Is All Prophecy Conditional?

Prophecies that make predictions about history are always conditional, and therefore they may or may not come to pass.  Messianic prophecies are unconditional, and they will surely come to pass.  We can see this difference in three short prophecies in Amos 7.

In verse 1, Amos saw a vision of a swarm of locusts devouring the crops.  In verse 2 he prayed for that God would forgive the land.  In verse 3, “the Lord relented.”

It was as simple as 1-2-3.  God spoke in a vision, but the word did not come to pass.

Verses 4-6 follow the same pattern, but this time it was fire instead of locusts:  “It consumed the great deep and devoured the territory.”  Again, prayer turned the judgment away and this vision too did not come to pass.

But in verses 7-9, God spoke differently as He showed a vision of a plumb line.  What did it represent?  In Amos’s generation, it represented the unchanging character of God.  To our generation, it additionally represents Jesus Himself.  Jesus is the standard by which everything and everyone is judged.

These nine verses in Amos 7 help us understand how prophecy works, and why a true prophet may give a true word that doesn’t come to pass.
Jeremiah 18 – the word at the potter’s house – shows that predictive prophecy is conditional.  God told Jeremiah that His promise of blessing can fail if a righteous person falls into sin, and promises of judgment will be turned away if sinners repent.

God used strong words in Jeremiah 18.  In verses 8 and 10, God said, “I will relent” or even “I will repent” – it depends on the translation – of what He had said He would do, whether good or bad.  It’s a Hebrew word that means He will turn or change direction; this is always in response to man’s changes of direction.

But from another perspective, God never changes direction.  He consistently moves in righteousness and towards righteousness.  If you read Jeremiah 18, it becomes obvious that God is not mocked:  if we choose righteousness, He will bless; if we choose wickedness, He will judge.
Ironically, many of us think “real” prophecy is the kind of predictions that God may or may not bring to pass; we are much less eager to hear prophecies that reveal Jesus.  It’s more exciting to hear a prediction because it seems so powerful and supernatural.

We are like children.  We love our desserts, but need parents who will make us eat our vegetables.

So if we’re seeing a lot of prophecies that aren’t coming to pass, one reason may be that we aren’t paying much attention to the ones that surely will.  But God is speaking them.  Day after day He is revealing the character of Jesus to the church.  Those of us who center in first-love find these words far more enthralling than predictions of what will happen next in history.

What is first-love all about?  It’s about God’s first and main commandment. It’s about centering on Jesus, and keeping our eye single towards Him.  This is the true purpose of prophecy, for Revelation 19:10 says the spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus.

This doesn’t mean God won’t talk about elections or earthquakes, but remember the lessons of Amos 7.  When God speaks of something that will happen in human history, judgments can be averted if people repent and make intercession.  But when God reveals the character of Jesus, He is revealing Him who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  These are the only prophecies that are unconditional, and that will surely come to pass.

Stan Smith  ::  © 2009, GospelSmith  ::  http://www.GospelSmith.com

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