By Pastor Stephen Hess –
It seems like every few years there is a news story about a religious leader who is predicting the end of the world. You may remember it was just a few years ago when American Christian radio host Harold Camping stated that Judgment Day would take place on May 21, 2011, and that the end of the world would take place five months later on October 21, 2011. While most Christian believers did not accept Camping’s predictions, there were some that found themselves getting sucked into the hysteria. Of course, May 21 came and went, and the end of the world did not arrive. As it turned out, Camping was just another false prophet to add to the history books.
It should come as no surprise when we encounter false prophecy in the world today because the Bible repeatedly warns us about false prophets. Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15). The apostle Peter said, “False prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Pet. 2:1). And the apostle John said, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 Jn. 4:1). Clearly, false prophecy was a problem in the early church and continues to be a threat today.
However, despite the presence of false prophets in the church we shouldn’t lose sight of the reality that there is such a thing as true prophecy. The book of Hebrews tells us quite clearly: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets..” (Heb. 1:1). One of the primary ways that God spoke to his people before the coming of Christ was through prophets. True prophets were those who were called and commissioned by God, and their ministry could be validated by whether their words proved to be true. As Deuteronomy 18:22 says, “When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken.” What this means is that if we want to encounter genuine prophecy we should go back to the Bible and read the prophets of the Old Testament. These are the men who were called and commissioned by God, and whose prophetic words have proved to true.
One of the most stunning ways we can see the truth of Biblical prophecy is in the Old Testament prophecies pertaining to the Messiah. The prophets spoke and wrote these words hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, and yet they accurately predicted some of the unique circumstances of his arrival. For example, Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would be born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14), and Micah prophesied that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). These are just a couple of examples of how the true prophets long ago foretold God’s special plan.
As we enter the season of Advent, we will be starting a new sermon series called “As the Prophets Foretold.” During this series we will be looking at the prophecies in the Old Testament that point forward to the coming of Christ. Often times during advent, we focus on the stories of Jesus’ birth in the New Testament. Yet we can’t forget what the New Testament writers tell us: God planned Jesus’ birth long ago, and his arrival was foretold by the prophets. Come join us this Advent season and learn more about the One who came to save us from our sins in fulfillment of those ancient prophecies.