WHAT IS PROPHECY ?
Prophecy is the revelation of history by God before it occurs. He does want us to know many things about His purposes toward us, toward other peoples, and toward the universe. True prophecy is the prophecy that springs from the mind of God.
True prophecy affirms that God does foreknow events before they happen.
"Behold, the former things have come to pass - new things I declare unto you - before they spring forth, I tell you of them."
True prophecy shows us that God is omnipotent. He can declare things will someday occur, and the devil and all his forces cannot stop them from occurring.
"I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass."
"Prophecy" comes from two Greek words. "Pro" means "forth or before". "Phemi" means "to speak." Therefore "prophecy" is - to speak forth facts from God's mind. The prophets will often speak a "Thus saith the Lord..."
One third of the Bible is prophecy. This shows a great emphasis of God on revealing future facts to us. He knows many things we would like to know, and God seems to be intent on revealing much to us.
"He revealeth His secrets unto His servants, the prophets."
We can sometimes be surprised to see in the Bible how much God has wanted to reveal. In Jude 14, we are shown that even Enoch, the seventh generation from Adam, knew that someday Christ would come with many , many saints. Abraham was called a prophet, and we are told in Hebrews that he looked for the New Jerusalem. Moses spoke with God "face to face" (Num. 12:8), and knew that a Deliverer would come "like unto men" (Deut. 18:15).
Prophets are chosen of God. We a told to "covet to prophesy" (I Cor. 14:39). Moses prayed:
"Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them."
It appears that God is trying to answer that prayer. We see how the Holy Spirit is offered to "all flesh." And all who come to the Lord are commanded to "covet to prophesy."
In the Old Testament, the prophets would gather the people together at the new moon (beginning of the month), and on the sabbaths - for the purpose of edification and instruction. These men were primarily preachers of righteousness. Many, if not most of them, were strange in some way. In fact, they were often asked of God to do "strange" things. Ezekiel was told to preach to mountains. Hosea was told to buy back his unfaithful wife at auction. Abraham was told to offer his son in sacrifice. Elijah was told to pour water on the sacrifice. Moses was told to hit a rock to get water. Jeremiah was told to buy an expensive belt, wear it for a time, then go to the river Euphrates and bury it. One thing that stands out about prophets is that they were willing to do anything God asked of them, no matter how stupid it seemed.
It is amazing to see how accurate the prophecy of God has been. All Bible prophecy has either been fulfilled, or soon will be.
"One jot of one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."
There were 333 details of the Messiah's first coming predicted in the Old Testament. Jesus fulfilled all 333 prophecies. The chances of that happening by chance are 1 in 840, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000.
There are 1423 prophetic verses in the 7957 verses of the New Testament. Christ is the center of all the prophecy of God.
"To Him give all the prophets witness."
"The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."
All learning moves from the unknown to the known. As children first learn basic addition. Then they are taught subtraction. After those are taught, then multiplication and division are taught. In the same way God has built revelation upon revelation to prepare us for the message that He is now revealing to us. The Messianic prophecy began in seed form with the prophecy to Adam and Eve about the seed of woman that would someday come and bruise the head of the serpent. From that prophecy, God has progressively revealed more and more about the Messiah.
"For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little, that they might go."
For anyone to try to prophesy without Bible study to find out the precepts, and lines that God has already revealed is foolish. Now, in these last days, we have a whole stack of lines and precepts given to prophets already. We need to study them, and then let God reveal more revelation to us. The new revelation will not contradict the old revelation, but will rather confirm and enlighten it.
Daniel started in the study of the Word of God. When he was studying the message of Jeremiah (a contemporary), he found a revelation of prophecy. He read in Jeremiah (25:11, 29:1,10) about the 70 years that the people were to suffer the captivity.
"I, Daniel, understand by the books the number of years whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, the prophet, that he would accomplish 70 years in the desolation of Jerusalem."
Then Daniel turned to God to pray about Jeremiah's prophecy. As he prayed and continued to search the Word of God, he came to Leviticus 26:14-39.
"I set my face unto the Lord God... the curse is poured upon us and the oath that is written in the law of Moses."
To Moses had been given the prophecy that when a captivity would come to the people, God would punish them seven times longer if they did not repent during that time of punishment. So Daniel took both prophecies and multiplied 70 times 7, and realized that there would be 490 more years of judgment time for Israel. It was then that God sent to Daniel a revelation to reveal more details of the 490 years that were to be given to Israel.
"I am now come to give thee understanding... 70 weeks (490 years) are determined..."
