“For prophecy never had its origin in the will of men, but holy men of God spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:21
What is biblical prophecy? The term has two general usages that are often described as foretelling and forthtelling. In the sense of foretelling, which is how Christians usually use the word prophecy, the prophet of God foretold future events. In this predictive sense prophecy is an announcement of future events in a manner that could not be the result of human wisdom or guesswork. Somewhat, pointing to a supernatural source.
With respect to forthtelling, the prophet of God was simply God’s spokesman. As such, he could speak to a contemporary situation as God’s chosen messenger he spoke the words of God to people or power of the day. He was also a preacher of righteousness, calling the nation to repentance.
As Paul Little indicates, predictive prophecy, as in foretelling; prophecy must be more that good guess such as that of fortune-tellers who speak in broad generalities. One can predict some things if he makes the prediction broad and ambiguous. True prophecy, on the other hand demands precision.
Furthermore, prophecy in the sense of predicting future events or saying something that is to take place in subsequent moment, to meet the criterion of clearly being beyond human wisdom and guesswork; prophecy must deal with contingencies.
That is, the events predicted must not be of casual nature or order. Human events are subject to chance; they are dependent on circumstances that may or may not arise. The complex interplay of human experience makes predictions about human behavior very difficult.
Human behavior is dependent on a complex web of forces and emotions. In contrast, there is in science a more easily observed cause-and-effect relationship. One does not gasp with wonder when heated water begins to boil. Everyone knows from experience that this is likely to happen; so one is not prophesying when he announces that the water will soon be boiling. Scientific predictions, then, are not of the same order as biblical prophecy.
The appeal to prophecy and its subsequent fulfillment was an important way that true messengers of God were authenticated in the Old Testament. Fulfilled prophecy was a kind of credential for the prophet. The fulfillment of a messenger’s prophecy demonstrated his link with God and demanded that the people listen to his message.
The same is true for today’s prophet – the mark of a true prophet is that whatever he says must come to pass. Prophets of old and should be of today, they never suggested but spoke with power, authority and certainty – so also is biblical prophecy, it is not a suggestion!
What then are the characteristics of biblical prophecy? Bernard L Ramm and Paul E Little help us by dealing with a few of the several of these characteristics:
Biblical Prophecy is Unique: Prophecy has a peculiar importance in the biblical record. This should not be interpreted to mean that other religions do not have prophetic elements, but for them prophecy is merely occasional phenomenon. However, the prophetic ministry which carried with it a predictive element is integral to the Bible. It was a means of establishing Old Testament religion, and it is the part of the very fiber of biblical Christianity.
Prophecy Occurs Throughout the Bible: It pervades all of scripture and is not limited to one part. Prophecy is scattered through the historical books, the wisdom literature, the poetry books, the books of the prophets, the Gospels, and the Epistles.
Biblical Prophecy Predicts Specific Details: In many instances it refers to such specific details that only divine interventions could provide adequate fulfillment. Time after time, biblical prophecy fulfills the demand of dealing with contingent events.
With a degree of precision that rules out the possibility of guesswork. In prophetic biblical utterances, people were named before they were born (Isaiah 44:28-45:1; Ezra 1:1-8); kingdoms were characterized before they came into existence; and destinies of specific individuals and nations were declared even prior to their birth.
The Fulfillment of Prophecy is Clear: There is no ambiguity in the way predicted events are described as actually occurring. Prediction without well-documented and precise fulfillment is not a guarantee of supernatural revelation. It is the nature of the fulfillment that supplies the verification.
The Fulfillment of Prophecy is Supernatural: one occurrence of the fulfillment of prophecy would establish its supernatural character and would provide a legitimate reason for recognizing God as the God of the miraculous. But we do not need to rely on only one example because the Bible abounds with fulfilled prophecies.
Predictions are Often Contrary to Expectations: Biblical prophecy often predicts outcomes which are the opposite of what unguided human intelligence would predict. This is true especially of the prophecies of doom regarding flourishing cities and societies. Consider, for instance, the predictions of the fall of Jerusalem and Babylon.
Approximately three hundred prophecies in the Bible relate directly to the coming Messiah, Jesus the Christ. According to Robert D. Culver, an evangelical Bible scholar, the mathematical probability of all of these details being fulfilled in one lifetime by one person is 1chance in 84-followed-by-131-zeros. Considering this, if Jesus were an impostor, what likelihood is there that He could have arranged for all of these prophesied events to find their fulfillment in Him?
I have asserted in the past when dealing with catastrophic war that is coming between Israel and Iran, that in Bible prophecy, Israel is God’s prophetic time clock; you can look at events happening in and around Israel and tell almost with certainty where the hands of that clock are. According to a well-known story, Frederick the Great of Prussia, a self-professed doubter, asked his court chaplain, “Give me in one word a proof of the truth of the Bible.” The chaplain’s response was, simply, “The Jews.”
There is a saying in South Africa which avers that, “the White man has no kin: his kin is money”. The saying rings very true considering what Mayer Amschel Rothschild – he of the planet’s wealthiest family – once said, that, “Permit me to issue and control the money of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws!”
To the white man, the dollar sign looms so large in his optics that it was precisely the reason he appropriated Africa towards the end of the 19th century. The idea was to develop his continent, Europe, at the same rate as he underdeveloped Africa. Yet he was driven as much by economic imperatives as by sheer greed and prejudice.
