The Christian and the Manifestation of Prophecy

[This article was taken from our book Prophecy: Understanding and Utilizing the Manifestation of Prophecy.]

 

Every Christian Can Prophesy

Every Christian has the God-given ability to prophesy. As we saw in Chapter One, prophecy is a manifestation of the gift of holy spirit, which each Christian receives the moment he is born again. The presence of holy spirit in a believer gives him the ability to prophesy. 1 Corinthians 14:1, quoted at the opening of this book, says that every believer should follow after spiritual things, especially prophecy. A few verses later, verse 5a says that God wants every believer to prophesy.

1 Corinthians 14:5a
I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy…

This verse shows that God wants each Christian to both speak in tongues and prophesy. Other verses show this truth also.

1 Corinthians 14:24
But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all,

Everybody” means everybody. The whole Church can prophesy if they want to and are taught how to bring it forth. Another verse that says all Christians can prophesy is: “Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy…” (1 Cor. 14:39a). The fact that this was written to the “brothers” and not just to a select few in the Church is more clear evidence that all Christians can prophesy.

Every Christian can prophesy today because every Christian has the gift of holy spirit. This was not the case in the Old Testament and the Four Gospels because before the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), God gave holy spirit to only a small percent of the people, and only those people could prophesy. The book of Numbers shows the correlation between having holy spirit and being able to prophesy. The record we will now examine occurred during Israel’s wilderness wanderings. Moses had holy spirit, so he could hear from God, but apparently no one else did. Moses was carrying the spiritual burden of Israel all by himself, and he pleaded for God to help.

Numbers 11:14 and 15
(14) [Moses said], “I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me.
(15) If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.”

God answered Moses’ plea by putting holy spirit on 70 other men, not a large number considering the millions of Israelites. The presence of the spirit of God empowered those who had it, and immediately they manifested some of that power by prophesying.

Numbers 11:16 and 17, 24 and 25a
(16) The LORD said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the Tent of Meeting, that they may stand there with you.
(17) I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit [spirit] that is on you and put the Spirit [spirit] on them. They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone.
(24) So Moses went out and told the people what the LORD had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the Tent.
(25a) Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he [He] took of the Spirit [spirit] that was on him [Moses] and put the Spirit [spirit] on the seventy elders. When the Spirit [spirit] rested on them, they prophesied…

For reasons we are not told in the biblical record, two of the seventy men remained in the camp of Israel and did not go out to the Tent of Meeting. Even upon them, however, God’s holy spirit rested, and they prophesied. This alarmed Moses’ aide, Joshua, who told Moses to stop them.

Numbers 11:26-28
(26) However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the Tent. Yet the Spirit [spirit] also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp.
(27) A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”
(28) Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”

Moses’ answered Joshua with a wish—one that now, in the Grace Administration, has come to pass. [1]

Numbers 11:29
But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit [spirit] on them!”

Moses wished that all of God’s people would have holy spirit on them so that every person could hear directly from God and prophesy. Moses’ desire has now come to pass. Every Christian is filled with the gift of holy spirit and can prophesy. It is clear from this record in the book of Numbers that when the spirit from God was put on someone, that person could prophesy. This is confirmed in many places in the Old Testament.

Acts 19 contains an example from the Administration of Grace showing that when people receive holy spirit, they can prophesy.

Acts 19:6
When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit [No article “the,” should read “holy spirit.”] came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.

Although not every person who gets born again speaks in tongues and prophesies right away, in this case apparently they did. However, there are several things that could have occurred. The word “and” indicates continuance, but not necessarily immediate continuance. It is possible that between the first and last clauses in the verse, there was some time for Paul to instruct the disciples in the operation of the manifestations. It is also possible that God was gracious and gave supernatural understanding or inspiration to them. A third possibility is that they knew from their culture how manifestations of holy spirit worked, especially prophecy, and when they knew that they had the ability from the Lord to manifest, they just stepped out in faith and began. Some Christians who speak in tongues around their home and take their small children to meetings where people regularly speak in tongues and prophesy report that their children start manifesting the holy spirit naturally, with no formal instruction.

Long before the Christian era, God promised that there was a day coming when “all flesh,” every person, would have holy spirit and be able to prophesy.

Joel 2:28 and 29
(28) And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit [spirit] on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, [2] your young men will see visions.
(29) Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit [spirit] in those days.

