1 Corinthians 14:1-3 “Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. For 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. But 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. Even though the Bible is replete with prophecy, do we witness it being practiced in similar form today?
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 remained the same….revelation from God. The most famous prophet of all was Jesus.
Do we see end time prophecy today? The predictions of things to come have been clearly laid out in scripture. I suppose the question is not whether we see prophecy being fulfilled but whether there is a necessity for new revelation?
The reality of it all is that we see the culmination of end time events forming on a daily basis, the question of how to interpret them becomes a greater issue. 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.
Do we need people predicting our future or giving us insight into what God plans to do? I know of entire denominations that encourage prophesying as a regular form of practice. There is “prophetic evangelism”, or the act of using prophecy with unbelievers in an attempt to direct them to Christ. I’ve seen and heard of groups prophesying over each other as a way to encourage their ability to exercise this attribute of their faith.
Are all of these practices really what God intended prophecy to be?
The short answer is…no. When examining scripture we can quickly conclude that using prophecy for evangelism is false teaching. Supplementing the gospel for prophecy is an attempt to glorify oneself over glorifying Jesus.
1 Corinthians 14:22 “Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers, but for unbelievers. Prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers.”
After years of watching these so called “prophets” predict people’s futures, I can surmise that the effects have had more negative effects on people than benefits.
The initial excitement of having “heard from God” is replaced by the hyper focus on what that word entails. It is far too easy for someone to proclaim a prophecy and then bookend it with “thus saith the Lord”.
People, new in their faith who lack the maturity to understand these things will take hold of a word and focus all of their spiritual effort into fulfilling that prophecy.
The intended effort to encourage others ends up shipwrecking their faith.
Matthew 7:14 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”
The hyper-focus on prophecy or on the future becomes nothing more than going to a spiritual medium seeking some divine guidance. Once the people who bought into the demonstration realize the course of events hasn’t been fulfilled, the ones who gave the inspiration either have to back track to another possible outcome or declare themselves false prophets.
This summation may seem a bit skeptical because it has been founded in reality. There have been so many people duped by false prophets that an entire industry of charlatan’s have emerged to steal from gullible people.
If you have received the infilling of the Spirit of God upon salvation, you have direct access to God.
Do we really need someone else hearing from God for us?
I propose: We do not!!!
God has a process by which He brings about wisdom and revelation and it is found in the halls of obedience.
Hearing from God
When we examine what prophecy really entails, we need only look to the Word of God for guidance.
Jesus Christ bridged the gap of separation between us and God, apart from the apostolic ministry of Paul and John regarding end time events, the ability to hear from God has been given to all of us; God’s people are now temples of the Holy Spirit.
1 John 4:4 “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”
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 believers.
1 Corinthians 13:2 “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”
The purpose of the man or woman of God is to love the Lord with all of your heart, mind, and strength and likewise love your neighbor as yourself. If we do not set God’s love before us first, nothing else will follow.
Edification is for the church, in other words if you 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 error.
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 person’s 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 person’s life. The Spirit of God gives 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 one undergoing a trial that God’s is taking them through for their growth and maturity.
2 Peter 1:20-21 “knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for 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.
Why would someone who is a believer need someone to speak prophetically to them?
There are times when someone is going through a difficult walk in their life and they just can’t see God’s purposes. It may be for sin or it may simply be the fact that they are neck deep in trials and suffering. When a faithful believer interjects insight from God’s Word into their life that is pertinent to their situation, they prophetically draw God’s truth directly into their life.
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), since they speak falsely. 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 was one of the most inspirational men to represent God, yet he allowed pride to creep in for just a moment and lost the right to enter into the promised land. Jonah was told to prophesy to the people of Nineveh and yet he 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.
Proverbs 15:23 “Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time!”
God’s timing is an important component for 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 God’s truth receives 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:”
The question then 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 base theology off of experience. I also am curious as to the fruit that comes from such an event. Did the moment transform the person in a way that glorified God? I would be selling God short to say that future revelation doesn’t happen, so I won’t, but if God allows it He does so for a very specific purpose.
A good rule would be: does the prophecy glorify Jesus or the prophet?
The Bible is full of prophetic revelation and it has been 100% accurate to this point. The more familiar you become with the Bible, the more you see events in the world unfolding according to God’s pattern and you know that His plans will come to fruition. Why do you need to know any new plans that might occur? Isn’t the walk of a believer founded more on trust and less on knowing where God is leading?
If Jesus is glorified in you, praise God, let the direction that is given be done so to His honor alone.
I propose: New futuristic revelation today is for the weak. If God allows this type of prophecy, the one receiving it was not astute enough to listen themselves. God is always speaking, the question is whether we are hearing Him. We have been given the Spirit of God, walk in the Spirit and you will hear all that you need to know.
2 Timothy 2:15 “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
The Word of God is complete. It contains all that we need to know for life and godliness. As you walk in Christ, He directs your course and leads you in paths of righteousness. We often times want to know where He is leading because our faith grows weak.
Be found faithful, walk in obedience, and God will lead you where He wants you to go. One day, you’ll look back and realize that He has taken you further along in the journey than you ever thought possible.