This is difficult to define, so I will try to explain what it is not.
It is not the telling of the future. HOWEVER a prophecy can give fore-sight into the future. But just becuase it can happen does not make it a requirement. These are ofcourse the more 'famous' types of Prophecy, and thus many people make the mistake of linking the two inextricably.
Prophecy is meant to be the divine word of God being spoken out, hence in the Nicean creed "We believe.... .... in the Holy Spirit. the Lord, the Giver of Life.... He has spoken through the Prophets. "
To try and explain the differences between 'future telling' and other types, I will attempt to give example cases.. for example a prophet may claim to have a word for someone along the lines of "..there is no need to worry, in X months time you will be offered a job..". This is clearly prophecy in the standard sence, as the Prophet is just telling them what the future will hold.
However if a prophet says to person A "you are doing X and Y with B, and not telling C, if you continue to do this then Z will happen" then this is also a valid form of prophecy. Note in the second example, the prophet is using divine revelation from God to explain to the person what they have been doing with B. This is not for A's benifit, but to prove that they have knowledge from God (for only God could know about X say), and to explain to witnesses why Z is going to happen. This type of prophecy does not give a certainty, as the person A can repent and be saved. For example Jonah was sent to a city to tell them they will be destroyed if they do not turn to the Lord, however they then decided to turn to the Lord and were not destroyed.
Prophecy of either kind can be encouraging or accusing.
Prophecy can also be just imparting divinly inspired knowledge to people, although this is normally considered a 'lesser' form of prophecy.
In the OT the Jews demanded signs from prophets to show that they were from God, as such in the story of Elijah burning an offering to God with fire from heaven whilst the prophets of Baal could not get there altar to ignite with praise alone, can be considered an example of prophecy by Elijah.
In short then I can define: any action done by a Prophet, that can be attributed to God is prophecy.
Unfortunatley this is not the end of the tale...
NIV: Acts 2:17 In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
This is often interpreted to describe the current state of the church, with the Holy spirit moving through us. However to then define all young men as prophets seems overkill for the sake of preserving definition. Afterall if we are all meant to be prophets then why would paul list it as a seperate spiritual gift (in 1Cor12:29), rather than just saying we all have it?
As such I shall define prophecy to be: any action (that can be attributed to God) perfomed by a believer, which is providing knowledge overwise unkown.
Admitily by this definition Elijah was not prophecying when he decided to call fire down from heaven, but in order to include it I would be allowing prophesy to become some kind of catch-all definition for spiritual things that are otherwise not named.
As with all spiritual gifts, it comes down to the problem of no one person having just one specific (can be put in a box) gift. Prophets have been known to heal, and perform miracles, yet paul lists these as different gifts.
Old Testament Prophecies fulfilled by JesusEdit
Following is a list of verses from the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible, Old Testament) that show Christian interpretations regarding messianic prophecies, supporting the claim that Jesus has been promised by God to be born as a human, and is the awaited Messiah:
|Claimed Prophecy||Old Testament||New Testament|
|His pre-existence||Micah 5:2||John 1:1; John 1:14|
|God would provide Himself a Lamb as an offering||Genesis 22:8||John 1:29|
|The sacrificial lamb||Isaiah 53:5||John 1:29|
|Heir to the throne of David||Isaiah 9:6-7||Matthew 1:1|
|From the tribe of Judah||Genesis 49:10||Matthew 1:1|
|Of the seed of Abraham||Genesis 12:3||Matthew 1:1-16|
|Born of the seed of a woman||Genesis 3:15||Matthew 1:18|
|Born of a virgin||Isaiah 7:14||Matthew 1:18|
|His name called Immanuel, "God with us"||Isaiah 7:14||Matthew 1:23|
|Called "The mighty God, The everlasting Father"||Isaiah 9:6||Matthew 1:23|
|Born in Bethlehem||Micah 5:2||Matthew 2:1|
|Presented with gifts||Psalm 72:10||Matthew 2:1; Matthew 2:11|
|Slaughter of the children||Jeremiah 31:15||Matthew 2:18|
|Called out of Egypt||Hosea 11:1||Matthew 2:15|
|Would be a Nazarene||Judges 13:5; Amos 2:11; Lamentations 4:7||Matthew 2:23|
|Would be a Prophet of the children of Israel||Deuteronomy 18:15||Matthew 2:15|
|Priest after the order of Melchizedek||Psalm 110:4||Hebrews 5:5-6; Hebrews 6:30; Hebrews 7:15-17|
