Testing Prophecy

Discussion in 'Holy Spirit Baptism and Living' started by revlynn, Mar 31, 2011.

  1. Firstly, let me say that I do not want this thread to become a debate about whether there are still prophets or the gift of prophecy is still operational/relevant today. This is addressed to those who do believe in the gift of prophecy, in the hope of avoiding some areas of danger.​

    We need to understand that just because a message begins with "Thus saith the Lord ...," or because it is presented as God speaking in the first person, does not necessarily mean that it IS from the Lord, or that it is true prophecy. We also need to be able to discern the source of the words that we receive ourselves.​

    A "word" of this kind has three possible sources: the Lord, the devil, or the human mind (our own or that of the person speaking.) We need to be able to tell the difference between the three, and the following 8 tests will help you to do that.​

    1. Does it line up with Scripture?
    If it is true prophecy, then it is inspired by the same Holy Spirit who wrote the Bible. He does not change; He does not say one thing in the Word and something different through modern prophecy. Many years ago I knew a lady who was "in love" with a married man. Quite regularly, she would get "prophetic words" saying that he was going to leave his wife and marry her. Were they from God? Most definitely not - the source was her own heart.​

    I also sometimes hear people quote something from Scripture in a "prophecy," but the quote is incorrect. Now, it is possible for me or any other preacher to make a mistake and say "Samson" when we meant "Solomon." It is not possible for God to do so. If the Scripture in the prophecy is incorrect, then it is a word from the mind of man, not from the Spirit of God.​

    2. Does it line up with the Character of God?
    Sometimes, a "prophecy" will appear to line up with the letter of the Word, yet it does not reflect the character of God. Often, "judgmental" prophecies come into this area. Now don't get me wrong, God is a God of judgment as well as a God of love. But when He has to bring judgment, particularly when He has to bring it against His own people, it grieves Him. An "off with their heads!" prophecy that seems to take delight in the judgment does not reflect His character.​

    Another instance is the prophet who walks into a church and, in an effort to big-note himself, sets about exposing every sin in the place. Again, God will certainly expose sin when the sinner is unrepentant and hard hearted; but He will not do so if the person is struggling, trying to gain victory over a particular problem, but for the moment at least losing the battle. In that case, the principle that "love covers a multitude of sins" cuts in.​

    3. Does it strike a chord with your own spirit?
    There is one great difference between prophecy in the Old Testament and prophecy in the New. In the Old Testament, the people did not have the Spirit of God within them. Their only way of knowing what God was saying was through externals: the written Law, and the words of the prophets. This side of the Cross, every born-again believer has the Spirit of God within. We are supposed to receive our leading from Him. Anything that is spoken to us by a prophet should be either a confirmation of what God has already spoken to our own spirit by His Spirit, or a preparation for what He is going to speak. In my experience, even when a prophecy is a rebuke, if it is truly from the Lord the hearer will recognize it as such (even if he doesn't want to know about it and refuses to respond.)​

    4. Is it true?
    This one should be a no-brainer. God is truth. The devil is a liar. If it is not true, the source should be glaringly obvious. Yet somehow, the prefixing of a statement with those four magical words, "Thus saith the Lord ..." can at times cause us to think that what we know to be untrue must in fact be true. Example: some time ago, someone attacked the ministry I lead with a false prophecy saying that God wanted it closed. One of the accusations in that word was that we were just operating out of our own thoughts, not seeking Him. Now, the truth is that we constantly seek the Lord for the direction for this ministry. The word was a lie, and because I understand these principles I was easily able to dismiss it as such. (There were also a number of other factors that showed it up as a false prophecy.) However, if I hadn't understood these principles, it would have been very easy for me to "repent" of something that wasn't even true, and close a ministry that God wants to remain active.​

    5. Does it have spiritual significance?
    This is one of the great differences between prophecy and psychic powers. The devil will show you things just to satisfy your curiosity, or to make you look good (which makes him look good.) God does not do that. He will tell you only the things you need to know, either to make changes in your own life, to encourage change in the lives of others, or for intercession. I was horrified some years ago to hear of "prophets" who would call people out and say things like, "Oh, I can see your living room. You have this and that and something else" (describing the furniture and furnishings.) What is the spiritual value in that? I'm sure the person already knows what is in his/her living room. The only benefit can be to make the "prophet" look good. There is only one time when God would be likely to tell you what is in your house - if something there is wrong in His eyes, and He wants you to get rid of it.​

    6. If a time frame is given, does it come to pass within that time frame?
    Not all prophecies specify a time frame. Many prophecies of the Bible have not yet come to pass, but that does not mean that they are false prophecies: their fulfillment is still some time in the future. However, if a time frame is given, and it doesn't happen within that time frame, then it is not God. Twenty-five years ago some bright spark gave us "88 Reasons Why Jesus Will Return in 1988" (Yes, there was actually a book with that title.) Guess what? Jesus did not return in 1988. 88 reasons why He would still did not make it a true prophecy. At a smaller level, if someone prophecies that God is going to do something today/this month/this year, and at 12.01 tomorrow morning, or 1st next month, or 1st January next year, that thing has not happened, then that was not a word from God.​

