Prophecy 101

Prophecy 101

prophecy is a message that is claimed by a prophet to have been communicated to them by a deity. Such messages typically involve inspiration, interpretation, or revelation of divine will concerning the prophet’s social world and events to come (compare divine knowledge). All known ancient cultures had prophets who delivered prophecies.

Bahá’í Faith

In 1863, Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith, claimed to have been the promised messianic figure of all previous religions, and a Manifestation of God, a type of prophet in the Bahá’í writings that serves as intermediary between the divine and humanity and who speaks with the voice of a god.  Bahá’u’lláh claimed that, while being imprisoned in the Siyah-Chal in Iran, he underwent a series of mystical experiences including having a vision of the Maid of Heaven who told him of his divine mission, and the promise of divine assistance;  In Bahá’í belief, the Maid of Heaven is a representation of the divine.

Buddhism

The Haedong Kosung-jon (Biographies of High Monks) records that King Beopheung of Silla had desired to promulgate Buddhism as the state religion. However, officials in his court opposed him. In the fourteenth year of his reign, Beopheung’s “Grand Secretary”, Ichadon, devised a strategy to overcome court opposition. Ichadon schemed with the king, convincing him to make a proclamation granting Buddhism official state sanction using the royal seal. Ichadon told the king to deny having made such a proclamation when the opposing officials received it and demanded an explanation. Instead, Ichadon would confess and accept the punishment of execution, for what would quickly be seen as a forgery. Ichadon prophesied to the king that at his execution a wonderful miracle would convince the opposing court faction of Buddhism’s power. Ichadon’s scheme went as planned, and the opposing officials took the bait. When Ichadon was executed on the 15th day of the 9th month in 527, his prophecy was fulfilled; the earth shook, the sun was darkened, beautiful flowers rained from the sky, his severed head flew to the sacred Geumgang mountains, and milk instead of blood sprayed 100 feet in the air from his beheaded corpse. The omen was accepted by the opposing court officials as a manifestation of heaven’s approval, and Buddhism was made the state religion in 527.

China

In ancient Chinese, prophetic texts are known as Chen (谶). The most famous Chinese prophecy is the Tui bei tu (推背圖).

Christianity

The New Testament refers to prophecy as one of the spiritual gifts given by the indwelling Holy Spirit. From this, many Christians believe that the gift of prophecy is the supernatural ability to receive and convey a message from God. The purpose of the message may be to “edify, exhort and comfort” the members of the Church. In this context, not all prophecies contain predictions about the future. The Apostle Paul teaches in First Corinthians that prophecy is for the benefit of the whole Church and not just of the individual exercising the gift.

According to Walter Brueggemann, the task of prophetic (Christian) ministry is to nurture, nourish and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture.  A recognized form of Christian prophecy is the “prophetic drama” which Frederick Dillistone describes as a “metaphorical conjunction between present situations and future events”.

Latter Day Saint movement

The Latter Day Saint movement maintains that its first prophet, Joseph Smith, was visited by God and Jesus Christ in 1820. The Latter Day Saints further claims that God communicated directly with Joseph Smith on many subsequent occasions, and that following the death of Joseph Smith God has continued to speak through subsequent prophets. Joseph Smith claims to have been led by an angel to a large hill in upstate New York, where he was shown an ancient manuscript engraved on plates of gold metal. Joseph Smith claimed to have translated this manuscript into modern English under divine inspiration by the gift and power of God, and the publication of this translation are known as the Book of Mormon.

Following Smith’s murder, there was a succession crisis that resulted in a great schism. The majority of Latter-day Saints believing Brigham Young to be the next prophet and following him out to Utah, while a minority returned to Missouri with Emma Smith, believing Joseph Smith Junior’s son, Joseph Smith III, to be the next legitimate prophet (forming the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, now the Community of Christ). Since even before the death of Joseph Smith in 1844, there have been numerous separatist Latter Day Saint sects that have splintered from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. To this day, there are an unknown number of organizations within the Latter Day Saint Movement, each with their own proposed prophet.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) is the largest Latter Day Saint body. The current Prophet/President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Russell M. Nelson. The church has, since Joseph Smith’s death on June 27, 1844, held a belief that the president of their church is also a literal prophet of God, and the only true prophet on the earth. The church also maintains that further revelations claimed to have been given through Joseph Smith are published in the Doctrine and Covenants, one of the Standard Works. Additional revelations and prophecies outside the Standard Works, such as Joseph Smith’s “White Horse Prophecy“, concerning a great and final war in the United States before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, can be found in other church published works.

