The Prophetic Movement
The ministry of the prophet, unlike any other ministry office, is common to both the Old and New Testaments. The first mention or reference to a person being a prophet is in Genesis 20:7 referring to Abraham.
Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine.
The word used is: Strongs- 5030-nabiy, naw-bee; from 5012; a prophet or an inspired man:- prophecy, that prophesy, prophet. It is translated prophet 162 times; prophets 144 times and prophecy in Daniel 9:24. The prophet was a spokesman; one who spoke for another.
To get an overall understanding of the ministry of the prophet we need to look at two other words used in the Old Testament to describe him and his ministry.
2 Chronicles 9:29
Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, first and last, are they not written in the book of Nathan the prophet, and in the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, and in the visions of Iddo the seer against Jereboam the son of Nebat?
The second Hebrew word is the word chozeh, Strongs, 2374, kho-zeh. A beholder of visions; gazer; seer. From chazah, to gaze at, perceive; have a vision of; to look.
The third word used in the Hebrew, also translated seer is Strongs 7200, ra’ah, to see, discern; gaze at; look on; perceive; stare at; to view; see visions.
And at that time, Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said unto him, Because thou hast relied on the king of Syria, and not relied on the LORD thy God, therefore is the host of the king of Syria escaped out of thine hand.
The word ra’ah refers to one who sees more clearly and completely than one spoken of as a chozeh. The seers were afterwards called prophets. (Dakes pg. 451, column 4, note e.)
Thus from these three Hebrew words and their definitions we can see that the prophet was an inspired man of God that spoke for God. He would speak or prophesy by the Holy Spirit as to what he had seen in a vision or dream or perceived or discerned of that dream or vision or what God had put in his heart. The things seen or perceived could be of the past, present or future. Thus the revelation gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in 1Corinthians 12:8-10, those being the gift of the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, and the discerning of spirits, along with the utterance gift of prophecy are common to both the Old and New Testament prophet.
In the New Testament there is one word used for Prophet. Strongs 4396, prophetes, prof-ay-tace; from a compound of 4253 and 5346; a foreteller (prophet); by anal. An inspired speaker; by extens. A poet; – prophet.
The ministry of the prophet or foreteller is to tell of events by supernatural revelation. The supernatural revelation of these events may be of the past, present or future. The gift of the word of wisdom is to foretell of the future. The gift of the word of knowledge is to reveal the past or present by supernatural revelation, unknown to the speaker except by revelation of God. The discerning of spirits is seeing into the spiritual realm supernaturally both good and evil spirits. The simple gift of prophecy is inspired utterance in a known language to the speaker that has no prediction or foretelling to it. It is simple exhortation, edification, and comfort.
The prophetic office, especially in the New Testament, is also one that teaches the Word of God by inspiration.
V11 And he gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers;
V12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
V13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:
All of the ministry gifts need to be able to teach the Word of God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in order to perfect or equip the saints to do the work of the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. The prophet’s ministry will steer people in the direction of understanding of the prophetic aspect of the ministry of the Holy Spirit as well as equip them for ministry in the knowledge of the Son of God and the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Jesus is The Apostle, The Prophet, The Evangelist, The Pastor and Teacher of pre-eminence. In order to come to the full stature of the fullness of Christ we need to be perfected by all the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
I) The Gift of Prophecy
Any born-again, spirit-filled believer is a candidate to be used in any of the gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in 1Corinthians 12:8-10 and Romans 12:6-8. However, every believer is exhorted and promised to prophesy.
V16 But this is that which is spoken by the prophet Joel;
V17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
V18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:
! Corinthians 14:31
For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.
As previously stated, the simple gift of prophecy has no prediction in it. It is simply exhortation, edification, and comfort.
! Corinthians 14:3
But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, exhortation and comfort.
Simply put, all believers can and should prophesy. All believers can be used in any of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. All believers can teach and preach the word to an extent. However, just because a believer prophesies or is used in the revelation gifts of the Holy Spirit (word of wisdom, word of knowledge, and discerning of spirits) does not make them a prophet.
V8 And the next day we that were of Paul’s company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him.
V9 And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.
Notice it is pointed out that Philip was an evangelist. His daughters did prophesy, but were not prophetesses. They simply moved in the gift of prophecy.
V10 And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judea a certain prophet, named Agabus.
V11 And when he was come unto us, he took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, thus saith the Holy Ghost, so shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him unto the hands of the Gentiles.
Philip’s daughters prophesied but were not prophetesses. Agabus, on the other hand was a prophet and in this passage is revealing by the gift of the word of wisdom, events that will happen to Paul in the future. A prophet, therefore, stands in the place of a preacher or teacher of the Word and has a consistent manifestation of the three revelation gifts of the word of wisdom, word of knowledge, and discerning of spirits along with the utterance gift of prophecy. In accordance with the definition of a prophet from the Hebrew and the Greek, a prophet is one who has visions and revelations. Again, any believer may have a dream, a vision, or a revelation, but that does not make them a prophet. The prophet has a ministry along this line. It is a ministry gift on a higher level according to Ephesians 4:11-13.