    7. Where is it taking us?
    Deuteronomy 13:1 says that if a prophet comes, and what he says comes to pass, then he says, "Let's go worship other gods," the people are not to follow that prophet, because he is not of God. A prophetic word may seem to pass all the other tests, but if following it will lead you away from the Lord, then it is not God.​

    8. What spirit is behind it?
    In Acts 16:16-18 we have the story of a slave girl who followed Paul and his group, crying out "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation." At first glance, that "prophecy" seems to meet all the tests here, yet Paul recognized that the source was demonic and cast the spirit out of the girl, to the great consternation of her minders. Why did it matter? Very simply, if this girl had been allowed to continue unchecked she would have gained acceptance as a prophet, which would have made the young Christians more open to receive future words from her ... words which would have brought the message of satan, not of God. Further, she would have been lifted up, with the glory going to her, and the focus being shifted from the vital message of salvation being brought by the apostles.​

    Whilst it is important for us to test prophecy, it is also important for us to ask the Lord for the gift of discerning of spirits, so that we can be aware of the deception that may lie behind what otherwise looks like a genuine word from God.​



    JReid, GodSpeaks, HisManySongs and 1 other person say Amen and like this.
  2. That's a good checklist, Lynn. :)

    Number 4 & 8 are the trickiest.

    Four because, as humans, we can think we are following God's will when we in fact we are only following what we think is the will of God. I remember a time on a committee, (more than once, actually) when someone came up with an idea and everyone said "wonderful, let's do it". I said I think we should pray about it to see if that is what God wants and discuss it again next meeting.

    I got jumped on because we were supposedly praying the whole time, so didn't need to pray specifically about this idea before jumping in head first.

    Anyway, we started working on it, and wouldn't you know, it never came to be. Instead, after spending a lot of time and effort on the idea, we decided there was a better way.

    That's why I pray before hand and then after getting an idea.

    Eight because for the reasons you stated. It seems to fit the criteria of a true prophecy. But the telling sign in your example was the "fruit". This woman's prophecies were making men rich, but doing nothing to further the kingdom. Christians can get sucked into that so easily because it feels good and they can convince themselves it is God, because they are prospering.

    We need to remember, God is no so concerned with us having Earthly wealth (except where we can use it for eternal good) as He is about our eternal wealfare. Yes, God cares about us while here on Earth, but:

    Mark 8:36 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?
  3. #4 is not about being right, as such, but about being true. In the case of the example I gave, the "prophecy" said that we were not seeking God, which was not true - we were, and still do, on a regular basis. Because God knew that, He would not say that we were not seeking Him when we were, so the word did not come from Him.

    In #8, the fruit is certainly an important aspect, but more important is that the message this woman brought, even though absolutely true and meeting the other criteria, was from a demonic spirit (as proven by the fact that Paul cast the spirit out of her.) Christians need to understand that the devil will use truth as a wedge to open the way for his lies. Had this woman been accepted, the younger believers especially would have been more inclined to receive anything she said in the future, and the devil could have used her to tell them just about anything he wanted.


  4. I wasn't disagreeing with you Lynn. :) I was just adding a couple of examples that are slightly different from your's but fall under the same categories.

    But after re-reading our comments, I see how coming at it from two different sides can be unclear.

    In your example (#4) the ministry was attacked and accused of following human desires, rather than God. This person suggested it be done away with altogether.

    In my example, I did not accuse anyone, nor did I suggest putting an end to anything we were working on. I thought the idea was great, also. But I suggested we continue to pray about it before voting to charge ahead, just to be certain it was how God wanted us to proceed. That offended them. "Why wait another week?"
    I don't get being offended by the suggestion of a little more prayer - I do it in my personal life all the time. I pray and pray and when I think I've been given the answer, I pray a little more to be certain it's God's idea and not my own. Afterall, even us mere humans can have good ideas sometimes. :)

    Actually, I'm not sure what your objection in #8 is...... Men were following this woman's prophesies because they hoped to gain Earthly wealth, the same thing is happening today! By fruit, I meant Earthly fruit as opposed to Eternal fruit. They sought the Earthly fruit (rewards) which I don't see God as opposed to. However, He is more concerned with our eternal fate than how much stuff we gain on Earth.
    I think we are in 100% agreement. A prophecy that comes true and brings you good fortune is not an absolute sign it is from God.

