Is Prophesying for Today?

Tags: Spiritual Gifts, Revival
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Is Prophesying for Today?
Is Prophesying for Today? will take you through the Scriptures to help you understand what prophesying is, and how it applies today.

Is Prophesying for Today?

Within Christendom (that is, among Christians), there are a variety of sorts. There is the sort that prophesies, and there is the sort that does not. There is the sort that says, “These things were for yester-year,” and there is the sort that says, “These things are for today.” I’m not sure what sort you are, but I hope you are of the biblical sort. The biblical sort says we are in the last days, which, by Bible definition, is roughly defined as being that period of time starting from the ascension of Christ, to the return of Christ — yes, a period of some 2000 or more years. This comes from Hebrews 1:1-2, which refers to the time period after Christ’s ascension as “these last days.”

And so that is good enough for me (and I hope for you, too). So if anyone asks you, “Do you think we are in the last days?” The correct answer is, “Yes, of course!” That is the Bible definition. Even if you did not believe that Jesus was coming back for another 1000 years, it wouldn’t really matter. We are still in “the last days” according to the Bible, because we are in that time period after Jesus ascended. Also, in Hebrews 1:1-2, it doesn’t overtly limit the “last days” to being when Jesus returns. It is possible that the “last days” extends right up to the final judgment, which is at least 1000 years after Jesus returns (see Revelation 20:6-7).

The same term, “the last days,” is also used in Acts, referring to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, in which Peter quotes the prophet Joel, saying,

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17-18, KJV)

This quote comes from Joel 2:28-29. I’m mentioning this, because I want to demonstrate to you that, according to the Bible, prophesying is for today. If, after reading this, you still do not believe that prophesying is for today, it’s because you have been taught one of three lies, and you have embraced at least one of those lies, and are living by them. Let’s go through the lies that may stop you from believing that prophesying is for today (because you will certainly not find them in the Bible). If anything, you will find a skewed or perverted representation of the word of God upholding those lies, but you will not find the word of God itself teaching that prophesying is not for today.

Lie #1: “I’ve Not Seen It”

One lie is that because you have not seen anyone prophesy, it must not be for today. That’s not very good evidence, though. Most of us have not seen the Lord himself crucified on a cross, yet we believe he was crucified for us. In fact, most people reading this are “betting their life” on this! Thomas is sometimes called “doubting Thomas,” because he doubted the resurrection of Jesus. He wanted physical evidence. But Jesus answered him, saying,

“Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen, and have believed.” (See John 20:29)

We must treat the gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as prophesying, in this same manner. We cannot denounce their existence because we have not personally seen them. It’s contra everything that is taught in the Bible. Believers are called “believers” because of their faith. We are to have faith in God, and trust in his word. It should be faith that is consistent with reason, and the Bible is indeed that, if we take the time to examine it carefully. True enough, sometimes the Bible may seem difficult to understand, and some people misinterpret it, because it is not being properly taught. We are to “rightly divide” the word of truth, the Bible says (see 2 Timothy 2:15). It takes practice. It takes discipline. But not seeing it is certainly not a valid argument for denying its existence.

Lie #2: “It Never Works Out”

The second lie you may have been taught is that prophesying is not for today because any time you have seen or heard someone prophesy, it has not worked out. In other words, they got it wrong. Yet many people get a lot of things wrong, like accounting. How many people have made mistakes in accounting? Probably everyone has made an accounting error. I certainly have. I don’t think there is a person alive today who has not made an accounting error. I also don’t think there is a person alive today who could honestly say, “Accounting is not for today.”

Or, on a more practical level (especially since you are a Christian), think about all those colleges and institutions you have heard of, that teach preachers how to preach, or pastors how to pastor. There are many of them. My point is not that everyone needs to attend a Bible school (though it may not be a bad idea). Paul did, and Peter did not, and God used them both. But ultimately, training of some sort is required in order to be effective at preaching. Peter was trained for three years with Jesus at his side. And I think that if you have Jesus at your side for three years, you will certainly learn! It’s better than any college degree, I can assure you!

