What is Biblical Prophecy?

Christian Life & Theology, Podcast Episodes

In this episode Phylicia breaks down biblical prophecy: What is it? How do we identify it? How does it go astray and how do we discern a biblical prophetic word from a false one? We will look at modern false prophecy in the world (psychics) and in the church (false teachers) and the process Jesus gave for handling such people.


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Welcome to Verity podcast. I’m your host Phylicia Masonheimer, and I am here to teach you how to know what you believe, to live it boldly, and to communicate it graciously to the world around you. I believe that women are ready to go deeper in their faith than ever before and they don’t have to go to seminary to do it. I am so glad you’re here and I hope you’ll join me on this journey because every woman is a theologian.

Hi friends, welcome back to Verity podcast. Today we’re talking about a topic that is much requested. It’s a topic of prophecy, modern day prophecy, biblical prophecy and false prophecy. How do we understand prophecy in the Bible and how does it translate to today? So to start out, let’s define prophecy because this is really at the heart of everything we’re going to be talking about in this episode.

What even is prophecy? So here’s a succinct definition. I kind of took this from multiple sources as I read multiple sources about prophecy today, and this cohesively describes and sums up what it is. Prophecy is the speaking, writing or communicating of a message from God to another person or the congregation of the church. So the inner movement of the spirit of God in an individual is then expressed to someone else. So the Holy Spirit brings to mind something that that person needs to hear and you say it. And of course, as we’ll get into in this episode, it will align fully with scripture. But the Holy Spirit speaking from one person through that person to another is prophecy. 

So it’s important to realize when we’re talking about modern day prophecy, that it is a gift of the Holy Spirit as we just articulated, but it does not add on to the canon of scripture. So any revelation that is being received from God to be communicated to other people is going to align with the canon of scripture. It’s not going to add anything new. So basically, prophecy today in the new covenant of Jesus Christ is not like Isaiah or Ezekiel. It’s expressing the truths of God in scripture and applying them to a specific individual or person. So I’ll give some examples later in this episode, but hopefully that gives a little bit of the difference between what is considered biblical prophecy, as in the kind of prophecy that the major and minor prophets were expressing, John the Baptist and New Testament prophecy as described in 1 Corinthians 14. 

Now, for the sake of this episode, I’m actually going to read 1 Corinthians 14. This passage comes on the heels of the famous love passage. Love is patient, love is kind in 1 Corinthians 13. And it goes into more details on what should be happening in the church in regard to spiritual gifts. The context of one corinthians is a church that is adopting a lot of cultural behaviors. It’s descending into chaos. And so this letter is very long, and Paul is writing to the Corinthian church to say, basically, get it together. There needs to be some order, there needs to be some reverence here, but the spiritual gifts still apply. And so here’s what he says. 14 verse 1. Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the spirit, especially prophecy. For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people, but to God. Indeed, no one understands them. They utter mysteries by the spirit. But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging, and comfort. Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets so that the church may be edified. 

We’ll pause here because the rest of this section begins to focus more on tongues and their proper use and good order of worship. I want to skip ahead to verse 29, which is talking about how to communicate prophecy in the church. Verse 29 says, two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets, for God is not a God of disorder, but of peace, as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people. So based on this passage alone, we see that Paul wanted the people of the church to prophesy. Why? Because it’s communicating the truths of God, a message of God to individuals and to the congregation so that they grow in the Holy Spirit and in adherence to the word.

Spirit and truth magazine puts it this way. To fully understand prophetic action, it is important to realize that messages from God can be very subtle, sometimes relating his love for us or his greatness. So in this particular article, which we’ll return to in a moment in Spirit and Truth magazine, they’re articulating that what is communicated prophetically might be subtle, or it might be very specific. It’s spirit led, and the audience is supposed to understand and act on whatever truth is being brought to them, whatever conviction of the Holy Spirit is being brought to them by the person with the prophetic gifting. So what’s the difference between hearing the Holy Spirit speak to you and knowing that it’s a prophecy to be shared with somebody else? Well, the spirit might speak and lead you, but it doesn’t become a prophecy or to be communicated unless you’re called to communicate that to another person. So if you are speaking and praying with the Lord and he convicts you, you need to communicate this specific verse to this person, and you then go and do that. That’s considered a prophetic word. Now, if you grew up in a denomination where prophecy was considered a gift that ceased, no longer applied, they might use a different word for it. But in denominations that are continuationist, that believe these gifts still exist today, then sharing a verse with somebody after receiving that in prayer and thinking, oh, wow, I think I need to share this verse with this someone, that would simply be called a prophetic word.

