Healing Line

Healing Line

The Role of the Holy Spirit in the Prophetic Word

by Robin Morrison
Nov/Dec 2011 & Jan/Feb/Mar 2012

This article was originally in 3 parts, the first two of which were published in separate issues. It has been combined in its entirety here for our readers’ convenience.

Discerning the Message

We hear prophetic words given on television and at conferences; we read them in articles and on websites. How do we, as the church and as individual believers, respond to prophetic announcements regarding future events, divine judgments or directions and prophetic comments and perspectives of God that are delivered by high profile figures in the church? My italics indicate that I do not believe that all of these messages are from the Lord. Some of them are, but many of them, I believe, are not. How then do we handle unfulfilled words or competing words that appear in opposition to each other? How do we negotiate the geography of prophetic terminology, coded language, claims of authenticity and validity? The scope of this article is not to debate or denigrate the prophetic gifts or to belittle certain prophetic personalities or their ministries. Let us take a look at the Bible, the Holy Spirit, common sense, and church history.

People often ask whose side is God on or endorsing when there seems to be a struggle or “sides” to take. The following verses give credence to the fact that if we are blessed by God, it is for a larger purpose.

  • James 4:6 — “But He gives a greater grace. Therefore [it] says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’”
  • Isaiah 66:2 — “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.”
  • Joshua 5:13–153 — “Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, ‘Are you for us or for our adversaries?’ He said, ‘No; rather I indeed come now [as] captain of the host of the Lord.’ And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, ‘What has my lord to say to his servant?’ The captain of the Lord’s host said to Joshua, ‘Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so.”

If we are truly blessed it is to be a blessing to all nations.

The Holy Spirit's Operating Function in Prophecy

In order to understand the gift of prophecy or any of the gifts, we need to understand the nature, role and operation of the Holy Spirit. “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:4, NAS). The Holy Spirit manifests himself through us. “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7, NAS). “God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will” (Heb 2:4, NAS). The Holy Spirit is a relational being to us and is relational within the Trinity to the Father and the Son.

He is the Helper/Comforter (John 14:16). He is the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17). He teaches and reminds us of Jesus’ words (John 14:26). He searches and reveals (I Corinthians 2:10,12). He is grace (Hebrews 10:29). He is the Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation (Ephesians 1:17). He gives orders/direction (Acts 1:2). He leads us (Romans 8:14). He fills us (Acts 4:8,31). He falls on people while hearing the Word (Acts 10:44; 11:15). He is a Baptism of Power and Fire (Matthew 3:11, Acts 1:8, 2:2–4). He testifies (Romans 9:1; Hebrews 10:15). He appoints offices for the church (Acts 20:28). He is the Spirit of Holiness (Romans 1:4). He gives us the Love of God (Romans 5:5). He sets us free to serve (Romans 8:8). He gives us life and peace (Romans 8:6,11). He helps us put to death the flesh (Romans 8:13). He tells us that we are God’s children (Romans 8:16). He helps us pray and intercedes (Ephesians 6:18). He is righteousness, peace and joy (Romans 14:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:6). He gives hope (Romans 15:13). He sanctifies us (1 Corinthians 6:11; 1 Peter 1:2). He demonstrates the power of God (1 Thessalonians 1:5). He gives boldness to speak God’s word (Acts 4:31). He dwells in us (1 Corinthians 3:16). He is the seal, pledge and promise (2 Corinthians 1:22; 2 Corinthians 5:5; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). He gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6). He is liberty and freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17). He fellowships with us (Philipians 2:1). We can be in the Spirit (Revelation1:10; 4:2). We can be “snatched away” in the Spirit (Acts 8:39; Revelation 17:3; 21:10). We can have visions and dreams (Acts 16:9; Numbers 12:6; Joel 2:28). We are built together and are a dwelling for Him (Ephesians 2:22). He strengthens us with power (Ephesians 3:16). He gives unity (Ephesians 4:3). We worship in the Spirit (Philipinasn 3:3). He speaks and warns ( 1 Timothy 4:1, Hebrews 3:7). The Spirit regenerates and renews us (Titus 3:5). He preaches the gospel through us (1 Peter 1:12). He Speaks to the Churches (Revelation 2:7). He is the Spirit of Glory (1 Peter 4:14). Jesus abides in us by the Spirit (1 John 3:24).