Today, we really need Jesus at our side, in order to teach us some of the fundamentals of the faith. I think we’ve lost some of those. Some of the religious institutions, as well, are really not flowing in the Holy Spirit. Doctrines of men (that are contrary to the doctrines of God) have taken over. That’s like having Jesus by your side part of the time, and Satan by your side the other part of your time.

Because people have gotten prophesy wrong so often is not an indication that prophesy is not for today. Instead, it’s an indication that there has been some terrible training. I was at a prayer meeting, and we were gathered around this man whose wife was very sick. About four men there said, “Your wife will get healed.” And then she died. This does not prove that prophesy is not real, or that people, when properly trained, cannot or should not, prophesy. What it does prove is that there needs to be better teaching. Much of that is missing from our pulpits. In churches that deny that prophesy is for today, it is entirely missing.

False prophets have no concern for genuine repentance (see, for example, Lamentations 2:14 and 2 Timothy 4:3). They are not the ones who simply made errors. Even the prophet Samuel, who anointed king David, presumed that Eliab, the son of Jesse, was to be chosen as the king of Israel. God had to correct him.

When they had come, he looked at Eliab, and said, “Surely Yahweh’s anointed is before him.” (1 Samuel 16:6)

And now for God’s correction:

But Yahweh said to Samuel, “Don’t look on his face, or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for I don’t see as man sees. For man looks at the outward appearance, but Yahweh looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

I am not excusing bad behavior. What I am saying is that the false prophets have deliberate, malicious, intent to deceive. They are “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” Jesus said (see Matthew 7:15). That speaks of intent. They are deliberately malicious in their intent.

It’s very important to distinguish between intent to deceive, and error. If someone is in error, pray for their correction. Offer them better teaching. But don’t condemn them as a false prophet. I will tell you why. I could do the same for every conservative preacher (and there are thousands) who say that prophesying is not for today. I could charge them with repeatedly breaking the ninth commandment,

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:9)

The reason why I could charge these preachers with repeatedly breaking the ninth commandment —even from the pulpit, as they are preaching— is because they are bearing false witness of the their greatest neighbour of all, God, who says that prophesying is for today. But when they say it’s not, they are bearing false witness of God himself. Who’s the liar — God, or these preachers? Even at that, I do not call them “false preachers,” but “preachers who are in error.” There’s a big difference between a false preacher, and a preacher who’s mistaken. And there’s a big difference between a false prophet, and a prophet who’s mistaken.

Standards of Judgment

I would also like to talk about the standards by which you would rate someone. If someone is in training, you would rate them a certain way. But if someone is mature, you would rate them more strictly. That’s reasonable. In the Bible, when the angel came to Zacharias (the father of John the Baptist), and when Zacharias doubted (see Luke 1:18), he was chastised severely for doubting, and smitten with muteness until such time as the baby was born (see Luke 1:20). Think about that! At any time, if God so willed, he could smite us with muteness. But when the exact same angel (Gabriel) visited the virgin Mary after that, and she questioned how she could become pregnant without a man (see Luke 1:34), she was not smitten with muteness at all, but rather, the angel explained to her that the Holy Spirit would overshadow her, and she would conceive, and bear the Son of God (see Luke 1:35). A completely different response was given to Zacharias (the senior leader in the Lord) and Mary (the junior apprentice in the Lord) for questioning the angel’s words.

My point here is that when you are younger in the Lord, or if proper training has not been provided, God may easily overlook your sins, your doubts, and your fears, and be less strict. But as we get older, and as we mature, we are expected to study, and know these things. Do not judge a junior prophet by the standards of a senior one, even as you would not judge a junior apprentice in the same way that you would judge a senior one.

D. L. Moody

No one would deny that given the right school, that a person who went to study to become a preacher would become a better preacher. D. L. Moody, an exceptionally talented and gifted preacher, established the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Why did he do it? He founded it because he knew the value of education, and many good preachers have come out of Moody Bible Institute. No one would deny that a good school can help produce a good preacher. But sometimes people do deny the need for training when it comes to the gift of prophesy. Why? The standard for those who prophesy should be no different than those who teach. Both should require training. I did not say they needed to attend a Bible institute.

