There is not one Godly prophet in the Old or New Testaments, including Jesus, who prophesied something that did not come to pass within a reasonable amount of time, much less that never came to pass.
In the Old Testament when someone spoke in the name of the Lord and what they said was not true, or what they predicted did not come to pass, they died at the hands of God’s people.
This tells me that Isaiah, who prophesied a virgin would be with child eight centuries before Mary conceived Jesus in the Immaculate Conception, either had a special grace and favor with God and man, or in some fashion his predictive word came to pass in his lifetime.
In the New Testament, those who speak in the name of the Lord something that is not true, or that does not come to pass is not killed by God’s people, but their ministry can die because God’s people have the right and responsibility to judge what is said to be from God.
Paul and Silas found out that although the people in Berea were extremely excited for them to come teach them, they did not take what Paul and Silas taught as truth as being true until they searched the Scriptures themselves – daily.
“10 The brethren [in Thessalonica] immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” [Acts 17]
This examining of the Old Testament Scriptures [here Greek / graphe – written word] is a different word Paul used when he commanded the Thessalonicans to examine prophecy and those who prophesy. This word ‘examine’ means to investigate, sift, interrogate, question. It comes from a root word meaning to repeatedly and intensively forensically test. When teaching people how to study the Bible I encourage them to be like a detective walking into a crime scene with no preconceived ideas on what happened. There are six questions the inquisitive inquisitor should ask every text they read. They are: who, what, when, where, why and how.
As you ask those questions gazing into the text you will begin to see the truths that are contained within it. Like looking at a hologram, it may take some time to see what is in there but when the time is taken to see the student will quickly begin to learn.
This examination will be encouraged by Paul in his great instruction on judging prophets and prophecy in 1 Corinthians 14:29. We will “examine” that text later!
Apparently Paul and Silas were fine with being examined, as well as their teaching being examined by the Thessalonican people. Every legitimate minister is okay with being examined!
In many places nobility is lacking both in those who minister and those they minister to.
Credibility is such a rare commodity in our world today and I am greatly concerned a lack of credibility and accountability has crept into the church Jesus is building as well. Fact checking God’s ministers has been around since the beginning of when people started saying they came [to speak, to teach] in the name of the Lord. Too many “hear from God” and leave when the examination commences.
Even Jesus submitted His ministry to those He ministered to – “37 If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38 but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” [John 10]
Jesus’ words and His works matched the works of His Father which should have convinced the Jews He was legitimate. What we say is as important as what we do and when they are not congruent people have a right to reject what we say and do, which means they reject us as worthy to minister to them. unless we become vulnerable and accountable to them.
You cannot disconnect what a person says and does from that person! “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” so what we say reveals what is really in our heart.
Nicodemus who was a teacher of the Jews recognized this connection when he said to Jesus, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” [John 3:2].
In the Old Testament the punishment was so severe for speaking in God’s name something untrue, or that did not come to pass because God’s people did not have the Holy Spirit inside of them and could easily be led astray. Prophets were accepted as God’s delegated spokesmen.
In the New Testament every true born again believer has the Holy Spirit inside of them and it is their responsibility to test everything to ensure what they are told is true. Also, every born again believer has the right and responsibility to speak for the God that saved them, even moving in the gift of prophecy.
John wrote this in 1 John 2: “18 Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. 20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. 21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth. . . . 26 These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. 27 As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.”
When people run away from the very people they have said they love and are connected to because what they say and do come under scrutiny by those they say they love and are connected, it reveals a heart of corruption that John identifies as the spirit of the antichrist. John said many antichrists were on the scene in his day and those antichrists came from within the church. Keep in mind there was one church per region so it was unlikely those who left a church could become part of another one easily and inconspicuously.
Today, accountability is very difficult because there are multitudes of churches in search of gifted and anointed people. Most church growth is simply people shifting to different churches. Some simple fact checking could go a long way to rooting out the rebellious!
