Biblical Prophecy, Part 1

2 Peter 1:19-21 – 9 And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; 20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

Intro: Peter describes one of our greatest blessings.  He calls it a light shining in a dark place. This light is the illumination of the confirmed prophetic word  of God. Predictive Biblical prophecy is as valuable evidence as we need to establish the authenticity of the scriptures.

  • This is true because the prophet did not speak from his own mind. He was spoke as he was moved (carried along) by the Holy Spirit.
  • Fulfilled prophecy is absolute evidence of God’s mind and God’s voice.
  1. I. What is prophecy? The fundamental meaning of the word is not prediction, but the “speaking forth” of the mind of God. It is the revelation of God’s mind (both past, present, and future) that could not be known by natural means.

A.  Scholars are undecided as to the etymology of the term “prophet.” Some think that the noun is from an Arabic term meaning “spokesman” (Smith 1928, 10), whereas others have contended that the root is a Hebrew form which signifies a “bubbling up,” as when water issues from a hidden fountain (Girdlestone n.d., 239). This would suggest the idea of the inspiration behind the prophet.

1.  Perhaps the best way to determine the meaning of the term is to examine the manner in which the Bible employs it. The classic passage which sets forth the role of the prophet is Exodus 7:1,2And Jehovah said unto Moses, See, I have made thee as God to Pharaoh; and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet. Thou shalt speak all that I command thee; and Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh.

a.  A prophet was simply a spokesman for God. The prophet was also called a “seer.” Note how the terms “prophet” and “seer” are interchanged in 1 Samuel 9:9 9 (Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he spoke thus: “Come, let us go to the seer”; Some scholars suggest that the term “prophet” stressed the objective or active work of God’s spokesman, whereas “seer” underscored the subjective method of receiving divine revelation, i.e., by “seeing” (Freeman 1968, 40). A prophet was also designated as a “man of God” (2 Kings 4:9), a “servant of the Lord” (Ezekiel 38:17), and a “messenger of Jehovah” (Malachi 3:1).

2.  “foretelling” and “forthtelling.” – prophecy also concerns the revelation of events which occurred in the past; it may deal with present circumstances (i.e., contemporary with the prophet), or it can look forward to the future.

a.  Moses was a prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15), yet when he recorded the creation activity of Genesis 1, he was giving a divinely inspired account of what transpired during the first week of earth’s history. Certainly he was not present to witness those events.

b.  On the other hand, He also spoke about things that were current with his life (i.e.  wilderness wandering).  Amos was a prophet who wrote many things that “he saw concerning Israel” (Amos 1:1).

c.  Finally, the prophet’s vision was sometimes directed into the future. The predictive aspect of prophecy stands as a solid testimony to the truthfulness & inspiration of scripture.

II.  Characteristics of True Prophecy

  • The event must be beyond the power of logical deduction.
  • The event must be remote enough in time to rule out guesswork or deduction (Dan. 2 – 4 future kingdoms)
  • The prediction must be applicable to the event
  • The prediction must be unambiguous and unmistakable. Must contain sufficient details to exclude guesswork
  • The prediction must have a clear and demonstrable fulfillment

Biblical prophecy meets all these criterion. “Let God be found true and every man a liar.” (Rom. 3:4)

A. True prophecy is 100% accurate –  Fulfilled prophecy is the litmus test of truth declared:  After Moses predicted the coming of Christ in Deut 18:18-22 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. 19 And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ —  22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.

B.  This is the divine challenge given through the OT prophets.  If Biblical prophecy is true, then God is who He claims to be, and the Bible must be trusted implicitly.

  • Isaiah 41:21-2321 “Present your case,” says the Lord. “Bring forth your strong reasons,” says the King of Jacob. 22 “Let them bring forth and show us what will happen; Let them show the former things, what they were, That we may consider them, And know the latter end of them; Or declare to us things to come. 23 Show the things that are to come hereafter, That we may know that you are gods; Yes, do good or do evil, That we may be dismayed and see it together.
  • Isaiah 42:8-98 I am the Lord, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another,Nor My praise to carved images. 9 Behold, the former things have come to pass, And new things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them.”
  • Isaiah 46:8-118 “Remember this, and show yourselves men; Recall to mind, O you transgressors. 9 Remember the former things of old,For I am God, and there is no other;I am God, and there is none like Me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning,And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying,’My counsel shall stand,And I will do all My pleasure,’ 11 Calling a bird of prey from the east,The man who executes My counsel, from a far country.Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it.

