Some Key Scriptures about Prophecy
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God; but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our sons forever” (Deuteronomy 29:29).
“Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).
“I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done… I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it” (Isaiah 46:9-11).
“Jesus said ‘not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill’” (Matthew 5:17).
“[Jesus] said to them, ‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44).
“Of Him [Jesus] all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 10:43).
“The prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow” (1 Peter 1:10-11).
“And so we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place… But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:19a-21).
“The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10).
Many lukewarm Christians have been transformed by studying prophecy. It is the study of prophecy in these days that motivates and convicts us to change our lives and live as we ought. The Rapture has galvanized may wishy washy believers into serious students of the Bible. Knowing that our Lord and Saviour is coming for us soon has inspired them into a new paradigm.
“Get your life right and get serious with God today—not tomorrow, today.”
According to The Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy by J. Barton Payne, there are 1,239 prophecies in the Old Testament and 578 prophecies in the New Testament for a total of 1,817. These prophecies are contained in 8,352 of the Bible’s verses. Since there are 31,124 verses in the Bible, the 8,352 verses that contain prophecy constitute 26.8 percent of the Bible’s volume.
Taking the life of Jesus there are about 300 prophecies that were given between 500 and 1000 years before to His birth, but the most popular ones are the one about Him being born in Bethlehem,(Micah 5:2), being born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), riding into Jerusalem on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9), or being betrayed by a friend for 30 pieces of silver with the money going to a potter to buy a field (Zechariah 11:12-13).
There’s also His crucifixion and the fact that the soldiers would divide up his clothes (Psalm 22:16-18), and that He’d come back from the grave (Isaiah 53:11).
Those who view the Bible as merely a book with good suggestions for how to live, but don’t consider it the literal Word of God, can’t be expected to understand the crucial necessity of preaching and teaching the entire Word of God.
With almost thirty percent of the Bible containing prophecy I think that it is worth studying; particularly because we are right here in the last days before the Tribulation and the Great Tribulation spoken of by Daniel. Many are the emerging church groups that will discourage anyone who studies prophecy.
Dr. Leslie Harding wrote:
The better part of prophecy is better understood after it is fulfilled. We often want to study the prophecies so we can know the future – yet prophecy is best understood after it is fulfilled. Only rarely in the Bible does anybody benefit from prophecy in advance, as when Egypt prepared for the famine revealed through the prophetic dreams that Joseph interpreted. Most souls didn’t take advantage of the prophecies of Jesus’ first coming. But others, like us, get the benefit after it is fulfilled. You sit back, take it in, and say, “Ah ha! He is God. There is a big plan. It is not all just an accident.”
In his bestselling book, The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren mocks Bible prophecy when he writes, “If you want Jesus to come back sooner, focus on fulfilling your mission, not figuring out prophecy.” He then goes on to characterize prophecy as a “distraction” and says that anyone who lets himself get involved in distractions like studying prophecy: “Is not fit for the kingdom of God.”
Such cavalier dismissals of Bible prophecy fly in the face of Scriptures like Revelation 19:10 which says: “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
Thus, if prophecy is properly taught, there is no reason for it to divert anyone’s attention away from Jesus. In fact, it should serve to emphasize the centrality of Jesus. The ultimate message of prophecy is redemptive. The reason that God tells you the future is not so you will know when to take your money out of the bank or so you can know when you’re supposed to run for the hills and stock up on food.
He tells you all this more than just to let you know when Christ will come the first time or the second time, or what happens during the Millennium. He tells you so you will know He is God and to help you allow Him to come into your heart. And that’s true whether you are familiar with the many passages of Revelation or whether you are just beginning to read the Bible. The joy and peace you feel when you know that God has a plan for you is one of the most faith-building experiences you can have.
Yes, He has numbered every star in the universe and knows what’s going to happen in the ceaseless ages to come. Yet despite this infinite knowledge of God, He has a hope and a plan just for you. God is in charge, and He’s proven it with prophecy. He can be trusted, because His Word has never and will never fail.
“Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away” (Luke 21:33). You can bank your life on Him and His Word, especially as you go out to tell others of His wondrous power.
Reasons to Study Prophecy
There are many reasons why all believers should be interested in studying Bible prophecy. Some of the more important ones are listed below:
1. The Quantity
Almost one-third of the Bible is prophetic in nature. In the Old Testament, this includes the Psalms, the Major and Minor Prophets, and many passages in the historical books. In the New Testament, entire books like 1 & 2 Thessalonians and Revelation are devoted to prophecy, as are major passages like Matthew 24 and 1 Peter 3. To ignore Bible prophecy is to ignore a significant portion of God’s Word, and we are told in 2 Timothy 3:16:
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (and that certainly includes Bible prophecy).
