I watch trends in the prophetic environment of the
I observe that there are a goodly number of prophetic words that are relatively generic “comfort, edification and encouragement.” There’s a second group of words that can be described as speaking to our destiny, our calling, perhaps even our future in the Northwest. And there are some words that are spoken to the region that invoke images of natural disasters: earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis are prominent in them. (This is not an exhaustive list, of course; these are the three main categories; see the NWP website for a more complete list.)
The first group (“comfort, edification and encouragement”) is pretty easy to understand, and it’s not hard to respond to them.
The second group (speaking to our regional destiny) is also straightforward: not complicated to understand, though an appropriate response to these may be a bit more complex.
It’s the third group (invoking images of disasters) that I’m going to focus on here. How shall we respond to images of disasters in prophetic declarations over our region? Many of these declarations include an additional emphasis on the concept of judgment, which I’ll address later.
I propose that there are five basic possibilities for interpreting these disaster prophecies:
1) The prophet made a mistake. (Here is one example.) This may be a false prophecy (the work of serving the wrong God, or serving with a wrong heart) or simply a bad prophecy (it was a good attempt, but they missed it). For whatever reason (and that reason may or may not be important to discern), the prophecy was in error. Frankly, there’s a whole lot of this going around. Remember Harold Camping?
2) It’s a personal word. I recently read a testimony: a prophet declared an earthquake coming to his region in two weeks. Three weeks later, his report was that he must have missed the timing on the earthquake, but could I pray for him? Everything had gone haywire in his personal life for the past week.
I’m of the opinion that the vast majority of what God speaks to any of us about is for ourselves personally, and most of the rest is for our congregation or community of faith. Only a tiny portion is for the greater region or nation. Prophets who think everything they hear is for the nations may be deluded.
3) The prophecy is a metaphor. (Here is one example.) We’re not really discussing natural disasters; we’re talking about an event that’s coming in another realm than the natural (Spiritual? Economic? Political? Social?) that does now, or will at some time, involve some of the effects that a natural disaster involves: this may include upheaval, rapid change, troubles, etc. As an example, God has been speaking to the prophetic community in more than one region about a move of God that’s coming, and he’s consistently been using the metaphor of a tidal wave.
4) It is a literal, but conditional warning. (Here is an example.) We already know that some promises are conditional; some warnings are conditional as well. Not long ago, there were some credible prophetic warnings of natural disasters in my region. Several prophets in the region judged them to be both literal and true, but heard Holy Spirit saying that since we are heirs and representatives of his Kingdom in our region, we had the authority to change what was in our future. We met together, cancelled that particular future, called another, more appropriate future into being, and cancelled our own disaster preparations. The deadline passed without event.
I believe that prophetic promises fit in this category as well: when God promises a move of the Spirit, it’s appropriate for us to pray that event into the region. King David did that here.
5) And it may be a warning about a literal, physical event. (Here is an example.) God may be warning his children in order to take specific action (as here and here). Ancient records teach us that the prophet Agabus warned the church of the Roman destruction of
I believe that specific warnings for specific individuals are not particularly uncommon – they’re part of God leading his kids. But legitimate prophetic words prophesying literal, physical disaster appear to be remarkably rare. (That rarity may be a characteristic of this kind of word, or of the season we’re in, or it may only be rare in the particular group of prophetic warnings I’ve personally been seeing recently.)
When Christians prophesy foolishness, or when we misunderstand what God is saying and talk publicly about it, the people of God look really foolish (see here). As a result, God and his Kingdom look foolish, and (presumably) hell rejoices. May I suggest that this may not be the best use of prophetic gifts.
It’s time to take up the subject of judgment. In the past few weeks, I personally have heard perhaps a dozen prognostications of disaster on this region or that region which have declared that God is judging the described region for certain sins, though the particular sins under judgment seem to vary, depending on who’s making the declarations. As I take these to prayer, I’ve been reminded that God is not, in this day, doing the “judgment through nature” thing that Old Testament prophets were known for.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say that God is not doing judgment right now. Since this is not the topic of this article, I’ll quote a few supporting verses and move on:
Apparently, this is a season (“dispensation” for the theologically inclined) in which God’s agenda is about reconciliation rather than judgment. Smiting people is not on his to do list right now.
Here’s where I’m going with this, and I have the same hopes for two groups of people. I’m hoping that these will be heard by those among us who are hearing and seeing images of disaster, judgment, destruction from God, and by those of us who see or hear prophetic words or declarations of disaster, judgment or destruction.
May I suggest that we exercise 1 Corinthians 14:29: “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.” It’s interesting that “judge” in the Greek is the root for the word used as the “gift of discernment” in 1 Corinthians 12:10: the command is to discern the prophetic word. The word means to “separate thoroughly,” and includes the concepts of discriminating and deciding what is good and what is not.
Discerning the prophetic word is a requirement of any prophetic word shared publicly, and that includes words declared in public meetings, but it also includes words released in email, on blogs, on Facebook, or by Twitter: just because we are not in the same room where the prophetic word is first spoken is no excuse not to obey the direct command of scripture: prophetic words are to be discerned, judged.
I would also counsel us to consider soliciting wise discernment, judgment, of those prophetic words which we judge are strictly for our own lives and not to be released publicly. Several times, I’ve taken what I’ve been hearing from God personally and submitted it to prophets and other mature believers whom I trust. Sometimes they’ve affirmed what I’m hearing; other times, they’ve helped me fine tune or re-interpret what I was hearing.
Note also that there are two Greek words for “others” (as in “let the others judge”): one refers to “others of the same kind,” and in this case would refer to other prophets. But this verse uses the other word: “others of a different kind,” and would extend the responsibility of judging prophetic words beyond just “other prophets” to “All the other believers who are hearing [or reading] the prophecy are responsible for discerning – discriminating and deciding what is good and what is not – the prophetic word that is given.
The days of a prophetic word being unquestionable are over, if indeed they ever existed in any realm beyond the minds of the lazy or uninformed. Let me say it more directly: There is no such thing as a prophetic word that is beyond questioning, and anyone who insists that their words cannot be questioned should be treated as undisciplined children in the community of faith: they are part of the family, and they’re kind of cute sometimes, but they need to learn discipline before they’ll be able to contribute meaningfully to the community.
There is one more issue to be identified before leaving the topic: the discernment includes the necessity of “discriminating and deciding what is good and what is not.” I believe that a fairly substantial portion of the un-judged prophetic words circulating around right now are mixed: a good portion of the original revelation was legitimately of God, but the interpretation of that revelation was not correct.
Remember the prophet who declared “an earthquake coming to his region in two weeks,” but experienced an upheaval in his own life instead of in the region in that time frame? It’s my opinion that the prophet saw the original revelation clearly (an earthquake is coming in two weeks), but mis-interpreted the revelation (assuming a physical earthquake in the region, rather than a metaphorical earthquake in his own life), and therefore his application was wrong (he had urged everyone to prepare for death and destruction, when a more appropriate response would have been for him personally to prepare for change and upheaval in his own life).
If I could speak to those who speak prophetically and those who hear or read prophetic words to judge the prophetic words carefully: consider and decide: is this a true revelation? Is it from God? Is it speaking to me/to us? Is it correctly interpreted? Is the application consistent with God’s heart? Then receive that which is from God, and reject that which is not.
Even a dumb old cow knows enough to eat the hay and spit out the sticks.