Having seen that biblical prophecy (type a) can be prophetic without necessarily being predictive, we are now ready to examine type (b), or predictive, prophecy.

Biblical predictive prophecy was not vague, but highly specific. For example, take the message of Jonah (Jonah 3:4). There was a specific message (repent!), a precise deadline (forty days), and a specific threat (otherwise Nineveh will be destroyed). What a contrast to modern "prophecy"! I recall when the charismatic movement hit the church I grew up in. One of the leaders stood up "in the Spirit" and "prophesied," in a soft, comforting voice, something like: "Take heart, my little sheep, for I am with you as a Shepherd. I will be with you wherever you go, yeah, for I am your loving God. For this is the word of the Lord."

One must ask, what truth did the self-appointed revelator reveal to the listeners which was not already written in the (authentic) Word of God? Moreover, what need did the purported message meet? The religious world is full of people claiming the Spirit is moving them. Comforting prophecies are abundant -- less so messages of repentance and radical commitment. And yet the Bible says that the Spirit convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8)!

No offense meant to those who feel they are mysteriously guided by God, but I no more believe their oracles than I take seriously the short messages in fortune cookies. Our family has a great fondness for oriental foods, and so we have been exposed to a good few messages'these days including lucky numbers for gambling and lottery! The other day I received a fortune that simply read, "You a very pretty." Now that was a good one!

Back to the Bible! Biblical prophecy is highly specific, because the speakers understood that a highly specific change needed to take place in the lives of the listeners. The reason modern "prophecy" is not specific is that the "prophets" don't want to be shown to be fraudulent. And that is what they are consistently shown to be when they try to be precise. Yes, there are "prophets" who occasionally try to be specific -- predicting the end of the world, for example (heedless of the warning in 1 Thessalonians 5:1). Every year these men and women are shown to be charlatans. (Although one year they will get it right!) Specificity -- the same element lacking in most modern preaching -- when combined with accuracy gave biblical prophecy its distinctiveness.

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