Friday, December 28, 2012

A Biblical Look at Prophecy


A prophecy refers to the oral or written message of a prophet. Biblically, a prophet is “one who is divinely inspired to communicate God’s will to His people and to disclose the future to them” (Unger, 1988:1040). “Prophecy should not be essentially defined as a foretelling of the future. Instead, it is the forthtelling [sic] of a revelation from God which on occasion also may involve the prediction of future events.” (Robertson, 1993:4). The three modes God used to communicate prophecy are: visions, dreams and direct communication.

Prophecy is purely an act of God as the Apostle Peter confirmed: “No prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20-21). In this passage Peter also confirms that prophecy is the gift chosen by God for producing Scripture, hence our look at prophecy in both the Old and New Testaments.

1.      Prophecy in the Old Testament

The importance of prophecy in Scripture cannot be overemphasized, seeing that prophetic literature constitutes about a quarter of the canon (Walvoord, 1998:vii). But from the Old Testament, we also see that prophets can either be cultic (such as a diviner), false, or God-sent. Hence stun warning is given to the people of God to steer clear of cultic and false prophets and prophecy, a practice punishable by death (Deuteronomy 13:1-5; cf. 18:20).

As we study the Old Testament and especially sections on prophetic literature, two main themes stand out: judgment and salvation. The people, not only Israel but world nations as well, are judged for their sin, while at the same time, there is the presentation of hope through the promise of the Messiah (e.g. Ezekiel 34). Thus the prime purpose of prophecy as seen throughout Scripture is the progressive revelation of Christ. “Christ is the central figure and focus of all history and prophecy” (Tan, 1974:104). The dual theme of judgment and salvation with Christ as the centre can be traced as early as Genesis 3 where God judges man for his sin, but also gives him the first promise of a Redeemer through the seed of the woman (verse 15). Hence “Scripture not only presents the prophetic word as a demonstration of God’s power and wisdom, but it presents His response to man’s need [for a Saviour]” (Unger, 1988:1040).

2.      Prophecy in the New Testament

While prophecy in the Old Testament predicted the future coming of the Messiah, prophecy in the New Testament confirmed the fulfilment of His coming. “Prophecy in the New Testament is seen as both a continuation of Old Testament prophecy as well as its fulfilment. For New Testament authors, the correct interpretation of Old Testament prophecy is that it speaks in toto of Christ.” (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2009:"Prophecy").

In the New Testament Christ Himself confirmed that He is the theme of the Old Testament on at least five different occasions (Matthew 5:17; Luke 24:27; Luke 24:44; John 5:39; Hebrews 10:7) (Jensen, 1978:45). Further, the Gospel accounts record John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament prophets, as bearing witness to the fact that the prophecy of the Messiah was fulfilled in Christ (John 1:29, 36; cf. Mark 1:1-8). Not only does the New Testament confirm the fulfilment of the Messianic prophecies, it also details prophecies concerning His Second Coming. This is most explicitly read in the book of Revelation.

3.      Prophecy Today

So where does prophecy stand in the Church today? Do we still need divine revelation from God? Well, with the major purpose of prophecy being the advent of Christ there negates the need for prophecy today after Christ’s incarnation. Hebrews 1 states that, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son” (verses 1, 2). “The story of divine revelation is a story of progression up to Christ, but there is no progression beyond Him” (Bruce, 1990:46). We only await His return as revealed in Revelation. And even in Revelation, John the apostle was warned against editing the prophetic book by adding to or removing from the content (Revelation 22:18, 19).

Today, Scripture, as recorded in the Old and New Testaments, is enough for us to know the revelation of God through Christ. Paul confirmed that all Scripture is inspired by God and sufficient for us (2 Timothy 3:16, 17). Hence the work prophets did in the past is done through Scripture today. The Old Testament prophesied Christ’s coming, while the New Testament confirmed His coming and prophesied His imminent return.


Thus all prophecy necessary for revelation concerning Christ has already been given, whether on His first or second coming. “Scripture alone!” is hence the biblical assertion of the Church today in terms of access to special revelation.


  • Bruce, F. F. 1990. Hebrews. New International Commentary on the New Testament (NICNT). Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2009. Article on "Prophecy." Encyclopaedia Britannica Deluxe Edition.  Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica
  • Jensen, I. L. 1978. Jensen’s Survey of the Old Testament. Chicago: Moody Bible Institute
  • Robertson, O. P. 1993. The Final Word: A Biblical Response to the Case for Tongues and Prophecy Today. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust
  • Tan, P. L. 1974. The Interpretation of Prophecy. Indiana: BMH Books
  • Unger, M. F. 1988. The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Chicago: Moody Bible Institute
  • Walvoord, J. F. 1998. End Times: Understanding Today’s World Events in Biblical Prophecy (In_Swindoll, C. R., ed., Understanding the Basic Precepts of Our Faith. Nashville: Word Publishing)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Salvation from the fiery lake

Maybe by creating me God made His first mistake,
Coz I’ve failed the test of life after countless retakes,
I doubt in His image my life He spake,
Coz the mirror reflects the opposite each morning I awake,

