Zacharias did not believe the words of Gabriel about the fact that he and Elizabeth were to be the parents of the forerunner of the Messiah. Instead of accepting the message from heaven, he thought what God had said just could not happen. How could two old people become parents? The answer from Gabriel gives us insight into the nature of prophecy. The angel said, “Behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time” (Luke 1:20). Look at those closing words—my words will be fulfilled in their own time! This is the nature of prophecy.
Many prophecies specify a time for their fulfillment. Jesus was to be raised on the third day and the words of this prophecy had to come about on that day. Otherwise, Jesus was not God. If what He said did not happen, it was proof that He was a fraud (Deut. 18:21-22).
The Old Testament prophesied about the coming of the Messiah and the fact He would come and be a king. The book of Daniel has prophecies about the time this would happen. However, most of Christendom read these prophecies from Daniel and Ezekiel and using human wisdom declare that the kingdom will come at Jesus’ second coming. The coming of the Old Testament specified the time it would come. Remember that the words of prophecy “…will be fulfilled in their own time.” What is that time? Listen to Jesus. “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Those who teach that the kingdom is future believe they can decide the time of the fulfilment of the words of God. The Messiah looked at those prophecies and said the time for their fulfilment was in the first century.
The time of the Exodus was prophesied over two hundred years before the Jews went into Egypt. This was over 600 years before the Exodus. At age forty, Moses had used human wisdom and decided that the time was fulfilled, and he was to be the one to bring about the exodus. At his birth, “the time of the promise drew near” (Acts 7:17, 20). “Now when he was forty years old…he supposed that his brethren would have understood that God would deliver them by his hand, but they did not understand” (Acts 7:23, 25). He understood much of the prophecy and his place in the exodus. What he failed to understand was that the determination of the time of fulfillment is not found in human wisdom. He missed it by 40 years.
There is far more to be said about this concept, but when you read His promises, never forget that the fulfilment of prophecy will happen “…in their own time.” God does not need our help in deciding when that time is!