Other Free Encyclopedias » Science Encyclopedia » Science & Philosophy: Propagation to Quantum electrodynamics (QED) » Prophecy - Hebrew Prophecy, New Testament, Islam, Greece And Rome, Middle Ages, Renaissance, Bibliography

Prophecy - New Testament

god jesus angel christ

Although the influence of prophecy declined after the time of the Hebrew prophets, the ancient belief in the word and symbolic act maintained its efficacy because of humanity's need of God and of communion with him. The sacraments of the Christian Church exemplify the belief in this concept of the power of word and acts. When Hebrew prophecy was stilled for a long time, new prophets were inspired by the divine voice to proclaim the good news about a child, soon to be born to a virgin, who would be the savior of the people. The Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, telling him that the Holy Spirit had touched his betrothed and that she would bring forth a son to be called Jesus, "for He shall save His people from their sins" (Matt. 1:18–25). John the Baptist called the people to repentance, for "the kingdom of heaven is at hand." He proclaimed Jesus as the one of whom Isaiah spoke.

Luke records the story of the angel who appeared to Zacharias, a priest, as he was burning incense in the temple. The priest's wife, Elizabeth, was barren, but the angel spoke to Zacharias with astonishing words: "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for thy petition has been heard, and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son and thou shalt call his name John.… [He] shall be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb." (Luke 1:13–15). When Zacharias asked the angel how this was possible, since he and his wife were elderly, the angel identified himself as Gabriel, "who stands in the presence of God; and I have been sent to speak to thee and to bring thee this good news. And behold, thou shalt be dumb and unable to speak until the day when these things come to pass, because thou hast not believed my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time" (Luke 1:18–20). The prophecies of the angel Gabriel were fulfilled: Zacharias was dumb until the birth of the son, John, who was to be the forerunner of Jesus. Gabriel also appeared to Mary, a virgin, telling her that she had found favor with God and that she would bring forth a son from the Holy Spirit whose name was to be Jesus: "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of David his father, … and of His kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:32–33). Prophecy clearly was the foundation of Christianity and continued the messianic expectations of the Hebrews who believed that the Messiah, accompanied by Elijah the prophet, would usher in a national regeneration. In Christian belief Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah who would both regenerate the nation and bring salvation to the whole world.

Isaiah is a favorite prophet among Christians because his prophecies are considered to proclaim a prince of peace who will be the Messiah. The prophet proclaimed that a virgin would conceive and bear a son whose name would be Emmanuel (Isa. 7:14). "For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace" (9:6). This prophecy is the heart of Christian belief in Jesus Christ as Prince of Peace and Messiah. The epithets of Jesus—prophet, priest, and king—also have their roots in Isaiah: "His empire shall be multiplied, and there shall be no end of peace: he shall sit upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom; to establish it and strengthen it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth and forever: the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this" (9:7). The Servant Songs (Isaiah 42 and 49) also proclaim a message of salvation and deliverance that can be associated with Israel and in Christianity with Jesus as the suffering servant. Isaiah and Christian prophecy both emphasize universalism.

One of the most significant examples of Christian prophecy was on the day of Pentecost, when after the Crucifixion the apostles were gathered together and were astonished when a sound like a strong wind came down from heaven; then "parted tongues of fire" settled on each of them, and all were filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in foreign tongues (Acts 2:1–4). The universality of the languages used represented the universality of the message of salvation and redemption. Peter's discourse makes clear the point of the speaking in tongues: "this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says the Lord, that I will pour forth of my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophecy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. And moreover, upon my servants and upon my handmaids in those days will I pour forth of my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.… And it shall come to pass that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved'" (Acts 2:16–21).

As the history of Israel was dependent upon the word of God as spoken through his prophets, Jesus Christ was the epitome of revelation and the fulfillment of the Law, according to the New Testament and Christian teaching. As Paul expressed it, "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, last of all, in these days has spoken to us by His Son, whom he appointed heir of all things" (Heb. 1:1–3). Paul describes Jesus as a superior mediator, superior to the angels and to Moses. In Judaism and in Islam Jesus is considered a prophet; in Christianity he is superior to all prophets as the Son of God and Messiah, who by his death brought salvation to all who would live according to the will of God and accept his sacrifice as expiation of humanity's sins.

In Christianity apocalyptic motifs are also strong, especially in the Gospel of Mark (13) and in the Book of Revelation (Apocalypse), which is "the revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave him to make known to his servants the things that must shortly come to pass and he sent and signified them through his angel to his servant John" (Apoc. 1:1). The apostles were witnesses and messengers of Christ and proclaimed what they had seen and received. To Paul revelation is "manifested now through the writings of the prophets, according to the precept of the eternal God, and made known to all Gentiles to bring about obedience to faith—to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be honor forever and ever" (Rom. 16:26–27). In the Gospel of John, Christ reveals God and is God revealed (John 1:18; 14:6–7).

Prophecy - Islam [next] [back] Prophecy - Hebrew Prophecy

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or