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What is prophecy and it's purpose in the Bible?

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What is prophecy and who are the Prophets?

Prophets were men and women in the Old and New Testaments chosen by God to tell His message to the people.

Prophecy is the message from God which he used these prophets to communicate to the people. Usually the prophets would do this through either speaking or writing to the people. Some of these prophecies revealed what God planned to do in the future.

Readers in the current day have a variety of reactions to passages about prophecy in the Bible. Some people read these passages and are completely fascinated by the information that is revealed there. Other people find these same passages puzzling and mysterious. Some people see the passages as a clear indication as to what will happen in the future, others are perplexed and can't work out the hidden message. Some say, why even bother trying to understand what the prophecy is all about. The answer is that prophecy is less worried about prediction of the future and more concerned about revelation. It is revealing something that God wants His people to know. It is revealing part of his plan for this earth.

The plan of God

God's plan for the world

Period Number of years [1]

4000 BC

Creation

0

A

N

T

E

D

I

L

U

V

I

A

N

2344 BC

The Flood

1,656

J

E

W

I

S

H

Christ born at about AD 0 (4,000 years after creation).

AD 70 4,070

G

E

N

T

I

L

E

Return of

Jesus Christ

6,000

M

I

L

L

E

N

N

I

U

M

Completion 7,000

To understand the purpose of prophecy at a more detailed level, we first need to understand the plan of God. When God created the world and all the occupants in it, he had a plan. There was a particular direction that he wanted the earth and it's occupants to head in and there was a end result that he required. His purpose or goal was to fill the earth with His glory.

But what is God's glory? In about 1450 BC, the Israelite leader, Moses, asked God if he could see the glory of God. God responded with these words:

"The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness" Exodus 34:6

So, glory means the character of God - it represents the very core of His being. The glory of God is revealed through His compassion, grace, patience, love and faithfulness to men and women. So the plan of God is to fill the earth with his character. He wants characteristics such as faithfulness, grace, patience and love to be throughout the whole earth. Men and women are the way for these characteristics to be fill the earth. God wants men and women to adopt these characteristics into their own character.  

Why does God use prophecy? 

In order to promote His purpose to fill the earth with His glory, God has chosen to reveal parts of that purpose through chosen men. The idea behind this is so that believers could be given hope and also so that His incomparable power to predict and control future events could be demonstrated.

The prophets are God's servants

The task of recording and publicising those parts of God's plans which He wished to make known was largely given to the prophets of Israel. But there were exceptions to this when sometimes kings and rulers were involved.

An insight into the role of the prophet was seen at the time of the prophet known as Amos. At that time the nation of Israel were not faithful towards God and, as a result, God had decided to judge them with possible punishment. So God wanted to forewarn them of what was coming in the future:

Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets. A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken! Who can but prophesy?   Amos 3:7-8 NKJV 

The word "secret" (from the Hebrew word sod) is elsewhere translated "counsel" or "plan". It refers to secret or confidential plans, which has been given or shared with a group of intimate friends. The Israelite, King David, was extremely happy that the secret of God were shown to him:  

The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him, and He will show them His covenant.   Psalm 25:14 

The secret, which God shares with His chosen people do not relate solely to the knowledge of future events for their own sake, but, much more importantly, the covenants of promise. The covenants of promise are the great plans which God has made so that men and women could develop their character to be like him and therefore fill the earth with His glory.

Prophecy - a warning to the wicked

Unfortunately, both now and throughout history there have been wicked men who have rebelled against the Creator. This type of behaviour demanded that acts of judgement be applied against them to provide due reward for their evil deeds.

Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”     Jude 14-15 

But at the same time, because of His grace and mercy, God has decided to give the intended recipients of those judgements ample warning so that they might have a opportunity to repent. Those who listen to the warning and act accordingly will be blessed with the knowledge of what he intends to do and so are given the means to escape the judgement. Yet when we look at history and today it can be seen that the opportunity has been and still is largely ignored. Some even despise the warning. 

Today these secret counsels (or prophecy) are very available for anyone to read. They warn and encourage us that the "great day of God almighty" draws near. 

Prophecy and faith 

There are many great men and women in the Bible who obeyed God. They all showed they had faith in that their actions were firmly based upon a belief in what God had revealed about the future. Through their faith, they delivered themselves from impending judgements, received the forgiveness of their sins and managed to secure a place in the future

God warned Noah of a coming flood, so Noah built a ark (boat) to save himself and his family.

kingdom promised by God. For example, consider the case of Noah where God had warned him of a great worldwide flood. He was told to build the ark (boat) to save himself and his family.

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; ....and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.         Hebrews 11:7

The remarkable action of this follower of God was based entirely upon the "secret counsels" (prophecy) of God which had been given to him before the great flood. Despite all of the appearances to the contrary, he believed implicitly in what God had revealed of the future.  

There were many men and women who

believe that there is a future kingdom of God to be set up on this earth. This was a kingdom that had been promised from the very beginning. 

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them....       Hebrews 11:13 

Many men and women of faith, through prophecy, have been told of this future kingdom and through faith they believed that it would definitely take place. 

Current day believers also need to live their lives in such a way that they trust that their future is secure in the hands of God. 

Prophecy and the friends of God 

When you consider prophecy you get a overwhelming feeling of the sense of intimacy which God attaches to it. This intimacy comes from God's desire that His followers be acquainted with the hidden things which he intends to perform in the future.  

An example of this relates to the man called Abraham who is described in the Bible as "the Friend of God". The Bible tells us that the people living in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were exceedingly wicked. As a result, God decided to destroy both cities and kill all of the

Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens.       Genesis 19:24

wicked occupants. He did this by raining fire and brimstone on the cities. When we look at the record in the Bible of God's preparations for the mighty overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah we get a moving insight into the extent to which the Lord of the Universe is prepared to condescend to man: 

And the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing,..... For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.”    Genesis 18:17,19

And so we find that God was pleased to reveal to Abraham, His intention to bring destruction upon the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. So here is a prophecy of the impending judgement upon the men of wickedness and how God shared this information with His friend, Abraham.

Prophecy and us

If we listen to the words of the Bible with a open-heart and believe the Word of God then we will be granted the great privilege of being given understanding of the "mysteries" contained in the prophecies. In other words, we will learn of the glories of the Kingdom of God to come.

The apostle Paul reminds us that, in the grace of God, it was,      

 by revelation He made known to me the mystery

and that others had also come to share in his knowledge 

which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel,  Ephesians 3:3-6

So God has revealed the "secret" of his purpose for this earth to those who truly love Him. He has done this through prophecy in the Bible. He has revealed His plan and what will happen as this earth moves towards that glorious kingdom that he has planned for this earth. Believers have been supremely honoured to shared with Him so much knowledge of His plan. And this should encourage those who believe to respond with faithful lives. It is in this way that believers may ultimately share in His glory; for....

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.  Deuteronomy 29:29

Footnotes

1

The number of years are approximate as no man knows exactly when Christ will return.

 

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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 April 2013