Prophecy is a very important part of Scripture. In fact all of Scripture is prophecy. In some places, the Bible gives us God’s words as He reveals to us what He wants us to know and do (or not do), and in other places, it gives us His revelation concerning what will take place in the future. Prophecy has been referred to as “forth telling” and “foretelling.”
There is no better apologetic for the claim that the Bible is indeed the Word of God than prophecy. Speaking through Isaiah, God characterizes Himself as the God of prophecy and challenges the gods (i.e., the demons) behind the idols to prove their validity by their prophecies being fulfilled: “Let them bring them forth, and show us what shall happen: let them show the former things, what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare us things for to come. Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods: yea, do good, or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and behold it together” (Isaiah:41:22-23).
Only God knows the future. His prophecy is proof that He alone is God: “Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and show us former things [things that had been spoken of in the past—foretold—and had now come to fruition]? let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say, It is truth. Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me” (Isaiah:43:9-10). “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” (Isaiah:46:9-10). [Emphasis added]
More than a quarter of the Bible is predictive prophecy. Much of it centers on the person of Jesus Christ. In the Book of Genesis (3:15) the first prophecy is given indicating God’s solution through Jesus to reconcile mankind to Himself following the sin of Adam and Eve. Numerous very specific prophecies throughout the Old Testament are given so that Israel might look forward to and recognize Jesus as its Messiah, the “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John:1:29). All prophecies related to the first coming of Jesus Christ have been accurately fulfilled.
Even more prophecies are found in Scripture foretelling our Lord’s Second Coming. Not only do the prophecies deal with the person of Jesus, but they also address events and conditions of which believers need to be aware, both for encouragement and for their spiritual welfare. It’s a wonderful reassurance to recognize prophecy being fulfilled in our day.
Certainly the reestablishment of the nation of Israel in 1948 was a thrilling experience for all of those believers who were alive at the time. This event was an astonishing fulfillment of many prophecies such as Amos:9:14-15: “And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them on their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God.”
There is no denying that God’s words have been realized in modern Israel over the past six-plus decades. The land has become an agricultural phenomenon whose fruitfulness has fed much of Europe. Israel, against overwhelming odds from its beginning, has defeated the surrounding nations that were bent on its annihilation. In the wars that followed with those same nations, God has fulfilled His prophetic word that Israel “shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them” (v. 15).
The Apostle Paul’s prophetic statement of a condition that is also being fulfilled in our time is another proof of the foreknowledge and accuracy of the Scriptures. He wrote this warning to Timothy: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves…” (2 Timothy:3:1-2). We are certainly in such “perilous times” as psychology, specifically humanistic (self-love) psychotherapy, has dominated counseling and much preaching outside as well as inside the church.
Those are just a couple among numerous examples presented in Scripture that give believers insight into God’s prophetic timeline for the world and the church. They are a heads-up concerning what lies before us. A believer who disregards prophecy that foretells future events removes himself from the discernment that God has provided in His Word. He may find himself supporting programs and agendas that seem “right unto a man” but in fact are at odds with what the Scriptures tell us will take place. For example, if he supports a ministry that is attempting to transform or solve the problems of the world with the goal of ushering in the physical Kingdom of God, then he is unwittingly opposing the clear biblical teachings that tell us that the next kingdom to be manifested is the kingdom of the Antichrist.
There are also a host of abuses of biblical prophecy, such as the denial and mockery cited by Peter: “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (2 Peter:3:3-7).
Furthermore, there are those who set themselves up as prophets similar to the false prophets about whom the Lord warned Jeremiah: “Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart” (Jeremiah:14:14).
Among the false prophets of our day are those who set dates for prophetic events. In the past, such false claims have instigated religious cults and doctrinally aberrational groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh-day Adventism. One of the latter’s major figures is Ellen G. White, who was alleged to have “the spirit of Prophecy” yet made numerous predictions that never came to pass. Besides a number of failed prophecies regarding the return of Jesus, she also predicted that the population of the earth (which was at 1.6 billion at the time) would decline due to many diseases. Today’s population of 7 billion proves her wrong. Just prior to the 20th century, Mrs. White prophesied that slavery would be revived in the Southern states. That has yet to take place and is contrary to US law.
The false prophecies of Jehovah’s Witnesses are also numerous and continuous. Early leaders C. T. Russell and Judge J. F. Rutherford made many false predictions about the coming of Jesus and Armageddon, i.e., the end of the world. Rutherford had a ten-room mansion built in San Diego, California, for those who would rule the earth. Among these coming leaders, he believed, would be King David and other Old Testament figures, who he taught would be appearing soon. The mansion featured a two-car garage with a 16-cylinder automobile deeded to King David.
The foremost prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Joseph Smith. His numerous declarations included a prediction (made in 1835) that Jesus would come in 56 years, that the New Jerusalem and its Temple would be built in his lifetime in Zion, Missouri, and that the US government would be “utterly overthrown and wasted” for its “wrongs committed upon the Saints in the state of Missouri” not the least of which was forcing Mormons to flee the state before Smith’s prophecy could be fulfilled.
Many of today’s false prophets, acting within the church (Acts:20:29-31), have been spawned by an alleged movement of the Holy Spirit that began in the 1940s in Saskatchewan, Canada.
