As a prophetic book par excellence, the Bible is often misinterpreted, its prophecies taking on fatalistic overtones or frightening attributes. Properly understood, the prophecies of the Bible do more than predict the future. They can also give the reader a clearer perspective on the present.

The prophet is a person who speaks on behalf of God, testifying to supernatural experiences and revelations. These experiences can be true or deceptive. False prophets claim to have divine revelations, but the source of their inspiration is not God. Some receive revelations from enlightened spirits who claim to be God’s messengers, saints or spirits of the dead. There is therefore a chain of deception: the deceiving prophet is the first to be deceived, and then deceives others. The history of religions, including the history of Christianity, illustrates this phenomenon in full.

Prophets and “prophets”

There have been, and still are, many false prophets who do not have genuine paranormal experiences. The source of their inspiration is mystical and consists of secret interpretations of psychic and physical phenomena in which they are initiated and expert: dreams, books, stars, numbers, letters, and other “signs”. The word “mystical” includes certain attitudes and experiences of the Christian tradition and also has a positive meaning, describing the life of someone who believes the unbelievable, has experiences with God, prays to God, and understands His will in life’s experiences—without being a prophet. There is Jewish mysticism, Christian mysticism and pseudo-Christian mysticism. Non-Christian mysticism is called occult or esoteric, the terms having almost the same meaning: mystical, secret, mysterious, or initiatory.

Both categories of prophets—those who have paranormal or parapsychological experiences and those who can “read” signs in various phenomena—fall under the general term of the occult. The Greek word esoteric (mysterious, mystical, initiatory) is also used in this sense, and the inexplicable control that some of them have (or claim to have) over the world around them is called magic (sorcery).

An interesting biblical case is that of Balaam, a Syrian who was used by God as a prophet to bless the people of Israel, even though he had personally fallen from grace through corruption. Magic claims that curses and blessings are utterances of hidden power that come true automatically, inexplicably, if you know the recipe for the spell—the prearranged gestures and words. Although Balaam did not believe in the power of magic curses, because he knew the true God, he had adopted a kind of magic[1] by which he hoped to manipulate the divine will. Balaam’s worship had thus become a magical incantation, and his case is a warning to all those who today promote a liturgy that resembles magic—white, black or white-black.

Such mysteries are called in Holy Scripture “so-called gnosis” (“knowledge”), “hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition.”[2] They are true miracles and mysteries to those who do not know the truth revealed in the Bible. Under various forms, they have always been a stain on revealed religion, both Judaism and Christianity. From the Jewish Kabbalah to the questionable mysticism of some Christian traditions and sects, mysticism has created confusion in the minds of many as to the difference between divine revelation and other sources.

There are also false prophets who are simply victims of their own beliefs, or more precisely, of ignorance and autosuggestion. Many of them live on the borderline between normality and psychopathology. A very active mystical imagination, hallucinations, a state of permanent mental excitement and “spiritual” exaltation, obsessive thinking, dreams ,and much more have created “prophets.” These do not fall under the category of the occult, but are purely psychiatric phenomena.

Both those who have genuine experiences with deceptive spirits and those who believe they can read or manipulate the elements of the world are usually sincere but deceived people. Many indulge in self-deception, refusing to see beyond their senses and opinions. But there is also a category of false prophets who practise charlatanism and religious fraud. The source of their inspiration is not spiritualism, nor uninvited apparitions, nor magic, nor the darkness of the psyche where imagination is confused with reality. It is to be found in the dawn of moral consciousness. These experts use their cunning to deceive the credulous. They play with the idea of magic, as illusionist manipulators who perform prestidigitation and other tricks on the naive, and as prophets they are mere fabricators of supernatural experiences which they invoke to increase their credibility and illicit income.

Although we have so far unpacked a few distinct categories, in history and actuality the reality teaches us that there are no precise boundaries between the categories of false prophecy. False and genuine, occultism and folly, faith and deception can in reality be combined in varying proportions. For this reason, it is not enough for someone who is interested in escaping a dangerous falsehood to check whether the alleged prophet’s experience is genuine and not invented. The question is whether this experience is a revelation from God or comes from other sources.

In the case of mother Eve, it did not matter whether the spirit that spoke to her was Satan himself or a lesser devil, a fallen angel of long ago or a more recent one, a deceiving serpent or someone who had become a serpent, nor whether it resided in heaven or outside heaven, or whether it was a dreamy hallucination or a nightmare. Only one thing mattered, and that was that God had revealed His clear and simple will that man should not touch what does not belong to him, even if the tempter pretended to be God Himself. Therefore, the exact sources of the false prophets are of less interest, since their messages, even if they seem spiritual or harmless (until they gain our trust and dependence!) carry within them the dangers of eternal damnation. On the contrary, knowing the true prophets brings us “hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11), in addition to the certainties we need today.

The Bible and the future

From Moses onwards, all the authors of the Bible were prophets: “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16). In the traditional understanding, the prophet, also called a seer in the past, is a foreteller, a harbinger of the future. However, in reality, prophecy is the supernatural gift through which God speaks to people in the most expressive way, concerning the knowledge of God, the way of salvation, and our duty to Him and to one another. The prophet is the person who speaks in God’s name, as God’s special messenger.

