The bible tell us that the spirit of prophesy is the testimony of Christ. Jesus further spoke that if we searched the scriptures, we would find their entirety testifies of Him. Therefore, every dream, every vision, and every word from God uttered by the power of the Holy Spirit must point to Christ.
The prophets of old were moved by God’s power to speak for Him. Nothing has changed, except now that every believer, filled with the Holy Spirit, has the ability to receive the gift of prophesy and to speak for God. So, does God still speak today, and if so, what is He saying?
The Lord does still speak to His people, but hearing and understanding what He is saying is a learned question since every person and situation is unique. God speaks both to us individually as His Children, and corporately to the body, the bride of Christ. We can surmise several generalizations from scripture. Before we go there, it is important to recognize how God deals with nations, how He deals with leaders of nations, and how He addresses us individually. On all levels, God is forgiving, merciful and long suffering. His heart is for the salvation of all people, and His desire is to bless all nations.
God is love, and many people confuse God’s love with His inability to punish and to judge. The foundation of His throne is Righteousness and Judgment, yet in terms of priority of application He always desires mercy over judgment. Not disciplining a person or a nation is not really love if that person or nation continues to live in rebellion. In fact, indifference towards another person is on par with hating them.
Therefore, how do we distinguish between God’s desire for goodness and mercy, His judgments and discipline, and Satan’s destructive actions? The Lord is good, and his mercy and kindness are everlasting. It is always in the Lord’s heart to love and to bless. But the rebellious nature of man will often reject God’s goodness in favor is his own self-rule. In fact, what better opportunity for man to seek God’s favor, but not submit to His will? This is where the Lord’s judgment or discipline is required. It is like a balance scale, with God’s love and mercy on one side, and His judgment and discipline on the other. Once it tips, even slightly, we begin to see His judgment. But the effectual and fervent prayers of a righteous saint can beg for mercy, and often the Lord will extend His time of grace.
The Lord’s judgments and discipline always have a redemptive purpose. It is 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 destroy, with no interest in our repentance or salvation. Satan is also an instrument the Lord uses to execute His righteous judgments.
There are differences between how God deals corporately with nations and how He deals individually with people. For any person who is in Christ, there is no condemnation or eternal judgment; otherwise what the bible calls hell or eternal separation from God. There is however, corrective discipline and an eternal reward for our righteous acts. But there is not an eternal judgment leading to eternal separation from God. For He said He would never leave us or forsake us. For those who are not in Christ, they are still under God’s wrath. Yet because He is longsuffering, His full wrath is withheld until the final day of personal judgment.
For a nation, the same is also true. God will send His corrective discipline, but will withhold His full wrath until the final day of corporate judgment. This He does, I believe for the sake of His elect. But until that final day, the righteous will often suffer with a nation for its corporate sins.
For a leader of a nation, the same is further true, except that person is held to a higher standard of accountability, a higher level of discipline, and a higher degree of judgment for how they have treated God’s people. And often, God will use a leader as a conduit to bring corrective judgment or discipline against a nation. An important principle to understand from scripture is that God is not bound to a nation by the decisions of its 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.
In summary, we see that God’s judgment and discipline have a good and loving purpose. So, if every believer filled with the Holy Spirit can receive the gift of prophesy and speak for God, then in order 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. The bible says those who do so are actually pleasuring their hearts with thoughts of destruction, rather than showing compassion for the salvation of all men.
The bible speaks of prophesy being used to edify or lift up the body of Christ. In other words, prophesy is to be encouraging. And prophesy must always align with biblical truth and testify of Christ. In other words, is a man being lifted up in his own pride, or is Christ being exalted for the transforming power being demonstrated in that man’s life? The latter will always be true with a prophet who is humbly speaking and walking in their God-given authority. The false prophets of old, and of today always flatter their hearts, and flatter the hearts of men; saying what they think people want to hear, but always looking for the praise and approval of man, not God.
God can speak to us in many ways, but every way He speaks is called prophesy. Therefore, anyone who confesses the Lord speaks today to His people believes in prophesy. And all prophesy is given through the gift of the Holy Spirit. If there is no spirit, there can be no true prophesy. If there is no true prophesy, that person cannot hear clearly from the Lord. That is why the bible says to not quench the Holy Spirit or despise prophesy. If Christianity is about having a relationship with Christ, then how can there be a relationship if there is no communication with Him? There cannot be.
So, how does the Lord speak today? He can speak audibly, although it is seemingly rare. He can speak through His written word. He can speak quietly through impressions or thoughts in our minds. He can speak through other people, situations, or divinely coordinated circumstances. He can speak through the utterance of tongues. And, He can speak through dreams and visions.
The bible speaks of both Seers and Prophets. Gad was a seer, meaning he was likely given the gift of dreams and visions, and Nathan was a prophet, 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. Even king Saul at one point received the gift of prophesy and began uttering things of the Spirit. So, let’s discuss the difficulties in clearly hearing from God. Remember that hearing is predicated on us having the Holy Spirit, and not just at our moment of salvation, but a continual daily filling of the Spirit.
Utterances often come in the form of speaking in tongues, and can be in any language. People that do not understand them often see these people as crazy, or rule these out as demonic. And, very few people have the gift of interpretation. Impressions and thoughts are difficult to discern as they are often confused with self-talk and random images that continually fill our minds. Revelation from the Lord can also be difficult to discern because we often second guess ourselves, overly intellectualize using the conventional wisdom of man, or confuse God’s impressions with our own random thoughts. Coincidental circumstances are often ruled out as luck, karma, or uncontrolled events that benefited us by being 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 heard clearly from the Lord?