Two thousand years ago John referred to the time he lived in as “the last hour” twice in verse 18. John goes on to exhort the people to trust the anointing [Spirit of truth] that was in them would keep them safe from error. This means God’s people best be in God’s written Word [graphe in the Old and New Testaments] so they have God’s plumb line to line up what is being said or done in the name of the Lord with God’s eternal and established Word.
The anointing inside each believer is there to ensure they are not duped by the anointing of someone presenting themselves a representing God. When the one ministering insists their anointing is so good that those they minister to do not need to verify what they say and do is genuine, they misrepresent the God they claim to represent.
For all those concerned that we are living in the last days take a deep breath and relax, John lived in the last hour.
In fact, John wrote that Jesus spoke of this hour in the fourth chapter of his gospel.
“19 The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.’ 21 Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.'”
In this text Jesus revealed an hour was coming twice and the second time He referred to it He said, “and now is,” two thousand years ago. John and Jesus were speaking of a contemporary reality that was imminent to that generation. The last hour, which was the hour that was “now is [here]” was the total destruction of Judaism as a life giving system. In fact, by the time John wrote his “last hour” prediction the destruction of Jerusalem and the sacred Jewish temple was fast approaching.
The “hour” was not understood to be a literal sixty minute time span but an imminent time change that was about to take place. I believe that “hour” started ticking down when Jesus died on the Cross and God ripped the veil in the temple from the top to the bottom exposing the Holy of Holies as being void of the Ark of the Covenant.
Now I know that what I just said is considered ridiculous in our pop-culture Christian world but I believe every Book of the New Testament, including The Revelation of Jesus Christ, was completed prior to 70AD.
Paul said this in Hebrews chapter eight verse thirteen, “When He said, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.” It is understood that Hebrews was written in or about 67AD meaning within three years or so Judaism died and was burned with fire along with Jerusalem and the temple.
Jesus had predicted prior to His Olivet Discourse and in that Discourse that the generation who heard what He said would see the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. Jesus even referred to His disciples multiple times in His discourse. [See Matthew 23, 24; Mark 13]
The pre-incarnate Christ appeared to Abraham and Sarah revealing, “At this time next year you will have a son.” Here is the text found in Genesis 18 – “9 Then they said to him, ‘Where is Sarah your wife?’ And he said, ‘There, in the tent.’ 10 He said, ‘I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son.’ And Sarah was listening at the tent door, which was behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; Sarah was past childbearing. 12 Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?’ 13 And the Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?’ 14 Is anything too difficult for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.’ 15 Sarah denied it however, saying, ‘I did not laugh’; for she was afraid. And He said, ‘No, but you did laugh.'”
Now we could take this predictive prophecy two ways. First, we could say that the Lord was saying Sarah would have an immaculate conception. But we know that is not what was meant because there could only be one immaculate conception and that would not happen for approximately 2,021 years. Second, Abraham and Sarah, although past the age of childbearing and quite possibly the age of engaging in sexual intercourse, went into their tent and had marital relations needed to conceive a child.
The second option seems more likely to me based on what Paul said in Hebrews chapter eleven and Romans chapter four.
Hebrews 11 – “11 By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants as the stars of heaven in number, and innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.”
Sarah’s faith energized her reproductive organs and quite possibly activated her sexual desire. They had tried for twenty five years to have a child without success. In addition to being too old to have children in the natural [Sarah was ninety and Abraham was one hundred] we can safely assume the desire to try waned over the years too.
Romans 4 – “16 For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 [as it is written, ‘A father of many nations have I made you’] in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. 18 In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ 19 Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; 20 yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. 22 Therefore It was also credited to him as righteousness.”
‘Perform’ here means he was able to do the necessary work required to produce what the Lord promised them. Abraham took inventory of his natural condition and weighed that against the weight of God’s promise of a son with Sarah. Abraham faced the facts of Sarah’s and his condition but chose to focus on the truth of God’s word. As he considered what he was facing his respect for God far outweighed his history of losing expectation of becoming a father of the son of promise. Abraham’s faith grew stronger as he glorified God. As he became fully assured that what God promised was going to come to pass he was given the ability and desire to perform. His performance was credited to him as righteousness.
