The Bible tells us that the spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus Christ.[i] Jesus further spoke that if we searched the scriptures, we would find they entirely testify of Him.[ii] Therefore, every dream or every vision that is truly from the Lord, and every word uttered by the power of the Holy Spirit must also correlate with scripture, and therefore, must also point to Jesus. If not, it is a false prophecy.
The prophets of old were moved by God’s power to speak for Him.[iii] It is written, “One who prophesies in the name of the Almighty calls for the masses to believe in Him, and commands them to worship Him.”[iv] They were not permitted to teach the Law of Moses, per se, but always motivated or encouraged God’s people to obey His commandments. Yeshua said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). And, when it came to instructing from God’s law, Yeshua would say, “You have heard it said or written.” Thus, we see the prophet as the leading moral authority over Israel.
Nothing has changed, except now that every believer, filled with the Holy Spirit, can freely receive the gift of prophecy.[v] However, not every Christian is a prophet. The calling of a prophet is laid out in scripture.[vi] It is written, “If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream” (Numbers 12:6). Only God determines who is called to be a prophet. No other person can give or presume that title on anyone. Still, we can all receive the gift of prophecy without having to operate in the office of the prophet.
So, here is the question: Does God still speak today through the means of prophecy, and if so, what is He communicating?
I believe the Lord does still speak to His people. Many refer to this as the inner voice of the Holy Spirit, guiding them from within. True. However, recognizing and understanding what the Lord is saying requires us to learn how to discern what is from Him and what is not. God speaks to us individually as His Children, and corporately to the body of Christ. God also speaks to nations. We can recognize several generalizations from scripture about prophecy. However, before we go there, it is important to understand how God deals with nations and leaders of nations, versus how He addresses His children.
God is loving, forgiving, merciful, and long-suffering.[vii] His heart is for the salvation of all people,[viii] and He desires to bless all nations. However, many people confuse God’s love with His inability to punish or to judge. Some even reject the concept of hell, saying, “How can a loving God send good people to such a horrible place.” We need to remember the foundation of God’s throne is righteousness and justice.[ix]
Yes, He is a loving God, but He is also righteous and just. “The Lord is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation” (Numbers 14:18, NKJV).[x] Our dilemma is what constitutes being a “good person” in God’s eyes. From scripture, only our faith in Yeshua and His atoning works on the cross impute God’s righteousness.[xi]
God desires mercy over judgment.[xii] However, if the Lord refrains from disciplining a person or a nation, He is not demonstrating genuine love if that person or nation continues to live in rebellion.[xiii] Additionally, God’s indifference towards another person would be on par with hating them.[xiv] God hates evil, but He loves the world.
Therefore, how do we distinguish God’s desire for goodness and mercy from His judgments and discipline? In contrast, how do we recognize Satan’s destructive forces?[xv]
The Lord is good, and his mercy and kindness are everlasting. It is always in the Lord’s heart to love and to bless. However, the rebellious nature of man will often reject God’s goodness in favor is his self-rule.[xvi] This is where the Lord’s discipline is required. It is like a balancing scale, where God’s love and mercy are on one side, and His judgment and discipline are on the other.[xvii]
Once the scale tips beyond a certain point, we may begin to see God’s judgment. For example, Paul spoke this regarding sexual immorality occurring in the church: “Deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 5:5). Paul was declaring God’s righteous judgment and discipline but also declaring God’s mercy and forgiveness.
However, if we are repentant and submit to God’s will, we will find ourselves restored to His righteous path.[xviii] Additionally, the effectual and fervent prayers of a righteous saint can supplicate for God’s mercy on behalf of himself, or another person or nation. Often, we see in scripture how the Lord answered these prayers by extending His season of grace.[xix]
The Lord’s judgments and discipline are always redemptive.[xx] They are intended to be a humbling experience that allows us to repent and receive His love and forgiveness. Satan’s purpose, on the other hand, is always to kill and destroy, with no interest in our repentance or salvation.[xxi] However, Satan can also be used by the Lord as an instrument to execute His righteous discipline or judgments.[xxii]
On the one hand, we must guard ourselves against the fiery darts of our enemy.[xxiii] And on the other, we must be diligent in obeying the Lord and protecting ourselves from His righteous discipline, for “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). “Now “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (1 Peter 4:18).
There are differences between how God deals corporately with nations and how He deals with His children. For any person who is in Christ, there is no condemnation or eternal judgment;[xxiv] what the Bible calls hell or eternal separation from God. Also, He promised never to leave us or forsake us.[xxv] There is, however, corrective discipline and an eternal reward for our righteous acts— “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works” (Matthew 16:27).