The priest who serves at the altar and the church teacher who explains the scriptures are also men and women of God, but the prophet has greater authority than them because the source of his message is supernatural. Some of the priests were also prophets (Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, etc.), some of the church teachers and apostles were also prophets, as were all the authors of the New Testament, but not every bishop, pastor, teacher or saint was a prophet. The apostle Paul shows that the gift of prophecy is the greatest, and it is possible that all the apostles had this gift.

A prophet is God’s messenger who invites people back to the path of salvation and obedience to God, often revealing hidden things about the present, the past, and even the future. Predicting the future is only a part, sometimes a small one, of the message of the prophets. There were even great prophets who did not prophesy about the future at all, such as Elijah and John the Baptist.

Although prophecy about the future is only a small part of the message of the prophets, in the popular sense of the word the term prophecy is the announcement of future events as a prediction. This aspect of prophetic revelation is still an undeniable proof of the divine origin and authority of the Bible.

Most of the prophets lived before Christ. Many of these spoke and wrote predictive prophecies of the short or long term. In general, these prophecies relate to the destiny of Israel and other nations up to the time of Christ. Some of them go beyond that, into the Messianic age. The New Testament prophets, mostly Jewish, predicted the future of the Jewish people and the Church in the short term, but also outlined the future up to the second coming of Christ and beyond.

A basic classification of the prophecies of the future is necessary because there is great confusion among the people. It is believed that a description of the future by a true prophet of God cannot fail. But the Bible teaches that prophecies about the future are essentially conditional plans or promises of God, and that these promises, whether optimistic (blessings, good promises) or pessimistic (threats, curses), can be thwarted by the attitudes of those involved (cf. Jeremiah 18:7-10; Luke 7:30).

However, there are many unconditional biblical predictions. God made conditional promises, but at the same time He revealed to the prophets the real future, as only He could have known it beforehand, beyond time.

False prophets can sometimes “guess” or predict the future like meteorologists and futurologists, as in a probability calculation. Financial and political speculation is based on this. We all predict the future with our own powers, and some of us are “luckier” simply because we are better informed.

Rebel angels are intelligent and informed spirits who can make more accurate predictions than scientists. Furthermore, evil intelligences know that believing in such “revelations” can sometimes lead to the fulfilment of “prophecies.” The psychological shock of a message can turn it into a prophecy. When the deceitful spirit who had stolen the identity of the prophet Samuel “revealed” to King Saul, who had come to consult him, that he would die the next day in the war, the poor consultee became the psychological victim of the devil who had shown himself to the witch. Trusting in Samuel’s words, which always came true, the conviction that he was doomed to die sapped all his energy. Hearing the “prophecy” knocked him down. How could he fight on? The demon had fulfilled the prophecy just by saying it.

Such psychological manipulation has always been practised and is still practised today. If people in authority want to create a crisis, they can do so just by announcing it. Psychological manipulation and scientific prediction are ways of describing the future that have nothing miraculous about them.

Some read the hermetic verses of Nostradamus, the 16th century French magician and astrologer, in search of real meanings. After an important event, fans of Nostradamus immediately “discover” in his enigmatic works that Nostradamus had predicted the event long ago.

In the same way, some “discover” in the Hebrew letters of the Bible, ordered by computer-assisted kabbalistic methods, that Hitler and Saddam Hussein were predicted long ago. This is how they manipulate the Scriptures. Instead of reading the message of Scripture, they turn the Hebrew text into a crossword puzzle in which, by chance or with a little cleverness, they can read the “future” that has now become the present. Far more interesting and spectacular are the actual prophecies of the Bible.

Fulfilled Bible prophecies

More than 2,000 years before Christ, God revealed the future to Abraham (Genesis 15:13-16). Hundreds of years before the Egyptian bondage, Abraham was told that his descendants (the Jews) would be slaves in a foreign land for 400 years, after which they would come out, not fleeing, but with “great possessions.” Genesis (chapters 37-50) tells how the Israelites entered Egypt (c. 1875 BC), and Exodus (chapters 3-15) shows how the Israelites became slaves to the Egyptians and how God, through Moses, delivered Israel from bondage with great miracles on the very day of the 430th anniversary of their entry into Egypt (Exodus 12:40-42), which was 1445 BC.[3]

Another ancient fulfilled prediction is the prophecy of Balaam (Numbers 24:15-24), made just before the Jewish conquest of Canaan (c. 1405 BC). It predicted that a “star” or “sceptre” (a royal dynasty) would rise from Israel, which did happen nearly four centuries later. The Jewish kings were to bring the Moabites and Edomites to their knees and completely exterminate the Amalekites, which was accomplished beginning with the reigns of Saul and David (Deuteronomy 25:19; 1 Samuel 15). The Assyrians, then weak, would eventually become so strong that they would spread far south and even conquer the Kenites (the Midianite tribe of Moses’ father-in-law). The prediction was fulfilled 700 years after the prophecy, during the great Assyrian conquests.