Old Testament Standards

Sometimes, what happens is that those living in the New Testament reach back to the Old Testament in order to judge a New Testament prophet. For example, in the Old Testament, you would stone someone who uttered a false prophecy. But so, too, would you stone someone who dishonored his father (see Leviticus 20:9, Deuteronomy 21:18-21). And so, too, would you stone someone who committed adultery (Leviticus 20:10). And so, too, would you stone someone for picking up sticks on the Sabbath (see Numbers 15:32-36).

By those Old Testament standards, I think we might all be dead by now. I once was actually pretty angry with God for causing that man who picked up sticks on the Sabbath to die. I said, “God, why did you do that!?” I was infuriated. I was going through a terrible time, and my picture of God was not being helped by that image of that man being stoned for picking up sticks on the Sabbath. Then, I heard a voice speak to me. I believe it was the voice of God. God actually answered me when I asked him, “Why did you do that!?” He answered me within just about a second. Here’s what I distinctly heard him say to me: “I didn’t want to.”

This addresses the same issue with regards to people going to hell. God does not will it. For we read,

The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some count slowness; but is patient with us, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

So when God said those words, “I didn’t want to,” it addressed his heart, and his perfect will — not his permissive will. God will let you go to hell, but he doesn’t want you to go there. He even commanded that a man be stoned for breaking the Sabbath, but it was not a reflection of his heart. Why then did he do it?

Law & Grace

The Bible says,

For the law was given through Moses. Grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)

Did not the law come from God? Why does it say it was given through Moses? Yes, the law came from God, but it was delivered to the people through Moses. And Moses is a reflection of the seriousness of breaking the law. Moses is not a reflection of God’s heart. Do you understand? Therefore, the Bible says, “For the law was given through Moses. Grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.”

It’s very important to understand this. The law is not a reflection of God’s heart towards you. Therefore, do not look to it in order to try and understand God’s love. You will fail miserably if you do. You will think God is mean and cruel. He is none of that, but he is just. So then why did God command that a man be stoned for breaking the Sabbath? It was to demonstrate his justice. Unfortunately, that man died as a result of it, but everyone learned about God’s justice and it proved to be a valuable lesson for the entire nation of Israel. Sometimes, life is like that. What you go through today is not because God does not love you, but because God is establishing you as a “lesson” for other people to learn from. Because you are under grace and not law, God does not mean for these lessons to bring you to death, but to life. Even in the Old Testament, God did not prefer death. I hope that is obvious. In case it is not obvious, I will quote these passages.

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore choose life, that you may live, you and your descendants; to love Yahweh your God, to obey his voice, and to cling to him; for he is your life, and the length of your days; that you may dwell in the land which Yahweh swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)

“For I have no pleasure in the death of the dying,” declares the Lord Yahweh. “And so repent and live!” (Ezekiel 18:32, LEB)

Both of these passages, and many more like them, were written long before Jesus Christ was born of a virgin. They come from the Old Testament. The Old Testament God is the same as the New Testament God (see Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8). However, Israel was chosen by God to represent him, and his law, and so the revelation of the law came through Moses. That was by God’s decree. We are not immune from the law today, but we are under grace. Since Jesus Christ has been revealed, and since his righteous blood has been shed on the cross (in accordance with Isaiah 53, which is all about him), we are now under grace.

Having said all this, there will still be a final judgment. But for those who have received Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, they have been granted an eternal pardon, based on the shed blood of Jesus Christ at the cross. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment —or the “anti-type”— of all of the Old Testament blood sacrifices. The Old Testament blood sacrifices (of bulls, goats, sheep, etc) were only a “type” or “shadow” of the promise (see Hebrews 10:4). The promise itself was realized in Jesus Christ. As John the Baptist said,

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (See John 1:29.)

We are living in the New Testament times, and not in Old Testament times. If we were living in Old Testament times, we would be judged according to the standards of the law, and not according to grace. Therefore, New Testament prophets are not to be judged in the same manner as Old Testament prophets. It is a dangerous and fallacious argument to be judging New Testament prophets according to Old Testament standards, otherwise, we would likely all be dead. This now brings us to the third lie which you may have been taught, or led to believe, as to why prophesy is purportedly not for today.

