Prophecy is one of the most misunderstood and misused teachings in Christian churches today. People have been hurt by the false visions and supposed revelations uttered through men and women claiming to speak for God. This is particularly prevalent in the charismatic churches, where the prophetic jargon is animated and expressed in an, “anything goes,” theatre of life. Books, tapes, CD’s, videos, magazines, Internet web sites, seminars and more are devoted to this subject; pitiful is the adjective that best describes the percentage of prophetic that actually originates from God.
Volumes could be written on the harmful effects of so-called prophecies, including the pervasive use of, “tongues and interpretations of tongues,” in the Pentecostal churches. To optimize time and space, this study is devoted to looking intently at the authoritative written word of God in the Scriptures. The apostle Peter refers to the scripture as being, “the more sure word of prophecy.”
· 2 Peter 1:19-2:1 And so we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. 20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. 2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. NAS
How critical it is that we develop our teaching and practice from what God says about prophecy, emphasizing simplicity, clarity, and honesty on the subject, without embellishing the text with unnecessary bias, opinion or rhetoric.
Primarily three Bible versions are used in this study, the New American Standard (NAS), New American Standard Updated (NASU) and The Amplified Bible (AMP). To save space, numerous scripture references will be listed instead of the entire text being pasted in the main body of the study. All definitions are taken from one or more reference works found in:
· PC Biblesoft's Version 3, including the New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.
· The Online Bible Thayer's Greek Lexicon
· Brown Driver & Briggs Hebrew Lexicon, Copyright (c) 1993, Woodside Bible Fellowship, Ontario, Canada. Licensed from the Institute for Creation Research.
· AMG WordStudy Bible and Reference CD, including Zodhiates’ WordStudy Old Testament & WordStudy New Testament.
· Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Copyright (c) 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers
Acronyms used for referencing various study helps are:
· AMG = AMG WordStudy Bible & Reference CD
· BDB = Brown Driver & Briggs Hebrew Lexicon
· TGL = The Online Bible Thayer's Greek Lexicon
· Strong’s = PC Study Bible Version 3, New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary
· HEI = PC Study Bible Version 3 Hebrew to English Interlinear
· GEI = PC Study Bible Version 3 Greek to English Interlinear
· Vine’s = Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words
The goal of this study is to define the meaning of prophecy, to prophesy and prophets; to understand the nature of prophecy; to understand the function of a prophet, prophetess and seer; and to determine the correct applications in and to the Christian church today. The bottom line is simple; if it cannot be validated in the scripture, then it should be discarded, modified to conform to what God’s word says, or if prayerful study doesn’t yield immediate answers, to then set the “unknown” on a proverbial shelf until further insight from scripture is available.
For those that have been hurt and discouraged because of the perverted utterances and false predictions of those claiming to be God’s prophets, this study will bring hope and a straight path for you to follow in your service and in your relationship with the Father.
In English grammar, three main words are used to explain prophetic happenings. The first word(s) is a noun, which is a person; this is a PROPHET (or the female gender, PROPHETESS). The second word, a verb, is usually accompanied in grammatical construction with an adverb, is an action word, TO PROPHESY. The third word is a noun, which is a thing, describing the fulfillment of the act, is a PROPHECY.
If a prophet speaks a prophetic utterance, he is PROPHESYING. If he has already uttered the prophetic, it then becomes a PROPHECY. This is a simple grammatical rule, yet such basic understanding eludes many Christians.
The ideas, doctrines and practices of churches, denominations and individual Christians with regard to the prophetic vary so greatly it is quite difficult to nail down just exactly what it is. Some people believe if a person prophesies, they are a prophet or a prophetess; others adamantly oppose the practice of calling someone a prophet, but they may validate the use of prophecy, as THEY define it.
