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Biblical Prophecy
 
 
Prophecy and the Bible

Foundation Scripture: 2 Peter 1:21 "For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." The scriptures did not stem merely from the prophets themselves, their writings came from God.

The Apostles and Prophets were recorders of what God said, and wrote it down. They were moved by the Holy Spirit: They were impelled or borne along by Godís Spirit. "Borne along" or "carried along" translates the word Pheromenoi. Luke used this word in referring to a sailing vessel carried along by the wind (Acts 27:15, 17). What they wrote was thus inspired by God.

Paul affirms in 2 Timothy 3:16, that all scripture is God-breathed (Theopneustis "inspired"), that is, Godís words were given through men directed by the Holy Spirit. The human writers were controlled by the divine author, the Holy Spirit. Yet they were consciously involved in the process; they were neither taking dictation nor writing in a state of ecstasy. The author of the Bible is God Himself.

Who can prophesy:

We all can move in prophecy to one degree or another. It is not dependent on us, to be classified as prophets. In our church meetings there are times when the Holy Spirit manifests Himself in such a way that there is a literal release of prophetic words. We could term this a release of "the spirit of prophecy". At such times, even those who do not regularly prophecy will find that they can do so.

Prophecy is like a swimming pool. There is a shallow end and a deeper end. The shallow end, all can use safely. This is inspirational prophecy (which is to encourage, build up and comfort people). It is non-directive, not correctional and seeks to bless people and glorify the Lord in simple terms.

After the shallow end, there is a middle and a deeper end, where the water gets progressively deeper. So it is in prophecy. The middle and deeper end is for the prophetic ministry and the office of the prophet.

When we begin to prophecy, we should not try to see ourselves as prophets, or even as someone who has a prophetic ministry. Prophecy is a gift which we should expect to be poured out liberally during the age of the Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28032; Acts 2:17-18).

How does prophecy come?

A. Visions: many times God spoke to the prophets through visions. They often declared what they had seen. God even asked a number of them to describe what they saw (Jeremiah 1:11, 13; Amos 7:8, 8:2) are examples of God asking this question to two prophets. Peter also saw a vision in (Acts 10:9-17). There are different types of visions. There is the simple inner picture which is painted on a personís spirit, mind or imagination. Then there is what is sometimes termed as an open vision, where the picture is as real and tangible as anything in the physical realm. The vision is seen clearly with the eyes opened or closed.

B. Dreams: God spoke to Pharaoh in a dream which only Joseph could interpret the same thing happened with King Nebuchadnezzar, which only Daniel could understand. Joseph had a dream about Mary (Matthew 1:20)

C. Ordinary everyday things: Sometimes God speaks to us in ordinary everyday life by the things that are around us, or by what we may see. God spoke to Jeremiah (18:1-6) while he was watching a potter engaged in his daily work.

D. Natural Occurrences: Natural events like the weather and animals: In the Book of Joel (1:4-12) God used the locusts and the drought to speak to the people.

E. Use of scripture: Scripture can be an aid to prophecy. Sometimes God will give me a scripture verse for a person, or I will give them the scripture verse along with prophecy. The scripture verse seems to be like a "springboard" sometimes into prophecy. Obviously, if the word of prophecy goes against the teaching of the Bible, it is not a word from God. God does not contradict Himself.

Conditional and Unconditional Prophecy

Conditional Prophecy:

Conditional prophecy is always based on "conditions to complete." If you will do this, I (God) will do that. See 2 Chronicles 7:14-22. If my people will humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear them from heaven and forgive their sins and heal their land. 7:19-22) But if you donít follow me, refuse my laws, and worship idols, I will destroy my people, this temple, and drive you from this land. Here the word for you is plural. Also see Jeremiah 18:7-12, verse 7 (if), verse 8 (if), verse 9 (if), verse 10 (if). Four ifs (if . . . if . . . if . . . if . . . if) NIV Bible. A nation (or person) to whom God has promised His blessing may forfeit it through disobedience.

Example of a person who forfeited Godís blessings through disobedience was King Saul. In 1 Samuel 10, Saul was chosen to be King. But in 1 Samuel 13:8-14; 15: 1-33, because he disobeyed God and His word, God rejected him as king. King Saul failed to receive the full fulfillment of his "prophecy" because of his disobedience. His kingdom would not continue, nor would his descendants carry on his dynasty as kings (1 Samuel 13:13-14).