Two things should be noted from the ministry of the prophet Agabus to the apostle Paul. First, it foretold the future. It was more than just forth-telling or proclaiming the Word by inspiration. It had prediction of the future in it. Secondly, it was personal. Though Agabus was used to predict in Acts 11:28 of a great dearth throughout the world, he also gave a word of wisdom to Paul personally about his personal life for the future. God uses people at times to personally minister a message to someone else. This does not make them a prophet or prove that they can give everyone a message. It is possible for a person to get off into error and fanaticism by always going around handing out personal messages and prophecies to everybody.
II) Is the Ministry of the Prophet In the Old Testament different than that in the New Testament?
In the Old Testament, only three offices, the prophet, the priest, and the king were anointed by the Holy Spirit to stand in their offices. The rest of the people did not have the Holy Spirit in them or on them. In the Old Testament, people went to the prophet for guidance.
A) New Testament Guidance
The same Holy Spirit that anointed and guided the people through the prophet in the Old Testament now resides in every believer by the New Birth.
2 Corinthians 6:16
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God: as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I shall be their God, and they shall be my people.
Every believer should develop their own walk with God the Holy Spirit for themselves. He should not have to go to anyone else for guidance. There are no “new revelations” outside the Word of God. As far as personal prophecy goes, we are not to be led by it. Personal prophecy should bear witness to a person’s spirit. If it doesn’t, then it should not be taken as from the Holy Spirit. Referring back to the prophecy that Paul received from Agabus in Acts 21:11-14, there was no personal guidance as to what Paul was to do. No personal direction was given. Agabus only told Paul what was before him. Paul had to make his own decision in following God’s will for his life.
V1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
V2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.
The Word of God and our own personal walk with the person of the Holy Spirit are what a believer governs and builds his life upon.
V22 But be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
V23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:
V24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
V25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
2 Corinthians 5:7
For we walk by faith and not by sight.
So the believer’s life is to be led and guided by faith in the Word of God. Anything that does not line up with God’s Word, whether we think we are hearing personally or someone else is speaking to us must be rejected as not from God. Anything that comes from another person that is controlling and violates our free will and conscience should not be tolerated. Just because accurate information is given by someone does not mean they are from God.
V13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak; and he will shew you things to come.
V14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
V15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
According to Jesus, the Spirit will guide into all truth. What ever is spoken or revealed will glorify Jesus and not another person or spirit. There may be revelation of the future, but as to what to do with that revelation is left up to the individual to glorify Christ with it.
III) How to Judge the Ministry of the Prophet and the Revelation Gifts of the Holy Spirit
A) The Prophet and His Ministry
V15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
V16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
V17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
V18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
V19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
V20 Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them.
V21 Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
V22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works?
V23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Jesus warns against false prophets and shows how to know of their deceptions. What is their outward conduct? What kind of fruit are they producing? Is the person prophesying merely speaking or are they also doing the will of God? Is the doctrine they are teaching in accordance with the Word of God or is it beyond God’s Word? These are legitimate questions that need to be answered before a person blindly follows anyone’s ministry or personal words.
1 John 4:1-3
V1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
V2 Hereby know ye the spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is God:
V3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
It is not our intention to discredit the ministry of the prophet or to make people suspicious of that ministry or the revelation gifts. We welcome them and they are much needed in the body of Christ today. We do, however, take the position of Jesus, John, and Paul in the New Testament and heed their words of instruction to discern properly these ministries and gifts in order to give glory and not discredit the ministry of Jesus Christ in and through His church.
John adds more enlightenment on how to test the validity of the prophets’ words and ministry. What is their confession of Jesus? What is their relationship to the world?
1 John 4:6
We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.
How does the prophet receive the Christian faith? What is their attitude towards God’s Word and His commandments? There are many that say, “we should not judge”, or “touch not God’s anointed.” We refute these assumptions as the Word of God tells us to judge and test all things and to question anything and anyone that speaks for or represents God that does not live or speak in line with the words and conduct as outlined in God’s Word. (1 Corinthians 2:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:21.)
1 Corinthians 12:1-3
V1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.
V2 Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.
V3 Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.
It was a practice among Jews to call Jesus anathema, accursed – one so abominable as not fit to live on earth. It was an early practice among heathen prosecutors to force believers to call Jesus accursed. No man speaking by the Holy Spirit will ever do so, and no man can call Jesus Lord but by the Spirit. (Dakes pg. 185, note d, column 1.)
B) Judging Prophecy and the Revelation Gifts
We are to judge prophecy and the spirit from which it comes.
