1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Throughout history, the prophet has always been God’s messenger, or mouthpiece. He has used them to communicate his warnings and plans; especially when His people were not otherwise listening to His voice. Most of these messages appeared negative to the average believer, and especially to the unbeliever. However, the idea we have today of prophets is not the same. When we talk of prophets in the church, we think that the message and purpose of the prophet has changed to giving nice, sweet, uplifting words. God has not changed, only our understanding has. This understanding has come from a misunderstanding of First Corinthians, chapter 14, verse 3: But he that prophesies speaks unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. If we take a closer look at the definition of the three underlined words, we see that they are not nice, sweet, uplifting words, but in fact here is another area of confusion about prophecy in the Body of Christ today. That is, the difference between prophecy and declaration. Believers will say something like, “I prophesy to the principalities over this city, let the people go!” In fact, they are not prophesying, they are making a declaration against the spirits of darkness. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is wrong to call it prophecy. It is only prophecy when we are speaking forth what the Holy Spirit has commanded us to speak (David,2009).
All true prophets are also intercessors. To me, this is the proof of whether someone is a prophet. Many people want the “glamour” of giving forth a word of prophecy, so that they seem spiritual. But, not many people want to spend the time in gaining an intimate relationship with the Lord so that they will have a true word to bring forth.
One of the greatest errors that young prophets make is to assume that every word the Lord gives them needs to be given to the individual that the word is about. This is untrue. The hardest part of a prophet’s training is learning discernment about when to give forth a word. Most of the words a prophet receives are not for him to bring forth, but for him to pray about. Possibly after praying the Lord will have him give that word, but many times it will never go farther than the prophet and the Lord. Prophets are people who spend a lot of time with the Lord in prayer and worship. It is impossible to bring forth a message from God, without truly hearing His voice. It is impossible to hear his voice without closing off the distractions of the world, and focusing on Him.
A prophecy always has two parts. The first part is whatever the prophet, or person moving in the gift of prophecy, receives from the Holy Spirit. The second part is the interpretation. It is important that we differentiate between the two, because otherwise, we can end up misunderstanding the plans and purposes of God. Although prophecy constitutes almost one-third of the Bible, its importance is constantly downplayed by those who dismiss it as having no practical significance or by those who object to it on the grounds that it is a “fad” that takes people’s eyes off Jesus.
A good example of what this study seeks to examine can be found in the immensely popular best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren. He mocks Bible prophecy when he writes, “If you want Jesus to come back sooner, focus on fulfilling your mission, not figuring out prophecy.” He then goes on to characterize prophecy as a “distraction” and says that anyone who lets himself get involved in distractions like studying prophecy “is not fit for the kingdom of God.”(Reagan, 2006). Such cavalier dismissals of Bible prophecy fly in the face of scriptures like Revelation 19:10 which says that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Thus, if prophecy is properly taught, there is no reason for it to divert anyone’s attention away from Jesus. In fact, it should serve to emphasize the centrality of Jesus. Is prophecy practical? Consider that all the New Testament writers testify to the fact that living with the anticipation of the Lord’s return will motivate holy living. What could be more practical than that? Here are some examples:
The Apostle Paul: “The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” — Romans 13:12-14.