most famous Bible prophecies such as those in Daniel and Revelation, predict power's progression from one nation to another. Daniel's declining metal quality speaks of the declining quality of government, the character of end-time leaders. They also include some details about how that progression affects the ways people live. These prophecies are typically loaded with figurative language. The prophets had to think of the most effective way to describe events and complex concepts for the readers. For example,
“Then I saw a second beast coming out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon.” (Revelation 13:11)
Reading this, you might be thinking, beasts, horns, dragons. Remembering how to interpret symbolism, this beast represents a mighty person or nation. It has an appearance similar to a sheep, which symbolizes meekness and loyalty, but its evil will ultimately be revealed as it opens its mouth to speak “like a dragon.” But even words must be weighed in the balance with one behavior and time. We cannot be quick to conclude just on leaders' words.
Symbolic messages like these can also help us in our spiritual growth, rather than being told exactly which king would do what when this figurative imagery paints a larger picture. Rather than names, we get an idea of the nations' temperament and motivations or rulers who rise against God. Prayerfully, with discernment, we can keep up with the Bible and the world's progression.
TO GIVE US HOPE!
Yes, several of the major Bible prophecies contain scary language. But if you read through to the end of the Bible, you’ll find that ultimately, all those beasts and dragons and horns won’t even matter. The best part of studying prophecy has to be the new perspective you get after reading the book of Revelation, specifically savoring chapters 21 and 22. These contain the “It’s all going to be okay!” passages of Scripture: "Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)
“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with Me, and I will give it to each person according to what they have done. ... Blessed are they who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.” (Revelation 22:12-14) If we know how the story ends and ends well, what perspective does that give us for the more alarming prophecies we discover along the way? Evil things may be happening throughout the world, but God will be triumphant overall. Just imagine how knowing that can aid in your studies. No matter what kind of odd depictions of the future (or the past or the present) you find in the Bible’s prophecies, where justice will always be served, and God will save those that follow Him.
8. Ezekiel 4