In order for us to understand prophecy, a detailed study of the Word of God and its prophecy should be undertaken. There is prophesied a time in the last days when prophetic knowledge will cover the earth as waters cover the sea.
"For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."
There is also prophesied that in the last days, a famine for the hearing of the Word of God, despite a hunger and thirst for it, would come. This time of ignorance of the Bible's prophetic message is predicted for the same time as the flooding of the earth with prophetic knowledge. How can this be?
"...last days... famine... of hearing the words of the Lord... they shall wander from sea to sea... run to and fro to seek the word (revelation) from the Lord, and shall not find it... in that day the fair virgins, and the young men shall faint for thirst..."
The difference is that the prophetic knowledge is there, it is being given, and has already been given in the Word of God, yet though some will enjoy it, many others will faint from a thirst and hunger for it. It is not because it is not there to be fed upon, it is because they will not hear the truth. The famine is not one of lack of prophecy, it a famine because of lack of "hearing" the Word.
How do we hear and study Bible prophecy? Are you ready to dig in the Word and learn what God has revealed in prophetic teaching already? Are you willing to search out all the signs of the fulfillment of God's prophetic word? Are you going to tune in to God's revelation of more "visions" and "dreams" that are prophesied to come in the last days? (Joel 2:28-29) As Christians, we should be anxious and expectant of God's enlightenment of prophetic truth. Since we are in the last days, we should be building upon all the former prophecies. We should be at a peak of understanding, and not in a valley of ignorance.
Some say that prophecy is a mystery, and therefore we should not study it. But God wants us to know, and He gave us one third of the Bible as prophecy.
Some read I Corinthians 2:9, but fail to read verse 10.
I Corinthians 2:9-10
"Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, the things that God hath prepared for them that love Him... but God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit..."
The Bible does speak of mysteries and hidden truths. At some points in God's revelations, men are not to know certain truths. When finally ready, the Spirit does reveal these mysteries. Paul spoke of the mystery of the church. Paul explained what had been kept hidden from the prophets until after the rejection of Jesus by the Jews. For God to have revealed the mystery of the church earlier would have caused some to say that God wanted and caused the Jews to reject Jesus.
Jesus spoke of a judgment on the church to come someday, and said that until that moment, it had been kept a "mystery" (Matthew 13).
In the book of Revelation, Jesus reveals 7 seals, 7 trumpets, and 7 vials of judgment. However John is not allowed to reveal the 7 thunders of judgment.
The Gentiles were promised blessings since the time of Abraham.
"In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed."
Rahab, Ruth, and others pre-shadowed this blessing on the Gentiles. To Peter, however, this prophetic mystery was finally revealed in greater measure.
Daniel was a book that was to be sealed from full understanding until the last days. The Jews never understood the prophetic significance of the book of Daniel. Now in these last days we are beginning to fully understand the prophecy of Daniel.
People often rebel against new revelations. The Jews did in Jesus' first coming. The Jews, before the captivity to Babylon, refused to heed the warnings of God's true prophets. And now, many say- "That's not the way I heard it..." Yet, a more complete revelation and understanding of the prophecy of the Bible is being poured out on God's prophets in these days. The truth of the Bible is not changing, but more understanding of its prophetic message is being given.
One warning must be given to those who are given words of prophecy by a "supposed" prophet. First, the Word of God is the only reliable source. Every prophetic word must be judged by the Bible and conform to its truth. Don't ever trust any prophecy that does not agree with God's written Word.
Some have trusted a prophetic word, and were sent to mission fields poorly equipped and therefore had disastrous results. Many a terrible marriage was instigated by a false prophet. Un-Biblical doctrines have been accepted by many by a prophetic word that was not of God.
Whenever a prophetic word is given, the Lord wants us to confirm its truth, not only by the Word of God, but also by two or three confirmations.
I Corinthians 14:29
"Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the others judge."
I Thessalonians 5:19-21
"Do not quench the Spirit. Do not count prophecies as nothing, but test all things. Hold fast to that which is good."
There are many false prophets in our day. An awakening is needed to that truth. True prophets were disturbed by the complacency of the people. It is frustrating to see how often God's people are tolerant of false prophets.
"If a man walking in wind and falsehood do lie and say, 'I will prophesy unto thee of wine and strong drink', he shall even be the prophet of this people."
"A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; the prophets prophesy falsely and the priests bear rule by their means, and My people love to have it so, and what will ye do in the end thereof?"
II Timothy 4:3-4
...for the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears. And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables."
Some of these latter day false prophets will fight the true prophetic message of God.
