Prophecy is, by definition, that which is spoken forth. That which is spoken forth, in true prophecy, is that which could not be known by man unless revealed by God; thus, whether predictive (foretelling) or declarative (forth-telling), and whether having to do with events past, present or future, prophecy signifies the speaking forth of the will of God to man. By prophecy, God gave instruction, information, prediction, warning, comfort and hope. By prophecy, and its fulfillment, God confirmed His Word to be His Word; that is, divine revelation; thus, true prophecy is found only in the Bible.
Bible prophecy has certain characteristics (all of which have been attacked by liberal critics), which, when understood, should heighten one's appreciation for God's inspired Word. Bible prophecy often involves that which is remote as to time and place, even that which is nonexistent at the time of the prophecy. To the dreamer, Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel said, "As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter: and he that revealeth secrets maketh known to thee what shall come to pass" (Dan. 2:29 ). Daniel spoke of kingdoms and peoples then unknown and unable to be known to him or any other man by ordinary knowledge, but revealed in prophecy, and whose risings and fallings are now historically documented to have followed precisely the predicted pattern.
Bible prophecy is often very specific and detailed. With man, the more specific the prediction, the less likely is the possibility of its coming to pass. With God, accuracy is not accidental, nor is it incidental, but significant. Of Christ's birth, Isaiah prophesied: "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Isa. 7:14 ). Isaiah did not prophesy just that the Christ would be born, nor that He would be born of just any woman (and man), nor that he would be born of just any "young" woman, but that He would be born of a virgin. Matthew declares the exact fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14 (Mat. 1:22-23 ).
In an obvious Messianic prophecy, Zechariah noted the price of Christ's betrayal, thirty pieces of silver, which was later used to buy the potter's field (Zec. 11:12-13 ). Again, in his inspired writing, Matthew gives the fulfillment (Mat. 26:14-15 ; 27:3-7 ), and declares these actions to be the specific and accurate fulfillment of prophecy (Mat. 27:9-10 ). Bible prophecy is often antithetical to human reasoning. What man could reasonably predict the downfall of impenetrable Edom (Obadiah); of Jerusalem, home of God's temple (Mic. 3:12 ); or of Nineveh, conqueror of nations (Nah. 1:1 )? Who would dare to predict the Son of God being born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14 )? What man, on his own, would have predicted the long awaited and cherished Messiah would be rejected (Isa. 53:3 ; John 1:11 ); forsaken (Zec. 13:7 ; Mat. 26:56 ); scourged (Isa. 53:5 ; Mat. 27:26 ); crucified (Psa. 22:16 ; Mark 15:24 ); and mocked (Psa. 22:7-8 ; Mat. 27:39-44 )? Such contradictions to that which would accord with the thinking of men show the prophecies to be miraculously given from God.
Liberal "higher critics" deny the element of prediction or foretelling in prophecy. Their assumption is that a prophet was a man of "his own time" who spoke only to men "of his own time." That tells only half the story. God's prophets spoke to men of their own time about those things which were of concern and significance, but they also spoke of those things which were future and which would be of concern and significance to all, from those then living to those who would see the fulfillment of the prophecy and to those who would live after that fulfillment and read the inspired record of the prophecy and its fulfillment. Contrary to the "critics," Biblical prophecy was not written after the fact, ambiguous, artificially fulfilled, nor just a phenomenon common to all religions and peoples. No well-attested evidence of one miraculous "prophecy" has ever been found outside the Bible!
(Bobby Liddell's address is 4850 Saufley Road, Pensacola, FL