Agabus was a recognized prophet in the church in Jerusalem. His prophetic ministry is revealed in Acts 11 and Acts 21. What we find in those texts is Agabus was a predictive prophet because both times he is mentioned he is predicting future events.
It is interesting to me God used a prophet whose name means locust to prophesy a famine, but He did. Maybe Agabus himself was the message to the saints about a future problem in Judea!
“27 Now at this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them named Agabus stood up and began to indicate [signify] by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world. And this took place in the reign of Claudius. 29 And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea. 30 And this they did, sending it in charge of Barnabas and Saul to the elders.” [Acts 11]
Luke writes that a plurality of prophets arrived in Antioch from the Jerusalem church. We do not know how many prophets were with Agabus and what the additional prophets did in Antioch. All we are told is Agabus prophesied a famine that would affect the whole world. Now, “whole world” can be interpreted as the whole world, the whole world Rome was ruling over, or the whole land of Judea. My guess is he was predicting a famine throughout Judea because that is where the relief supplies were directed and delivered to the elders – in Jerusalem!
We do not even know if Agabus and his team of prophets were a part of the eldership team in Jerusalem, just the provisions were delivered to them by Barnabas and Saul [Paul].
Did you notice his predictive prophesy came to pass during the reign of Claudius. Luke does not record Agabus placing a time frame on his word from God. Historians put this famine in 45AD. If Agabus prophesied in or about 40AD then his prophecy came to pass within five years.
The next time we find Agabus prophesying is in Acts 21 where he prophesied in Caesarea that Paul would be arrested in Jerusalem. Luke writes that Paul was arrested in the temple during that trip to Jerusalem.
Do you see that predictive prophets cannot claim they speak for God when what they predict does not come to pass in a reasonable amount of time? Jesus predicted the destruction of Jerusalem within a generation [forty years – 30AD – 70AD] so the people had every right to expect that within forty years His prediction would come true. And it did!
Agabus did not put a time frame on either one of his predictive prophesies although it could have been, and very well may have been, understood Paul would be arrested on that trip into Jerusalem. And he was indeed arrested on that trip to Jerusalem.
There is no evidence that God ever releases a prophetic word that does not have a shelf life of a reasonable amount of time. And when a prophet gives a specific time frame, just as Jesus did in His Olivet Discourse, that prophet is on the hook for what they predicted to come to pass.
How else could God’s people “examine [test] everything carefully” and “hold onto that which is good” as Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5, if they must continue to hang on forever waiting on the word to come true?
“19 Do not quench the Spirit; 20 do not despise prophetic utterances. 21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil.
Paul first said, “Do not quench the Holy Spirit.” Many have interpreted that to mean “do not despise prophesies” but that is not what the Holy Spirit meant when He had Paul write it before “do not despise prophecies.” Quenching the Holy Spirit first and foremost means to not allow Him to function in His primary calling to comfort and convict, as well as to lead people into all the truth [God’s written Word].
Jesus first reveals the Holy Spirit as ‘Helper.” Then as the “Spirit of truth.” Then as the One who “will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” [John 14]
Helper means One called to come alongside for the purpose of providing aid, to advocate, assist, counsel, console, and intercede for.
.Then he said, “Do not despise prophesies” which means it is possible for God’s people to despise prophecy. We know that many church cultures refuse to allow prophets and the gift of prophecy to operate in their environments. Apparently prophecy is despised in some places today and I believe the reason is because of all the “words from God” that never come to pass.
Then he said, “Hold onto that which is good” meaning not to hold onto anything or anyone that is not good.
Lastly he said, “abstain from every form of evil.” ‘Abstain’ literally means: To prevent, to keep your distance from, and to not receive [have] anything evil [harmful, perverted, diseased, impoverished, and not productive].
What did Paul mean when he wrote, “examine everything carefully”? Paul uses language that those who tested metals and currency for purity and authenticity understood. Paul wanted the saints at Thessalonica to test by fire and by pressure what was offered to them, and those who offered it. Paul had written something similar to the saints in Corinth. “each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work [and words]” [1 Corinthians 3:13].
