Introduction: I will be doing a series this December I am calling ‘Tis the Season’.
I begin with ‘Tis the Season to Understand / Appreciate prophecy’.
What is prophecy?
A prophecy is a message inspired by God, a divine revelation. The Bible says that prophets “spoke from God as they were moved by holy spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20, 21) So a prophet is one who receives God’s message and transmits it to others.—Acts 3:18.
In the Bible we find:
- Prophetic Books
- Prophetic Gifts
- Prophetic Words
Question? Do I / Does the Assemblies of God believe that the church today should have prophets who function like the Old Testament prophets? What is the Assemblies of God position on ministers/prophets who give personal prophecies concerning future events and directions for a person’s life?
- The Assemblies of God believes wholeheartedly in the contemporary prophetic ministry. We have some reservations, however, about current emphases that seem to go beyond the biblical description and guidelines for prophets and prophecies.
The Bible characterizes the prophet as a spokesperson for God. One meaning of the Hebrew word nabi, translated prophet, is “one called to speak.” Peter tells us that such speaking was prompted, empowered, and guided by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20,21).
A survey of the Old Testament shows that prophets were “servants” of God, calling His people to covenant faithfulness through obedience to the Law and to repentance in the event of sinning (cf., Isaiah 58:6-9; Ezekiel 18; Micah 6:6-8; Hosea 6:6; Amos 2:4; 5:21-24). The messages of Old Testament prophets were more often “forth-telling” rather than “foretelling.”
- (Taken from https://ag.org/Beliefs/Topics-Index/Prophets-and-Personal-Prophecies)
Transition: The Association for Biblical Research states that there are 400 Prophecies, appearances, or foreshadowing of Christ in the Old Testament.
But the LORD will still give you proof.
(1) A virgin will give birth, and he will be called Immanuel (God with us)
Prophecy: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
Fulfillment: “The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
A child is born to us!
A son is given to us!
And he will be our ruler.
He will be called, “Wonderful Counselor,”
“Mighty God,” “Eternal Father,”
“Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
(2) The Christ will be born in Bethlehem
Prophecy: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2).
Fulfillment: “When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘for this is what the prophet has written:
(3) The Messiah will end up in Egypt
Prophecy: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son” (Hosea 11:1).
Fulfillment: “So he [Joseph] got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son'” (Matthew 2:14–15).
These are just some of the prophecies concerning Jesus’ birth.
There are many others concerning his ministry; his death and resurrection and Jesus’ role in the church.
Is prophecy important? Between a fourth and a third of the Bible is prophecy. Some of its longest books, such as Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, are prophetic. Many of its 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.
And of course, the Bible ends with the book of Revelation, a series of prophetic visions describing the period from the early Church up through Jesus Christ’s return and beyond.
Transition: So it’s clear that prophecy is important to God.
But why? Why is prophecy important to Him? And why should it be important to us? Scripture reveals a number of key purposes for prophecy, so let’s be sure we understand them!
- (Adopted from Scott Ashley – https://www.ucg.org/the-good-news/gods-purpose-for-prophecy)
- Prophecy reveals who and what God is.
Another way to express this would be to say that prophecy reveals God’s greatness and power—power such that He is able to reveal the future.
The Bible begins with a testament to God’s awesome creative power: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). The verses that follow describe how He set the heavenly bodies in order, separated land from ocean, populated the planet with plants, birds and sea and land creatures—His creative acts then culminating with the first human beings, Adam and Eve.
Many other biblical passages describe God’s power, glory and majesty.
In Isaiah 42, He connects His creative power with His ability to reveal the future long before it comes to pass:
“This is what God the Lord says—the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: ‘… I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols. See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you’ ” (Isaiah 42:5, Isaiah 42:8-9, New International Version, emphasis added throughout).
No one or nothing can compare to God in his might and majesty. No other can speak and bring galaxies, stars and worlds into existence! No other can create living beings from nothing! And no other can declare what will happen before it takes place!
- Prophecy reveals that God exists and that the Bible is His revealed Word.
Throughout the centuries, men and women can and have denied the reality of God, preferring to believe that He doesn’t exist. This is nothing new. In the first century the apostle 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).
Today, however, people elevate denial of God to an art form—particularly in their efforts to explain away scientific evidence, such as the unbelievable complexity of DNA and the fine-tuning of the universe and our planet for the existence of life.
