“Dear Richard, I mentioned recently that I felt called to revitalise the huge significance of biblical prophecy, especially as a tool for evangelism. You were kind enough to refer me to some of your earlier material on the subject. Herewith my thoughts!”
THE GREAT RETHINK
As some of you will know, I think Biblical prophecy is incredible, mind-blowing and “undersold”! Fulfilled prophecy is confirmation of the absolute authenticity of the Bible; it proves that God is omniscient, omnipotent, infallible, knows the end from the beginning, and has always known all the machinations that will happen in between.
Much of society has consigned the Bible, and church-going, to the mundane, commonplace and dreary: and that is our fault. We Christians urgently need a new approach that catches the imagination of those in desperate need. Troubles are intensifying; people are searching, there has never been a better opportunity.
I feel called to highlight and emphasise the astounding, miraculous and supernatural nature of Biblical prophecy. Prophecy is dispersed (dotted about) throughout the Bible and, therefore, usually not read in a linear and related fashion. For me, listing prophecies in one place brings joy and peace to my heart and mind: it confirms that God is in control.
As ever, I will endeavour to keep what follows as simple as possible. But first …
BACK TO BASICS
The Bible, at its opening, quickly moves from creation to satan’s success in instigating the fall of man. Then follows God’s sovereign selection of Abram (Abraham) and his descendants, to be His chosen people (Israel). Thereafter, we see the story of their triumphs, failures, trials and tribulations; and God’s endeavours to guide them through His elected prophets, culminating in the first advent of Jesus Christ. The New Testament describes Jesus’ life and role as Redeemer King, His death, resurrection and ascension to heaven. At the close of the Bible, Jesus returns and satan and His followers are overthrown.
The Book of Revelation is the essential finale of the story: God emphasises its huge importance, giving blessings to readers and hearers (Rev 1:3); He makes clear its prophetic nature, and warns of dire consequences for anyone who changes the text (Rev 20:18-19). No other book in the Bible carries such blessings and warnings.
Revelation is difficult to understand but the truth is, many prophecies are unfathomable until their fulfillment [try reading Isaiah 53 (written circa 750 BC) as if you had no knowledge of Jesus’ life and crucifixion]. In considering Revelation, we need to overcome centuries of “Greek World View” interpretations and analyses that seek to apply logic and to deny or ignore any supernatural implications. God cannot be explained by some logical or common-sense process. We can learn a huge amount by a systematic approach to Bible study, but the mystery remains and there comes a point where only faith, and God-given spiritual discernment, can help us.
I will look at the predictions in Revelation at a later date. In the meantime, here are some examples of prophecies that have been, or are in the process of being, fulfilled:
RELATING TO JESUS’ FIRST ADVENT
|Prophecy||Old Testament (delivered)||New Testament (fulfilled)|
|Born of a virgin||Isaiah 7:14||Matthew 1:22-23|
|Born in Bethlehem||Micah 5:2||Luke 2:4-6|
|Called out of Egypt||Hosea 11:1||Matthew 2:14-15|
|Taught in parables||Psalms 78:1-2||Matthew 13:34-35|
|Healed the sick||Isaiah 29:18-19, 35:4-6, 61:1||Matthew 11:2-6|
|Entered Jerusalem on a donkey||Zechariah 9:9||John 12:12-15|
|Flogged and abused||Isaiah 50:5-6||Mark 14:53-15:20|
|Hands and feet pierced||Psalms 22:16||Mark 15: 20-26|
|Clothes divided||Psalms 22:18||Matthew 27:35|
|Killed and buried||Isaiah 53:8-9||Mark 15:33-47|
|Rose on the third day||Hosea 6:2||1 Corinthians 15:3-4|
RECENTLY FULFILLED (or ongoing)
- Egyptian will turn against Egyptian (Isaiah 19:2) (“Arab Spring”)
- Damascus will be in ruins (Isaiah 17:1)
- Gaza will writhe in agony (Zecharia 9:5)
- False teachers and prophets will lead people astray (2 Peter 2:1-2)
- Earthquakes, famines, plague and pestilences will intensify (Luke 21:11)
- Travel and knowledge will increase greatly (Daniel 12:4)
- People will prefer fantasy to reality, myth to Christian truths (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
- There will be wars and rumours of wars (Matthew 24:6)
- The Gospel will be preached to all nations – (Matthew 24:14) (How will we know?)
- Things will be as they were in the days of Noah (Matthew 24:36-37)
- People will be proud, unforgiving, lovers of self, lovers of money and pleasure (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
- In any communication on end time prophecies the message, and the messenger, will be mocked and ridiculed (2 Peter 3:3-4)
- Jerusalem will be perceived as a problem by the whole world (Zecharia 12:2-3).
- Christians will be persecuted and martyred (Matthew 24:9)
- Many will turn away from the Christian faith (Matthew 24:10)
SPECIFIC TO ISRAEL
- Because of disobedience, people of Israel were dispersed (Deut 28:64-66)
- The Jews will return to their biblical homeland (fulfilled in 1948), for example:
- God will bring back His exiled people (Amos 9:14-15) (Jer 16:14-15)
- The scattered flock will be gathered in (Ezek 34:13, Jer 31:10)
- A nation born in a day (labour pains to follow!) (Isaiah 66:7-8)
- Forces of hugely superior strength will be defeated (Lev 26:3,7-8)
- The formerly desolate land will become fertile and fruitful (Zech 7:14)
- These things happen for the sake of God’s Holy Name (Ezek 36:19-24)
Each of the prophecies referred to above could be the basis for a long discourse, and there are many more that could be added.
I believe that the next stage of evangelising will involve demonstrating to a sceptical world that fulfilled prophecy confirms the authenticity of the Bible and underlines God’s infallibility and love. He has given us all the information we need!
Jesus gave us pointers for the circumstances that will prevail when He returns, but makes it clear that the specific time of his coming cannot be known. We are well along the time-line of prophetic events. Those signs that await fulfillment could happen very quickly. Reading the Bible, watching what is happening, particularly in Israel and Jerusalem, and seeking to understand the spiritual significance of unusual signs and symbols in the world around us, are all key elements in our being ready for the return of Jesus.
Now is the time for a new approach, a Great Rethink:
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8)
I am convinced that there is at least one expert marketing strategist out there who is envisioned by the Word of God, empowered by the Holy Spirit and who is ready to step into his or her anointing.