Personal prophecy always refers to the possibility that it could happen, not that it will happen (See Isaiah 1:19-20). There is always something for us to do in personal prophecy. Conditional prophecy depends upon manís response for fulfillment. As we have seen, all personal prophecy is conditional.

Unconditional Prophecy:

Unconditional prophecy depends solely on God Himself for the fulfillment. Normally it relates to the overview of His plans and purposes for mankind as a whole. The rise and fall of nations, the reign of Kings and sovereigns, the coming of the Messiah as prophesied in the Old Testament, are some unconditional prophecies. There have been times when the Lord has spoken out His purposes for nations through His prophets.

For example, there is Danielís interpretation of Nebuchadnezzarís dream in Daniel 2:26-45, of the rise and fall of four Gentile nations. This is unconditional prophecy, because it depends entirely on Godís power for fulfillment. It does not

matter what these nations do, or donít do. When God decrees a change of government, then the governments must change. Nothing and no-one can prevent that from happening (Daniel 2:21).

In Isaiah 44:28; 45:1-3, 13, Cyrus, a foreign emperor is called "his anointed" (45:1) just as he is called "my shepherd" (44:28) because God has appointed him to carry out a divine commission in his role as King (45:13).

In Ezra 1:1-4, Cyrus lets the exiles of Babylon return back to Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar is similarly called "my servant" (Jeremiah 25:9; 27:6; 43:10).

In Isaiah 66:7-9, Isaiah predicted that Israel would be reborn in a day. In 586 B.C. Israel was conquered by Babylon and no longer ceased to be a nation. From 586 B.C. to 1948 A.D., that is over 2,500 years Israel ceased to be a nation. No other ancient nation ever ceased to exit for a period that long, and their return to takes its place on the stage of world history.

On November 29, 1947, the United Nations took a vote and declared Israel a nation again. On May 15, 1948, the British mandate officially ends and Israel became an independent nation. Israel came into existence in "one day" just like Isaiah said it would.

The Old Testament Prophecies that were fulfilled in the life of Jesus. There are many, we will show only one as an example: Old Testament prediction (Micah 5:2) the New Testament fulfillment (Matthew 2:1).

Unconditional prophecy is dependent only upon Godís power and purpose, which cannot be stopped. Occasionally it may be postponed for awhile, but it cannot be cancelled.

Judging and Weighing Prophecy

We must do our best to weigh the prophecy against the general context of scripture. In the event of a clash, between choosing prophecy or the scripture; we must always abandon the prophecy in favor of scripture, the revealed will of God.

We must be careful that "biblical revelation" does not contradict the Bible, but is in accord with Godís word. Whenever prophecy contradicts or challenges Christian

doctrine and foundational truth, then the prophecy must be renounced, obviously, if it clearly goes against the teaching of the scriptures, it is not a word from God.

God does not contradict Himself. We need to "Weigh the Word". It is wrong and foolish to receive anything and everything which is given in the name of the Lord. A general principle by which to operate is to reject a prophecy only if it is clearly wrong. Otherwise we can keep a prophecy "on file" as clarity might come at a later date.

I would encourage people to have a shelf where they can put words that they do not understand or that have no application for where they are in life at that moment. If God has spoken something, it will be revealed in the fullness of time.

What are some practical guidelines for prophecy?

1. Donít receive "parking lot prophecy" or prophecy in a corner by yourself: Parking lot prophecy is when someone gets you away by yourself to give you "a prophecy". Donít let any "lone ranger" person prophecy over you. You are neither to receive, nor give prophecy in that manner.

2. There should be leadership around to hear and judge the Word. For this reason, any delivery of prophecy which includes overseers from gaining access to the words spoken, and also to the speaker of those words, is dangerous and out of order. For this reason, private prophecy is dangerous and to be avoided. Donít let anyone give you prophecy without leadership present.

3. We should be very careful about trying to give too many details, especially in the early stages of developing a prophetic gift. This applies to areas such as: who they will marry, the giving of dates, places, names and so forth. God can lead you into this if He chooses, but it is not advisable to begin with those areas of specifics.

4. Write out, or record prophecy if you can. Unrecorded prophecy has little value. The important details can be forgotten, or open to misunderstanding, because we are relying on our memory instead of an accurate record.

Isaiah received specific instructions to write his words down (Isaiah 30:8) "write it on a tablet and inscribe it on a scroll. That it may serve in the time to come as a witness forever."