So how do they deal with Bible prophecy? Here, too, critics sidestep the plain evidence and offer all kinds of convoluted reasoning to explain it away.
But God offers this challenge to any who would doubt Him:
“This is what the Lord says—Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God. Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and lay out before me what has happened since I established my ancient people, and what is yet to come—yes, let him foretell what will come . . . Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me?” (Isaiah 44:6-8, NIV).
God is so sure of what He foretells that He has put it in writing well ahead of time where it can be easily disproven if it doesn’t come to pass. Yet time and time again, what He has written has taken place just as He foretold.
The Bible is unlike any other religious “holy book” in many respects, but one enormous difference is that the Bible alone contains hundreds of prophecies that have been fulfilled just as they were recorded years ahead of time—and with hundreds more waiting to be fulfilled.
In Ezekiel 33:33 God tells us why He revealed the future to His servants and told them to write it down: “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 plainly that no one or no thing can remotely approach His power, using prophecy as an example:
“Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come” (NIV). He ends this statement saying, “My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please” (NIV) .
Clearly, only God can do this.
It’s conceivable that some human beings with the latest and most powerful supercomputers—or with lucky guesses!—might make some accurate predictions about the future (though we have enough difficulty just predicting the weather a few days from now!). But how could they possibly approach God’s record?
The biblical prophet Daniel, who served under the rulers of Babylon and the Medo-Persian Empire, said that God “removes kings and raises up kings” and “reveals deep and secret things” (Daniel 2:21-22).
- Prophecy reveals the consequences of obedience and disobedience.
A theme found again and again in Bible prophecy is that choices and actions have consequences.
Application: 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’re commonly known to Bible students as the “blessings and curses” chapters. They’re called that because they describe in considerable detail what happens when a nation chooses to obey and honor God (blessings) and what results when a nation turns its back and disobeys Him.
“Now it shall come to pass,” begins Deuteronomy 28:1-2, “if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God …”
The chapter goes on to describe blessings of agricultural and other material abundance, good health, national respect and prestige, victory in conflict, divine protection, good weather, national wealth and more.
“But it shall come to pass,” the chapter’s warning begins Deuteronomy 28:15, “if you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you …”
- Prophecy reveals God’s will—that He wants all to receive His gift of salvation.
There’s no question that much of Bible prophecy is grim and at times frightening. It’s a sobering subject for the reasons described above—God wants us to understand the painful consequences that will follow from choosing the wrong way and the blessings that come from obeying Him. Just as a wise parent warns his children of the pain that will result from disobedience, so does God warn us as His children.
God doesn’t want any of us to suffer. In one of the Bible’s great books of prophecy, Ezekiel, He says: “Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’” (Ezekiel 33:11).
But the prophecies of the Bible almost always end with hope and good news. This is because, as 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 here below—a 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 marvelous 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). Don’t spiritualize this away—He means it literally!
“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).
- 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— to turn from our own evil ways and to wholeheartedly follow God. 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” (NIV).
We see this in the remarkable story of the prophet Jonah, whom God sent to the Assyrian capital city of Nineveh to tell them of their judgment and impending doom for their wickedness. But Jonah detested the Ninevites for their cruelty to his people, the Israelites, and refused to go—fleeing instead in the other direction. You probably remember what happens next—God had Jonah swallowed by a great fish and three days later spewed out on land, which changed his mind. This time he went as he’d been told to.
He delivered his message, and much to his chagrin the Ninevites believed God and repented. They fasted, put on sackcloth (a sign of mourning), and even had their animals and cattle wear sackcloth and go without food and water. As a result, “God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it” (Jonah 3:10).
Sadly, despite God sending prophets to warn various peoples of impending destruction, the bloody and evil Ninevites were among the very few who did repent. Perhaps they had grown so evil that they finally realized something was deeply wrong.
Conclusion: All prophecy is ultimately a message of hope. We have God’s assurance that He is in perfect control, that He is a God of love (1 John 4:8, 1 John 4:16), that His desire is for us to turn to Him in heartfelt repentance and turn our lives over to Him. If and when we do so, He promises to bless and care for us, intent on fulfilling His purpose for us.
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.”
God shows us in His Word His vital purposes for prophecy. More than anything, He gives us prophecy to help us understand who and what He is andhow much we need Him.
He’s ready, willing and able to answer us when we call out to Him. Now He’s waiting for you to take that step!