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The Christian Counter

   

THE GIFT OF PROPHECY
Coming to terms

The remnant are identified in Revelation as keeping the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus. (Revelation 12:17) In Revelation 19:10 we learn that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. What is the “spirit of prophecy?” Knowing that Satan has obscured the law of God, should we be surprised to learn that he has also counterfeited the spirit of prophecy?

For the sake of definition, the “gift of prophecy” or the “spirit of prophecy” is the gift of knowing the unknown. Webster says prophecy is a “prediction made under divine influence and direction, or a discourse made or delivered by a prophet under divine direction.”

The Bible interchanges the idea of prophesying under divine influence and the gift or ability to prophesy. King Saul, for example, received the ability to prophesy even though he was not considered a prophet. “When they arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him (King Saul); the Spirit of God came upon him in power, and he joined in their prophesying. When all those who had formerly known him saw him prophesying with the prophets, they asked each other, ‘What is this that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?’” (1 Samuel 10:10,11)

A few good questions

Is the gift of prophecy in all churches today? Is the gift prevalent throughout the world? Is it limited to Christianity? What characteristics distinguish those who speak in God’s behalf? How can we tell if someone is truly giving a revelation that came from God? What distinguishes a “prophetic revelation” from a “sanctified or educated guess?” These issues must be studied carefully, for there is a growing interest in manifestations of supernatural power.

Paul speaks about spiritual gifts

The most eloquent writer in the Bible on the gifts of the Spirit is the Apostle Paul. Perhaps his position on the subject is appropriately encompassing because, of all the writers in the Bible, he is one of the wealthiest recipients of spiritual gifts. Few would contest that Paul stands head and shoulders above his contemporaries due to his combination of natural ability and spiritual gifts. He influenced the theology of Christianity more than any of his peers.

Paul points out there are several different gifts of the Spirit. These include wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, and discernment of spirits, speaking in tongues and prophesying. He stresses that the gifts have a direct purpose. They bring growth and harmony to the Church instead of chaos. Notice some of his comments:

1.      Paul says the gift of prophecy is for believers. This is in direct contrast to the gift of tongues that is for unbelievers. (1 Corinthians 14:22) Paul also points out that there may be an ecstatic experience of joy in the Lord, where a person may speak in a language beyond words; however, he emphasizes such experiences are to be private and not public. (1 Corinthians 14:2,9-17)

2.      Paul says that the manifestation of spiritual gifts is given for the common good of all. (1 Corinthians 12:7) This text does not imply that every believer receives the manifestation of some spiritual gift. Rather, the manifestation of spiritual gifts occurs for the common good of all mankind-believers and non-believers alike. Paul recognized the value of spiritual gifts and clearly encouraged the church to seek for them, especially the gift of prophecy. (1 Corinthians 14:1) However, desiring a gift does not mandate the receipt of the gift.

3.      Paul clearly says the Holy Spirit determines what gift (if any) a person receives. (1 Corinthians 12:11) He goes to great lengths in chapter 12 to point out that the body is made up of many parts. Since the body of Christ has many members, we all benefit in the administration of the gifts to those upon whom the gifts have been granted. (1 Corinthians 12:27-30) He clearly points out that God has not appointed everyone to be an apostle, prophet, miracle worker, teacher, etc.

4.      Paul stresses there are something more important than the gifts of the Spirit. It is the grace of the Spirit. Paul says, “Desire the greater gifts …faith, hope and love…” (1 Corinthians 12:31, 13:13) The gifts are temporal, while the graces of the Spirit are eternal.

Paul points out that if we speak with the tongues of gifted men or even angels and have not love, it is nothing. {13:1} If we have the gift of prophecy and the gift of faith and have no love, it is nothing. {13:2} If we give all we have to the poor and die a martyr’s death and have no love, it is nothing. {13:3} Love, agape love (love that is God like), is more important than all other gifts. In fact, the gifts of tongues, knowledge and prophecy will pass away. {13:8-10} But love will never cease. {13:8}

A brief survey on the gifts of prophecy

The Bible does not provide a crisp definition of what it takes to become a prophet. A job description is also missing. Apparently, the post or job of being a prophet is an “appointment” rather than the achievement of a sanctified state. In addition, each appointment within the Scriptures appears to be unique to the circumstances of time and place. For example, the boy Samuel was called to be a prophet during the time of the judges of Israel. The physician Luke was called to be a prophet during the time of Christ. Anna and the four daughters of Philip were also called to be prophets too! (Luke 2:36; Acts 21:9) Prophets are human beings and have failings too. Remember Jonah and the whale? Did you ever hear about the infamous Balaam? (Numbers 22,23) Notice the following points about the office of prophet:

Point 1

Abraham, the venerable father of Israel, was not perfect even though he was a prophet! In fact, the first mention of the term prophet in the Bible is in Genesis and it applies to Abraham. “Now Abraham moved on from the there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur… and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, ‘She is my sister.’ Then Abimelech king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her. But God came to Abimelech in a dream one night and said to him, ‘You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is married woman.’ Now Abimelech had not gone near her, so he said, ‘Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation? Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister,’ and didn’t she also say, ‘He is my brother’? I have done this with a clear conscience, and clean hands.’ The God said to him in a dream, ‘Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her. Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all yours will die.’” (Genesis 20:1-7)

Abraham is called a prophet because God directly communicated through him. Abraham prayed for Abimelech and God spared his life. Jesus spoke to Abraham from time to time and those who came to know Abraham recognized the relationship between them. (This scripture reveals the fact that prophets can make serious mistakes. Even though Sarah was Abraham’s half sister, she was his wife. The prophet intentionally misleads Abimelech on this matter for fear that Abimelech would kill him and take his beautiful wife.)

