Knowing the future has its advantages. In 2004 a tsunami erupted in the Indian Ocean slamming into the coastline of eleven countries. The casualties were estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands with thousands of injuries and billions of dollars in damages. Because there were no prior warning, millions of people lost their homes and access to food and water as the tsunami took countries like Thailand by surprise. In 2008 the world faced yet another critical event; the stock market crash. The fall in the stock market destroyed thousands of businesses, jobs, homes and our very thoughts about security as the declining market brought the greatest global financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Today the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program has acquired a number of models to forecast when and where tsunamis will strike: and governmental officials around the world have established laws to protect us from future market failures. If we know what the future holds, it changes everything from the way we think to the way we react and can be the difference in saving lives and losing them.
In the church of Christ the gift of prophecy allows the people of God to know future events before they happen. In the days of Joseph the son of Jacob, prophecy served as an aid to the entire Egyptian nation as they would face seven years of prosperity and seven years of famine. The seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had said. The famine reached every other country, but there was food throughout Egypt. Thus, people came to Egypt from all over the world to buy grain from Joseph. The famine was so severe, without prophecy the entire Egyptian nation would have been lost with the rest of the world. At its core, the gift of prophecy serves as a means to save. In the days of King Hezekiah, the prophet Isaiah went to see him and said to him, “The LORD says you are to put everything in order, because you will not recover. Get ready to die.” Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed: “Remember, LORD, that I have served you faithfully and loyally and that I have always tried to do what you wanted me to.” And he began to cry bitterly. These are a few examples of the important roles the gift of prophecy plays in the church of Christ. However, on a greater scale, there are other important concepts about the prophetic gift that should be considered. First, the Apostle Paul taught the church too desire spiritual gifts, but charity should be desired above all. “Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy”. (1Co 14:1) Charity is another word for being selfless. For example, “You may be able to speak the languages of human beings and even of angels, but if you are “Selfish” your speech is no more than just noise. Selflessness is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; it does not keep a record of wrongs; it is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. Selflessness never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail. Thus, before desiring spiritual gifts, we must perfect being selfless.
It is daunting to know people desire spiritual gifts for the wrong reason; mainly to be selfish; this has always been a problem in the church. Therefore, we are encouraged not to function in any gift without Charity. For example; the purpose of prophecy is to speak to people directly (in a language they understand) to give them help, encouragement, and comfort. This means when prophecy is spoken, the message must be heard by those in whom it’s meant to reach. If there is a prophecy about a nation, place, group or individual and it is not told to those in whom it’s meant to reach: the person(s) prophesying is not walking in (selflessness) charity; because they’re not allowing the prophecy to work as it is intended; that is, to give help, encouragement, and comfort. The record of Jonah is an aid to this very idea. The LORD spoke to Jonah saying, “Go to Nineveh, that great city, and speak out against it; I am aware of how wicked its people are.” Jonah refused to do as the Lord command and tries to escape by going the opposite direction. However, after a series of events Jonah was forced to deliver God’s message to Nineveh. When the king of Nineveh heard about it, he got up from his throne, took off his robe, put on sackcloth, and sat down in ashes. The people also humbled themselves before the Lord and prayed earnestly giving up their wicked behaviors and their evil actions. Meanwhile, God saw that they had given up their wicked behavior and did not punish them as he had said he would. This is the purpose of prophecy. Jonah refused to deliver God’s message because he rather see Nineveh destroyed. Jonah was upset and angry and prayed “LORD, didn’t I say before I left home that this is just what you would do? That’s why I did my best to run away to Spain! I knew that you are a loving and merciful God, always patient, always kind, and always ready to change your mind and not punish”. When prophecy is not carried to those it is intended, it violates scripture; as it is written “Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand”.
Secondly, one the most critical and essential instruction on the subject of prophecy is judgment. According to the writing of the apostle Paul prophecy should be judged. He explains, “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge” (1Co 14:29). Because it makes people feel uneasy and nervous judging prophecy is avoided. It’s a natural tendency to think questioning prophecy reveals signs of weakness, unbelief and doubt; while in some cases it may, judging prophecy is a commandment. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world”. “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment”. “That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ”… “Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good” (1Jn 4:1) (Php 1:9-10) (Isa 7:15). The problem, however, most churches aren’t taught to judge prophecy so it continues to be avoided. Any attempt to judge prophecy in a church where it is unwanted and you may find yourself the product of a series of hells fire prophecies. You may be asked to leave, or told you lack faith and need to seek God. In any case the church should never accept prophecy (or any other gifts) to be true; rather ever prophecy should be examined for truth. The apostle Paul wrote, “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began”. Since God cannot lie, prophecy must be judged for accuracy.
