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Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. -- Hebrews 1: 1-2 (ESV)
I was asked recently about my views on personal prophecy. We all know this trend within the Charismaniacal churches. Often an itinerant "prophet" will visit a church and give a short teaching followed by the laying on of hands to anyone who wants a "word from the Lord." This word is usually suspiciously vague or extremely personalized. The vague prophecy is often about some great move or shift in the atmosphere that you will be able to move into with some kind of mantle or anointing. The personal variety is often "God showed me" that you will do great and might things in ministry, attain some personal strata you seek after, or expand your territories. Just as feel good sermons are designed to scratch our itching ears, so are such "prophecies."
I put the word prophecies in air quotes because this is not prophecy but rather the cheapening of it. To comprehend fully, we need to understand what prophesy is throughout the Bible. In the Old Testament, the people of God had no Bible from which to hear from God. They had the Torah as read to them and eventually the prophet's writings as well as the historical narrative of their ongoing history. When God wanted to speak directly to His people however, He would speak through a prophet He had chosen. Moses is considered the greatest prophet whoever lived for example. He not only led Israel but he spoke directly to God and conveyed to the people what "thus sayeth the Lord." This trend would continue through Joshua and into the period of judges. All people who led Israel and heard directly from the Lord. Israel would demand a king and the Lord relented leading to Saul, David and Solomon before the Kingdom split into Israel and Judah. These kings heard directly from the Lord themselves and also had the prophets Samuel and Nathan notably. Throughout the era of the split kingdom each had their own prophets as God continued to speak to His people through vessels He had chosen. The consistent factors remained that the prophet heard directly from the Lord to either provide direction for them or for the people as a whole. Because there are no mistakes with God the definitive trait of a prophet was accuracy:
"The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers--it is to him you shall listen--just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, 'Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.' And the Lord said to me, 'They are right in what they have spoken.I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.' And if you say in your heart, 'How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?'-- when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him. -- Deuteronomy 18: 15-22 (ESV)
These are the words of Moses explaining the process Israel must follow once he is no longer with them. They had relied upon his direct words from the Lord since their exodus from Egypt. So he explains that the Lord will raise up another like him who they must listen to. He then explains how to differentiate between the false and the true prophet and the test was always accuracy. If someone claims to speak a prophecy that does not come to pass then you must conclude that this person has spoken presumptuously and can be dismissed as a false prophet. No oopsies and do-overs. Sound harsh? Not at all when you consider that claiming to speak from God is a pretty serious matter. Does God stutter? Is He ever wrong? The answer is an obvious no, so anyone claiming to hear from God who speaks falsely should not be listened to -- period. Beloved this standard has not changed to this day. If someone claims to be hearing from the Lord the only true test is 100 percent accuracy. We should expect nothing less.
This is summed up nicely in the first half of our key verses today. Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke by the prophets. Note the delineation that God makes here through the writer of Hebrews. While this is what occurred long ago, things have changed now in these last days. Does that mean the nature of prophecy has changed? No. Prophecy is clearly marked as a gift of the Spirit and is still the same thing. It means thus sayeth the Lord and it is still to be judged via 100% accuracy. No beloved. What has changed is the mechanism that God now speaks to us through. Whereas in the old days it was via the prophets it is now through His Son Jesus Christ. Note however the past tense usage. In these last days He HAS spoken to us by His Son. This is the Word of God. God has revealed His will for us through His written Word. There is no longer any reason to go chasing a word from the Lord when He has already given us His Word! Do we think God has forgotten to say something? Do we honestly believe that God wrote down the 66 books of the Bible thousands of years ago but now in 2017 just realized something He meant to say? No. As He used to speak through the prophets He now has spoken to us through His Son as reflected in His Word.
So where does this bastardized version of prophecy come from? The New Apostolic Reformation has continued to grow and spread heresies far and wide. Amongst these false teachings is what I refer to as the "False Signs and Lying Wonders" churches. Here there is an over-emphasis on the supernatural and experiential Christianity. This is where you hear about absolutely unbiblical alleged manifestations of the Holy Spirit such as angel feathers, gold dust, gemstones and glory clouds. This is where the Bible is tossed aside for a "personal" revelation and experience of God. Just this week a false apostle, John Eckhardt, said the following about the target of these churches -- millennials:
"Young people are tired of "talking and theology. They are looking for an experience--what I call glory encounters." -- John Eckhardt
There is no such thing as glory encounters beloved. Yes the veil is now torn but glory reveling is not a commonplace occurrence and that cuts closer to the heart of the problem. These churches and teachings cheapen the supernatural move of God. They think so little of the power of God that they actually operate supernatural schools where they pretend to teach people the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which the Bible clearly spells out is impossible:
All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. -- 1Corinthians 12: 11 (ESV)
Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. -- 1Corinthians 12: 29-31 (ESV)
The first verse states unambiguously that only the Spirit wills the gifts. They cannot be taught. The second set of verses has an implied answer within the original text and that answer is "no." Do all speak with tongues? No. Do all interpret? No. The bottom line from Scripture is that not everyone can have any or every gift and only the Holy Spirit decides who gets what. But not according to these charlatans. They firmly believe and teach that everyone can prophesy and by doing so they cheapen it to nothing more than a parlor trick. Prophecy becomes clairvoyance. It essentially is witchcraft. Bethel church teaches their worship leaders to be "prophetic." They accomplish this by chanting as they are leading worship and by spewing out whatever comes up in their heart and assume it is always from the Lord. This is the same way they teach prophecy. The problem is they have abandoned Scripture and are now relying on their heart, which God has specifically warned us about:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? -- Jeremiah 17: 9 (ESV)
Beloved there is a reason why God uses the word deceitful here. He could have just said the heart is wicked but He is making a broader point. The heart's wickedness lies in its deceitful nature. It lies to us all the time and this is what we are supposed to base our prophecies upon? Instead of the Word of God? Beloved please realize that the person "prophesying" may be very well intended but simply taught very poorly. Taught to not respect what thus sayeth the Lord. Let me give you an example. Someone who fancies themselves a prophet told a friend of mine that the Lord said she was going to get a promotion at work that she desired. I am not saying that my friend won't get the promotion. I am just saying that in all likelihood this was not a prophetic word from the Lord. Perhaps the "prophet" wanted to encourage my friend and there is nothing wrong with that. Encouragement is a gift of the Spirit too. The problem is that by attaching prophecy to it, you are claiming God has said this and what God has said always must come to pass. So what happens when it does not come to pass? How many people hear prophetic words from the Lord spoken personally into their lives that never come to pass? Hopefully they just blame the false prophet but many will end up blaming the Lord. Consider these warnings from Peter:
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. -- 2Peter 2: 1-3 (ESV)