What Is the Purpose of Prophecy?
Tom: Thanks, Gary. You are listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth, to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him.
However, if God’s Word is not, in actuality, God’s very words, then this program, along with every other endeavor that encourages Bible study and seeking God’s truth, is nothing more than grand delusion. So, that makes our topic, The Reliability of the Bible, which we have been considering for many weeks now, of tremendous importance for the confidence of everyone who is seeking to know God and to know what He has communicated to mankind.
Now, Dave, we’ve probably belabored this, but if we’re not sure that God has spoken to us inerrantly, authoritatively, and sufficiently in His Word, then all we’re left with is anybody’s, anyone’s, best guess.
Dave: And we have to be able to know that this is God’s Word. He could have spoken, and we don’t know it for sure. So, that means that the entire Bible has to be accurate, otherwise we’re picking and choosing, and then it isn’t authoritative after all. You’re deciding what’s in it, and I’m deciding, and we might as well forget it!
Tom, it’s amazing—and we have commented on this before—I cannot understand it. Some people don’t think they need God’s Word; they’re just satisfied with speculation. “Oh, this guy’s got some degrees from the seminary, and this is what he thinks.” But someone else thinks something else. I do not want to step into eternity on supposition, some guy’s opinion, some woman’s opinion, some religious leader’s opinion. So, that’s why, as you said, this is so important.
Tom: Okay, Dave, even for the person sitting in a pew in church, who just loves his pastor, there’s a tendency to say, “Well, Pastor (whoever), said it, so I’ll go along with it because he’s a good guy, you know. He’s living a good life and is morally upstanding, plus he’s a really bright guy, and he’s able to communicate really well.”
Dave: Sure. Yeah, furthermore, Tom, you can’t do that. We’ve probably hammered away on that as well. When you stand before the Lord, everybody out there, one day, you will stand before the Lord. Either the Judgment Seat of Christ for Christians—Paul says we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account—or the Great White Throne! Revelation 20: “I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God, and the books were opened. . . .” They are going to be judged.
So, one day, when we all stand before the Lord—those of you out there listening, stand before the Lord—it’s going to happen; you can’t say . . . The Lord says, “Well, why did you do this? Or “Why did you believe that?”
You say, “Well, Tom and Dave, I mean, they sounded pretty authoritative, you know, they were coming over CSN,” or whatever. Or “my pastor, you know, I loved him and he was so sincere,” or “he had so many degrees,” or “I belonged to the oldest church,” “the largest church,” “the most popular church—surely that must have been right.” The Lord will say, “I gave you My Word. I gave you the witness of creation and of conscience. I gave you My Word. I gave you some intelligence, and I expected you to be accountable to Me, not to someone else. And to find out what I have said,” and I think God would not have too much patience with people who insisted on just ignoring whether God said it or not, what did He say? How do I know it? and they said, “I am just going to go by somebody’s opinion.”
And, I think the Lord would justly say, “Well, if you are satisfied with someone’s opinion, that’s what you will rest your eternal destiny upon, and it so happens that that opinion is wrong. And I gave you a conscience, I gave you enough common sense to check it out for yourself, and you did not.” I mean, it’s a horrible thought, Tom.
Tom: Well, let me keep adding to that, because there are some other aspects that demonstrate how foolish it is. Now, we are not denying the fact that God has raised up terrific teachers, pastors who love God, love His Word, and they minister, and they have the ability to teach. However, our belief has to do with a personal relationship with Creator God, with Jesus Christ. Now, if I am to develop, through God’s Holy Spirit dwelling in me, I am to develop an intimate, personal relationship with Jesus. I’m almost going by proxy if I put somebody between the two of us. If I look to an individual—and how does that work out?
Would we do anything temporally in terms of, let’s say—we are married—would I want a proxy between my wife and myself? That doesn’t make sense! Secondly, we have God’s Holy Spirit. You know, He has given us His Word, and if I’m going to do something, be a man of faith, act upon what I read in God’s Word and believe it, there’s no place for an intermediary. The Holy Spirit wouldn’t be an intermediary. He’s one who illumines, gives us understanding.
Dave: Yeah, there are teachers, as you said. We’re trying to do a little teaching, when we get to that part of the program from John’s gospel. But you must check your teachers out, and that’s one of the problems with those who claim some superior knowledge, some superior capability of explaining the Bible because of their degrees or because of their study. I cannot be in a position where I have to trust that. Now, I can benefit from their study and thank God for the study that people have put in, the archaeologists and scientists, historians and . . .
Tom: Yeah, Hebrew, Greek scholars.
Dave: Yes, and we’re very thankful for that, but in the final analysis I must come to my own conclusions, and I must check them out—and we keep saying it again and again: the Bereans were commended for testing Paul from the Bible. Now, for them to test Paul from the Bible, that means the Bible must have been understandable to them. Now, these were not even Christians yet, and Paul is preaching this gospel, and they are checking him out and they were commended for that.
Please check us out, but please check your pastor out, the theologians out, the books you read, and most of all, check the Bible out, and make certain that this is God’s Word and then go to it.
