Prophets were men raised up of God in times of declension and apostasy in Israel. They were primarily revivalists and patriots, speaking on behalf of God to the heart and conscience of the nation. The prophetic messages have a twofold character: first, that which was local and for the prophet's time; secondly, that which was predictive of the divine purpose in future. Often the prediction springs immediately from the local circumstances (e.g. Isaiah 7:1-11 with Isaiah 7:12-14).
It is necessary to keep this Israelitish character of the prophet in mind. Usually his predictive, equally with his local and immediate ministry, is not didactic and abstract, but has in view the covenant people, their sin and failure, and their glorious future. The Gentile is mentioned as used for the chastisement of Israel, as judged therefore, but also as sharing the grace that is yet to be shown toward Israel. The Church, corporately, is not in the vision of the O.T. prophet (Ephesians 3:1-6). The future blessing of Israel as a nation rests upon the Palestinian Covenant of restoration and conversion (Deuteronomy 30:1-9, refs.), and the Davidic Covenant of the Kingship of the Messiah, David's Son (2 Samuel 7:8-17, refs.), and this gives to predictive prophecy its Messianic character. The exaltation of Israel is secured in the kingdom, and the kingdom takes its power to bless from the Person of the King, David's Son, but also "Immanuel."
But as the King is also Son of Abraham (Matthew 1:1), the promised Redeemer, and as redemption is only through the sacrifice of Christ, so messianic prophecy of necessity presents Christ in a twofold character--a suffering Messiah (e.g. Isaiah 53), and a reigning Messiah (e.g. Isaiah 11). This duality, suffering and glory, weakness and power, involved a mystery which perplexed the prophets (1 Peter 1:10-12; Luke 24:26:27).
The solution of that mystery lies, as the New Testament makes clear, in the two advents-- the first advent to redemption through suffering; the second advent to the kingdom glory, when the national promises to Israel will be fulfilled (Matthew 1:21-23; Luke 2:28-35; 24:46-48, with (Luke 1:31-33,68-75); Matthew 2:2,6; 19:27,28; Acts 2:30-32; 15:14-16). The prophets indeed describe the advent in two forms which could not be contemporaneous (e.g. ; Zechariah 9:9; contra, 14:1-9), but to them it was not revealed that between the advent to suffering, and the advent to glory, would be accomplished certain "mysteries of the kingdom" (Matthew 13:11-16), not that, consequent upon Messiah's rejection, the new Testament Church would be called out. These were, to them, "mysteries hid in God" ( 3:1-10).
Speaking broadly, then, predictive prophecy is occupied with the fulfilment of the Palestinian and Davidic Covenants; the Abrahamic Covenant having also its place.
Gentile powers are mentioned as connected with Israel, but prophecy, save in Daniel, Obadiah, Jonah, and Nahum, is not occupied with Gentile world-history. Daniel, as will be see, has a distinctive character.
The predictions of the restoration from the Babylonian captivity at the end of seventy years, must be distinguished from those of the restoration from the present world-wide dispersion. The context is always clear. The Palestinian Covenant Deuteronomy 28:1-30:9; is the mould of predictive prophecy in its larger sense--national disobedience, world-wide dispersion, repentance, the return of the Lord, the regathering of Israel and establishment of the kingdom, the conversion and blessing of Israel, and the judgment of Israel's oppressors.
The true division of the prophets is into pre-exilic, viz., in Judah: Isaiah, Jeremiah (extending into the exile), Joel, Obadiah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah. In Israel: Hosea, Amos, and Jonah. Exilic, Ezekiel and Daniel, both of Judah, but prophesying to the whole nation. Post-exilic, all of Judah: Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. The division into major and minor prophetic writings, based upon the mere bulk of the books, is unhistoric and non-chronological.