What are YOUR concepts about the prophetic? To sort out the quagmire of beliefs found throughout Christianity, a list of the different ideas below may orient and help determine part or all of what you think prophecy is. These statements below reflect western culture and society, particularly North American Christianity. As you read the concepts listed it becomes evident they are contradictory. Just the same, part of the process of finding the truth is acknowledging how and why you think something and how deeply you feel it. These are random samplings of what Christians believe:
“… in prophecy, but not in prophets. I don’t believe there are prophets living upon the earth today. The last prophets of God are only found in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Prophecy is simply the fulfillment of what God’s word says.”
“… all NT believers should prophesy; we need revelation from God to understand His plan and word, and therefore the church should teach and practice prophesying.”
“… prophecy is God’s revelation of the future to a person; then he or she shares the revelation with others. Prophecy is when God shows us the future so we will know how to respond and pray.”
“… in the five-fold ministry of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, just like it says in Ephesians 4:11. God gave these five ministries to the church to equip believers to do the work of the ministry until the church is perfected. We need prophets just like we need pastors, evangelists and apostles.”
“… in prophecy, because the Book of Revelation says the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. John was a NT prophet just like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others in the OT, except John revealed God’s plan for the future of the church instead of Israel. Real prophets are the ones found in the Bible, not what men and women practice as prophets and prophetesses today.”
“… we really don’t need prophets or prophecy in the church today because we have the more sure word of prophecy, which is the Bible. Once the canon of scripture was completed, then things like prophecy, or tongues and interpretations of tongues were done away with; that’s what 1 Corinthians 13 says.”
“… prophecy is the revealing of God Himself to the individual believer; it is when He inspires them, either in prayer, through the scripture, or perhaps some other way, so that the church can be edified.”
“… women can prophesy just like men, and that there is a great need for women prophetesses in the church today; however, a woman must only prophesy with her head covered, and that covering is a special prayer cloth or shawl.”
“… in men as prophets, but not in women prophetesses. Yes, there were women prophetesses in the old covenant, but they are never mentioned in the NT, except for Jezebel, the woman in Revelation who calls herself a prophetess, but she is really a spiritual harlot.”
“… prophecy is when someone speaks in tongues during a church service, and then someone else in the congregation interprets the unknown tongue as a message from God. In our church this happens a lot; for example, someone stands up and speaks in tongues during the service, and then someone else stands up and interprets the tongues by speaking for God saying, ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ at which time they deliver the rest of the message directly from God.”
“… prophecy is when someone speaks for God in the first person during a church service, but not in tongues, only in the known dialect. That is what real prophecy is. Speaking in tongues is only to be done quietly and in order, but in the church, prophecy is more edifying.”
“… I can prophesy almost any time I want, just by praying and then attentively listening for God’s voice. When I do this, I can prophesy quite frequently and God gives me true messages, and words of wisdom and knowledge for people. I know this is God because I’ve told people things about their lives that only God knew.”
“… prophecy is when any member of the body of Christ is inspired by God to manifest a divinely inspired revelation; some examples would be prophetic dancing, or singing, or blowing of a shofar to trumpet a victory in Jesus; there are many such prophetic manifestations and we can’t limit God.”
“… a true prophet is someone that gives a word from God about the future of His people; if that word comes to pass, then he or she is a true prophet; but if the word doesn’t come to pass, they are false prophets.”
“… a prophet is a seer; he sees visions and then God gives him the ability to interpret what they mean.”
“… real prophets have the word of knowledge and the word of wisdom; they are able to tell you things about your past, and give you inspired words from God to help you.”
It is easy to see from these few examples just how many variable and disjointed opinions there are about the prophetic. To untangle this mess takes a combination of factors and applications, including diligent study of scripture (2 Timothy 2:14-16), a willingness to lay aside one’s own preconceived ideas (1 Corinthians 8:2), regularly sharing thoughts with brethren on the same wave length (Malachi 3:16), acknowledging doctrinal bias (2 Peter 1:16), spending time in prayer (Philippians 4:5-6), and an unbiased examination of one’s own motives (1 Corinthians 11:28).