How Does That Involve Us?

We can receive the Spirit through the laying on of hands (Acts 8:17; 9:6,17). He is the Spirit of Jesus that cries out to the Father (Galatians 4:6). He grows and shows forth His fruit through us. “. . .The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self–control” (Galatians 5:22). He is invitational (Revelation 22:17). We live and walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:5). We can sow to the Spirit (Galatians 6:8). In our pride, sin and rebellion, we can resist Him (Acts 7:51), lie to Him (Acts 5:3), test Him (Acts 5:9), grieve Him (Ephesians 4:30), quench Him(1 Thessalonians 5:19); insult Him (Hebrews 10:29). We can be devoid of His Spirit and cause divisions (1 Sam 28:6; Jude 1:19). Biblical and historical symbols of the Holy Spirit are Wind (John 3:8, Acts 2:2), Oil (Revelation 3:18; Hebrews 1:9; Isaiah 61:1), Rain/Dew/Water (John 3:5; 7:38; 4:14), Dove ( Matthew 3:16) Fire (Matthew 3:11, Acts 1:8, 2:2–4), Voice (Revelation1:10; 4:1) and Sword (Ephesians 6:17). These functions, expressions, characteristics, roles and operations of the Holy Spirit are important to understand and live in since the gifts will be imbued and hued with these characteristics as well!

Communicating Prophetic Words

There is a process regarding how prophetic words are communicated both from the Holy Spirit and through us.

  1. Revelation: The manner in which we receive and the content that we receive as a word/insight/revelation from God.
  2. Interpretation: With the revelation of the word, we use the written revealed word, the spirit of wisdom and discernment, our own experiences and the safety of the counsel of the godly and righteous to understand what is being communicated to us and an interpretation of the word is formed.
  3. Application: To whom we say it, how we say it, when we say it and what we actually say becomes the application of the prophetic word.
    The gift operates through jars of clay with personalities. Therefore, you may find an element of the deliverer’s own flavor in the process. Here is where the possibility of a polluting arises. If the deliverer is not in alignment with God, his own desires, agendas, biases, emotional needs and immaturity level can be contained in the process. As earthly vessels, we are in the process of transforming and conforming to Jesus as the Word. My warning is to be merciful to those who, in compassion and care, are trying out their gifts in the local body. Those operating in the gifts need be willing to submit to local leadership and grow through correction, trial and error in a “family” where correction is carried out in love. In the prophetic realm, make offerings, not pronouncements.

Practical Steps in Responding to Prophetic Words

  1. Witness: Is there a quickening or yes in the Spirit and your spirit? Do trusted friends and leaders echo it?
  2. Wait: Wait and see what happens. The Lord’s timing (fullness of time) is perfect. Perhaps God will give you or someone else more revelation, more confirmation/counsel
  3. Watch: If the word is good, watch expectantly and with eyes of hope. In watching, there is a process of plowing, planting, flowering and fruiting which allows a refocus, releases faith and renews desires.
  4. Water: In faith, water the message, pray into it, remind God, remember His faithfulness.
  5. Worship: Worship God for who He is, what He promises, His mysterious ways, his wonderful works.
  6. War: Resist fear and unbelief. Did God really say that? When oh God?
  7. Wrestle: Wrestle against your flesh, your fears/fantasies, striving, desperation, deep desires/dreams.
  8. Wisdom: Wisdom applies and guides, using discretion and discernment for understanding and application.
  9. Willing: Be willing relinquish, release and acknowledge imperfect knowledge/understanding/fears and fantasies in both the giving/receiving of the gift.

Additional Discerning Questions When Filtering a Prophetic Word

Sometimes a word given does not sit well, but we do not know why or what to do with it. Discussing it with someone who knows you and you are accountable to is a great idea, and the following list can be helpful too.

(I will use “word” to indicate a word, message or picture delivered.)

