Understanding The Meaning Of Prophecy In The Bible

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Published by Kimberly Wall


Co-Founder, Disciple Group Leader, Author

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The meaning of prophecy in the Bible pertains to a “message from God” or a message from a divine inspiration that foretells future events. To prophesy is to declare a word or message from God, which is the job of a prophet.

The first biblical prophecy, referred to as the “first great promise,” is found in Genesis 3:15, after Adam and Eve chose to heed the deceiver’s words rather than the voice of truth.

God uttered, “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). This verse is the first golden thread among the rest of the Messianic prophecies that points to the fulfillment of the promised Messiah in the New Testament.

Key Takeaways

  • Biblical prophecy is a divine message from God, often foretelling future events, communicated to humans through chosen individuals known as prophets.
  • The prophecies in the Bible, particularly those fulfilled by Jesus Christ, underscore the scripture’s predictive accuracy and the continuity between the Old and New Testaments.
  • A prophecy is meant to instruct and prepare God’s followers by offering direction, hope, and insight into God’s intentions, all to honor Him.

What Is The Meaning Of Prophecy In The Bible?

One thing is certain about prophecy: it is not simply words or writings about history or a great prediction made by humans to spread religion. Instead, a Bible prophecy[1] is a living, accurate, and authoritative message from God to his people, not just to the Jewish nation but to all mankind.

It’s important to remember that the prophets of the Old and New Testaments were, first and foremost, regular people. But the Book of 2 Peter tells us that no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man. Still, men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). This serves as a reminder that no Bible prophecy uttered by a true prophet of God was made possible without God’s Spirit.

What Are The Prophecies Fulfilled In Jesus Christ?

A complete understanding of the New Testament is impossible without recognizing it as the fulfillment of the many prophecies in the Old Testament. In the same way, it is impossible to grasp the Old Testament in its entirety without acknowledging it as the launching pad for the ministry and life of Jesus Christ in the New Testament.

The Messianic Prophecies are prophecies that foretell, more or less distinctively, the coming of Christ, his work of salvation, and his Kingdom Dominion. It is important to note that a great deal of the Old Testament prophecy relates directly to Jesus, that is, to perpetuate faith in and prepare the world for his coming.

The Books of Acts tell us, “To Him, all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43). This great chain of events shows God’s all-wise overruling providence.

A Virgin Will Give Birth To The Messiah

Old Testament Prophecy: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

The Fulfillment: Apostle Matthew, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (Matthew 1:2–3).

The Promised Messiah Would Serve As A Priest After The Order Of Melchizedek

Old Testament Prophecy: The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek'” (Psalm 110:4).

The Fulfillment“So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’; as he also says in another place, ‘You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek'” (Hebrews 5:5–6).

Messiah Is To Be Executed By Crucifixion

Old Testament Prophecy: the Messiah is to be like a suffering servant, “He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death, though He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth” (Isaiah 53:9).

The Fulfillment: “Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty” (John 19:28).

The Messiah’s Resurrection From the Dead

Old Testament Prophecy: “But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me. Selah” (Psalm 49:15).

The Fulfillment: Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:24).

old man writing on an ancient scroll and prophecy meaning in the bible

What Are The Reasons For Prophecies In The Bible?

Mankind has one thing in common: the inability to learn unless told. Thus, God must take action to shake his people out of their stupor.

To Warn People And Prove The Authority of God’s Words

God spoke to the prophet Jeremiah: “Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the LORD.

“Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel! The instant I speak concerning a nation and a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it” (Jeremiah 18:5-8).

As seen throughout the Bible, disobeying God’s warning often leads to unpleasant consequences. One example is the High Priest Eli in 1 Samuel 2-3, who, despite knowing what would happen to his sons if they did not repent, ignored God’s warning to restrain them. Because nothing had changed since the first warning, the consequences he had been warned about came true. His sons were killed in battle, and he died not long after.

To Provide Hope

The prophecies in the Bible weren’t all just warnings, but some provided comfort for the believers. The Bible spoke about the Future Glory, “I consider that our present sufferings are not comparable to the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). It’s a promise that our present-day troubles are nothing compared to what we will experience in the Lord if we endure.

Apostle John wrote, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4).

To Help Us Understand The Future

Tragedies never catch God off guard. However, Jesus warned his disciples to be on the lookout for signs of the end of the age. Jesus said, “I have told you this so that when their time comes, you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you” (John 16:4).

Hardly a day goes by that we don’t read about wars, rumors of wars, natural disasters, or lawlessness in the news. These realities can be disheartening, which is why knowing and understanding the prophecies by heart will prepare us for future events.

What Are The Purposes Of Prophecy?

Prophecy serves two purposes: foretelling the present and future. Forthtells are prescriptive. It teaches God truths, if not future but now for comfort and edification (Corinthian 144:3).

Foretelling is predictive and relates to upcoming events. It can provide uplifting and comforting. Predicting or prescribing prophecy always leads toward God and his people in all aspects. Prophesying has a message that God carries out. The prophecy is fulfilled by the God of glory.

What Is The Importance Of Prophecy?

The power of the Holy Spirit at work in the word of God is unleashed among us through the gift of prophecy. It edifies and strengthens the church and the body of Christ.