Habakkuk (2:2-3) was told to record the vision. Jeremiah 30:2 was told to "write down all the words I have spoken to you in a book."

Many prophets had secretaries and associates who were scribes. Jeremiah had Baruch write out his words for him. (Jeremiah 45:1). Peter employed Silas as his secretary (1 Peter 5:12).

5. Make preparation for the word at the appropriate time. After the prophecy comes the training and preparation. We must prepare ourselves for when God fulfils the word, but our role is not to outwork His word and make sure it happens. God must be the initiator; however, we are not to be passive. Our place is to cooperate with God.

With all words, there is timing for their fulfillment; and if we are going to be ready we need to prepare ourselves. It is spiritually true, that the future belongs to those who prepare for it.

In Genesis 41:28-54 is a good example. Joseph told Pharaoh his dream meant seven years of good crops, followed by seven years of famine. Joseph told Pharaoh to gather the crops and store them; during the seven years of good crops (41:34-36, 47-49).

In (41:53-57) it says there were crop failures in all the surrounding countries and world; but in Egypt, there was plenty of grain in the storehouses. There was so much grain, that people came from all over the world to buy it from Egypt.

Often the fulfillment takes a long time to take place, but when it does, it often takes place very rapidly. This is why preparing ourselves is vital. Let me give you an example. If God spoke prophetically to someone about their future ministry being in a certain country, then the wrong response for that person would try to open as many doors as possible into that country. God is the one who must open the door, not you.

However, there would come a time when that person would need to get acquainted with the culture, and perhaps even learn the language of that country. That would be making preparations for the fulfillment. During this time, as they prayed over God giving them a connection in that nation, they should be actively waiting for God to open the door.

When the door finally opened, it would have been God who outworked the prophecy, but it was they who prepared themselves. They were ready to go through the door that God had opened. So in order to see prophecy fulfilled, we need to do our part by preparing ourselves, and then God can do His part in fulfilling the prophecy.

6. I donít have to do anything. Many people believe when they get a prophecy, "they wonít have to do anything at all, that God is going to do it all for them." Wrong, the lack of response, a sinful lifestyle, or a lack of preparation can cancel, or greatly reduce what the prophecy said, and what God is going to do.

Timing and Preparation

Timing is the most difficult thing to get right in prophecy, in both the delivery and the out-working. Most people when they get a prophecy, want to know when will it happen? The answer to that question is, probably as soon as you are ready.

But letís look in the Bible for some examples. Joseph waited around (15-20) years for his prophecy to be fulfilled. Abraham waited 25 ears for his son Isaac, and David waited around (15-20) years about being king come to pass. There is always a gap (or wait) between the prophetic promise and the fulfillment. During this wait, prepare yourself; donít "just do nothing."

Donít try to go out and fulfill your prophecy:

In Genesis 12:3 Abram was told by God, that He would create a great nation through him. And again in Genesis 13:16, God promises to multiply Abramís descendants, "as the dust of the earth." Then again in Genesis 15: 1-5 God told Abram that his descendants would be like the stars in the sky. Meaning, too many to be counted.

But, in Genesis 16:1-4, 15 after Abram had dwelt in the land ten years, Abram and his wife decide to take matters into their own hands. They thought, we have waited long enough for God to "do something". So they decide to "help God out". Abram has a child by Hagar, and calls him Ishmael. Abram had gotten ahead of Godís right timing.

Many of us also get ahead of Godís timing in prophecy, and try to help God out. Donít! If you try to help God out, you will produce an Ishmael (something of the flesh) and not an Isaac (something from God). God is never in a hurry, but is always on time.

Prophecy will test us:

Oddly enough, a prophecy will give us positive highlights about our future role or tasks, but may say nothing about any pitfalls we may encounter; or the tests we will be facing. It is a common feature of major directional prophecy that speaks to our future, vision and ministry, that soon after it is given, "the sky falls in and the bottom drops out of our world". Everything goes wrong!

Joseph shared his two prophetic dreams with his brothers and father (Genesis 37: 5-11). A short time later, his brothers flung him into a pit. From there the nightmare continued, when they sold him into slavery and he was brought to Egypt. Finally, he ended up in prison.

Eventually, he was freed and became the Prime Minister of Egypt under Pharaoh. Then, after 15-20 years after have spoken his prophetic dream to his family, it was finally fulfilled in its entirety.