The people of the Old Testament knew the power a person had when holy spirit was upon him. They had seen or heard of many people who had holy spirit and who walked in power, such as Moses, Joshua, Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Samson, Samuel, David, Elijah, and Elisha. A person with the spirit of God was someone to be reckoned with. He could hear from God and manifest the power of God. Prophecy was an important part of what someone with holy spirit could do, and the Old Testament prophets had walked in holy spirit power for centuries.

God promised that there was a day coming when every believer would have the gift of holy spirit (Joel 2:28). [3] This prophecy in Joel refers specifically to the believers in the Millennial Kingdom. [4] On the Day of Pentecost, however, God gave the gift of holy spirit to the Christian Church, and with that gift came the ability to prophesy. In fact, on Pentecost, Peter added to the words of Joel. Whereas Joel said, “Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit [spirit] in those days,” Peter expanded it to “Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit [spirit] in those days, and they will prophesy” (Acts 2:18).

It is clear from Joel and other scriptures that when a person has the spirit of God, he can prophesy just as the prophets in the Old Testament did. There is no indication that the spirit of God in each Christian has less power than the holy spirit that was upon the Old Testament prophets. In fact, the gift of holy spirit born inside Christians is the fullness of the spirit, not just a portion of it as it was with the Old Testament believers who had holy spirit upon them. This is an important point because there are Christians who admit that prophecy is a manifestation of holy spirit available to every Christian, but who believe that the manifestation of prophecy is only for groups (corporate prophecy), not individuals, and also that it is not for guidance or direction, but only general statements of strengthening, encouragement, and comfort. That is not the case.

Prophecy is prophecy, and when a Christian receives holy spirit he is empowered to prophesy just as the Old Testament prophets were. Whether or not he does so is based on his personal faith and his individual God-given ministry. 1 Corinthians 14:24 and 25 refers to the fact that the whole Church can prophesy and uncover the secrets of people’s hearts. It makes sense that the whole church can prophesy because each person making up the congregation has holy spirit. Thus we can safely conclude that God has given every Christian the ability to prophesy. However, the message that they bring forth is the message that God gives them, and Scripture tells us that in the manifestation of prophecy the message will fall in the general category of “edification, exhortation, and comfort” (1 Cor. 14:3-KJV).

On the Day of Pentecost, and for the next several decades, people manifested the spirit because they were claiming the promise of the spirit as it was given in Joel, Isaiah, and other places in the Old Testament. However, as the Church Epistles were written, starting about 50 A.D., Christians learned that we are part of a new administration called the Administration of the Sacred Secret. [5] We now know we are children of God by birth, and some of the blessings we enjoy go beyond the things foretold in the Old Testament. What we have today includes God’s gift of holy spirit and the God-given ability that holy spirit brings, including two manifestations unforeseen in the Old Testament: speaking in tongues and the interpretation of tongues.

Not only is each Christian empowered by holy spirit in ways that were unknown and unforeseen in the Old Testament, but the relationship between Christians and God has changed from the relationship people had with Him in Old Testament times. Before Pentecost, God placed holy spirit upon people to empower them for certain tasks. For example, He placed holy spirit on prophets so they could bring messages to the people, and on some kings, such as David, so they would be spiritually equipped to rule. The gift of holy spirit empowers Christians in many ways, and, as we have seen, one of those ways is the ability to prophesy.

Many people who do not believe they can prophesy come to that belief because they are taught that they do not have the “gift” of prophecy. Prophecy is not a “gift,” and is never called a gift in correct translations of the Bible. However, there are versions of the Bible that call prophecy a “gift,” and this has misled thousands of Christians. Let us compare 1 Corinthians 14:1 in two popular versions, the King James Version and the New International Version:

1 Corinthians 14:1 (KJV)
Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.

1 Corinthians 14:1
Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.

Note that in the NIV, the word “gift” appears twice, and prophecy is called a “gift.” However, in the KJV, which in this case follows the Greek text much more closely, prophecy is not called a “gift.” Furthermore, in the phrase, “desire spiritual gifts,” the word “gifts” is in italics. The words in italics in the KJV are not in the original Greek text. The translators of the KJV wanted readers to know that they added those words (supposedly for clarity) to the Bible so they put the added words in italics. In other words, a correct reading of the KJV shows that the word “gifts” does not appear in the Greek text at all. [6] If a Bible student will search the Scripture for “gift” of prophecy, he will find that it never appears in the Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek text. In every case it was added by translators who thought that prophecy was a gift and who then added their theology to the text. A more accurate rendering of 1 Corinthians 14:1 would have “spiritual things” rather than “spiritual gifts.”

