1 Corinthians 14:1-3 “Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. 2For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him;however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. 3But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.”
Prophecy, according to a biblical dictionary is to make predictions or to make inspired declarations of what is to come. To speak as a mediator between God and humankind or in God’s stead.
The very idea of a prophet conjures up images of Elijah confronting the prophets of Baal, Jeremiah crying out in the streets while warning of impending doom, Ezekiel revealing both present and future action of God or most famously John and end times Revelation. There were major and minor prophets but the messages and the source of the messages always had to remain the same….revelation from God. The most famous prophet of all was Jesus.
Why don’t we see more end time prophecy today? Predictions of things to come or impending doom for the disobedience of a people? The reality of it is…we do here these prophecies, all the time. There are a myriad of books written on the subject, the newest best sellers are typically prophecy books and the social media posts come to life when an event seems like a prophetic revelation.
Really though, what is prophecy? Do we need people predicting our future or giving us insight into what God plans to do? I know of entire denominations that practice prophesying continually. There is “prophetic evangelism”, or the act of using prophecy in unbelievers lives to try and direct them to Christ. I’ve seen and heard of groups prophesying over each other as a way to exercise their ability to prophesy. Is what we see and hear really what prophecy was meant to be?
I know, from years of watching so called “prophets”, predict people’s futures that the effects have had a negative effect. The initial excitement of having “heard from God”, is then replaced by the hyper focus on what that word entailed. Common expressions have been, “God is going to use you mightily as a leader over a congregation”, or “God is going to heal your family”, “God wants you to know that He is in control”, “God is going to bring you great blessing”, and so on and so forth.
People, new in their faith or simply lacking maturity will take hold of a specific futuristic prophecy and that prediction causes them to focus all of their spiritual effort into fulfilling that prophecy. The intended effort to encourage them ends up shipwrecking their faith. The focus on a position in the future which would require far more spiritual understanding, sanctification and maturity leads those into attempting to bypass the process or path God has been trying to lead them on. Once the realization sets in that the course of events isn’t being fulfilled next week or month, the one who receives the inspiration has to back track to where God wanted them all along.
This summation may seem a bit skeptical, and really, because it is. Have we not received the infilling of the Spirit of God upon salvation? Can we not hear or see God’s direction in our own lives? Do we really need someone else hearing from God for us? I propose we do not!!! God has a process that occurs that brings about spiritual maturity and it is found in the halls of obedience.
When we examine what prophecy entails since Christ bridged the gap of separation between us and God, apart from the apostolic ministry we saw Paul and John reveal in the Bible regarding end time events, the ability to hear from God has been given to all of us, just as we all are now the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Now, the distribution of prophetic gifts cannot be discounted. These gifts are relevant today and so we must look at the gift in light of its revelation. In 1 Corinthians 14 we see the purpose of prophecy…Edification, exhortation, and comfort to men.
Edification is for the church, in other words you don’t prophecy to unbelievers, they simply won’t receive it. How can someone who hasn’t received Christ, accept testimony that comes from Christ regarding their non-walk with Him? It is foolish to present aspects of God’s direction to those who don’t believe in Him nor trust Him for their life. A false understanding of prophecy leads to these types of errors.
1 Corinthians 13:2 “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
Prophecy in 1 Corinthians 13 is a reflection of understanding. A modern day prophet has the gift of being able to apply deep biblical truth to modern day life. A prophet may hear of a persons dilemma in crisis or trial and see beyond the obvious into the purpose. The revelation is a result of applying discernment and biblical truth while seeing and recognizing the working of the Spirit of God in a persons life. The Spirit of God has clear markers that reveal He is moving, teaching or correcting. Likewise a prophet knows the fruit of darkness and can differentiate the difference between someone living in sin and the consequences or the the one undergoing a trial that God’s is doing for their growth and maturity.
2 Peter 1:20-21 “knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”
How does someone prophecy?; By listening to the Spirit of God. If a prophecy doesn’t perfectly coincide with scripture, and I mean perfectly, it should be rejected. Likewise, the one doing the “prophesying”, should be disregarded (after giving a false prophecy), until their walk with God is brought into conjunction with the Spirit of God. When people go around claiming “thus says the Lord”, they better tread carefully. Claiming to be the voice of God has never been a position to be taken lightly.
Moses, one of the most inspirational men to represent God, allowed pride to creep in for just a moment and lost the right to enter into the promised land. Jonah, told to prophecy to the people of Nineveh, rebelled and was swallowed by a whale for 3 days. Prophets who represent God have a mandate to represent Him correctly and to deliver the message on time.
God’s timing is a an important component of the revelation of His glory. From the beginning of history everything He does has a time and a place, so it is with prophecy, it is revealed when the time is right. The one receiving the knowledge of His truth, hears it at the time they need it in their life.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 “To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven:”
Finally, the question remains, does future revelation occur today?
I have friends that claim it does, I hear examples where a story is related and the event indeed occurred. I’m always cautious to based theology off of experience. I also am curious as to the fruit that comes from such an event. Did the moment transform the person, bring them from darkness to light, lead another to salvation? I known I’m selling God short to say it doesn’t happen, so I won’t.
The important rule is, does it reflect the fruit of the Spirit and did it edify Jesus?
If these criteria are met, praise God, let Him alone be glorified!