2. Uniqueness of Prophecy
The Bible’s track record is flawless. No other book in the world contains fulfilled prophecies. This includes the sayings of Buddha and Confucius, the Koran, the Hindu Vedras, and the Book of Mormon. And it certainly includes the ridiculous nonsensical quatrains of Nostradamus.
In contrast, the Bible contains hundreds of specific prophecies that have already been fulfilled—prophecies about towns, cities, nations, empires, and political leaders, as well as prophecies about the Messiah. Consider, for example, the prophecy in the book of Isaiah that a man named Cyrus would be the one who would release the children of Israel from Babylonian captivity (Isaiah 44:28). And that is exactly what happened 142 years later (Ezra 1:1-3).
3. Validates Scripture
Fulfilled prophecy is one of the best evidences I know of that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. As I stated above, the Bible contains hundreds of fulfilled secular prophecies pertaining to cities, nations, empires, and individuals. Isaiah prophesied that Babylon would fall to the Medes and Persians (Isaiah 13:17-20). Jeremiah predicted the Babylonian captivity of the Jews would last 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11-12).
Daniel outlined in advance the precise order of four great Gentile empires (Daniel 2 and 7). The destruction of both Judah and Israel was foretold by Moses (Deuteronomy 28 and 29). In the New Testament, Jesus predicted the complete destruction of Jerusalem 40 years before it actually occurred (Luke 21:6).
4. Validates Jesus as God
The prophetic Scriptures validate Jesus as who He said He is—namely God, in the flesh. The Bible contains more than 300 prophecies about the First Coming of Jesus, but some of these are repetitive. There are actually 109 separate and distinct prophecies concerning the First Coming, and all of them were literally fulfilled.
Every aspect of the life of Jesus was prophesied—the place of His birth, the nature of His birth, the quality of His ministry; the purpose of His life, and the agony of His death. Consider for example, the prophecy in Psalm 22:16, that the Messiah’s hands and feet would be pierced.
That prophecy was written by David about a thousand years before the birth of Jesus. It was written 700 years before the invention of crucifixion as a form of execution. The literal fulfillment of so many prophecies in the life of one individual transcends any mere coincidence and serves to validate that Jesus was who He said He was—the divine Son of God.
5. Reveals the Future
Prophecy serves to tell us some things that God wants us to know about the future (Deuteronomy 29:29 and Amos 3:7). God does not want us to know everything about the future, but there are some things we must know if we are to have a dynamic hope. Thus, prophecy assures us that Jesus is coming back, that He will resurrect us, and that He will take us to live forever with Him and God the Father.
In this regard, Peter likens prophecy to “a lamp shining in a dark place” (2 Peter 1:19). Paul makes the same point in 1 Corinthians, chapter 2. He begins by observing that “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, nor has the mind of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love Him.” But in the next verse Paul says those things have been revealed to us by God through His Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).
6. Warns the Lost
When Moses went before Pharaoh, God sent a series of frightening plagues to encourage the devilish ruler to act. However, these plagues were not meant to destroy; rather, they were sent to first save the Jews from captivity, but also to help the Egyptians avoid utter destruction.
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, Go unto Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Let my people go, that they may serve me. And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs” (Exodus 8:1, 2).
Why was it necessary for Moses to warn Pharaoh in advance that a plague of frogs was coming? If Moses had not said anything and a plague of frogs suddenly came swarming out of the great river, Pharaoh’s counselors could have said, “This is just a natural occurrence.” If Moses had gone after the plagues and said, “See all these frogs? That’s because you won’t let my people go!” Well, anybody can do that.
A lot of people have weighed in on 9/11, Katrina, and the Indonesian tsunami after the fact. How much more compelling would their testimony be to others had they spoken prior to the events? People would have really sat up to take notice. Moses gave these prophetic warnings to save the lost and to warn the rebellious, showing that God is really in control.
Prophecy can be used as a very effective tool of evangelism, as illustrated in the story of Philip and the Eunuch (Acts 8:26). Philip used Isaiah’s great suffering lamb passage (Isaiah 53) to teach that Jesus is the Lamb who was slain for the sins of the world.
Matthew and Peter both used fulfilled prophecy in the life of Jesus as one of their basic evangelistic tools. In fact, Peter referred to prophecy constantly in his first gospel sermon on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-39). He preached that Jesus had been crucified and resurrected in fulfillment of Hebrew prophecies. Later, Peter referred to fulfilled prophecy as one of the greatest evidences that Jesus is truly the Son of God (2 Peter 1:16-19).
7. Tool of Moral Teaching
People often overlook the fact that the Hebrew prophets were forthtellers as well as foretellers. In fact, the prophets spent most of their time using God’s Word to spotlight societal problems. They called their listeners to repentance, true worship, social justice, and personal holiness. One of the great recurring themes of the prophets is that “obedience is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22 and Hosea 6:6).
