Updated: Oct 13
Prophecy is a wonderful spiritual gift God has given to His people to encourage and guide us. This is not something we can derive from our own human reasoning but is a supernatural impartation of truth from God.
“You must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20-21)
There is a distinction in the way God spoke prophetically to the chosen nation of Israel and later with the believers of the early church - but there is one important quality they all share: It’s all about Jesus.
“Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus.” (Revelation 19:10 NIV)
Holy Spirit-inspired prophecies have always served to declare God's purposes and testify about Jesus (Revelation 19:10). Standing in the synagogue one day, Jesus was handed a scroll. Reading from a passage known to us as Isaiah 61, Jesus announced that it referred to Him and that “today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:14-20). Later He explained why, rather than coming as a victorious warrior king He was been arrested as a delusional criminal, that “this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” (Matthew 26:55-57).
The apostle Matthew took pains to record how Jesus’ words and ministry fulfilled the words of the prophets, quoting Jeremiah, Micah, Hosea, and even King David’s seer and head musician, Asaph. Later, when two disciples were processing the events of Jesus' death and their confusion about how it had all turned out, Jesus casually appeared at their side. He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”
As Jesus embodied the truth of each ancient prophecy, He ushered in a new prophetic era. God no longer spoke through camel-hair-covered prophets, but through his Son (Hebrews 1:1-3). Then, as Joel had prophesied (Joel 2:28-32), Jesus asked the Father to give us the Holy Spirit to speak directly to his children. Peter pointed out; “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” (Acts 2:32-33). The same Spirit who inspired and spoke through the prophets was given to all believers (Acts 2:17-21). Now, we can see and hear from God personally. We can all prophesy.
Jesus explained how the Holy Spirit would speak to us and what his pet topic would be: “When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.” (John 16:13-14).
Jesus actually explicitly states here that what the Holy Spirit shares with us comes directly from him; 'he will only speak what he hears'; 'it is from me'. i.e. the Holy Spirit shares Jesus's thoughts and will to us. The gift of prophecy is when the Holy Spirit enables us to hear and share Jesus' perspective and purpose for our lives. This may be his truth spoken into our current context (forth-telling/present) but can also be about what is to come (fore-telling/predictive). Prophecy continues to testify to Jesus because He is the one putting his ideas out there through the Holy Spirit.
As a result, true, authentic prophetic words from the Holy Spirit will, by definition, glorify Jesus. i.e. these prophecies will invite people to find salvation by faith in Him alone. They will inspire and direct you to follow Jesus with pure devotion. This is why we are encouraged to test prophetic words. “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.” (1 John 4:2-4).
The NLT translation of Revelation 19:10 puts this nicely.
"For the essence of prophecy is to give a clear witness for Jesus."
If it's all about Jesus - let us prophesy!
“For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain. We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your heart ." (2 Peter 1:16-19)
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* all scriptures are quoted from the NIV translation unless noted