  1. Is the word scriptural, beneficial, timely/orderly, or appropriate? Does it confirm what the Spirit has already revealed to you and other godly leaders?
  2. What is the delivering person conveying with their motive, attitude, body–language, tone, words and general message? Is it a word about me/for me or is it a word that affirms their message/promise/ministry?
  3. Does the word call me to closer intimacy with Jesus and unity with the Body?
  4. Does the word release renewed faith and submission to God’s will or am I filled with fear and confusion? (Some words will highlight our own fears for God to heal and for us to repent of unbelief. Our own emotions are not the sole measure of whether a word is valid.)
  5. Does the declarer have a track record of accuracy which includes acknowledging when the words were not fulfilled or wrong?
  6. Is the declarer under authority and submitted to a local body or board of elders?
  7. Does that person walk in their humanity? Is he or she a fellow believer, broken and open with their journey of redemption and transformation or are there constant appeals to affirmation of their personhood/ministry via spiritual experiences that no one else has had? Do they present as “weird” and without grace and without giving life to others?
  8. Does the ministry practice mercy and compassion in word and deed or is it solely focused on being a “trumpet of judgment and warning?” Even in the Old Testament words of judgment always started with Israel (the house of God for their sins; 1 Peter 4:17 “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God.”) but also declared hope, healing and restoration. Israel always came under God’s judgment for leaving their first love (which God considered idolatry) and miscarriage of justice (crushing, depriving and discriminating against the widow, orphan and alien). “. . . For you who judge practice the same things” (Romans 2:1). “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within [the church?] But those who are outside, God judges . ..” (1 Corinthians 5:12–13).
  9. Does the word foster humility, servant–hood and hunger for obedience of God’s will and ways in God’s people or does it identify a select group/demographic as having God’s sole affection/blessing or vindictive wrath?
  10. Are words timed to coincide with appeals for money, faith gifts, support, headlines/news already announced via media outlets? (Titus1:11 talks about. . . “teaching things they should not [teach] for the sake of sordid gain.”)
  11. Is it an attempt to get you to obtain a “religious product” to avoid some declared disastrous outcome or obtain the “promise” and blessing of the prophetic word?
  12. Are the words clear and concise? Can they be measured by Biblical language, imagery, symbolism and doctrine? If predictive is it clear on times, dates, outcomes and meaning?

These filters are not all inclusive, but as we learn more about prophetic words, they are helpful in the discernment process.

Biblical Understanding and Discerning Personal Prophetic Words

The gift of prophecy in the New Testament is defined and operates in I Corinthians 14:1, 3: “Pursue/Press Forward/Suffer love, yet desire earnestly spiritual [gifts], but especially that you may prophesy. But one who prophesies speaks to men for:

  • edification: (the Bible uses the feminine verb)building–up, a dwelling, family, home, house/temple;
  • exhortation: encouragement, to call near, invite, implore, console, pray;
  • consolation: comfort, to relate near, encourage, to come alongside;
  • maturing (katartismos relates to a complete furnishing) empower/equip for service, instruction, learning, maturing (1 Corinthians 14:31) to teach/instruct with tenderness;
  • conviction (upon unbeliever/unlearned) sign of God among us (1 Corinthians 14:22–25)

(Referenced using Vine’s New Testament Words).

Remember that operations of prophetic gifts are:

  1. Partial (we do not fully know or understand, and we prophesy in part; 1 Corinthians 13:9);
  2. Progressive (God frequently adds understanding, insight, counsel and wisdom as time goes on);
  3. Provisional (invite us to faith, action, a response and prayer as God takes action and intervenes.)

We, as the church, are to be a people who respond first and foremost with mercy and acts of kindness, not scales of simplified spiritual formulas that always set us as Westerners apart as the exception with superior spiritual insights and exclusive blessing and protection from God.

The Holy Spirit is very “sensory” and “emotive.” Our culture is also very sense–oriented. Often a cultural addiction to stimulation and the“new and now” (including eschatology end times signs/wonders) as well as intensity toward the “spiritual experience” sets up both the deliverer and receiver of prophetic words to seek and speak that which lacks wisdom, fruit, “unction and authoring” of the Spirit. We as broken people of God can actually check out emotionally and pollute the word that is prophetically given — the deliverer reads the room, “I sense unbelief,” reads our desire, “You are struggling with something,” responds with recycled clichés, “The Lord says it’s a season of new beginnings.” Our own spirits are capable of reading and generalizing another’s emotions and general thoughts. It is what allows us to empathize and intuit with one another.

