It may well have escaped your notice, but ‘versus’ movies have been growing in popularity. Long gone are the days when they all had some kind of legal basis to the plot. The modern versus movies are very far removed from the likes of ‘The People Vs Larry Flint’ or ‘Kramer Vs Kramer’. Today it all about what is known as the crossover. In this sense, a crossover refers to an act of splicing two parties together who ordinarily wouldn’t be together. For example, in (fairly) recent years, we have seen such crossovers as Alien Vs Predator; King Kong Vs Godzilla; and, lately, (possibly the most intriguing) Batman Vs Superman (which one’s the bad guy?).
The idea that two parties, who should never ordinarily meet in their fictional existences, enter into a battle, for some reason, intrigues us. I am not here to offer any explanation for this insight into the human psyche – the internet is awash with headshrinkers who will willingly proffer their expertise – I simply want to use the idea of such battles as a metaphor.
I was reading the letter to the Hebrews the other day and noticed something that is often glossed over, or even totally ignored. Incidentally, did you know that the word Hebrew actually means ‘to crossover’? Anyway, before I deviate from my path, the text that particularly caught my eye is to be found in chapter 1.
“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds…” [Hebrews 1:1-2 NKJV]
If you will allow me, I’d like to paraphrase those two verses, and put a little context to them.
The letter to the Hebrews is one of the most fascinating documents of the New Testament. Although it is often attributed to the apostle Paul, it doesn’t bear any of the usual salutations or valedictions that he is famous for using. But it is clearly written in a style much akin to Paul’s other epistles. Of course, the authorship really matters very little, for the content is so rich that it is clearly the inspired work of the Holy Spirit Himself. If you are not familiar with the letter itself, may I recommend that you spend some time getting to know it? It will enrich both your understanding of the person of Y’shua (Jesus), and of the Father, as well as deepening your walk with Him.
The author was clearly writing to Hebrews – to people who understood Torah (the law). So, it was fitting that the letter begins with the statement above. The author was setting out the foundation of the entire letter in the opening passage, which tells the reader that in the past God spoke to the Hebrews through different men, whom were appointed by God Himself, over a great period of time and in many various ways. But now, as time draws to an end, He given His last message through and in the person of His Son, Y’shua. This same Y’shua has been appointed by God to be in charge of everything, which is fitting because it was Y’shua who brought everything to being.
In other words, up until Y’shua, God used prophets, but now all His words can be found in the person of Y’shua.
This may seem a little complicated right now. Or even a tad intellectual. But it is really a great deal simpler than it appears. Let me explain.
After the fall of man and the banishment from the Garden, communication with God could no longer be on a face to face basis as it had been with Adam and Eve. This is because, as fallen creatures in whom sin now dwelt, to see the face of God would mean certain death. And so, from the time of the banishment, God began to select individuals through whom He would speak. These individuals never chose this arrangement, God chose them. His choice of men and women was never based upon the way we would choose people today – God has always chosen people based upon what was in their hearts.
It is worth noting that there are several clear stages of communication with God throughout time. Firstly, we know that He revealed Himself through nature; then through the patriarchs with dreams and visions and voices. Then, with Moses and the Exodus, God’s revelation came through Torah, which was written down. After the law had been given, God started to use prophets to reveal more of Himself to us. His final revelation to us was through His Son, Y’shua, the Word of God made into flesh. And when He ascended to be at the right hand of the Father, He sent His Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit) to us to help us better understand His final revelation.
Let me be clear about this. There is no new revelation of God since Y’shua. He give us the Holy Spirit to continue to reveal the fullness of the Christ to us. If we believe that God hasn’t finished speaking; that He has more to say; something to add to the person of Y’shua, then we are deceived. In the person of Y’shua we can find the full revelation of who and what God is. The Word made flesh. If anyone is claiming additional revelation above and beyond that of the person of Y’shua they are both deceived and deceiving others. This is what the apostle John was talking about when he said that we are to test the spirits (1 John 5). Although the wording is confusing in the text, he was saying that if you have a revelation of God that wasn’t revealed in the person of Y’shua – in the Word made flesh – then, the spirit who brings that revelation is not the Holy Spirit.
