It is one thing to read Isaiah 53:1 and apply it to the Jewish people living in the time of Jesus, but it packs a much bigger punch if we apply this to everyone living on the earth today, including ourselves. Why? Because there is a deficiency in the church today regarding understanding prophecy. First, there is biblical illiteracy regarding what has been spoken—most people have not studied it enough on their own to know all that God has prophesied.
Second, there is no overarching consensus in the church on how it should be interpreted. Without a common interpretive lens, there is no way to come to a common understanding of God’s prophetic word, so each man, church, or denomination interprets the Scriptures how they see fit. Third, even when things happen that appear to fulfill Scripture, many are hesitant to proclaim that a fulfillment has occurred. This is especially difficult when the description in the prophecy is not clear or there are multiple potential interpretations of it.
The consequence of this is that people tend to be uncertain of when prophecy has been fulfilled; but at the same time, they may be very certain of how they imagine a prophecy will be fulfilled in the future. This is backwards. We should be certain when prophecy is fulfilled because it has happened. We can directly compare events to Scripture and should be able to judge if an event matches the prophecy or not. Conversely, we should reserve some uncertainty regarding exactly how God will fulfill his Word in the future, because God may do things in a way that we can’t even imagine right now. Nevertheless, when God does act to bring his Word to pass, we should recognize it as “the arm of the Lord” that has done it.
When disaster comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it? – Amos 3:6b
The missing component to being able to recognize fulfillments of God’s prophetic word is FAITH. Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). And I would say that it is similarly impossible to recognize God’s hand at work. Paul tells us that prophecy is a sign for believers, not unbelievers (1 Corinthians 14:22). What does that mean? It means that you must believe and have faith to see and comprehend prophecy. Paul also tells us that prophecy is supposed to be revealed and made known to help bring people to faith in God (Romans 16:26). How can we do that as believers if we are not studying and making use of the prophetic writings? Shouldn’t we be holding them up as lights and guides to the nations, believing that they are something completely reliable (2 Peter 1:19)? But some have treated the prophecies with contempt by ignoring them or downplaying their relevance (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21). Often, the reason they do that is because they don’t think prophetic interpretations are reliable.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. – Hebrews 11:6
Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers. – 1 Corinthians 14:22
[the mystery hidden for long ages past]…but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith. – Romans 16:26
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good. – 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21
Look at these scriptural testimonies regarding the importance of embracing prophecy by faith. They are a light for us in a dark place. We must use wisdom to understand them and test everything, but we cannot forsake them. We must be willing to exercise our faith in the recognition of God fulfilling his Word. To see world events that match prophetic pronouncements—and yet remain in unbelief—would seem to be the result of a lack of faith, or otherwise a lack of diligence to investigate the matter.
We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. – Hebrews 6:11-12