So we use these terminologies. We use these words, but as I’ve talked about on my social media, it’s important to define our terms because different people use different terms, often for the very same thing. And so if you’re shying away from the idea of prophecy, just remember that, number one, it is not adding on anything to scripture. It’s the specific application of scripture to someone’s life. And number two, you might just have a different word for what you’re doing, but what you’re doing is what many people in the wesleyan or charismatic nazarene world would call a prophetic word. 

So what’s the point of prophecy? Ultimately, it’s relationship with God. His communication with his people is the basis of prophecy. In that communication is not always an urgent thing they must do. Sometimes it’s a call to worship. Sometimes it’s a reminder that God cares. Sometimes it’s an expression of his love. And sometimes it is something miraculous and wild. Just this last week on my instagram, I shared an entire series of answered prayers that my followers sent in. It was incredible. I was in tears most of the day just reading these stories. And I have a highlight on my instagram where I am saving those answered prayers because they were just amazing.

A lot of these involved prayer in the Holy Spirit. Someone was praying and they felt convicted to pray for a specific person at a specific time or to share a specific encouragement or verse with somebody at a specific time. And when they take that conviction and revelation, if you will, from God, and they share it with another person, that is considered a prophetic, word, even if the person wouldn’t call themselves a quote unquote prophet. I think we have to be careful with that, and we’ll get into that in a minute. What they’re doing is prophesying to someone else in the spirit of God. So the goal of prophecy is the glorification of God, of course. And he’s often glorified through the expression of his love. 

He’s communicating his love to other people, and he could communicate bluntly. He doesn’t have to communicate with us at all. Instead, he chooses to communicate through intimacy and actual connection with him. I hear from people a lot who say, well, why couldn’t God just be so specific? Why is the Bible so hard to understand? First of all, it’s hard to understand because you’re in a modern era. The people in the early New Testament times, the people in the Old Testament didn’t have as hard a time understanding it. So let’s not forget our chronological bias there. It’s only us in modern ages who have struggled the most with this. And then secondly, remember that he could have just given you a list of what to do, but he wanted to invite people to relationship with him. It’s one of the reasons that Jesus spoke in parables.

The people who cared were going to listen. And he’s inviting us not just to memorize a list of things to do, but to stay in step with him. Galatians 5:25 says, if we live by the spirit, let us also keep in step with the spirit. God didn’t give you a map that you could follow without him on your own strength. That’s what legalism does. It gives you the map, and it says you can just do all these things and then you’ll live a pleasing life. Instead of walking in step with the Holy Spirit every single step of the way, you have to be matched with him. And so this idea of biblical prophecy connects with that.

Prophetic words, prophetic giftings, they’re all meant to express the love of God and his truth and to draw us back to communication and communion with him and with his church. I love how John Wesley viewed these gifts. He wasn’t charismatic or pentecostal. John Wesley was the father of the Methodist movement, but he was an anglican priest until he died. And he saw the gifts of the spirit as something powerful and extraordinary, but they were always judged by their holiness. So he believed you should never, ever prioritize the spiritual gifts above the fruit of the spirit. The fruit of the spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness must be evident in the life of someone who is operating in the gifts of the spirit.

