The Bible’s Greatest Prophecies Unlocked! A Voice Cries Out—CHAPTER ONE – WHY PROPHECY!
Any study of prophecy begins with the simple definition of what prophecy is. Most lack an understanding of even this most basic knowledge. Bible prophecy is “the inspired, divine revelation or foretelling of historical events, written in advance of those events, pertaining to the unfolding of God’s Plan for mankind.” A shorter definition is simply “foretelling the future.”
Prophecy is factual history recorded in advance! God foretells major events before they happen. He wants His servants to know what the future holds—what lies ahead for the world. The Bible is approximately 750,000 words. This means that 250,000 words are devoted to prophecy. Over 80 percent is yet to be fulfilled. Therefore, many major events must yet come to pass.
Before examining in detail the array of events foretold to occur, we must ask: What possiblepurpose would God have for devoting a full third of His divine Word to a subject—any subject—and then leave mankind in the dark about it?
Prophecy Only Understood by Christ’s Servants
Many have been taught or believe that it has always been God’s intention to leave all prophecy sealed, closed from understanding.
However, the very introduction to the book of Revelation shows God’s intent is to reveal to “His servants” what lies ahead for all nations. The apostle John begins recording Christ’s words with, “The Revelation [a revealing] of Jesus Christ [not John]…to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass…signified…unto His servant John: who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ…Blessed is he that reads, and they that hearthe words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand” (Rev. 1:1-3).
At the end of Revelation it states this for emphasis: “Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand” (22:10).
How many have noticed this? Then, even more important, is how many have concerned themselves with whether or not they truly are God’s servants? Do not be so sure you know who is and is not.
Obviously, none can “keep” the prophecies of Revelation, or any others, unless theyunderstand them. God must provide the necessary clues to understanding all that lies ahead. We will examine these.
Matthew 24, Luke 21 and Mark 13 are all parallel accounts of what is called the Olivet Prophecy. This all-important prophecy works in combination with the books of Revelation and Daniel. It puts in sequence events that span the entire period from Christ’s First Coming until His Return, almost 2,000 years later.
Most have not understood the events of this long prophecy because they do not understand how keys unlock it—and they do not understand that Jesus spoke it “privately” to only His disciples—“His servants” (Rev. 1:1). This must be understood because it identifies who are and are not able to really comprehend what lies ahead for the world!
Matthew 24 uses the most detail, so we look there, where the prophecy starts in verse 3. (Because of its central importance, note that this chapter will be referenced as much as any other in the Bible.) Now notice: “As He sat upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the world [age]?”
In verse 4, “Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.” Jesus goes straight to the problem that would exist at the end—there are many deceivers at work today. How many people are doing what He said, and taking heed? How many are carefully doing their homework regarding men claiming to represent God?
There are an ever-increasing number of “prophets” arising, exactly as Christ warned three times (just in Matthew 24) would occur at the end of the age. Also, just as He warned, “many will be [and are being] deceived.” Most are not aware of this phenomenon—and its impact in all corners of Christianity.
Next consider verse 15, which concludes referring to “Daniel the prophet” and the admonition “whoso reads, let him understand.” Most today do not—and will not—understand the events soon to smash into civilization. Here is one big reason. God’s servants obey Him (Acts 5:32). Understanding flows directly from obedience to God: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do His commandments” (Psa. 111:10).
Grasp this. All real understanding of God’s Plan and spiritual truth comes from God. It is only the action of His Spirit that opens one’s eyes. Notice: “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened” (Eph. 1:17-18).
All who yield themselves in obedience to God, wishing to be His disciples—His servants—will be able to understand all the great prophecies to be fulfilled in the last days! Professing Christianity refuses to obey God, rejects His authority over them—and remains blind as a result. No amount of trying to understand will unlock God’s purpose to those who ignore His commands.
This is the great first key to grasping the meaning of major biblical prophecies. They are intended for, and will only be understood by, God’s people. All others will remain in confusion, mangling and misunderstanding the horrific, world-shattering events that will soon directly impact every person on the planet!
All Prophecy Sealed Until “the End”
There is a crucial second key that must be identified, and understood, by all seeking to grasp God’s end-time purpose. Without it, nations have remained in total blindness regarding even the question of human survival. Scales cover their eyes. Of course, unable to understand, cynics and skeptics have dismissed all the prophecies of the Old Testament as dusty, antiquated, “old Hebrew literature and poetry, of no use to us today.”
They will soon learn how terribly wrong they have been!
Now note this second key well, for almost none have understood it. All the major prophecies of the Bible have been sealed by God until the “time of the end”—the “last days.” This key hearkens to the group that says prophecy is sealed. Accidentally close to the truth, they have missed a central point. All the great prophecies are no longer sealed!
You do not need to take my word for it. The prophet Daniel, under the direct inspiration of God, makes this point plain—for all who will believe it. Recognize that God is speaking through Daniel, rather than Daniel giving some personal opinion about future events.
The book of Daniel spans a period of over 2,500 years, detailing the fulfillment of events then all yet to occur. Generations of Bible students, unwilling to believe God, have attempted to interpret Daniel’s prophecy. All have failed, resulting in endless disagreement and confusion.
