With all the prophesying ‘prophets’ these days, and ‘words from the Lord’, and alleged divine revelations, it is easy to dismiss real biblical prophecies. Don’t be tempted to lump in the false revelations with the real ones. We should highly value the prophecy of the Bible. (And only the prophecy of the Bible).
The Bible is not one “book,” it is a “library” of sixty-six books that were written over a period of more than a 1,500 years by many different authors. These authors were “inspired” in their thinking and writing by the Holy Spirit. Thus the Bible is the inspired Word of God without error. It also has the human “touch” from its authors. Paul is different than David, who is different than James or Moses. So their “style and personality comes out to us. … The Bible is Literature, as is any book filled with language. It has: Law, History, Wisdom, Poetry, Gospel, Epistles, Prophecy, and Apocalyptic. Literature. (Source)
THE VALUE OF PROPHECY
I can’t relate to you in one essay all the reasons we should value biblical prophecy, but here are a few.
When we read the Bible we need to remember that there are different kinds of literature within it. One of those types of literature is prophetic literature, which these days is either abused or maligned. People who don’t study properly either ignore prophecy or dismiss it. Others dwell on it to the exclusion of the other books of the Bible. Some mix man’s prophecies with Jesus’, thus twisting it and causing disregard of it by the saner members of the faith, but who still remain intimidated by it. The Lord in His wisdom gave us this Book with its different types of writing, and included in it are prophecies, which means this kind of literature is just as valuable as all the others.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (2 Timothy 3:16).
Prophecy is useful for training in righteousness? Yes. In this essay I will explain why. Let’s begin with the purpose of prophecy. Bible.org says,
While prophecy may be figuratively or symbolically revealed, we can expect it to be literally fulfilled. In type, the Messiah who was to come was portrayed as the bronze serpent, which was lifted up on a pole (Numbers 21:19; John 3:14), and as the Passover lamb (Exodus 12; John 1:29; 1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Peter 1:19; cf. 2:21-25). In Psalm 22, the passion of our Lord is described by the very terms which David used to portray his personal anguish of soul. In Isaiah 53, we have another prophecy of the atoning work of Israel’s Messiah. All these prophetic pictures were literally fulfilled. So, too, the prophecies that Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:5-6) of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:21-23) were literally fulfilled.
Whether in symbol, in figure, or in direct statement, the prophecies of the Old Testament which have already been fulfilled were fulfilled literally. We should therefore expect that the prophecies which remain unfulfilled, those which pertain to the second coming of our Lord, will be literally fulfilled.
This is an exceedingly clarifying statement: While prophecy may be figuratively or symbolically revealed, we can expect it to be literally fulfilled. So often, the figures, types, and symbols of prophecy confuse the reader. They believe that since prophecy is written in figurative language, the result of the prophecy must also be figurative. Let it not be so! For Jesus is true and real. His acts from history and in prophecy were and will be real and true.
The basic principle is that scripture interprets scripture. Therefore the figures, types, and symbols given in the entire Bible, not just prophecy, can be interpreted. For example, when clouds are mentioned it is associated with Deity. The harp or lyre is usually associated with prophesying. And so on. People usually have no difficulty interpreting the symbols in other kinds of biblical literature, and in prophecy it should be no different.
Jesus values prophecy. Not only did He tell us ahead of time, (Matthew 24:25), but Jesus prophesied His resurrection by referring to Jonah the Prophet’s time in the belly of the great fish. (Matthew 12:40). When Jesus explained Himself to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, He began with Moses and the Prophets. (Luke 24:27). Prophecy explains other prophecy and in fact, all scripture interprets all scripture.
Just because Old Testament prophecy was not fulfilled in a way that people expected, does not diminish the original prophecy. Who would have expected the Lord to come as a suffering servant? Except that in Isaiah 53 it says so. Who would have expected the Lord to come from Nazareth and Egypt and Bethlehem? Except it is all foretold. (Hosea 11:1, Micah 5:2, Matthew 2:22-23). The difficulty comes when people overlay their own expectations on top of prophecy to confirm their own man-made meaning, or worse, their own personal prophecies (eisegesis) rather than draw out of prophecy the intended meaning (exegesis).
THE PURPOSE OF PROPHECY
One of the purposes of prophecy is to demonstrate God’s sovereignty and His omniscience. God orchestrates all things because He is the author and architect of the universe, all doings on heaven and on earth are in His hand.
declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ Isaiah 46:10)
This should be enormously comforting to us. He is in control of all things. When we read of events God prophesied in the past and history bears this out in scripture, scripture is validated and we love the Lord all the more for being true and solid.
For everything that was written in former times was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and through encouragement of the scriptures we may have hope. (Romans 15:4).
Prophetic scripture produces hope. The Romans verse said that through encouragement of the scriptures we may have hope. All scripture can offer hope, the Law and the History and the Psalms, and the Prophetic scriptures are encouraging and spark hope in our hearts. We look ahead to the glories that wait. We will see Jesus face to face and no longer through a glass darkly, We will receive our rewards. We will worship and fellowship without sin or blot or stain. We will live forever in New Jerusalem in Light and Beauty. We look around on earth at what needs to be done, but we look ahead as to Who and why we do the things that must be done! Paul concluded his great speech on the end times by saying
Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:18).
So, the prophetic scriptures are both hopeful and encouraging.
Prophetic scripture enlivens us to good works. First, we love to share the glories that await the believer. As for the non-believer, prophecies of scripture show us that the time is short. Any man may die at any time, for his life is a vapor, (James 4:14) and then comes the judgment. (Hebrews 9:27). Woe to the unsaved! Moreover, the times are short, for Jesus may return at any moment. We are living on borrowed time! He will return in wrath to judge the living and the dead, this is a sure word of prophecy. (Revelation 19:11, 2 Timothy 4:1, 1 Peter 4:5) In light of this, we have a duty, and that is,
And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. (Acts 10:42).
Prophecy should remind us that our lives on earth are temporary and we must share in obedience the eternal truths while we can.
Though there are no doubt many other instructive lessons to be learned from the prophetic scriptures, the ones covered here were the value and purpose of prophecy-
- Prophecy is one of the several types of literature in the Bible,
- Prophecy is an important part of scripture,
- Prophecy demonstrates God’s sovereignty and His omniscience,
- Prophetic scripture produces hope,
- Prophetic scripture enlivens us to good works in obedience.
In the next essay I want to discuss the nature of sin in light of the prophetic time of the Tribulation recorded in Revelation. I’ll close now with this thought from from Martyn Lloyd Jones from his sermon The God of the Covenants Acts 7:1-8,
The God who planned the beginning also planned the end. ~Martyn Lloyd Jones
Earth burns up, 2 Peter 3:10. Photo from NASA