Prophetic Witness - January 2020

The Purpose Of Prophecy

by Philip Jones

1. Introduction
The Bible says this about itself: ‘All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.’ 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

Do we believe that all Scripture is ‘God-breathed’? Let us think through the implications of this statement for a moment. If God actively inspired each book, chapter and verse that we have in the canon of Scripture, then each passage of text has a divinely-inspired purpose, i.e. each passage carries a message that God wants us to know.

This assumption leads us to believe that God also determined that Scripture should contain each of the different types of literature that we find there, for example the Law, the Gospels and the Wisdom Literature, and that each has its own unique (although sometimes overlapping) purpose. So, ask yourself this question: what is the unique purpose of prophecy, as a class of Scripture? It is not as easy to give an answer to this question as it is for some of the other types of Scripture. It is relatively easy to see the unique purpose of the Law, or the Gospels, but what of Prophecy? A simplistic answer might be that prophecy tells us about future events, so that we can be better prepared for them. But this answer does not explain the purpose of the vast majority of prophetic scriptures, which deal with events that have long-since passed. So how might we answer this question? The following are fairly typical responses.

(i) Because the great majority of the prophetic scriptures deal with events from Israel’s past, prophecy is a form of historical narrative, showing how God has dealt with Israel and its leaders throughout their history. Aside from any passing historical interest, any relevance of these prophetic scriptures for us today must lie in the moral lessons being taught. The prophetic scriptures, therefore, are a collection of morality tales, set in a historical context.

(ii) There is no single, identifiable purpose to prophecy as a Class, or type, of scripture. Rather, each individual prophetic text carries its own message, or messages.

It is unfortunate that explanations like these are widely believed, because they obscure the true purposes of prophecy and diminish its importance. This, coupled with the challenge involved in interpreting some prophecy, due to its use of symbolic language (and the complicated debates that rage around different interpretations of prophecy), means that in many quarters of the church, the study of prophecy is very much neglected.

 

 

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Also in this edition of Prophetic Witness

Powerpoint - from Dr Alec Passmore, PWMI President
From The Editors Desk
The General Director's Annual Report 2019
The Purpose Of Prophecy
Signs Of The Times
The Choice - The Bible Or Evolution
Our Statement Of Belief
An Aggressive Green Gospel
From Our Israel Desk
Eternal Security
Christ In Prophecy
Church Branch Listings
Insights Into Isaiah
What In The World Is Happening?
What's On
Book Of The Month