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-- © GodSpeak International 2000 --
-- Do not republish without written permission from copyright@godspeak.org --

Teresa Seputis ts@godspeak.net GodSpeak International [http://www.godspeak.net/]
Michael Gerner MGerner@aol.com
Editor: Teresa Seputis

Prophetic-School MiniTraining Series

Judging Prophetic Words

by Michael Gerner

Part 2

Some Thoughts On Testing Prophecy

Some brief notes on the importance of testing prophecy and guidelines on how to do it.


Before we discuss the actual tests, a little bit of background is in order.

The Need To Test Prophecy

1Thes 5:19-22 (NIV)
19. Do not put out the Spirit's fire;
20. do not treat prophecies with contempt.
21. Test everything. Hold on to the good. 22. Avoid every kind of evil.

In this passage the bible commands us to test prophecy. Indeed, it is part of the normal New Testament ministry process (1 Cor 14:29 NIV: Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.)

Please note carefully the context of this passage in 1 Thessalonians. Firstly, don't have such a negative attitude towards the gifts and moving of the Holy Spirit (specifically prophecy) that the fire of the Spirit is quenched in your life. The Greek word sbennumi (sben'-noo-mee) means to extinguish. The picture is of a fire that has been started but is deliberately put out. How awful a thought, that one can, without proper reason, deliberately chose to put out or damp down something started by Almighty God!

Secondly, don't treat prophecies with contempt. There are two opposite dangers here.

The first and most obvious danger is that we treat prophecy as something which is not of God today. This means that one is treating a precious gift of God sent to edify the church (1 Corinthians 14:4) as a contemptible thing, at best coming from man and at worst from the devil.

The second danger is more subtle: that a prophecy is accepted as being from God yet treated casually. If you were handled an ornate gold jewelled watch worth $1,000,000 you'd be careful how you treated it, wouldn't you? Probably more careful than if you were given a cheap plastic watch worth $1. So it is with prophecy: if what is a precious gift from God is treated in an offhand, casual sort of way then there is a real danger that it will be lost or misused.

So how are we to treat prophecy carefully? The answer lies in verse 21: test it! Make sure that it's the genuine article. If it is, then we hold onto it. If it isn't genuine, then we avoid it.

The Attitude Of The Tester

An often quoted reference about testing by scripture is found in Acts 17, to do with the Jews at Berea.

Acts 17:11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

The argument goes that this proves the importance of examining scriptures, since the Bereans were regarded as having a more noble character for doing so. Actually, that is not the full story: I missed out a bit. Here is the full reference, with the section I deliberately omitted earlier capitalised for emphasis.

Acts 17:11 NIV:
Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they RECEIVED THE MESSAGE WITH GREAT EAGERNESS AND examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Do we get the point? If we have a heart that is closed to new revelation and reluctant to acknowledge that something radical and different may be the truth, we are in trouble. It is probable that no amount of examining scripture (however commendable that is) will ever change our minds. We need both the eagerness to hear from God and the willingness to check things out by examining scriptures. Our heart must be right in this before we can test anything properly.

1 Sam 16:7 NIV
... The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.

The Importance Of Scripture

2 Tim 3:16-17 NIV
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

I'm not going to debate hermeneutics (methods of interpreting scripture) here. For various reasons, I believe the bible is the inspired word of God in accordance with its own claim outlined above. It is therefore very important to me when considering how to train myself (or others) in methods of testing prophecy that I base my approach on biblical standards. This I have tried to do.

Please understand that I do not exclude tests of prophecy which are not specifically mentioned in the Bible. But I would weigh up those tests themselves in the light of what Scripture does say!


The tests to be conducted are ranked in my personal order of priority. Your mileage may differ and you will probably think of other tests to apply as well. Please feel free to do so!

Does It Contradict Scripure?

2 Tim 3:16-17 NIV
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

If a prophecy goes against scripture it goes against what God has said. Throw it out.

But be careful: sometimes a prophecy can be against our own understanding of scripture. We need to make certain that our own understanding of scripture is not at fault here. For example, if we believe that scripture says God does not supernaturally heal today (I can't find any references for this one!) then a prophecy that somebody is going to be healed might be rejected by us even though the Lord really has spoken it.

A more subtle situation is that sometimes the prophecy can seem to contradict scripture, but in reality what the Lord is saying through it is in accordance with scripture! Peter found this out in Joppa:

Acts 10:11-16 (NIV)

He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat."

"Surely not, Lord!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean."

The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean."

This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

The vision was a direct contradiction of the food laws taught in the Old Testament, but the key to the interpretation is found in verse 16 where it was shown three times. Although the vision puzzled Peter, it was not long before he understood the significance of this, when three men visited him:

Acts 10:17-20 (NIV)
While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon's house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there. While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them."

(By the way, this shows the importance of details in understanding a vision.)

Peter himself explained the vision later, when he spoke to Cornelius, the man who had sent for him, and his friends:

Acts 10:28 (NIV)
He said to them: "... God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean."

In other words, Peter was given a vision which appeared to contradict scripture. But as he pondered it, the Holy Spirit and events showed him the true meaning.

Did The Prophecy Come True?

Deut 18:21-22 (NIV)
You may say to yourselves, "How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?" If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.

If it didn't happen, then it very probably was not of God.

Why "very probably" and not "certainly"?

Because God's prophecies are not set in stone: there is an element of personal choice in their application. So sometimes a prophecy may not come to pass because the people involved changed their behaviour. A classic example of this is in Jonah:

Jonah 3:4-5,10 (NIV)

On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned."

The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth... When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.

The LORD Himself explains this principle in Jeremiah:

Jer 18:7-10 (NIV)
7. If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed,
8. and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.
9. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted,
10. and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.

A second reason why a prophecy from God may not come to pass is because of intercession:

Isa 38:1-5 (NIV)
1. In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, "This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover."
2. Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD,
3. "Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes." And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
4. Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah:
5. "Go and tell Hezekiah, 'This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life.

A final point. It may seem strange that this test should be applied when considering a prophecy, because surely the idea is to test the prophecy before it happens? While this is true, often when the Lord gives a prophecy He also gives an immediate lesser prophecy so that the truth of the major prophecy can be relied upon when the initial prophecy comes true. A classic example of this is found in 1 Samuel 10, where Samuel gives Saul a series of relatively minor incidents which were to follow in order to (amongst other things) confirm the truth of Saul's prophetic calling to be king.

1 Sam 10:1-7 (NIV)
1. Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on Saul's head and kissed him, saying, "Has not the LORD anointed you leader over his inheritance?
2. When you leave me today, you will meet two men near Rachel's tomb, at Zelzah on the border of Benjamin. They will say to you, 'The donkeys you set out to look for have been found. And now your father has stopped thinking about them and is worried about you. He is asking, "What shall I do about my son?"'
3. "Then you will go on from there until you reach the great tree of Tabor. Three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you there. One will be carrying three young goats, another three loaves of bread, and another a skin of wine. 4. They will greet you and offer you two loaves of bread, which you will accept from them.
5. "After that you will go to Gibeah of God, where there is a Philistine outpost. As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, tambourines, flutes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying.
6. The Spirit of the LORD will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person.
7. Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.

Many More Ways

As you can tell, the above list is far from complete. Next week's lesson will look at several more tests to apply when judging or evaluating a prophetic word.

[Please Note:
This is intended as a discussion series. Please feel free to send your discussion (comments or questions) to prophetic-school@godspeak.net. ]

-- © GodSpeak International 2000 --
-- Do not republish without written permission from copyright@godspeak.org --

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