Webster defines the noun “prophecy, prediction;” and the verb
“Prophesy, to foretell events.” Greenfield in his Greek Lexicon of the
New Testament, defines the noun “Propheteia,
prophesy, i.e., a
prediction of future events,” etc.; and the verb “Propheteuo, to
prophesy, i.e., to foretell future events, predict,” etc.
By this definitions it can be seen at once, that
prophecy always points forward – never backward, of course. This simple
truth is as valuable as it is self-evident; and its valye will be fully
recognized in the interpretation of the book of Revelation.
God alone is the Author of every true prophecy. This is
self-evident. Foreknowledge is absolutely necessary to foretelling: God
alone knows the future: therefore, He alone can foretell. In many cases
both men and angels have delivered prophecies; but the angels spoke as
they were commanded, and men as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
Some of the most wonderful prophecies were given by Jesus of Nazareth,
in whom dwelt “all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.”
The kinds of events.
Of the predicted events, there is great variety:
they are great and small; good, bad, and indifferent; individual and
national; religious and political; far and near; temporal and eternal,
etc., etc. These predictions may be found in the form of a promise, or
of a threat, or of a mere declaration. In order to determine whether or
not a given passage of Scripture is prophetic, the following question
should always be asked: Does it foretell? If it does, it is prophetic;
but, if it does not, it is not prophetic. As God knows all the future,
He could have foretold every event that would ever occur throughout the
vast Universe: but He has not done so. A book containing the prediction
of every event would be so inconceivably large, that even a Methusalah
could advance but little beyond the Introduction in reading it! But God
has not burdened us with such a book of prophecy. We may reasonably
suppose, that he has foretold only a sufficient number and variety of
events to answer the intended purposes.
The Time in which a predicted event will occur, is a
part of the prediction itself; and a very important part it is indeed.
As already shown, prophecy is the foretelling of future events: these
events are realities; therefore they require real time in which to
occur; and every event must have its own time – no other time will meet
the demands of the prophecy. The predicted time may be long or short,
precise or approximate: in every case the particular prophecy must
determine its own time. In speaking of Himself, Jesus said that He
would “be killed, and be raised again the third day. – characteristic
given in the advertisement, and the delivery to the sheriff must be
within the published time. In like manner, every item of every prophecy
must be fulfilled: and, of the prophetic items, the time is one of the
most important. Over eighteen hundred years ago, Jesus came “in the
fullness of the time.” – Gal. 4:4: therefore the prophecies which He
fulfilled, can never be fulfilled by another person – “the time is
Jesus foretold that He would rise on the third day: therefore He would
have failed in the fulfillment of His own chosen, predicted sign, if He
had risen even on the second or the fourth day. And this failure would
justly have forfeited His claim to the Messiahship! See Matt. 12:38-40
and 27:62-64. In short, the predicted time is a part of the prophecy
itself: and the veracity of God is pledged as much for the fulfillment
of the time as it is for any other item of the prophecy. By a strict
observance of the prophetic time, we can detect an immense number of
The Order or Relation.
The Order or Relation in which the predicted
events are given, must be carefully observed in their interpretation.
For example, take the seven trumpets and the seven vials of Revelation;
the interpretation of these must place the Order of the fulfillment in
the order of the prophecy. That is, the first must precede the second;
the second, the third, and so on. To interpret so as to change the
order of the fulfillment, would be a virtual change of the prophecy
itself. Indeed it would be the promulgation of another prophecy, for
the fulfillment of which the Lord would in no wise be responsible. For
another example, take Matt. 24:15-31. In these verses, the following
Order of events, is clearly revealed: First – The abomination of
desolation – 15th verse. Second – The great tribulation – 21st verse.
Third – The shortening of the days – 22d verse. Fourth – The false
Christs and false prophets – 23d and 24th verses. Fifth – The carcass
and the eagles – 28th verse. Sixth – The darkening of the sun, etc. –
29th verse. Seventh – The coming of the Son of man, etc. – 30th verse.
Eighth – The gathering of the elect, etc. – 31st verse. This is the
Order or Relation of the predicted events to one another: and to change
the Order is to change the prophecy itself.
Many interpreters have transposed this divinely arranged Order or
Relation of the predicted events. For example, they begin the great
tribulation of the 21st verse, at or near the fall of Jerusalem, more
than eighteen hundred years ago, and continue it to the present time;
while they find the beginning of THE ENDING of the darkening of the
sun, etc., in the 29th verse, at or about the fall of Jerusalem! Now
the 29th verse begins thus: “Immediately AFTER the tribulation of those
days shall the sun be darkened.” This tribulation is foretold in the
21st verse, and the darkening of the sun in the 29th: this is the Order
of the prophecy. The Lord says the tribulation shall end, before the
darkening of the sun shall even begin! His language is unequivocal –
“AFTER the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened.” How,
then, in the name of sober reason, could the 29th verse have been
completely fulfilled – begun and ended – at or about the fall of
Jerusalem more than eighteen hundred years ago, while the 21st verse is
still in process of fulfillment?! Whatever may be meant by the great
tribulation and the darkening of the sun, the former must certainly end
before the latter can even begin.
Prophecy like a lamp.
Correctly interpreted, the prophecies light up
the future. Without them, we know nothing beyond the present moment
outside of the fixed laws of nature. The apostle Peters says: “We have
also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well to take heed,
as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and
the day star arise in your hearts.” – 2 Peter. 1:19.
* Patrick Samuel Gideon
(1816-1889) was a 19th century itinerant minister and the
of Baptist history in the state of Arkansas. Watson had an unusually
keen ability to unveil and explain Bible prophecy so that anyone could
understand. His major work, "Prophetic Interpretations" is a landmark
contribution to the study of eschatology, though it is extremely
rare. He also published a monthly prophetic magazine entitled