What Is Prophecy? Bible Meaning and Examples of Prophesy

Prophecy at its most fundamental meaning is “a message from God.” Learn why the Bible included prophecies and their significance today!

What Is Prophecy? Bible Meaning and Examples of Prophesy

"For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." (2 Peter 1:21)

"...the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation." (1 Corinthians 14:3)

Prophecy Vs. Prophesy

"Prophecy" is the noun, and "to prophesy" is the verb. To prophesy is simply to pronounce prophecy. Prophecy, at its most fundamental meaning, is “a message from God.” Hence, to prophesy is to declare a message from God.

Let's look at the definition for each for more clarification:

Prophecy: Noun

"a prediction; the faculty, function, or practice of prophesying."

Prophesy: Verb

"to utter by or as if by divine inspiration; to predict with assurance or on the basis of mystic knowledge."

In short, we can describe prophecy as the message and prophesy as delivering that message.

Prophesy Bible Meaning

Prophecy or prediction was one of the functions of the prophet. It has been defined as a "miracle of knowledge, a declaration or description or representation of something future, beyond the power of human sagacity to foresee, discern, or conjecture."

The great prediction, which runs like a golden thread through the whole contents of the Old Testament, is that regarding the coming and work of the Messiah, the great use of prophecy was to perpetuate faith in His coming and to prepare the world for that event. But there are many subordinate and intermediate prophecies also which hold an essential place in the great chain of events that illustrate God's sovereignty and all-wise overruling providence.

Then there are many prophecies regarding the Jewish nation, its founder Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), and his posterity, Isaac and Jacob, and their descendants, which have all been fulfilled. The twenty-eighth chapter of Deuteronomy contains a series of predictions that are fulfilled even now in the present day. In the writings of the prophets (Isaiah 2:18-21), (Jeremiah 27:3-7), (Ezekiel 5:12; Ezekiel 8), (Daniel 9:26-27), (Hosea 9:17), there are also many prophecies regarding the events which were to befall that people.

The great body of Old Testament prophecy relates directly to the advent of the Messiah, beginning with Genesis 3:15, the first great promise, and extending in ever-increasing fullness and clearness all through to the very close of the canon. The Messianic prophecies are too numerous to be quoted. "To him gave all the prophets witness." (Compare Micah 5:2; Haggai 2:6-9; Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 11:1 Isaiah 11:2; Isaiah 60:10-13; Psalms 16:11). [Excerpt from Bible Dictionary]

4 Prophesies Fulfilled in Christ

The Messiah would be born of a virgin.

Old Testament Prophecy - "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14

New Testament Fulfillment - "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us)." (Matthew 1:22-23

"In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus." Luke 1:26-31

The Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah.

Old Testament Prophecy - "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples." (Genesis 49:10

New Testament Fulfillment - "the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah" (Luke 3:33)

"For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests." (Hebrews 7:14)

The Messiah would be a priest after the order of Melchizedek.

Old Testament Prophecy - "The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, "You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek." (Psalm 110:4

New Testament Fulfillment - "So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, "You are my Son, today I have begotten you"; as he says also in another place, "You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek." (Hebrews 5:5-6)

The Messiah would resurrect from the dead.

Old Testament Prophecy - "For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption." (Psalm 16:10); "But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me. Selah" (Psalm 49:15)

New Testament Fulfillment - "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know-- this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him, "'I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.' "Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses." (Acts 2:22-32)

Importance of Prophecy Today

"And the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb." And he said to me, "These are the true words of God." Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, "You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God." For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." (Revelation 19:9-10)

One of the most powerful gifts of the Holy Spirit is the ability of prophecy. Furthermore, we know from the Apostle Paul that humility is the chief characteristic of the spirit of a prophet. This is what attracts the grace of God to him, enabling him to fulfill the two great commandments of love for God and one’s neighbor. He affirms this when he says, ‘the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets’ (1 Corinthians 14:32). The genuine prophet humbly understands how to tame his spirit so that he does not seize the spiritual space of others, including that of the divine Other, the Lord, and that of each of his brethren.

The prophetic authority of those who have been in the living Presence of the Lord has nothing to do with worldly authority. It is a spiritual gift of humble service and love, pulling down the fortifications (2 Corinthians 10:4) of pride which make it so difficult to fulfill the two great commandments of love. Indeed, the genuine prophet has a pure relationship with God and his brethren. His attitude before God is similar to that of the great Prophet John the Baptist, while in his relations with others he is characterized by deep humility, like the Apostle Paul who said, ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief’ (1 Timothy 1:15).

Sources:

Prophetic Life and Authority in the Church - saintgeorgekearney.com

44 Prophecies fulfilled in Christ - parish.rcdow.org.uk

Photo credit: GettyImages/inarik