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What the Bible Teaches--A Guide to Total Christian Commitment
by Rev. James McRobbie    ©Pillar of Fire, International 
"The purpose of prophecy is to reveal Christ as the Savior of mankind."
Learn more about the power of the Holy Spirit for personal holiness through Sanctification

[Bottom of page] [The Living Word] [Back: Chapter 15] [Next: Chapter 17] [Index]
Chapter 16 Contents: [Some Vocabulary Terms] [New Testament Prophecies] [The Messianic Prophecies] [Prophecies Relating to Israel] [Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem] [Various Other Prophecies]

 [What the Bible Teaches refers to numerous passages from the Bible. Your study will be greatly
enhanced by looking up the verses as you go along. If you want to look up Bible verses online as you study, clicking here will open up "The Bible Gateway" in a new window. You may then use the title buttons on your browser screen to move back and forth between the Bible and this study. All quotations in What the Bible Teaches are from the King James Version [KJV] unless otherwise specified.]

Chapter 16: What the Bible Teaches ABOUT PROPHECY

God is omniscient. He knows the end from the beginning; it is to be expected, therefore, that His Word should disclose in accurate detail what is still in the future, as much as what is present and what is in the past. Because of what has already been fulfilled, proving the Scriptures to be the Oracle of God, we can be assured that what is yet in the future and all that relates to the eternal destiny of the soul, will be according to God's holy Word -- the "more sure word of prophecy," whereunto we do well to "take heed," for it is as a "light that shineth in a dark place." Now that we are approaching the "rapids of time," when we shall doubtless see great political and spiritual changes and the fulfillment of prophecy relating to the "last days," we should give special heed to the study and instruction of the prophetic Word.

Some Vocabulary Terms

Prophecy is history pre-written. The word that is generally used for "prophet" in the Old Testament signifies one who speaks as the accredited messenger of the Almighty. The term does not necessarily imply telling beforehand. In Isaiah 30:10 the word prophet means "seer," and refers to one who sees visions. The word "prophet" in the Septuagint and in the New Testament is the Greek prophetes (from which our English word is taken), and does not signify so much, he who foretells, as he "who speaks forth." The Greek word for prophecy, propheteta, has a relative meaning.

It is certainly not in man to foretell or forthtell what is to come. Peter plainly states that prophecy came not by the will of man, and further, that "no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation, meaning that it did not come of man's own ideas or through his spirituality or wisdom. The word, "interpretation," used here, does not relate to the fulfillment of prophecy, but to its origin. Turn to the Weymouth: "Remember that no prophecy in scripture will be found to have come from the prophet's own words, but who spake as they were moved ["impelled" W.], by the Holy Ghost" (2 Peter 1:20-21).

Can it be that divinely inspired prophecies "shall fail" [ 1 Cor. 13:8)? Unlike "love" they are not to "abide," for when they have been fulfilled they "will he done away with" (W.); they will have become history and will cease to be prophecy.

Prophecy is only "in part." It is temporary -- it is to instruct, to comfort, to guide, to warn. When we reach heaven, we will not require prophetical instruction, for then we shall know even as we are known, and that which is "in part" shall then he "done away."

New Testament prophesying is preaching, telling of future bliss, of things soon to come, of the consequences of sin, of a Savior's pardon; yet all of this is for our "edification, and exhortation, and comfort."

The Bible gives credit to prophetesses as well as prophets. It is not difficult to recall the Old Testament prophetess who "dwelt under the palm tree," and of whom it is said: "The children of Israel came up to her for judgment." Philip had four daughters who exercised their rights with men as New Testament preachers of the gospel (Acts 21:9). St. Paul reveals no favoritism and makes no differentiation in I Corinthians 11. He says: "Every man praying or prophesying," and, "Every woman that prayeth or prophesieth" (v. 4, 5). Hannah's song (1 Samuel 2:1-10) and Mary's "magnificat" (Luke 1:46-55), are in all respects as profound, rhetorical [satisfying the rules of rhetoric --ed.] and spiritual as any in the Word of God.
 