II Peter 3:3-4
"...knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days, scoffers, walking in 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."
One work of the Spirit in the church age is to unfold prophetic teaching. False prophets will seek to undermine and confuse the prophetic message. The last day revival will mean a revealing of more and more prophecy, but the devil will fight it more and more. There is already much false doctrine, more anti-Christian beliefs, and more sin in the ranks of the church. Yet, there is also more revival, and more awareness of the true message of prophecy that ever before.
Satanic counterfeits of true prophecy make people wary of God's revelations. To avoid true prophecy because of all the lies and deceptive teaching out there is foolish.
"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because thou hath rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee."
Sometimes it is difficult to accept true prophecy, because it shatters our illusions. In Noah's day, they could hardly accept the true message of Noah about the flood to destroy all the earth. In Lot's day, it was hard for people to accept the truth of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Israel did everything they could to get Jeremiah to change his prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. People today are often unwilling to accept the truth of the tribulation to soon occur. The devil is actively fighting the truth of God's prophecy. He stirs up many scoffers to mock the true prophecies, and sends many false prophets to create false doctrines to lead many astray.
II Timothy 3:13
"...evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse..."
This day and age has many more true prophets than the world wants to recognize. A true prophet will speak a message for God, and the world wants to reject God's message. The church often rejects a true prophet because he will not tickle their ears with pleasant messages.
Jeremiah preached a message that his people rejected, and they threw him down into the sewer of the prison. Zechariah preached a message that the people did not want to hear, and he was stabbed to death in the temple area. John the Baptist preached about the sin of a government leader, and was beheaded. Stephen preached that the people had crucified the true Messiah, and was stoned to death. True prophets are not popular in our times either.
There are many false prophets who are popular. One may say: "Name it and claim it..." and encourage greed and the love of money: people will believe and honor such a preacher. A man may say: "There is no curse on you if you are righteous, and you will never be sick, or die...etc.", and people will fill the auditorium. If a true prophet comes to town and says: "Love thy neighbor", or "Repent of your sins!", or "Study to show thyself approved...", the people yawn, or look for the exit. People do not like the truth if it stings.
False prophets must be identified, and shunned. The last days are upon us, and we cannot afford to stray from the truth of God's Word. Peter gives us some characteristics of false prophets, to help us of the last days identify the ones who the devil is using to lead us from the way God has planned for His people.
II Peter 2:1-19
"...THERE SHALL BE FALSE PROPHETS AMONG YOU, WHO PRIVILY SHALL BRING IN DAMNABLE HERESIES, EVEN DENYING THE LORD THAT BOUGHT THEM, AND BRING UPON THEMSELVES SWIFT DESTRUCTION. AND MANY SHALL FOLLOW THEIR PERNICIOUS WAYS, BY REASON OF WHOM THE WAY OF TRUTH SHALL BE EVIL SPOKEN OF. AND THROUGH COVETOUSNESS SHALL THEY WITH FEIGNED WORDS MAKE MERCHANDISE OF YOU; WHOSE JUDGMENT NOW OF A LONG TIME LINGERETH NOT, AND THEIR DAMNATION SLUMBERETH NOT. FOR IF GOD SPARED NOT THE ANGELS THAT SINNED, BUT CAST THEM DOWN TO HELL, AND DELIVERED THEM INTO CHAINS OF DARKNESS, TO BE RESERVED UNTO JUDGMENT; AND SPARED NOT THE OLD WORLD, BUT SAVED NOAH...AND TURNING THE CITIES OF SODOM AND GOMORRAH INTO ASHES...BUT CHIEFLY THEM THAT WALK AFTER THE FLESH IN THE LUST OF UNCLEANNESS, AND DESPISE GOVERNMENTS. PRESUMPTUOUS ARE THEY, SELF-WILLED, THEY ARE NOT AFRAID TO SPEAK EVIL OF DIGNITIES...SPEAK EVIL OF THINGS THAT THEY UNDERSTAND NOT, HAVING EYES FULL OF ADULTERY, AND THAT CANNOT CEASE FROM SIN; BEGUILING UNSTABLE SOULS; AN HEART THEY HAVE EXERCISED WITH COVETOUS PRACTICES...WHICH HAVE FORSAKEN THE RIGHT WAY, AND ARE GONE ASTRAY, FOLLOWING THE WAY OF BALAAM...WHO LOVED THE WAGES OF UNRIGHTEOUSNESS...ARE WELLS WITHOUT WATER, CLOUDS THAT ARE CARRIED WITH A TEMPEST...THEY SPEAK GREAT SWELLING WORDS OF VANITY, THEY ALLURE THROUGH THE LUSTS OF THE FLESH, THROUGH MUCH WANTONNESS, THOSE THAT WERE CLEAN ESCAPED FROM THEM WHO LIVE IN ERROR. WHILE THEY PROMISE THEM LIBERTY, THEY THEMSELVES ARE THE SERVANTS OF CORRUPTION..."
