Some of the rather elaborate prophecies in the Bible can seem a little overwhelming.
From four-faced four-winged men in Ezekiel to the end time prophecies, it can be overwhelming even for those who have studied the Bible for some time.
So, if you read, then re-read, but still find yourself lacking the comprehension and clarity you seek, then please, don’t be discouraged.
Prophecies contain themes that are designed to educate and inspire, but they often require extensive research to help you fully understand them. In this post, we look at the purposes and meaning of Bible Prophecy.
Before we begin, here are a few things to consider.
- Although most people can learn from all prophecies, they are not directed at everyone – Daniel 4
- Although many do warn of future happening, they are not always predictive – Matthew 24, Revelation 13, Daniel 2
- Although many prophecies will warn of potential risks, they are not all meant to come true – Jonah 1-4
- Although prophecies lead us to understand the ultimate reason to follow and trust in God, they are not intended to scaremonger – Revelation 21
- Although some prophecies do highlight bad behavior, some instill hope in otherwise discouraged groups of people – Isaiah 53:4-6; 1 Kings 19
What exactly is a Prophecy?
When you hear about prophecies in fantasy or sci-fi movies, they will almost always be predicting a future event or happening, and there’s usually talk of destiny and fate. However, in a biblical sense, what defines a prophecy is actually a lot simpler.
A prophecy is a message from God that is told to a prophet; who then subsequently shares that message with an intentional audience.
Why are there prophecies in the Bible; what’s the reason?
Nobody’s perfect; even God’s chosen people make mistakes and prove themselves to be selfish. There are certain situations that require extra insight, or as some might say a wake-up call! When we look at the countless prophecies that have been told, there are many reasons that God delivers these messages; here are some of these reasons.
1 – Exposing the typical missteps of human nature
At times, God will send out a messenger in order to point out to his people what it means to live a godly life.
Throughout the Old Testament, especially in the Books of Lamentations and Jeremiah, the chosen nation of God would go back and forth, sometimes following God, and then sometimes ruling according to their own needs.
God would send Prophets to remind people that their hardships were the result of their actions when they chose their own desires over the way of God.
In the Book of Hosea, God called upon the Prophet Hosea to proclaim a message to Judah and Israel. This was not a message delivered through words; but rather one which was more of a symbolic message. Now, because these particular nations had gone back and forth with their Godly commitments, Hosea was commanded to marry an unfaithful woman and to start a family with her. In the same way, that wife was adulterous to her husband, so were the people of the land to God. Now, Hosea’s wife did indeed commit adultery, but he did as he was instructed to do by God and welcomed her back each time; just as God accepted the people back each time they repented.
2 – To Inspire Hope
While it’s certainly true that some of the significant prophecies in the Bible contain language that is somewhat scary; ultimately, when you reach the end of the Good Book, you find that the talk of dragons and their horns isn’t particularly important.
One of the most rewarding aspects of studying prophecy is the new point of view you’ll have following the reading of Revelation: 21 & 22 are particularly enlightening!
Rev 21 – “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Rev 22 – “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with Me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. … Blessed are they who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.”
If you know the ending of the story, and it’s a positive ending, what kind of perspective will this offer for the other more alarming prophecies that will unfold? Well, while evil happenings occur throughout the world, God will always be triumphant.
3 – To Give a Warning of Potential Repercussions
There are numerous prophecies of this kind throughout the Bible. While some of these can be viewed as predictive, in that they outline potential consequences should a specific change in behavior not be actioned. It’s important to note that in cases such as these the underlying focus is on highlighting a problem, its’ potential consequences, and any or ramifications.
Then, leave the chosen audience with informed choices about how best to proceed with their lives.
Jeremiah the Prophet had this explained to him by God.
Jeremiah 18 – “Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, … ‘Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, and if that nation … turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. And the instant I speak concerning a nation or kingdom, to build and to plant it if it does evil in My sight and does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.’”
In Samuel 2-3, Eli, the High Priest of the time, heard a message about the consequences of his unruly son’s behavior. God warned him that his lineage would be cut short if this behavior was not addressed, and he did not refrain from committing adultery and manipulating the sacrificial system in their own favour.
However, their selfish behaviours continued, so God used a new Prophet named Samuel to deliver a message. This message went directly to Eli, and sure enough, due to nothing changing, Eli’s sons met their death in battle.
Knowing information is one thing, but really taking it to heart is another. God does know this, and he can send a messenger to help draw attention to matters that have lost their way.
4 – To Better Understand the Future
This is not to tell people what will happen in the future, but to help prepare people for what’s to come.
If we look at the well-known Bible prophecies found in Revelation and Daniel, they forecast the advancement of power between nations. Additionally, they include information about how this progression impacts the way people live their lives.
You can expect lots of figurative language in these types of prophecies.
For instance, in Rev 13:11 “Then I saw a second beast coming out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon.”
What would you think if you were reading this for the first time?
It’s a highly symbolic message. The beast is representative of a strong nation or a might individual. Its appearance is sheep-like, which depicts loyalty, but is ultimately evil; this is revealed when its mouth is opened, and it speaks like a Dragon.
While it takes a while to decipher these symbolic messages, they can elevate a person’s spiritual growth. Essentially, these messages are designed to encourage one to strive to be different, without giving the who, what, and when.
Prophets testify of God’s Will.
They help us prepare for the future. They can help us live happily.
They can also help guide us in the present-day.
Many biblical prophecies have already been fulfilled, including the Restoration of Christ’s Gospel, the destruction of Jerusalem, the Israelite exodus by Moses, and more.
Others, such as the gathering of Israel and the return of Jesus coming to earth are yet to be fulfilled.