Two things that must be considered together: First, true prophesy will always agree with scripture. The basic theological tenants of our faith are unmovable. For example, any prophesy that portrays the Lord as anything but kind and merciful would be discarded as false prophesy. God does get angry, but His loving nature can never change.
Modern day prophesy will also agree in a generalized, but not necessarily in a uniquely circumstantial sense with scripture. In other words, the stories and characters in the Bible are given to us as examples. And, our circumstances today are uniquely ours. This may require someone with a gift of teaching to help relate the dream or vision to a story or symbol in the bible.
Second, true prophesy will always be accompanied by the peace of the Lord. He promised to give us His peace that surpasses all understanding. The peace of this world is dependent upon earthly events to work in our favor, such as health, finances or 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, we have a terminal disease, or we are being persecuted by people who hate us without explanation? Why, because we looking to our eternal promises; both the resurrection in Christ, and our eternal existence with Him. But the peace of the Lord always comes with our surrender to His will. 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, important relationships, and material provision.
No matter what form the Lord chooses to communicate with us, there are several developmental stages that a person must go through. These described stages are a generalization as the Lord works uniquely in each person’s life. First, the Lord teaches and disciples His children. Discipleship requires intimacy with the Lord. Second, He matures us spiritually. This often comes with 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.
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 Hebrew man, he was showing me the spiritual battles going on all around me, and He was testing my response to many difficult situations. Reading His written word was paramount to my maturing as a Christian. And in fact, 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. The enemy is very capable of influencing us with his own lies if we are not careful to discern.
Since the first developmental stage is teaching and discipling, it is important to take our impressions and dreams back to the Lord in prayer for understanding. Prayer is simply our way of communicating with Him, and it should always be intimate and personal. This should also be accompanied with 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 key words that might help with their interpretations. The bible is filled with spiritual symbolism, which the Lord refers to as concealed or hidden mysteries. Our messages from the Lord are often the same, so having an understanding of this symbolism in the bible is extremely important. For example, Olive oil refers to the Holy Spirit, mountains represent governments and governmental authority, trees represent people groups, and the fig tree represents Israel.
The second developmental stage is spiritual maturing. What do I do with this knowledge from the Lord, and how does it apply in my life? This is challenging because not every message we receive is from the Lord, and not every word from the Lord necessarily involves a prophetic event that will come to fruition at a specific place and time. Some prophetic words are confirmations of events that happened in the past, some relate to present circumstances, and some to future events. Also remember that Satan is continually trying to derail the Lord’s work in our lives. He wants us to believe his lies, rather than God’s truth, so he is capable of impressing our minds with his dreams and even visions. That is the battle that continues to rage in our minds. 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, in some cases He is calling us to prayer or intercession, and in some cases the Lord is calling us to physical action. This will become a learned discernment as we grow in Christ.
Spiritual maturity comes with our continued daily surrender to God’s will over our lives. More often than not at this intermediate stage, God is showing or telling us what He is doing in our lives. Since prophesy always testifies of Christ, the continual question is: are we trying to transform our own lives, or are we allowing Christ to transform us? 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.
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 stronghold of sin in our lives. Sinful strongholds also allow demons to build spiritual strongholds over our lives. These are lies from our enemy that become embedded in our minds as truth. This is why many Christians, even though saved in Christ, still require spiritual healing and deliverance.
Another challenge is that often what we 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 might see with our natural eyes. The Lord is maturing us spiritually so that we can walk and discern in the spirit. Just as a toddler learns to take their first steps on the earth, so we must also learn to take our first steps in the spiritual world.
Taking every word, dream or vision back to the Lord in prayer, and testing against scripture will give an assurance we have heard correctly. 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 a period of time. He allows us to meditate with Him on the experience, 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. 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 requires obedience, and often at this stage the Lord is giving clear instructions on where or what He wants us to do. Our spiritual growth continues, but there is now an anointing of spiritual gifts, and a spiritual authority that equips us for His ministry. His expectation for our prayers expand 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 a particular cataclysmic event 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!
The Lord will do what He will do, and vengeance is His alone. But our commission as priests of the Lord most High, is to stand in their gap. I believe that many, if not most of the judgments against mankind since the coming of Christ have NOT been executed because of the intercession of the saints.
This leaves a difficult question. If judgments and discipline from the Lord have a redemptive purpose, then are we actually praying against the Lord’s will? Is praying to hold back discipline actually the same as hating since the bible says that God disciplines those He loves?
Are we seeking our own self-protection and gratification? We must ask the Lord to guard our hearts from the latter, but otherwise I do not believe that praying against judgment is contrary to God’s will. While judgments may have a redemptive purpose, it is always God’s last choice. The Lord’s will and desire is 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. 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, NKJV).[I]
It is the Lord’s sovereign decision to humble a person or a nation by judgment. But 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 in spite of any circumstance, either good or bad.
In conclusion, prophesy is simply hearing from God. All true prophesy is of the Holy Spirit, and therefore must align with scripture. And all prophesy must testify of Christ. Since we each only prophesy in part, therefore we only see in part. 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 His bride. Until the Lord returns, He will continue speaking to His Church through utterances, impressions, dreams and visions. And then, vision and prophesy will be sealed up, for there would be no further need of it. It is then we will see Him clearly as He is, for it is then we will have become just like Him.
To Christ Yeshua be all the Glory forever and ever!
[i] All Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Bible (NKJV) unless otherwise noted, Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982.