"For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man:
but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit"
2 Peter 1:21
We find in the Bible the most confident assertions about the future; not just one, nor a mere half-dozen, but hundreds of prophecies. We find prophecies concerning individuals, concerning powerful nations and weak nations, some of which had, at that time, no existence. There are long-term and short-term prophecies; prophecies of things to come, the like of which had never happened before; of extraordinary experiences which nations would have, experiences without parallel and contrary to all natural expectation. We find all this in the Bible. We discover that without a single exception none of the prophecies has been falsified. What are we to make of this? Could unaided men perform such a feat? They could not. There can be only one conclusion: the men who wrote the Bible received direction from on high.
PROPHECY GONE WRONG
People cling to myths like going to heaven when they die because they do not have a basic understanding of Bible prophecy. Their belief about the future is totally wrong. Their faith is absolutely misplaced. But people have been talking about the return of Christ, the resurrection and the kingdom for centuries with no result. Is that myth too? Isn't it simpler just to believe you go to heaven when you die?
We may be sitting at home, happy with our simple fundamentals. But buildings collapse in New York, our 'super' is worth half it was, our retirement investments have shrunk, we may have to look further ahead to get on a plane, petrol may be rationed, foods are contaminated unknowingly. The world has changed. Certainty is gone. What's happening? When will it end? Will Jesus come soon? What do we tell our terrified children? This 'NOW' is not so fundamental. We must now get REALLY INTERESTED in some detail of Bible prophecy!
WHY ARE THERE PROPHECIES?
What will the kingdom be like? Eternal sunshine? Under vines and figtrees? Grapes and bananas? Mountains flowing with wine fountains and rivers of grain? Lion pussy cats? Laughter and happiness? A thousand years of absolute harmony? Is that all? Certainly not! All that plus.
Would it shock you to know that there are tasks to be performed? Cities to be ruled. Lessons to be taught. Battles to be waged. Drought. Plague. Evil empires to be overthrown. Rebellions to be put down. It is all in the Bible prophecies, but it is more than just the fundamentals! You have to be interested to find out.
God did not put them there just to fill up the space, to be discounted, or to be set aside. They have a number of important roles. Some of these are:
- TO OUTLINE THE FUTURE FOR ANY GENERATION FROM ABRAHAM. It is simply not true, as many who should know better say, that prophecy is not given to foretell the future. That is an excuse by those who are frustrated in not being able to unravel all prophecy. We don't know it all but what do you think this means? "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants - things which must shortly take place" (Revelation 1v1). Eighty generations have been able to pinpoint their time in history and look ahead to what was (or is) coming because of this prophecy of The Revelation. Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar did it before then, for twenty four generations, who, if they were diligent, knew what kingdoms were coming. Don't let anyone tell you that prophecy is not for the purpose, among other things, of telling the future.
- TO DEMONSTRATE THE FOREKNOWLEDGE OF GOD by showing that events were foretold and then accurately fulfilled. By this means, God demonstrates his absolute power and control over everything and, because of this, we may confidently place our trust in God and in Bible prophecy.
- TO BE SENSIBLY INTERPRETED; not misused, abused, altered, distorted by preconceived ideas. There are many examples of prophecies deliberately being taken out of context because they pointed to uncomfortable conclusions, e.g. "the man of sin" passage in 2 Thessalonians 2 (the Catholic system), the antichrist 1 & 2 John (the trinity). Even many capable Bible prophecy students do not recognise the 1948 division of Jerusalem in Zechariah 14v1-2 because it was not performed by Gog, and they look for another future Gogian division! Very likely they will look in vain.
WHO HAS THE POWER OF PROPHECY?
Does the Bible claim that the power of prophecy belongs only to God and is a proof of His authority?
To this there is a decisive answer in the prophecy of Isaiah. In the 41st chapter God challenges the idols and the idol worshippers of the day to prove that they possess divine powers. This is how He does it:
Produce your cause, saith the Lord; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob, Let them (the idols) bring them, (the reasons) forth, and declare unto us what shall happen: declare ye the former things, what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; and shew us things to come ... (:21-22,R.V.)
The basis of this challenge is clear: the pagan worshippers claim that their idols are gods. Very well; let them produce the proofs. And the proofs demanded by God Himself are that the idols shall announce future events, and also declare "the former things", that is, explain how creation took place in the beginning. The point is made crystal clear in the next verse:
"Declare the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods..." (:23).
Here God Himself is asserting that to be able to foretell the future would be a proof of Divine power. More than once in this part of Isaiah's prophecy, God declares that He is the only one who has this power, for only He is God; there is no other:
"Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me..." (46:9)
The God of Israel is here declaring that there is no other worthy object of worship but Himself; and goes on to assert the signs of His power in these terms:
" ...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" (46:10).
Come to think of it, whoever would dare to say, "My counsel shall stand..." - except God? What man is there in the whole world who could say any such thing? To carry it out needs someone who not only knows future events before they happen, but has the power to see that they take place as He has decreed. In other words, to utter prophecy which will inevitably come true, you need God. No other cause can explain it.
The New Testament makes the same claim. When Jesus was about to leave his disciples, he promised them the help of the Holy Spirit in their task of preaching the Gospel in the world. One of the effects of this gift was to be: "He shall declare unto you the things that are to come" (John 16:13); in other words, the disciples were to be given a knowledge of future events. It is certainly implied that without the special gift they could not have done this. Their ability to declare the future was to be an evidence of the Divine power they had been granted.
Again, in the last book of the Bible, chapter 1, verse 1, it is declared that God gave to Jesus Christ a revelation, "to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly come to pass..." (Revelation 1:1) . The knowledge of the future came from God through Jesus; without that revelation, His servants could have known nothing of it.
The conclusion is clear: the Bible says quite definitely that the power to foretell the future belongs to God alone.
DOES THE BIBLE FORETELL THE FUTURE?
Well, we have only to examine history and our own experience to realise that men of themselves have no knowledge at all of the future. Why, we do not even know what will happen to us tonight, or tomorrow on our way to work, let alone next year; or of what will happen to the world in l00 years, to say nothing of in 2000 years! If men had the slightest knowledge of the future, how many decisions would have been different! How many accidents would have been avoided! How many disasters would never have been allowed to take place! How many wars would never have been started! The experience of our own lives and of the history of men both convince us that mankind has no sure knowledge at all of what is yet to be.
But suppose the future has been foretold, not once, but many times? And always in the same book, the Bible, and in no other book in the world? Ought not that to make us sit up and take notice? That is why we say that the prophecies of the Bible are most important; they deserve to be carefully examined, for a great deal depends on them. They are a striking sign that there exists in the world a Power greater than mankind.