Understanding Prophecy

The perception of chronological time and the expectations based on the desire to meet ego-controlled needs have had an adverse effect on our understanding of prophecy. Prophets throughout time have been a voice for God in the present. The idea that prophets were predicting the arrival of a messiah that would meet the expectations of Israel was based on ego-centric or self-serving needs. While it is true that injustice existed in Israel under Roman rule, injustice was also systemically present in the social and cultural institutions that ruled society. These two kinds of injustice—from rulers-occupiers and from societal institutions—are human problems that are magnified by religious ideology. Praise or blame based on generalizations about groups of people exacerbates the problem of understanding prophecy. Answers cannot be found in laws that attempt to control or dictate results rather than governing society based on higher conscious development.

Prophecy as prediction of future events will fail because human beings have been granted freedom. A predictable future would mean that individual actions would have no meaning or value. Trends, foreshadowing, and suggestion might all be visible in present conditions, but the power of freedom and the unlimited number of potential outcomes make predictions of any kind meaningless. Again, we must understand that anticipation—which recognizes potential and keeps the being open to the possibility found within God—represents a very different design compared to expectations built on presently held ideas. Once an idea has taken hold in a human being it is very difficult to dislodge, even when the idea does not serve the well-being of the person.

The expectations about a messiah prejudiced many people in a way that prevented them from understanding the revelation of God in Jesus. Even today, there are many people who believe that Jesus fulfilled these expectations despite significant evidence against those expectations. Those same people are not willing to consider that the prophecies were the result of a faulty understanding of the ways in which God engages in relationship with human beings. To believe that God intervenes according to prayers of petition is to fail to see how this limits the freedom of God. On the contrary, prayers that are spoken to invite mutual communication bring illumination and understanding to the person and empower the person to act as a co-creator with God. This capacity, that of co-creator, is the true heritage and destiny of human beings. Responsibility and accountability come with this co-creative capacity.

As we talk further about the revelation of God in Jesus we will see that the mistaken understanding of prophecy and self-centered expectations repeatedly get in the way of understanding Jesus, then, and now.