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The Christian Counter

     
THE GIFT OF PROPHECY
Lesson 23
Page 2 of 2

Intermediate summary

The office and work of a prophet is very serious business. God does not trifle with the responsibilities of this office. Prophets of God are held to the highest standards of accountability. Those who presume to speak for God when God has not spoken to them are evil imposters. Those who presume the authority or office of a prophet when God has not spoken to them will be severely punished. This is among the gravest offenses a mortal can commit.

The 10 points above bring us to three conclusions:

1.      First, the prophet must carefully and fearlessly represent what God has said or revealed to him. In many scriptures, the prophets indicate that the word of God comes to them in audible or visionary process leaving no doubt in their minds that God has clearly revealed something.

2.      Secondly, 1500 years of Old Testament history indicates that those called to be prophets usually have few friends. See also Matthew 23:37

3.      Lastly, false prophets often exist as contemporaries of true prophets. It seems strange but true that where there are no true prophets, there is few false prophets. Can it be possible that when God appoints prophets that Satan is allowed the same privilege or vise versa? This question leads us to the second identifying mark of the remnant in Revelation. The gift of prophecy is not only one of the identifying marks of the remnant; the gift of prophecy stands in direct opposition to false prophets having the same powers! This point brings us face to face with the ultimate question: How can we tell if a prophet is speaking for God?

Testing the Prophet

Testing or proving the validity of a spiritual claim is difficult at best. If someone claims to have the gift of knowledge or discernment, how should the claim be tested to see if it is true or false? If someone claims to have the gift of healing, how should the claim be tested to see if it is true or false? If someone has the gift of faith, how should that be tested? Why would we want to test the gifts anyway?

The core issue behind the manifestation of gifts is credibility. Who represents God? Who speaks for God? Who speaks truth and what is truth? All claims of spiritual gifts have to be tested. Here’s why. Paul said, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” I Timothy 4:1 John also warned, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” I John 4:1

Satan’s purpose

Satan has two reasons for deceiving people. First, he wants to lead them into rebellion against God, and secondly, he wants them to destroy God’s people. Revelation clearly demonstrates this process and predicts that Satan and his demons will be quite successful on both counts.

“And he (Satan) performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven in full view of men. Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.” Revelation 13:13-15

Recognizing that Satan and his demons seek to deceive the world, understanding that his lies are very close to the truth and wanting to know if someone speaks on behalf of God through the gift of prophecy, we ask: How should we test the validity of a person claiming to have received a message from God?

  1. Fruit inspection

Jesus, knowing the last days would be filled with false prophets, said we should measure a prophet by his lifestyle. “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. {16} By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? {17} Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. {18} A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. {19} Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. {20) Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” Matthew 7:15-20

Even more, Jesus, knowing that false prophets can heal the sick, cast out demons and work wonderful miracles, goes on to say that miracles are not received as evidence or credibility. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” Imagine the surprise many people will have when they are told that their wonderful miracles, done in the name of Jesus, occurred through the power of Satan!

  1. Be skeptical of a prophet working miracles

Jesus warned that many would come in my name at the end of the world and deceive many people with great signs and miracles. “At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. {24} For false Christ’s and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible. {25} See, I have told you ahead of time.” Matthew 24:23-25

By leading the world to believe that people are currently in heaven or hell, Satan has carefully set the stage for a series of demonstrations that will capture the attention of the world. Many of these miracles will involve direct and open communication with those who have died! By having apparitions appear in various places, Satan will confirm his deceptions by having these dead people say that false doctrines are truth! The masses will receive these delusions with enthusiasm because they don’t know what the Bible says. In reality, this is nothing less than the work of demons. Now you can see why the power granted to the two witnesses, the Bible and the Holy Spirit, is so great. They not only combat the demons from the Abyss, they must overcome ignorance!

Isaiah saw the great danger of people turning to these exciting and mysterious events. He warned, “When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? {20} To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.” Isaiah 8:19-20

The term “law” used by Isaiah refers to the first five books of the Bible. A phrase we often see in scripture. The term, “testimony” refers to the ten commandments of God. The ark that contained the tables of stone is often called the “ark of the testimony.” See Exodus 25:21,22 Isaiah is saying that, if a prophet’s word do not agree with the scriptures and the law of God, the prophet is full of darkness. And in truth, the false teaching of the immortality of the soul has become almost universally accepted and predisposes most of the world to accept the teachings of false prophets.

  1. Does the prophet obey the commandments of God?

John places a great deal of weight on the importance of the law of God. Persons that lead people to rebel against God’s commandments cannot have the true gift of prophecy. In Revelation, the remnant is not only identified as having the gift of prophecy, they “obey the commandments of God.”

Throughout his writings, John stresses the importance of obedience to God – not as a means of salvation, but as a result of their love for God. “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” John 14:21

Jesus, our Creator, has the right to ask human beings for obedience. He not only created us, He created all the laws by which we live. Neither natural nor moral laws can be violated without serious consequence. Jesus gives us the choice of whether we will obey Him and worship Him. He will not force us.

A person having the true gift of prophecy must be in compliance with the truths that God has revealed. John says, “The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. {5} But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: {6} Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” I John 2:4-6

Since the seventh day Sabbath of the fourth commandment will be the object of special attention during the trumpets, the importance of this test is critical.

  1. Does the prophet strengthen the remnant?

Paul says, “But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.” I Corinthians 14:3 The person having the gift of prophecy must edify or strengthen the church. As said earlier, a prophet’s life must also demonstrate the fruit of piety. The messages of true prophets bring men and women to repentance. Paul said, “But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he must be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!’” I Corinthians 14:24,25

  1. Accurate 100% of the time?

Jesus is omniscient and therefore, knows every detail about the future. When he reveals the future to his prophets, they don’t miss the mark. This simple point cannot be stressed hard enough. Omniscience does not have a 90% batting average on predictions.

Summary

The gift of prophecy is a deep subject. Most of the world is ignorant of the demonic forces that would lead them astray. Our age is peculiarly cursed with insight into technology while at the same time having great blindness to spiritual things.

The gifts of the Holy Spirit have been bestowed at various times and in various ways to help God’s people accomplish the commission of carrying the everlasting gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue and people. Here is a fundamental point: the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit combine to accomplish the gospel commission, not to draw attention to themselves.

An evil and wicked generation seeks signs as proof of credibility. Matthew 12:39 God is not challenged by demands for signs for the devil can turn sticks into snakes too. Exodus 7:11 The devil can heal the sick, cast out demons, speak wonderful truths and can appear very righteous and beneficial – all to accomplish his deceitful ends.

Revelation predicts the gift of prophecy will be an identifying mark of the obedient remnant. The difference between Satan’s miracles and the miracles worked by God’s servants is this: Satan’s miracles give credibility to rebellion against the Word of God while God’s miracles give credibility to the truths contained in scripture. This is the bottom line. This separates the true from the false.

Quiz:

  1. What is the gift of prophecy?
  1. Can the devil tell the future with 100% accuracy?
  1. How do the Ten Commandments relate to the testing of a prophet?
  1. Do you know someone with a spiritual gift?
  1. When people reject the testimony of a true prophet, what does God do?

Memory Verse:  I Corinthians 14:3  “But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort,”

Notes:

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