The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew and the New Testament was originally written in Greek. Before an in-depth study on the subject of prophecy and prophets, basic definitions are required. This seems to be the most logical starting point.
The most used Hebrew word for prophet is nabiy' (pronounced as naw-bee'); the Strong’s # is OT: 5030, which means:
1. A prophet
2. Generally, an inspired man
This Hebrew word nabiy' originates from another Hebrew word naba' (pronounced as naw-baw'); the Strong’s # is OT: 5012, which means:
1. To prophesy
2. To speak in simple discourse or sing by inspiration
3. To speak by inspiration in prediction
Nabiy’ and naba’ are good examples of our grammar rule about nouns and verbs; nabiy’ (meaning inspired man) is the NOUN form of the verb naba’ (To speak by inspiration).
The Hebrew word nabiy' (OT: 5030) is also defined by BDB as a spokesman, a speaker, or a prophet in the following categories:
1. A prophet
2. A false prophet
3. A heathen prophet
AMG provides a more thorough definition of Hebrew word nabiy' (OT: 5030); below are most of the applications:
1. A prophet
2. A speaker of oracles
3. One who was actuated (put into action) by a divine Spirit
4. An authorized spokesman (usually for God)
5. Such an individual did not speak his own words, but those, which he had received from God (cf. 2 Peter 1:20, 21)
6. Nabiy’ means a spokesman in Exodus 7:1, 2.
Vine’s describes applications for the Hebrew word nabiy' (OT: 5030) as follows:
1. One in whom the message from God springs forth
2. One to whom anything is secretly communicated
3. One upon whom the Spirit of God rested, as in Numbers 11:17-29
4. One to whom and through whom God speaks, as in Numbers 12:2; Amos 3:7,8
The Hebrew noun for the act of accomplished prophecy is nebuw'ah (pronounced as neb-oo-aw'); it is Strong’s #(OT: 5016) and means, “a prediction (spoken or written).”
The Hebrew word nebuw'ah originates from the same verb as its cousin nabiy’; they both come from the verb naba’. Strong’s defines naba’ as meaning, “to prophesy, i.e. speak or sing by inspiration in prediction or simple discourse.”
SUMMARY: A prophet in the OT, by definition of the Hebrew word nabiy’ and its cognate verb naba’ provides a very simple meaning. A prophet (of God) is a man, inspired to relate (usually in words; discourse) a divine message. In this sense he is one through whom God speaks, but only when actuated by God. A prophecy is simply the noun from for the act of prophesying, or speaking under divine inspiration.
Old Testament Definitions of the Hebrew words ro’eh & ra’ah for “seer”:
The prophet in the OT was also called a seer; this does not necessitate calling all seers prophet. Besides nabiy’ there are two key Hebrew words for this type of individual; there is the lesser used Hebrew word, ro’eh (OT: 7203) and the Hebrew word, chózeh (OT: 2374).
In the days of Samuel the there appears to be a changing of the guard, so to speak, by the Israelites seeking the man of God:
· 1 Samuel 9:9 Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he said, “Come, let us go to the seer (ro’eh), for he that is now called a prophet (nabiy’) was formerly called a seer (ro’eh).” AMP
At the time Samuel was called to serve the LORD as a boy, visions were rare; perhaps so much time elapsed between Samuel’s calling and the last time visions were more abundant, that at that particular time it was safer to call someone “inspired” (i.e. – prophet).
This stands to reason, since to become a seer; the man of God would actually have to SEE (i.e. – visualize) something from God, such as a dream or vision. Consider briefly the context of Samuel the prophet’s initial call by Yahweh:
· 1 Samuel 3:1 Now the boy Samuel ministered to the Lord before Eli. The word of the Lord was rare and precious in those days; there was no frequent or widely spread vision (chazown). AMP
Strong’s says the Hebrew noun (chazown; OT: 2377) for “vision” in 1 Samuel 3:1 means, “a sight mentally; i.e. – a dream, revelation, or oracle.” It is derived from another Hebrew verb chazah (OT: 2372) meaning, “to gaze at; mentally, to perceive, contemplate (with pleasure); specifically, to have a vision of.”
