I’m forever receiving WhatsApps forwarded to me of some supposed prophet’s new, ground-breaking, prophecy.
Funnily enough, the prophecies always involve a “break-through” and a musical instrument. For example,
“The Lord showed me a vision for Africa. 2017 is the year of break-through. You must blow the shofar (trumpet) and repent of the nation’s sin.” Etc., etc.
I’ve chatted to so many people who have had “words from the Lord” or prophecies spoken over them and to them. These prophecies have ranged from marriage partners and business deals, to the number of children they will have. A common factor is how unhelpful these prophecies have been and how they have done little, but complicated their lives (sometimes to a tragic degree) and created feelings of guilt, because the “prophecy” has not been fulfilled. The person over whom the prophecy was spoken is left thinking, “Am I being disobedient? Do I lack faith? Am I living God’s second best?” Etc.
In Old Testament (OT) times, a prophet or prophetess was someone who spoke God’s word to God’s people. God gave them a message and they relayed that message (Deuteronomy 18:18).
The message, of course, had to be 100% correct (as it was from God who never gets anything wrong), and if it was found to contain error, the prophet or prophetess was put to death (Deuteronomy 18:20-22). The reason for this was largely to prevent all kinds of people with all kinds of messages, claiming that they have these messages from the Lord when they actually didn’t.
By the time we get to the New Testament (NT), the definition of a prophet has not changed. Prophets were men and women who related God’s Word to God’s people. The prophecies were to be 100% correct and perfectly in-line with the rest of Scripture, otherwise the prophets were deemed to be false prophets.
When the NT commends Christians to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1), it does not mean – as many Christians today think – to test which parts of the “prophecy” are from God. Instead, it means to test if the messenger is from God: is he a true prophet or a false prophet (with same criteria as in OT). If he was a true prophet, the listeners had to treat the entire message as from God.
Ephesians 2:20 is a massively important verse. It says that the church is built on the foundation of the Apostles and NT Prophets (cf. Ephesians 3:5). And because a foundation is laid only once, we don’t expect Apostles and Prophets today. With the completion of the NT canon the need for and role of prophets (i.e. gift of prophecy) was not necessary anymore and subsequently ended*.
God speaks to us through his Word, the Scriptures, as the Spirit helps us to understand the Bible. We are to obey the Bible as best we can and leave the future to the providence of God, knowing that God works in all things for the good of his people (Romans 8:28).
This truth is so freeing; much more preferable than being burdened and troubled by the supposed predictions and words of those with the alleged gift of prophecy; forever wondering if your decisions are in keeping with the “prophecy” or not; forever wondering if you are being disobedient or not.
Many people’s lives have been wrecked by others claiming to have a message from God for them. God’s written Word must be our highest authority as Christians and as 2 Peter 1 says, we have all we need for life and godliness – we don’t need another message from God.
If you do happen do get a “word from the Lord” from some dear Christian friend, would you please do 3 things:
(1) Ask how that person is sure that message came from God and is not just their strong opinion, or even a message from another spirit? After all, the Bible says our hearts are deceptive above all things.
(2) If you want to take the “Word” as from the Lord, check if it agrees 100% with the rest of Scripture because the Bible is our highest authority.
(3) If it not 100% accurate or does not come 100% true, go back and tell that person that they are a false prophet and should be very grateful they’re not living in OT times.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word. (Psalm 119:16)
* See also my article, “The truth about prophecy“.