Point 2

The Bible treats the office of prophet as a divine appointment. When God has a speaks through that person. “He (the Lord) said, ‘Listen to my words: When a prophet of the Lord is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams.’” (Numbers 12:6)

Point 3

God warned Israel that no one should imitate the office of prophet and in reality, he had not been appointed as such, the consequences were to be fatal. Even more, if the testimony of a former prophet leads people to stray from the commands of God, he was to be put to death. Jesus said, “If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to 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’ (gods you have not known) ‘and let us worship them,’ 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. It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he preached rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery; he has tried to turn you from the way the Lord your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.” (Deuteronomy 13:1-5)

Point 4

When God speaks through a prophet, the situation is unavoidably difficult for two reasons. First, if a person rejects the words of a prophet, God will hold the person accountable. Secondly, and more importantly, if the prophet has spoke presumptuously, he must be put to death. The litmus test of a prophet is the accuracy of the prediction. “…If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account. But if a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death! You say to yourselves, ‘How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?’ If the 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. Do not be afraid of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:19-22)

Point 5

When God gives the ability to prophesy, people recognize the power of God is uniquely upon that person. Remember the text about King Saul? Notice this one about Samuel: “And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord.” (1 Samuel 3:20)

Point 6

A prophet cannot obey the words of another prophet if they are contrary to what he has been told. Read the story found in 1 Kings 13:11-30. You will be very surprised.

Point 7

The prophet cannot of his own power prove his divine appointment as spokesman for God. Only God can confirm or demonstrate the appointment. Notice how this happened to Elijah. “At the time of the sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: ‘O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.’” (1 Kings 18:36)

Point 8

The decision to become a prophet is not made by man, neither is the office hereditary. God chooses or appoints prophets. He told Elijah, “Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet.” (1 Kings 19:16)

Point 9

When people refuse to heed the words of God’s prophets, God Himself sends them a delusion that they might be damned. (2 Thessalonians 2:11,12) Read a most incredible story in the Old Testament from which Paul took special insight. (1 Kings 22:5-23)

Point 10

God is very protective about the way His name is honored or dishonored by prophets. God will not tolerate the defamation of His name. (Ezekiel 36:22,23) The story of Naaman and greedy Gehazi confirms this point. (2 Kings 5:19-27)

Intermediate summary

The office and work of a prophet is very serious business. God does not trifle with the responsibilities of this office. Prophets are held to the highest standards of accountability. Those who presume to speak for God when God has not spoken to them are evil imposters. Those who assume the authority or office of a prophet when God has not spoken to them will be severely punished. This is among the gravest offenses a mortal can commit.

The 10 points above bring us to three conclusions:

  1. First, the prophet must carefully and fearlessly represent what God has said or revealed to him. In many scriptures, the prophets indicate that the word of God comes to them in an audible or visionary process leaving no doubt in their minds that God has clearly revealed something.
  1. Secondly, 1,500 years of Old Testament history indicate that those called to be prophets usually have few friends. See also Matthew 23:37.
  1. Lastly, false prophets often exist as contemporaries of true prophets. It seems strange but true that where there are no true prophets, there is few false prophets. Can it be possible that when God appoints prophets that Satan is allowed the same privilege or vice versa? This question leads us to the second identifying mark of the remnant of Revelation. The gift of prophecy is not only one of the of the identifying marks of the remnant, the gift of prophecy stands in direct opposition to false prophets having similar powers! This point brings us face to face with the ultimate question: How can we tell if a prophet is speaking for God?

Testing the Prophet

Testing or proving the validity of a spiritual claim is difficult at best. If someone claims to have the gift of knowledge or discernment, how should the claim be tested to see if it is true or false? If someone claims to have the gift of healing, how should the claim be tested to see if it is true or false? If someone has the gift of faith, how should that be tested? Why would we want to test gifts anyway?

The core issue behind the manifestations of gifts is credibility. Who represents God? Who speaks for God? Who speaks truth and what is truth? All claims of spiritual gifts have to be tested. Here is why. Paul said, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” (1 Timothy 4:1) John also warned, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)

Satan purpose

Satan has two reasons for deceiving people. First, he wants to lead them into rebellion against God, and secondly, he wants them to destroy God’s people. Revelation clearly demonstrates this process and predicts that Satan and his demons will be quite successful on both counts.