When David was anointed by Samuel to be king (in time) in 1 Samuel 16; there was no mention that King Saul would be chasing him and wanting to kill him. David waited 15-20 years for his prophecy to be fulfilled.

There are different categories of prophetic words:

A Now Word

This means that the prophecy is speaking to a current situation. If it was given to an individual, then it would be speaking of this phase of the personís life. Many times there might have been references to past events, because such events often affect a personís life and his or her perception of God in the present.

A Future Word

This is where the prophecy is speaking of things that will take place in the future. A future word is not given so that we can have our curiosity quelled (suppress) regarding the future, but so that God can help is prepare for what lies ahead.

Sometimes a prophecy might be referring to future events, even if the tenses used are not future tenses. For example, Gideon received a prophetic word that related to his future, although the angel of the Lord spoke it in the present tense. "The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor." (Judges 6:12)

At this point in Gideonís life, he was anything but a mighty warrior. In Judges 6:15 he tells the angel, "my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my fatherís house." His view, though, is just as sure and certain as the present tense in which He speaks, because He sees the end from the beginning. Godís view of the future is not the same as ours. The fulfillment might still be in the future, but the outcome is certain.

A Confirmatory Word

There is a scriptural principle that facts need to be confirmed through the mouth of two or three witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15; Matthew 18:16). This would seem to be a pattern of the way God speaks.

Many times a prophetic word will give clear confirmation regarding a situation, an issue or a choice that is being made. This confirmatory word does not necessarily confirm previous prophetic words. It might simply be confirming something which is currently being experienced.

New Words

God can speak words to us which are entirely new. The Lord has things in His heart for us that have never entered into our minds. We could never think, or imagine it at all (1 Corinthians 2:9). It opens up new areas and created opportunities for us to serve God in other ways. The new word may have little or no link with the present.

Sometimes it can be so far off into the future that it can be difficult for us to even to comprehend it. If this occurs, we need to wait and allow God, in his own way, to

confirm that the new words are from Him. We would be foolish to adjust the whole course of our lives immediately around one new word.

Rather, we should wait and allow God to confirm the reality of this new word. Obviously there are overlaps between all the categories especially between a now/ confirming word and future/new word, and all shades in between. Some prophecies can contain elements of all four categories.

If you donít prepare for the future now, then you wonít have much of a future later. Psalm 75 says, "Promotion comes from the Lord." David wrote many of the Psalms while he was being chased by King Saul. Donít try to fulfill the prophecy yourself. David could have fulfilled his own prophecy twice by killing Saul, but he didnít (1 Samuel 24, 26).

Prophecy to Godís People Everywhere

?Oh listen to the word of the Lord my people, hear it all nations.? saith God. ?Yea indeed, your life is like a book that is divided up by chapters. Many times when I (God) desire to close one chapter and open up a new chapter, there is resistance from the person.?

Yes, I desire to move you from your Ącomfort zone‟ to the Ąunknown zone.‟ Don‟t get too content or complacent, or satisfied or secure where you are at right now, because for many of you, I want to close this one chapter and write another.?

Like the life of Moses, it was divided up into three main chapters.

First Chapter: 40 years living in Egypt, in Pharaohís household

Second Chapter: 40 years living in the desert of Midian taking care of sheep

Third Chapter: the last 40 years, delivered the nation of Israel from slavery in Egypt, and because of their wilderness.

At the end of chapter two of Mosesí life, God was ready to close chapter two, and begin writing chapter three. God told Moses that He was sending Moses to Pharaoh to deliver the nation of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. Moses first excuse was. "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt".

What Moses was really telling God was, God I am only a shepherd taking care of sheep. What can I do or say. Moses then went on making up more excuses to God,

why he couldnít or shouldnít go. "O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither a good speaker." Moses finally told God to "please send someone else". In all of Mosesí excuses, he is thinking in terms of his resources, and only what "he can do".

God would tell you, I donít want to hear any more excuses why you canít go or do what I ask you.

But here you say, "Here am I, send me. Iíll go wherever you want to send me, and do whatever you want me to do."

?And surely as you go, you will be empowered by my Holy Spirit and power. It won‟t be by your power, but by my power.? says God, "Not by your might, but by my might says God. And not by your strength, but by my strength you will do it.?

?Also know this, you will only be empowered when you go and do what I ask. If you don‟t go and do what I ask, you will not be empowered, you will not be empowered, you will not be empowered.? saith God.