Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 1 Corinthians 14:7
The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Revelation 19:10
Prophecy is the voice of God for our world spoken through those who know Him. Prophecy is perceiving God’s thoughts for your community, your friend, or your own life. It is not to be confused with fortune telling, or pagan oracles or shamans or mediums, which is self-centered witchcraft often utilizing natural hallucinogens, demonic encounters or fits of movement-induced or deprivation-induced hysteria to communicate with the “divine” or the dead. No. This is not about achieving an ecstatic state (though prophets can become ecstatic). Godly, biblical prophecy for the church, in tongues of men and angels or in the local language, actually requires a state of physical and spiritual sobriety (1 Thessalonians 5), though it may look like drunkenness (Acts 2:15, 1 Samuel 19:23–24). Prophecy is meant to convey God’s heart for the world and the people in it. We are told to eagerly desire this gift specifically by Paul, even above the other gifts. Why is that? Let’s look at a brief overview of prophecy in Scripture:
We know that prophecy was the God-given ability to speak to man on behalf of God. So who did this in the Old Testament?
Abraham (Genesis 20:7), Moses (Deuteronomy 34:10), Samuel (1 Samuel 3:19-20), David (Acts 2:30), Obadiah, Elijah, Ezra, Haggai, Nehemiah, Elisha (and 4,000 others apparently) (1 Kings 19:15-16), Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Malachi, Joel, Amos, Zechariah, Zephaniah, Balaam, John the Baptist (Matthew 11:9ff), Jesus (Acts 3:22-23), and then the whole thing went crazy in Acts chapter 2, where we see the fulfillment of the prophecy from Joel 2.
…I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days. Joel 2:28-29
Now according to Paul, everyone was encouraged to eagerly desire to prophecy, as Moses had hoped (Numbers 11:29-30), which we see culminating and reaffirmed in Revelation we are told, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy!” (Revelation 19:10)
So digging into this spiritual gift, 1 Corinthians 14 says,
Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their up-building and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.
So here we see that prophecy and tongues are meant for building us up. But prophesy is even better than tongues because tongues (without interpretation) are meant to build up the believer in their personal worship and prayer and to intercede, but prophecy (in the local language or through the giving and interpretation of a message in tongues) is to build up the community of faith. Let’s keep looking at this scripture:
For this reason the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. 14For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. 16 Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer, say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying? 17 You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified. 18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue. 1 Corinthians 14:13-19
When Paul uses the phrase “in the spirit or with my spirit” he is talking about prayer in tongues, singing in tongues, and prophesying in tongues. How do we know this? Because he contrasts praying with the mind as being easily understood by all, while praying in the Spirit is not (verse 16). We are also told by Paul to pray “in the spirit” on all occasions. So while it is possible to prophecy in tongues, these require interpretation if offered in the gathering of believers. How do we know there will be interpretation? We can ask God for the gift of interpretation or it may come from someone else.
Paul also writes in Ephesians 6:18: And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. And Romans 8:26-27 says that these prayers may NOT have an interpretation but may even be wordless (no interpretation) groans, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” Praying in tongues privately is different. From what I see in scripture, I do not think prayer in tongues requires an interpretation (others may feel differently), because it is a spiritual intercession between the Holy Spirit and the Father. We can pray in tongues when we do not know what to pray or when we do. Those with the gift of tongues may pray in the Spirit anytime, but it does very little to edify the church. But it is powerful for intercession or praying when you do not know how to pray.
This purpose of this post is not to make an argument for prophecy or tongues, as if God’s ways and methods and gifts need to be defended in this way, but to explore the question, why was prophecy (in tongues and the local language) so central to the early church and to the people of God for centuries? Why would we be told to eagerly desire it as members of the church? Furthermore, why did it seem to stop in so many “Christian” circles? And, on a practical level, why should we desire prophetic words and make room for prophecy in our church gatherings today?
Why Should We Desire the Gift of Prophecy?
Prophecy removes ego and undo pressure from the leadership of the church. God gives the Holy Spirit in order to facilitate the leading of His people. The governmental system He set up was prophets and judges. He was meant to be king. I don’t think it is necessary to differentiate between the “office of the prophet” and someone who has the gift of prophecy. Anyone who prophecies is a prophet. The humble leader will recognize that the gift of prophecy was given to them for leading. And so, it is good if all God’s people have the Spirit, especially leaders, so we will be united in bearing the weight of intercession together and seeing clearly what God is doing and where His going, in his methods. Look at Moses asking God for help to carry the people. Notice that God’s response to Moses’ sense of overwhelm is to give a spirit of prophecy to the elders:
I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.” 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. I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone…
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. 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied—but did not do so again.