Hebrews 13:9 “Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace . . .”

We need to understand that certain mentalities and worldviews frame the operation and interpretation of scripture, the Holy Spirit and prophetic words. We process these words through our own cultural and spiritual filters. This is not to say these are wrong or not profitable, but they are the context in which we live. The cultural and spiritual filters to keep in mind when hearing a prophecy or operating in this gifting are related in the following questions:

  • How do we see God’s operation in the larger world? Redeeming, judging, inviting, resisting, restoring, condemning?
  • What do we see as the role of church in the world at large both as a culture unto itself and as influencing, interacting with, redeeming, denying culture? (where we live and function on a daily basis) and spiritual reality (the world, the flesh, the Devil 1 John 2:15–17).
  • In what church, spiritual climate, theological branch did we come to know Jesus? Where were we Biblically trained, where did we fellowship and participate as well as what are our personality affinities toward certain characteristics of the Holy Spirit?
  • What is our view of the “end–times” or eschatology?

I Kings 22:13–15 says “Then the messenger who went to summon Micaiah spoke to him saying, “Behold now, the words of the prophets are uniformly favorable to the king. Please let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably. But Micaiah said, “As the LORD lives, what the LORD says to me, that I shall speak. When he came to the king, the king said to him, “Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth–gilead to battle, or shall we refrain?” And he answered him, “Go up and succeed, and the LORD will give [it] into the hand of the king.” Verses 19–23 describe a scene in heaven where an evil spirit steps forward, volunteering to entice the king via a lying spirit in the mouth of his prophets. 2 Chronicles 18 repeats this narrative.

As Westerners, we have a cultural need to always be “in the know” with information and the “future.” The “foretelling” (future events) eclipses the “forth–telling” (the Father's heart revealed now). We make our hearts known in the safe intimacy of fellowship and thus develop a relationship of growth and grace with our Heavenly Father and each other within a caring community. A lack of connection and commitment in a caring community disposes us to seek out recognition “from the front” and identification with certain personalities, para–church ministries and platforms where we will be noticed or spoken to in a prophetic avenue. We want “special” blessings, easy steps to freedom and fulfillment and secret heavenly experiences that set us apart from the “crowd” of Christianity. However, as we grow secure in our sonship with the Father, our affirmation grows deeply from Him. The balance of Words of Knowledge and Words of Wisdom is then cultured in a healthy manner. Our need to garner discretion, discernment, God’s counsel, direction, and divine perspective (Words of Wisdom) will outweigh the need for information given by the Holy Spirit that our natural senses could not know (Words of Knowledge).

The Challenge

Just as Hollywood seeks to appeal to the inner desires of our human nature, other filters to consider can include those found in our natural human desires. These desires can included but are not limited to emotional catharsis, individualism, escapism, desire for an alternate reality, immediacy, performance, power, unique label, health, wealth, happiness, independence, rebellion, and a lack of submission to authority.

The Cure

Continue to seek the Lord for His love and truth, asking Him for His interpretation and submitting all wants to Him in order to hear what He is saying.

If you read and listen to Christian mainstream media, there is an identifiable prophetic dichotomy of “bad news” (judgment, wrath, horrific natural disasters, wars, the church under assault, diabolically organized anti–Christian schemes, etc.) and “abundant blessings” (end time revival, power, increased outpouring, miracles, wealth, prosperity, glory) and somewhere in this is a fusion of coming signs and wonders or prophetic interpretation of present events. Sometimes the deliverer of such words identifies with and appeals to apostolic mantles and Old Testament prophetic offices or secret, divinely revealed keys of third heaven experiences. Just as an aside, it always amazes me that there is one verse ( 2 Corinthians 12:2) where Paul references this experience ( 2 Corinthians 12:1–10). He did not seek it out — it happened sovereignly. His comment (versus 4 & 5): “and heard things too sacred to be put into words, things that a person is not permitted to speak.” And he then concludes with, “but on my own behalf I will not boast, except about my weaknesses.” John was invited up to Heaven. He did not seek to fly there, be transported or regularly make visitations. “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things (Revelation 4:1).