New Testament Prophecies

The New Testament as well as the Old abounds in prophetical utterances. Our Lord's statement that there has not appeared a greater prophet than John the Baptist was relative, having reference to his proclamation of Christ Himself -- telling out the good news of the kingdom and unveiling the panorama of the future. On that notable Palm Sunday morning when He wept over Jerusalem He predicted its desolation: "Your house is left unto you desolate." This was fulfilled with the razing of the city by the Romans. But His classical prophetic utterances are in His Mount Olivet discourse (Matt. 24, 25; Mark 13). Here again He referred to the sacking of the city. He said: "The days will come in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another." In Matthew 24 He told of world evangelism, the coming of false Christs and false prophets, wars, pestilence, earthquakes, famine, the great tribulation, the sign of His own second coming, and the moral and spiritual conditions that are to exist just preceding His coming.

St. Paul's prophecies in the two Thessalonian epistles deal chiefly with Christ's return. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 is the classical scripture on the Rapture, in conjunction with which there are some verses in 1 Corinthians 15. His other prophecies describe the "last days" (2 Tim. 3:1-5; etc.).

Jude quoted Enoch's prophecy (Jude 14-15), one of the most significant statements in the Bible on the second coming and conditions in relation to it. Peter's prediction of the last days states that there are to arise scoffers "walking after their own lusts" and questioning the coming of the Lord (2 Peter 3:3-9). James foretells of rich men who will have "heaped treasure together" in the last days, which he associates with the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (James 5:1-8).

The great prophetic book of the New Testament is, of course, St. John's Apocalypse [also known as the book of Revelation in the Bible --ed.]. The major part of this prophecy (ch. 6-19), has to do with the downfall and judgment of the Gentile nations and the wresting of the world from Satanic domination. It contains a series of twenty-one intensifying judgments -- seven seals, seven trumpets, seven vials. These catastrophic happenings culminate in the overthrow of Babylon -- organized, confederated, false religions. It tells of the marriage of the Lamb, the binding of Satan, the revelation of the King of kings, the millennial reign of Christ upon the earth, the resurrections, the final judgment, and the eternal state, the central theme of which is the New Jerusalem coming down to the earth.

The purpose of prophecy, as indeed the uniform message of the Bible, is to reveal Christ as the Savior of mankind. However much we may revel in the prophetic Word with all its unfolding vistas of future events, yet if we are unpardoned it will only add to our damnation. The great theme of the Bible is man's salvation, and of this, Peter says that the salvation of the soul is the end of faith, and shows how paramount it was with the prophets: "Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow" (1 Peter 1:10-11).
 

The Messianic Prophecies

There are said to be about three hundred and thirty-three Old Testament prophecies centering in Christ -- relating both to His coming in humiliation and to His coming in glory. The Jews did not know how to reconcile the two classes of prophecies. Some of them thought that two Messiahs would appear -- one to suffer and one to reign.

The first promise of Christ in the Old Testament is not difficult to remember: Genesis 3:15. It pertains to the seed of Eve, "her seed," which had its fulfillment in Galatians 4:4. When John the Baptist appeared on the banks of the Jordan his preaching startled the thoughtful students of scripture among the Jews. They wondered if he would claim to be the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 18:15. They said, "Art thou that prophet?" This referred to that great prediction given by Moses: "The Lord thy God shall raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken."

When the Wise Men came to Jerusalem inquiring about the birth of Jesus, it was ascertained that He would be born in Bethlehem of Judea. How did their informants know? They turned to the famous prophecy of Micah 5:2, which predicted the place of His birth. The prophecy further states that He is yet to be "ruler in Israel," which cannot fail even though not yet fulfilled. The same prophecy also tells that this coming One is none other than the eternal Son of God: "Whose goings forth have been from of old, from the days of eternity" (marg.).

The book of Isaiah so abounds with descriptions of Christ, both in His humiliation and in His glory, that Isaiah has been unanimously accorded the title of Messianic prophet. He foretold how Christ would be born of a "virgin" (7:14), how He would be "a child" (9:6), and yet the "everlasting Father," the "Prince of Peace;" and that this righteous One would reign in peace on the "throne of David" -- an earthly throne. The masterpiece of all Isaiah's sublimity of Messianic description is his unparalleled portrayal of the suffering Son of man -- chapter 53.

Chapter 11 should be remembered and should be coupled with chapter 35, for both tell of the magnificence and universality of Christ's earthly reign.