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 also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp. A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!” 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 on them!” Then Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp. Numbers 11:14-17; 24-30
When a prophecy is spoken in public to a local body of believers, that body becomes responsible for a response to the word from the Lord, to weigh it out, to test it, and if proven accurate, to heed it. It removes the pressure from the teachers and pastors and elders to make logical decisions and returns us to a method of “following the fire/cloud”–that is, living reliant on a fresh, frequent word from the Lord like manna.
Well, you might say, I am from a tradition that always took that to mean Bible Study or readings as a fresh word from the Lord for the day. Beloved, if this were the case, then Jesus could have simply continued in the daily readings of the Jewish people. He would not have had to say what He said while teaching in a synagogue in John 6: “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.” He also said “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” This is not a verse regarding predestination, it is about willingness to listen to the Spirit. Even Stephen pointed out that the religious leaders were resisting the Holy Spirit in his critique of the temple built with human hands (Acts 7), the very thing that got him stoned. “You stubborn and hardheaded people! You are always fighting against the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors did.” He goes further to explain that their persecution of the prophets was deliberate disobedience. “Name one prophet your ancestors didn’t persecute! They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the Righteous One—the Messiah whom you betrayed and murdered. 53 You deliberately disobeyed God’s law, even though you received it from the hands of angels.”
Well, you might say, doesn’t this mean that the prophets will take over everything? That will be MAYHEM! No. This is fear talking. Even Moses led as a prophet and predicted the continuation of prophetic leadership in Christ (Acts 7:37). The heart of a true prophet is humble because they received what they are saying from God in the presence of God. You cannot be prideful in God’s presence. It’s impossible. So true prophets have nothing to lose OR gain because they are not speaking for themselves but for God’s glory. And their joy and life goal is simply His presence. No one can speak the words of God without having been on their face before Him in awe-filled wonder. They understand the gravity of what they are saying.
Prophecy celebrates complete reliance on the leadership of God. A true prophet of the Lord is led not by a leader’s will or his own will (often quite the contrary as in 2 Kings 18ff), but the will of the God. Prophets follow the model of Jesus who “said what He heard His Father saying” (John 12:49) and “did what He saw His Father doing (John 5:19).” This is not a man speaking of His own heart or pet projects. No. This is a massive responsibility. You are speaking for God. So while eagerly desiring the gift of prophecy may be such a fearful undertaking that many simply avoid the issue altogether out a kind of well-intentioned but ill-founded false humility, we must not. We must eagerly desire to have all the Lord intends for us to have and let the weight of all that glory move us to repentance and holiness. Imagine the implications of having multiple prophets in a church community seeking the Lord together in prayer for the directives God has for that community of people. Imagine decisions being made in listening sessions with the Holy Spirit in the throne room of God together. Imagine sending people out to the nations under the directive of the Holy Spirit. Imagine making decisions not based on a ten year plan or budgeting committee or marketing but according to the will and pleasure of Almighty God. The Word of the Lord is the fresh breath of the Spirit, in scripture and being taught by Him (Isaiah 54:13). Inhale, take it in and receive it. Exhale, speak and prophecy, preach, pray. Just like breath in the lungs of a human, the fresh daily breath of the Lord is meant to be the sign of life in the body of Christ. It is the Spirit that hovers over the waters of creation, back in Genesis and even now, in the lives of prophetic artists, writers, musicians, etc. He is doing new things that must be perceived so we can know when it happens that it was the Lord who did it (Isaiah 43:19)!
Prophecy requires time in the presence of God. Prophecy is the natural outcome of worship. Prophecy and tongues are both biblical first fruit of an overwhelming encounter with filling of the Holy Spirit. So this gift is only of use to the body as much as we spend time in prayer. And we are not nmotivated by something as small as wanting to feel useful, but rather we are captivated by His beauty. Eagerly desiring the gift of prophecy allows us to posture ourselves to see Him rightly. As we worship and pray, we see things. We hear things. This is not our imagination, but life in the Spirit. See this in the story of Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, John, and others. We hear His heart for us and the nations because His word has not been fulfilled in all its fullness yet. There are things still to come that He is inviting us to be a part of. And so we do not only wait for God’s salvation, we are partakes in the divine nature so we can experience His salvation through our obedience to His vision for the world until He comes to carry out the harvest of vengeance on the Day of the Lord.