So teaching, prophecy, tongues, et cetera. And we need to always evaluate where these gifts are coming from based on their fruit. So if somebody says they have the gift of prophecy, but the fruit of their life is not self control, then we have the ability to discern that and say, I’m not going to trust a prophetic word from this person. Their life is out of control, or they’re not loving, or they do not bring peace, they cause chaos. We are able to judge the spiritual gifts against the fruits of the spirit, and that’s how John Wesley saw the supernatural gifts. And I think that’s an important thing to bring to this conversation around biblical prophecy, because if you grew up in a very unhealthy charismatic environment, which I am acquainted with, you may be very burned by the term prophecy. It could even be a trigger point for you because somebody used it as a way to manipulate or gossip or slander or pressure, and that means that they actually weren’t operating in the gift of prophecy at all because their gift did not bear the fruit of the spirit. The spirit of God will not bear a spiritual gift and also not bear his fruit. Okay? The spiritual gifts will match the fruit. And that’s something John Wesley was saying, that holiness is always first, and then these spiritual gifts like prophecy and healing and teaching and serving will come out of that. 

So that’s a little overview of biblical prophecy. But now let’s talk about the different types of prophecy. We have forthtelling prophecy, and then we have foretelling prophecy. Forthtelling is speaking the word of the Lord boldly to those God has asked you to speak to. Now, this might sound a lot like preaching, but it’s different from preaching because it is not pre planned. Usually forthtelling prophecy, kind of like what I’ve already described, and giving a prophetic word to someone is spirit inspired for that person or moment. So perhaps someone is brought to mind as you’re praying and there’s a verse or a truth that’s impressed upon you or an image in your mind, and you think, I need to share this with this person. So you spend some time praying about it, and then you decide to go and tell them you did not pre plan, that it was brought to mind as you were praying. Whereas a sermon is pre planned, it’s worked on, it’s prayed over, et cetera. So that’s the difference between forthtelling prophecy and a sermon. I believe that a sermon can be very prophetic in the sense that it is directed towards a congregation, it is led by the Holy Spirit. But not all sermons are prophetic, and that’s the difference between a prophetic word and preaching. So that’s forthtelling prophecy. 

The second type is foretelling prophecy, which is what some people are only familiar with. They read the Bible and they think, oh, it’s all foretelling prophecy in Ezekiel and Isaiah. But that’s actually not true either, because in Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Amos, Obadiah, all these prophetic books, a lot of times they’re actually just telling the truth about a situation. For example, if we look at Isaiah itself, there are many passages that are simply forthtelling. They’re just telling the facts. Here’s Isaiah 50:10 says, who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. This is something that we would see in Psalms or Proverbs. It’s just the truth. If you’re in darkness and you walk in the light of God, then you’re going to see the light of God in every area of your life. But if we go elsewhere in Isaiah, we actually see some prophetic truths that are speaking of the future. You will see passages like Isaiah 61, the spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. Jesus read this passage and said, today this passage has been fulfilled in your hearing. So it’s both foretelling and forthtelling woven into all prophetic books and works of a prophet. And in the new Covenant, when a prophetic gifting is being acted upon by someone who is in a church setting, more often than not, it’s going to fall under forthelling. I do believe that foretelling prophecy is still possible, but again, it’s not going to be something that is adding revelation onto scripture. It’s probably going to be more rare. And as we’re going to talk about in a section of this episode, there is a checklist of qualifications that someone must meet to be trusted with foretelling prophecy.

A few episodes ago, I told you about a new podcast I’ve been enjoying. It’s called Compelled and uses gripping, immersive storytelling to bring christian testimonies to life. One of their stories that is especially relevant is episode 37 with Laura Perry. Laura grew up in the church and was active in various ministries, but she secretly felt that the church was stifling. She only had a works based approach to Christianity and no real relationship with Christ. By high school, she was living promiscuously and doing everything she could to reject God. She was incredibly unhappy and hated the body that God had given her and began to fantasize about being a man. Eventually she had numerous hormone injections and extensive surgeries removing every female organ on her body and transgendered herself into a man for ten years. But after every surgery, she discovered to her horror that she was just as miserable as before. Could anything or anyone fill the void in her heart? And if Jesus actually was real, would he even want someone like her? Listen to Laura Perry tell her complete story on compelled, episode 37 titled Transgender to Transformed. Every story on Compelled is true, vivid and told by the person who lived it and saw God working through it. Search for Compelled on your favorite podcast app or visit compelledpodcast.com. Again, that’s compelledpodcasts.com. 