Like Eve I’m tempted to blame it all on the snake,
But I was alone when I baked the sin and ate of its cake,
God’s will my mind knows but my body forsakes,
So it’s entirely my fault that my tummy now aches,

So the punishment fits the crime coz His Law I chose to break,
The sentence is life in hell in the eternal fiery lake,
But I cannot fully pay for my sin even with the blankest cheque,
Coz even at death the punishment I cannot shake,

So in my hopelessness Christ chose to reach out for my sake,
When His life He gave up for mine on a painful stake,
With love and the promise of this shattered pot to remake,
He scraped the stain of my sin with His eternal rake,

He gave me a new name so my past ID is now a fake,
His image not mine on the new ID photo I had to retake,
His Kingdom not mine a new citizenship I take,
He continues to save the drowning from the fiery lake!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Issues on Africa: Do ancestral spirits really exist?

As it so happens in our beloved continent of Africa, wonders never cease!

A few months ago when I visited my home country, Kenya, I was amused to watch on the local news that an elderly man, who had passed on, had left behind specific instructions to be carried out by his relatives upon his death. He commanded that he should be buried with a live calf next to his coffin lest he returns to haunt his kin. This instruction, rather threat, was allegedly issued because years back, one of the cows en route to him as bride price died on the way.

And as years passed by, seeing that there was no sign of the dead cow being replaced by a live one, he warned that when he dies, he should be buried with a live cow lest he returns to give his people sleepless nights. So to honour his wish, he was indeed buried with the poor calf. As his relatives shovelled the soil back into the grave, the cow mooed, rather cried, in dismay. The cow’s cries were actually a welcome sign to the mourners because the deceased had said that the cries of the cow would be a sign that he was pleased with the offering.

At that point, amazed by the event, I thought of my own death and concluded that: because I love chicken so much, maybe I’ll threaten my relatives at my deathbed to bury me with some KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken), lest I return to haunt them... It’s less trouble than a whole cow anyway.

But on a more serious note, such astonishing acts of ancestral fear and worship are quite frequent in Africa even today. This just happened to be one of the few cases that made the headlines.

The reason sane and even intellectual people would be driven to such acts is because of the traditional African belief in ancestral spirits, that the departed exercise control in the spiritual realm and have the power to influence the affairs of mankind on earth. But is this really true?

If dead people have control over the spiritual realm and can influence the affairs of mankind, then where does that leave God the Creator and His sovereign will? It would imply that men, and in this case, dead ones, have control over the world, and not God. Even logically, before perusing the Scriptures, this doesn’t make sense.

But what does the Bible have to say? Scripture is very clear that “it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27). So if what awaits man after his death is judgment from God, how can he then turn and at his death, become a judge over the affairs of mankind on earth? It is impossible!

Further, as Christ died on the cross, He assured the repentant thief on His side that, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). Christ never left room for the repentant thief to become an ancestral spirit upon his death and return to haunt those who put him on the cross.

Thus it is clear from Scripture that when man dies, he immediately either goes to heaven to be with the Lord if he is a believer, or if he isn’t a believer, he unfortunately winds up in hell as he awaits final and eternal judgment when Christ returns.

So what then do we call the supernatural manifestations and threats that we experience in our families from time to time in the name of ancestral visits? Well, biblically, there’s a clear answer.

But before we ponder upon the biblical response, it is also worth pondering a logical one. Mostly, when a so-called ‘ancestor’ manifests, it is almost always to threaten that if the individual or entire family doesn’t carry out his demands, they will pay the consequences. Well, if ancestors are people known to us and in most cases, our departed loved ones, why do they always seem to operate with threats and not love? For example, if my father dies and allegedly appears to me as an ancestor with a certain instruction, shouldn’t I expect that he comes in the name of love and not a threat that causes fear? Why should my own loved one threaten me? The only logical answer is that he is probably not my dearly departed kin.

But now to a biblical answer. Paul made it clear to the Corinthian church that, What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. (1 Corinthians 10:19, 20). Paul was simply making a statement that when you worship and make sacrifices to spiritual beings other than the one true God, it doesn’t matter what you call that being; whether you call it an ‘idol’ or an ‘ancestor’, the being you are sacrificing to is simply a demon.

Paul was confirming that in the spiritual realm, there are only two entities that man can interact with: either God or demons. The Gentiles at the time of Paul offered sacrifices to idols thinking they were offering sacrifices to real gods. But Paul quashed that notion in this passage by rhetorically renouncing that an idol isn’t anything but a demon. In the same way, as Africans, when we perform rituals in the name of appeasing ancestral spirits, what we are doing is nothing but worshipping demons. We should not be quick to forget that the Bible warns that “even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). And if he can do this, then what prevents him from disguising himself as a mere human being, and in this case, as your ancestor?

But then you may ask: ‘How do I deal with the demons that have been running rampant in my family for generations?’ Well, it starts with knowing Christ, the only true God, and His saving work on the cross; because no one in the history of mankind has ever demonstrated genuine and absolute authority over the demonic world as He did (Mark 1:27).