What Does the Bible Say about the Gift of Prophecy?
- Meg Bucher Writer and Author
- Updated Jan 28, 2022
“At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, ‘Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus.” Revelation 19:10 NIV
The gift of prophecy existed in the Old Testament and carries on to the present day. In the Old Testament, prophets often addressed kings and people groups as a whole. In the New Testament, John the Baptist spoke of Jesus’ coming, and through the Holy Spirit some people still have the gift of prophecy today. The apostle Paul wrote:
“If you claim to be a prophet or think you are spiritual, you should recognize that what I am saying is a command from the Lord himself. But if you do not recognize this, you yourself will not be recognized.” (1 Corinthians 14:37-38 NLT)
True prophecy from God is Christ-centered. Jesus is the Living Word of God. When we can align prophecy with the truth of God’s Word, we can trust it is, indeed, a word from the Lord, Himself.
What Is Prophecy and What Is Its Significance in the Bible?
“Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us- whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter- asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.” 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 NIV
Prophecy is a revelation. In the context of the above verses, it’s Spirit-inspired. Not all prophecy is Spirit-inspired, which is why we have the Word of God to hold prophets accountable. “Whatever prophecies are given today do not add to Scripture,” Pastor John Piper explains, “They are tested by Scripture. Scripture is closed and final; it is a foundation, not a building process.”
The primary role of Old Testament prophets wasn’t just to predict the future, but “make known the holiness of God and the covenant obligations; to denounce injustice, idolatry, and empty ritualism; and call God’s covenant people, Israel, to repentance and faithfulness,” Sam Storms wrote for TGC. Living in the New Covenant, the Messiah has come. Jesus, the Word of God, fulfilled the Word of God. And He will come again. Prophecy helps us to connect to God and encourages us to seek Him deeper. The Holy Spirit is our Reminder. He helps us discern and learn God’s truth. Paul wrote to the Ephesians:
“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.” Ephesians 4:11-13 NIV
Each person has been created in the image of God, our Creator, with a specific purpose to accomplish for His Kingdom, through the particular gifting He has equipped all of us with. “In a situation where so much stress was being placed on gifts,” the NIV Study Bible explains, “Paul insists that any genuinely gifted person will recognize the apostle’s God-given authority.” Not everyone has the same gifts and callings. Paul is reminding us to look up to God for what we cannot find anywhere else. Prophecy is one of the many gifts God has sprinkled through the human race.
3 Things the Bible Says about the Gift of Prophecy
“But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.” Hebrews 1:2 NIV
1. Prophesy is Rooted in Christ Jesus.
Prophecy from the Lord is rooted in Christ Jesus. “The New Testament is our authority,” Pastor John Piper explains, “And since the New Testament endorses the Old Testament as God’s inspired Word, we take the whole Bible as our rule and measuring rod of all teachings and all prophecies about what we should believe and how we should live.” The Bible is clear about what is and is not prophecy from the Lord. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians:
“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 NIV)
2. Prophecy Relies on Relationship with God.
God is relational. He made a way for us to come to Him through His Son, Christ Jesus. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the Living Word of God. When discussing the gift of prophecy, we cannot emphasize enough the centrality of Christ. “The essence of the gift of prophecy is the foundation of using every gift of the Spirit,” Britt Mooney explains, “To heal or do other miraculous things, I must first be able to hear from God.”
Our relationship with the Lord is important! We won’t be able to know if a word is from the Lord, or hear and receive it, when our relationship with Him has been put on the back burner. “A prophet's primary function in the Old Testament was to serve as God’s representative or ambassador by communicating God’s word to his people,” Sam Storms explains, “True prophets never spoke on their own authority or shared their personal opinions, but rather delivered the message of God’s word to his people.”
3. Prophecy Calls God’s People to Turn to Him.
Prophecy should beckon us to return to the Lord... to turn our countenance towards Jesus. The Bible gives us many imperatives about how to know a prophecy is biblical and what to do if it is not. In the Old Testament, Moses wrote in the book of Deuteronomy the penalty for false prophets was death (Deut 18:20). 2 Peter 1:21 says:
“For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (NIV)
More Verses from the Bible about Prophecy:
“If any one speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praises through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:11 NIV
“Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” Exodus 4:12 NIV
“I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.” Deuteronomy 18:18 NIV
“Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, ‘I have put my words in your mouth.’” Jeremiah 1:9 NIV
“Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at the time.” Judges 4:4 NIV
“The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.” Isaiah 1:1 NIV
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles!’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” Matthew 7:21-23 NIV
“They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.” John 16:3 NIV
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful from teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:16 NIV
“Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” Ephesians 2:20 NIV
Is This a Gift People Still Have Today?
“Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?” 1 Corinthians 12:29 NIV
Prophecy is a spiritual gift people still have today. The Holy Spirit can speak through people in a prophetic way, and always in accordance and alignment to the truth of Scripture. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the integrity of love in the famous “love” chapter, 1 Corinthians 13. “The people in Corinth were abusing the spiritual gifts, and Paul makes sure to instruct them that God’s love must be the motivation for how His power should operate, Britt Mooney explains.”
Prophecy, like any other spiritual gift from the Lord, cannot be used apart from the Spirit of God. Remember, prophets are always meant to point people to the Lord, God, the One True God, through the Living Word, the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
Prophecy is a gift. Not everyone has it, but some certainly do even to this day. When our relationship with the Lord is consistent, we are able to walk fully in the gifts He has given us. Prophecy will never contradict Scripture or the character of God. We are warned there will be many false prophets from now until the time Jesus returns. False prophets can be exposed by lining them up to the truth of God’s Word.
NIV Study Bible, Copyright © 1985, 1995, 2002, 2008, 2011 by Zondervan.
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Meg writes about everyday life within the love of Christ at Joy Overflowing and Sunny&80. She is the author of “Friends with Everyone, Friendship within the Love of Christ,” “Surface, Unlocking the Gift of Sensitivity,” “Glory Up, The Everyday Pursuit of Praise,” “Home, Finding Our Identity in Christ,” and "Sent, Faith in Motion." Meg earned a Marketing/PR degree from Ashland University but stepped out of the business world to stay home and raise her two daughters …which led her to pursue her writing passion. A contributing writer for Salem Web Network since 2016, Meg is now thrilled to be a part of the editorial team as Editor of Christian Headlines. Meg loves being involved in her community and local church, leads Bible study, and serves as a youth leader for teen girls.
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