Once a Christian understands that prophecy is not a gift but a manifestation of the gift of holy spirit, and also understands that every Christian gets filled with holy spirit at the time he is saved, then it becomes clear why it is that every Christian can prophesy.

Every Christian Should Want to Prophesy

It is one thing for a Christian to know he can prophesy, but it is another thing to desire to do it. God tells us to desire to prophesy.

1 Corinthians 14:1 (NASB)
Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.

1 Corinthians 14:39 (NASB)
Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues.

God wants us to earnestly desire to prophesy. There are really two categories of Christians to address at this point: the Christian who has never prophesied at all, and the Christian who has prophesied, but rarely does so in meetings.

A Christian who has never prophesied, and who does not particularly want to, needs to take seriously that God clearly tells us to desire to prophesy. God knows that many people are content not to prophesy, which is why He tells us in His Word to desire it. Christians can build the desire to prophesy as they step out and obey God. If a person has never given a prophecy and is unsure about how to get started, we at Spirit & Truth Fellowship International, like some other ministries, instruct people on the manifestation of prophecy.

God always blesses people when they obey, and as we make a practice of doing what He says, the desire will build in our lives. Most Christians know that they should live by what the Bible says whether they feel like it or not. Similarly, most Christians are aware that God will bless them when they obey. The Bible tells us to desire to prophesy, and now it is our turn to step out and obey by prophesying, and build that desire in us.

As well as people who have never prophesied and have no desire to do so, there are also Christians who have prophesied (and thus know they can) but rarely do so because they “do not feel like it,” “do not feel led to,” or something similar. Often these people are hindered by a fear of failure, or of looking bad, or they have never conquered their hesitation about speaking in public. It is beyond the scope of this work to deal with overcoming fear of failure, fear of speaking in public, or fear of being criticized. If a person is in that category, he should want to obey God so badly that he would seek out pastoral counseling and get help overcoming his fear and hesitation.

There are, however, many people who come to a meeting and then do not prophesy because they do not particularly feel like it at the time. That is one reason why there is sometimes little or no prophecy in church meetings. But why wait to “feel like doing” what God commands? God tells us to pray and, thankfully, most Christians do not wait until He produces a desire in them before they pray. Most Christians know there are occasions when prayer is appropriate, so they pray. Similarly, if the average Christian waited until he had a burning desire to give money to the church before he wrote a check, churches would be a lot poorer. And so it goes with many things of God. The wise Christian reads the Bible, discovers the will of God, and begins to obey whether or not he feels like it.

There is a time to be sensitive to the leading of the Lord when it comes to prophecy. As a Christian overcomes his hesitation about operating the manifestation of prophecy and gets to the point that he earnestly desires to prophesy, then he is more likely to be sensitive to the leading of the Lord about whether or not to prophesy in a particular meeting. If a large number of Christians are gathered to worship, it is not appropriate for everyone to prophesy. When there is a group of people who earnestly desire to prophesy, that is when the leading of the Lord becomes very important. In those situations, the Lord is more able to lead the person whom he wants to prophesy to step out and do so. However, if there is a room full of hesitant people, and no one is stepping forth to prophesy, it is not wrong to prophesy just because the Word of God says you should. It would be similar to what you would do if there were a time for open prayer in the church, but no one would pray. In that situation you would step out boldly and pray because the Bible says to pray, and you would not doubt that it was the will of God. Similarly, the written Word says that Christians are to earnestly desire to prophesy and believers are to seek the building up of the Church (1 Cor. 14:12). It is not wrong to step forth and prophesy in obedience to the written Word, without feeling a leading from the Lord.

Prophecy Builds People’s Faith in God

One of the reasons why Christians should be eager to prophesy is because it demonstrates the power of God so that our faith will rest, not only on the written Word, but also on the power of God. Prophecy is one of God’s powerful proofs that He exists and that He cares for us. The Word of God alone is enough for people to have faith in God, but He understands our humanity and wants to give us confirmation. He is a living God and a loving God, and He wants us to have faith that He can work powerfully in our lives. Prophecy can play a large part in helping us realize that. Notice that demonstrating God’s power was an important part of Paul’s ministry, and it built people’s faith.

1 Corinthians 2:4 and 5
(4) My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power,
(5) so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.

1 Thessalonians 1:5
because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake.

1 Corinthians 14:25 tells us that prophecy can so demonstrate the power of God that the one who receives it “…will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!’” The faith-building power that prophecy can have is quite amazing.

