Prediction vs Prophecy
The book of Revelation in the bible is a book of prophecy. It is not science fiction. It is not reflection or musings. It is not an anthology or timeline or even a threat. It is prophecy.
In this regard, it stands in good company with the other books of the bible. There are 17 old testament books referred to as the books of the prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. There is also prophetic words spoken in many others, from Genesis through the Psalms and even into the new testament. Jesus not only quoted the prophets, but He himself was a prophet.
But, to understand this, we first need to understand the difference between prophecy and prediction. There are two key distinctions between prophecy and predictions: source and reliability.
Prophecy always and only comes from God. It is God delivering enlightenment about the facts of a future event to His creation. It can be delivered by God through His own voice, through His own hand, through His word given to men, through His Son, or in any other way that God chooses, including a donkey. The prophet is simply the one who delivers the message. It is always the message, not the messenger.
Predictions are based on patterns. All of science is centered around predictions. When this, then that. Because God is in all of His creation, He can and does reveal Himself through patterns, but this is different than prophecy. Patterns are much more about the consistent nature and ongoing attributes of God, where prophecy is about specific intervening points where God will be taking action in the future of His creation.
The other key distinction is reliability. Because prophecy is from God and God is fully in control, every prophecy will be fully and completely fulfilled, 100%, guaranteed. Read that last line again. Prophecy is not about what might happen, it is about what will happen, because it is a promise made by the one in control who never lies. Predictions on the other hand are simply probabilities based on environments and assumptions. Even our best scientific “facts” are limited by space and time. The way things behave on land may be different than in the depths of the ocean or in outerspace, when standing still verses when travelling at incredible speeds, today vs a million years from now. The word of God has now such limits.
In the same way, prediction is limited to patterns that we have observed. Venturing out of those patterns in no longer predictions, it is guessing. Prophecy, on the other hand, is the revelation of future fact. The understanding that something has never happened before influences prediction, but it has no bearing on prophecy. The reliability comes from the source and that evidence that past prophecy has never been wrong. This is not to say that all past prophecy has already been fulfilled (if it was, then we wouldn’t be here studying the book of Revelation because we would already be living in heaven), but it does say that no prophecy has been incorrect.
3. Bible, weather, forecasting, polls, science, extrapolation, fortune tellers, horoscopes
4. Prophecy is from God not from man. It does not have origin in human will, but spoken from God through humans carried to and through them by the Holy Spirit
5. Prophecy is evidence. It is for the benefit of man to increase faith. God revealed and fulfills it so man’s faith would (will) be increased.