The Prophets were God’s messengers who proclaimed His will before the birth of Christ, while pointing to the coming of the long awaited Messiah. The Hebrew word for “prophet” means “God’s mouthpiece,” as described in Deuteronomy 18:18, “I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.”
The Prophets are traditionally portrayed in the ring of the dome to affirm that Christ, Who said He came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (Matt 5:17), is the God of the Old and New Testaments. And just as the ring of the Prophets “upholds” the icon of Christ the Almighty, their prophecies and teachings form a foundation for the coming of Christ into the world. Jesus often quoted the Prophets, as He did when He affirmed the greatest commandments:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:37-40; Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18).
There is no question about the role of the Prophets in the Church since they are quoted or mentioned over 150 times in the New Testament. The Apostle Phillip told Nathaniel, “We have found Him of Whom Moses in the Law, and also the Prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” After his conversion, St. Paul, himself an expert in the Old Testament, “expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the Law of Moses, and out of the Prophets, from morning till evening” (Acts 28:23). St. Peter said the purpose of his second epistle was, “that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy Prophets, and of the commandment of us, the Apostles of the Lord and Savior” (2 Peter 3:1).
The Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah, “the Christ”, usually took the form of symbols called “types” or of direct predictions, or sometimes both, all of which foreshadowed Christ. About types and foreshadowing, St. John Chrysostom said, “I will give you an example of prophecy by means of things and of prophecy in words, regarding the same object: ‘He was led like a lamb to the slaughter and as a sheep before his shearer’ (Is 53:7); that is a prophecy in words. But when Abraham took Isaac and saw a ram caught by his horns in a thicket, and actually offered the sacrifice (Gen 22:3-13), then he really proclaimed unto us, in a type, the salutary Passion.”
The careful placement of iconography in the church creates a kind of grand mosaic that seeks to depict the communion of the saints which includes the holy Prophets, and all the saints in heaven along with Her members on earth, all gathered in the temple under the all-encompassing Pantocrator and Savior:
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in Whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord (Ephesians 2:19-21).
The Verses on the Scrolls of the Prophets
Full verses are given below but abbreviated on the scrolls
Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
The Prophet Isaiah lived 700 years before Christ. He foretold the virgin birth of the Messiah, described the suffering of Christ for the sins of the world, and prophesied the Resurrection. Isaiah worked miracles during his lifetime and died a martyr’s death.
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.
From the priestly rank, the Prophet Zechariah lived in the sixth century BC, and foretold Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, which Christians celebrate on Palm Sunday. Christ refers to the murders of Zechariah and Abel foreshadowing His own death at the hands of the religious establishment, upon whom the “blood of all the righteous” would fall (Matthew 23:35).
The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.
Zephaniah prophesied in the mid-seventh century BC to the Jews of Jerusalem, exhorting them to abandon idolatry with warnings about the coming “day of the Lord,” with the promise of a Savior Who would bring joy to His people.
Moses with Tablets of the Law and candlestick from the Tabernacle with image of Theotokos
The holy Prophet Moses, whose life mirrored Christ’s life in many prophetic ways over 1600 years ago, is the key person in the Old Testament revelation of God’s will for man. Jesus said all things Moses prophesied about Him would be fulfilled (Luke 24:44). Moses is called the “God-Seer” since God allowed him to “see” Him veiled in the Burning Bush and partially hidden in the cleft of the rock. The Lord gave the Ten Commandments to Moses and spoke to him hundreds of times, “as a man speaks to a friend.” Moses appeared with Elijah at Christ’s Transfiguration to confirm that Jesus is the God of the Old and New Covenants.
I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.
Joel called the people of God to turn their sorrow into penitence in the mid-seventh century BC. He prophesied the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, which occurred fifty days after Christ’s Resurrection.
And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
The Prophet Jonah, who lived 800 years before Christ, wrote about the universality of God’s mercy, which he personally experienced during his ordeal with the great fish, which was a prophesy of the Resurrection. The Book of Jonah is read in its entirety on Holy Saturday.
And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves.
One of the Major Prophets, Ezekiel, which means “God strengthens,” wrote about his visions of heavenly worship, and the judgements on the cities in the region and on the return of Israel to temple worship. His prophecy of the Eastern Gate (44:2) is symbolic of the ever-virginity of Mary, and his prophecy of the “dry bones” (37:1-14) foretells the bodily resurrection at the end of time.
I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.
Daniel, the fourth Major Prophet, was taken captive to Babylon, where he served in the court of King Nebuchadnezzar in the late sixth century BC. He and his companions remained true to the God of Israel, showing great courage in the lions’ den and in the fiery furnace. The fourth man in the fire was Christ. Daniel also had visions of heaven and the end times and made prophetic statements about the Ever-Virgin Mary.
But I was like a lamb or an ox that is brought to the slaughter.
One of the four Major Prophets, Jeremiah called the people to repentance from their worship of Baal and foretold the captivity of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, which resulted in his imprisonment. The Prophet Jeremiah foretold the sacrificial death of Christ and the resulting new covenant between God and the Christians.
But thou, Bethlehem Ephrathah, out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
Micah, who lived in the late seventh century BC, was the first prophet to foretell the fall of Jerusalem. He warned Israel against idolatry, immorality and false worship, and prophesied that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
David - Psalm 17:15
As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.
David, the son of Jesse, was anointed by the Prophet Samuel to become the second king of Israel after Saul in 1000 BC. David, whose life provides many foreshadowings of Christ, is best known for writing the book of Psalms and for designing the first temple in Jerusalem.
Solomon - Wisdom of Solomon 18:15
Thine Almighty Word leaped down from heaven out of thy royal throne.
Solomon succeeded his father David as king of Israel in 970 BC, built and adorned the first temple in Jerusalem and wrote the poetic books of Song of Songs, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Wisdom.
And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord GOD, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day.
One of the first of the twelve Minor Prophets, Amos, a former sheep herder, lived 750 years before Christ. He called Israel to return to purity of worship and to high moral standards which had been compromised by their association with pagans. His prophecy about darkness at noon refers to the miracle at the crucifixion of Christ.
Elijah - 1 Kingdoms 17:1
As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.
The Prophet Elijah (Greek: Elias), lived in the ninth century BC, and is remembered for his many miracles, including raising the Shunamite woman’s son from the dead and the parting of the waters with his cloak. His prophecies found in Malachi speak of the coming of the Messiah. Elijah was taken bodily into heaven in a “fiery chariot” and appeared with Moses at the Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor.
Elisha - 2 Kingdoms 2:9
I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.
The Prophet Elisha (Greek: Elisseus), was a disciple of the Prophet Elijah, from whom he inherited “a double portion” of his spiritual gifts of miracle-working and prophecy. Like Elijah, Elisha raised the dead and called the people to repentance demonstrating God’s power through natural manifestations like droughts, plagues and raining fire. A dead man was restored to life when his body was touched to the bones of Elisha.
But the Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.
Little is known about the life of the Prophet Habakkuk, who lived in the seventh century BC. He wrote about the Chaldean-Babylonian exile and since the last chapter of his book is a hymn of praise, He is thought to have been a musician in the Temple of Solomon.