So now that we know what prophecy is, why God doesn’t always communicate directly, but uses human vessels to do it, let’s talk about how to handle prophecy when it happens. Because if you are in a church that allows for the practice of the prophetic gifting, or if you’ve ever had somebody bring you a prophetic word, you might wonder what it means or how to handle it. So scripture gives us an outline for how to do this. And there are five steps for how to handle biblical prophecy.

Number one, a prophecy should be brought to the church. If it’s a public prophecy to everyone in the church, or if it’s a prophecy to a specific person about a sensitive situation, it should be brought to the church elders to be validated. So a prophet can’t validate his own prophecy. And what I mean by that is a prophet can’t say, well, I received this word and I’m just trustworthy and everybody just needs to believe me that I know it’s true, especially if it has to do with the future or a sensitive situation in someone’s life. Now, if it’s simply a prophetic word, that’s like I was praying for you and this verse came to mind. I don’t know if it will comfort you, but here it is. That’s a different situation because it’s very general. And sometimes a prophetic word can be very general. The Holy Spirit can work through things like that. But if it’s a specific person specific situation, and especially if it deals with a sin issue, it should be brought to the church elders to be validated and prayed over. The prophet or person who gave this prophecy doesn’t get to just use their own merit alone as the basis for it.

Secondly, a word of knowledge or a prophetic word should pass church leadership, or the prophet is not operating under an authoritative covering. This is taken from 1 corinthians 14:31-33. A prophet’s spirit is under other prophets. Okay, if you’re growing up Baptist and you’re like, what? I don’t understand this. Here’s what I mean by this. If someone is giving a prophetic word, and the Holy Spirit told me this, and I want to speak this to you, but they don’t want to submit to their church leadership or let someone else in on that process, or especially if they’re using a quote unquote prophetic word to point out sin in your life, and they don’t want accountability. That’s a problem. A prophet’s spirit is subject to other prophets, other teachers, people who can speak into their life. And if they’ve been prophesying before, especially if they’re making big proclamations or pronouncements, those past prophecies must be affirmed by church leadership to be counted as valid. 

So a situation where we have seen this go horribly awry is in the YouTube profits regarding the Trump election. If you’re not aware of this, essentially a lot of charismatic preachers and prophets online prophesied that Trump would get reelected in the last election in America. And when that didn’t happen, they changed their prophecy and said, well, either the election was stolen or they said, he is going to get reelected in a future election.

So they actually changed their prophecy to match the situation that was in front of them when it was proven to be false. This is an example of a prophet who, one, committed a false prophecy. And we’ll talk about how the Bible handles that in a second. But two, was not operating under an authoritative covering. Their spirit was not subject to anybody who was saying, this is wrong. You can’t prophesy falsely and then continue to be trusted. You’re misleading people online. So a word of knowledge or prophecy should pass church leadership, or the prophet is not operating in true authority, and they can be questioned as a false prophet, whether mistaken or in rebellion.

Number three, your spiritual gift of prophecy should be for the upbuilding of the body and its unification. This is important. Prophecy is for the unity of the body. If your gift divides the body of Christ, it is not from the Lord, but from yourself 1 Corinthians 12. So if somebody uses their spiritual gift to weaponize against people to gain power, they are not walking in the fruit of the spirit. So to go back to John Wesley’s view, you can’t have a spiritual gifting without a coordinated fruit. And if you don’t have the fruit, we can’t trust your gifting. That’s facts. And that would apply to any spiritual gifting, teaching, administration, serving, et cetera. We could use this exact same framework to judge teachers who don’t bear spiritual fruit. So if your gift divides the body, your prophecy is dividing the body, and it’s not based on actual biblical truth. Okay? It’s not like you said. God says that we are to stand on his holiness and we are not to get drunk. And you present that quote, unquote prophetic word to your congregation and they say, no, I want to get drunk. Well, that’s very clear in scripture. But if somebody is presenting a prophecy that is like, I know you’re in sin, and I don’t know what it is, but I know that you are. And there’s no evidence, there’s no accountability, that’s a problem. And we need to check that spiritual gift and make sure it’s in submission to church leadership.

