Purpose of Prophecy
Prophecy is actually unique to the Bible for there are no such prophetic writings in the Qur'an, Hindu Vedas, and other famous religious texts. Nearly 30% of the Bible is dedicated to prophecy and unlike today's psychics or other so called prophets like Nostradamus, the prophecies in the Bible are clear, direct and verifiable. The fact that prophecy is unique to our Bible demonstrates it's purpose, which is to prove that the God of the Bible is the one true God. While we need faith to believe in God, it must not be a blind faith, for God has offered us proof of his existence and his power.
Isa 48:3 I foretold the former things long ago,
my mouth announced them and I made them known;
then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass.
4 For I knew how stubborn you were;
the sinews of your neck were iron,
your forehead was bronze.
5 Therefore I told you these things long ago;
before they happened I announced them to you
so that you could not say,
'My idols did them;
my wooden image and metal god ordained them.'
Isa 46:9 Remember the former things, those of long ago;
I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me.
10 I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say: My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please.
Isa 42:8"I am the LORD; that is my name!
I will not give my glory to another
or my praise to idols.
9 See, the former things have taken place,
and new things I declare;
before they spring into being
I announce them to you."
In these passages, and others, we learn that God's ability to prophecy was how He proved Himself to us. No false god or idol could do such a thing, only the one true God could for tell the future in perfect detail with great accuracy. God reminded the Israelites of this fact in these passages. God also made the fulfilment of prophecy the test to prove whether or not a prophet was really speaking for God.
Deut 18:21 You may say to yourselves, "How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?" 22 If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.
Yet today there are all kinds of false prophets still being followed even though their prophecies do not come true. From the Watchtower Society of the Jehovah's Witnesses to Pat Robertson, there are many men claiming to speak for God whose prophecies have been unfulfilled. The test of a true prophet is whether or not his prophecy comes true. There is no getting it wrong if it truly is from God.
In the New Testament it is even more fascinating because the purpose was not only to prove that the message was from God, but it was also a fulfillment of prophecy itself. The prophecy in the NT was a direct fulfillment of OT prophecy.
Acts 2:16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 "'In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
The events in Acts chapter 2 were prophesied about in Joel 2:28-32. But prophecy was only for a time. Prophecy was how God spoke to man in the past, today we have a different method of revelation.
Heb 1:1:1 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.
The New Testament is the record of the Son given to us by those who were there with him and by those who had the gift of prophecy as prophesied about in the book of Joel. Today we do not need prophetic revelation because we have the words of the prophets and the commands of the apostles written down for us. Note how Peter refers to these two different segments of revelation. The prophets were in the past and the apostles were instructed by the Lord. These are the only two authorities we are to trust.
2 Peter 3:2 I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.
In this same book Peter also mentioned that we have something better now than prophecy.
2 Peter 1:19 And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
You can see in this context Peter is referring to the Scripture. The things the apostles saw, did, and prophesied about were written down for us in the Scripture. As Hebrews 1 tells us, these days we are spoken to by the Son, and the Son's message is recorded for us in the New Testament. The gifts of the Spirit have ceased, and that includes prophecy (see our article The Spiritual Gifts to learn more about the cessation of the gifts).
However, there will be prophecy again. While the use for prophecy is no longer necessary for us because we have the Bible, the Word does tell us that prophets will be necessary in the future, in another era of mankind. In the book of Revelation we read about the two prophets that will come after the church age has ended and all those who belong to Christ have been taken from this earth. However, we know these men will be from God because John prophesied about them. Again, this was not some vague prophecy that any person can seem to fit their description, but what these witnesses will be able to accomplish and what their purpose will be is so clear there will be no mistaking their existence.
It is because of the prophecies in the Old Testament that have come true that we know the prophecies yet to be fulfilled will come to pass also. This is how we know that we can trust the rest of Scripture, because it was written by the one true God, the only who knows the future. The time for prophecy is now over. That was done "in the past." Now we have something more certain, the written Word of God which is the message of the prophets and the apostles (who also sometimes prophesied) in written form. That Word will never pass away and is all we need for instruction, life and godliness.
2 Tim 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.