What Is the Purpose of Prophecy?
THOSE who claim that their various forms of worship are revelations from superhuman sources also acknowledge that there are good and bad supernatural powers. This acknowledgment raises these questions: Was each of these forms of worship revealed from a good source? Or do they have a bad source? Which one is inspired by the true God?
The First Religion
Mankind is recognized as being one family, and this agrees with the Bible’s account of one original human pair, Adam and Eve. Jehovah, the Creator, made himself known to them. He revealed to Adam and Eve their role in his purpose and their true relationship to him. God made Adam his first prophet, responsible to pass divine revelations on to his wife and eventually to their offspring, that is, all mankind.—Genesis 1:27-30; 2:15-17.
This was the only religion, the one form of worship revealed by Jehovah God. It was expressed by obedience to God’s will. No rituals, sacrifices, shrines, or oracles were required.
False Religion Appears
The first opposing “revelation” came from an angel who wanted to be worshiped. He offered an alternative to true religion and induced Adam and Eve to join him in rebellion against their Creator. This made him Satan, Jehovah’s opposer. His “prophecy” pretended to offer self-determination and independence from God. Instead, it caused enslavement to Satan and to sin, bringing death.—Genesis 3:1-19; Matthew 4:8-10; Romans 5:12.
Satan was eventually joined by other rebellious angels, or demons. No doubt these spawned false religious concepts that contributed to the corrupting of mankind. In the days of Adam’s grandson Enosh, “a start was made of calling on the name of Jehovah.” According to the Targum of Palestine, this was done profanely as part of the idolatrous worship of that time.—Genesis 4:26; 6:1-8; 1 Peter 3:19, 20; 2 Peter 2:1-4.
False religion was wiped out in the Flood of Noah’s day, leaving just the true form of worship practiced by Jehovah’s prophet, Noah. (Genesis 6:5-9, 13; 7:23; 2 Peter 2:5) The demons remained, though, and reintroduced counterfeit prophecies and religious concepts. They caused Noah’s descendants to offend Jehovah by building the city of Babel as a center of false worship. But God confused their language and “scattered them from there over all the surface of the earth.”—Genesis 11:1-9.
What does all of this tell us? We are all descendants of Noah and Adam. So all cultures have a common origin and have retained some concept of God as a vestige of knowledge that has survived from Noah’s day. But this basic concept is corrupted by false religious ideas inherited from those forefathers who scattered from Babel (later restored as Babylon) to all parts of the earth. This is seen in common superstitions about spirits of the dead, in ancestor worship, and in the practice of astrology, divination, and witchcraft.—Daniel 2:1, 2.
The Purpose of Prophecy
Does this mean that present-day religions are based only on concepts inherited from that ancient past? No. Satan and the demons still inspire false prophecy to deceive and divide mankind, confuse true revelations about God, and establish false ideas and religions. (1 Timothy 4:1; 1 John 4:1-3; Revelation 16:13-16) The Bible says: “There also came to be false prophets among the people, as there will also be false teachers among you. These very ones will quietly bring in destructive sects.”—2 Peter 2:1.
On the other hand, Jehovah has preserved the true religion given in Eden. He has added information to enhance our knowledge of him and of our responsibility in the outworking of his purpose. So true prophecies make known the truth about God, his will, and his moral standards. They clarify man’s relationship to him so as to bring mankind back into harmony with his purpose, leading up to its full accomplishment.—Isaiah 1:18-20; 2:1-5; 55:8-11.
At the start of man’s rebellion, Jehovah spoke a prophecy that gave hope to the offspring of Adam and Eve. He revealed that there would be a deliverer, a “seed,” who would destroy Satan and his progeny. (Genesis 3:15) Later prophecies helped to identify this promised “seed,” or God’s “anointed one,” and revealed that he would play the principal role in the fulfillment of God’s purposes.—Psalm 2:2; 45:7; Isaiah 61:1.