Prophets did get words about natural events/disasters in the New Testament. Acts 11:27–29 reads “Now at this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up and [began] to indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world. And this took place in the [reign] of Claudius. And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send [a contribution] for the relief of the brethren living in Judea.” However, there is no prophetic ascription to its symbolism (my people are refusing the food of my word), no time frame given (when the famine will start, how long it will endure or when it will end), no judgment or retribution or secret blessing assigned to a specific people group or region.

There is currently a dangerous trend towards ministers and ministries that lack true relational and biblical accountability, avenues to discern/correct the words and mutual submission to the Body at large (or even a local body where they are not in charge or the source of revenue). We seem to operate in a prophetic system that makes public declarations, but never public retractions nor apologies. Those who speak have a higher level of accountability than those sitting in the pews & parishes. James 3:1 “Let not many {of you} become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” Overuse of the prophetic “escape” clause has abounded: “God changed his mind or everyone prayed enough so this won't happen now.” Or, they utilize words so nebulous and unclear that they leave no avenue to discern or discuss the content nor hold the declarer of such content accountable. When one tries to dialogue about the content or the speaker it is now fashionable to label such a person asking these questions as critical, judgmental, lacking faith and “heavenly experiences,” having a spirit of offense or unbelief.

There is a mentality that God always reveals all He plans and does to prophets or people with certain levels of prophetic gifting. Amos 3:7 says “Surely the Lord GOD does nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servants the prophets.” The question still remains — to whom does he reveal it — only prophets and only a certain type of person who has access to the public eye? Also, what and how much does He reveal? Does He tell every detail of every plan He has for every people group, time period, national and natural event? I ask you these questions so that you are thoughtful when you hear prophetic words not to assume they are always correct and correctly delivered. There is another verse that puts this verse in Amos in creative tension. 2 Kings 4:25–27 says “So she went and came to the man of God [Elisha] to Mount Carmel. When the man of God saw her at a distance, he said to Gehazi his servant, “Behold, there is the Shunammite. Please run now to meet her and say to her, ‘Is it well with you? Is it well with your husband? Is it well with the child?’ “ And she answered, “It is well.” When she came to the man of God to the hill, she caught hold of his feet. And Gehazi came near to push her away; but the man of God said, “Let her alone, for her soul is troubled within her; and the LORD has hidden it from me and has not told me.” Not every plan of the Lord is revealed or even for revealing.

Old Testament prophetic offices ended with Jesus, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the church and the closing of the Canon. We are under New Testament grace and all believers are urged to operate in the gifts especially the gift of prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:1). The Bible clearly states that we “know in part and prophecy in part” (1 Corinthians 13:9) — it is not at the same level as Old Testament prophets who were God’s mouthpieces and scribes of His Word. The Old Testament prophetic was The Word of God. The New Testament prophetic is a word from God (note the use of upper case “W” and lower case “w.” Moses himself said: “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’S people were prophets, that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them!” (Numbers 11:29). The Hebrew words for “prophetic” (oracle) and “burden” are homonyms. Sharing of the burdens that were on God’s heart would be given to lift up in prayer/petition the burdens of the people of God. This is an intercessory position. This is where the prophetic gifts intersect with the healing ministry. When we are able to use our God–given prophetic gifts well, the sick, hurt and demonized can receive comfort, exhortation, and eventually healing. Lord, please bless the understanding, use and delivery of your words as given through prayer ministers today.

There are faceless servants who are humbly offering their prophetic gifts in order to assist the local church in growing towards grace and truth. Moreover, they are assisting in fulfilling the Father's commission to seek and save the lost, and make us one as He is One. God bless you faithful ones! God honors the hungry and the humble! There is a lot of rattling and background noise being designated as “profound” and “prophetic”… Let us be wise and discerning. Let us grow in grace and community as we build up the local body of believers and be mission minded with our gifts and talents so as to further His Kingdom! Jesus is the One who is to receive all glory and to whom we must give account on how we steward our gifts and talents.

Please do not read this thinking I am against the prophetic gifting for today. I see lives transformed by the prophetic word. I am all in favor of it, I practice it and I am well aware of the benefits and blessings that it gives to people today. As I hear from God, I am also aware of how the prophetic word is used in a way that not only distresses its hearers, but also leads people astray. May God bless you and give you His wisdom as you discern His word for you today.