Therefore, at the time Yahweh called Samuel to serve Him, visual revelations were very rare. Later you will see this affects the use of words for “seer” referring to Samuel, distinguishing him from other seers.
Interestingly, in 1 Chronicles 29:29, the verb form (ra’ah – to see) of the Hebrew noun ro’eh, translated as “seer,” and the Hebrew noun “chózeh” (one who gazes at), which is also translated as “seer,” appear in the same text as the Hebrew word for “prophet” (nabiy’).
· 1 Chronicles 29:29 Now the acts of King David, from first to last, are written in the chronicles of Samuel the seer (ra’ah), in the chronicles of Nathan the prophet (nabiy’) and in the chronicles of Gad the seer (chózeh). NASU
The Hebrew noun roeh is pronounced as row-eh'; ro’eh (OT: 7203) is defined by Strong’s as meaning, “a seer” (as often rendered); but also (abstractly), “a vision.” Ro’eh differs slightly in meaning from its counterpart for seer (chózeh), and this distinction is notable, because the prophet Samuel is the only inspired man with predominant use of “ro’eh” (more on this later).
Roeh is the active participle of a root word ra'ah (pronounced as raw-aw'); OT: 7200; ra’ah is a primitive root and is defined as meaning, “to see” (literally or figuratively).
BDB defines ro’eh (OT: 7203) as follows:
1. A seer, a prophet
2. Prophetic vision
Vine’s defines ro’eh (OT: 7203) as follows:
The Hebrew word ro’eh (OT: 7203) are translated as “seer” referring to Samuel the prophet five times (in 1 Samuel 9:9 it used twice, then once in 1 Samuel 9:11, 9:18, & 9:19) and ro’eh is used once in Isaiah 28:7.
· Isaiah 28:7 The priest and the prophet reel with strong drink, they are confused by wine, they stagger from strong drink; they reel while having visions (ro’eh), they totter when rendering judgment. NASU
In Isaiah 28:7 ro’eh refers to a false “vision” of the priests and prophets of Israel, who no longer served Yahweh in truth.
Ro’eh comes from a root word ra’ah (OT: 7200), and ra’ah is translated as “seer” six times; of those six, three times ra’ah is used again to refer to Samuel the prophet:
· 1 Chronicles 26:28 Samuel the seer (ra’ah) dedicated treasures to temple
· 1 Chronicles 9:22 David and Samuel the seer (ra’ah) appointed gatekeepers
· 1 Chronicles 29:29 the chronicles of Samuel the seer (ra’ah)
Two other places that ra’ah is translated as “seer” are listed below referring to Hanani, who was the “seer” of king Asa. The one other place ra’ah is translated as “seer” is found in 2 Samuel 15:27 (below) when king David asks Zadok the priest if he is a “seer” (ra’ah).
· 2 Chronicles 16:7 Hanani the seer (ra’ah) to king Asa
· 2 Chronicles 16:10 …king Asa is angry at Hanani the seer (ra’ah)
· 2 Samuel 15:27 David asks Zadok IF he is a seer (ro’eh)
It is difficult to determine if Hanani is a seer according to the use of the Hebrew word ro’eh, because he is also called a seer using the other Hebrew word chozeh:
· 2 Chronicles 19:2 Jehu the son of Hanani the seer (chózeh)
Jehu’s lineage is usually what the Hebrews’ accept as authoritative; this leaves only Samuel privy to the use of the Hebrew word ro’eh. Later, a lengthy examination of Samuel’s role and function as prophet and seer will offer a comprehensive perspective.