For those who have rejected Christ, they are still under God’s wrath. And because He is longsuffering, His full wrath is withheld until the final day of judgment.[xxvi] The same is also true for a nation. God will send His corrective discipline but will withhold His full wrath until the final day of judgment. I believe He does this for the sake of His elect. Unfortunately, until the day of our final redemption, the righteous will suffer with the wicked for a nation’s corporate sins.[xxvii] Just as individuals sow or labor in corruption, nations will also reap their harvest of wickedness.[xxviii]
As for how the Lord deals with leaders of the church or nations, the same principles are true, except that person is held to a higher standard of accountability, and a higher level of discipline and judgment for how they have stewarded what the Lord has entrusted to them.[xxix] God can also use a leader as a conduit to bring corrective judgment or discipline against that nation. An important principle to understand from scripture is that God is not bound by the actions or behavior of a leader. The Lord can use an unrighteous king to bless a nation and can use a righteous king to bring judgment against a sinful nation.[xxx]
In summary, we see that God’s judgment and discipline have a loving and redemptive purpose. Therefore, if every believer filled with the Holy Spirit can receive the gift of prophecy, then for us to walk in that authority, we must take the same position of God’s love. It is a poor choice for us to act like Jonah and declare God’s righteous judgments without having a heart for God’s mercy.[xxxi] The bible says those who do so are pleasuring their hearts with thoughts of destruction, rather than showing compassion for the salvation of all men.[xxxii]
The bible speaks of prophecy being used to edify and lift the body of Christ.[xxxiii] In other words, prophecy is to be encouraging to believers. Prophecy must always align with biblical truth and testify of Christ. We should ask these questions: Is a person lifted in his pride through their prophesying, or is Christ exalted through the words of prophecy for the transforming power being demonstrated in that person’s life? The latter will always be true with a person who is humbly speaking and walking in their God-given authority to lift the body of Christ.
The false prophets of old and today always flatter their hearts and those of other men; speaking what they believe people want to hear rather than declaring what God wants to communicate, and continually seeking for the praise and approval of man, not God.[xxxiv]
God can speak to us in many ways, but every way He speaks is called prophecy. Therefore, anyone who confesses Yeshua as the Christ and hears from Him or speaks to His people, even that still small voice within, by default, believes in prophecy. And, all prophecy is given through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, if there is no indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (being born again of the Spirit), there will be limited communion with God, and therefore, no true prophecy.
If a believer chooses to quench the Holy Spirit or despise prophecy, they may also find themselves restricting God’s voice and limiting their communion with Him.[xxxv] If Christianity is about us maturing in our relationship with Christ, then how can we grow as His disciples if we limit our communication with Him? We cannot.
So, what methods does the Lord use to speak to His people? He can speak audibly, although it is seemingly rare. He can and does speak through His written word. He can speak quietly through impressions or thoughts in our mind. He can speak through dreams and visions.[xxxvi] And, He can speak through other people, situations, or divinely coordinated circumstances in our lives.
Some might arguably question, “If God wants to speak to me, why does He need to use other people?” Maybe He doesn’t. However, I recall the Lord using a Donkey to speak to Balaam, the soothsayer because he wasn’t listening to God very well.[xxxvii]
The Bible speaks of both Seers and Prophets. Gad was a seer,[xxxviii] meaning he was likely given the gift of dreams and visions, and Nathan was a prophet,[xxxix] meaning that he likely spoke for the Lord through utterances, impressions, thoughts, or revelation put into his heart and mind. Daniel was given the gift of interpretation of dreams and visions.[xl] Even King Saul, at one point, received the gift of prophecy and began uttering things of the Spirit.
So, let’s discuss the difficulties in clearly hearing from God. Remember that hearing clearly is predicated on us having the Holy Spirit, and not exclusively at salvation, but a continual daily filling and renewal of the Spirit.[xli]
Utterances often come in the form of speaking in tongues and can be in any language, even a mysterious heavenly language.[xlii] People that do not understand tongues often see these people as crazy, or rule these out as demonic influences. Unfortunately, few people have the gift of interpretation, which is required if speaking publicly in an unknown tongue.
Impressions and thoughts from the Holy Spirit can be difficult to discern as they are often confused with self-talk and random images that continually fill our minds. And, a revelation from the Lord can also be difficult to discern because we often second-guess ourselves by overly intellectualizing things and using our conventional wisdom to understand God’s mysterious plans.
Coincidental circumstances are often ruled out as luck, karma, or uncontrolled events occurring in our lives if we happen to be in the right place at the right time. Even miracles are often associated with scientific or natural laws. Dreams and visions are discounted as either being from our subconscious mind or hallucinations. So, how do we know we have heard clearly from the Lord?
