This study is an introduction to the series of New Testament Prophecy. I love the gift of prophecy, having first received the gift in 1983, followed by receiving the call to be a prophet in 1984. Then by 1994, ministries in various nations recognised the office of the prophet in my life. I learned so much from my spiritual father, a prophetic apostle. He remained my father in the Lord until he died in 2001. In this series, we will go through the different stages of prophecy. Then, we will do another series for those who desire to be a prophet or prophetess.
2. Definition of New Testament Prophecy
The first step to understanding New Testament prophecy is to look at the Greek words for prophecy in the New Testament.
After this, we will look at the Biblical basis of how Jesus and others operated in the prophetic.
A. Original Greek:
The two Greek words used are:
Prophecy – prophēteia; means to predict the future, declaring the purposes of God.
Prophesy – prophēteuō; foretell events, divine, speak under inspiration, exercise the prophetic office.
From these two words, we learn that prophesying enables us to speak under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and that it may involve predicting the future.
for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.2 Peter 1:21
Although this directly references the Old Testament prophets, the same principle applies to New Testament prophecy.
3. Jesus And New Testament Prophecy
A: Future Predictions from Old Testament Times
In the New Testament, Jesus defines prophecy as foretelling the present sometime in the past:
He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:Mark 7:6-7
‘This people honours Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
B. Jesus Prophesying
Jesus prophesied many times; every one of His prophecies in the past has been 100% correct. For example, He predicted the immediate future:
and He said to them, “Go into the village opposite you; and as soon as you have entered it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has sat. Loose it and bring it. And if anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it,’ and immediately he will send it here.”Mark 11:2-6
So they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door outside on the street, and they loosed it. But some of those who stood there said to them, “What are you doing, loosing the colt?”
And they spoke to them just as Jesus had commanded. So they let them go.
He predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in forty years and then in one hundred years to remove every temple stone.
4. Four Manifestations of Prophecy.
There are four manifestations of New Testament prophecy.
Seeing the future is like looking in the long-distance through a telescope.
Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar.Acts 11:28
The famine happened just as Agabus prophesied between 45-54CE. Foresight may be predictive as in Agabus’ prophecy, or it may declare the purposes of God in the future.
Oversight is the spiritual perspective of where things lie, to see the big picture concerning a person, church and/or organisation. It is like having a wide-angle lens on a camera. When ministering to individuals, this is a common area for people to move in the gift of prophecy. Oversight is more governmental, and a prophet will operate in this realm in leading churches or organisations, whether Christian or ‘secular’.
Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.Acts 13:1
Evidence suggests that Paul (here called by his original name Saul) was at the Antioch church for two years, teaching the people and acting as a prophet to the church there. Saul may have been using his prophetic insight in his governmental role in the Antioch church.
C. Personal Oversight Example
Here is a personal testimony that may help explain what oversight is:
I was invited to minister in a church in Malaysia and prophesied that they needed to prepare by establishing a church leadership structure—specifically, the need for area pastors to develop home groups to care for and teach the people. I told them to expect a significant influx of people, and God was about to bring revival into their church. They received this word and mixed it with faith by establishing structure and believing God was about to perform according to the word of the Lord. As a result, within two months, their church grew from 600 to 900, nearly all new converts. Interestingly, six months earlier, God had told me I would preach this message on August the 15th, so I stepped out in faith and pre-booked my flights. 15th of August was the day that I prophesied to their church.
When a person starts operating in the gift of prophecy, often this will be the first one they will move in. It is similar to looking through a microscope into a person, church or organisation. Insightful prophecy will declare the purposes of God to the hearer. They will receive insight into what the person they minister to is facing. This type of prophecy comforts the hearer because it tells them that God understands what they are going through and lifts their faith.
When the prophet operates within a church or organisation, the prophet may be able to identify the motivations of persons within the ministry.
