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The prophets were messengers sent by God to communicate His will to mankind. Through prophecy God affirms His relationship with humanity and explains His involvement with us, revealing the reason for Jesus Christ’s first coming and His future return.
Throughout history, God has spoken through His prophets to inform the world of what’s ahead (Amos 3:7). According to The Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy by J. Barton Payne, there are 1,239 prophecies in the Old Testament and 578 in the New, constituting 26.8 percent of the Bible’s volume, and many are yet to be fulfilled.
Fifteen books in the Old Testament are named after prophets, and the book of Psalms along with other Old Testament books, contain many prophecies as well. The book of Revelation is nearly all prophecy, in addition to the many other prophetic statements in the New Testament.
The first prophecy in the Bible took place in the Garden of Eden, and alluded to the clash between Satan and Christ. When God spoke to the serpent about his fate and future encounter with Jesus Christ, He said: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15). This refers to the fact that Satan was directly involved in the killing of Jesus Christ, but the resurrected Savior eventually vanquishes the devil.
The very last prophecy in the Bible is Jesus proclaiming, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly’” (Revelation 22:20). Between these two prophetic points is an amazing story about the purpose of life and our relationship with our Creator God in whose image we are made.
The greatest prophet of all was Jesus Christ, who prophesied about the coming Kingdom of God, what it would be like and how we should prepare for it. Prophecy teaches us man’s history is not a patchwork of disconnected events and shows how our existence will be elevated from mortal to divine status, as John explains: “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!...and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know…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 3:1-3).
In today’s modern world our leaders and educators are losing the ability to properly differentiate between right and wrong. Isaiah wrote of the widespread inversion of morality in these terms: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:20-21).
The ancient prophets condemned child sacrifice. While seemingly unthinkable today, the contemporary parallel of the widely accepted practice of abortion is widely accepted. In the US alone over 60 million newly conceived lives have been snuffed out. Also, never in the history of mankind has there been so much confusion about sexuality and gender. Many now claim that limitation to only two genders, male and female, is evil, although one of God’s earliest descriptions of mankind concerned gender (Genesis 5:2).
We read in 2 Kings 17:13-15 of God’s warning to ancient Israel and Judah when they turned from God and His ways. Both Israel and Judah endured invasion and captivity by the Assyrians and the Babylonians because of their disobedience. These words of warning also apply to our modern nations who shrug off God’s warnings, yet God always also emphasizes a redemptive path: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who… proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’...“The Lord has made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” (Isaiah 52:7and 10).
In the initial fulfillment, this prophecy encourages the Jewish captives in Babylon to prepare for their return back to Jerusalem. Another level of fulfillment is in Jesus Christ, as our Redeemer and Savior, when He came preaching the Kingdom of God, which includes “all the nations” and “all the ends of the earth.”
Although the prophets were a diverse group of men, their writings all pointed to man’s ultimate destiny, salvation and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on the earth. They communicated God’s inspired words, even when they may not have always understood what they were writing. In reading what they wrote, we are peering into the very mind of God to discover a wealth of knowledge about who we are and where we’re going!
Beyond Today Magazine (Nov-Dec 2020)