    Anyway, I thought your list was great.
  5. Thanks Ginger. I wasn't actually disagreeing, more clarifying. I certainly agree that all our decisions should be bathed in prayer, but that wasn't my point here. Rather, it was simply that if a "prophecy" includes something that you know to be untrue, then it is not of God, because God knows the truth. If this woman had come with a word that said, "You have heard incorrectly" then I would have taken it back to God; but the issue was not whether we had heard, but whether we had sought Him at all. We had, but this "word" said we hadn't, which was false.

    Perhaps that was a confusing illustration. Let me give another. One time I was attending a "prophetic conference." This guy, who had never seen me before in his life, "prophesied" over me. His first words were, "You have often looked at your pastor up there preaching and thought, 'I could never do that.'" Now, at that point of time I had been in ministry for around 20 years; I had preached all round Australia and in a number of other countries; I was the leader of the church with which I was involved; I had preached the week before and was due to preach the next day. I love preaching - I don't think there has been a single time when I have stood before a congregation and not had the sense of "this is that for which I was created." And, apart from all that, it is simply not in my nature to look at anyone doing anything and say "I could never do that!" The "prophecy" was untrue - in fact, if they had been giving out Oscars for untrueness, this guy would have taken one home for sure! I didn't even need to listen to the rest of the "prophecy" - it was not true, therefore not from God.

    My point with #8 is that we need not only to look for the natural "fruit" (which is certainly important) but even more for the spiritual "fruit" of potential demonic influence.


  6. Many prophetic utterances I have heard are expressly biblical: “God says He loves this church as his own bride.” Great, God’s Word has been spoken. Of course, a person without a prophetic gift also has Scripture and can and should speak it; this doesn’t require supernatural ability.

    Most “prophetic words” that I have heard are general and non-predictive enough that they are impossible to confirm or deny. E.g. “God says He will be glorified in our midst and bring people to himself through this church.” No doubt He will, but it will be impossible to conclude that this word has not been fulfilled. Even if we see no new converts, we can suppose that some have come to Christ in the workplace and through the giving and example of our church members.

    Other prophetic words do have a predictive element. “Someone sitting here is suffering from cancer; God promises He will heal them today.” Someone may come forward and say “It was me.” Time will tell if there is healing. If there is, praise God. And hopefully the healing is confirmed after the x-rays show the cancer is gone, rather than announcing a healing one Sunday only to be followed by the funeral six weeks later.

    Still other words are highly specific. For example, the deacon stands up and states, “God says He will fill this auditorium to overflowing, so that six months from now, so many people will be coming to this church that there will not be room for them.” “Hallelujahs” and “Amen” abound. If it proves true, people will remember the prophecy. If six months from now there are still hundreds of empty seats in the church no one will talk about that prophecy.

    If the deacon is right one out of six times it can be confirmed one way or the other, then it’s like the roll of the dice. When the deacon brings another prophecy, the discerning will wonder even though they may not risk sounding unspiritual by raising the question of why they should believe her words. Sadly, when they hear God’s Word preached, they may doubt it too, since no clear distinction has been made between the words of the prophet Jeremiah and the words of the prophet deacon.

    AND HERE IS THE PROBLEM FOR ME AND MOST EVERYONE ELSE ..................................

    We cannot have it both ways. Either the deacon is bringing words from God like the biblical prophets did, or he is not. If he is speaking with God’s authority like a prophet of old and his words do not come true, by Old Testament law she should be stoned—or at very least, in our “age of grace,” he should be discredited and no longer trusted to bring prophetic words. And, presumably, he should be told to remain seated and quiet rather than stand and speak on behalf of a God who he has a history of misunderstanding or misrepresenting.
  7. Hi im new to this site!!! i agree we must test all things thats a good list Jesus said "youll know them by their fruit " does draw people closer to God, get people saved,line up with the word of God........the devil is not goin to do these things......It is wrong if some one purposfully gives a word from God over and over ,but we also must remember the perfect God is using imperfect man to reach the world with christs love and to build up the church ...........im not condoning false prophecy becuase its a big deal to speak when god has not told you to....but all im saying is people can make mistakes especially when they are learning how to listen to the Holy spirit...good thread have a Blessed day!!!!
  8. You are soooo right! There is a point early in our Christian walk where we get very excited about God and sometimes we can get carried away and think we know what God wants us to do or say. It's a learning experience to teach us to be careful to varify everything and make sure it's God's will and not ours. :)

    I think it hapens to everyone.

    Something else you reminded me of when you quoted "does draw people closer to God, get people saved,line up with the word of God........"

    The truth doesn't draw everyone closer to God. Often people get angry because they don't want to admit they are not living a godly life. Pride gets in their way and they may not run to the front of the line to get baptized!!!

    But we still speak the truth in the hope that God will use ours words to plant a seed.
  9. Mat 7:15
    Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
    Mat 7:16
    You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles?
    Mat 7:17
    Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit.
    Mat 7:18
    A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruits, nor can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
    Mat 7:19
    Every tree that does not bring forth good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
    Mat 7:20
    Therefore by their fruits you shall know them.

