Can we really trust biblical prophecies?
“Biblical prophecies” can be taken two ways. First, if you refer to biblical prophecies as those prophecies found within the pages of the Bible, then yes, we can trust every biblical prophecy. If you refer to biblical prophecies as prophecies from saints throughout Christian and church history, then there must be some requirements before I can say yes.
Prophecies that come straight from the pages of Scripture must be trusted. After all, it is orthodox Christian doctrine to believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, that as Paul said, it is “God-breathed and profitable for all forms of Christian experience (2 Timothy 3:16).
We must trust that everything written in the pages of Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit of God. Since God spoke these words through the human authors, we must accept them as coming straight from him. And we must trust that every biblical prophecy is there for a reason.
Biblical prophecy has partial and complete fulfillments. From the moment it is spoken in its day to the complete fulfillment at the end of time, biblical prophecy may be hard to pin down. For instance, there are parts of Revelation that have yet to be fulfilled.
Like those who came to the prophecies of Isaiah in his day, we can sometimes scratch our heads because we don’t understand or see the complete fulfillment of these prophecies yet. But when we have this dilemma, we can take to heart that God has never neglected any of his promises or prophecies.
In his time, he will fulfill every prophecy whether we understand it or its fulfillment. He has done it in the past, especially with the Old Testament prophecies fulfilled in Christ. Every prophecy in the pages of the Bible will be fulfilled by God before the end of time.
On the second matter, those prophecies declared by Christians throughout the ages, there is at least one caveat. Any prophecy spoken outside of the pages of Scripture must agree with the Bible completely. If it is spoken and does not agree with Scripture, it is false prophecy.
The authority of the Bible must be held higher than any spoken word after the completion of Scripture. No spoken word or prophecy since the completion of written Scripture has authority over it. There must be agreement between spoken prophecy and the Bible.
It is true that the Holy Spirit speaks through his people even today. There are gifts of the Holy Spirit that include prophecy. But all of those prophecies, because they come from the Holy Spirit, agree with the Word of God.
Scripture also tells us that any word from a prophet must also come true (Deuteronomy 18:22). Also, the life of the prophet must be godly and match the Scriptures. I’m not saying prophets don’t make mistakes, for there are scriptural examples of ones that do, but that their life must demonstrate the godly principles of Scripture.
Even when prophets spoke in the assembly in the New Testament, everything they said was weighed by other prophets around them (1 Corinthians 14:29). Also, the leadership of the church must have the spiritual wisdom and discernment, as well as sensitivity to the Holy Spirit and connection with God, to know if a prophetic word is from the Holy Spirit.
As I said before, humans make mistakes. We don’t always follow the leading of the Holy Spirit when we speak prophetic words. But some of these checks and balances should help us to be able to discern whether or not a word is from the Spirit and follows the biblical guidelines for biblical prophecy.
With the possibilities of mistakes through human vessels, we must still desire to hear from the Holy Spirit these biblical prophecies and prophetic words. He has chosen from the beginning of time to speak through human beings, and we must listen to hear the words of the Spirit through all the noise of our world.