The likelihood for Hanani being called both ra’ah and chózeh is because, as the king’s seer, he is a man who actually “saw” visual revelations. Furthermore, Hanani lived many years after Samuel who was the last judge in Israel; after Samuel anointed Saul as king over Israel, there would be no more judges and all of the seers were referred to more as chózeh instead of ro’eh.
In the plural, ra’ah appears to be used by the prophet Isaiah to refer to true seers, who were rejected along with true prophets by rebellious Israel:
· Isaiah 30:9-11 For this is a rebellious people, faithless and lying sons, children who will not hear the law and instruction of the Lord; 10 who virtually say to the seers (ra’ah) by their conduct, “See not!” And to the prophets, “Prophesy not to us what is right! Speak to us smooth things; prophesy deceitful illusions. 11 Get out of the true way, turn aside out of the path, cease holding up before us the Holy one of Israel.” AMP
Vine’s says that ro’eh emphasizes the means by which revelation was received. In other words, it relates to the spiritual perception of the person receiving and speaking the divine message.
SUMMARY: The prophet in the OT was also called a seer; this does not necessitate calling all seers prophet. Two key Hebrew words are translated as “seer”; the lesser-used Hebrew word, ro’eh (OT: 7203) and the often-used Hebrew word, chózeh (OT: 2374). In Israel, prior to Samuel as judge and prophet, when a man went to inquire of God, he said, “Come, let us go to the seer (ro’eh), for he that is now called a prophet was formerly called a seer (ro’eh).” At the time Yahweh called Samuel to serve Him, ocular or visual revelations were very rare.
The Hebrew noun roeh is pronounced as row-eh'; ro’eh (OT: 7203) is defined by Strong’s as meaning, “a seer,” but also (abstractly), “a vision.” The verb form of this Hebrew noun is ra’ah (OT: 7200); is a primitive root and is defined as meaning, “to see” (literally or figuratively).
Of the 11 times ro’eh is used as a noun translated as “seer,” only two men are specifically referred to using the Hebrew word ro’eh; 8 times it is used of the last judge to Israel, Samuel the prophet, and the twice it is used of Hanani the seer to king Asa.
Old Testament Definitions of the Hebrew word chozeh for “seer”:
The other Hebrew word that is translated in most Bible versions of the OT, as “seer” is “chózeh” (OT: 2374). Chózeh is a word that truly embodies the concept of one who “sees” spiritual visions, dreams, and other ocular manifestations in the spiritual dimension. Below are definitions of chózeh (noun) and “” the verb form of the same word.
Strong’s says the Hebrew noun chózeh (OT: 2374) is pronounced as kho-zeh' and is the active participle of OT: 2372; it means, “a beholder in vision.” Chózeh also has another application as, “a compact; as looked upon with approval; an agreement or pact.”
The root word that chozeh originates from is the Hebrew verb chazah (OT: 2372), pronounced as khaw-zaw'. Chazah means, “to gaze at; mentally, to perceive, to contemplate with pleasure.” Specifically, chazah means, “to have a vision of, to behold, to look, to prophesy, to provide, or to see.” Only the context of the scripture passage that this verb is used in determines its intended meaning.
BDB defines chózeh (OT: 2374) simply as a seer or vision.
AMG defines chózeh (OT: 2374) as an active participle that comes from chazah (2372). It is one who beholds, a seer, a prophet, an astrologer; also a covenant (see details below):
Of the twenty-two occurrences, eleven of them are associated with the name of a particular person, indicating his office as seer:
· Gad - 2 Samuel 24:11; 1 Chronicles 21:9; 29:29; 2 Chronicles 29:25
· Heman - 1 Chronicles 25:5
· Iddo - 2 Chronicles 9:29; 12:15
· Hanani - 2 Chronicles 19:2
· Asaph - 2 Chronicles 29:25
· Jeduthun - 2 Chronicles 35:15
· The prophet Amos - Amos 7:12
Chózeh and nabiy’ are contrasted in 2 Kings 17:13, Isaiah 29:10, and Amos 7:12. Another word, ro’eh (7203), is almost identical in meaning to chózeh (see 1 Samuel 9:9; 1 Chronicles 29:29).