Now people say, “Well, you can’t understand it. It’s so complicated,” or “You can make the Bible say anything you want.” It’s simply not true. Now, it is a fact, Peter said of Paul’s writings, “In them are some things hard to be understood, which the unstable and the ignorant twist like they do the other scriptures.”
But if you come to the Word of God with an honest heart, and you say, “Lord, please help me to understand.” There may be things you don’t understand. Well, just back off and get on your knees and trust the Lord. And, you know, the Bible is its own commentary, so the way to understand one passage in the Bible is how it relates to other passages in the Bible. That’s why it’s so important to study the whole Bible, to know the whole thing.
Tom: Right, Dave, I like what A. W. Tozer said, his analogy. He saw himself as nothing more than a signpost pointing to God’s Word. I mean, he had wonderful teachings, you know. I love so many of his books. But again, that’s what we want to be. We’re just here pointing to God’s Word, pointing to the Lord.
Dave: So maybe we had better get down to business here.
Tom: Well, here’s one of today’s questions on this subject and it’s taken from your book, In Defense of the Faith: “I have heard it said that the prophecies in the Bible are worded in such a way that their alleged fulfillment could fit almost anything. Is this true? And if not, what is the purpose of prophecy? It seems to me that for the Bible to be involved in prophecy puts it in a realm of speculation and detracts from its credibility and reliability and its excellent teaching on morals.”
Dave: It’s amazing, Tom! People do have that opinion. I mean this was a question someone . . . I don’t remember now, whether I got that after a meeting (I do like to have a Q&A session), or whether it was in a letter sent to me. That would be back in my documentation for the book. But it’s amazing that people think that biblical prophecy is worded in such a way that you could make it turn out any way you wanted. Now that would be true of Nostradamus and his French quatrains. The original . . .
Tom: Because they are so vague.
Dave: That’s right; they’re written in such a way, but the biblical prophecies? That Jesus would be crucified, for example, “They pierced my hands and my feet . . . ”? How are you going to make that turn out to something else? That Israel would be scattered all over the world from the land God gave her? How are you going to make that turn out to something else? That Jesus would be born in Bethlehem? You going to try to interpret that to mean Washington, D.C., or something else? The details, the accuracy, the historical accuracy? It simply isn’t true! And to suggest that this puts the Bible into the area of speculation! Yeah, it would, if these were human beings, but this is God! And in fact, Isaiah 42—I know you want to get to Isaiah 43—but Isaiah:42:8, God says, “I am the Lord: (I am Yahweh) that is My name: and My glory will I not give to another, neither My praise to graven images. Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.”
And, as you know, and our listeners probably have heard us say it several times, you know there are seven signs of a false prophet, and I don’t remember whether we even got into those, but in Deuteronomy 18, one of the signs is, “A prophet who claims to speak from me,” God says, “and what he says does not come to pass, you know that he is not my spokesman, that I did not say this to him.” But the things that God says in the Bible have come to pass or are in the process of fulfillment.
Tom: Dave, part of this question is “What is the purpose of prophecy?” In your book, A Cup of Trembling, you lay out about ten specifics with regard to God proving—actually proving His existence. Now, that’s why I wanted to go to Isaiah:43:10. Let me quote that verse, and let’s discuss it. Isaiah:43:10: “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.”
Dave: Well, He is saying that, of course, the Jews . . .
Tom: “Ye”—that’s referring to Israel.
Dave: That’s right, Israel—the first verse in that chapter tells you that, speaking to Jacob, “and you Jews are My witnesses to yourselves and to the world—the proof to the world that I am God.”
Not because there are godly Jews running around trying to convert the world to believe in God and giving evidence and so forth. No, the Jew himself is the evidence. Someone said, “Why do you believe in God?”
The Jew! Because everything that God said—and He told details. He didn’t tell details about the French (I don’t want to offend any Frenchmen out there, or Germans, or Americans, or Muslims, Arabs, Palestinians), no one but the Jews! Of course He told what would happen to some of these other nations when they opposed the Jews, but the details! Now, these are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Now, the Arabs claim to be the descendants of Abraham through Ishmael and, why don’t we just take a quick look there, Tom.
Dave: Turn to Genesis 17. I can’t remember whether we have dealt with this or not on this program, but it’s very clear. Verse 18, God is still telling Abraham, “I am going to give you a son through Sarah.” And Abraham can’t believe it, Sarah doesn’t believe it, and so verse 18: “And Abraham said unto God, ‘O that Ishmael might live before thee.” (You gave me a son, Ishmael. It was through my wife’s maid, but still . . . it’s my son. I am satisfied, Lord. Let Ishmael . . . ”) you know.
Tom: Again, his way, not God’s plan.
Dave: Right. Verse 19, this is Genesis 17: “God said, Sarah, thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant and with his seed after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.”
Tom: Abraham is how old at this point?
Dave: He’s ninety-nine years old.
Tom: Ninety-nine! And Sarah?
Dave: She’s ninety, about that.
Tom: Beyond what is normal for child bearing, so that concerned them. But still . . .
Dave: But, Tom, the point is, it’s very clear, you have the issue raised. You have the issue raised between Ishmael and Isaac, and God very clearly says, “Yes, I will bless Ishmael, but my covenant is with Isaac.”
