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Bible Books Summary

Session 3: Section 2

The role of prophecy

Prophecy is often too narrowly defined. It actually has a twofold purpose:
  • forth telling - which means speaking out, and
  • foretelling - which means speaking of future events.

When we speak of forth telling, we include a whole group of prophets and prophecies that do not deal with the future at all. These are those, like Moses, who on many occasions mainly delivered the law or judgements of God. They did not speak of the future at all in some circumstances.

Prophecy of the future – its relevance to us

Prophecy serves to confirm the certainty of God’s plan.

It is extremely helpful to have prophecy in Scripture which is known to have been written well before the predicted events and which came true with accuracy beyond doubt.

Prophecy is not for the purpose of satisfying idle curiosity about future events, but to assist believers to act in faith, and put total trust in God and His Word.

The Bible makes it quite clear where we should look for the best example of prophecy to kindle or strengthen our faith in God and His Word.
 

Open Bible
Read Isaiah 43 v 1 and 10

The whole chapter, but these verses in particular, makes it quite clear that the nation of Israel is God’s prime witness of His existence and purpose.

We now want to look at how remarkable the predictions of the Bible are in relation to the nation of Israel, also called the Jews or God’s people. We will have to look briefly at the history of the nation of Israel.

The unusual Jewish history

Whatever we may think about the Jews, we cannot deny that they exist, and that they have a very long and a very strange history.

In the days of Jesus Christ there was a thriving Jewish nation in the land of Israel. Hundreds of years earlier the nation had been independent, but before Jesus was born it became a part of the Roman Empire.

The Jews did not take kindly to being ruled by foreigners. For many years the country seethed with discontent and rebellion.

Between A.D. 66 and A.D. 135 the Jews fought three fierce wars of independence. But each time they were defeated, and by A.D. 135 the Romans had had enough trouble. They were determined to stop these revolts once and for all.
 
Spoiling Jerusalem – click to enlarge
The Romans destroyed Jerusalem and plundered the Temple in A.D. 70. The scene is pictured on the triumphal Arch of Titus in Rome. The seven - branched candlestick was taken from the Temple.

With typical Roman thoroughness they utterly destroyed Jerusalem and ploughed up its site. Then they erased its name from their maps, and scattered all the inhabitants of Judea (the main part of the land of Israel) around the Roman Empire.

And that, thought the Romans, was that.

But they were wrong. For century after century the Jews survived as a nation without a country. Wherever they went they were hated, treated as an inferior race, and made to live in ghettos. For seventeen centuries, on and off, the exiled Jews were persecuted, massacred, or made to flee for their lives from one country to another. Yet somehow they survived it all.

Then, at the end of the 19th century, nearly eighteen hundred years after their ancestors were exiled from it, a few Jews began to trickle back to their homeland. Within the twentieth century the Jewish population of the land of Israel has risen from a few thousand to several million. By 1948 the Jews there felt sufficiently powerful to proclaim their independence. The following year the sovereign State of Israel was admitted to membership of the United Nations.

History written in advance

With this brief summary of Jewish history in mind, look at what the Old Testament said would happen to the Jews. As you read the following passages, ask yourself: “Are these prophecies vaguely worded, or are they clear and plain? And have they been fulfilled, or not?”

1. The Jews would be scattered all over the world, hated, persecuted, and driven from country to country.
 

Open Bible
Read Deuteronomy 28 v 37 and 64 to 66

2. Meanwhile, their land, once so fruitful, would lie desolate.
 

Open Bible
Read Leviticus 26 v 33 and 34

3. They would survive all these troubles, and would actually outlive their persecutors.
 

Open Bible
Read Jeremiah 30 v 11
and Hosea 3 v 4 and 5

4. Eventually, while still disobeying God, they would go back to their own land again.
 

Open Bible
Read Ezekiel 11 v17, 36 v 22 to 24 and 
         Jeremiah 30 v 7 to 10

These seven extracts, taken from five different books, are typical of all Old Testament teaching about the future of Israel. Everyone, believer and unbeliever alike, agrees that the Old Testament was written before the time of Christ. Consequently, it is absolutely certain that these prophecies about the Jews were written hundreds of years before they were fulfilled.

The prophecies about the exile of the Jews were not fulfilled until the second century after Christ. The prophecies about their wanderings were fulfilled continuously from the second to the nineteenth centuries. And the prophecies about the return of the Jews to their homeland were not fulfilled until the twentieth century.

Summary

  • The prophets had two main roles:
    1. to give God's message
    2. to give predictions about the future.
  • Predictions about the future are useful as a confirmation of faith.
  • There are many predictions about the nation of Israel.

Optional Assignment 4

The marvels of prophecy

The object of this assignment is to encourage you to consider a little more deeply the prophecies you have already looked at and show you some more remarkable prophecies.

Look again at the “History written in advance” section and write exactly what is predicted in the references we mentioned.

Some people say that predictions like these were clever guesses. But if you think about it, you will realise that this cannot be the case. If people want to predict the future, they use past experience of similar things. When these predictions were made there was no other nation that had a similar history, so there was no reason to suggest that these things might happen to the Israelites. In fact, all down the ages no other nation has had a similar history.

There are predictions about other nations contemporary with the prophets. Have a look at Ezekiel 25. This chapter predicts the end of four of Israel’s neighbours. Isaiah 13 v 19 and 20 and Jeremiah 51 v 36 and 37 predict the end of the superpower of the day, Babylon. Not only that, they predict that Babylon would never be lived in again.

Add details of these prophecies about the nations of Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia and Babylon to your list of those about Israel. From what we have said, and if you look in the relevant history books, you will see that every detail has happened as predicted.

There are many more equally remarkable prophecies. Ask via the e-mail request form and we can show you some of them.

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