AMG says it can be surmised ro’eh and chózeh reflect that God sometimes revealed Himself to prophets by visions. However, this is more speculation that fact as derived from the individual and different definitions of the two words. Chózeh is definitely associated with SIGHT because of the verb it stems from meaning to gaze at, or see mentally; whereas roeh originates from a verb that is only defined to see.
Chózeh gets the lion’s share of use in the OT, whereas roeh is limited to Samuel the judge and prophet, and Hanani the seer. That chózeh and roeh are both linked to prophets is indisputable, but the difference in the two words is the distinction between actual spiritual SIGHT (mental or ocular vision) and spiritual PERCEPTION.
Samuel it seems was more inclined to hear from God through his PERCEPTION, whereas the other seers that followed Samuel were more or less dependent on VISUAL stimuli in the revelations they received from God. The text of 1 Samuel 9:9 establishes that prophets of Israel BEFORE the time of Samuel were called ro’eh, translated “seer.” After the days of Samuel, if someone in Israel sought the word of the Lord through an inspired man of God, they asked for the “prophet” (nabiy’), NOT the SEER.
Another keen observation AFTER the days of Samuel is the fact that “chózeh” type seers existed, but nobody referred to them as such…. Why? Perhaps there are answers hidden in the Hebrew OT scriptures that explain this mystery. From the text of 1 Samuel 3:1ff, when Samuel was first called by Yahweh to serve him, the text plainly states that seers were not having frequent chózeh-type visions (chazown). This may be in large part due to the backslidden state of Eli the priest in the temple and his immoral sons.
Also, after the days of Samuel, the mention of the chózeh-type seer was usually contrasted with another inspired man called a prophet (nabiy’). This explains why certain OT scripture texts contain the mention of both “seer and prophet” in one sentence structure, referring to two different men.
Samuel the judge and prophet then mark a definite changing of the spiritual guard. He is sort of an all-purpose inspired man of God, because he judges the people in Israel through the wisdom and revelation of what he perceives the LORD is saying. Unfortunately, the people in Israel, dissatisfied with the age of judges, clamored, complained and demanded a king, just like the other heathen nations. In effect, God’s response to them was, “Okay, you want a king instead of My righteous judge, a king you shall have.”
To their eventual dismay and displeasure, Samuel the seer, prophet and judge at the commandment of God anointed Saul as king. From this time forward, until the eventual captivity in Babylon and Assyria, kings in Israel would rule haphazard, requiring both seer and prophet to hear the word of the Lord for them.
There were marked interludes in Israel’s sordid history when a good and godly king, such as David would rise up and govern the nation in righteousness. But the vast majority of their existence was dominated by selfish, morally corrupt, and spiritual bankrupt despots, leading to 70+ years of slavery and bondage.
SUMMARY: Chózeh is the most frequently used word translated as seer or a beholder in vision; it comes from a root chazah that means, “to gaze at; mentally; to perceive; to contemplate with pleasure; to have a vision of; to behold; to look; to prophesy; to provide; to see. Chózeh’ s wide range of definitions means that only the context of the scripture passage in which it is used determines the proper and intended meaning. Chózeh is also used at times for evil men involved in sorcery; in this application chózeh is translated as, “an astrologer; stargazer.” Chózeh has a lesser-used meaning of, “a covenant,” such as that which backslidden Israel made with Sheol thru their idolatrous worship. The end of Samuel’s days seems to be a time marker for a change of the spiritual guard from judge-seer-prophet who hears from Yahweh by means of spiritual perception, to rulership by kings that require at least one or more inspired men called “seers” (chózeh) and “prophets” (nabiy’) to hear from God for them.
A common misnomer about prophets is that they always speak under divine inspiration of FUTURE EVENTS. True prophets ARE inspired by God to deliver a message to His people, and said message usually affects their future, but it is NOT A PREDICTION of things yet to occur.