Then in chapter 26 of Genesis you have the promise renewed to Isaac. Then you have the promise in chapter 28 renewed to Jacob, and God very clearly says, in fact, twelve times the Bible says: “This is my name; I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
Okay, so it is these people now that the Bible focuses on. Most of the prophecies in the Bible, in fact, are about Israel, and they were given centuries, thousands of years, before they were fulfilled. I mean, just the one that he would . . . anti-Semitism, that he would preserve them . . .
Tom: Let’s go down the list, because sometimes we refer to these things, and I know . . . that’s why I mentioned about Sarah and Abraham, because some people aren’t familiar with these things, so let’s give them some specifics.
Dave: Go ahead.
Tom: First of all, the Promised Land is promised; that’s about 2000 BC. Genesis:15:18, “In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram (that was Abraham’s name before he became Abraham), saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.” Genesis:28:13-15, this is more specifics: “And behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereupon thou liest, (so he is speaking to Jacob here) to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again unto this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.”
Dave: Okay, so that’s part of it, the land.
Dave: But then when he brought them into the land, he warned them, Deuteronomy 28, if they disobeyed, He would cast them out, and not just next door! Verse 63 says He’ll cast them out; verse 64: “I will scatter you in every nation on the face of this earth.”
Dave: And it happened; we call them the wandering Jew. Verse 37 tells you anti-Semitism—many verses: “You will be hated and persecuted and killed like no other people.” Now just that much, think of that! I mean, a lot of groups out there, ethnic groups, think they’ve been harshly dealt with. No one has even come close to suffering what the Jews have suffered, and we don’t have time to go into that.
Tom: Well, let’s take some time.
Dave: We can’t, really.
Tom: Well, let me just quote Jeremiah:29:18: “And I will persecute them with the sword, with the famine, and with the pestilence, and will deliver them to be removed to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, and an astonishment, and a hissing, and a reproach, among all the nations whither I have driven them.” These are specifics, Dave; this is not the General Quatrains of Nostradamus and others.
Dave: Well, Tom, if you want to talk about it a bit, it wasn’t just Hitler; it was the Russian Czars; it was the popes who put them in ghettos! It was the Crusaders who slaughtered Jews. It was the United Nations! They have condemned Israel more than 370 times! The PLO—not just the PLO, but all the Muslims. It’s in the Qur’an, Muhammad said it: “They must be annihilated!” That’s pretty clear.
What is happening? What happened at the Twin Towers and the Pentagon—this attack on America? That has to do with Israel. We are accused of supporting Israel, and you may have heard the quote from Osama bin Laden, when he said, “You will not have any peace in America until we have peace in Palestine!” Okay?
And Arafat says, “Peace for us is the destruction of Israel!” Okay, so I mean, we could go on and on. We could give you the documentation, but these people have been hated and persecuted like no other people. Why?
And God said, “I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling . . . ” (That book, by the way, is out of print at the moment but coming back into print, and we will be able to offer it very shortly), but you cannot explain it away. There’s no people have suffered like these people. Wherever they went—hated and persecuted. But God said, “I will preserve you; I will bring you back into your land.”
Tom: Jeremiah:30:10, “Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the Lord; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid.”
Dave: Go to chapter 31:10, “I have scattered them . . . I will gather them. . . . ” This is God speaking. He says, “You nations had better watch out! I am the One that scattered them. I’m going to bring them back.”
Tom: Well, Ezekiel:36:24: “For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.”
Dave: And Ezekiel 38, when it talks about Armageddon it says, “The nations of the world will come against a people who have been scattered everywhere and have been brought back to their land, and that land is prospering.”
And you can see that that’s where we are right now. One of the most amazing prophecies, Zechariah:12:6, says He would make the princes of Judah . . . when there’s a siege with the world against them, He would make them like fire that would devour the nations around them! You couldn’t have believed that when those Jewish settlers were attacked by the regular armies of six Arab nations when they declared Independence in 1948, with overwhelming numerical superiority, fire power, weaponry, support of the oil billions, and so forth—who could have thought that they could win?
And they won, and they’ve won every war since. And every piece of land they have taken, because they had to expand the land—they were given such a narrow strip of land, it was indefensible by the UN, and they took that high ground for defensive reasons and so forth. They took it from an enemy that had sworn to exterminate them. They kept attacking them in war after war after war. Finally, they decided, “We can’t defeat them by a frontal assault, so we will pretend peace, and we will get territory within, and that is where we will finally defeat them.”
And this is what it is all about, Tom, and you can see it going on right now, and the terrorism around the world is for that reason, also, to insist Israel must not exist.
Tom: Dave, let me go back to Isaiah:43:10, quote it again, because this is what we’ve done. We have laid out the scriptures, we have looked at history in support of what God said, but again, “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.” So, God demonstrates, this is proof, you say it over and over again: “I can prove that God exists.” Well, here is one of the best proofs, God’s witness through prophecy.
Dave: Yeah. Why do I believe in God? The Jew! Look at what God said, and it happened and is happening!