Categories of Bible Literature (III)

Introduction

We continue our tour of the categories of Bible literature today by looking at prophecy. We defined prophecy as God speaking to men through men to comfort, condemn and foretell. The books of Isaiah through Malachi in the Old Testament and Revelation in the New Testament are devoted mainly to prophecy. Prophecy also appears in other types of literature, such as poetry and history.

“But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.” (1Co 14:3)

Prophecy is Christ-centered

One of the central themes of prophecy is the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Since He is revealed throughout the Bible’s prophetic literature, it only makes sense to be on the lookout for Him.

“And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Rev 19:10)

“And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luk 24:27)

Prophecy Is Often Predictive

The phrase, "It shall come to pass…" appears over 70 times in the writings of the Old Testament. Here are a couple of examples:

“And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the LORD, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations.” (Jer 25:11-12)

Jeremiah predicted precisely the 70 years of Babylonian captivity that the Jews would experience, and the fall of Babylon that would follow that captivity.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” (Isa 9:6-7)

Isaiah gives this powerful prophecy of a Child born who would be a Son given. God the Son took on human flesh and was born as a child in Bethlehem.

God honors Himself when He reveals the future. It shows His foreknowledge and instrumentality in human history (Isa 42:8-9, 44:6-8, 46:8-9).

Prophecy Tells the Truth About Current Conditions

Prophecy doesn’t always tell the future. Many times, it sets the record straight about current conditions. It confronts the false claims of society with the truth of God’s Word.

“Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” (Isa 59:1-2)

Folks in Isaiah’s day said their hardships were proof that God was weak, or that He didn’t care about them. God sent Isaiah to them to set the record straight.

Prophecy Speaks with Divine Authority

Whether the prophets told the truth about the present, or preicted the future, they spoke as God’s messengers. "Thus saith the LORD," is the hallmark of Bible prophecy. This phrase appears nearly 350 times in the Old Testament. The men whose prophecies are recorded in Scripture didn’t just give their personal views on current events or their best guesses as to what the future would hold. They spoke with divine authority.

“And Moses said, Thus saith the LORD, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt: And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts. And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more. But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast: that ye may know how that the LORD doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.” (Exo 11:4-7)

Here the prophet Moses (Deu 18:15) spoke with divine authority as he told Pharaoh about the coming death of the firstborn of Egypt.

“Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.” (Isa 28:16)

Isaiah’s prophecy was not the result of wishful thinking. When Isaiah declared the coming of the Messiah (1Pe 2:6), he was speaking as God’s ambassador.

Read More About It

Tomorrow we’ll talk about some of the special methods to use when you interpret prophecy. Today, I’d like you to take a look at two important prophetic passages – one from the Psalms and the other from Isaiah. Please read Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 and write in your journal the truths they tell you about the Lord Jesus hundreds of years before He was born.

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