“And he (Satan) performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men. Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.” (Revelation 13:13-15)

Recognizing that Satan and his demons seek to deceive the world, understanding that his lies are very close to the truth and wanting to know if someone speaks on the behalf of God through the gift of prophecy, we ask: How should we test the validity of a person claiming to have received a message from God?

Five tests

There are at least five tests mentioned in Scripture to test a person claiming to be a prophet of God to see if he is a true prophet or false prophet.

1.  Fruit inspection

Jesus, knowing the last days would be filled with false prophets, said we should measure a prophet by his lifestyle. “Watch out for false prophets. They will come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit, you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7:15-20)

Even more, Jesus knowing that false prophets can heal the sick, cast out demons and work wonderful miracles, goes on to say that miracles are not to be received as evidence or credibility. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23) Imagine the surprise many people will have when they are told that their wonderful miracles, done in the name of Jesus, occurred through the power of Satan!

2.  Be skeptical of any prophet working miracles

Jesus warned that many would come in His name at the end of the world and deceive many people with great signs and miracles. “At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is Christ!” or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christ’s and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect-if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time.” (Matthew 24:23-25)

By leading the world to believe that people are currently in heaven or hell, Satan has carefully set the stage for a series of demonstrations that will capture the attention of the world. Many of the miracles will involve direct and open communication with those who have died! By having apparitions appear in various places, Satan will confirm his deceptions by having dead people say that false doctrines are truth! The masses will receive these delusions with enthusiasm because they do not know what the Bible says. In reality, this is nothing less than the work of demons. Now you can see why the power granted to the Two Witnesses, the Bible and the Holy Spirit, is so great. They not only combat the demons from the Abyss, they must overcome great ignorance!

Isaiah saw the great danger of people turning to these exciting and mysterious events. He warned, “When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.” (Isaiah 8:19-20)

The term “law” used by Isaiah refers to the first books of the Bible, a phrase we often see in Scripture. The term, “testimony” refers to the Ten Commandments of God. The ark that contained the tables of stone is often called the “ark of the testimony.” (Exodus 25:21,22) Isaiah is saying that if a prophet’s words do not agree with the Scriptures and the law of God, the prophet is full of darkness. In addition, in truth, the false teaching of the immortality of the soul has become almost universally accepted and predisposes most of the world to accept the teachings of false prophets.

3.  Does the prophet obey the commandments of God?

John places a great deal of weight on the importance of the law of God. Persons that lead people to rebel against God’s commandments cannot have the true gift of prophecy. In Revelation, the remnants are not only identified as having the gift of prophecy, they “obey the commandments of God.”

Throughout his writings, John stresses the importance of obedience to God-not as a means of salvation, but as a result of their love for God. “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” (John 14:21)

Jesus, our Creator, has the right to ask human beings for obedience. He not only created us, He created all the laws by which we live. Neither natural nor moral laws can be violated without serious consequence. Jesus gives us the choice of whether we will obey Him and worship Him. He will not force us.

A person having the true gift of prophecy must be in compliance with the truths that God has revealed. John says, “The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”  (1 John 2:4-6)

Since the seventh day Sabbath of the fourth commandment will be the object of special attention during the trumpets, the importance of this test is critical.

4.  Does the prophet strengthen the work of the gospel?

Paul says, “But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.” (1 Corinthians 14:3) The person having the gift of prophecy must edify or strengthen the believers. As said earlier, a prophet’s life must also demonstrate the fruit of piety. The messages of true prophets bring men and woman to repentance. Paul said, “But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!’” (1 Corinthians 14:24,25)

5.  Correct interpretations of Bible prophecy essential

Jesus is omniscient. Therefore, He knows every detail about the future. He has revealed the future in the Bible and His servants, the prophets, will not miss the mark. They will neither add to the record written in Revelation nor will they take away from it. This simple point cannot be stressed hard enough.

Summary

The gift of prophecy is a deep subject. Most of the world is ignorant of the demonic forces that would lead them astray. Our age is peculiarly cursed with insight into technology while at the same time having great blindness to spiritual things.

The gifts of the Holy Spirit have been bestowed at various times and in various ways to help God’s people accomplish the commission of carrying the everlasting gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue and people. Here is a fundamental point: The gift and graces of the Holy Spirit combine to accomplish the gospel commission, not to draw attention to themselves.

An evil and wicked generation seeks proof of credibility. (Matthew 12:39) God is not challenged by demands fro signs for the devil can turn sticks into snakes too. (Exodus 7:11) The devil can heal the sick, cast out demons, speak wonderful truths and he can appear very righteous and beneficial-all to accomplish his deceitful ends.

Revelation predicts the gift of prophecy will be an identifying mark of the obedient remnant. The difference between Satan’s miracles and miracles worked by God’s servants is this: Satan’s miracles give credibility to rebellion against the Word of God while God’s miracles give credibility to the truths contained in Scripture. This is the bottom line. This separates true from false prophets.

Notes


   
   
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