But the miracle of prophecy does not end there. God also announced through Balaam that the Assyrians would also be brought to their knees. From afar, from the mysterious land of the Kittimites, the new conquerors would come in ships, and they too would be doomed. From the sea first came the Greeks, more than a thousand years after Balaam’s prophecy (cf. 1 Maccabees 1:1,2), and later the Romans (cf. Daniel 11:30), whose empire has long since disappeared.

Moses foresaw that God would leave the Israelites in the hands of their enemies, to be scourged by wars and bondage, to have the land ravaged, and to be hunted and left to be consumed by their fears (Leviticus 26:17-38). Yet these predictions, which were fulfilled to the letter by the Assyrian and Babylonian deportations of the 8th-6th centuries BC, are not Moses’ last prophecy. He also said that in exile the Jews would repent and God would renew their old covenant and bring them back to the land they had long abandoned (Leviticus 26:39-45). The prophecy was largely fulfilled with the repatriation of the Jews and the restoration during the time of the great Persian kings, beginning with Cyrus II in the 6th-5th centuries BC.

The prophecy was later repeated to a new generation of Jews (Deuteronomy 28). In both chapters these prophecies are given in the form of conditional blessings and curses. What is striking is both the fact that some are fulfilled precisely, at the right time, and that others are fulfilled separately in the course of history. The curse was often inherited along with the blessing—as with other peoples, but much more severely, in proportion to the responsibility entrusted.

Moses foresaw that Israel would be characterised by great climatic, material, physical, social, political, and military blessings. They were to become so prosperous that they would lend to many and always be in the forefront (Deuteronomy 28:12-13). The fact that such blessings have been fulfilled with them even in exile to the present day perhaps proves that the Jews were not totally disobedient as Christians usually portray them to have been. But the same Israel was threatened by Moses with terrible curses, which take up three times as much literary space as the blessings.

The prophet repeats the threat of exile (Deuteronomy 28:36), in which Israel would be despised among the nations (Deuteronomy 28:37). A people from afar, “from the ends of the earth,” with unintelligible language and merciless faces, would come “like an eagle swooping down” (Deuteronomy 28:49-50) and besiege all the Jewish cities, reducing the besieged to a state of misery and dehumanisation described in horrifying detail (Deuteronomy 28:52-57). Could the prophet have been referring only to the Assyro-Babylonian captivity? Or did he also foresee the “coup de grace” that the Roman legions under the sign of the Aquila were to deliver in repeated punitive expeditions, such as those under the emperors Titus (70 AD) and Hadrian (135 AD)?

Moses then predicted the dwindling Israelite population (v. 62) and described the deportations (vv. 63-67) so many centuries earlier. The nightmarish scenes of the prophecy culminate in the specification that the disobedient Israelites will return to Egypt from whence they were driven. They will end up willing to sell themselves as slaves to the Egyptians, and no one will buy them (v.68). Here Moses no longer envisages an explicit repentance on the part of the people. Some commentators see a final restoration of the Jews to the land of Israel on the basis of Paul’s prophecy (Romans 11). Could this also be a fulfilment of what Moses foretold?

If not all the details of the prophecy fit with historical or present reality, we should still keep in mind that it is a conditional prophecy. Curses take up more space than blessings, and history shows that they have been fulfilled more often, showing that the chosen people have often not obeyed.

But Israel is not the only sinful people. Karl Barth saw in Israel a mirror of what it means to be chosen by God, but also to be judged by God. Anti-Semitism, the classic hostility of the “gentiles,” comes precisely from this looking in the mirror. What did the apostles foresee in the rights of those who became the new chosen people through Christ? We find the answer concentrated in Romans 11:11-22 and, like the promises and threats of Moses, it has two options, for the true future is always the one we choose for ourselves in the present.

In conclusion, the prophecy of divine origin is the foundation of the authority of the Bible and gives it credibility through multiple proofs. The Bible addresses the mysteries of the past and present, not just the future. The Bible rejects false prophets and goes beyond scientific predictions. It describes the future in terms of verifiable conditional promises or threats. It outlines the future in the form of unconditional predictions, which are also verifiable, though expressed in more obscure language, such as the parables of Jesus, spoken only to those who have “ears to hear” (Luke 8:8).

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prophets prophecy

[1]“A combination of sacred liturgy (legitimate sacrifices) and occult numerology—7 altars, 7 calves, 7 rams (Numbers 23:1,4,14,29,30; 24:1).”
[2]“1 Timothy 6:20; Colossians 2:8.”
[3]“This chronology (compiled by Edwin Thiele) is based on the date of the building of the Temple by King Solomon (968-928 BC) in the fourth year of his reign, 965 BC, which was the 480th year of the Exodus (1 Kings 6:1).”

“A combination of sacred liturgy (legitimate sacrifices) and occult numerology—7 altars, 7 calves, 7 rams (Numbers 23:1,4,14,29,30; 24:1).”
“1 Timothy 6:20; Colossians 2:8.”
“This chronology (compiled by Edwin Thiele) is based on the date of the building of the Temple by King Solomon (968-928 BC) in the fourth year of his reign, 965 BC, which was the 480th year of the Exodus (1 Kings 6:1).”