Number four, prophecy will be consistent with the whole council of God in process. Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5. And in substance, one corinthians 14 37-38, prophecy will be consistent with the whole counsel of God. That’s scripture in process. So in how you go about it and in substance, in the guts of what you’re saying, so if a prophet is not operating scripturally in how they go about communicating their prophecy, and if their prophecy does not align with scripture, there’s a problem. It is not a true biblical prophecy. 

And last but not least, if a prophet is proven wrong, they must repent and recant their false word, as the prophet Nathan did in 2 Samuel 7. So Nathan came to King David, and he originally said that David could build a temple. And David’s like great and stockpiling everything to do it. And then Nathan received a word from the Lord and he said, I don’t want King David to build this temple. He’s a man of blood. I want his son Solomon to do it. And Nathan came back and corrected his prophecy. That is how a prophet is to handle this kind of thing. So again, I’m not saying that if someone gives you a prophetic word, they are a prophet in league with Nathan or Daniel or Isaiah or any of those people. But we see in scripture that the prophetic gifting is something that is available to all believers. 

I talked about continuationism and cessationism in the spiritual gifts episode. And in the quick theology spiritual gifts booklet, you can head to our shop and grab that booklet. It’s an ebook and a print book. If you want to know more about spiritual gifts continuing to today, obviously, because I’m talking about prophecy as something relevant today, I believe they continue. And the reason for that is the hermeneutic or the way of breaking down scripture. When it comes to the passages about spiritual gifts like tongues, healing and prophecy is most consistent in the continuationist view. Here’s what I mean. The gifts in 1 Corinthians 12, 13 and 14 include things like teaching and administration and serving and mercy. But in cessationism, the miraculous gifts like healing and prophecy and tongues are considered ceased or passed away. The problem with that is that we’re picking and choosing which gifts no longer apply. And there’s a phrase that says, when the perfect comes, these things will pass away. But the perfect is referencing Christ. When Christ comes, these things will pass away. Not the close of the New Testament canon. There’s really no support for that. And I would just challenge, if you come from the cessationist viewpoint, I would just really push you to ask, how would you feel if this kind of hermeneutic, this kind of Bible study method of saying these things continue and these things don’t, if that hermeneutic was used on the sexual ethic. Because a lot of times that method of interpreting scripture is based on bad experiences. It’s experiential bad experiences with charismatic culture and fear of charismatic culture. And lastly, it’s based on a very loose interpretation of the perfect. And so I have a lot of concerns with that. I think that if we want to be consistent in our interpretation of scripture, we really have to be willing to say, okay, it makes me uncomfortable that healing and prophecy and tongues might continue today, and I really want to see these done in a biblical, orderly way. But because scripture says that they’re there and it says that this is something that continues, I should honor that to be consistent in my interpretive method, whether I’m looking at the sexual ethic and that sex is for covenant marriage between a man and a woman, or if I’m looking at the issue of tongues and healing and prophecy. 

So for me, this is a consistency issue. And as someone who has been in over a dozen denominations, I can tell you I’ve seen spiritual gifts abused, and I’ve also seen them handled in a very godly and biblical way. So it is possible to operate the way that Paul outlined in 1 Corinthians 14. Handling prophecy, those five steps that I’ve just articulated, that’s important for accountability for somebody who claims to be a prophet. But now I want to move to false prophecy and the counterfeits that we see and how to handle this.  So one of the most obvious false prophecies, false prophets today, is actually not in the church. It is in secular culture.

False prophecy does come in many forms. It can be spoken by a Christian by mistake. It can be spoken by someone who claims Christ, false teacher. And it can be spoken by someone who does not claim Christ but acts as a demonic prophetic mouthpiece. So an example of the last one would be a psychic, a witch doctor, a Reiki practitioner, or a new age spirit guide, someone who’s teaching you how to access your spirit guides. So anyone accessing information through tarot cards, seances, psychics, tea leaves, or crystals is interacting with a counterfeit spirit. And all of this falls under both false prophecy and divination. Now, if that’s scary for you or you’re like, holy cow, I never thought of it that way. Again, I’m not trying to be harsh, but I will tell you this. I’ve spent a significant amount of time in circles where these kinds of things, like tea leaves and crystals and stuff, were downplayed, and they were viewed as not a big deal. And I can tell you that they are a big deal. I live in an area of the country that has a heavy new age and wiccan presence. It is not a joke. It’s not a joke. And you can roll your eyes and say, whatever, Phylicia. I don’t see it. But I can tell you, as someone who lives in an area where these things have contributed to active spiritual warfare and the destruction of lives, that this is not a joke. It is not funny. If you talk to somebody in India, in Africa, if you talk to them about these things, they will tell you, this is a spiritual issue. It is not something to take lightly. And we’ve just made it fun, and we’ve made it into this lighthearted, fun thing to engage with in the United States, and it seems so harmless, but that’s exactly how the enemy would present it. 