Prophecy helps us discern the times. Prophecy has already been given and is being fulfilled. Without understanding the law and the prophets, we have no basis for discerning the times, but with them, we can understand things as they happen and know that the hour is near (Matthew 16:3). The Holy Spirit’s job is to remind us of what God has said, to tell us what we were not yet ready to hear at the time of Jesus, and to tell us what is to come (John 16:12-13), pairing of God’s word to a local place and time (Revelation 2-3, the seven churches, Daniel, Zechariah). It rebukes, warns, encourages, sustains, moves to action, and calls power structures to accountability. While it is not up to us to know the day or hour of things, the gift of prophecy is for the watchmen on the walls who pray and intercede as a kingdom of priests for the people of God (Habakkuk 2). They see when there is something coming from far off and they pronounce warning and judgment and calls to repentance to those who have become complacent (Isaiah 32). Those with prophetic gifts have to be very careful that their motivations are pure and free from selfish motivation or fear. Otherwise they may be seduced by political power and warn of judgments that are false and utter false accusations against true prophets (Prophets of God who bowed to kiss Baal 1 Kings 19:18, Matthew 24 rumors of war) or they may preach peace and security where there is war coming (Balaam, 1 Thessalonians 5:3).
Prophecy aligns us with God’s heart in the “already-not yet.” It simultaneously gives boldness to suffer, and entrance into persecution so we can speak fearlessly like Stephen, the first martyr did in Acts 7. So we can personally worship God, aligning with the truth of His sovereignty and rule over us, knowing what His will is in the earth, which is not meant to all be secret, and minister to His heart as prophets, priests, kings (we will rule and reign with Christ), and intercessors. In suffering with Christ we come to know Jesus, the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, so somehow to attain the resurrection.
Why Did Prophecy Stop in Many “Christian” Circles?
God’s voice in prophecy has been traditionally stopped among God’s people for four main reasons:
Unrepentant or hard/stubborn hearts. Stephen accuses the Pharisees of rejecting the word of the prophets because their hearts are stubborn. We see a consistent crying out of the heart of God in the prophets for people to soften or circumcise their hearts, but they would not. God’s voice calls us to holiness and repentance. If we will not do it, we are resisting Him and, by extension, the prophet!
Resistance to the unsafe and unsettling power of God. When God speaks, we are shaken. We feel unsettled, in varying degrees depending on how clearly we hear and see Him in the moment. We feel challenged. We feel the natural and supernatural world colliding.
Fear of loss of power or control. Because it feels unsafe to hear from God, because God is not predictable or easily managed, people prefer human leadership. Humans can be pressured. They will receive your complaint without killing you. You can sin against them and they are not going to kill you, likely…at least they are not supposed to.
Fear of false prophets. We can see from early church documents and in the epistles that prophecy was a central component of church leadership. The Holy Spirit would speak in the gathering of believers to separate people out for specific ministries, to tell them what to do with money, with resources, with their time and attention. God is willing and ready to guide and direct even the most simple parts of our lives. But very early on, there were false prophets. Jesus actually prophesied that there would be an increase of false prophets in the last days who would deceive even the elect (Matthew 24:24). This should inspire us to greater faith and testing prophecies (1 John 4:1-6), but instead, it seems the norm for God’s people to persecute the prophets and put them to death (Matthew 6:22-23).
“You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it. Acts 7:51-53
How To Care For Prophets
Prophets are sometimes seen as prideful because they speak confidently. Don’t assume this is arrogance. Don’t be offended by the Spirit. Listen to the content of what they are saying. Could it be true in any sense? Is it just judgment? Then consider it is a warning from God, especially if a person claims to be speaking on His behalf. Give them the benefit of the doubt if you do not understand the word they speak. Make note of it and hold the word “on the back burner” and see if it comes to pass. It might not be a word for now. It might come to pass much later.
Prophets are often persecuted for speaking words or warning or rebuke. Though their words are meant to build up the church, they are often twisted by the enemy and/or received as criticism or discontented feedback spurring on divisiveness. Test them. Is the fruit of their lives faithfulness to the Word of God. Are they faithful to their spouse and children? Are they participating in drunkenness or immorality of any kind? No one can partake of the fruits of darkness and remain a true prophet of the Lord. You will know them by their fruits, by their harvest of righteousness springing up from Christ in them (Matthew 7:15-20).
Practical Advice for Receiving, Speaking, and Testing Prophecy
This section is not meant to be taken as a how-to, but just some lessons I have learned walking in and among those who love to listen to God through His people.