With respect to the “future” one must differentiate between what God knows HE will do in the future, from what WE will do actually in the future. God does not know what our response to His beckon and command will be; otherwise, the words, “if you,” would not occur hundreds of times throughout the Old and New Testaments. God says, “IF you do this, THEN I will do such and such…” Take time to type these two words into the search engine of your Bible software, and be prepared for a new outlook on personal accountability before God!
The wishy-washy brand of Calvinistic predestination that has infested most of the teachings in the Christian church PRESUMES God’s FOREKNOWLEDGE of every event BEFORE it actually happens. Nothing could be further from the truth! Case in point… (one example of hundreds), God REGRETTED that He had even made mankind, and as a result, warned Noah and his family the entire earth would be destroyed by a global deluge of His own making.
· Genesis 6:5-6 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination and intention of all human thinking was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved at heart. AMP
Please refer to the study series below for more information on this topic.
If God doesn’t know what WE will do in the future, but He knows what HE will do, either for or against His people, it makes sense that His prophets and seers cannot, will not, and do not “predict” future events that involve the free will (choice) of man before that choice is expressed.
Many, if not most of the seers and prophets in the OT revealed God’s wrath in judgment toward His people Israel. Prophets were often the human vessel through whom He warned the nation and its leaders to repent for its rebellion and sin. Through these inspired men He warned them ahead of time, leaving no room for doubt of what HE would do.
For example, God sent Amos the herdsman to prophesy to Samaria about His coming judgment at the hand of the Assyrians. Through Amos He warned them what would happen through their ruthless enemies BECAUSE they had played the harlot.
Amos was not foretelling what SAMARIA would do or not do. He was not casting a divine mold for their future by saying this predestined and unalterable event would happen because God knows the future before it takes place! God forbid such theology!
What kind of a God would He be to predestine Assyria’s ferocious, cruel and inhuman attack upon Samaria, simply because it is His divine prerogative to transcend time? What kind of warped view is it for a loving Creator to preordain such savagery, and set in motion the judgment on His people who were also predestined to sin?
This kind of theology is not only absurd, but it mischaracterizes a loving God who, time and time again warns His people AHEAD of time, in order to give them many OPPORTUNITIES TO REPENT.
Nowadays the English word “prophet” does not accurately convey the actual meaning of the Hebrew word nabiy’ because “prophet” is a TRANSLITERATION from the Greek. A transliteration is not necessarily a translation; for example, the word “baptize” is a transliteration of the Greek word, “baptizo”; however, the ACTUAL MEANING of the word baptizo is properly translated as, “to dip,” or, “to immerse.”
In the same way, our English word prophet simply transliterates (repronounces to sound like the original) the Greek word, “próphetes.” To determine the MEANING of meaning of the Greek word próphetes, a proper definition is as follows: “One that brings forth what is foremost,” or “one that speaks or reveals what is first in rank, foremost, of greatest importance by means of inspiration (enlightenment).”
Our English word “profession,” is derived from the same Greek word origin as our English word “prophet.” It is a combination of two Greek words, pró (meaning first in rank, foremost, chief) and phemí (meaning to bring forth).
If a person professes something, do you assume he or she is foretelling a future event? Of course not! Likewise, one that prophesies, or is a prophet (in the sense of the Greek NT use) speaks from inspiration that, which is of chiefest importance… it’s that simple.
Hence the term prophet inaccurately portrays the actual meaning of the Hebrew word nabiy’. The proper definition of nabiy’ is, “an inspired man.” Next one must determine the SOURCE of the man’s “inspiration”; this is all-important because there are also false prophets. False prophets speak by way of inspiration too, whether it is aroused from their own mind (inspiration) or whether it is stimulated by a lying spirit (i.e. – demon).
In our culture a prophetic revelation is generally associated with predicting the future of events. Nothing from the literal meaning of the Hebrew OT word intimates such characterization, yet it will likely prevail as the concept in most people’s mind.
