The Bible is a prophetic Book. Much of what we read in the Bible, is prophecy – God recording history in advance. So many of those prophecies have been fulfilled with amazing accuracy, and there is no reason not to believe that the rest will also see fulfillment.
Prophecy always comes through a human vessel, some person that God uses to communicate His plans. While we have prophecies recorded in the Bible, God still speaks through human vessels through what is known in the New Testament as the gift of prophecy. (See 1 Corinthians 12) The gifts of the Holy Spirit have not ceased, as some believe, as God’s people still need to be edified, exhorted and comforted.
But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. 1 Corinthians 14:3
Since the Word is central in the Christian’s life, everything that we see or hear must be viewed in its light. The Word is also a filter that protects us against intended and unintended heresy.
We have to say a few things about prophecy, as it is commonly perceived as a word that came directly from God. While it is true that God speaks to us through the gift of prophecy, there are some things that must be understood.
Wherever man is involved, his human weakness might play a role. There are many reasons why a word of prophecy may not be the pure word of God; it would be naive to receive every prophetic word as the infallible Word of God. Man’s own will, emotions, desire, sympathy, zeal, ego, etc. might get in the way and taint the communication. Sometimes it might be done with good intentions, but there is also the possibility of manipulation or ego to exalt the speaker in the eyes of those present. For this reason the Bible instructs us to judge prophecy, which, sadly enough, rarely happens.
The damage done to individual believers – and Christianity as a whole – cannot be measured when prophecy goes wrong. Far too many believers act purely on a prophetic utterance, only to find out the hard way that it never came from God. When God makes a promise He will fulfil it without our help, except when conditions were involved. He will open closed doors and make the impossible possible; it will not be necessary to force anything to happen.
Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. 1 Corinthians 14:29
Prophecy is safe when it can stand up against the scrutiny of mature believers, but prophecies that are not judged should just be forgotten. The Word is the yardstick by which we measure all things spiritual. Since the Holy Spirit is the author of the Bible, He will not speak contrary to the written Word.
As we study the life of the apostles, we see that prophecy is not revelation but confirmation. This means that a prophecy should not contain something new to you, but instead be a confirmation of what the Lord already spoke to your own heart. The excitement that comes with a prophetic word that is brand new revelation to you, can very quickly turn into a disaster!
As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Acts 13:2
Paul and Barnabas were called by the Lord before: “for the work to which I have called them…” Those prophets and teachers only confirmed what the Lord had revealed to them earlier. Jesus said He would show Paul that he would suffer many things for His name’s sake when He confronted him on the road to Damascus. (See Acts 9:16) Afterward, when some speaking by the Spirit (Acts 21:4) and a prophet named Agabus (Acts 21:10-14) told Paul not to go up to Jerusalem as he would be imprisoned there, Paul could not be persuaded as he already knew what the Lord’s will for him was.
So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, “The will of the Lord be done.” Acts 21:14
Christians ought to develop sensitivity to the voice of the Holy Spirit for themselves, and not run to so-called prophets to hear a word from the Lord. Jesus said His sheep would know His voice.
But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. John 10:2,3
I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. John 10:14-16
I have been wonderfully blessed and comforted by prophetic words. What a wonderful experience it is to hear someone else confirm in detail what the Lord spoke to you personally! Yet, this does not happen very often as the Lord wants us to mature and learn to recognize His voice, and this can only be done by abiding in the Word, knowing the truth and fellowship with Him. Christians are, unfortunately, some of the most gullible people on the planet. They are quick to believe everything, but slow to learn the deep truths of the Word; everything must come quick and easy, just as it is in the secular world.
Christians that don’t know the Word are easily misled by false or inaccurate prophecies. Man-made prophecies usually excite or condemn, but never confirm, and both are dangerous! The right way to hear from the Lord is not to seek a word, but to seek His face. The Lord will always talk to us when we fellowship with Him in the secret place of our heart. He gave us the Holy Spirit to dwell right inside of us so that we have a counsellor close at hand.
God gave us His written Word to guide us and to reveal His thoughts and heart to us. He esteems His own Word very highly, because even a man is only as good as his word.
I will worship toward Your holy temple, and praise Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; for You have magnified Your word above all Your name. Psalm 138:2