|Preceded by a messenger to prepare his way||Malachi 3:1||Matthew 11:7-11|
|His messenger before Him in spirit of Elijah||Malachi 4:5-6||Matthew 1:17|
|Messenger crying "Prepare ye the way of the Lord"||Isaiah 40:3||Matthew 3:3|
|Declared to be the Son of God||Psalm 2:7||Matthew 3:17|
|All nations blessed by Abraham's seed||Genesis 12:3||Matthew 8:5; Matthew 8:10|
|No bones broken||Numbers 9:12; Psalm 34:2||John 19:33-36|
|Gentiles flock to Him||2 Samuel 22:44-45; Psalm 2:7-8; Isaiah 55:5; Isaiah 60:3; Isaiah 65:1; Malachi 1:11||Matthew 8:10|
|LORD said unto Him, "Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool"||Psalm 110:1||Matthew 22:44; Mark 12:36; Mark 16:19|
|Soldiers gambled for his garment||Psalm 22:18||Matthew 27:35|
|People sat there looking at Him||Psalm 22:17||Matthew 27:36|
|Hated without a cause||Psalm 35:19||Matthew 27:23;|
|He is the stone which the builders rejected which became the headstone||Psalm 118:22-23; Isaiah 28:16||Matthew 21:42; 1 Peter 2:7|
|People would hear not and see not||Isaiah 6:9-10||Matthew 13:14-15|
|A stone of stumbling to Israel||Isaiah 8:14-15||1 Peter 2:8|
|Brought light to Zebulon & Naphtali, Galilee of the Gentiles||Isaiah 9:1-2||Matthew 4:15|
|People give God lip service||Isaiah 29:13||Matthew 15:8|
|People trust in traditions of men||Isaiah 29:13||Matthew 15:9|
|Heal blind/deaf/lame/dumb||Isaiah 29:18; Isaiah 35:5-6||Matthew 11:5|
|God delights in Him||Isaiah 42:1||Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5|
|Would not strive or cry||Isaiah 42:2-3||Mark 7:36|
|Given for a covenant||Isaiah 42:6; Jeremiah 31:31-34||Romans 11:27; Galatians 3:17; Galatians 4:24; Hebrews 8:6-10; Hebrews 10:16; Hebrews 10:29; Hebrews 12:24; Hebrews 13:20|
|Rejected by His own||Isaiah 53:3||Matthew 21:42; Mark 8:31; Mark 12:10; Luke 9:22; Luke 17:25|
|He bore our sickness||Isaiah 53:4||Matthew 8:16-17|
|Wounded for our sins||Isaiah 53:5||John 6:51|
|He bore the sins of many||Isaiah 53:10-12||Mark 10:45|
|Preached to the poor/brokenhearted/captives||Isaiah 61:1||Matthew 11:5|
|Messiah not killed for Himself||Daniel 9:26||Matthew 20:28|
|Smitten on the cheek||Micah 5:1||Matthew 27:30|
|Came to bring a sword, not peace||Micah 7:6||Matthew 10:34-35|
|He entered Jerusalem as a king riding on an ass||Zechariah 9:9||Matthew 21:5|
|Sold for 30 pieces of silver||Zechariah 11:12||Matthew 26:15; Luke 22:5|
|The 30 pieces of silver given for the potter's field||Zechariah 11:13||Matthew 27:9-10|
|The 30 pieces of silver thrown in the temple||Zechariah 11:13||Matthew 27:5|
|Forsaken by his disciples||Zechariah 13:7||Matthew 26:56|
|Betrayed by a friend||Psalm 41:9||John 13:21|
|Accused by false witnesses||Psalm 35:11||Matthew 26:60|
|Silent to accusations||Isaiah 53:7||Matthew 27:14|
|Spat upon, smitten and scourged||Isaiah 50:6; Isaiah 53:5||Matthew 27:26; Matthew 27:30|
|Thirsty during execution||Psalm 22:16||John 19:28|
|Given vinegar and gall for thirst||Psalm 69:21||Matthew 27:34|
|Crucified with criminals||Isaiah 53:12||Matthew 27:35|
|Side pierced||Zechariah 12:10||John 19:34|
|His body was pierced||Psalm 22:16; Zechariah 12:10||John 20:25-27|
|People mocked: He trusted in God, let Him deliver him!||Psalm 22:7-8||Matthew 27:43|
|He cried: My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?||Psalm 22:1||Matthew 27:46|
|Darkness over the land||Amos 8:9||Matthew 27:45|
|Buried with the rich||Isaiah 53:9||Matthew 27:57; Matthew 27:60|
|Resurrected from the dead||Psalm 16:10-11; Psalm 49:15||Mark 16:6|
|Ascended to right hand of God||Psalm 68:18||Luke 24:51|
|His coming glory||Malachi 3:2-3||Luke 3:17|
|He will be killed||Daniel 9:26||Mark 15:24|
Critics of Bible prophecy hold that the verses are often shorn of their original context, in which there is no obvious indication that they were actually predicting anything. Occasionally statistical arguments are made, involving the improbability of someone fulfilling all these prophesies: such arguments are heavily criticised because the list of prophesies was chosen on the basis of having been fulfilled. Most books of the Hebrew Bible were written hundreds of years, and some parts possibly thousands of years, before the birth of Jesus. Many of the verses above were not widely held to be "prophecies" until after the New Testament had been written. Others were thought to be prophecies, but not necessarily connected with the idea of a "messiah". Almost all non-Christians do not believe that these verses prove Jesus was the Messiah, (though many may not really care, and therefore don't believe through lack of interest) and many non-Christian scholars argue that Jesus' actions are just contrived to deliberately fit into the prophecies Christians believe describe Jesus in the Old Testament.
- Old and New Testaments of the Bible
- Prophecies that only Jesus fulfilled
- How Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecies