Biblical Prophecy

Prophecy - How important is it?

Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy (Revelation 19:10).

Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near (Revelation 1:3).

He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:44-45).

Prophecy – Can we understand it?

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you (John 14:26).

And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:19-21).

For we do not write you anything you cannot read or understand (2 Corinthians 1:13).

Prophecy – What is its Purpose?

When Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Azariah son of Oded the prophet, he took courage. He removed the detestable idols from the whole land of Judah and Benjamin and from the towns he had captured in the hills of Ephraim. He repaired the altar of Yahweh that was in front of the portico of the Lord's temple. … At that time they sacrificed to Yahweh seven hundred head of cattle and seven thousand sheep and goats from the plunder they had brought back. They entered into a covenant to seek Yahweh, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul  (2 Chronicles 15:8-12).

Prophecy reveals the power of God which can cause man to repent of his evil ways and turn to God in faithful obedience.

Prophecy – How is it fulfilled?

There are many examples of fulfilled prophecy in Scripture.  Being familiar with fulfilled prophecy helps us  understand how to read unfulfilled prophecy. Jesus says prophecy must be fulfilled the way Scripture says, “But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (Matthew 26:54)  Let’s read some examples and their fulfillment.

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son (Hosea 11:1).

So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son” (Matthew 2:14-15).

Prophecy and Fulfillment

Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9).

They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:7-9)

Prophecy and Fulfillment

‘Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me!’ declares Yahweh Almighty. ‘Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered’ (Zechariah 13:7)

But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” At that time Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled (Matthew 26:54-56).

Prophecy and Fulfillment

I told them, “If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.” So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. And Yahweh said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the handsome price at which they priced me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of Yahweh to the potter (Zechariah 11:12-13).

They took the thirty silver coins, the price set on him by the people of Israel, and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me” (Matthew 27:9-10)

Prophecies and their Fulfillment

A righteous man may have many troubles, but Yahweh delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken (Psalm 34:19-20). “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son (Zechariah 12:10).

But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. … These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced” (John 19:33-37).

Prophecy and Fulfillment

He said, “Go and tell this people: “’Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed” (Isaiah 6:9-10).

This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “’You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving’” (Matthew 13:13-14).

Prophecy and Fulfillment

The Spirit of the Sovereign Yahweh is on me, because Yahweh has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor [interruption] and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair (Isaiah 61:1-3).

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing (Luke 4:18-21).

When Jesus read this He stopped mid-sentence and did not continue Isaiah’s prophecy. Jesus did not proclaim “the day of vengeance of our God,” which will take place on the Day of the Lord at Christ's return. This single sentence includes a prophetic interruption in time of 2,000 years.

Prophecy and Fulfillment

Here is another prophecy which contains an interruption in time.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, [interruption] and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

Isaiah declares Christ’s birth and Christ's reign.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? (Matthew 2:1-2)

Christ was born over 2,000 years ago yet His kingdom has not yet come. It will, however, come when the last trumpet sounds.

The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15)

This prophetic interruption is found throughout Scripture, depicting the time between the First and Second Comings of Christ.

From these examples about, individuals, peoples, kingdoms, places, and  events we can see how biblical prophecy is fulfilled by God.  Many of these prophecies pointed to the First Coming of Christ. However, we find many more prophecies which describe the Second Coming.

Prophecy – What are the rules of Interpretation?

God does not change. Prophecy about the future will be fulfilled as prophecy has always been fulfilled, in the past.

Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath (Hebrews 6:17).

We are to interpret unfulfilled prophecy at face value and consistent with God’s instructions., “Do not go beyond what is written” (1 Corinthians 4:6).

Prophecy – Are there multiple fulfillments?

Historical circumstances which partially fulfill prophecy may serve as a lesson or guide to future prophecy.  However, prophecy always will have its ultimate fulfillment in God’s plan. For example, in 168 BC, Antiochus Epiphanes occupied Jerusalem, entered the Holy of Holies, and desecrated the sanctuary by offering unclean animals on the alter.  Some have mistakenly thought that this fulfilled Daniel’s prophecies about the “abomination that causes desolation.”  However, let’s read Daniel’s two prophecies carefully to see.

The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. … He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him (Daniel 9:26-27).

His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation. With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him. …  Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time. “The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place (Daniel 11:31-36).

The event in 168 BC is similar in certain aspects of Daniel’s prophecies. However, Antiochus Epiphanes did not fulfill every aspect of the prophecies and therefore, its final fulfillment is still future.  For example, in Daniel 9:27 the prophecy continues “until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”

Likewise, the prophecy in Daniel 11, states that it will continue “until the time of the end.” We know that the end has not yet come and that this abomination did not result in God’s wrath being poured out on Antiochus Epiphanes.

In addition, we read in Daniel 11 that, “He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods.” This behavior is unique to the Antichrist and has yet to be fulfilled in history. Paul describes below how the “abomination that causes desolation” will ultimately be fulfilled by the Antichrist.

Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).

No one has ever done what Paul describes above.  It will be fulfilled in the future by the Antichrist.

Prophecy – What can we expect?

“Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.” …  I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book (Revelation 22:7, 18-19).

Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21).

We can expect everything to happen, just as the Word of God states.

Richard H Perry