Prophecy, the prediction of future events, plays a key role in the Bible. Its pages record both the giving of prophecies and their fulfillment. Many prophecies given in Old Testament times were fulfilled in New Testament times in the life and work of Christ. As someone has said, “The New is in the Old concealed; the Old is in the New revealed.”
Bible prophets often accurately predicted events decades or even centuries before they occurred. Much of the prophecy in the Bible has already been fulfilled. Other prophecies are being fulfilled even in our day.
Peter declares the Bible’s prophets to be divinely inspired: “We also have the prophetic word made more sure, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:19–21).
Prophets foretell future events. The Bible also describes as prophets those who “forth tell” or boldly declare God’s will to His people. Nathan the prophet confronted David about his sin (2 Samuel 12). Prophets, along with evangelists and pastors, have a role of edification in the church (Ephesians 4:11).
The most convincing evidence of fulfilled prophecy concerns the person and work of Jesus Christ, as recorded in the four gospels. Lack of space precludes the listing of all such prophecies. The following, however, constitute powerful evidence:
• Christ would be descended from King David’s family (Psalm 89:3–4; Isaiah 9:6–7; 11:1; see Mark 12:36; John 7:42).
• He would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14; see Matthew 1:23).
• He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; see John 7:42).
• He would make a triumphant entry into Jerusalem (Zechariah 9:9; see Matthew 21:5).
• The soldiers would cast lots for His garments (Psalm 22:18; see Matthew 27:35).
• His dying words were foretold (Psalm 22:1; see Matthew 27:46).
• He would die with criminals (Isaiah 53:9, 12; see Luke 22:37).
• His death would be for the salvation of mankind (Isaiah 53:6; see 1 Corinthians 15:3).
• He would rise from the dead the third day (Psalm 16:10). Jesus confirmed the Resurrection by referring to past Scriptures (Luke 24:46); Peter confirmed it by quoting David’s prophecy (Acts 2:25–32).
Prophecy to Be Fulfilled
The prophecies yet to be fulfilled largely concern the return of Jesus Christ. “This hope,” says the writer of Hebrews, “we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast” (Hebrews 6:19). There are differing views concerning future prophecies. Instead of arguing about them, let us remember that “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20). We believe, however, that the so called “premillennial” view offers the most comprehensive explanation of coming events. According to this view:
1. Christ’s coming is imminent: It could occur at any time (Matthew 24:42–44; 1 Corinthians 15:52; Revelation 22:12).
2. The first stage of His coming is known as the “Rapture”: “We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. . . . For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:14, 16–17, NIV; see also Titus 2:13). This is the first resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:52–57; 2 Corinthians 5:4; 1 John 3:2).
3. Next comes the judgment seat of Christ for believers (2 Corinthians 5:10). Believers will be judged for their faithfulness in life and service (1 Corinthians 3:11–15; 4:1–5). But they will not be judged for their sins. That was taken care of at Calvary (2 Corinthians 5:21).
4. The Great Tribulation period comes next (Daniel 12:1; Matthew 24:21, 29; Revelation 7:14); and the “man of sin” (Antichrist) will be manifested (2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4, 8; Revelation 13:1–10).
5. Christ returns (second stage) as King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:11–16). The decisive Battle of Armageddon takes place (Joel 3:12; Revelation 16:16; 19:17–21).
6. The Millennium (Christ’s thousand-year reign) will follow (Revelation 20:4–6).
7. A second resurrection will bring together all who have rejected Christ throughout the ages. They will be judged “according to their works, by the things which [are] written in the books” (Revelation 20:12), at the Great White Throne judgment, “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life [will be] cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).
8. Finally, those who have been redeemed through faith in Christ will begin their everlasting life in the “new heaven and new earth” (Revelation 21–22).
For One Fearful of Future Events:
The only way to be confident and secure about the future is to commit our life to Him who holds the future: “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast” (Hebrews 6:19). Explain Steps to Peace with God – Christian Biblical Counsel: STEPS TO PEACE WITH GOD
For the Christian Uncertain About Christ’s Coming:
1. Reassure the believer that we can be enlightened and certain about both the present and the future. Paul said, “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13, NIV).
2. Share Assurance – Christian Biblical Counsel: ASSURANCE OF SALVATION – Christian Biblical Counsel: FINDING ASSURANCE OF SALVATION – emphasizing 1 John 5:13.
3. Encourage the inquirer to get into Bible reading and study and to become involved with a Bible-teaching church where he or she can learn about “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Suggest purchasing good books about the Christian life and witnessing, as well as Bible studies on prophecy.
For the Christian Concerned About His or Her Standing Before God:
1. Ask questions concerning where he or she went astray.
2. Invite him or her back to Calvary for confession and forgiveness on the basis of 1 John 1:9 and 2:1. Share “Restoration,” – Christian Biblical Counsel: SEEKING FORGIVENESS AND RESTORATION
3. Encourage taking a firm stand for the Lord by:
• Getting involved in Bible reading and study
• Seeking fellowship in a Bible-teaching church
• Actively witnessing both by word and by example
Taking these steps should give the insecure Christian a greater assurance in Christ and a better understanding of God’s will for his or her life.
The First Stage of His Coming, The Rapture:
“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:13–17, NIV).
“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:2, NIV).
The Second Stage of His Coming, The Day of the Lord:
“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13–14, NIV).
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. . . . But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:10, 13, NIV).
The Attitude of the Believer in Light of His Coming:
“Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).
“Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:2–5, NIV).
“These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. . . . Therefore prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:7, 13, NIV).
“The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:7–8, NIV).
The Billy Graham Christian Worker’s Handbook; World Wide Publications, 1984, 1996