Islam

The Arabic term for prophecy nubuwwa (Arabicنُبُوَّة‎) occurs five times in the Quran and stems from the term for prophets, nabī (Arabicنَبِي‎; pl. anbiyāʼ from nabā “tidings, announcement”) who are lawbringers that Muslims believe were sent by God to every person, bringing God’s message in a language they can understand.  But there is also the term rasūl (Arabicرسول‎ “messenger, apostle”) to classify those who bring a divine revelation (Arabicرسالة‎ risālah “message”) via an angel.  Knowledge of the Islamic prophets is one of the six articles of the Islamic faith,  and specifically mentioned in the Quran.  Along with Muhammad, many of the prophets in Judaism (such as NoahAbrahamMosesAaronElijah, etc.) and prophets of Christianity (AdamZechariah the priestJohn the BaptistJesus Christ) are mentioned by name in the Quran.

In the sense of predicting events, the Quran contains verses believed to have predicted many events years before they happened and that such prophecies are proof of the divine origin of the Qur’an. The Qur’an itself states “For every announcement there is a term, and ye will come to know.”  Muslims also recognize the validity of some prophecies in other sacred texts like in the Bible; however, they believe that, unlike the Qur’an, some parts of the Bible have been corrupted over the years, and as a result, not all of the prophecies and verses in the Bible are accurate.

Judaism

The Hebrew term for prophet, Navi, literally means “spokesperson”; he speaks to the people as a mouthpiece of their God, and to their god on behalf of the people. “The name prophet, from the Greek meaning “forespeaker” (πρὸ being used in the original local sense), is an equivalent of the Hebrew נבוא, which signifies properly a delegate or mouthpiece of another.” A major theme of the Nevi’im is social justice.

According to Judaism, authentic Nevuah (Heb.: נבואה, “Prophecy”) got withdrawn from the world after the destruction of the first Jerusalem Temple. Malachi is acknowledged to have been the last authentic prophet if one accepts the opinion that Nechemyah died in Babylon before 9th Tevet 3448 (313 BCE).

The Torah contains laws concerning the false prophet (Deuteronomy 13:2-6, 18:20-22). Prophets in Islam like Lot, for example, are false prophets according to Jewish standards.

In the Torah, prophecy often consisted of a conditioned warning by their God of the consequences should the society, specific communities, or their leaders not adhere to Torah’s instructions in the time contemporary with the prophet’s life. Prophecies sometimes included conditioned promises of blessing for obeying their god, and returning to behaviors and laws as written in the Torah. Conditioned warning prophecies feature in all Jewish works of the Tanakh.

Notably Maimonides, philosophically suggested there once were many levels of prophecy, from the highest such as those experienced by Moses, to the lowest where the individuals were able to apprehend the Divine Will, but not respond or even describe this experience to others, citing in example, Shem, Eber and most notably, Noah, who, in biblical narrative, does not issue prophetic declarations.

Native American prophecy

There exists a problem in verifying most Native American prophecy, in that they remain primarily an oral tradition, and thus there is no way to cite references of where writings have been committed to paper. In their system, the best reference is an Elder, who acts as a repository of the accumulated wisdom of their tradition.

In another type of example, it is recorded that there are three Dogrib prophets who had claimed to have been divinely inspired to bring the message of Christianity’s God to their people.  This prophecy among the Dogrib involves elements such as dances and trance-like states.

Nostradamus

Esoteric prophecy has been claimed for, but not by, Michel de Nostredame, popularly referred to as Nostradamus, who claimed to be a converted Christian. It is known that he suffered several tragedies in his life, and was persecuted to some degree for his cryptic esoteric writings about the future, reportedly derived through a use of a crystal ball. Nostradamus was a French apothecary and reputed seer who published collections of foreknowledge of future events. He is best known for his book Les Propheties (“The Prophecies”), the first edition of which appeared in 1555. Since its publication, Nostradamus has attracted an esoteric following that, along with the popularistic press, credits him with foreseeing world events. His esoteric cryptic foreseeings have in some cases been assimilated to the results of applying the alleged Bible code, as well as to other purported pseudo-prophetic works.

Most reliable academic sources maintain that the associations made between world events and Nostradamus’s quatrains are largely the result of misinterpretations or mistranslations (sometimes deliberate) or else are so tenuous as to render them useless as evidence of any genuine predictive power. Moreover, none of the sources listed offers any evidence that anyone has ever interpreted any of Nostradamus’s pseudo-prophetic works specifically enough to allow a clear identification of any event in advance.

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