One of the reasons the Apostle Paul was so effective was that his was much more than a “preaching ministry.” Operating the power of God, and teaching others to do so, was also part of his ministry. When the power of God is demonstrated, it not only builds faith, it builds hope:

Romans 15:13
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

A major reason why every Christian should desire to prophesy is because of the powerfully positive effect it can have on others. Of course, it also has a powerful effect on the one prophesying. When a Christian steps out in faith to prophesy, and realizes that he is getting information from Heaven, it can build his faith and give him confidence that he can play an important part in the Lord’s plan on earth.

Prophecy Should be Happening in Our Churches

In the Old Testament, when few believers had holy spirit upon them, prophecy [7] was not a regular part of the people’s gathering at the Tent of Meeting (Tabernacle) or the Temple. However, the Church Epistles, which are the Lord’s direction for his Church, tell us that speaking in tongues with interpretation and prophecy should be occurring regularly in our meetings. This is clear in 1 Corinthians 14. Many Christians go to prophecy conferences or special events where there is prophecy and prophetic ministering, and that is good, but the Lord never meant for prophecy to be only for “big” or “special” conferences. It is also meant to be a part of the home church or fellowship. However, since prophecy and prophetic ministering does not always happen in home churches, there is a blessing in making them available at larger gatherings.

Some Christians Have the Gift Ministry of a Prophet

A major way God communicates with people is through individuals who are specifically called as prophets. They were necessary in the Old Testament and in the early Church, and they are still necessary and present today. God called out the prophets in the Old Testament, but ever since Jesus’ exaltation to God’s right hand, he is the one who has placed prophets in the Body of believers (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:7-11).

Although every Christian can prophesy, there is a difference between someone operating the manifestation of prophecy and someone who has the gift ministry of a prophet. The gift ministry of a prophet is covered in Appendix A.

Endnotes

[1] Understanding the Administrations in the Bible is vital for understanding the Bible. The Administration of Grace started on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) and will end with the Rapture, when both dead and still-living Christians meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:13-18). For more on Administrations in the Bible, see our booklet, Defending Dispensationalism (Christian Educational Services, Indianapolis, IN, 2001) and our book, The Christian’s Hope: The Anchor of the Soul by John Schoenheit (Christian Educational Services, Indianapolis, IN, 2004), pp. 201-220.
[2] For more on “dreams,” see Appendix C, “Dreams.”
[3] Although the verse in Joel says, “all flesh,” that is the limited use of “all” and means “all who are believers.” This conclusion can be supported in several different ways, but the clearest is Jesus’ words in John 7:39 that holy spirit would be given to those who believe. For more on the limited sense of “all,” see our book, Appendix A, (Col. 1:15-20, note 5), One God & One Lord: Reconsidering the Cornerstone of the Christian Faith by Mark Graeser, John Lynn, & John Schoenheit (Christian Educational Services, Indianapolis, IN, 2003), pp. 510 and 511. This appendix is posted on www.BiblicalUnitarian.com in its entirety.
[4] For more about the Millennial Kingdom and what it will be like, see our book, op. cit., The Christian’s Hope.
[5] For more information on the Sacred Secret see, “Appendix A,” “The Administration of the Sacred Secret” in our book, op cit. The Gift of Holy Spirit by Mark Graeser, John Lynn, and John Schoenheit, our July 2005 Tape of the Month: An Overview Of The Sacred Secret.
[6] The Bible study tools available today make this very easy to check. Bible software programs make checking the Greek text an easy task, and Greek Interlinear texts, such as George R. Berry’s The Interlinear Literal Translation of the Greek New Testament (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1971), or Brown, Comfort, and Douglas, The New Greek English Interlinear New Testament (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, IL, 1990) are also easy to use.
[7] To help you better understand and bring forth the manifestation of prophecy, see Appendix E, “Examples of Prophecy in the Bible.”

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3 comments

  1. I don’t understand why you don”t capitalize “Holy Spirit” when you make reference to Him in the explanation above? You quote I Thes. 1:5 above and He is capitalized in your quote. Isn’t the Holy Spirit part of the triune God and a person who deserves recognition as such which means capitalization as you would any other name? Just wondering what you mean when you leave off this recogniton of capitalization.

    1. We believe there is a difference between THE Holy Spirit, meaning God, and holy spirit, the gift from God. A common misunderstanding in Christianity. When people are born again they are not filled with GOD. the would make them God, but hey are filled with the gift of spirit, which is holy, from God.

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