Three things that must be considered together: First, true prophecy will always agree with scripture. The basic theological tenants of our faith are unmovable. For example, any prophecy that portrays the Lord as anything but kind and merciful would be discarded as a false prophecy. God does get angry, but His loving nature can never change.
Modern-day prophecy will also agree in a generalized, and uniquely circumstantial sense with scripture. In other words, the stories and characters in the Bible are given to us as examples. Our circumstances today, however, are uniquely ours. This may require someone with a gift of teaching to help relate the word of prophecy, dream, or vision to stories or spiritual symbols in the Bible.
Second, true prophecy will always be accompanied by the peace of the Lord. He promised to give us His peace that surpasses all understanding.[xliii] The peace of this world is dependent upon earthly events to work in our favor, such as health, finances, or personal relationships. But the Lord’s peace exists in both His provisional blessings and in the tribulations of this world. That is why it surpasses all understanding.
How can we be at peace in our souls when we seemingly have no money, have a terminal disease, or are being persecuted by people who hate us without cause? Why, because we are looking to our eternal promises; both the resurrection in Christ and our eternal life with Him. The peace of the Lord comes with our surrender to His will. If the prophecy is per His will, we will have peace about it.
For example, a person may hear from the Lord that He desires to relocate them to a new city. While wrestling with the Lord on this issue, they will not likely have peace. But upon their surrender to His will, they will find the peace of the Lord. Another example is the ease at which events come into alignment. We will often see the lord divinely working in our lives to fulfill His plans, providing special favor, key relationships, spiritual gifts, and material provision.[xliv]
Lastly, true prophecy, when it is a prediction, will always be fulfilled.[xlv] If a prophet prophesizes accurately only some of the time, scripturally, they are not a true prophet and are considered a soothsayer or diviner.[xlvi] Every part of their prediction, every word, must be fulfilled and materialize, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant.
We do, however, need to extend grace for believers who are learning how to hear from the Lord. Some people have a natural intuitive gift and can speak insight into a person’s life. And, not every prophecy is necessarily predictive. However, as we learned earlier, true prophecy can only come from the Holy Spirit and not the mind or soul of man. God cannot lie.
The exception is if someone prophesizes from the Lord, discipline, or judgment against a person or nation, and these things do not come to pass. It may be because that person or nation have repented, and the Lord has relented from His judgment. But on the other hand, if a person prophesizes prosperity over a person in the name of the Lord, these things must come to pass, or the Lord’s name has been profaned, and he has made God a liar.
If the Lord has promised a blessing, He will always bring it to fruition.[xlvii] He may delay, or we may cause Him to delay it for a season, but He will bring it forth in His time. Therefore, we need to approach the gift of prophecy with caution, receiving correction and confessing our misjudgments when we err— “These also who erred in spirit will come to understanding” (Isaiah 29:24).
No matter what method the Lord chooses to communicate with us, there are several spiritual developmental stages that a person must go through. These stages are a generalization, as the Lord works uniquely in each person’s life.
First, the Lord teaches and disciples His children.[xlviii] Discipleship requires intimacy and time spent with the Lord in prayer. He may also choose someone to come alongside us to pray, teach, and encourage us in our spiritual growth. Second, He matures us spiritually. This may come through trials, tribulation, and testing of our faith. And lastly, He prepares us for a commission. This involves an anointing that brings His empowered authority and an increase in the gifts of the Spirit— “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26).
I discovered early on in my salvation that many of my dreams and visions pertained to areas of my life the Lord was working on. He was teaching me about my heritage as a Jewish man. He was showing me the spiritual battles going on all around me. And, He was testing my response to difficult situations. Reading His written word every day was paramount to my maturing as a Christian. And, without His scriptural knowledge, it is likely I would have misunderstood many of the dreams and circumstantial events that were happening in my life.
We must learn to filter out every thought, word, dream, or vision that is not from the Lord. As Paul said, “Bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Our flesh and minds are weak, and the enemy of our soul is very capable of influencing us with his lies if we are not careful to discern. I liken it to a radio antenna where we can pick up good spiritual frequencies and bad ones. One of those bad frequencies is our heart, which can deceive us if we follow our emotions and selfish desires.[xlix]
Since the first developmental stage in our spiritual growth is learning and being discipled, it is important to take our impressions and dreams back to the Lord in prayer for our understanding. Prayer is our way of communicating with God, and it should always be intimate and personal. This should also be accompanied by scriptural reading because the Lord does speak loudly through His written word. I highly recommend every Christian have an electronic bible where they can quickly search for keywords that might help with their interpretations of prophecy.
