“For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away,” 2 Corinthians 13:9-10.
“Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil,” 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22.
Living with Imperfection
There are neither perfect prophets nor perfect prophecies. Even the most experienced prophets get it wrong at times simply because we are human vessels.
The words from God are filtered through the human heart and because of our humanity, the pure word of prophecy can easily become contaminated.
Even if a word comes from a well-known prophet, we should not assume that it is always true.
We are not to reject all prophecy, but to test it. There is perhaps more pressure put upon those who are well known to get their message “right.”
God allows His prophets to make mistakes at times to keep them humble. Even in the Old Testament prophets made mistakes.
However, many mistakenly think that now if someone makes a mistake that they either must not ever be listened to again, or else they should be led to the edge of town and have stones thrown at them.
The Bible gives a number of principles for testing a prophecy.
- 1 Corinthians 14:4 – It must build up the body.
- 2 Timothy 3:16 – It must agree with Scripture.
- John 16:13-14 – It must exalt Jesus.
- Deuteronomy 18:22 – It must come true.
- Deuteronomy 13:1-5 – It must lead to God and obedience to Him.
- Romans 8:15 – It must produce liberty.
- 2 Corinthians 3:6 – It must produce life.
- 1 John 2:27 – It must be attested to the Holy Spirit in each believer.
All prophecies should glorify and honor Jesus.
“At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy,”” Revelation 19:10.
Sometimes it is hard to test a prophecy. A word may seem to be okay, but it may take time before it is fulfilled.
Words of encouragement that agree with scripture are usually easier to judge, as there is nothing predictive in their content. In this case, one must judge the spirit of the person giving the prophecy.
Over time, maturity will be seen as those who are called to the prophetic, have a life of fruitfulness seen in them. Then they are proven and can be trusted to bring a reliable word when it is required.
We should judge the spirit of the prophecy first, before examining the word itself.
The body of Christ needs to mature to the point where they can distinguish between the content of prophecy and the spirit of the person giving it.
Oftentimes, many are afraid to judge a word simply because they think that they are being critical.
Jesus warns us that false prophets would arise and that even the very elect could be deceived (Mark 13:22-23).
False prophets have been seen at all times in history and can arise especially at times of chaos or tumult such as our particular time now. We see now a great outburst of activity in the prophetic and we need true prophets to speak, so that the church can begin to see the true from the false.
The Bible gives a number of tests for discerning true prophets from those who are false.
All Christians should become familiar with them, but not to lean upon their own understanding and throw the baby out with the bath water.
Every true prophet is called by God. The initiative in the making of a prophet always rests with God.
This is not something that anyone can simply just take up. A true prophetic ministry always begins with a call from God (Jeremiah 1:4-10; Isaiah 6:1-8).
Jeremiah condemned those who were false because they had not been in the presence of God. They could not speak his word because they had not heard him speak (Jeremiah 23:18,22).
The first sign that a person has been called to be a prophet is a continuous experience of the gift of prophecy.
Most prophets will begin by sharing a word of prophecy in small meetings or fellowships. Over time, these occurrences will build and become more prevalent.
When a person regularly brings a clear and true prophetic word to the meeting, it may be a sign that God is calling him to be a prophet. Of course, we must guard against those who draw attention to themselves, by speaking at every meeting. Their lack of fruit will make them obvious.
An important statement about testing prophets is made in Deuteronomy 18:2.
If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true that is a message the Lord has not spoken? That prophet has spoken presumptuously.
*Many us this scripture today when assessing whether or not a prophet is true or false. We must be very careful when blatantly applying this Old Testimony scripture to prophecies which “seem” to not come to pass.
Sometimes a word is not fulfilled because the people have repented or God shows mercy in postponing judgment.
Prophets often foretold destruction and sometimes the destruction did not come, yet this did not disprove their divine mission, as in the case of Jonah.
For God is gracious, and ready to turn away his wrath from those who turn away from their sins. But the prophet who prophesied peace and prosperity absolutely and unconditionally without adding the necessary proviso, that they do not by willful sin put a bar in their own door and stop the coming of God’s favors, will be proved a true prophet only by the accomplishment of his prediction (Matthew Henry).
There is some prophecy, however, that is unconditional. It depends solely on God himself for fulfilment.
The proof that a prophet has been called is the fact that his words were never allowed to fall to the ground. We see this in the life of Samuel.
“The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognised that Samuel was attested as a prophet,” 1 Samuel 3:19-20.
A prophet’s calling will be recognized by the church, and they won’t need to make any claims about this. We see this in the life of Samuel. All Israel recognized his calling, and accepted his ministry.
A prophet who asks others to follow after false gods must not be listened to, even though they may perform miraculous signs or wonders.
If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces for you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, “Let us follow other gods,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer.
The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul, (Deuteronomy 13:1-3).
Jesus is the one who inspires and fulfills all prophecy (Revelation 19:10). All prophecy should be centered and focused on him.
Any prophecy that elevates a particular person instead of Jesus Himself, is not to be listened to.
“And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy,” Revelation 19:10.
Character is one of the best tests of a prophet. Jesus said,
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognise them,” Matthew 2:15-16.
He went on to say that a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. If a person is not living a holy life, he should not be acknowledged as a prophet. A true prophet will be demonstrating the fruit of the spirit.
In every place there should be people who have experienced the gift of discernment.
Those also who are called to the office of prophet should have the gift of discerning of Spirits. They should be able to discern the false from the true. An example of this is found in Acts 16:16-18.
“Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune telling. This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.”
A slave girl kept calling Paul and Silas servants of the most high God. She was able to predict the future.
She was also acknowledging God, so in a sense she fulfilled both the conditions given in Deuteronomy. However, Paul became troubled, and discerned in his spirit that she had a spirit of divination.
Paul cast the spirit out and she lost her fortune-telling powers. In the coming days, God will raise up true prophets, but there will also be many false prophets around. The church must learn to discern the true from the false.
While it is important to test prophecies, we must have the right attitude. Refusing to accept God’s word, mocking a prophet or scoffing at a prophecy can be dangerous.
“But Elisha said to him, “Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to take money, or to accept clothes, olive groves, vineyards, flocks, herds, or menservants and maidservants? Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever.” Then Gehazi went from Elisha’s presence and he was leprous, as white as snow,” 2 Kings 5:26-27.
“Then Jeremiah said to all the officials and all the people: “The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the things you have heard. Now reform your ways and your actions and obey the Lord your God. Then the Lord will relent and not bring the disaster he has pronounced against you. As for me, I am in your hands; do with me whatever you think is good and right. Be assured, however, that if you put me to death, you will bring the guilt of innocent blood on yourselves and on this city and on those who live in it, for in truth the Lord has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing,”” Jeremiah 26:12-15.
~ Stephen Hanson
Stephen Hanson of In His Truth Ministries came to the LORD is a special way in 1975 and has prophesied regularly since. In these end-time birthing pangs we are reminded that judgment must first begin with the household of God. Will we be prepared and ready?