I believe that the gift of prophecy is one of the most important gifts of the Holy Spirit. As Christians we need to understand what the gift of prophecy is, and isn’t. How and when to prophesy. And what the purpose of prophecy is.
First off, the gift of prophecy is the Old Testament differs from New Testament prophecy. I’m going to mainly focus on New Testament prophecy because we live in the New Testament. One big difference is in the Old Testament certain men were called to be prophets. In the New Testament we live in God’s promise in Joel 2. He proclaimed “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” Joel 2:28. This prophesy was fulfilled in Acts 2.
The first promise is that God wants to pour out His Spirit upon everyone, young people, old people, sons and daughters, even upon servants who would seem unworthy. There is nothing that can disqualify you. The first result of God pouring out His Spirit is prophecy. Living in the New Testament takes off the limits, everyone has the ability to prophecy. The world we live in is in desperate need of people who prophesy. People are in need of the encouragement and hope that the gift of prophecy brings. I believe that when more people are inspired and empowered to prophesy, depression and anxiety will diminish.
What Is Prophecy?
Prophecy is simply proclaiming God’s Word. Prophecy is not speaking positive, good thoughts or ideas, it is speaking God thoughts. Prophecy is a gift of the Holy Spirit. The gift comes from God, not our own thoughts or will. In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul gives us some great insight into the gift of prophecy. Paul first says that prophecy is for edification, exhortation, and comfort. To edify means to build up and supply a moral uplift. Exhortation is encouragement to do something. And comfort is freedom from pain and confinement. If a prophecy you give or hear is not doing those three things, it’s likely not from God. New Testament prophecy is not the doom and gloom you may find in the Old Testament. Prophecies from God will uplift, encourage and free people all over the earth!
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy1 Corinthians 14:39
Jesus said that there would be many false prophets in our time and that they would deceive many people. He didn’t say that all prophets would be false. There are still many true prophets that hear from God and speak His Word. God’s desire is that His sons and daughters would prophesy.
Here are three simple questions I ask myself about any prophecy: Is this good for me? Is this good for God? Is this supported by the Bible? If a prophetic word lines up with those three, even if it’s not necessarily a word from God, it won’t harm us or take us off track.
Prophetic words are always meant to encourage us. When someone prophesies you should feel at peace. You should experience a deposit of courage within you. Paul told his spiritual son Timothy that the prophetic words he received should be remembered and help him fight the fight of faith (1 Timothy 1:18). Whenever Timothy was feeling discouraged he could bring the prophetic encouragement to his memory and keep moving. Prophecy was what got Timothy through the challenging times.
If you’re feeling stuck or in a rut, remember the words that people have spoken into you. That’s guaranteed to encourage you to push through. Even if it’s a simple word of encouragement, it can spark a new fire within you.
What Did Jesus Say About Prophecy?
While Jesus was here on earth He made it clear that He was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesies. Throughout the Old Testament there were hundreds of prophesies made about Jesus, where He would be born, how He would die, even how much He would be betrayed for. Jesus operated in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, so He was fulfilling prophesies and prophesying into the future.
In John 11 Jesus receives news that His friend Lazarus is sick and dying. Jesus gives a prophetic word that the sickness won’t end in death (John 11:4). It looked like Jesus got this one wrong because when Jesus showed up Lazarus had been dead for four days. I think often when our circumstances don’t line up with prophesies we receive we start doubting God. When Jesus showed up and told Martha that the sickness wouldn’t end in death, Martha tried to tone down what Jesus prophesied. “Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’” John 11:24.
Even though Lazarus was dead, God wasn’t done. The prophecy Jesus made came to pass and Lazarus’ sickness didn’t end in death.
Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over My word to perform it.”Jeremiah 1:12
Our role is to prophesy the Word of God, and believe. God’s desire is to give us His Word. God puts His Word in our mouth. He could do whatever He wants, but God’s greatest desire is for relationship with us. Right before Jesus called Lazarus out of the grave He told Martha “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” John 11:40. Our role is not to fulfill the prophecy. God is the one who fulfills the Word, but we need to believe. Because our believing will also change our behavior, we don’t sit on the couch saying we believe. True belief changes our actions to line them up with our faith.