The Nature of True Biblical Prophecy

The Nature of True Biblical Prophecy

The word “prophecy” in the Bible is a statement or proclamation from God, who speaks through the mouth of a “prophet” or man of God. Biblical prophecy is more than “fore-telling”: two-thirds of the prophecy found in scripture involves “forth-telling,” that is, setting the truth, justice, mercy, and righteousness of God against the backdrop of every form of denial of the same. However, prediction was by no means absent from the prophetic message. The prophets were conscious of contributing to the ongoing plan of God’s ancient, but constantly renewed promise. They announced God’s coming kingdom and the awful day of the Lord when God’s wrath would be poured out on all ungodliness.

The prophets spoke to their situation primarily by means of warnings and encouragements concerning the future. Prophecy calls people to exercise moral responsibility in the present and does so by making them aware of the future.


The Predictive Sections of Prophecy

 The predictive passages of biblical prophecy exhibit certain key characteristics:
  1. Not isolated – They are not isolated sayings, but are organically related to the whole of prophecy.
  2. Plain – They plainly foretell things to come rather than being clothed in such obscure terminology that they could be proven true even if the opposite of what they appear to say happens.
  3. Not accidental – They are designed to be predictions and are not accidental or unwitting.
  4. Before the event – They are written and published before the event, so that it could not be said that it was a matter of human judgment that determined this would take place.
  5. In accordance with the original utterance –  They are fulfilled in accordance with the original utterance, unless expressly attached to a condition.
  6. Verbal witness – They do not work out their own fulfillment, but stand as a verbal witness until the event takes place.

(Walter C. Kaiser Jr., “Prophet, Prophetess, Prophecy” entry in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology  1997.)


History is the Final Interpreter

History, then, is the final interpreter of prophecy. As Jesus said, “I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe” (John 14:29). Moreover, in addition to
leaving the details of fulfillment to be disclosed when the historical process uncovers them, it is to be noted as well that it is not the interpreter who is to receive the plaudits of humans, but Jesus, for prophecy points to him. Jesus taught: “I am telling you now before it happens, that when it does happen you will believe that I am He” (John 13:19).

The Old Testament books in the Bible (all of them written between 1450 BC and 430 BC) contain hundreds of prophecies about an “anointed one” or “Messiah.” (Hebrew word meaning anointed).  Depending on whom you read, there are between 300 and 500 Old Testament prophecies about Jesus. Of those, about 60 prophecies are considered to be “major” prophecies.


Jesus Appealed to the Old Testament Prophecies

Jesus knew the importance of prophecy. Again and again, he appealed to the Old Testament prophecies to verify his claim to be the Messiah. In Luke 24:44, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” In John 5:46, Jesus said, “If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.”


New Testament Writers Appealed to the Old Testament Prophecies

Likewise the other New Testament writers appealed to the Old Testament prophecies to prove that Jesus was the Messiah. Paul stated, in I Cor. 15:3-4, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received; that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” Likewise, Peter said, in Acts 3:18, “But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that
his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.”

In this course we will be focusing on Old Testament prophecies concerning the birth, life, and death of Christ, which Matthew cites as fulfilled by Jesus Christ proving that he is the Messiah.  Matthew uses the phrase, “that it might be fulfilled,” no fewer than 12 times. Some commentators have identified about 42 Old Testament prophecies that are fulfilled by incidents found in the book of Matthew. Not all of those passages are universally accepted by scholars as being
fulfillment of Old Testament Scripture. We will be looking at about 33 of those prophecies in the order in which they appear in the book of Matthew.

Our purpose in this course will be the same as Matthew’s purpose: to offer evidence through the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, that Jesus is the Messiah.

Lee Henry
Baker Heights Member
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