Understand Conditional Fulfillment: Sometimes the fulfillment of a prophetic word is contingent on a person’s repentance, as in the case of warnings. Contingent prophecies usually start out saying something like “If you…” Or “If you do not…”
For example, some words form the Lord are urgently needed in response to injustice, idolatry, and a call to repentance. In the case of one prophet, Jeremiah cries out God’s heart for the people to repent so He will not need to discipline them (Jeremiah 1-5, 30). If Judah had repented, God would not have needed to go through with His plan to destroy them…to do what He said He would do. In this case, the warning would have been heeded.
Take Jonah for example. When He gave the prophetic warning to Ninevah telling all God would do, the people repented and Jonah despaired. Did he want to see the fulfillment of God’s word unheeded and judgment against Ninevah to prove Himself right? After all, what would people think if what he spoke did not come to pass? But instead we witnessed the rare case of a nation repenting. Remember, your reputation as a prophet is not nearly as important as repentance and the fame of God’s renown. Especially in the case of warnings, when they are heeded, we celebrate the fact that God’s hand was not removed or lifted against the people for whom we intercede. Sometimes the fulfillment of a prophetic word is contingent on a person’s or peoples’ obedience, steadfastness, humility, or return. These words will not be fulfilled unless we respond.
“If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14
This verse is part of a list of contingent prophecies that God made to Solomon upon the building of Solomon’s temple. It promises a continuous line of descendants and the protection of Jerusalem IF the people would be faithful to God and serve no other gods but Him. However, as you may know, Solomon and his descendants desecrated the temple with other gods brought from his many wives. Therefore His promises to always protect Israel and establish Solomon’s line were null and void. If God makes a contingent promise to us that requires our obedience, we cannot hold Him to His word if we fail to obey. These promises are technically not unfulfilled, because they were contingent on a response from a human leader or group of people.
Wait on the Lord. Prophecy can be a word from the Lord for multiple times, places, people, and seasons. For example, if God spoke to Isaiah saying the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son,” this can be seen as fulfilled twice, one by Isaiah’s wife (the near fulfillment) and Mary (the far fulfillment). Many prophecies are fulfilled more than once, in different ways.
“We have here in Isaiah chapters 7-12 the prophet speaking of the Assyrian coming distress and at the same time of Messiah Immanuel (Isa. 7-12; Matt. 1:23). He speaks of the exodus from Egypt and the mourning at Ramah, on the carrying away to Babylon; and at the same time prophesies of the history of the Messiah’s childhood (Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2: 15; Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:17, 18). Isaiah speaks of the return from exile and simultaneously promises the gathering of Israel at the still future inauguration of the kingdom of peace (Isaiah 11:11-16). The evangelical Old Testament prophet speaks of the coming kingdom of God of the End time and simultaneously depicts the glory of the new earth and of the final perfecting of all things (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; 54:11, 12.).” (Keith Lannon*)
Sometimes a promise or prophecy may be delayed. We do not have the wisdom to always understand why, but we can trust God in the waiting, knowing “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) Sometimes, when a prophetic word is spoken, it can be confusing because God has to explain it to us. Prophecy is a clear communication and preparation for something God is about to do. It is His desire for you to know about it before it happens so you can recognize His work as it is fulfilled. So do not expect to fully understand a prophecy all the time right away.
Many times, God has had someone speak a prophetic word over me that I do not understand for weeks, months, or years. If a prophetic word seems confusing or strange, then do not discount it. Just put it in your pocket and wait. You will be surprised at how His word does not return empty but you see it accomplished perfectly in time. We see scriptures with hundreds of years pass until fulfillment and we are still waiting for the fulfillment of prophecies from prophets like Daniel, Isaiah, and Revelation. If you always judge the value of a prophetic word based on what you can see right now or even weeks or months after, your vision is limited and you will do great damage to the prophet and to the church by calling them false and you may be blaspheming against the Holy Spirit. Hold your judgment unless you see immoral fruit from their lives like love of money, hunger for power, or other red flags.
Testing the Prophets. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1). “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)
Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. 16 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. (Matthew 7:15-20). So do not listen if you see bad fruits, such as charging money for prophecies, or prophets taking advantage of church generosity of hospitality (Didache), false teaching, sexual immorality, dishonest dealings, or if the prophet denies the attributes and person of Christ (for example that He is Lord or that He came down from Heaven.
So according to Paul’s advice, we “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said.” (2 Corinthians 14:29) Remember, no lie comes from the truth (1 John 2:21). So if you are a prophet and abiding honestly with Christ daily and living led by His Spirit, resisting and victorious over sin, then you should be able to trust yourself to speak in truth, It is the community’s job to test and listen and approve what you say out of that abiding. And while it is possible to be “off,” if a person acting as a prophet is operating according to the flesh, not living a fasted life of intimacy with Jesus and sobriety of the spirit, it is not likely at all when you are.