Now, I think I ought to explain something before I go any further. You will sense both from the title of this post and the tone in which I write that I am likely to have something to say about modern day prophets. You’d be right, too. But, I am not one for throwing the baby out with the bath water, so let me explain some basic issues in order to avoid any confusion.
Before the coming of Y’shua in the flesh, God would raise up a prophet when He wanted to speak to His people. Today, churchy types, refer to this as the ‘office of a prophet‘. They will freely tell you that God still uses the office of a prophet to speak to people. I believe this to be untrue. There appears to be this preoccupation with people who claim to be prophets. If you look at something known as the Elijah List (a website that encourages people who claim to be prophets to post their prophecies online for all to see), you will notice something fundamental to all of them. They all claim to be appointed by God to be prophets, and yet their messages differ. It doesn’t take a great deal of research to understand that, generally speaking, God spoke through one prophet at a time, and when He did speak through more than one at a time, they spoke the same message. There appears to be a problem.
The problem has probably arisen over some confusion between the ‘gift of prophecy’ and the ‘office of a prophet’. Let me be clear about this. The phrase ‘office of a prophet’ does not appear anywhere in either the old or new testaments. The gift of prophecy I will come onto shortly. Before I do, let us address this office of a prophet myth. It is true that there were prophets that could be described as holding the office of prophet, that is to say that they were appointed by God and used by Him on a regular basis to convey His message to the Hebrews. Of this there is no dispute. However, Y’shua was the last of these prophets. He was the fulfilment of Torah, and of God’s revelation to both the Hebrews and Gentiles alike.
Today, anyone who is claiming to hold the office of prophet is, in fact, a self-appointed, and self-promoting liar. Strong words? I don’t think so. I think the text from the first chapter of Hebrews, which we accept as divinely inspired, is clear. In these last days God has spoken through His Son, and not in the diverse ways He had done previously. I don’t see any ambiguity there. Only those with self-seeking, self-promoting ministries seek to deny the clarity of the text. If the revelation of God wasn’t completed in the person of Y’shua, then it makes a mockery of everything that God-fearing Christians believe. Of course, those who promote themselves, will tell you that I am wrong and point perhaps to Ephesians chapter 4 or Joel chapter 2 to support their claim that God has appointed them to speak to us. Here’s a little rule that helps me to separate that which is of God from that which of of men. If the person claiming to have a prophecy ( a new revelation) actively promotes themselves via social media or by the way of TV or internet ministries, then it is highly unlikely that they are speaking on behalf of God. If they ever ask for money or make you believe that God needs your money, then they are more about the profit than the prophet. One other thing you can do is to review what they have said in the past to see if any of what they said came into being. Just Google them. They will probably have a YouTube channel promoting themselves. Mostly, you will learn, they speak in vague details; generic sayings or half-truths. They tend to use phrases that have been made popular by other self-appointed prophets or apostles, in order to endorse each other and make us believe that they have God on tap. Rarely are they specific about anything they say. They have created organisations that make you believe that God has endorsed them, and give themselves names that suggest they are God’s chosen vessels for church oversight, or evangelism, or prophecy. If you fancy an example, why not Google ‘New Apostolic Reformation’. It doesn’t take much to figure out which ones are of God, and which are not. The trouble is, with all this talk of revival, it is easy to get suckered in. Seek God, not man…especially not men and women who live lives of luxury, instead of humility. Money isn’t a sign of divine favour, regardless of what some preachers will tell you.
Someone recently sent me a link to a woman claiming to be delivering God’s message to His people for 2016. It was so vague and full of maybes. When I scratched beneath the surface, there was no substance. She used buzz-words like ‘new revenue streams‘ and ‘strategy‘ but said nothing with any detail. And there was nothing that pointed you to the person of Y’shua. She started off by saying that God had spoken to her and that this was His message, then every sentence began with ‘I believe‘ rather than ‘God said‘. When I looked at what she had said a year previously, none of what she had claimed would happen in 2015, had come to pass. I soon realised that in the same way that TV companies only make programs to get you to watch the adverts, she only spewed out these prophecies to get you to donate to her ministry. The trouble is, the message she was spewing out is well received – people are longing for a move of God. They accept anything as genuine that may be supernatural. Let me tell you, when God moves in the way people long for, there is nothing subtle about it, and He will never ask for money. The God I know has no need of money for He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and all of the gold and silver too!
