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We hear much about prophecy these days. The Bible is a book of prophecy. The Old Testament was all written to herald the birth of Jesus Christ The Bible didn't stop with the accounts of the birth of Jesus but indeed, in the New Testament, carries the account of creation until the "end", in which this universe will "melt" at the spoken Word of God and be remade so that God will then again be "All in All." I think the most appropriate manner in which to start a discussion on prophecy is to see what the Bible has to say about the topic.
God has always let man know what He was going to bring to pass before hand. The purpose is to show man that it is God alone that is the Supreme Author of creation.
Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.
We see from this passage that God knew all that He was going to do from the beginning of time, before the beginning of time, actually (don't think about that one too long, you'll get a headache ;^). OK, God knew all that He was going to do before the beginning, is there any proof that He wants to tell us. Consider the book of Isaiah.
Who hath declared from the beginning, that we may know? and beforetime, that we may say, He is righteous? yea, there is none that sheweth, yea, there is none that declareth, yea, there is none that heareth your words.
I have declared the former things from the beginning; and they went forth out of my mouth, and I shewed them; I did them suddenly, and they came to pass.
I have even from the beginning declared it to thee; before it came to pass I shewed it thee: lest thou shouldest say, Mine idol hath done them, and my graven image, and my molten image, hath commanded them.
These passages not only tell us that God has told man things that are to come to pass but lets us know that His purpose is to establish that it is He that brings these things to pass and not the false gods. So what is the message? Two words: Jesus Christ!
All of the Old Testament was written to let us know about Jesus Christ. This is the purpose of the New Testament also. The Bible is the story God told men about how He would manifest Himself in Jesus and what He was/is going to do in that Holy Flesh. All that was written before the man Jesus was born, the man whose Spirit was and is and always will be God, was written to herald His coming All that has been written after is to tell those who will, how to follow Him and in the end, be like Him and to those who will not, what their fate is aside from the mercy afforded those who will accept it by the blood price Jesus paid.
God, knowing in His Prophetic Mind (the Word) the course of His manifestation unto His creation, "authored" this creation to, by and for this ultimate manifestation of His own (and Only) Person, His very image, the man Jesus, and ordained creation's course toward or in accordance to the "pattern" of this man: Spirit manifested in the flesh. The revelation of this "course" is Biblical prophecy.
I will start with an assessment of the method of interpretation of the written Word which was authored by Walter Copes but to which I only add a hearty "AMEN!" I then give a list of Scriptures that establish a basis for the chronology of near future events and then my friends, we will get into the "meat!"
There are many conflicting views as to the method to establish whether prophecy is truly of God. Biblical criteria is simple. Does the prophecy agree 100% with the Bible, Genesis to the Revelation? Does it reveal Jesus Christ to you? The rest works itself out.
1 John 4:
2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.