An explanation of Bible prophecy
believe that Bible prophecies are God-given revelations of the future. God gave His prophets, including Moses, Ezekiel, Isaiah and Jeremiah, prophecies of the future. He did this to prepare people for the future, and to show that He is the one true God and that He is all-powerful.
Many people mistakenly consider Biblical prophecy as God looking ahead and seeing what will happen as though it were all out of His control, but He at least has the supernatural ability to foresee it all and warn His prophets. This is NOT the case for Biblical prophecy. When the visions and dreams were given to the prophets of old, God was informing them of what His own plans were for the future, He was telling them what He was going to do. He was not telling the prophets about what He, God, was merely foreseeing, but about what would happen in the future by His choosing and by His will.
God's prophecies given to His prophets were advance warnings and foreknowledge of God's promised future plans. He told them, for example, that the Jews would be forced out of Israel, scattered worldwide, persecuted worldwide, and that they would eventually return to Israel. All of these promises have been fulfilled.
To be more succinct:
A Bible prophecy is not a prediction of the future.
Bible prophecy is a promise about the future by God.
God causes the future to come to pass as He desires.
God is fully in control of the future.
There are different kinds of prophecies. Some prophecies are about a Messiah, which means "anointed one" or "chosen one." These are called "Messianic" prophecies. Christians believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of these prophecies. There also are "end time" prophecies. These prophecies refer to a time of
severe war, famine and pestilence, after which a Messiah will reign over the world with justice and righteousness. Christians believe that this Messiah is Jesus, who will return in the future.
The Bible contains hundreds of prophecies. Some were fulfilled more than 3000 years ago. Others have been fulfilled since then.
More than 50 have found fulfillment or partial fulfillment during the past 200 years. Many Bible prophecies have found fulfillment more than once, such as the prophecies that the Jews would have Israel as their own country. (The Jews had sovereignty over the land of Israel about 3400 years ago up until about 2700 years ago, and again in 1948).
Bible prophecies involve specific places
Bible prophecies often involve specific places. And usually that place is all or part of the Jewish homeland. Many prophecies refer specifically to
Israel, Judah and Jerusalem. Judah is the southern part of the Jewish homeland. Jerusalem is Israel 's most important city. It was established as the Jewish capital by King David about 3000 years ago. When prophecies involve other nations, such as Tyre, Babylon, Nineveh or Edom, it is because those nations had sought the destruction of the Jewish homeland, or the Jews, or
both and were/are under the scrutiny of God.
Bible prophecies involve specific people
Bible prophecies almost always involve a specific person or persons. And they usually involve the Jewish people as a group, or a Jewish person as an individual, such as a king or a Messiah. Sometimes a Bible prophecy will involve someone who is not Jewish,
but is to be used by God in bringing about His Will. such as a king who will attack Israel (example: Nebuchadnezzar) or a king who will help the Jewish people (example: Cyrus). Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus lived about 2600 years ago.
Bible prophets are Jewish
God chose to reveal His words to one group of people - the Jews. This has helped to ensure that we have one source of information for God's teachings. And, because Israel is literally in the "middle" of the world, near the convergence of the three continents of Asia, Africa and Europe, the Jews have been in a unique geographical position to influence the world with the monotheistic teachings of
one true God. The Bible, in Exodus 19:6, said the Jews were to be a "nation of priests." The Jews were to teach the rest of the world about God. And, during the past 2000 years, the Jews have accomplished this remarkable feat. Through the influence of the Hebrew scriptures,
more than half of the world's people have abandoned their pagan religions and now worship a monotheistic God.
Bible prophecies were usually delivered in Israel
Bible prophecies usually were delivered in the Jewish homeland of Israel or Judah. (About 2900 years ago, Israel split into two Jewish kingdoms called Judah and Israel. Today, the Jewish nation is united again and is called
Israel. However, there are exceptions: Some prophecies, for example, were delivered in Babylon when the Jewish homeland had been destroyed about 2600 years ago and many Jews were taken as captives to Babylon .
Bible prophecies explain why a particular event is going to happen
Bible prophecies often include an explanation as to why a particular event is going to happen. In Micah 3:11-12,
the prophet Micah said around 2700 years ago that Jerusalem would be destroyed and "plowed like a field" because its leaders had turned away from God. The Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem a century later. In the year 135, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and literally plowed part of the
How did God reveal Himself and His Will to the people of ancient Israel and Judea?
