Prophesy for encouragement vs. predicting destruction
A friend asked me my thoughts about a “prophesy” of a devastating earthquake that was supposedly coming to the Northwest coast of the USA in September 2011. Here is the prayerful response I sent my friend.
It is helpful to understand the essential purpose of prophesy in the Scriptures. Although biblical prophesy certainly includes foretelling the future to a large part, this is not its essential purpose. In fact, in 1Co 14, when Paul strongly promotes prophesying as a gift and practice for all Christians (the exact opposite emphasis of those who think that everyone is supposed to speak in tongues), the prophesying that Paul speaks about has nothing whatsoever to do with foretelling the future. The prophesying he speaks about is defined in verse 3: “he who prophesies speaks building up and encouragement and consolation to men.” Prophesying is to speak a word from God to build up the church, to encourage the weak and disheartened, and to console the sorrowful. Again, this might possibly include foretelling the future (though it does not at all in 1Co 14), but that is at best a non-essential and secondary aspect of prophesy.Prophesy is first and foremost speaking to men on behalf
of God: God has something in His heart that He wants to tell men, but He does not speak with a loud voice as He did from Mount Sinai. Rather, He finds people to whom He can unveil His heart, and He speaks to other men through them. Yes, sometimes what God wants to speak to us is regarding what will happen in the future, but by far the major part of His speaking to men is His revelation of Himself, particularly His revelation of Christ.
I have been very much helped by the first footnote in the Recovery Version of the Bible in the Book of Revelation. If there’s one book that is considered a revelation of future events, it’s certainly Revelation. However, that is not the purpose of the book. The purpose of the book is clearly revealed in its first five words: “The revelation of Jesus Christ….” The Book of Revelation is not, as is commonly supposed, primarily a revelation of future events, of the rapture, the great tribulation, the antichrist, Armageddon and so on; it is a revelation of our beloved, glorious Christ. Here’s an excerpt from the footnote I refer to:
The whole Bible reveals Christ; the book of Revelation especially, as the conclusion, completion, and consummation of the whole Bible, is “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Although this book also reveals many other things, the focus of its revelation is Christ. Several aspects concerning Christ, such as the vision of Christ as the High Priest in the midst of the churches, caring for them in love yet with a judging attitude (vv. 13-16), the vision of Him as the Lion-Lamb in the midst of God’s throne and of the four living creatures and in the midst of the twenty-four elders of the universe, opening the seven seals of God’s universal administration (5:1–6:1), and the vision of Him as “another strong Angel” coming down out of heaven to take possession of the earth (10:1-8; 18:1), etc., were never unveiled as they are in this book.
My point to saying all this is that one of the marks of true prophesy versus false prophesy is that true prophesy has the primary function of revealing God in Christ to men; if it foretells the future, that aspect is incidental. True prophesy reveals God to men to cause them to see His beauty and glory, repent of their sins, and turn to Him. Just consider the major prophets–Isaiah (Yahweh seated on the throne, Christ as the Servant of Yahweh), Jeremiah (His people’s Husband, their Potter), Ezekiel (the One on the sapphire throne, the Shepherd), Daniel (the One ruling in the heavens, the Ancient of Days), etc.–these books all have the primary function of revealing God in Christ. Predictions of the future mainly relate to chastising God’s people for abandoning Him as their unique love and centre, judging the nations for their excessive punishment of God’s people, and then the resulting introduction of Christ to His repentant people and the seeking nations.
It’s very interesting that in my daily Bible reading this morning, I read 1Ki 22 and 1Ch 18. These chapters tell the story of false prophets in contrast to a true prophet.Many false prophets tickled Ahab’s ears with promises of victory in his campaign against Syria; one lone genuine prophet of Yahweh foretold his death in a devastating rout. However, Micaiah’s prophesy was not merely a foretelling of the future; it revealed an aspect of Yahweh God that is quite unique in the Scriptures. I don’t fully understand it by any means, but I do see from this revelation that God uses, even sends evil spirits with lies contrary to God’s nature to bring about the judgement and demise of evil men. I see a revelation of God’s justice in using the wicked to judge the wicked, and in sparing the righteous, albeit imperfect (Jehoshaphat) in His righteous dealings. The false prophets, in sharp contrast, not only foretold false information, but, more importantly, there was no revelation or
ministering of God whatsoever to the listeners; they only transmitted alleged facts about the future that people could act upon. This kind of prophesy, although very much according to man’s natural desire, is against God’s very nature. It is our nature to want to receive an oracle from God to know what we should do; in other words, we want God to give us an answer so that we can say, “Thanks, God,” leave him behind, and go about doing our thing, now equipped with God’s wisdom. In contrast, God’s economy (Greek oikonomia) is to dispense Himself in Christ into us through His living word so that we become just like Him in life and in nature; then we can go forth in Christ, living out the life of Christ which is within us. This is the nature of true prophesy: God uses prophets to speak to men to dispense Himself in Christ into them so that we can live with, in and by Christ in all that we do. Every prophesy should draw our focus to Christ Himself; any external events, such as
foretelling the future, are incidental. If a prophesy or so-called prophesy does not draw me to focus on Christ as the centre of all things, and does not help me to have Christ grow in me and be more expressed through me, then I don’t give it much consideration.
Now I come to this person’s “prophesy.” First and foremost, it certainly does not seem to “speak building up and encouragement and consolation to men”–it doesn’t minister anything of Christ to me. That is my primary reason for dismissing it.
Second, regarding his prophesy of the days shortening and the posterior association of the prediction with the Chilean earthquake, that sounds like a classic Nostradamus-type “prophesy” (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nostradamus#Interpretations): a so-called prophet makes vague predictions that no one can interpret; something major happens; after the fact, people interpret the prophesy to have applied to the major event. That is not foretelling the future; that is hogwash and charlatanism. Knowing that he has made such a “prophesy” in the past causes me to very seriously distrust him. Please note that I’m not saying he is a liar–he might sincerely believe that he is a true prophet–I am simply saying that I don’t believe that he receives revelations of the future from God, regardless of what he thinks of himself. We should not heed a self-deceived person any more than we should heed an outright deceiver. (And the self-deceived person is more convincing, because he is
Finally, other than that, I simply have no testimony in my spirit that his prophesy is anything more than absolute bunk. I don’t believe it in the least. It seems to me to be quite similar in principle to Harold Camping’s end time prophesies for 2011 (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_end_times_prediction. Well, just as Harold Camping was proven a false prophet (for the third time) on May 22, 2011, when his May 21 prediction of the rapture failed to materialize, I believe that this person will be likewise proven to be a false prophet on October 1, 2011.
The question that remains is whether you will lose any sleep worrying about “what if he’s right”? I certainly won’t. Even worse, I hope you will not in anyway associate the failure of his prophesy to a failure of God to do what He says–I don’t believe He has said what this person claims, so when it passes unfulfilled, this has no bearing whatsoever on God’s faithfulness.
I pray the Lord’s grace to you to be at peace in Him in this matter, and that you continue to seek only Christ in all of His speaking, according to His economy that Christ would live in you and be magnified through you.