Warnings Against False Prophets

The prophetic mantles of the Old Testament (such as the mantle if Isaiah) are no longer in operation within the gift of prophecy today. If we claim Old Testament mantles then we need to claim Old Testament standards as their repercussions. I make the distinction of capital “P” for prophets of the Old Testament versus the gift of prophecy today resting as a gift, but not seen as the same as the office of the prophet. Deuteronomy 18: 20–22 says 'But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.' You may say in your heart, 'How will we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?' When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the message about which he speaks does not come about or come true, that is the thing “which the LORD has not spoken.” The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.” Read Jeremiah 28 about Hananiah. The story is a powerful reminder not to claim an office that has not been given. If people claim to have an “Elijah” ministry then they should be “restoring the hearts of the fathers to [their] children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that [the Lord] will not come and smite the land with a curse (Malachi 4:6). Nobody seems to claim Amos’ calling or mantle — “Then Amos replied to Amaziah, "I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet; for I am a herdsman and a grower of sycamore figs (Amos 7:14) — He prophesies for nine chapters and then he goes back to the fields and farm! There were also “unnamed” prophets in the Old Testament: “the sons of the prophets who [were at] Bethel (2 Kings 2:3) and the sons of the prophets who [were] at Jericho (2 Kings 2:5).”

The “code” for prophetic words and messages are very clear in God’s word. We are not to throw stones at the Bride and we are not to stone the Servants of the King! The history of the church is unfortunately full of stoning and being stoned. Israel had to constantly deal with false prophets and prophets with presumption. Isaiah 29:10 says “For the LORD has poured over you a spirit of deep sleep, He has shut your eyes, the prophets; And He has covered your heads, the seers.” Jeremiah 5:13, 31 says “The prophets are [as wind], and the word is not in them. . . .The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their [own] authority; and My people love it so! But what will you do at the end of it?” Isaiah 30:9,10 says “For this is a rebellious people, false sons, sons who refuse to listen to the instruction of the LORD; who say to the seers, "You must not see [visions]"; and to the prophets, "You must not prophesy to us what is right, speak to us pleasant words, prophesy illusions.” Jeremiah 14:14 says “Then the LORD said to me, ‘The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds.’” Jeremiah 23:16, 21, 25, 26 says “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; they speak a vision of their own imagination, not from the mouth of the LORD... I did not send [these] prophets, but they ran. I did not speak to them, but they prophesied. . . I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy falsely in My name, saying, 'I had a dream, I had a dream!’ How long? Is there [anything] in the hearts of the prophets who prophesy falsehood, even [these] prophets of the deception of their own heart?” False prophesy was rampant in Biblical times just as much as it is today.

Jesus mentions earthquakes, wars, rumors, famines, terrible signs, pestilence/plagues as precursors to his return (Matthew 24:7; Mark 13:8, Luke 21:11) — birth pangs of the beginning of the Final End of the consummation of the Kingdom . The scriptures include types of prophetic words identifying suffering and martyrdom and exhorting us to hope, patient endurance and kingdom commission. We veer into Christian “magic” and “magical thinking” when we over emphasize external events, signs, symbols and power. This dynamic plays out in two ways. One way is in our thinking and framing of faith and God. We explain things in a formulaic way. ‘This sign always means this.’ We explain things as though God has a hidden code that we must decipher. We start thinking (and people start teaching that there is a secret level I need to attain and pass through in order to receive God’s blessing and gain biblical understanding. An example of this incorrect thinking: If I just recite the right passage in a ritualistic rite of faith God will grant me xy & z. The second way this dynamic plays out is the subtle and incorrect thinking which comes as a seduction to be comic book super heroes with super powers on a secret mission that no one can possibly comprehend nor can anyone explain nor do I need anyone’s assistance. It’s just me and Jesus. All things are moving toward that final day when Jesus returns. NO man knows when that is! People become prophetically fixated on the end and their ministry/anointing/gifting without walking in present peace and grace and commissioning within the Body of Christ. We are not meant to live without the body of Christ, both for their sake and for our own sake.

The following represents some condensed biblical information. This information is not meant to be an exhaustive or detailed explanation, but references in which to frame and root our understanding of the New Testament prophetic gift.