When Jesus came to Nazareth after the temptation, He went to the synagogue and opened to Isaiah 61. Do you remember the verses? They are worth memorizing. He "closed the book," purposely in the middle of a sentence, one part of which referred to the "year of the Lord," the period of grace and salvation; the other to the "day of vengeance of our God," the harvest of the earth at the close of this age.

The prophecy of the judgment of the wicked nations at Messiah's second coming (63:1-4) is sanguinely colored, and corresponds to Revelation 14:18-20, the fulfillment of which is yet in the future and which evidently will bear a parallel with the other prediction: "Such as never was since there was a nation."

These I have referred to are the outstanding prophecies only. We should have all of them at our tongue's end. Go over the references and see if you can think of the substance matter: 7:14, 9:6-7; 11; 35; 53; 61:1-2; 63:1-4.

In considering the Messianic prophecies we cannot fail to include Balaam's lofty predictment [sic]. Most of his prophecies relate to Israel, but the last one points clearly to Israel's Messiah: "There shall come a star out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel, . . .  Out of Jacob shall come him that shall have dominion." Do you remember where the Balaam chapters are found? (Numbers 22-24.)

Prophecies Relating to Israel

One of the great prophetic chapters relating to the nation of Israel is Leviticus 26. It corresponds in a measure with Deuteronomy 28. Both of these chapters delineate the blessings promised to the Israelites if they would walk carefully in the statutes of God and keep His commandments. They also include the curses that would come upon them if disobedient. Now we know that Israel sadly failed to obey God and we find that all that was predicted has come to pass exactly as divinely inspired Moses said it would. Glance over some of the things that are specified in Leviticus 26: "I will punish you seven times" (vs. 18, 21, 24, 28). Take the days of seven years and multiply them and count from the Babylonian captivity and see how long they are to be punished. "I will bring a sword upon you;" I will send the pestilence among you;" I will destroy your high places;" "I will make your cities waste;" "I will bring the land to desolation;" "I  will scatter you among the heathen," etc. Then comes the gracious promise, so like Him whose compassions fail not. "If then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity: Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob," etc. (Lev. 26:41-42). His dealings with them are tenderly seen to be in chastisement: "When they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly and to break my covenant with them: for I am the Lord their God" (v. 44). Some of these prophecies we regret to think are being fulfilled now, for the Jews are being severely maltreated in many places, but just as surely as these have literally come to pass there is the hopeful encouragement given to God's covenant people in hundreds of verses telling of a glorious restoration and of peace and safety.

The book of Jeremiah abounds with restoration promises, all of which will literally come to pass. We should be thoroughly familiar with most of them. Jeremiah 16:14-15 and 23:7-8 are outstanding; both of which are nearly word for word: "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be said, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them againinto their own land that I gave unto their fathers." Here, too, is 16:16 which is the promise of the "fishers," and "hunters."

Jeremiah tells of the time of Jacob's trouble (30: 7). Look at it: ."Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it; it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it." It points to a time of concentrated and malicious persecution yet in the future. (See Zech. 13:9.) Verses 11 and 16 tell us what the outcome of their enemies is to be. Read them over.

"He that scattereth Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd doth his flock" [31:1O]. In this same chapter we have the announcement of the "new covenant" that God will make with the Hebrew people, when He will write His law in "their inward parts, and write it in their hearts" (v. 33). That will be in the day of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as predicted by Joel. The word of 33:14-21 should bring heart to Israel for it will yet come to pass.

The conspicuous Ezekiel chapter that speaks of future restoration and blessing for the people of the "wandering foot," and the "ever-weeping eye," is presented in simile as a resurrection of dry bones. "These bones," said the prophet, "are the whole house of Israel" (ch. 37). Verses 21 to 28 of this chapter are certainly most assuring and comforting for the future of Israel.

In the 15th of Acts, James, addressing the church leaders at Jerusalem, said, "To this agree the words of the prophet; as it is written" (v. 15). The prophet referred to was Amos [9:11]. These last verses of Amos are very good. For instance, verse 15, "And I will plant them upon their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God."

There are many precious and oft-quoted restoration verses in Zechariah. Verse 10, chapter 12, tells of the spirit of grace and supplication being poured out upon Israel. In 13:1 is the assurance that "there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David," and in verses 8 and 9 we see a great refining period coming to Israel in which two-thirds shall be cut off. Nevertheless, in 14:3 is the gratifying announcement that the Lord shall go forth "and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle." Then 14:4 is a verse often referred to: "And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east."