A glance through books of the Old Testament would quickly suggest that God used several
varied modes of divine self-disclosure towards His Old Covenant people; through patriarchs, spokesmen, prophets, as well as kings. This observation is encapsulated in a brilliant summary statement on Divine revelation by the author of the new Testament letter to the Hebrews in his prologue:
"In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets..." Hebrews 1:1
One such mode of Divine communication was through the awesome event of a Theophany. Among the most celebrated Theophanies to the ancient Israel ones would include God's powerful descent on Mount Sinai as well as His majestic appearance to the prophet Isaiah in the Temple in Jerusalem. Another mode of Divine revelation was through dreams.
Revelation through dreams
The Old Testament records that God chose to communicate His will to the people of Israel through the vehicle of dreams or "visions of the night" to certain selected persons. One such type of Divine dream is the co-called incubation dream. These are dreams initiated by God to the sleeping dreamer in holy places, without the recipient having deliberately sought to receive such a dream. Perhaps the most celebrated example of an incubation dream is Jacob's dream of the Divine ladder at Bethel
Gen 28:11-19 "Jacob... came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the night had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and laid down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reached to Heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the Lord stood beside him and said, "I am the Lord, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac..." Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said surely the Lord is in this place - and I did not know it! And he was afraid and said "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the House of God, and this is the gate of Heaven." ... He called that place "Bethel", (i.e. the "house of God").
Divinely-sent dreams, as recorded in the Old Testament, may be accompanied by declarations
in either: (1) plain words understandable to the recipient, or (2) in symbolic language or images needing an inspired interpreter. An instance of the former type of dream occurs in God's command to the grieving Jacob (Joseph's father) to travel to Egypt (Gen 46:1-4). Such a dream needed no interpretation. An example of the latter type is the Egyptian Pharaoh's two enigmatic God-sent dreams of the seven thin cows eating the seven fat cows grazing by the Nile as well as that of the seven withering ears of grain swallowing the good ears of
grain. These last two dreams demanded a skilled interpreter of divine dreams - the wrongly-imprisoned Joseph:
"Then Joseph said to Pharaoh "Pharaoh's dreams are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what He is about to do... the dreams are one. The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them (i.e. the fat cows) are seven years, as are the seven empty ears... they are seven years of famine... There will come seven
years of plenty throughout all the land of Egypt. After the, there will arise seven years of famine..."
Authentic and false dreams
The Old Testament however does not classify all dreams as God-sent. Indeed the elect of God receive very few dreams. On the other hand many dreams are considered as false. These are the dreams of the
false prophets, men who do not speak for God, and those dreams were not initiated by the Lord:
"Do I not fill Heaven and earth? says the Lord. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophecy lies in my Name, saying "I have dreamed, I have dreamed!" (Jeremiah 23:24-25).
Dreams in the Last Days
The use of dreams - as an instrument of Divine communication and the plan for human salvation - continues into the New Testament era. Thus within the Infancy
of Jesus narratives as recorded by St. Matthew, the righteous Joseph is the recipient of several dreams concerning:
1. the nature of the forthcoming Virgin Birth (Matt 1:20-21), 2. a warning to flee to the safety of Egypt with Jesus and His Mother in the face of the Herodian massacre (Matt 2:13),
3. an eventual call to return to the land of Israel (Matt 2:20), as well as instruction to settle in Galilee (Matt 2:22). Furthermore, the day of Pentecost is understood by the Apostles as a fulfillment of Joel's eschatological prophecy. In addition to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, one further aspect of this prophecy deals with
the expectation that while there shall be an increase in spiritual visions there shall also be a predisposition for the elderly to experience holy dreams:
"And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even upon the men-servants and maid-servants in those days, I will pour out my spirit" (Joel 2:28-29).
Nevertheless, it is important to note that from an Orthodox theological or doctrinal position, the use of dreams after Christ is not
for the purpose of adding further to the deposit of "revelation" or Sacred Truth as revealed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but rather a means of "illumination". Jesus Christ, the Divine Word made flesh, becomes
the exclusive mode of Divine revelation to the world. Nothing more can be added beyond Christ. Everything else which possesses truth is either inspired interpretation or illumination, but not
revelation. While God may still send dreams to holy people they are certainly not to be accepted as "new revelations"
to sacred scripture, but as a means of encouragement, warning, or edification.