When someone speaks prophetically, the Spirit works in both the speaker and all those who hear. This is a crucial point to understand the power of the prophetic word: when God speaks, things happen. “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all of their host by the breath of his mouth” (Psalm 33:6).

What Does It Mean To Prophesy?

Prophesying, as described in the Bible, involves the act of receiving divine revelations and communicating them to others. It’s a direct channel of communication from God to humanity.

Prophesying often encompasses foretelling future events, revealing hidden truths, or providing guidance and direction based on the divine insights received. In essence, prophesying means being a vessel through which God imparts spiritual messages and insights that have a significant impact on individuals, communities, or even entire nations.

Throughout biblical history, prophets were chosen and anointed to carry out this sacred duty. They acted as intermediaries between God and the people, conveying God’s will, warnings, promises, and instructions. Prophets witness that prophesying is deeply rooted in faith and a profound connection with the divine, guided by the Spirit to share the message accurately and in alignment with God’s intentions.

The Hebrew Bible, a foundational scripture for the Jewish nation, contains many prophecies spoken by these chosen prophets. These prophets were individuals who received the word of God and conveyed it to the people. The prophecies often contained great predictions, promises, and admonitions, encapsulated in figurative language to convey profound spiritual truths.

How Does A Prophet Prophesy?

A prophet, chosen and appointed by God, receives divine messages through various means. These may include visions, dreams, direct communication, or an overwhelming sense of inspiration and understanding. The prophet, in a state of heightened spiritual awareness, interprets these revelations and communicates them to others, often in the form of spoken words, writings, or symbolic actions.

It’s essential to understand that a prophet doesn’t fabricate these messages; they are divinely inspired and originate from God. The prophets witness that the role of a prophet is to faithfully and accurately convey what they have received without adding or distorting the message. The authenticity and credibility of a prophet are demonstrated by the accuracy and alignment of their prophecies with God’s Word and plan.

Prophesying involves not only revealing future events but also bringing insight and understanding of God’s will in specific situations. All the prophets were crucial in their times, providing guidance, correction, and encouragement to the Jewish people based on the divine messages they received. In essence, a prophet acts as a conduit for God’s wisdom and guidance, illuminating the path for individuals and communities to walk in faith and obedience.

These prophecies, documented in the Bible, continue to perpetuate faith and provide insight into God’s promises. One such great promise is the prophecy of the Mighty God, the everlasting Father, which directly relates to the founder Abraham. This prophecy holds immense significance and relevance even in the present day, showcasing the enduring nature of God’s Word and the profound impact it has had on believers throughout history.

old men gathered by a lake and prophecy meaning in the bible

Final Thoughts

A prophecy’s ultimate purpose, whether to reveal the future or correct the present, is to glorify God and bring him honor and worship. If a prophecy elevates human effort over divine guidance, then it is not from God.

Biblical prophecy can appear complicated and time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be if we try to understand what the Bible’s predictions mean for our lives right now. And when we know the One who is the Alpha and the Omega (Isaiah 46:10), we can face the future confidently, believing that he knows it better than we do.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Biblical Prophecy?

Biblical prophecy is a message believed to be communicated by God to His people, often through chosen individuals known as prophets, which may include foretelling future events or imparting divine wisdom.

Who Were The Prophets In The Bible?

The prophets in the Bible were individuals chosen by God to receive and communicate His messages to the people. They were often regular people who were empowered by the Holy Spirit to prophesy.

What Is The Significance Of Prophecy In The Bible?

The significance of prophecy in the Bible lies in its role in revealing God’s plan, providing guidance and hope to His people, and demonstrating the truth and authority of God’s Word.

How Did Jesus Christ Fulfill Biblical Prophecies?

Jesus Christ fulfilled biblical prophecies through events in His life, death, and resurrection, which were foretold in the Old Testament and confirmed their divine accuracy and His role as the Messiah.

What Are Some Examples Of Prophecies Fulfilled By Jesus?

Examples of prophecies fulfilled by Jesus include His birth from a virgin, as foretold in Isaiah 7:14, and His crucifixion and resurrection, which were predicted in various Old Testament scriptures.

Why Are Prophecies Important For Christians Today?

Prophecies are important for Christians today as they reinforce the reliability and divine inspiration of the Bible, strengthen faith, provide hope for the future, and encourage living in alignment with God’s will.

How Does One Prophesy According To The Bible?

According to the Bible, one prophesies by receiving a message from God, often through the Holy Spirit, and then communicating that message to others in a manner that is faithful to the divine revelation.

Can Prophecy Predict The Future?

Yes, prophecy can predict the future, but its primary goal is not prediction but rather to convey God’s message, offer guidance, and reveal His plans to His people.

What Is The Difference Between Foretelling And Forthtelling In Prophecy?

Foretelling in prophecy involves predicting future events while forthtelling involves proclaiming truths about God’s character, will, and requirements for His people, focusing on moral and spiritual guidance.

How Can One Discern A True Prophecy From A False One?

One can discern a true prophecy from a false one by testing its alignment with Scripture, the fulfillment of its predictions, and whether it glorifies God and leads people towards Him rather than elevating human desires.

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