A “pagan” King violates the Jewish Temple by setting up an idol in the Holy of Holies
Why, General Atiku, has the Judean setting (present-day Israel/Palestine) being the focus of so much geopolitical fervour over the ages when it is so resource-poor and is not even that agriculturally fecund being a virtual desert? Why have all the superpowers of history locked horns over it since days immemorial?
Just a ‘teaser’: we are all complaining of the ‘hot weather’ and ‘heat’ – but think about it, is this a reminder / warning from the Almighty that if we find this weather ‘hot’ can you imagine what the ‘fires of hell’ will be like should we get there?
Let us take this as a reminder and a ‘warning’ that we should change our lifestyles so that we follow in the path of righteousness and that which our Lord has directed. Failing this we will face the ‘fire of hell’ which undoubtedly will be many times worse than what we are facing on this earth.
Because as humans we have been favoured and bestowed with the power of intellect thus we enjoy greatness over other creation, coupled with a greater responsibility. Should that responsibility be misused then only on the Day of Reckoning will he know we will live in joy or in grief forever.
Since the dawn of creation Allah has sent down thousands of messengers, dozens of Divine Books but only ONE universal Message to humanity. That message of Divine Revelation and guidance is clear, unambiguous and eternal:
Allah is One, He is Master and Creator of the universe and of mankind and to Him is due all worship and obedience.
He has sent humanity Divine Revelation and guidance through His Messengers and His Books.
As death is inevitable in this world, equally is our resurrection in the Hereafter where everyone will face the consequences of their belief, unbelief and conduct in this temporal world.
This is the basic message, teaching and belief of every religion and without doubt we will all be called to account for our lives in this world and the manner in which we conducted ourselves, will be rewarded thereafter, the consequences of which may be joy forever for some or grief forever for others.
“It is He [Allah] Who created Death and Life, that He may try which of you is best in deeds and He is Exalted in Might, Oft-Forgiving.” (Qur’an: 67: 2)
In Islam the teachings of the Qur’an and the Last and Final Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) give clear guidance to the believer on how to live a life in this world so as to achieve success in the Hereafter.
‘If any do wish for the transitory things of this life, We readily grant them, such things as We will, to such persons as We will…… those who wish for the things of the Hereafter and strive for them with all due striving, and have faith, they are the ones whose striving is acceptable to Allah’ (Qur’an 17: 18-19)
In this world when a person sets out on a journey towards our Maker (Allah), he finds two paths, one leading to God and the other path to different destinations. A sincere and faithful believer will always try to find the right path and to live by the Divine injunctions, laws and code that his religion lays down. This requires us to live in harmony with the will of the Creator, in harmony with our own selves, and with the needs of the rest of creation. Unfortunately we have a tendency at times to toy with Divine Law and to surrender it to the laws of man and in the process to translate and interpret them into what fits in with our lifestyle of today.
If we are to use the intellect and the freedom of choice bestowed to us by God Almighty and follow His guidance, we will then live consciously in a state of “submission’ to Him, thus we will be virtuous. On the other hand when we ignore our Creators injunctions we work against the natural order, we tend to create discord, injustice and evil – and we become one without guidance. Therefore it is the intellect and the freedom of choice given to us that we are fully responsible for whatever we do.
However, it would be foolish for us to think of ourselves as totally independent and self-sufficient. If a person thinks in this manner, we become proud and. We will be inclined to become ungrateful for the bounties that we enjoy – the air that we breathe and the food we eat to sustain us, the eyes and ears we use to perceive the world around us, the tongue and lips we use to express our needs, wants and our inner most feelings and emotions. And being ungrateful, we will be inclined to forget or to reject the truth of the existence of God Almighty.
Unfortunately, people have varying views with regards to what the most important characteristic of a person is: for some it is the colour of his skin; for others, it is his economic situation – whether he is wealthy or poor; others think it is his , social or political standing, whether he is ruler or ruled; for others it is his social standing as an aristocrat, middle or working class; yet for some is his birth place and the language he speaks or the tribe he belongs to, etc..
‘Do men think that they will be left alone on saying “We believe”, and they will not be tested? We tested those before them, and Allah will certainly those who are true and those who are false’. (Quran 29: 2-3)
In Islam, these have no significance rather they are merely taken as signs of the creative power of God to enable people to recognise one another. The Almighty declares “O Mankind! Indeed we have created you as male and female, and have placed you in nations and tribes that you may have mutual recognition. However, the most honourable of you, in the sight of Allah is the one who is most God-conscious” (Qur’an: 49: 13)
Hence, the most important characteristic of a person is whether he is conscious of his Creator, believes in Him and through that consciousness submits to Him at all times and in all circumstances.
According to the Islamic view man is created by Allah in a pure state, free from sin. He also created us with the capacity or power to do both good and evil. He gave us the freedom to choose between doing good or evil. The good and evil therefore is connected with mankind’s freedom of choice and responsibility for their actions. “Good” may be whatever is pleasing to Allah and therefore beneficial to us. Whereas “Bad/evil” may be whatever incurs the anger of God and is therefore harmful to man.
‘By the soul, and the proportion and order given to it; And its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right – truly he that succeeds that purifies it, and he fails that corrupts it….. (Quran 91: 7-10)
Therefore one of mankind’s main tasks is to keep away from and ward off evil. This is why Taqwa, piety and God consciousness is repeatedly mentioned in the Qur’an as the most important quality a person should develop in this regard. This means one must be conscious at all times not to over step the limits set by God. It works as a defence against evil and temptation by keeping a person within the boundaries of piety.