Lie #3: “The Bible Teaches Against It”

We have already seen that God says in his word that sons and daughters will prophesy in the last days (see Acts 2:17-18, Joel 2:28-29, Hebrews 1:1-2). But it seems like whenever God says something, the devil likes to answer back! This happened in the Garden of Eden. The devil (who spoke through the serpent), said to Eve,

“Has God really said, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?’” (See Genesis 3:1.)

So that’s how the devil does it. He questions God’s word. He puts forth a reason (which is always a lie) as to why God’s word is not to be believed. “Drop it,” the devil says. “It will do you not good.” But Jesus exposed the devil, and said, concerning him, that he

“does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks on his own; for he is a liar, and its father.” (See John 8:44)

On this note, I would like to present to you the lie that the devil has brought forth in this generation to establish his lie that prophesying is not for today. It’s his “best effort” but it’s a pretty cheap one, at that. But it’s actually very surprising to see how many tens of thousands —even millions— of believers, have embraced this lie, “hook, line, and sinker,” so as to discount prophesy. We know the devil is very good at twisting Scripture, to try and make it say something that it does not say, because he twisted Scripture when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness. He said to Jesus,

“If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will put his angels in charge of you.’ and, ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you do not dash your foot against a stone.’” (See Matthew 4:6)

In this, the devil was quoting Psalm 91:11-12, except that he twisted it to mean that God will unconditionally protect you, and ensure your safety, no matter what foolishness you engage in. Clearly, the devil perverts God’s word, and tries to make it say something God never intended. For this reason, we are warned in the Bible to “rightly divide the word of truth” (see 2 Timothy 2:15). It’s important to understand how important this is, because we can really make the Bible say anything, if we take it out of context. Today, there are many people who have been taken captive the devil, in their understanding of 1 Corinthians 13:8, which says,

“but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away” (1 Corinthians 13:8, KJV).

If you did not know the context, and you were very simplistic in your faith, not caring to check anything out at all, like the Bereans did (who were diligent, see Acts 17:11), you might be easily persuaded to accept a blind definition of this verse as meaning that prophecies, tongues, and (ostensibly words of) knowledge (another revelatory gift found in 1 Corinthians 12:7-10), are no longer for today.

Paul says, “they shall cease” (or “vanish away” as the KJV puts it). I don’t think anyone is doubting they will cease, but the question is when. This is actually answered in the next two verses.

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. (1 Corinthians 13:9-10, KJV)

So the answer is, “when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” If this is confusing, then verse 12 explains it more fully.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12, KJV)

Perhaps, in order to get a sense of this passage better, we can quote from another version.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12, ESV)

The fact is, today, “we see in a mirror dimly” — meaning we do not have complete knowledge. Even Elisha, who was a great prophet of God, said to his servant Gehazi, concerning the Shunammite woman whose son had died,

“Leave her alone; for her soul is troubled within her; and Yahweh has hidden it from me, and has not told me.” (See 2 Kings 4:27)

And Jesus sometimes hides things from us, perhaps in order to make us more dependent upon him, and to lessen our pride, which is still active in our unregenerate flesh. For we read of the disciples,

They understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they didn’t understand the things that were said. (Luke 18:34)

And so God conceals things, even today, because it is not the time for full disclosure. The time for full revelation will come, but only after we have received our glorified bodies, and not before. For now, “we see in a mirror dimly,” Paul says (see 1 Corinthians 13:12). In 1 Corinthians 13:12, that time when “I shall know fully” is undoubtedly referring to after I have received my glorified body. It’s the same time as when I shall see Jesus “face to face” (see 1 Corinthians 13:12). Yet many ignore it, and in so doing have fallen into,

“the devil’s snare, having been taken captive by him to his will” (see 2 Timothy 2:26).

Their explanation, which does not bear witness with the Bible or the Holy Spirit, is that “that which is perfect” (see 1 Corinthians 13:10) refers to the completion of the Bible. That’s impossible, based on what we have just seen. For people to blatantly ignore this will only invite misery in the end. It’s time to repent of these false teachings.

So God’s word in no way indicates that prophesy, or any of the revelatory gifts, are restricted today. On the contrary, even as Peter preached,

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17-18, KJV)

Therefore, if it is so, it is so. Embrace it, and start to learn how to do it. This is the challenge for God’s people in this day and age.

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