    Watch those who prophesy carefully, look for the fruit in their lives. A true prophet will show the fruit of the Spirit in their day to day lives. What we see behind the TV screen does not show us what their fruit is like.

    Love, humility, self control, servant, etc etc etc etc.
  10. I totally agree. I do have that gift of prophecy. And I know in the beginning of my gift, I wasn't that good at hearing God's voice. So I constantly told people to test that prophetic word in the beginning. I've gotten much better, but that's only because I now know what God tells me to tell other people.

    But yes, prophetic words should always be tested. Because there ARE false prophets. So that is why we need to test them! :)
  11. I do have a question about the person having the gift of prophecy and/or tongues - do the fruits (based on Gal 5:22-23) have to be completely manifested in that person?

    I'm only specific about the two gifts since they can be seen and heard at the same time . And, I've encountered some people that have gift of tongues but I do wonder about something else in them. I just found out that two people in our church have the gift of prophecy and I can attest that the other one has the fruits mostly, if not entirely. The other one intimidates me but maybe it's just me since she doesn't know my story.

    I don't know somebody who has the gift of interpretation of tongues although it is also an obvious gift.
  12. It does take some time (in most cases) to distinguish the voice of God from our own feelings. Once you're able to recognize the difference life gets a lot easier. :)
  13. It seriously does. I hear His voice most of the time. But sometimes there are days when I can't really hear Him. :) That's why I need to rebuke the flesh and also Satan (because Satan can also mess with your mind, give you a false prophetic word).
  14. When somebody presents a prophecy, the first fruit I look for is love. Does the prophet give their word for the love of the church, God and fellow man?

    If they give their word in arrogance, for money, for revenge etc then it probably is false.

    If God gives you a prophetic word for somebody, you can test it in your own mind before giving it. Does it come in love? Very few prophets will have OT style judgments on nations, if they do, God would have already given them a proven track record of fulfilled prophetic words.

    I always get very sceptical when I hear pastors etc call up people to prophesy over others, like it is a gift one can turn on and off at will. A prophet will only speak when they are sure God has spoken to them. They will not easily fail under pressure to produce a false prophecy.

    An orderly church should have a structure whereby prophecies can be tested through elders, intercessors etc before allowing them to be released on the church. False prophecies can be very damaging, they can bring fear and a mislead new believers, they should be tested and verified by the correct people in leadership.

    True prophecies always produce fruit. God's word will not return in vain!
    xspinningisfun and Ginger say Amen and like this.
  15. Kudos - to the entire post, Kevin!
  16. Thanks!! These statements validate my thoughts few days ago.
  17. I concur with this.
  18. I think that it should also be concerning calling someone to pray for someone else... like it happened once with me. I felt extremely under pressure and had no desire to stumble all over an uncertainly spoken prayer. Someone should only speak over someone in prayer when they are led of God to do so.
  19. We are called to pray for each other, why would this be concerning?

    Learning to pray for others is one of the first things we learn as Christians: we see it commended on every other page of the New Testament; we see it modeled in every other meeting of Christians we participate in; and Christian parents model it to their children from birth.

    Have you ever stopped to think about why we pray for others, however? Or why we ask prayer from others? I was made to really consider the question when I first read through 2 Corinthians 1. And what the Apostle Paul says there continues to provoke me to thought and wonder every time I read it.
    More of that passage in a moment; but I guess, at the most basic level, we pray for our friends because we love them. We desire their good, we desire their growth: we desire their conversion and conformity to Christ. And what more loving thing is there to do than to pray to the one who loves us with a love beyond our ability to conceive, a love that is accompanied by the ability to do it, and which nothing can thwart? Praying for others is more than just the best thing to do when I can't do any more for them—a last option for love when all other options are exhausted—it is always the best thing to do for them (though not the only, of course!).

    It ought come as no surprise, therefore, that Jesus calls on us to pray not just for our friends, but also for our enemies, since we are called to love our enemies too: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44).
  20. Why would we not pray for each other??

    James 5:16 ESV / 13 helpful votes

    Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

    Galatians 5:13 ESV / 9 helpful votes

    For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

    1 Timothy 2:1 ESV / 7 helpful votes

    First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,

    Philippians 4:6 ESV / 7 helpful votes

    Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

    Matthew 5:44 ESV / 7 helpful votes

    But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

    Ephesians 6:18 ESV / 5 helpful votes

    Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

    1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV / 4 helpful votes

    Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

    Colossians 1:9 ESV / 4 helpful votes

    And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,

    Philippians 1:9-11 ESV / 4 helpful votes

    And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

    John 15:7 ESV / 4 helpful votes

    If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

    1 Peter 3:7 ESV / 3 helpful votes

    Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

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