Just take a look at the prophets of old. They didn’t live lives of luxury as some self-appointed prophets do. They were humble, and feared God. God appointed them because of their hearts. Not a single one of God’s prophets ever appointed themselves. God raised them up and humbled them according to His will and purposes. Just look at the likes of Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Jeremiah to see that they suffered hardship and poverty. They embraced it all because they feared God.
To be a prophet and to prophesy are two different things. Y’shua had to be the fulfilment of the office of prophet, in exactly the same way He was the fulfilment of the office of the priest. He, Himself, is the final revelation of God. There is no more. But He left us the Holy Spirit, so that along the course of our journey, we could gain a deeper understanding of that final revelation of God.
Now let me deal with the two scriptures I mentioned above that some use as justification for calling themselves prophets.
First of all, Ephesians chapter 4. Ephesians was a letter written by the apostle Paul to a young church in Ephesus. The early part of the letter reveals more of the person of Y’shua, and therefore the revelation of God, than many would have understood as new believers. The letter was designed to encourage and strengthen their faith, as well as deepening their understanding of who Y’shua is. He continues to explain the role of the believer in connection with other believers in what he describes as the body of Christ. Paul also makes clear that this same Christ is in fact the head over the entire body of believers. By the time he reaches what we call chapter 4, he is explaining Christ’s role further within the church. The verse that is often quoted in order to justify modern prophets and their self-appointed office is verse 11:
“And He Himself (that is Y’shua) gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,…” [Ephesians 4:11 NKJV (my brackets)]
So, in order to fulfil His purpose as the head of the church, that is the body of Christ, Y’shua Himself appointed apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. In your bible you might notice that the paragraph is entitled ‘Spiritual Gifts‘. This wasn’t in Paul’s original text. It has been added by the people who printed your particular Bible. It is also a little misleading.
I am sure that each of these aspects, in some way, could be seen as a spiritual gift. And, I am also sure that these particular gifts can only be given by Y’shua Himself, for it is His church, and He said He will build it (Matthew 16:18). The verse that follows agrees with this:
“…for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for edifying of the body of Christ,…” [Ephesians 4:12 NKJV]
To paraphrase Paul, he is saying that Y’shua will appoint people who He chooses to take up the various roles required in order to enable believers to do God’s work, which is to build up and encourage all believers.
It is easy to see why some would use these verses to justify themselves as prophets. After all, it is clear that Y’shua Himself will appoint them. And, this is why it is so very important not to take a single verse out of its context. Yes, Christ does appoint prophets, but ONLY for the purpose of equipping others to encourage the body of Christ.
This view of the role of the prophet is also supported elsewhere in Paul’s writings, as we shall see shortly. But, before that, let me say this; since the coming of Y’shua, God’s Word made flesh, the role of the prophet has changed. Whilst it was once the lone voice standing against the established legalistic religion, now it is for the building up and encouraging of other believers. Whilst it was once the way God revealed Himself to His people, now it is for the purpose of pointing all believers to that fulfilled revelation in the person of Y’shua. What it is not, and never was, is a platform for attention seekers and self-promoters, to launch their own ministries that neither build up the body nor glorify anyone but themselves.
In Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth, he writes to them specifically about spiritual gifts and their role within the body. If after reading this you are still unclear about prophecy then please ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the role of the prophet within the church. He will.
“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” [1 Corinthians 12: 4-11 NKJV]
The manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all. In other words, if the gift that you are manifesting isn’t for the benefit of all, then the spirit from which you have received it, is not the Holy Spirit. This also means that all the current prophecies you might find on something like the Elijah List, which contradict one another, or fail to point the reader to the revelation of God, that is, Y’shua, are not of God either. Look throughout Paul’s letters. The theme is consistent – one Spirit, one Lord, one gospel, for the good of all.
I have decided not to divert down the path of explaining all the gifts of the Spirit right now, except to say that the last line of the text above shows us that the Holy Spirit Himself distributes these gifts as needs must. I believe that this means that we don’t necessarily get a gift for life. He gives them to us as we need them and according to His purpose. I have experienced a number of these gifts but they are not always available to me. It is not a case that if you lay hands on someone and they are healed, that you will always possess such a gift. Each gift is purposed for the good of all. The gift of the prophet is not exclusively for the profit of the prophet.