Forth-telling is a vital aspect of New Testament prophecy. It is calling the future and bringing it to reality. It will see the purposes of God over the hearer and, when spoken, bring it to pass. The prophet Agabus may have been operating in this way in Antioch:
And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. When he had come to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'”Acts 21:10-11
F. Personal Forth-telling Example
Here is a personal testimony that may help explain what forth-telling is:
Christine and I lived in the Northern Territory of Australia amongst the indigenous Yolngu people for six years. About a fortnight after our arrival, I prophesied to a Yolngu leader that God was about to pour out revival in their midst. I had a meeting with them three days later, and the revival started immediately. The revival is still going on 14 years later, spreading across Northern Territory into Central Australia.
People prayed for a breakthrough amongst the Yolngu people for thirty years. Yet little happened until the prophet’s anointing arrived. So it was not a fore-telling; it was forth-telling. Speaking the word of the Lord by faith, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, we disarmed the principalities and powers. Over the next six years, we plundered the gates of hell resulting in 40 per cent of the Yolngu accepting Jesus in the first four years.
5. Requirements of New Testament Prophecy
A. Declaring the Purposes of God
When we look at the definition of prophecy or prophesy, there will be a declaration of the purposes of God to a person, group of people, church, ministry or organisation. There may be a predictive element to prophecy.
Love must bathe everything that we say and do when we prophesy.
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.1 Corinthians 13:2
If you have received a prophecy from God and it is of the Father’s heart, you will know how powerful it is. Because it is so powerful, the person prophesying must always operate in love.
C. Encouragement, Edification, Comfort
New Testament prophecy must always be for encouragement, edification, and comfort.
But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.1 Corinthians 14:3
Some people believe that a word of edification, exhortation, and comfort is a prophecy. However, you can bring comfort, edify or build someone up without bringing a prophecy. It needs to be one of the four types of prophecy: for-telling, forth-telling, insight, or oversight.
D. Convince and Convict
For those preaching in open-air meetings or evangelism, scripture teaches that prophecy will convince or convict the hearer.
Speaking prophetically is also helpful for those involved in counselling and correcting people entangled in legalism or false teachings.
But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.1 Corinthians 14:24-25
There was a well-recognised prophet who, in his earlier days, would minister in a church and expose sin, saying things like, “this man over here is sleeping with that woman there.” A mighty gift. However, there was a lack of love in the way he delivered these prophecies. We must always minister with love when we speak a prophecy that brings conviction. The desired outcome needs to be repentance that brings restoration rather than embarrassment in front of the congregation. This shame may cause the convicted person to break fellowship with other believers and God.
6. Judgemental Attitude has no place in New Testament Prophecy
A. We Are Not Under the Law
It is easy to look at the Old Testament prophets, who would be judgmental of people, leaders, and nations. Looking at the prophet Elijah we see this:
So Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, “If I am a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men.” And fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.2 Kings 1:10
We need to take the example of Jesus in the New Testament. When James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven, Jesus rebuked them.
But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?”Luke 9:53-56
But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village.
B. We are in an Era of Grace
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,Titus 2:11
Let your speech always be with grace,Colossians 4:6
C. Wisdom in Prophecy of Judgement
Sometimes God will give us a prophecy that is either convincing or convicting. And that requires great wisdom, not to destroy the person, but to restore the person. Allow me to give you a personal example of how I operate whilst delivering a prophecy that could be judgmental.
While ministering in a church, prophesying over people, I reached out to touch a woman who was asking for a prophetic word. Upon doing so, immediately in the spirit, I saw a small boat (dinghy) with holes in it and a shark attacking the boat. There was no doubt that the shark would attack her, sinking the boat. I felt in the spirit that she would die. However, I did not speak out about this vision, praying silently to God for clarification.
As soon as I did so, God revealed supernaturally that the woman was in a sexual relationship outside of marriage. Later on, I talked to the Pastor and told him what I had seen in the vision and the interpretation that God had revealed to me.
So the Pastor privately talked to her the following day and asked her if she was in a sexual relationship, at which point she admitted it was true. As the Lord convicted the woman, she ended the relationship and asked God’s forgiveness for being tempted to live a life ruled by the lust of the flesh. I visited that same church a few years later; she was still walking with the Lord and had entered into a marriage covenant with a man from the church.
© Use by Permission Awakening Impact Ministries/Dr Neville van Eerten 2022