So false prophecy falls under this idea of accessing a spiritual guide or even what they would call a good spirit. Psychics do this, and again, the other new age resources that I mentioned. So counterfeit spirits can actually prophesy and parade as an angel of light. 2 Corinthians 11:14. They can give words of knowledge. They will try to tell you, really vague, but somehow specific things. Horoscopes do this all the time. Astrology will give you this sort of vague but also sort of true truth about yourself, and it will draw you in to continue trying to access that knowledge from that source. Well, this is a counterfeit spirit. The Holy Spirit’s nowhere in there. He’s not a part of it. And if you’re a Christian, you have access to the prophecy of the actual holy spirit of God. You don’t need counterfeit spirits. And yet many people try to combine them. 

So where do we see this in scripture? We see divination forbidden in scripture from beginning to end. Deuteronomy, 18:12 through 14, says, let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft or casts spells, or who is a medium or a spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord. Because of these same detestable practices, the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the Lord your God.

Okay, so why would God condemn these practices? I mean, some of us are like, it’s obvious, right? It’s the opposite of God. But why would Israel engage in these, practically speaking? I’ll tell you why. It seemed like easier, quicker access to God. They were combining Yahweh worship with these things, and that’s why they were also driven out of Israel in the end. They were engaging in witchcraft and casting spells and consulting the dead and trying to contact people. And they were saying, oh, it’s harmless. It’s fine. I can stack it with my faith in the one true God, thinking that they could access God through these things. And this is the exact same argument that we’re seeing today in the modern new age. Oh, you can access God through Reiki healing. You can access God through muscle testing. You can access God through these things. Like, it’s harmless, it’s fine. We can just put the spirit of God over it. And God says, no, you cannot. You cannot combine my spirit with false prophecy. And it’s a serious thing. It seems harmless, but it’s a serious thing. Leviticus 26. As for the person who turns to mediums and to spiritists to play the harlot after them, I will also set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people. Why, again, what’s the issue here? Why does he use the term harlot? Why does he say, you’re committing adultery with them? Because you are walking away from faithfulness to the one true God and the one true spirit who speaks to you and offers all of himself and his advice and wisdom to you to consult a false, counterfeit spirit. Isaiah 8:19 sums it up the most, says, when they say to you, consult the mediums. And the spiritists who whisper and mutter, should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living? Y’all, it’s the same thing. It’s the same thing that Israel was dealing with that Isaiah confronted. Why are you consulting the dead who know nothing, who cannot help you, when you have the spirit of the living God as accessible to you? This is why I get so riled up about people who do not teach a healthy theology of the Holy Spirit. Because when you leave people without a holy spirit, they go to a demonic one. 

Anyway, let’s get back on course here. One way that the spirit of divination gains access to people is by asking for information that that person does not need to know. So we see this in the case of King Saul. Spirit of divination gives information God doesn’t give. So when King Saul saw information from God and God didn’t answer, he went and found a demonic spirit or witch to try to summon Samuel. And the medium is literally a necromancer. And she lived at Endor in 1 Samuel 28. And so he seeks her out to get the answers that he wanted, because he had quenched the spirit. Spirit of God had left him. Now, remember, Saul was in the old covenant, not the new, and he wanted to get access to knowledge, get access to help and advice and support in a prophetic word. He couldn’t do it with the Lord God, who he no longer gave his allegiance to. So he goes to a demonic source. And this happens all the time with the false prophecy of psychics and witch doctors and practitioners in the new age. 