A key figure in the movement (which has gone under the name of The Latter-rain/Manifest Sons of God) was a very influential “prophet” named William Branham. Branham’s false theology included Oneness Pentecostalism (a denial of the Trinity), works salvation, a false Jesus, restored prophets and apostles, Eve’s alleged sex with the serpent of Genesis 3, and the claim that the Egyptian pyramids are a revelation of God’s Word. Among his false prophecies are the return of Christ in 1977 and the impossibility of man’s reaching the moon. Nevertheless, he greatly influenced later “prophets” such as Paul Cain, Bob Jones, Kenneth Hagin, Oral Roberts, A. A. Allen, and, more recently, Rodney Howard Browne, Todd Bentley, and those involved in the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) under C. Peter Wagner’s guidance.
Branham’s claim to be guided and empowered by angels was allegedly passed on to those who were leading the “Toronto Blessing,” a sideshow of alleged manifestations that was supported by John Wimber and the Vineyard churches. Branham’s disciples and leaders in the Latter Rain movement, in the days shortly following his death, believed that God would physically restore him to life, an event that never happened.
Oral Roberts, who died in 2009, was the most prominent of the so-called “faith” healers as well as a false prophet. His “seed faith” teaching, which perverts biblical faith, duped multitudes of Christians into giving millions of dollars to him in order to get more from God for themselves. Roberts claimed that God told him to build the City of Faith Hospital, and a vision of a 900-foot Jesus confirmed that the project would be a success. In another appearance of “Jesus,” Roberts declared that he was instructed to use the medical school to find a cure for cancer. In 1989 the bankrupt medical school and hospital shut down for good. Roberts was not only endorsed by his fellow Faith and Prosperity teachers, but conservative Christians such as Billy Graham and Bill Bright also supported his ministry. Graham introduced Roberts at the World Congress on Evangelism in Berlin in 1966 and dedicated Oral Roberts University a few years later; Bright visited the university at Oral’s invitation and brought Campus Crusade to ORU in the early 1980s.
Today’s reigning false prophet is Trinity Broadcasting Network’s favorite, Benny Hinn. Despite the fact that his prophecies are false, ongoing, and go beyond the ludicrous, his supporters’ enthusiasm hasn’t faded. A few examples of Hinn’s false prophecies: he predicted that there would be rows of the dead in caskets next to a TV as they awaited the TBN preachers to successfully resurrect them; Fidel Castro would die in the ‘90s; the homosexual community in America would be destroyed no later than the mid-‘90s; Jesus would appear physically at Benny’s crusades in Nairobi, Kenya; the Rapture would occur in two years (prophesied in 1990, then again in 1997).
Although Benny Hinn is so well known, it’s possible that even more people have heard of Harold Camping. Camping generated his own date-setting publicity by spending $5 million of donations on billboards throughout the country. His predictions of the return of Jesus and the end of the world failed in 1994 and then again in 2011.
Failed prophecy isn’t the only sign that a person is not speaking words from the Lord. In Jeremiah:23:16-17, we are told that some prophets speak “a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD…” claiming “ye shall have peace” and “No evil shall come upon you.” A recent example of this is Rodney Howard Browne, one of the initiators of what has been called the “laughing revival” that was manifested at the Toronto Airport Vineyard. Sobering up, at least to some degree, Browne sees a revival ahead and claims that God commissioned him to tell America and the church to get ready for it. Joining him in his revival-promoting conference Celebrate America was “rabbi” Jonathan Cahn, the author of Charisma Publishing’s The Harbinger. Cahn’s book corrupts the prophecies of Isaiah chapter 10, a judgment upon the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and misapplies them to the Islamic terrorist attack on New York City in 2001. That constitutes false prophecy. Despite the distortion of God’s Word, Cahn was featured on the cover of a conservative Christian discernment magazine with the title: “An End-Time Prophet to America.” No. This is “End-Time” delusion. (See The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction?)
Prophecy, as noted, is a very significant part of Scripture. The Apostle Paul used it on his missionary journeys to prove to the Jews that their Messiah had come in the person of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament prophets gave the messianic criteria, which Jesus had to and did fulfill perfectly. Biblical prophecy tells believers in our day what to expect prior to the Lord’s return for His saints—a period that Jesus characterized as a time of great deception (Matthew:24:4). As the world, professing Christianity, and the church demonstrate what Jesus warned about, there is no hint from Scripture or from the moral condition of the world, that either global or national reformation or revival is ahead, especially regarding the countries in the West.
So what is the situation today for biblical prophecy—that is, what the Bible actually says will take place? It is more critical than ever. Believers need to recognize its value in order to have discernment and to understand the times in which we live. Because of the importance however, Satan has flooded Christendom with false prophets uttering bogus prophecies that have seduced multitudes and subjected the Scriptures (true prophecy) to the confusion of believers and the ridicule of the world. Blood moons, conjured harbingers, setting dates for Christ’s return and the end of the world, a global revival, Bible codes and mystery interpretations, prophecies regarding America, the takeover (dominion) of the world by Christians, etc., may attract huge numbers of followers, but the paths lead to delusion at best and destruction at worst. The antidote for what may seem to be an overwhelming flood of deception is very simple and is available to every true believer: we all, by God’s grace, must be Bereans (Acts:17:11), diligently searching the Scriptures daily to know whether or not what is being taught or declared is true to the Word of God. TBC