Prophecy (Greek prophetiea) is the ‘speaking forth the mind and counsel of the Lord God’. It is a declaration that cannot, therefore, be known by natural means – in other words, a direct revelation from God.
A Prophet (Greek prophetes) is one on whom the Spirit of God rests and is, therefore, ‘a proclaimer of a divine message’. The Septuagint or Greek Old Testament has it roeh, ‘a seer’, indicating that the person had immediate spiritual communication with God.
This communication can be not only auditory but also by means of visions in dreams, or when wide awake as ‘open visions’. Although such an event may be most convincing, recipients not operating in the five-fold ministry as a prophet are expected to submit the prophecy to someone in authority over them. This is for the purpose of weighing and checking that the revelation lines up with holy scripture and reflects God’s character and purposes. Another person may be aware of a similar thought from the Lord and thereby confirm what is uttered on the principle, “By the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established” (Deuteronomy 19:15) – for an example see this post.
Therefore, a word spoken as from the Lord will find witness within the hearer’s spirit; for example as recorded by Dr Luke about decisions taken at the church’s historic first council in Jerusalem, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…”. (Acts 15:28).
THE GIFT OF PROPHECY
In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul referred to the ministries of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher as being ‘ascension’ gifts, or ‘mantles’, from Jesus for the purpose of equipping and edifying the body of Christ – Ephesians 4:7-16. Prophecies given through the ‘office’ of prophet are thus regarded as being more authoritative than those of a believer moving in Holy Spirit’s gift of prophecy. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth in depth about these gifts from God exhorting them to.:
Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. 2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. 3 But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. 4 Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified. (1 Corinthians 14th chapter NIV, my emphases)
Thus, Apostle Paul instructed the early Church in the importance of this endowment of God’s grace to born-again believers. That is, to those who have received the Spirit that bears witness to the truth of Jesus Christ as the eternal Son of God. This enables them to attest that “Jesus is Lord”. Paul had divulged to the Corinthians what Jesus had told him personally about the Passover meal celebrated immediately before His crucifixion and resurrection back to life from the dead. Then he wrote how Holy Spirit gives many individual giftings to each believer for the common good. But above all of them is ‘the most excellent way – love’. (For a fuller understanding of this letter read 1st Corinthians chapters 11 to 13 in the Amplified Bible.)
PROTOCOL OF PROPHETS
Paul continues in chapter 14 to provide a protocol for receiving prophetic words.:
29Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30 And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.
A modern and recent example of this in operation is the UK Prophetic Council and its publication of words received for 2013 by a small company of prophets, as linked here. For an example of how this protocol works in practice the see email from the Glasgow Prophetic Centre inserted under A Question on Prophecy in this post.
The legislative principle of, ‘By the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established’ (Deut 19:15) is understood as being applicable to prophecy. No doubt Paul had this in mind as the basis for his above protocol.
At the close of the 3rd section of his first letter, Apostle John writes about Father’s command for us to “believe on the name of His Son Jesus, and love one another”. He briefly summarises and continues into the fourth section by explaining how to test the spirits, some of which may bring prophetic words:
24 Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess that[a] Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.
4 You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. 6 We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. [1 John 4 NKJV; courtesy BibleGateway.com]
The above principle is very useful in deliverance ministry because demons can assume a name of ‘Jesus’. Thus, the demonic is authoritatively addressed and expelled, “In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, who came in the flesh”.
This is important because Satan himself can masquerade as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:13-15). In the End-Times he will display all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders through his instrument, the man of perdition/lawlessness, and thus deceive those who are perishing. Harsh words!
Yet they perish just because, “they refused to love the truth and so be saved”. (2 Thess 2:10). Because of that decision, God allows them to be deluded and believe the lie and let them be condemned simply because, “they have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness” (2 Thess 2:12). In their love of evil they rejected Jesus Christ and the salvation available through Him.
And what did Jesus Himself say about prophets in his extensive discourse to disciples and those listening? He gave an evaluation method based upon either intimacy with Him, or practising iniquity; ie. a distinction between true and false discipleship:
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers! [Matthew 7 NIV; BibleGateway.com]
THE NEW TESTAMENT’S REVELATORY BOOK
For an outline of various interpretations of the Book of Revelation see Note on Christian Prophecy and The Apocalypse.
PROPHETIC PRAISE & WORSHIP
For an outline of the nature of prophecy in worship, with links to two excellent examples click here.
PRINCIPLES OF PROPHETIC DECREES
For an introduction to the Biblical basis behind Godly decrees, read notes taken during Rev Dr Sharon Stone’s Mentoring Day on 6 July 2013 by clicking here.
An example of how the Lord reveals His action plans first to His servants the prophets (Amos 3:7) may be inferred from the incidence of several connections considered in Parts of an ‘invisible jigsaw’ point to a bigger picture.
A Word of Warning!
I’m well aware that religiously-minded, self-appointed heresy-hunters sit in judgement on prophets, which is contrary to the command of Jesus Himself and of His Apostle to the Gentiles. For example, where Jesus’ disciples wanted to prevent others casting out demons (Luke 9:49-50), and when Paul reprimanded Roman believers for standing in judgement (Romans 2.1-2) in line with Jesus’ instruction not to judge, as at Luke 6:37.:
“Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
As stated above, all words delivered in private or public by anyone with a prophetical gifting or as a recognised prophet are subject to checking for alignment with scripture and weighing in one’s spirit to ensure that it ‘sits’ well.
Some of the nuances of checking out prophetic words are considered scripturally by Melissa Flores in Confirmation, false confirmation and permission to royally mess up!
AND, if you my reader are unfamiliar with who Jesus Christ is, you may wish to read my brief personal outline Do You Know Jesus? and visit the links therein (as well as check out the Jesus & Miracles hub).
Links for more:
This Prophecy & Visions hub’s main menu provides a selection of links to informative websites within the UK and to contemporary prophets, teachers/pastors moving under the gifting whom I quote now and again. Also see this blog’s extensive Prophecy Library.
The Prophetic category provides all my postings on this subject. For shorter selection go to various Tags under ‘Prophecy’ on the side bar of the Home Page.
[Publ: Jan’13: updated Mar’17]