The Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words defines “prophecy” as “the speaking forth of the mind and counsel of God.” When men were raised up of God to give forth a prophecy, it was often “the foretelling of future events.” But it was not limited to this, for prophecy can also be defined as “the forth-telling of the will of God” and can include references to the past or present. Let’s look at two passages from Scripture to illustrate these two cases of prophecy.

  1. In Micah 5:2 we read, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (NKJV). The prophet Micah was given the privilege of “foretelling the future birth of Jesus Christ, the King of Israel.” Hundreds of years later this prophecy was fulfilled, as we see in Luke 2:1-7: “Now in those days a decree went out from Caeser Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth…And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up form Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem…along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger” (NASB). We could cite numerous scriptures where future events were predicted by the prophets and they were fulfilled to the letter. We could also point to many prophecies that have yet to be fulfilled.
  1. Haggai 1:1-6 provides an excellent example of “forth-telling the will of God.” It says, “In the second year of Darius the king…the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet…Thus speaks the LORD of hosts, saying: Thus says the LORD of hosts, This people says, The time has not come, even the time for the house of the LORD to be rebuilt. Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophets, saying, Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate? Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts, Consider your ways! You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes” (NASB). Haggai didn’t say a word about future events, but he did reveal the mind and will of God to his fellow Jews. The word the Lord gave him to say was aimed at their hearts and consciences, for while they lived at ease in their own homes they had no desire to rebuild God’s house that was in shambles. So, Haggai was sent to tell them “Consider your ways.” We could multiply examples of Old Testament prophets doing the very same thing, for God’s people often fell into sin and when they did He raised up a prophet to confront them and to seek to persuade them to repent of their evil ways and to return to the true and living God.

Before we close, let’s also look at 1st Corinthians 14:1-3, “Pursue love, yet desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may PROPHESY. For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for not one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. But one who PROPHESIES speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation.” This is written to believers in this church age and thus PROPHECY in this case does not speak of being given a direct revelation from God (as was the case with the Old Testament prophets), but rather using the completed Word of God to bring men a word that results in “edification and exhortation and consolation.” It also will not be a case of “foretelling future events,” but one of “forth-telling the mind and will of God.” In other words, PROPHECYING today will take on the character of what we saw in Haggai, where we will (as another has said), “endeavor to bring home the truth of God to the hearts and consciences of God’s people.”  (212.9)  (DO)