Reliable Foregleams of Mankind’s Future
1. Why does Bible prophecy always prove to be accurate?
WE HAVE sound reasons for confidence in what the Bible tells us regarding the future. Its prophecies are not based on the guesswork of men who have studied trends and then made predictions. “No prophecy of Scripture springs from any private interpretation. For prophecy was at no time brought by man’s will, but men spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20, 21) Because of that, Bible prophecy has proved to be accurate in every detail.
2. Give examples of prophecies about world affairs.
2 It foretold the rise and fall of world empires by name—Babylon, Medo-Persia and Greece. It announced nearly two centuries in advance how Babylon would fall and the name of its conqueror. This was fulfilled in detail. It predicted that the city of Babylon would eventually become a desolate waste, never again to be inhabited. That condition continues to our day. (Daniel 8:3-8, 20-22; Isaiah 44:27–45:2; 13:1, 17-20) Other nations not named in the Bible were described in advance in such detail that well-informed persons can readily identify them.
3. Are there prophecies that are not stated in the form of predictions?
3 It should be realized, however, that there is more than one kind of prophetic information in the Bible. We have already observed this in connection with the miracles of Jesus, which served as portents of what mankind will experience under God’s Kingdom. Other portions of the Scriptures that may not use language that sounds like prediction also contain prophetic elements.
FASCINATING PROPHETIC PATTERNS
4. How are we alerted to the prophetic significance of the Mosaic Law?
4 The Bible book of Hebrews, for example, opens our eyes to the prophetic significance of matters that a casual reader might view as being simply history. It reveals that “the [Mosaic] Law has a shadow of the good things to come.”—Hebrews 10:1.
5. What illustrates that objects may typify something greater?
5 At times objects were used to make prophetic patterns. For example, with regard to the sacred tent, or tabernacle, built by Moses at Jehovah’s direction, along with the services performed at it, the divinely inspired writer of Hebrews explains that it was “a typical representation and a shadow of the heavenly things.” It pictured Jehovah’s great spiritual temple, the Most Holy of which is in the heavens. Thus, “when Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come to pass, through the greater and more perfect tent not made with hands, that is, not of this creation, he entered, no, not with the blood of goats and of young bulls, but with his own blood, once for all time into the holy place and obtained an everlasting deliverance for us. . . . Christ entered, not into a holy place made with hands, which is a copy of the reality, but into heaven itself, now to appear before the person of God for us.” (Hebrews 8:1-5; 9:1-14, 24-28) Great benefits come to Christians from the spiritual realities here described, and appreciation for these should be reflected in our course of life.—Hebrews 9:14; 10:19-29; 13:11-16.
6 Persons referred to in the Scriptures also served as prophetic types. At Galatians 4:21-31 a detailed example of this is explained in the case of Abraham’s wife Sarah (said to correspond to “Jerusalem above”) and the servant girl Hagar (identified with the earthly “Jerusalem today”) and their children. In another case Jesus helped his disciples to perceive that Elijah the prophet had his counterpart in John the Baptist, who, like Elijah, was fearless in exposing hypocritical religious practices.—Matthew 17:10-13.
7. In what respects was Jesus Christ prefigured by (a) Solomon? (b) Melchizedek?
7 Solomon, renowned for his wisdom and the prosperity and peace of his reign, aptly prefigured Jesus Christ. (1 Kings 3:28; 4:25; Luke 11:31; Colossians 2:3) Although the account in Genesis concerning Abraham’s encounter with Melchizedek is very brief, Psalm 110:1-4 indicates that it, too, is filled with meaning, because the Messiah would become “a priest to time indefinite according to the manner of Melchizedek,” that is, he would receive his priesthood by direct appointment of God, not because of the family in which he would be born. Later, the letter to the Hebrews enlarges on this and associates appreciation for such truths with Christian maturity, an important quality for those who are seeking to please God.—Hebrews 5:10-14; 7:1-17.
8. (a) What example shows that experiences in life may be prophetic? (b) Does every aspect of such an experience necessarily have a parallel in the fulfillment?
8 It is evident that the prophetic parallels involve more than the office or position of persons. They also include their experiences in life. On one occasion when the Jewish religious leaders displayed their unbelief, Jesus said to them: “A wicked and adulterous generation keeps on seeking for a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish three days and three nights, so the Son of man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.” (Matthew 12:38-40; Jonah 1:17; 2:10) However, Jesus did not say that everything in Jonah’s life foreshadowed what he himself would experience. When given an assignment by Jehovah, Jesus did not run away, as Jonah had tried to flee to Tarshish. But as Jesus indicated, Jonah’s experience in the belly of the big fish was included in the Bible record because it served to provide prophetic details about Jesus’ own death and resurrection.—Matthew 16:4, 21.