Note that these false prophets are SUBTLE. It says: "who privily", which is the word "pareisazousin" meaning "to introduce subtly, stealthily." It is in the future tense, which indicates the continuing action. So these false prophets will secretly introduce heresies that are damnable, destructive ideas and doctrines. They follow the soft-sell, subtle pitch. They follow the example of Satan in the garden to Eve. They quietly come and try to sell a doctrine, that if believed, will damn the soul.
The false prophets are SENSUAL. The Bible calls this "PERNICIOUS WAYS". They pursue the lusts of the flesh. They have low moral standards. They have much love for selves, and for certain friends and family, but do not have the same love for the "down and outers," or for the wayward, rebellious, etc.
Christians who follow such false teachers do great harm to the cause of Christ. When these false prophets are caught in their lustful ways, the cause of Christ suffers reproach and shame. Peter says they are trapped in the "LUST OF UNCLEANNESS", and that they have "EYES FULL OF ADULTERY." Today, we live in a time when some churches are considering changing their teachings on pre-marital sex, extra-marital sex, perversions, and sodomy. These standards that the Bible has taught have not changed or become outdated. The false prophets of today would have people to think that we have outdated old-fashioned morality of the commandments of God. Beware these teachings that attempt to cater to the lusts of the flesh.
The false prophets are marked by GREED. The Bible says: "through covetousness", which comes from the word -"pleonexia"- and means - "one eager to have more, especially of that which belongs to others." It also says that they will "MAKE MERCHANDISE OF YOU..." This is from the Greek - "emporeusontai." This means "to exploit, deceive for one's own advantage."
False prophets will treat people as personal property, seeking to drain every bit of finance from them. Peter says that they will do such "WITH FEIGNED WORDS", (Greek, "plastois logois") These are false words, well-turned words, slick-tongued words that cause people to part with their money, believing that they are not serving Christ properly unless they give to this false prophet. Peter cites the example of Balaam in the Old Testament (Numbers 22-31), who had a strong desire for personal gain. He wanted money so much that he almost cursed God's people in order to get wealth.
These false prophets "DESPISE AUTHORITY." This is the word - "katphroneo" - which means "to despise, to disregard." False prophets are the ones who disregard the true teachings. They can omit huge portions of Scripture, with all its teachings and commandments with ease. Beware any new teachings that replace sound Scriptural teachings.
The false prophets are described by Peter as "SELF WILLED." This is the Greek word - "authades," which means self-pleasing. False teachers are self pleasers. They want their own will. They cannot pray as Christ, "NOT MY WILL, BUT THINE BE DONE..." They are willing to twist and reshape the Word of God, to get it to say what they want it to say. Test any new teaching by the Word of God.
Another trait of false prophets is their DARING. They are "NOT AFRAID TO SPEAK EVIL OF DIGNITIES." False prophets will speak evil and criticize many. They will despise those who teach the truth, and encourage others to also despise them. When names are mentioned in ridicule and criticism, be very careful to check out the Scriptures. Beware of ministers who can use God, God's ways, and His servants in stories of ridicule, and criticism.
The words of the false prophets are MEANINGLESS. Peter says that the false prophets of the last days will "SPEAK GREAT SWELLING WORDS OF VANITY." He says that they are "SPRINGS WITHOUT WATER." Of what value is a spring without water? In the same way, the messages of false prophets are valueless. They may tell you how to get rich, get more money than you can spend, etc, but the Bible tells us that even if we had all the money of the world, and had not eternal life, we profit nothing. The Bible tells us not to be concerned with laying up treasures here on the earth, but to lay up treasures in heaven. So a sermon on how to serve God and give to the needy, sick, and troubled is worth many thousands of sermons on how to get, be rich, and prosper financially. We had better learn how to prosper spiritually in these last days.
The false prophets of the last days are DISHONEST. Peter says that "WHILE THEY PROMISE THEM LIBERTY, THEY THEMSELVES ARE SERVANTS OF CORRUPTION." False prophets promise real freedom, but they aren't free from sin and its bondage themselves. They promise what they can't deliver. They are servants of sin.
