Between a fourth and a third of the Bible is prophecy. Some of its longest books, such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel are prophetic. Other books, such as Genesis, Psalms and Paul’s epistles, also contain important prophecies.
One of Jesus Christ’s longest recorded discourses, found in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21, is an extensive prophecy given shortly before He was crucified. At the end of the Bible we find the book of Revelation, a series of prophetic visions describing the period from the early Church up through Christ’s return and beyond.
Prophecy is thus important to God and Scripture reveals a number of key purposes thereof.
Prophecy reveals the greatness of God
Prophecy reveals God’s greatness and power to inform us of the future. In Isaiah 42, He connects His creative power with His ability to reveal the future long before it happens:
“Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, Who gives breath to the people on it, And spirit to those who walk on it: I am the LORD, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, Nor My praise to carved images. Behold, the former things have come to pass, And new things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them.” (Isaiah 42:5, 8-9).
Prophecy can be viewed as God exercising His creative power in the dimension of time, by foretelling the future and then bringing it to pass when, where and how, according to His will.
Prophecy gives evidence that God exists and that the Bible is His revealed Word
Throughout the centuries, people denied the reality of God, preferring to believe that He does not exist. In the first century Paul wrote that people “did not like to retain God in their knowledge,” since accepting His existence interfered with acting out their selfish and evil desires (Romans 1:28-32).
But God offers this challenge to any who would doubt Him:
“Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God. And who can proclaim as I do? Then let him declare it and set it in order for Me, Since I appointed the ancient people. And the things that are coming and shall come, Let them show these to them. Do not fear, nor be afraid; Have I not told you from that time, and declared it? You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one.’” (Isaiah 44:6-8).
History itself is a witness that God foretold many events hundreds and thousands of years before they happened, then brought them to pass exactly as He said.
The Bible is unlike any other religious “holy book” as the Bible alone contains hundreds of prophecies that have been fulfilled just as they were recorded years ahead of time and with many more waiting to be fulfilled.
In Ezekiel 33:33 God tells us why He revealed the future to His servants: “And when this comes to pass—surely it will come— then they will know that a prophet has been among them.”
Prophecy shows that God is in ultimate control
Not only can God reveal the future well ahead of time, but He can also bring to pass what He has foretold. In Isaiah 46:9-10 He declares that no one or nothing else can remotely approach His power, using prophecy as an example:
“Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, 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,’”
The prophet Daniel said that God “removes kings and raises up kings” and “reveals deep and secret things” (Daniel 2:21-22). God is in complete and ultimate control according to His plans and purpose!
Prophecy reveals the consequences of obedience and disobedience
A theme found repeatedly in Bible prophecy is that choices and actions have consequences. One of the biggest mistakes individuals or nations can make is to assume they can act as they wish without those actions eventually catching up with them.
Paul summarized this very well in Galatians 6:7: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.”
Two long chapters of the Bible—Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28—spell this out clearly. They are commonly known to Bible students as the “blessings and curses” chapters. They describe in considerable detail what happens when a nation chooses to obey and honour God (blessings) and what results when a nation turns its back and disobeys Him.
Sadly, the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah failed to heed these warnings, and they stand as a stark example to nations such as the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and others who’ve been greatly blessed by God but now increasingly deny Him and trample His laws and Word underfoot. Their fate is likewise spelled out in prophecy if they refuse to turn from that treacherous path!
Prophecy reveals God’s will, that He wants all to receive His gift of salvation
Much of Bible prophecy is grim and at times even frightening. God wants us to understand the painful consequences that will follow from choosing the wrong way and the blessings that come from obeying Him. But the prophecies of the Bible almost always end with hope and good news. Paul told Timothy, God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
Prophecy reveals God’s plan for humanity
Bible prophecy reveals that God is working out an incredible plan for how He will bring us to salvation and eternal life in His divine family. Notice a few key prophetic statements from His Word that hint at the marvellous future awaiting those who surrender their lives to Him now:
“I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:18).
“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).
“Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6).
Prophecy should motivate us to repent and turn to God
In Jeremiah 25:4-5 we see Jeremiah himself summarizing the message of God’s prophets to His people: “The Lord has sent to you all His servants the prophets … They said, ‘Repent now everyone of his evil way and his evil doings …’”
We see that another of God’s purposes for prophecy is to urge humankind to repent. The apostle Peter, in 2 Peter 3:9, tells us: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”
The message of every prophet of the Bible is that if you turn your life around, if you listen to God and heed His warnings and change, you can avoid the terrible times prophesied to come on our world.
He tells us what we must do in Isaiah 55:6-7: “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,” (Titus 2:11-13)
Knowledge about God’s end-time program, as well as the expectation of the coming of Christ, are given as a strong incentive towards holy living and an unwavering commitment to Christ.
“Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (2 Peter 3:11-12).
THERE WILL BE A DAY …
For many centuries God was patient and long-suffering with humanity.
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering towards us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
But… THERE WILL COME A DAY … MOST UNEXPECTED, when God’s patience and long-suffering with an unbelieving and unrepentant human race will be over.
The Lord Jesus calls His disciples to live vigilant and prayerful lives: “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to ESCAPE all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21:36).
Of course, there are many mockers and scoffers out there. “knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” (2 Peter 3:3-7)
When warned that we are living in the latter days, they are also quick to point out that nobody knows the day or the hour. “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” (Matthew 24:36)
However, as Bible believing Christians, God gives us so many warning signs and prophecies, that it is not difficult to realize that we are in the season regarding the coming of Christ. Those who ignore prophecy, would be caught unexpectedly. “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3)