1 Corinthians 14:29
Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
1 Thessalonians 5:20-21
V20 Despise not prophesyings.
V21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
It is a fallacy that a prophecy will confirm or needs to confirm what is in a person’s heart. Ahab heard what he wanted to hear from four hundred prophets of Israel. The word was given according to the idolatry of his heart. The result was death. (1 Kings 22)
In the New Testament Jesus told Peter that he would deny him three times. Peter argued boldly and declared that he would die first rather than deny Jesus. Though Peter did not accept it, it came to pass.
It is a fallacy to put words of prophecy or revelation on a shelf and the scripture does not instruct us to do so. If we are not sure whether that word is from the Lord or not, and to say that if it is a word from God that it will come to pass and to “shelve it” is not dealing with the spiritual forces behind that word. If it is false it has the potential to hinder us. The word may pollute and defile. The Word of God instructs us to judge not put it on a shelf.
First, any word given by an alleged gift must not contradict the Bible. Secondly, we have the witness of the Spirit. Sometimes, a word given cannot be confirmed by the written Word.
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit.
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
It is peace, not accuracy, that rules our hearts.
IV) The Prophetic Movement
The prophetic movement of the 1990’s emphasized and restored to the church the ministry of the prophet. When we say, “movement”, or “wave”. or “revival”, we are not referring to something new, but an emphasis on a truth that was always there in God’s Word that is now brought to prominence. The ministry of the prophet never ceased. The prophetic movement merely brought that ministry to the forefront. We are grateful for that and do not minimize or malign what God the Holy Spirit reveals to the body of Christ as to what is needed at any present time. The prophetic ministry is, however, the one ministry that is most misunderstood and has the potential to cause the most confusion among believers and protrude to the world a false version of Christianity not exemplified by the Word of God as the true prophetic ministry is intended to do.
Any prophecy or word from God that is sold for donations of certain amounts of money should be immediately dismissed. False prophets have sought God for the wrong reasons. They honor God with their lips, but their hearts are intent on what they can get from God rather than for Who He is. Many actually believe that they are living a life of obedience unto the Lord. The Word of God reveals their deception to others and to themselves. Just because someone says, “thus saith the Lord”, does not mean that what is said should not be questioned. On the contrary, when that is said, it should be called into question all the more. The only thing that will guide and protect the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is the truth. When the truth about the prophetic ministry, or healing, or prosperity, or anything else in God’s Word is revealed then the false will be easily recognized. A good “rule of thumb” when judging “words” from God is: are the people being told what they “want “ to hear or what they “need” to hear? Most words given today are all about how God wants to bless people and usually gives instructions of what they need to do to “be blessed.” However, if we look at the ministry of the prophet in the New Testament, the words given were words of impending danger that awaited those that were risking their lives for the gospel. The prophetic teaching of God’s Word reveals that we are already blessed through Jesus’ finished work at Calvary. He has promised deliverance in the midst of trials at the hands of those that oppose the gospel. To warn of impending famine or danger is a valid function of the New Testament prophet, yet, to attribute that to the judgement of God is not. We are living in a covenant of grace. God has punished Jesus with the sin(s) of the world. If He is not imputing their trespasses against them then why are prophesies given as to the destruction being the judgement of those same people that God has forgiven?
2 Corinthians 5:18-21
V18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.
V19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the ministry of reconciliation.
V20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.
V21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
Present day prophets no longer write or add to the Scriptures. There is one recurring message that is echoed by every Bible prophet and that includes the Lord Jesus Christ-The Prophet. That message is repentance. The main thrust of any prophetic ministry is one of repentance. Prophets abhor sin and what it does to peoples lives and it’s antagonism against the nature of God. Thus, for a prophet to live a life of sin without repentance or to minimize sin would be contrary to his calling and function. The prophet is a preacher of righteousness and to emphasize visions, dreams, spiritual experiences, money, or anything else above calling the church and the world to a place of repentance and living out a life of righteousness is out of character with the office of the prophet. The heart of a true prophet is to draw people to God not to themselves or to some spiritual experience.
In closing, we welcome and need the ministry of the prophet today. The church of Jesus Christ has not yet been fully perfected to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13). The Scripture tells us to despise not prophesying. (1 Thess. 5:20). We must on the other hand, heed the warnings and instructions given by God’s Word concerning the prophetic office and the revelation gifts of the Holy Spirit. To lead people astray doctrinally, morally, and ethically by prophetic ministry is to discredit the Lord Himself. Having this attitude will cause the body of Christ to refocus on God and His Word rather than on spiritual experiences and manifestations that exalt the men that proclaim such experiences rather than on changing this world for Jesus Christ. Any word, dream, vision, or manifestation is given for the express purpose of revealing Jesus Christ to man and drawing people unto Him. Anything else is a counterfeit and needs to be exposed as such and judged.