God promises to give us help to be saved from these false prophets. Just as He saved Noah from the flood, He will help us be safe from these false prophets. He knows "HOW TO DELIVER THE GODLY OUT OF TEMPTATION." The word "deliver" is the Greek word - "ruomai", which means - "to drag out of danger." We pray in the Lord's prayer - "DELIVER US FROM TEMPTATION", and this is the gist of that prayer, to deliver us from the false doctrines of the tempter. Just as God delivered Lot from Sodom, He will deliver us from these false teachers if we stay true to Him, and heed His warnings in the Word of God.
We do have a strong warning from Peter:
II Peter 2:20-22
"FOR IF AFTER THEY HAVE ESCAPED THE POLLUTIONS OF THE WORLD THROUGH THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST, THEY ARE AGAIN ENTANGLED THEREIN, AND OVERCOME, THE LATTER END IS WORSE WITH THEM THAN THE BEGINNING. FOR IT HAD BEEN BETTER FOR THEM NOT TO HAVE KNOWN THE WAY OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, THAN AFTER THEY HAD KNOWN IT, TO TURN FROM THE HOLY COMMANDMENTS DELIVERED UNTO THEM."
If Christians leave the truth that they have received from God, because of false teachers, it is like a "DOG RETURNING TO ITS VOMIT." Beware of straying, or drawing back from the truth that God has brought to you. Too many do as Peter did at one time, and "FOLLOW AFAR OFF..." This gets one into great trouble.
In the same way that God made sure that the angels that sinned in the days of Noah were punished, and in the same way in which He made certain that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were punished for their perversions, God will make sure that false teachers will "RECEIVE THE REWARD OF UNRIGHTEOUSNESS (II Peter 2:13).
How do we avoid false teachers, and their doctrines?
1. "GIRD UP THE LOINS OF YOUR MIND." (I Peter 1:13) The word "gird" is from the Greek - "anazonnumi." It was a belt-like sash that when a man had to move swiftly, he would tighten to hold his clothes close to his body. This would free him to act quickly in battle. The Book of Ephesians identifies this with the "BELT OF TRUTH." We need to get the truth of God into our minds, learning through personal Bible study. When a false doctrine is brought to us, the truth that we have learned will allow us to quickly recognize it as false. So roll up your sleeves and begin to learn the truth of God's Word. It will boggle your mind as you learn. The more you learn, the more you will realize you don't know. The most ignorant of the Word are those who think they know it all.
2. "BE SOBER..." (I Peter 1:13) This means to be clear-headed. Don't let alcohol, drugs, or the cares of life get us so clouded of mind that a false doctrine will come to us unrecognized. Many Christians have so much on their mind, and so many details of life distracting them, that they cannot adequately think through every teaching coming their way. Beware of half listening to things that are taught. Search the Scriptures, question, and pray over every doctrine you hear.
3. "HOPE TO THE END..." (I Peter 1:13) This means that we must keep the prophetic hope we have in view. Remember that we are in the last days, and have a soon coming Savior. This hope will continue to spur us to the strength we need to fight false doctrine. The hope of the message of prophecy will keep us from being apathetic to false doctrines.
4. "AS OBEDIENT CHILDREN..." (I Peter 1:14) Obedience is necessary. Don't just read the truth, start or continue to obey the truth. The Lord warned us not to just be "HEARERS OF THE WORD..." Too many Christians are just pew fillers, sermon hearers, church members... They have not found their ministry of service. They have not become involved in the battle for the Lord.
5. "BE YE HOLY IN ALL MANNER OF CONVERSATION..." (I Peter 1:15) This means we are to live a life as close to the Lord, and as far from sin as we can. We must learn to separate ourselves from anything that would drag us back into sin.
6. "PASS THE TIME OF YOUR SOJOURNING IN FEAR." (I Peter 1:17) This means that we are to continue in reverence to God, and to His Word, and to those who preach the truth. The word "fear" is from the word "phobos" which means - "to reverence, to respect."
7. "LOVE ONE ANOTHER WITH A PURE HEART FERVENTLY." (I Peter 1:22) This word for "love" is not "agapao" which is the kind of love that we are to have even for our enemies. No, this word is "phileo" which is the kind of love you have for one you respect, and admire. This is a close personal friendship type of love. We are to bond together with some of like persuasion in the truth. With this kind of love, we will help each other through these difficult last days. We will help each other avoid false doctrines, and lift up each other if we stumble. Too many Christians would rather shoot the wounded. They lack the kind of love that cares for a fallen brother. Don't kick the one who has fallen, love him, help him...
"LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS I HAVE LOVED YOU."