Here is what an angel instructed Daniel at the end of his prophecy: “But you, O Daniel, shut upthe words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (12:4). (Seven times, in just this one chapter, it speaks of the “end,” “time of the end,” or when all things would be “finished.”)
Unsatisfied, and not grasping what was being told him, Daniel once again sought to understand. Notice: “I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be theend of these things?” (vs. 8).
The angel repeated himself: “Go your way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand” (vs. 9-10). Jesus later cited Daniel when He repeated that “the wise shall understand” events described to occur at the end of the age. Let me reiterate that God says obedience brings understanding. No wonder Daniel adds, “none of the wicked shall understand.” Any who rebel against God’s Law, regardless of how they see themselves, fall into this category.
Daniel foretells a time—now here—when “knowledge shall increase” and reveals the compelling, even electrifying, story of what God plans to do in our time. Daniel’s message had no application for his own time!
God’s promise was always to unseal the prophecy when the end time arrived!
So, the second vital key to properly understanding Bible prophecy is that all previous generations—of even God’s true servants—had no chance to comprehend events described in Daniel’s book, or in other biblical passages related to it.
Beginning in the twentieth century, having been revealed and explained, the Bible’s greatest prophecies now thunder a powerful warning to all who will hear—and heed!
A “Sure Word”
The apostle Peter wrote this about how God intends that prophecy illuminate the understanding of those who study it: “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto you do well that you take heed, as unto a light that shines in a dark place…” (II Pet. 1:19). This verse reveals God’s purpose—His “sure word of prophecy,” bringing “light” to “dark places”—so people will “take heed.” You must be willing to heed what is written.
Now continue: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation” (vs. 20). This is most crucial to understand. No single verse—or even any two or three passages—is sufficient to bring full, correct prophetic understanding on big events.
Grasp this. All of the verses on every aspect of prophecy must be carefully assembled first. Second, building the truth begins with the most clear and obvious passages. These are two of the greatest rules of Bible study when exploring any of this Book’s topics. Sadly, these rules, and the rest of the twelve rules of Bible study, are not followed by, or even known to, almost any who read God’s Word. Prophecy “experts” are no exception.
Continue again in II Peter 1: “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (vs. 21). In short, prophecy comes from God, through His servants, as He inspires them to record His words.
Many of the Bible’s greatest servants were prophets. These men held high office. In fact, most whom God worked through in the Old Testament held this office. Their names jump from Scripture.
Acts 3:19-21 reveals that prophets can announce the kingdom of God. With one exception (Jonah), every prophetic book of the Old Testament records something about God’s coming kingdom. Others delivered powerful messages—usually warnings.
Proof of God’s Existence—and Power
Prophecy can be summarized as having four distinct purposes. All four must be understood. But before this comes some necessary setup.
In ever-increasing numbers, people are seeking psychics, channelers, tarot card and palm readers, fortune-tellers, astrologers, crystal ball gazers and every other medium to tell them what is going to happen.
But no human being operating on his own power can foresee the future. Historians can only record what has already happened. Meteorologists, with the aid of modern technology, can forecast the weather with reasonable accuracy. But even these predictions become unreliable when they model patterns more than perhaps a week ahead.
Psychics and seers can sometimes see elements of the future, because they are connected to the wrong side of the spirit realm. However, these visions invariably have errors alongside any correct elements. (For example, mediums or false religious leaders have on a number of occasions predicted that an earthquake would occur on a certain day and at a particular place, and a quake did strike—but a day earlier or later than predicted, or on the right day but in a different place.)
Few go to the one infallible source, which foretells all the important events that will soon come upon the entire world. This can be done—and with astounding, absolute accuracy!
So plain is the proof, you can easily learn it for yourself! And afterward, you can rest assured that what you have learned will occur—that it is no less certain than tomorrow’s sunrise. When you have completed reading the balance of this book, you need never again doubt the authority of anything found in the Bible—including all matters discussed in its remaining two-thirds, the other 500,000 words it contains about other subjects. In fact, just Chapter Four makes this the case.
So then, the first purpose is that, when proven to have been fulfilled, prophecy becomes undeniable evidence of the existence and power of God. God alone can fulfill prophecy. No human being has even the knowledge of what are world-shattering future events, let alone the power to bring them to pass centuries or even millennia beyond his lifetime. For this reason, it has been said that prophecy is the challenge the skeptics dare not accept!
God openly taunts all such skeptics in Isaiah 41. We read from the Moffatt translation: “Now, the Eternal cries, bring your case forward, now, Jacob’s King [God] cries, state your proofs. Let us hear what happened in the past, that we may ponder it, or show Me what is yet to be, that we may watch how it turns out; yes, let us hear what is coming, that we may be sure you are gods; come, do something or other that we may marvel at the sight!—why, you are things of naught, you can do nothing at all!” (vs. 21-24).
This passage becomes God’s challenge to disbelievers.
Another bold statement, also in Isaiah: “Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them” (42:9).