Prophecy is God’s way of revealing his mind. Thus, prophecy must be 100% accurate 100% of the time. For example; if a prophet states the LORD said a certain event will take place tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. the prophecy must happen exactly the way it was spoken. If the event takes place at 1:02 p.m., (instead of the 1:00 p.m. as it was spoken) then that prophecy was not sent by God. When prophecy fail to take place at the time stated by the prophet, that prophecy was not sent by God. This may come across as rude, but faith comes by hearing and if we can’t rely on God’s word to be accurate then we have no hope. On the other hand, judging prophecy for accuracy, is merely one part of trying the spirit. Since prophecy in the church can be true but not sent by God, we must also test the spirit for its purpose. “If a prophet arises among you, or a dreamer of dreams, and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder which he foretold to you occurs, saying, Let us go after other gods, which you have not known, and let us serve them, you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams” (Deut 13:1-3). If prophecy leads its hears away from God, the prophet or prophetess must be ignored. People can be led away from God through prophecy very easily; if the person speaking becomes the center of the prophecy to the point they are now considered to be the medium or the way to reach God; that prophet or prophetess is operating in error. Prophecy should never glorify the individual being used in prophecy. Instead, it should edify the church to worship God. Therefore, if a prophet or prophetess speaks in the name of the Lord, but their prophecy (being true) is leading the church away from truth, their prophecies should be ignored. The apostle John wrote “Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols”.
In addition, there are times when prophecy is misunderstood by the one prophesying. If a prophet misunderstands what he/she believes to be the inspiration of God, they must hold their peace until clarity is given. This can also be seen in the gift of tongues. If there is no clarity of the tongues the speaker needs to be silent. If he/she speaks before the clarity is revealed they runs the risk of error. If an error occurs in prophecy, the prophecy is false and must be noted as such. This will insure the church of any future streams of falsehood. There are times when prophecy is predicated on the actions of the person receiving the prophecy. For example: If at any time I say that I am going to uproot, break down, or destroy any nation or kingdom, but then that nation turns from its evil, I will not do what I said I would. On the other hand, if I say that I am going to plant or build up any nation or kingdom, but then that nation disobeys me and does evil, I will not do what I said I would (Jer 18:7-10). As we know, God cannot lie. However, at any time God speaks judgment upon a nation or an individual, the purpose of that prophecy is to turn the nation or individual heart to God. Therefore, when the prophecy of judgment is heard and it brings repentance, then God will not continue in his judgment because the prophecy was fulfilled through repentance. However, if there is no repentance, then God will continue in his judgment, so then the prophecy will be fulfilled through judgment. This is not a change of mind, but rather it is a promise. On the other hand, if at any time prophecy of judgment is spoken upon a nation or an individual and yet there is no repentance from that nation of an individual, judgment must follow according to the prophecy otherwise the prophecy is false.
Prophecy cannot change after it is spoken; if it does, that prophecy is not from God. For instance, if someone is ill and it is prophesied they will recover and not die, they must recover completely from their sickness. If the sick do not recover, but dies; then the prophecy must be marked as false. If the sick, dies after being told they would live and afterwards, the prophecy changes too; “God really meant the person would recover his or her spiritual life in heaven”. This spirit is false and must be noted as such, otherwise the church will suffer great damage. The spirit of inaccuracy will desire to cover up error with error by attempting to restore false prophecy with something that sounds deep and mysterious. Beware. Jesus instructed the disciples about deception; “Take heed that no man deceive you”. The gift of prophecy must be used as the scriptures intended; that is, to men, to edification, to exhort and to comfort. In this case, prophecy should be comprehensive, orderly and intelligent; not confusing or ill-mannered. “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If anything be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace” (1Co 14:29). A prophet or prophetess should wait before speaking in the service; outbursts and disruptions in the service are forms of disorder and should not be allowed. “For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted” (1Co 14:31)……………..To be continued