The bible is filled with spiritual symbolism, which the Lord refers to as concealed or hidden mysteries.[l] The images we receive from the Lord are often like those in scripture, so understanding the symbolism in the Bible is extremely important. For example, Olive oil refers to the Holy Spirit, mountains represent governments and governmental authority, trees represent nations and people groups, and the fig tree is one representation of Israel. I use scripture to interpret all my dreams, and never refer to any new age or mystical books on dreams.
The second developmental stage in our spiritual maturing is learning what to do with knowledge received from the Lord, and how to apply it? This is called wisdom. Not every word from the Lord necessarily involves a prophetic future event. Some prophetic words are confirmations of past or current events, giving us understanding and perspective on what we recently encountered or what we may be presently walking through. This, again, is for our edification. Other prophetic words may point to future events that give us clarity, and therefore, peace about things to come.
Also, remember that Satan wants to derail the Lord’s work in our lives. If the Lord allows, Satan may tempt us to believe his lies rather than God’s truth, or he may try to impress our minds with his dreams and visions. The Lord does not tempt us to sin, but He does test our faith. That is the battle that continues to rage in our minds—light versus darkness, truth against lies. Again, it is important to take everything back to the Lord in prayer.
In some cases, the Lord is just giving us an understanding of events and circumstances unfolding in our lives, and in others, He is calling us to prayer or intercession. Still others, the Lord may be calling us to physical action. All this is for our spiritual maturity and discernment as we grow in Christ.
Spiritual maturity comes with our continued daily surrender to God’s will over our lives. Often, at this intermediate stage, God is showing or telling us what He is doing in our lives. Since prophecy always testifies of Christ, the continual question is: Are we transforming our own lives through our human effort, or are we allowing Christ to transform us from within by the power of His Holy Spirit? If we are doing the work, then man is glorified. If Christ is doing the work, He is glorified. And if we are doing the work, then we will eventually grow tired or fail because the flesh is weak.[li]
Spiritual maturity is also accompanied by a desire to separate ourselves from our sinful pasts; otherwise called sanctification. This cannot be done in the natural flesh, but only by the indwelling and transforming power of the Holy Spirit. It is His power, not our weak flesh that overcomes the strongholds of lies and sin in our lives.
Sinful behavior or thoughts allow demons to entice us with their evil thoughts, building spiritual strongholds over our lives. These are lies from our enemy that become embedded in our minds as truth. Therefore, some Christians, even though saved in Christ, may still require spiritual healing, and in some instances, deliverance from these spiritual strongholds. They are not necessarily spiritually possessed, just deceived and blinded in some area of their life.
Another challenge is that what we might see in the spiritual realm looks very different than what we see or experience in the natural. For example, we might have a dream where we are driving our car, but the color and model are different. Or we might be walking in our neighborhood, but the land features are not quite the same.
The visual symbolism is more important for the message than the precise image of what we see with our natural eyes. The Lord is maturing us spiritually so that we can walk and discern in the Spirit realm. Just as a toddler learns to take their first steps on the earth, so we must also learn to take our first steps in this new spiritual world.
Taking every word, dream, or vision back to the Lord in prayer, and testing against scripture will give us an assurance we have heard correctly.[lii] I recommend journaling everything, as details are often forgotten several hours or days later. And I have found the Lord often gives revelation and understanding over time. He allows us to meditate with Him on the experiences, and He gives clarity and understanding according to His timeline, not ours.
The final developmental stage is commissioning; being sent out into the world with a God-given purpose and calling.[liii] Whether it is sharing the good news of the kingdom or freeing people from demonic oppression, it will always be about seeking and saving the lost. This is how the Kingdom of God is advanced. Serving the Lord requires obedience, and often at this stage, the Lord is giving clear instructions on where or what He wants us to do.
As our spiritual growth continues, there will be an anointing of spiritual gifts and authority that equips us for His ministry. His expectation for our prayers expands from just personal, to repentant and intercessory; often drawing us to repent and pray over people and nations, calling forth His mercy over His judgments.
One of the most important things to learn is how to pray against cataclysmic events the Lord may have revealed to us. Almost always, these are given for supplication and intercession; standing in the gap and praying against what might happen. We are not standing against God but pleading for His grace. The test of our hearts goes back to scripture, for the Lord Desires mercy over judgment. These events could be about people or nations, but the response should always be the same; Lord, forgive them for they know not what they do![liv]
The Lord will do what He will do, and vengeance is His alone.[lv] But our commission as priests of the Lord most High, is to stand in the gap for their salvation— “Let the priests, who minister to the Lord, Weep between the porch and the altar; Let them say, “Spare Your people, O Lord, And do not give Your heritage to reproach” (Joel 2:17). I believe that many, if not most of God’s judgments against mankind have been averted because of the intercession of His saints.