So those are the most obvious false prophets. But what about false prophets in the church? Let’s move to this next. So first of all, it’s possible to be mistaken in prophecy. Mistaken prophecy is possible, but the solution is repentance before the church. So a person could say, I thought I heard from God on this and I brought it to the church, or I brought it to the person and they said, no, that’s actually not true. I don’t think that applies to me or it doesn’t line up here biblically. And that person should then repent of that word. They should say, I’m sorry I gave a false word. I recant it.

But if a person refuses to repent of their false word, then they have become rebellious in their prophecy and have moved from mistaken to willfully in sin. So in scripture we actually see a command. It’s in Deuteronomy that says that if somebody prophesies falsely, he is to be stoned. It’s pretty serious. And so here’s a quote from Craig Keener about that passage. Quote but does this refer to stoning a prophet who thought God was speaking and misunderstood him or made a mistake on some point? The Hebrew word translated presumptuously means rebelliously, as in the statement above, it refers to someone seeking to lead us away from the Lord. If it actually referred to anyone who makes a mistake in speaking for the Lord, then it would rule out Nathan, who had to correct himself in 2 Samuel 7. If it refers to anyone whose word does not come to pass, it would rule out Jonah, who prophesied judgment, but the judgment was averted by the people’s repentance. Jonah 3:4 Jeremiah teaches that, in fact, most prophecies are conditional. Jeremiah 8 God sometimes lets true prophets know when conditions have changed and judgment is delayed. 1 Kings 21, end quote. So what Craig keener is saying is that when someone prophesies rebelliously, not mistakenly, that’s when they were stoned. There was room for repentance. There’s room for mistakes. There was even room to change a prophecy when repentance had happened. So in the case of Jonah, he says, judgment’s coming, and then the Assyrians repent. And then God says, I have averted my judgment. And then Jonah got mad and didn’t want to relay that part of the prophecy. But that’s a story for another day. 

So the situation is, is this person staying consistent with the word of God, or are they doubling down on a prophecy that has been proven false? Why is this so important? Because true prophecy is about honoring God and revealing his heart. It’s about connection and communion with God in unity in the church. So what do we do if somebody has prophesied falsely in the church? They made a mistake. They are prophesying rebelliously. Well, we have to take them through Matthew 18. In Matthew 18 15-17, Jesus teaches his disciples about excommunication. If you’ve never heard, this word basically means removing someone from communion in the church. And that’s not just the taking of communion. It means removing them from intimacy with the church body. The Lord details a multistep approach for responding to sinful offenses, and we’re going to go through those steps here. 

So step one, according to Jesus in Matthew 18, is go to the person privately and tell him how he has sinned or prophesied falsely and ask him to be reconciled. Ask him to make it right. If that person repents, the prophetic person repents, then they’re restored to the church community. No more action is required. But if he won’t listen, you go to step two. You go back with two or three witnesses to have the conversation again, to get the evidence, to get their side, to present the facts from scripture. Hey, what you prophesied or what you said was from the Lord, it doesn’t line up with scripture here. And we need to confront you on this. If they still won’t listen, you go to step three. And you go to him and you say, will you repent of this false word? And if they won’t, you bring them before the church body, or at least the elders and pastors of the church, and you present the case, and you once again call them to repentance and say, hey, you need to make this right. If they still will not repent after this, you move to step four. And this is when the church is to excommunicate the sinner, the false prophet, and remove them from the body. And this is when you will say to that person, we love you, but you are prophesying falsely. You are not in consistency with the word. You are not speaking in the spirit, because the word that you have given has been proven false, and you will not recant it. And so we are separating from you. 