C. There have been many in the past who have failed this test. They have proven themselves to be working alone, without God’s approval.

Jean Dixon, became famous for predicting the Kennedy assassination. But she had a few failures:

  • World War III would begin in 1958. (Did it?)
  • Russia would put the first man on the moon.
  • Lyndon Johnson would be democratic candidate for president in 1968. (Since he was already president, he would have been the logical choice. But he refused to run.)
  • President Ford would resign and Rockefeller would replace him. (Ford never resigned; Rockefeller was never president.)
  • Reagan would be the Republican candidate for president in 1976. (Ford won the nomination instead).
  • Red China would enter the UN in 1958 – it didn’t happen till much later.
  • Vietnam war would end within 90 days of May 7, 1966 – it did not happen till much later.  (All quotes via: Halbrook, 1974 Florida College lectures; O’Neal, Searching the Scriptures, 6/78]

Joseph Smith, Jr., so-called prophet of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons)

  • Jesus would come within 56 years of 1835
  • The temple would be rebuilt within a generation of 1832
  • Several Mormon apostles (alive in his day) would live to see Jesus return
  • The Civil War would be a “full end of all nations”

Mohammed, proclaimed prophet of Islam.

  • Mohammed once predicted there would be 73 sects of Islam, of which only one would survive. But Moslems admit there have been far more than 73. And today many sects, not just one, still survive. [Encyclopedia Britannica, XII-711] These examples illustrate how false prophets fail when they attempt to predict the future. By comparison, no Biblical prophecy has failed.

II.  The Wonder of Prophecy Fulfilled: . Man is not capable of, by himself to foretell the events of the future. How much can you tell me about your future? What will your children do for a living, who will they marry, What will your grandchildren be like? Will they be Christians? Now what about your country? Your land?

  • Proverbs 27:1Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.

James 4:14 – 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.  – You do not know what will happen tomorrow. Man does not even know he will be alive tomorrow, let alone know what he will do tomorrow.

A.  Prophecies About Christ – There are over 300 prophecies in the O.T. relating to the birth, life, character, mission, death, & resurrection of Jesus.

  • There were written up to 1000 years before the time of their fulfillment.
  • They had all been translated into the Septuagint nearly 300 years before their fulfillment.
  • Many were fulfilled by the enemies of God – completely unaware of the prophecy.
  • Born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2)
  • Born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14)
  • From the house of Judah (Isa. 37:31)
  • From the family of David (2 sam. 7)
  • The massacre of infants of Bethlehem at his birth (Jer. 31:15)
  • His miracles
  • His betrayal
  • His crucifixion
  • His resurrection

1.  Josh McDowell separates the prophecies of Christ into 61 different categories, and, following the argument of an older writer, Peter Stoner (Science Speaks), he says that if you just took 8 of these prophecies, the odds of a person coincidentally fulfilling all eight of these would be one in 10 to the 17th power.

a.  Since we can’t easily picture what that means, he gave this illustration: Suppose you took the state of Texas and spread silver dollars two feet deep across the whole state, then marked just one of them and buried it somewhere in the state. Then, if you chose one person, blindfolded him, and told him to pick just one silver dollar, his chances of getting the marked one on his first try would be one in 10 to the 17th power! (Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Vol. 1, pp. 144, 167)

b. Luke 24:27 records –  “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”

  • And verse 44 notes, “And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and the prophets and the psalms, concerning me.”

Conclusion: Fulfilled prophecy is a light shining in the darkness. The Spirit of God has confirmed the authenticity of His word through voice of the prophet and the sovereign ability of God to make these things come to pass.  Heb 2:1-4 Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, 4 God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?