Paul was instructing the Thessalonican saints not to be credulous but to examine everything and everyone with great care. Where Luke wrote these same people poured through the Scriptures [Old Testament] carefully to compare what they were being taught as truth with the Truth, Paul wrote they were to examine everything and everyone with heated discourse, applying pressure in private, just like a smelter of silver and gold and the person tasked with ensuring the currency was not counterfeit, to discover what was in the heart of the people presenting themselves as legitimate ministers.
One great tool for the initial examination is the gift of the Spirit known as discerning of spirits. This gift is given by the Holy Spirit to alert us to what kind of spirit is operating in any given situation, individual or group setting. This gift discerns [distinguishes and identifies] whether it is the Holy Spirit, human spirit, angel or demonic spirit operating in our midst. The Holy Spirit is the first line of defense when we are hearing anyone speak for God. Being sensitive to the Spirit is vitally important and we must learn to recognize what He is saying inside of us. Then we must allow the Spirit to lead and guide us into all truth as found in the Scripture [graphe].
I believe this gift was used by Paul when he confronted the slave girl operating in divination [false prophecy] in Philippi [Ats 16]. “16 It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling. 17 Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, ‘These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.’ 18 She continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!’ And it came out at that very moment.”
Here we see it is possible to have an accurate word come from a person with a demonic spirit. Divination is obtaining unknown knowledge through a spiritual source other than God, thus the slave girl had a spirit of divination. She had given herself over to it because it gave her the ability to profit monetarily.
This spirit is a counterfeit to the gifts of the Holy Spirit called words of knowledge and words of wisdom, which often work in tandem with prophecy. The Greek word used is Pýthōn. Isn’t it interesting how that serpent is always looking for an opportunity to slip into our midst to deceive us? How did Paul know she was not a legitimate prophetic person? The Holy Spirit’s gift of the discerning of spirits is what I believe he used to recognize she was a fortune teller.
Paul cast that spirit out of her and that caused a riot and eventually a revival church to be birthed! In between there was pain, prison and then greater manifest Presence! That is usually God’s process to revival in an individual or a region!
In Philippi Paul and his team met a lady from Thyatira named Lydia. Lydia was an entrepreneur who sold purple fabrics. Lydia means travail and Thyatira means the odor of affliction. Lydia was a worshiper of God whose heart God opened to receive Paul, his team and their ministry. Lydia provided a temporary base of operations in Philippi for the advancement of the gospel of the kingdom to proceed into Europe.
I encourage you to read the resurrected Jesus’ words to the church at Thyatira found in Revelation 2:18-29. He begins with [verse 18] – “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this:” In the middle of His word to Thyatira Jesus says in verse 23, “and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.” Do you notice a pattern?
We saw above what John wrote in 1 John 2 about the Holy Spirit [anointing] protecting us from being deceived in. He also wrote this in 1 John 5 [KJV] – “6 And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. 7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.”
Jesus, before he came as a human was known in eternity past as the Word [John 1:1]. John wrote the Word became flesh [1:14]. Now, since He ascended to the throne next to His Father He is known as the only Mediator between God and man, “the Man Christ Jesus,” Now in eternity present and future He is known as the Man who Mediates.
This is in and of itself a huge subject but suffice it to say the Father, the Word that still remains in heaven now that Jesus came to earth and returned as a resurrected Man, and the Spirit all bear witness in earth to that which is accepted in heaven for use in the earth.
Look at what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12 – “29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. 30 But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; 33 for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.
Paul did not allow for prophecy to go without being judged and neither did he allow for prophets to escape judgment. Lets examine carefully Paul’s instructions on how to steward prophets and prophetic ministry.
