Healing Line

Healing Line

Struggles of the Prophets

by Francis MacNutt
Jul/Aug 2010

I’ve just finished writing up the account of John Paul Jackson’s prophecy that he gave in London in 1990 in which he intimated that Judith would write a book on angels. Now 20 years later, it’s coming true and she has a contract on her desk from Chosen Books to write a book on angels. This reawakened my memories back to the days when John Wimber and the Vineyard Church were introducing the “Kansas City Prophets” to other Christian churches. Then something happened and the prophetic movement came into some disrepute. Perhaps you, too, remember those days and have wondered how it happened, especially since we believe in prophecy as one of the charismatic gifts (I Cor. 12:10) that were brought to life again by the charismatic renewal.

The reason given for the skepticism about the prophets’ words, as I understood it, was that there was a very optimistic prophecy that there would be a great revival in England in 1993, but it never really happened.

What went wrong? Reflecting on those enthusiastic days, I think I have come to an insight into what went wrong and how we can avoid making mistakes in the future.

Reading your Mail

I think the key is that there are two gifts operating in the prophets. The first is that some prophets can, as it were, “read your mail.” Jesus did this on occasion. Remember how Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well,

"You are right to say, ‘I have no husband,’ for although you have had five, the one you have now is not your husband."

"I see you are a prophet, sir,’ said the woman." — John 4:18–19

In this first aspect of the prophetic gift, the prophet sees not into the future, but into the present reality which is hidden to our human knowledge. In a remarkable way, God reveals the secrets of our hearts in order to guide us to repent or to take some other action that leads us on the path of salvation.

The most powerful example of “reading your mail” that I personally experienced was back in 1990 when I was present with Judith at Holy Trinity Brampton Anglican Church in London. At that time the prophet Paul Cain led a healing service where he read out the names of individuals whom he had never met, but who had been revealed to him when he was alone in his hotel room. Along with the names, Paul was also given insights into the problems the Lord wanted to heal.

When Paul read out the names, one by one, the atmosphere in the church was electric, and naturally we were all wondering “will he read out my name?” The event was awe–inspiring. We found out afterwards that Paul was very accurate — “spot on” as the Brits say. Because this gift seemed to check out, the Kansas City Prophets were recognized as being supernaturally gifted. There are many other examples in the New Testament of prophets seeing beneath ordinary appearances into a divine reality, such as when John the Baptist, “seeing Jesus coming towards him said, ‘Look, there is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world…” (John 1:29) This is just one of many scriptural passages describing how the prophets saw beneath the surface and the onlookers were faced with a decision on whether or not to believe what the prophets “saw.”

Predicting the Future

The other aspect of prophecy does not so much deal with a present reality as it does with the future. Here it is not so easy to see who is a real prophet because what is predicted hasn’t happened yet. In Jeremiah’s time, there were a host of prophets who were falsely predicting that God would save the Israelites from the Assyrians and protect the Holy City and the Temple. Jeremiah was an unpopular minority of one and he was vilified for destroying the morale of the Israelites by predicting doom. The religious and political leaders wanted to kill Jeremiah. To be truly religious — and patriotic — was to uphold the Temple — not to talk about destroying it! Who was right?

Unless you have a supernatural gift of discernment, you don’t find out in the present–time who is the true prophet. Nor can you make an accurate judgment by counting votes. The Israelites only found out who was right when they were marched into captivity and the king had his eyes put out.

The most famous U.S. evangelist around sixty years ago who had the prophetic gift of “reading your mail” was William Branham. He had the extraordinary gift of receiving “words of knowledge.” Branham became famous around 1950 for being able to come up with people’s names and problems by just meeting them. He was a very humble, trusting person with a limited educational background who was always being taken advantage of by unscrupulous entrepreneurs who used him for their own advantage. One of his great virtues was a realization that as a Christian, he was not meant to make money off his spiritual gifts; and so he turned his financial affairs over to managers who had the financial expertise that he lacked. They made money off his gifts. Nevertheless, he failed to keep up with his income tax and was sued by the IRS for a debt he was never able to erase.

He also started preaching various eccentric doctrines and came under attacks for his controversial views. Again, Branham was magnificent when he stuck to the “reading your mail” aspect of the prophetic gift, but then he started to foretell the future with predictions that never came true, such as, he said California would slide into the Pacific Ocean and that the destruction of the U.S. would begin in 1977. He always remained simple in his lifestyle (he drove to meetings in his pickup truck), but he was done in by his associates. It’s the familiar pattern: an evangelist has a remarkable spiritual gift in one area where he gains a great reputation, but eventually he is brought down by weakness in another area.

Solution to Our Problem

The practical application of all this is that there are some real prophets, who like Branham can truly read your mail. But where you can make a mistake lies in automatically judging that they have also been given prophecies by God predicting the future. This is what seems to have happened in 1990 with the prophets who worked with the Vineyard Church and prophesied that a great revival would occur in the United Kingdom in 1993.

But it just didn’t happen. 1993 came and went, and the prophetic movement lost some credibility. We discover that some Christians are given a real prophetic gift about what lies beneath the surface of peoples’ hearts. Nevertheless, this does not mean that you should not demand a critical judgment in regard to what prophets say about the future. In fact, when ‘prophets’ have predicted the end of the world, a prophecy that keeps on returning, they have been wrong so far. And yet, over and over, people fall for it. And such dire predictions always seem to attract the most attention and publicity.

We can check out whether some remarkable individuals have the “word of knowledge” gift which penetrates the secrets of men’s hearts. What we need to realize is that most of these true prophets, whom we believe because their prophecies are accurate, are not necessarily prophets of the future. The amazing prophecy of John Paul Jackson in 1990 that intimated that Judith had a gifting to speak and write about angels was followed by his saying that he saw us traveling to China and Russia which has not come true — at least not yet.

I hope this distinction between aspect number one of the prophetic gift, "reading your mail,” and the second aspect, "predicting the future," will help clear up many of the difficulties we have had with the charism of prophecy that was so highly regarded by St. Paul and the early church. Predictive prophecy is an extraordinary gift (witness Jeremiah). All I’m saying is that it takes the gift of discernment to be able to recognize whether it is true or not and follow God's leading!

Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. Jul/Aug 2010