Is it the role and function of a prophet to foretell the future, explaining by divine impartation what we, as God’s people, will choose to do or not do? Do prophets predict natural or supernatural phenomena; such as famines or earthquakes, just because they have their spiritual antenna’s up, and happened to be tuned into God’s wavelength?
The more salient question one must ask about prophets is what is their purpose, motivation and role is as fellow citizen’s among God children, whether in the old or in the new covenant. The wizardry infecting the minds of western society through the media, such as Hollywood’s versions of Lord of the Rings, or worse yet, the sorcery of Harry Potter, inundates the psyche of born-again Christians, whose knowledge and understanding of scripture offers little challenge to the not-so-subliminal messages they passively imbibe through their senses every day.
Is it any wonder the so-called “prophetic movement” has gained significant momentum, along with the ensuing spiritual and emotional baggage of a people that speak whatever comes into their mind? Ask the average Christian in this country what a prophet is, and watch as they fumble for answers from the blank recess of a brain chock-full of web surfing, pc gaming, unreality television and a plethora of information uncensored by anything but their own opinion.
How or what a prophet does has not been detailed yet, but the rudimentary definitions provided thus far start the vehicle of truth moving down a much straighter and more narrow road than before. The content is not as exciting as reading the latest Left Behind series, or watching TBN’s version of the Omega Code, but it’s a whole lot more accurate, and eventually, it will establish a truly inspired and precise delivery of the word of the Lord to the church.
We are a nation and people moved by visual stimuli; the parallels between our existence today and Israel’s backslidden state of existence after Samuel anointed Saul as king are alarming. Ours’ is supposed to be a faith walk, and the Lord wants to give us insight and understanding from His truly inspired word, the scriptures. Christians don’t need their endorphins activated in a special renewal meeting, they need their heart challenged to reach out and make a difference to a lost, hurting and dying world.
Now more than ever people need the revelation of God in an ever-increasingly secularized culture. Christians are laughing and falling on the floor, thinking they have just experienced a great move of God, while their Lord and Savior sits beneath a cold bridge holding the hand of a dying Christian brother who cried out for help, and nobody answered. God’s purpose for divine revelation is for reconciliation and forgiveness, to express His love in tangible ways.
Samuel “perceived” (ro’eh) what God was saying because his mind and heart were intent on being obedient to every commandment God gave to him. Samuel was first called by Yahweh, at a time when visions (chozeh) were rare and infrequent, because Israel’s priestly leaders had but a dim vision. Immorality had choked out the word of God, and therefore God’s hand was forced, as it were, to raise up one last judge, seer and prophet to usher His people into a new era, when kings would rule. Jesus weeps as he watches pastors today; they revel in tradition, apathetic, dry and without genuine love of a true shepherd.
Once Saul was anointed as king, it didn’t take long for the other kings to follow suit, with few exceptions, relying on others to hear the word of the LORD for them. Yes, in His infinite mercy, God still revealed Himself to the people through seers and prophets, but now the revelation came more by “sight” (chozeh) than by faith in His revelation through spiritual perception (ro’eh). Christians want someone else to give them God’s word, or His divine revelation; it’s too much effort and too difficult to discipline and dig into the bread of life… “Let Saul lead me… let my pastor be accountable… let someone else be an inspired man or woman of God.”
The same thing is happening in the charismatic churches today. Those men and women that trust in, cling to, and rely upon the scriptures for divine guidance and revelation get fewer and fewer. Spirit-filled Christians readily embrace name brand prophets, depending on whose books, tapes, seminars or television broadcast they like best. Prophets today have little resemblance to the men of old, except the false prophets and diviners that promised prosperity and victory in the face of impending doom and judgment for a wicked and rebellious nation.
God asked Isaiah the prophet, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” What will your reply be?
Links to the Entire "What is the Prophetic” Series:
To be Continued in Part 4