Discern the Times. Watch and pray expectantly for the fulfillment of God’s word by faith. God’s word always accomplishes what it set out to do, but it might be hard to recognize unless you are discerning the times ahead of time. Jesus said of the religious leaders, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.” (Matthew 16:2-3)
Prophecy sometimes is often given and fulfilled “out of context.” In other words, the way you think a word from the Lord will be fulfilled may not look like how you imagined it being. Case in point–Jesus. Almost all were surely looking for the Son of Man warrior king, and Jesus came quietly, not as a political savior, but a spiritual savior. These prophecies about Christ were hidden from the hardened Jewish leaders understanding according to the will of God, so that Jesus could be sacrificed by the Jews for the nations to come into the kingdom (Romans 11). After His resurrection, Jesus explained them to His disciples (Luke 24:13-35). Reading the book of Matthew, we see all the connections the early church found to the prophecies of the Old Testament.
The point is, God will clarify in prayer and in time how His word is being fulfilled. Our job is to study, remember, and heed the word of the prophets both then and now, test/discern the spirits and the signs of the times, and wait expectantly, especially regarding the return of Christ. Two people in particular set models for us about how to recognize when prophecy is being fulfilled. For all the people who missed Jesus, and did not recognize Him, there are two that did recognize Him immediately, two prophets-Anna and Simeon. They were waiting eagerly for Jesus and when they saw Him, they recognized Him immediately. Read their worship and hear the heart of the Bride, the faithful who have been waiting:
At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him 26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, 28 Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,
29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
as you have promised.
30 I have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared for all people.
32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
and he is the glory of your people Israel!”
33 Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”
36 Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. 37 Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four.[c] She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. 38 She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.
Will we be like Anna and Simeon in the last days? What would that take to have that kind of prophetic sharpness? Three things. 1) A righteous, devout life, led daily by the Spirit (Simeon was led by the Spirit to the temple); 2) Spending all our days in the presence of God in worship (Anna never left the temple); and 3) A shared eagerness between us for the coming Messiah (Anna and Simeon and others were eagerly awaiting the Messiah).
A Word of Warning for Those Who Try to Shut Up the Prophets
Prophets often have unpleasant news for the church. It’s ok. This is still encouragement. It is exhortation and warning. True prophets are the safety net of the church. Jesus shows us a scenario when the work of the Holy Spirit is called the work of Satan by religious leaders. He calls this “blaspheming the Holy Spirit” (the unforgivable sin).
Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” 25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. 30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. Matthew 12:22-32
God does not like it when you resist the Holy Spirit speaking through prophets. I will leave you with His Words, not mine. Hear the Prophet Isaiah:
For they are a rebellious people,
children unwilling to hear
the instruction of the Lord;
10 who say to the seers, “Do not see,”
and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us what is right;
speak to us smooth things,
11 leave the way, turn aside from the path,
let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.”
12 Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel,
“Because you despise this word
and trust in oppression and perverseness
and rely on them,
13 therefore this iniquity shall be to you
like a breach in a high wall, bulging out and about to collapse,
whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant;
14 and its breaking is like that of a potter’s vessel
that is smashed so ruthlessly
that among its fragments not a shard is found
with which to take fire from the hearth,
or to dip up water out of the cistern.”
15 For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
“In returning/repentance and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
But you were unwilling, 16 and you said,
“No! We will flee upon horses”;
therefore you shall flee away;
and, “We will ride upon swift steeds”;
therefore your pursuers shall be swift.
17 A thousand shall flee at the threat of one;
at the threat of five you shall flee,
till you are left
like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain,
like a signal on a hill.
18 Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you,
and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him.
19 For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. 20 And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. 21 And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. 22 Then you will defile your carved idols overlaid with silver and your gold-plated metal images. You will scatter them as unclean things. You will say to them, “Be gone!”
23 And he will give rain for the seed with which you sow the ground, and bread, the produce of the ground, which will be rich and plenteous. In that day your livestock will graze in large pastures, 24 and the oxen and the donkeys that work the ground will eat seasoned fodder, which has been winnowed with shovel and fork. 25 And on every lofty mountain and every high hill there will be brooks running with water, in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall. 26 Moreover, the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day when the Lord binds up the brokenness of his people, and heals the wounds inflicted by his blow. Isaiah 30
*A good source for understanding Near and far Fulfillment of Prophecy: Click Here