Paul returns to the theme of the edification of the church in chapter 14 of 1 Corinthians. He is writing about when and how to use the gifts of tongues and compares this gift with that of prophecy. It is to this text that I must turn your attention to, for it clearly reveals the purpose of prophecy.
“Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.” [1 Corinthians 14: 1-4 NKJV]
Pretty clear? I hope so. The gift (not the office) of prophecy is for the sole purpose of building up and encouraging the church. Anyone who uses prophecy for any other purpose is in very grave danger. It is worth noting that the word that we render as prophet, can mean inspired speaker, or one who speaks with inspiration. And, of course, the word inspired means God-breathed. I suspect our understanding of what prophecy actually is needs to be revised.
The other scripture that is often quoted in order to justify self-appointed prophets comes from a genuine prophet called Joel. Joel’s prophesies were probably spoken out by him between around 835 B.C. and 805 B.C. Mostly they relate to the Day of the Lord – that fearful event when God will judge the earth. As with many prophecies, there tends to be a contemporary setting, a future setting, and an End of Days setting. That is to say that when the prophets delivered their prophecies it was usually to a king or religious leader or a tribe or a nation of his time, so that it had a ‘right now‘ application. Frequently, however, the same prophecy will contain a glimpse of another future as well as the End of Days. Joel is no exception.
“And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and daughters shall prophesy, you old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.” [Joel 2:28 NKJV]
This verse was built into a call to repentance for the Hebrews and it applied to the time when Joel spoke out these words. But, we know from Peter’s speech in Acts chapter 2, that it also applied to the Day of Pentecost, when the Spirit was poured out upon the disciples, both Hebrew and, afterwards, Gentiles. And because it has a great deal about a future Day of the Lord, it also points forward to a time yet to be fulfilled. Let us be clear, the evidence simply isn’t here to assume that it is happening now. That is just wishful thinking. If you read the text carefully you will see that it says ‘all flesh‘. This phrase also appears in the book of Job, and clearly means all of humanity. That is yet to be fulfilled. Believe me, you would know if God had poured His Spirit out on all people. What happened on Pentecost was a part fulfilment of Joel’s prophecy; the rest is yet to come.
One thing that I have learnt with God, is that there is nothing that we can do to kick-start a move of the Holy Spirit. It is to Him to decide where and when He pours out His Spirit. There are, however, many within the body of Christ who believe that we can start a revival off. The truth is that we can’t. There is nothing we can do under our own strength that will go anyway to prompting the Holy Spirit to act. Except for one thing.
If you spend any time at all looking at past revivals and moves of God’s Holy Spirit; if it is the genuine article, then there is one factor that they all have in common. Now, I am not a big fan of looking for a formula for revival. I don’t believe that such a thing exists. But, the one thing that each of the genuine moves of God have in common is right at the centre there are always individuals who have learned how to fear God and walk humbly before Him. They have learned to trust in Him faithfully, regardless of how the situation looks. They have learned to rely wholly upon God for everything, spiritual and temporal alike. Often, in those places where God moved, the revival (for want of a better word) finished, just as it started. The individuals went off to be with God and those left behind failed to see things the way their predecessors saw things. The Holy Spirit will only work with people who fear God and walk humbly before Him.
True revival starts right here in the hearts of men and women who pursue God above all other things. There is no formula apart from discipleship and trust. And if you learn to trust Him in everything, if you learn to seek His Kingship in your life, then everything else will be added to you.
What we have today with these who appoint themselves as prophets and apostles, is a misunderstanding of the true revelation of God. The fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form – that is in the person of Y’shua. There is to be no new revelation of Him…only a deeper understanding as we drew closer to Him. Today, many see prophecy as a method of self-promotion, and ultimately as a revenue stream. Do not be deceived. Do some research the next time someone says you ought to listen to such and such a prophecy. If it doesn’t give you a deeper understanding of God, and in particular, Y’shua, then question it.
In the crossover battle of prophet and profit, profit is currently winning. They are successfully deceiving the church. But, fear not, Y’shua is coming soon to repair and rebuild His fallen tent (see Acts 15:16). And the false prophets, the liars, the self-interested will be the ones knocking at the door to whom He will say “I do not know you.”
A personal relationship with Y’shua is the only way to salvation. Self-promotion, self appointment, self-anything, only lead to death.