- In a particular service only two to three prophets should speak
- I believe this is because every matter is to be established out of the mouths of two to three witnesses which means the two to three prophets prophesying should prophesy things that are in harmony with each other and God’s eternal Word
- 2 Peter 1 – “19 So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. 20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”
- Scripture, all of it, is to be how we judge any prophet or prophetic ministry
- If someone prophesies anything contrary to Scripture it is to be rejected and if the person prophesying refuses to admit what they have prophesied is not in line with Scripture they are to be rejected because they are self interpreting and judging their own prophecies and prophetic ministry
- As each prophet speaks “the others” pass judgment
- Is Paul referring to the other prophets or the others in the hearing of the prophets
- I believe the answer is yes, both the other prophets and the others in the hearing of the prophecies are to judge what is prophesied and those who prophesy
- What does “pass judgment” mean
- Pick it apart
- To separate by straining through a strainer
- To render a judicial decision based on every aspect of what is said and or done
- The purpose of judging prophets and their prophecies is so:
- All may learn
- All may be encouraged
- Who are the “all” who may learn and be encouraged
- I believe all is all inclusive meaning all the prophets and all those exposed to their prophetic ministry
- Prophets, just like apostles, evangelists, pastors and teachers are to equip the saints for the work of ministry, so their primary function is training everyone in prophetic ministry
- Each prophet is to steward his own spirit by keeping it clean and pure and submitted to the other prophets and prophetic people who have learned and are being encouraged in their prophetic ministry
- A prophet who refuses to pass through the judgment is to be judged as false
- Encouragement is one of the three legs the gift of prophecy stands on [v3]
- God is not confused and He does not spread or allow the spread of confusion in any of the churches of the saints
Again, to judge prophecy is to judge the person prophesying, whether that person is a prophet or not.
The New Testament warns about these false people and ministers:
- False apostles [2 Corinthians 11:13; Revelation 2:2]
- False prophets [Matthew 24:11,24; Mark 13:22; Acts 13:6; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1; Revelation 16:13; 19:20; 20:10]
- False Christs [saviors] [Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22]
- False teachers [2 Peter 2:1]
- False brethren [2 Corinthians 11:26; Galatians 2:4]
- False witness [Matthew 15:19; 19:18]
- False circumcision [Philippians 3:2]
A cursory reading of church history reveals within the generation that was alive when Jesus was walking the planet all of the above were contemporary concerns for the genuine Christian, Christian leader and church community. And in the two thousand years since they are still a concern for leaders of the churches of the saints.
James tells us in chapter 3 verse 1 – “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.”
“Stricter judgment” means a greater, larger, louder and stronger condemnation of wrong. This means the decisions made carry more weight and will travel farther than the judgments [decisions] of those who do not teach God’s people. This phrase comes from a Greek word that means: To separate for the purpose of approving or disapproving, determining what is right or wrong, and what is safe or unsafe. What is intended is to determine whether the one teaching is worthy of being trusted as a teacher.
That is why James uses the word “become” a teacher. Teachers are gifts of Christ who He calls to be[come] teachers. This means anyone called better know that it is a holy calling and not to be taken lightly. ‘Become’ means: To arise into the position, and onto the public stage you were called to take.
Paul reveals that teachers are third in line of importance in the church Jesus is building [the churches of the saints]. “And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers.” [1 Corinthians 12:28]
So, if teachers who are third in line come under a “stricter judgment” what kind of judgment do apostles and prophets come under?
This is where accuracy and accountability intersect. If a person who teaches or prophesies speaks something that is not true or does not come to pass within a reasonable amount of time, then that person must be willing to give an account of what they said to those they said it to. Not only that, but they must root out the root problem[s] that caused them to speak in the name of the Lord something the Lord was not saying. It is not enough to say, “I’m sorry!” The person must understand and articulate why they said what they said.
If they refuse to make themselves and their ministry accountable then they are to be judged as false ministers because their heart is not holy.
The only way for a person judged as false can be reinstated in good standing is by repenting and submitting to the delegated authorities in the church of the saints they worship in.
Receive and steward God’s passion, power, presence, priority, process, promises, protection, provision, pruning, purging, purity and purpose!
Dr. Kevin M. Drury, DMin
A spiritual revolutionary