What is prophecy? Prophecy is simply the mind of God migrating into the mind of humanity. Prophecy is one way that God’s thoughts and ways are communicated to us today. It can sometimes look like encouragement and sometimes it can look like foretelling of the future.
There is a common sentiment among some believers that prophecy ceased with the first century church. This is incorrect. Prophecy is active, it is alive, and it is your right and privilege as a child of God. The prophet Joel said,
“And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit.” (Joel 2:28-29 ESV)
What Prophecy Is
Prophecy is simply hearing and then doing what God says. It is hearing what your natural ears cannot hear and then doing what you hear.
What Prophecy is Not
If you ever meet a “prophet for profit,” whether they’re prophesying to make money or using prophecy out of bad motives to manipulate for their own gain, watch out. Prophecy is not communicating your own human desires. That’s when it becomes Christian witchcraft. Biblical prophecy is not the power of positive thinking, manifestation, or new age practices.
1 Corinthians 13:9 (ESV)
For we know in part and we prophesy in part.
In the new covenant, prophecy is not on the same level as scripture. It does not carry the same weight. If someone puts their prophetic words at the same level as scripture, they are a cult leader or false prophet. Scripture will always confirm prophecy, but prophecy is not on the same level as scripture.
I’m going to share about the three levels of prophesy.
Level One: The Faith Level
First, we have the most elementary level of the prophetic: the faith level. Any believer can access this level of the prophetic.
1 Corinthians 14:31 (ESV)
For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged,
All means all. Some of us have heard that only special people can operate in the prophetic. This is false. Every believer can operate in the prophetic from the level of faith to bring prophetic edification, prophetic building up, and prophetic encouragement to others.
How to Prophesy
If you’d like to be used prophetically by God, I encourage you to step out in faith and pray a bold prayer. Say, “Holy Spirit, you’re the Comforter. I’m asking you to give me access to information to encourage and comfort someone else.” He will do it if you ask in faith. I have countless stories where I have been in the grocery store or somewhere public and the Lord has told me information about someone present who I didn’t know. I have approached people and said, “Hey, I know I don’t know you, and I might be totally off, but I believe that God wants you to know that you’ve been going through this situation [and I described the situation] but you are heading into a season that looks like [and I tell them what the Holy Spirit gives me about the situation that is to come].” Every single time I take the risk, the Holy Spirit meets me at that place of risk. Faith is spelled R-I-S-K in the kingdom.
Should I Use Prophecy to Correct?
When operating in the faith level of the prophetic, use the prophetic mainly to build up, encourage, and edify. Many of us want to jump straight to correcting others through prophecy. I caution you here. There is a difference between old covenant prophecy and new covenant prophecy.
The old covenant is the sacrificial system that Israel employed for absolution of their sins. Then Jesus died for both Jews and Gentiles so that all would be saved, and he established a new covenant. In the new covenant, prophecy did not cease, it simply changed in its application. Prophecy in the New Testament is primarily redemptive, not corrective. It can sometimes be corrective, but it isn’t that way all the time.
Start on the Ground Floor
If you are starting out in the prophetic at the faith level, the best thing you can do is start by edifying, building up and encouraging others through your prophetic gift. Scripture says Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world but rather came to save (John 3:17). Is your prophecy reflective of Jesus’ mission? Is it correcting and condemning people, or is it a conduit for salvation? Sometimes hard, corrective words are necessary and appropriate. Nonetheless, I urge you to start on the ground floor with encouragement and edification, and then graduate to more corrective prophetic words as you gain maturity in the gift.
Level Two: The Gift Level
1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (ESV)
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
Second, we have the gift level. Gifts from God cannot be earned. They are freely given. You can’t read your Bible or fast and pray hard enough to receive the gift of prophecy. The Holy Spirit gives the gift as He wills. Therefore, you might be able to operate at the faith level of prophecy, which is available to all believers, but the Holy Spirit may not give you the gift of prophecy.
If you find yourself desiring the gift of prophecy, first examine your motives. Do you want the gift itself, or are you searching for the significance that comes with operating in the gift? Your life doesn’t carry more value just because you possess a certain gift. Perhaps the reason the Holy Spirit has not given you the gift of prophecy is because He first wants to give you the gift of relationship with Himself so that you find your significance in Him. Seek the Giver first, and then the gift.
The Cost of Operating in the Gift
Operating in the gift of prophecy comes at great cost. It comes with the price of sorrow, hard times, and weighty responsibility. This gift may cost you friendships, relationships, and finances. It is free to receive, but it may cost everything to operate in it. Furthermore, you will need character to sustain the gift. If your gift exceeds your level of character, you’ll be like Lucifer, cast out of heaven. There are some who prophesy with extreme accuracy while simultaneously living in sin. The gift is free, but you need character to sustain the words that you’re giving to the Body of Christ.
Level Three: The Office Level
Ephesians 4:11-13 (NIV)
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Finally, we have the office level. This verse says Jesus himself put the prophets in position. You might be overlooked by men, but Jesus himself has not overlooked you. He put you in position before you were even in your mother’s womb. Some of you have been placed in the office of a prophet by Jesus.
The Bible says the gift of God will make room for you and bring you before great men (Proverbs 18:16). The office of a prophet carries with it a mantle that holds prestige, honor and respect. When you function at the office level of a prophet, you will prophesy to the nations and bring presidents, dignitaries, princes, and kings to their knees. You will speak into multinational church organizations. You will bring correction and you may even bring division. A person operating in the office of a prophet joins people together and separates them as well. When a person operating in this office enters a room, he or she ushers in the fear of the Lord.
This is part 1 of a three part series on prophecy. I hope after reading it you understand what prophecy is and how it works in believers today. To dig in even deeper, I encourage you to download my free 35-day Prophetic Activation devotional.
I pray this blog helps you in your walk with God. Please share it and let me know what you think in the comments below!
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