Thus a primary intent of prophecy was to make known God’s purposes and the “anointed one,” or “Christ,” through whom they would be fulfilled. Since this chosen one proved to be Jesus, Jehovah’s angel said: “Worship God; for the bearing witness to Jesus is what inspires [or, is the spirit of] prophesying.” (Revelation 19:10) Two facts are made clear by this declaration. First, no agent of true prophecy will demand to be worshiped because true worship belongs only to Jehovah God. (Matthew 4:4; John 4:23, 24) Second, the ultimate aim of all true prophecy must be to reveal events and facts relating to Jesus. This recognizes the key role Jehovah assigned him in the outworking of His purpose to sanctify His name and restore earth to its proper place in His arrangement of things.—John 14:6; Colossians 1:19, 20.
For this reason, inspired messages from God pointed primarily toward Jesus. The entire spirit, or intent and purpose, of such true prophecy was to bear witness to him. Furthermore, the realization of the prophecies in Jesus marks them all as true. This is why the Bible says that “the truth came to be through Jesus Christ.” “For no matter how many the promises of God are, they have become Yes by means of him.”—John 1:17; 2 Corinthians 1:20; Acts 10:43; 28:23.
Why to the Israelites?
Jehovah started off his “witness to Jesus” by his prophecy regarding the promised “seed.” God later revealed the earthly lineage of the “seed” as being through Noah, Shem, Abraham, Isaac (not Ishmael), and Jacob. These men remained loyal to the true religion, proving themselves faithful prophets of Jehovah while all the nations were corrupted by the worship of false gods. (Genesis 6:9; 22:15-18; Hebrews 11:8-10, 16) The lineage continued through descendants of these men—the nation of Israel and particularly the family of David, Israel’s most prominent king.—2 Samuel 7:12-16.
Showing why he chose Israel, Jehovah said: “It was not because of your being the most populous of all the peoples . . . [but] because of his keeping the sworn statement . . . to your forefathers,” Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Deuteronomy 7:6-8; 29:13) Obviously, only one nation could provide the lineage for the promised “seed.” However, true religion was not limited to the Israelites. While revelations of truth were not given to other nations, individuals from among them could join Israel in worship, and some of these were even included in the lineage of the “seed.” (Numbers 9:14; Ruth 4:10-22; Matthew 1:5, 6) Separate revelations given along national or racial lines would only have caused greater religious division, whereas it is Jehovah’s will to reunite mankind in one worship.—Genesis 22:18; Ephesians 1:8-10; 2:11-16.
God’s requirements are the same for all races. Since he is unchangeable in his moral standards and purpose, his dealings with Israel showed how he will deal with similar situations at any given time. (Malachi 3:6) So Israel served as a model for all nations. Through it God demonstrated the benefits of true worship and the folly of false cults. While the Israelites remained faithful to him, he protected and blessed them. When they turned to false gods of other nations, they fell under oppression by those nations, just as Jehovah had warned them.—Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Daniel 9:2-14.
Israel also served as a prophetic model, and David became a prophetic figure of Jesus, who inherited God’s Kingdom covenant with David. (1 Chronicles 17:11, 14; Luke 1:32) The Law given to Israel, with its sacrifices and priesthood, foreshadowed the sacrifice of Jesus and pointed to his heavenly Kingdom and priesthood. The Law thus became a “tutor leading to Christ.”—Galatians 3:19, 24; Acts 2:25-36; Hebrews 10:1-10; Revelation 20:4-6.
The Book of True Prophecy
This vital information could not be accurately preserved by oral tradition or by separate revelations to various nations. The best avenue of preservation and of transmission to all nations is a written record. And the Bible fills this role. It alone contains God’s inspired revelations and preserves the historical and prophetic account of his dealings with humans. It alone points to Jesus Christ as God’s Agent for salvation and contains the final prophecies regarding the future accomplishment of his Messianic assignment. This is thus the complete inspired written Word of God.—Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11; 2 Peter 1:20, 21.
Since the completing of the Bible, those who have introduced new “prophecies,” religions, and sects could not be inspired by God. True prophecies were not given to reveal new religions. They kept the one true religion current and made known the future outworking of Jehovah’s purpose. Their fulfillment gives proof of his unique Godship and power, showing that he alone can foretell events centuries in advance and unerringly bring them to pass.—Isaiah 41:21-26; 46:9-11.
So all who desire to be acquainted with true prophecy and to practice true religion need to turn to the Bible. It is God’s book of prophecy—his complete message to mankind.—2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
[Pictures on page 7]
Lineage of the promised “seed”