This leaves us with some difficult questions. If judgments and discipline from the Lord have a redemptive purpose, then are we praying against the Lord’s will if we pray for Him to withhold His judgments? After all, it is written, “For when Your judgments are in the earth, The inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:9). Is praying for the Lord to hold back His discipline the same as hating another person since the bible says that God disciplines those He loves? And, are we seeking our self-protection and comfort over that person’s repentance and redemption? We must ask the Lord to guard our hearts against this last point.
I do not believe that praying against God’s judgment is contrary to His will. While judgments may have a redemptive purpose, it is always God’s last choice. The Lord’s will and desire are to draw men unto himself by demonstrating His love for them, not His wrath; for it is His kindness that draws us to repentance and redemption.[lvi] Upon issuing the new covenant, Jesus gave us a new commandment, “That we love each other as He has loved us, to that the world would know that we are His disciples” (John 13:24-35).
It is the Lord’s sovereign decision to humble a person or a nation through His judgments. However, our place is to reflect the image of Christ, which is love, and our faith in the Lord must always demonstrate an acceptance of His will to be done despite any circumstance, good or bad.
In conclusion, prophecy is simply hearing from God. All true prophecy is of the Holy Spirit and therefore must align with scripture. And all prophecy must testify of Christ. Since we each only prophecy in part, therefore we only see in part.[lvii] As we come together in unity of His Spirit and share our collective words, dreams, and visions from the Lord, we will further mature and see a greater picture of what the Lord is speaking to the church.
Until the Lord returns, He will continue speaking to His bride through utterances, impressions, dreams, visions, and His written word. Only then will vision and prophecy will be sealed up, for there will be no further need of it.[lviii] It is then we will see our Lord clearly as He is, and it is then we will have become just like Him.[lix] To Christ, Yeshua be all the Glory forever and ever!
[i] Revelation 19:10.
[ii] John 5:39.
[iii] 2 Peter 1:21.
[iv] Translated by Zvi Lampel. Mainonides’ Introduction to the Talmud. The Judaica Press. 1988.
[v] 1 Corinthians 12:10.
[vi] Ephesians 4:11.
[vii] Deuteronomy 7:9. 1 John 4:16. James 5:11.
[viii] 2 Peter 3:9.
[ix] Psalm 89:14.
[x] All Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Bible (NKJV) unless otherwise noted, Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982.
[xi] Hebrews 11:6.
[xii] Hosea 6:6. James 2:13.
[xiii] Proverbs 13:24. Hebrews 12:6.
[xiv] Ezekiel 16:49.
[xv] 1 Peter 5:8.
[xvi] 1 Samuel 15:23.
[xvii] Daniel 5:27. Revelation 18:4-5.
[xviii] Genesis 17:1. Luke 1:6.
[xix] James 5:16.
[xx] Psalm 111:9.
[xxi] John 10:10.
[xxii] 1 Chronicles 21:1.
[xxiii] Ephesians 6:16.
[xxiv] Romans 8:1.
[xxv] Hebrews 13:5.
[xxvi] Ephesians 2:3. 1 Thessalonians 5:9. Revelation 6:17.
[xxvii] 1 Timothy 2:1-2.
[xxviii] Galatians 6:7.
[xxix] James 3:1.
[xxx] Proverbs 21:1.
[xxxi] Jonah 4:10-11.
[xxxii] Isaiah 59:7.
[xxxiii] 1 Corinthians 14:3.
[xxxiv] Psalm 5:9.
[xxxv] 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20.
[xxxvi] Numbers 12:6.
[xxxvii] Numbers 22:22.
[xxxviii] 2 Samuel 24:11.
[xxxix] 2 Samuel 7:2.
[xl] Daniel 5:12.
[xli] Romans 12:2. Titus 3:5.
[xlii] Acts 2:4.
[xliii] Philippians 4:7.
[xliv] Deuteronomy 18:21.
[xlv] Deuteronomy 13:1-2.
[xlvi] Deuteronomy 18:10.
[xlvii] Job 22:28.
[xlviii] Luke 6:40.
[xlix] Galatians 5:24.
[l] Proverbs 25:2.
[li] Mark 14:38.
[lii] 1 John 4:1.
[liii] Acts 13:2-3.
[liv] Luke 23:34.
[lv] Deuteronomy 32:35.
[lvi] Romans 2:4.
[lvii] 1 Corinthians 13:12.
[lviii] Daniel 9:24.
[lix] 1 Corinthians 13:12.