Biblical Forms of Delivery of Prophetic Messages

  • Oracle (Acts 13:1–3)
  • Exhortation (Acts 15:30–35)
  • Prayer (Luke 1:67–69, Ezra 9:6–15, Nehemiah 9:6–37)
  • Song (Deuteronomy 32:1–43, 2 Peter 1:21)
  • Visions (Revelation 4:1–3)
  • Action (Jeremiah 27:2–3)

The Operation of the Prophetic

  • Simple (all)
  • Gifting (public action)
  • Ministry (commissioned by church)
  • Office (God elected)

There are lists of prophets in the New Testament (Acts 13:1, 15:32, 21:10). Prophets in the Book of Acts foretell certain events and even some false prophets are noted (Acts 13:6). There are numerous warnings against False Prophets, Apostles & Dreams: Deuteronomy 13:1–5; 2 Chronicles 18:18–21; Jeremiah 14:14; Jeremiah 23; Ezekiel 13:3,6,7; Nehemiah 6:14; Ecclesiastes 5:7, Zechariah 10:2,3; Matthew 7:15–23; Matthew 24:5–14, 24; 1 Corinthians 14:37; 2 Corinthians 11:13–15; Colossians 2: 18,19; 2 Peter 2; Jude 1:8; 1 John 4:1–3. Acts 20:29–30.

The implication of these warnings is that the operation and expression of this gift was so “abundant” in the church via the Holy Spirit through His unnamed servants that Paul had to warn the Church to use discernment because not every prophet, prophecy, dream or vision was from God even if they spoke in Jesus’ name. The heart of the Father is to communicate with His children and share His heart with us. John 15:15 says “I am no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.” [The Message]

Danger “Keep Out” Warnings

Certain ministers/ministries have “prophetic words” (I use parentheses because I disagree) generically identifying disasters that are quite common to certain regions of the country/world (earthquakes — think California, hurricanes — think Florida), yet do not give dates/times or sequences/significance of these events (let alone words about disasters that have occurred in their own area of residence). There have been a number of publicly released words that were completely wrong! There have also been a serious and significant lack of words regarding certain national and natural events! Prophetic words are not just a description of events, they are to include a prescription of hope, and a response including God’s perspective.

Things to Avoid

There is a trend to politically infuse these “prophetic words” as “God’s agenda, endorsement or judgment.” The call of the prophetic is to reveal God’s heart, his passion for his people and His desire to connect afresh with renewed vigor in order to reveal our hearts. He sees our wounds, weaknesses, fears, bondages and desperate need for Jesus (and His long–suffering compassion toward us). He has set His affection upon us and named us as His own. James 2:13 says “For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” (NAS) Being prophetic means actively and daily being Jesus to a dying world rather than a call to weirdness and rudeness.

Mistakes Churches Make

We have skewed the administrative government of the church, resulting in isolation and rejection of those with prophetic gifting or platforming and promoting them to positions outside the grace of their gifting. We need to collaborate and coordinate the healthy shepherding of them as they grow in their gift. Otherwise we set them up to be the sole leaders and voices of the local church, if they haven’t already started their own worldwide ministry. (This is not to say all para–church ministries or worldwide focused ministries are bad or a–biblical.) If we choose not to correct or edit that which is at least immature, or say “no” to that which is at its worst a fleshly fabrication, then we can’t clarify and clearly hear what is authentic. God’s heart and purposes are revealed through the Church. He speaks into who we are as a redeemed, transformed, loving people and what we do related to acts of compassion, kindness, mercy and justice. Ephesians 3:10 speaks about the purpose: “so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.” God wants to express Himself through redeemed people’s actions.

I believe God does warn His people and is involved in the “natural sphere” of life. I also believe God wants us focused on Him rather than prophetic words, personalities and platforms. It takes much more faith, power and humility to declare life and call God’s people to community and consecrated commitment than it does to declare spiritual warfare, judgment and death over the culture at large. We are to be the salt and light in the world — and if you don’t like the way the world is heading, get out into the world and be His hands and feet! Battle for these changes on your knees, not wrestling against flesh & blood!

May God bless the gift of prophecy in each and every one of you — so that you “eagerly desire it” — and may He also bless you in the discernment process of what you hear from others.

Robin Morrison Robin Morrison is a teacher and prophetic minister in Orange, California. Nov/Dec 2011