Josh and I studied this extensively in the last year. This passage in Matthew 18, wondering, what does it mean when Jesus says, let this person be to you as a gentile and a tax collector? It seems pretty severe. So here is what we learned. The Jews, who were the primary audience Jesus was talking to here, the Jews saw gentiles and tax collectors as outsiders. Gentiles were idolaters. They worshipped idols. They were pagan. And tax collectors were working with Rome. They were working for Rome. So anyone who was following the one true God would actually not associate with gentiles and tax collectors beyond what was necessary for daily living. And so if you can think of some tax collectors, would be Matthew in the Bible, Zacchaeus. And Jesus goes to their house, right? But here he’s saying, if somebody violates the truth of scripture, you are to separate them in the same way that you are currently separating from tax collectors and gentiles. And that’s interesting also, because he’s saying, even if this person is one of you, even if he’s a Christian, even if he’s a jew in the context at the time, you are to separate from them in this way. So the Jews would not eat meals with gentiles and tax collectors or invite them to social gatherings. And so when Jesus is saying to view this person in the church this way, he is basically telling the church to officially and clearly stop having close fellowship with this person and to put them out of the close knit christian community until they’re willing to repent and make things right. 

Now this might sound really harsh, but there’s a consequence for sin. There’s a consequence for misleading people. There’s a consequence for using the name of God and saying God gave this word when it was proven false. The dismissal of someone who is unrepentant, who’s defiant about their prophecy from the community of believers, it’s not shaming them, it’s wise and truthful judgment. These are Jesus’ words. It’s loving that person and teaching them. We have to do what’s best for the church as a whole. We have to take care of the little ones here. And this is why I get so frustrated with these YouTube prophets, because they are unhinged from accountability to a church and they are leading the little ones astray. There is an accountability structure for how prophecy is to operate in the church setting, including on social media, including on YouTube. And these people will be responsible for what they said. Jesus said every careless word.They must be aware of how their words are impacting the helpless, the weak, the undiscipled. And they can do it from the safety of their living room and send this out into the Internet with no real impact visible before them. And yet their words are impacting people in little local churches around the world. And when it’s a false prophecy, it is damaging these people and keeping them from true, robust faith. That’s why excommunication exists, to teach people the importance of intimacy with God, intimacy with community, the importance of using the name of God righteously and well and speaking the truth in the spirit, not using the name of the spirit to manipulate, blaspheming him really.

 I want to read this quote from Firebrand magazine. It says this Christ emphasized that a tree is judged and known by the fruit, particularly love. On the other hand, the gifts of prophecy, healing tongues do not measure our spiritual health. Our ministry calling and gifting from God are irrevocable and not a sign of our salvation. Romans 11:29 it is possible to operate in the gifts of the spirit while not walking in the fruit of the spirit like the Corinthian church. And when this happens, we are given Matthew 18 as a process for dealing with that false prophecy. And this is why, again, I believe anyone who believes that they have some kind of prophetic gifting, or if they’re giving prophetic words or they’re praying in the gifts of the spirit, praying in the spirit. You need to be attached to a local church. You need to be accountable if you’re doing what I do. If you are in ministry online, you have a YouTube channel, you have a podcast, you write books, you need to be attached to a local church and you need to be accountable to an eldership, a board, pastors, rotation of ministry leaders. I don’t care what or how, as long as it’s a local church that you’re attached to.

This is so serious. There are people at stake here. Their hearts are at stake here. And prophecy must be handled in a way that honors the word of God, that honors the spirit of God and honors the children of God. And if that is not happening, it is not true prophecy. And no one should trust the voice of that person who claims to be a prophet. Yes, I’m a little sassy because there are people at stake and I have watched this go so awry. I’ve watched this damage and hurt people, and I’ve watched people online who have misused the name of God in the name of giving a prophetic word.

So does prophecy continue today? I believe scripture makes it clear that it does. And that true biblical spirit led prophecy is a powerful gift to the church. It is prophecy that is communicated to someone else. When you receive that truth of God by the Holy Spirit in prayer, and you say, the Lord led me to share this truth with you, pray about it. See if it applies to you. That’s how a prophetic word should be handled. It should align with everything scripture has said about God so far. It should align with the truths of who God is and the fruit of the spirit, as well as the gifts of the spirit. And if it does, it is a powerful thing that upbuilds the church and leads us closer and closer to becoming more like Christ. But as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14, God is not a God of disorder, but of peace, as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people. 

Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode of Verity podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, would you take the time to leave us a review? It helps so many other women around the world find out about Verity and about Every Woman a Theologian as a ministry in a shop. We appreciate you and I hope you’ll be back next week as we continue to go deeper into God’s word and the heart of Jesus Christ.


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