The last two verses of the Old Testament give assurance that, preceding the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord, Elijah, the prophet, will reappear. He will be a forerunner of the second coming of Christ, a herald, calling Israel to repentance such as John the Baptist did in relation to our Lord's first coming. (See Rev. 11:5-6; Luke 1:17.) There are three important New Testament chapters that relate to Israel's future (Rom. 9, 10, 11). Here is Paul's word, equally as conclusive as any in the Old Testament, telling us that "blindness in part" has happened to Israel, but only for a limited period, namely, untilthe "fulness of the Gentiles be come in" (11:25). He then tells of a happy day of spiritual restoration for the Jews, when there shall "come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob" (11:26). [For more about Israel, see our Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem page.]

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Various Other Prophecies

Speed of locomotion was unknown until recent years, yet the Bible makes numerous references to rapidity of transit in vehicles which could only be vaguely described. The "chariot" was a war instrument. "In the day of his preparation," says Nahum (2:3-4), the "chariots shall flash with fire of steel" (marg. R.V.). The modern fire-throwing tank perfectly answers Nahum's prediction. They shall rage in the streets, they shall "run like lightnings." This unique prediction proves the Bible to be a divinely inspired book, for men do not write things that way.

There are verses in Isaiah that show how the prophet names a king of Persia a hundred years before he was born. The prediction told the words he was to utter which only a divine revelation could do: "That saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited; and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built, . . .  and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid" (Isa. 44:26, 28).

What beside the inspired Word of God could accurately foretell the doom of a flourishing city? Yet, turn to Isaiah 13:19-21. Read these verses carefully and remember what Babylon was -- a city sixty miles in circumference, with walls eighty-seven feet thick and three hundred and fifty foot high. It contained the temple of Belus, which was the most wonderful structure the world had ever known, and also had hanging gardens of the most imposing order. Yet all this magnitude and magnificence of architecture has utterly passed away. One writer says, "A silence profound as the grave reigns throughout the ruins. Babylon is now a silent scene -- a sublime solitude."

Speaking of ancient Tyre, God said through His prophet Ezekiel, "And they shall destroy the walls of Tyrus, and break down her towers: I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her like the top of a rock" [26:4). What could be so absurd as this prediction? Yet travelers have verified its exact fulfillment.

One of the most interesting and profound prophetic books of the Bible is that written by Daniel -- "a man greatly beloved." To him, however, it was said, "Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end." [12:9). The book of Daniel deals with the time of the Gentiles and the "time of the end," especially in relation to the future of Daniel's people and their land.

Conspicuous in the prophecies of Daniel are chapters 2 and 7 in which are outlined the course of world empire. In the great image of chapter 2 the "head of gold" is a representation of Nebuchadnezzar (v. 38). Next the Mede-Persian kingdom is likened to the shoulders of silver. The third is the Grecian empire of Alexander the Great which is compared to the trunk of brass. The fourth is the Roman, likened to the thighs, legs, feet, and toes. The fourth kingdom is followed by the kingdom of the Son of man. The stone that rolls down the mountainside and that demolishes the image represents Christ's universal millennial kingdom. In chapter 7 the same four kingdoms are pictured as four ravenous beasts. The last beast has ten horns comparable to the "ten toes" of the image.

A future important prophecy in Daniel is found in the ninth chapter (vs. 24-27), showing that "seventy weeks" are determined upon Daniel's people. The word "weeks" here really means "seven." Sixty-nine sevens, he says, is the measure of time from the "going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the prince" [v. 27). This gives the number of 483, and it has been shown that from the giving of the commandment to rebuild the city unto the day of Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem was exactly 483 years. The week remaining is a reference to the seven years in the end time when God will again deal with Israel.

In chapter 11:36-45 evidently the Antichrist is in view as a willful, militaristic self-deified king, but "he shall come to his end, and none shall help him."

All the accurate fulfillment of so many definite and striking prophetic predictions assures us that what still bears a future fulfillment will most certainly come to pass. The Bible tells of a wondrous redemption through Christ, of a heaven to gain, of a hell to shun, of a day of reward and of a day of judgment. Let us tremble before this divine book -- the "more sure word of prophecy" which shines as in a dark place -- even this world of sin. Let us

Take heed to its unerring precepts.

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