Biblical prophecy is more than “fore-telling”: two-thirds of its inscripturated form involves “forth-telling,” that is, setting the truth, justice, mercy, and righteousness of God against the backdrop of every form of denial of the same. Thus, to speak prophetically was to speak boldly against every form of moral, ethical, political, economic, and religious disenfranchisement observed in a culture that was intent on building its own pyramid of values vis-à-vis God’s established system of truth and ethics.
However, prediction was by no means absent from the prophetic message. The prophets were conscious of contributing to the ongoing plan of God’s ancient, but constantly renewed promise. They announced God’s coming kingdom and the awful day of the Lord when God’s wrath would be poured out on all ungodliness. In the meantime, before that eschatological moment, there would be a number of divine in-breakings on the historical scene in which the fall of cities such as Samaria, Damascus, Nineveh, Jerusalem, and Babylon would serve as harbingers or foreshadowings of God’s final intrusion into the historical scene at the end of history. Thus each minijudgment on the nations or empires of past and present history were earnests and downpayments on God’s final day of coming onto the historic scene to end it in one severe judgment and blast of victory. So said all the prophets. And in so saying they exhibited the fact that all their messages were organically related to each other; they were progressively building on one another. And, being focused distinctly on God, they were preeminently theocentric in their organization.
Therefore, the predictive sections of biblical prophecy exhibit certain key characteristics:
- they are not isolated sayings, but are organically related to the whole of prophecy;
- they plainly foretell things to come rather than being clothed in such abstruse terminology that they could be proven true even if the opposite of what they appear to say happens;
- they are designed to be predictions and are not accidental or unwitting predictions;
- they are written and published before the event, so that it could not be said that it was a matter of human sagacity that determined this would take place;
- they are fulfilled in accordance with the original utterance, unless expressly attached to a condition; and
- they do not work out their own fulfillment, but stand as a verbal witness until the event takes place.
Walter C. Kaiser, Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology.
‘Prediction seems to belong to the very idea of the prophetic office. We may see this in Deut 18:9ff.: Israel, entering the land of Canaan, is not only warned about the abominations of the Canaanite cults, such as infant sacrifice, but also about Canaanite religious practitioners, such as diviners. Certainly these men were concerned with what we call ‘fortune-telling’; they offered to probe the future by one means or another. For Israel, instead of all these, there will be a prophet whom the Lord will raise up from among their brethren. This prophet, speaking in the name of the Lord, is to be judged by the accuracy of his forecasts (v. 22)—a clear proof that Israel expected prophetic prediction, and that it belonged to the notion of prophecy.’ (J.P. Baker, NBD)
Fulfillment of prophecy is mentioned in Deuteronomy 18:22, and Micaiah uses this to test his message against his opponents, 1 Kings 22:28. Isa 30:8, Jer 28:9 and Eze 33:33 also stress this criterion.