That statement means that in God’s eyes, obedience to His commands is more important than outward religious practices such as offering sacrifices. Prophecy is thus a great repository of moral teaching, and those moral principles are still relevant today. (See Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:8; and Isaiah 58:3-9.)
8. Generator of Spiritual Growth
Prophetic knowledge encourages patient waiting (James 5:7-8); provokes earnest watching (Matthew 24:36,42); inspires dedicated work (2 Timothy 4:7-8); and enhances our hope (Titus 2:11-14).
The result is holy living. Paul exhorts us to “behave properly as in the day,” because the time is at hand when the Lord will return (Romans 13:12-13).
Likewise, Peter calls us to gird up our minds and be sober and holy as we look forward to the revelation of Jesus (1 Peter 1:13-15).
9. Understanding of Current Events
The Bible contains detailed prophecies about the end times we are living in, and there is just no way to fully understand much of what is happening today apart from those prophecies. Three characteristics of our day and time immediately come to mind: the intensifying decay of society, the growing apostasy in the church, and the escalating crisis in the Middle East.
All three of these situations are prophesied in detail in the Bible. We are told that society will become as violent and immoral as it was in the days of Noah (Matthew 24:37-39); that the church will be assaulted with “doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1); and that all the nations of the world will come against Israel over the issue of who will control Jerusalem (Zechariah 12:2-3).
10. Signs of the Seasons
One of the most exciting reasons for studying Bible prophecy is that it provides very definite signs that we are to watch for which will signify the season of the Lord’s return. It is true that we cannot know the date, but the Bible makes it clear that we can know the season if we are aware of the signs that we are to look for.
The apostle Paul made this point in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6 when he wrote:
“Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.
But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all ons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.”
According to this passage, Jesus is coming like “a thief in the night” for the world, but those of us who are “sons of light” — that is, those of us who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit— we should not be surprised when the Lord returns because God’s Word gives us signs to watch for.
Paul made the same point again in Hebrews 10:25 where he admonished believers to not forsake the assembling of the saints, especially “as you see the day drawing near.” What day? He defines it in verse 27 as the day of judgment. So, Paul is making the point here that there are signs we can watch for that will clearly identify the fact that we are living in the season of the Lord’s return.
Jesus made the same point in His Olivet Discourse as recorded in Matthew 24.
After specifying many end time signs, He said, “when you see all these things, recognize that He [Jesus] is near, right at the door” (Matthew 24:33).
11. Strengthens Faith
The metal image in Daniel 2 is an incredible prophecy. It outlines the kingdoms of the world in perfect order: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, the divided Roman Empire, and ultimately the Lord’s coming. To date, it has happened exactly as God said it would.
It is simply not possible for a person, in their own power, to predict which nations of the world are going to rule over others, especially hundreds of years from now. We might suggest that Daniel wasn’t pressed too hard when he mentioned Medo-Persia as the next global empire. Everyone could see it was a rising power in those times. But Greece was just a country of warring tribes, and the Romans were nothing more than a virtual village.
It must have been a ridiculous notion to even Daniel, who was faithful enough to report it nonetheless. And yet it came true, even down to the important details, such as each one lasting successively longer than the one before and the divisions of the Roman Empire.
How does that make you feel about God and His Word? It strengthens your faith. It certainly gives me courage! It suggests that other Bible prophecies can be trusted, and that God’s Word does not fail.
[Jesus said,] “Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he” (John 13:19). In short, Jesus gives prophecies so that you will believe in Him. We have something to cling to so that our faith will remain strong even as tribulation comes.
12. Prevents Deception
“And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matthew 24:4- 5).
Jesus” warning tells us that another purpose for prophecy is to protect us from deception. In Matthew 24, Christ speaks about the signs of His coming and the end of the world in an effort to keep us from following those who contradict His Word and His law in the last days. Just a few verses later, He adds, “Many false prophets will rise and deceive.”
This prophecy has certainly come true: Many have come claiming to be Christ or say they come in His name while using that platform to deceive and exploit. Sadly, this is one reason that so many are suspicious, unbelieving, or jaded about prophecy. Yet Jesus said it would happen like this exactly, so those who decry Bible prophecy don’t really have an excuse if they’re ultimately deceived by the devil.
“Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:25-27).
Jesus predicted that we will all face great deceptions in the end, such as attempts to impersonate His coming. He doesn’t want us to be deceived, following smooth-talking preachers or lying spirits.
It is important to note that Jesus is not implying there will be no need for prophecy or prophets in the last days. On the contrary! He is saying that we need to watch out for false prophets because there will also be genuine prophets. Otherwise, Jesus would have simply warned us to beware of any prophet.