I sat in a local church in my hometown shortly after 9/11, where a self-proclaimed "prophet" had come in to conduct a three-day revival. It was not my church home, but I was curious as to what a prophet would have to say in light of the recent events. Besides, I was still unsure about the whole prophet thing—did they still exist or did they become extinct with the Bible days?

From the time he stood up front… until I walked out about fifteen minutes later… nothing about this guy felt right to me. He was silly, flamboyant, and nothing like I expected a sober-minded prophet to be. He stood in front of the congregation, promising blessings, prosperity, healing… everything your average American wants more of and none of what they don't. There was no mention of sin, repentance, confession, or obedience. Just one blessing after another. One of the things he said (right before I walked out) was that he had a "revelation from God while he was relieving himself in the bathroom." Before the three-day revival was over, "God was going to make it rain in the natural world to confirm the blessings He was getting ready to rain down in the spiritual realm for every and all attendee."

What is a prophet?

Luckily, before I dismissed the whole idea of modern day prophets, I decided to study the concept for myself. Webster's definition is: "one who utters divinely inspired revelations; one regarded by a group of followers as the final authoritative revealer of God's will; one gifted with more than ordinary spiritual and moral insight; one who foretells future events." In Deuteronomy 18:18 (NIV) we find the first reference to a prophet. "I will raise up for them a prophet…I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him."

ChristianAnswers.net describes prophets as "the immediate organs of God for the communication of his mind and will to men. The foretelling of future events was not a necessary but only an incidental part of the prophetic office. The great task assigned to the prophets whom God raised up among the people was ‘to correct moral and religious abuses, to proclaim the great moral and religious truths which are connected with the character of God, and which lie at the foundation of his government.'"[1] I think in over-simplistic terms, you could say a prophet is a truth teller.

Do they still exist?

In Acts 2:17-18 we read, "In the last days, God said, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.'" Clearly, since the time of Christ we have been living in "the last days" and this gift is anything but gone.

However, perhaps more than with any other label, we must use extreme caution when either demonstrating this gift or receiving it from others, because we are forewarned: "Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world." 1 John 4:1

How do you tell a true prophet?

Some of the signs of a true and authentic prophet (not inclusive) are:

They have received this gift from the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 12:28-29 & Ephesians 4:11). However, sometimes God temporarily gifts people to prophesy for a specific purpose when they are not prophets, such as when Saul began prophesying as a sign from God that he would be the next king (see 1 Samuel 10:9-11).