God is careful to ensure that the credit for foretelling events goes to Him alone, rather than any false prophet or false god. Again from Isaiah: “I have declared the former things from the beginning; and they went forth out of My mouth, and I showed them; I did them suddenly, and they came to pass. Because I knew that you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew, and your brow brass; I have even from the beginning declared it to you; before it came to pass I showed it you: lest you should say, My idol has done them, and my graven image, and my molten image, has commanded them” (48:3-5).
God does not guess at what will occur. He is not merely the best forecaster or prognosticator. Acting deliberately, He brings to pass what He says will happen. If He tells us something—anything—is to occur, it will occur! Moffatt renders verse 3, “What has occurred I foretold long ago; it fell from My lips, I predicted it, then suddenly I acted—it was done.”
Here is yet another scripture from Isaiah: “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like Me. Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure” (46:9-10).
Prophecy is simply God telling human beings what He will do!
Understand that God has a steady hand in the affairs of men—that He is capable of thwarting and overthrowing the stated purposes of governments and nations. Notice this from Moffatt: “The Eternal wrecks the purposes of pagans, He brings to nothing what the nations plan; but the Eternal’s purpose stands forever, and what He plans will last from age to age…The Eternal looks from heaven, beholding all mankind; from where He sits, He scans all who inhabit the world; He who alone made their minds, He notes all they do” (Psa. 33:10-15).
Yes, men may have their plans about how to solve the big, complex problems facing civilization, but God “wrecks”—smashes—them, “bringing them to nothing.” And God has plainly told us how He plans to do this at the conclusion of 6,000 years of human affairs.
A Means of Encouragement
A second purpose for prophecy is to encourage Christ’s true followers. Jesus understood that the Christian way involves trials and difficulties throughout life. This is an inescapable fact for those in whom God is working. These are essential to the character-building process.
One of these trials is persecution. Just before His crucifixion, Jesus warned, “Remember the word that I said unto you [He must have taught this previously], The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). In the preceding verse, He had reminded His disciples that “I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (vs. 19). Of course, Jesus was persecuted to the point of horrible torture and crucifixion.
The apostle Paul recorded, “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (II Tim. 3:12). The word “all” means what it says! Jesus said His servants would be hated! In light of this often difficult path, He reassured His disciples, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20).
Another element of encouragement flows from prophecy itself.
Some may assume that all biblical prophecy is “gloom and doom” and “fire and brimstone.” This is not true! In fact, far from it. The ultimate message of prophecy is the most positive news in all history. Hundreds of verses give a preview of a time of peace, prosperity and happiness—drawing closer daily—that all human beings will ultimately have an opportunity to experience.
Those who choose to yield to God and learn His way of life look forward in a special way, and draw encouragement from these prophecies.
To Warn and Call to Repentance
A careful study of the Bible demonstrates that God always warns before punishment—whether it be the destruction of cities such as Nineveh, or Sodom and Gomorrah—or of individuals such as wayward kings of Israel and Judah—or of the whole inhabited world in the Flood. God gives us this certain promise of what will happen in advance of events He intends to fulfill: “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but He reveals His secret unto His servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). God keeps His promises. He always reveals major events before they happen.
So then a third purpose of prophecy is that a loving God gives human beings—free moral agents who must choose between right and wrong—space to repent.
Ancient Israel has been the main recipient of such admonitions: “If My people…shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (II Chron. 7:14).
When giving the prophet Ezekiel his commission, God stressed what His servants were to do: “O son of man, I have set you a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear the word at My mouth, and warn them from Me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, you shall surely die; if you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at your hand. Nevertheless, if you warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul” (33:7-9).
It has been my long and sad experience that most people simply will not truly listen to what God says. They cannot seem to make themselves take seriously His commands, instructions and warnings.
However, with each warning through the ages, some few do heed and repent. And those who do not—having been warned!—bear responsibility for their choices and actions.
A fourth purpose of prophecy is to motivate those who wish to seek God and claim His promise of protection. Knowledge of what is ahead—of both the terrible and wonderful elements—motivates true Christians to serve God more fully.
We saw that the most serious events just before Christ’s Return will descend like a snare on an unsuspecting world—except for those who “watch,” “pray” and “escape” (Luke 21:36). So then a group is promised to be protected during the times just ahead.
The apostle Paul wrote this sobering warning: “But of the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction comes upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. You are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober” (I Thes. 5:1-6).
Those who take the Bible seriously know what is coming, and live their lives accordingly.
Isaiah explained that God’s Word is written, “…precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little…” (28:13). Nowhere is this Bible pattern more true than of prophecy. But the passage continues with God explaining why His Word is written this way: “…that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.”
Recall that Revelation is written to God’s servants—to “show” them, not others, what must “shortly come to pass.” Isaiah underscores that prophecy cannot be understood by those who do not seek to serve and obey God. God has scattered bits and pieces of information on prophecy (and all other subjects) throughout His Word in a way that will cause the mere casual reader to “fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken”—by false understanding.
They will not comprehend.
This ought sober the reader, who should now be asking, “How serious am I about understanding—and acting on—all that follows in this volume?” Now is the time to consider this question.
With God’s purposes for biblical prophecy established, we now examine “prophecies” of adifferent kind…