9. (a) What prophetic aspects did Jesus point out in two periods of history? (b) Under inspiration, what further significant details did Peter mention?
9 Certain periods of history also provide prophetic foregleams that are of particular interest to us. When speaking of the time leading up to his own revelation in Kingdom power, Jesus drew parallels with two other occasions when divine judgment was executed on wicked people. He spoke of “the days of Noah” and “the days of Lot” as being significant, especially highlighting the preoccupation of people then with everyday affairs of life. He urged us to take prompt action and not to turn back with a longing for things left behind, as the wife of Lot had done. (Luke 17:26-32) In the apostle Peter’s second inspired letter further significant details are mentioned—the disobedience of angels before the Flood, Noah’s preaching activity, the distress that Lot felt because of the law-defying indulgence of the people of Sodom, the fact that by cutting off the wicked in his due time God was setting a pattern of things to come, and the evidence that God can and without fail will deliver his faithful servants.—2 Peter 2:4-9.
10. By comparing Jeremiah with Revelation, show that fulfilled prophecies may have further prophetic value.
10 When prophecies have been fulfilled, this does not mean that they are now of mere historical interest. Both the advance notification of what was to take place and the way it was fulfilled are often prophetic of even more far-reaching events in the future. This is true of what is recorded about ancient Babylon, an empire that was outstandingly religious and whose influence is still felt around the world in our day. Although Babylon fell to the Medes and the Persians in 539 B.C.E., the book of Revelation, written at the end of the first century C.E., draws on the language of the prophet Jeremiah and points to a yet future application of the prophecies, in connection with Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion. As examples of this, compare Revelation 18:4 with Jeremiah 51:6, 45; Revelation 17:1, 15 and Re 16:12 with Jeremiah 51:13 and Jer 50:38; Revelation 18:21 with Jeremiah 51:63, 64.
11. What prophetic significance is there in the record of Jehovah’s dealings with apostate Israel and with Judah when unfaithful? Why?
11 In like manner, Jehovah’s dealings with the apostate ten-tribe kingdom of Israel and with the faithless kings and priests of the two-tribe kingdom of Judah are prophetic. Both the prophecies that applied to those ancient kingdoms and their fulfillment, recorded in the Scriptures, paint a vivid picture of how God will deal with modern-day Christendom, which also claims to serve the God of the Bible but flagrantly violates his righteous commandments.
12. How are we personally benefited by such accounts?
12 All these accounts, therefore, are of significance today. They help us to understand how God views situations in our day and what we personally must do in order to survive the coming great tribulation. We are thus helped to appreciate more fully the fact that “all Scripture is . . . beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness.”—2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
WAS IT ALL PREARRANGED?
13. How do we know that God did not induce people to commit sins so that prophetic patterns could be made?
13 Are we to understand from all of this that the conduct of people and nations recorded in the Bible was all prearranged by God so that it would have prophetic import? It is evident that God himself dealt with his servants in the past in a certain manner so as to provide a pattern of greater things that he had in mind for the future. But what about the actions of humans? Some of them committed serious sins. Did God induce them to commit these in order to make up the Bible record? The Christian Bible writer James answers: “With evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone.” (James 1:13) God did not cause them to do wrong so that prophetic patterns could be made.
14. (a) How does Jehovah know what humans, or even Satan, will do at a future time? (b) In what ways does Jehovah’s knowledge of himself and of his purpose enter into Bible prophecy?
14 Do not forget that Jehovah is mankind’s Creator. He knows how we are made and what causes people to act the way they do. (Genesis 6:5; Deuteronomy 31:21) He can accurately foretell the outcome for people who live in harmony with his righteous principles and what the results will be for those who try to ignore their need for God or who pervert his ways. (Galatians 6:7, 8) He knows that the Devil will continue to use tactics similar to those he used in the past. Jehovah also knows what he himself will do under given circumstances, that he will act in harmony with the lofty qualities of justice, impartiality, love and mercy, which he has always manifested. (Malachi 3:6) Since Jehovah’s purposes are certain to be accomplished, he can foretell the results and the steps that he will take to accomplish them. (Isaiah 14:24, 27) So he could select events from the lives of individuals and nations and have these incorporated in the Bible to provide foregleams of what the future will bring.
15. How did the apostle Paul emphasize that Bible accounts are much more than mere history?
15 Appropriately, therefore, after relating events from Israel’s history, the apostle Paul said to fellow Christians: “Now these things went on befalling them as examples, and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived.” (1 Corinthians 10:11) And to the Christian congregation in Rome he wrote: “All the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) When we thus appreciate that Bible accounts are more than mere history, we can begin to draw from them marvelous foregleams of mankind’s future.
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PROPHETIC PATTERNS—Pointing to What?
The Days of Noah
Jonah in a Fish’s Belly for Three Days
Fall of Babylon