Prophecy's Main Purpose

What was the main purpose of biblical prophecy?

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A lot of times people think about biblical prophecy mainly in terms of prediction and the fulfillment of predictions. Many of us have heard about how Jesus fulfills these predictions from the Old Testament, and that's certainly true, but it's not the primary purpose of biblical prophecy. The prophets really were representatives of the covenant to the king and to the people of God. And so over and over again we see the prophets in the Old Testament, not predicting something, but laying out in front of God's people that if they obey on the one hand, there will be blessing. If they disobey on the other hand, there will be curses; there will be sanctions to their disobedience. That represents the shape of the covenant that we see at the end of Deuteronomy for example of these blessings and curses. So again and again we see a prophet like Jeremiah in chapter 18 of Jeremiah lay out these possibilities. If you obey, blessing, if you disobey, curse. What's remarkable about that is that through the prophets God is reminding his people that he takes their covenant responsibilities seriously. So there's this sense of historical contingencies that is allowed for in biblical prophecy because God is taking seriously the actions of his people, either their obedience or their disobedience. So it's not just about predicting the future. Biblical prophecy, more importantly, is about God's people responding in faithfulness to the covenant and experiencing blessing, or suffering curse because they have disobeyed God's covenant relationship.

Answer by Dr. Gregory R. Perry

Dr. Gregory R. Perry is President of Thirdmill Seminary and Vice President for Strategic Projects at Third Millennium Ministries. He served as Associate Professor of New Testament and the Director of City Ministry Initiative at Covenant Theological Seminary 2003-2017.