Monday, March 18, 2013

Prophecy


Prophecy

 

“But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:  ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy.  I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: blood and fire and vapor of smoke.  The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’“ – Acts 2:14-21

On the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was given to those who had believed prior to Jesus’ death, they received the gifts as well.  The most apparent gift was speaking in tongues, which causes many to believe these Christians were drunk.  But Peter spoke up and presented the words of the Prophet Joel from Joel 2:28-32.  Joel prophesied the words of God, saying that in the last days, when the first covenant was done, that once again God’s sons and daughters would prophesy, young mean would see visions, and old men would dream dreams when His Spirit was poured out on them.  And then whoever calls on the name of Jesus will be saved.
Prophecy is when God, through the Holy Spirit, gives a specific message to the believer.  1 Corinthians 14:3 describes the messages of prophecy in three words: “But he who prophesies speaks EDIFICATION and EXHORTATION and COMFORT to men.”  The three words describe the purpose of prophecy.

Edification builds up the church through strengthening and encouragement.  1 Corinthians 14:4 says that the one who speaks prophecy “strengthens the entire church.”  This is the primary purpose of all Spiritual gifts, as given in 1 Corinthians 12:7 says that all gifts are “given to each one for the profit of all”, to strengthen the body of Christ.
Exhortation gives direction to the church, and warning to the sinner to receive Christ.  1 Corinthians 14:22-25 compares the gift of prophecy to the gift of tongues and says “Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe. Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.

Man without the Holy Spirit living inside cannot comprehend the things of God as 1 Corinthians 2:14-16 says “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.To an unbeliever, speaking in tongues is madness, crazy talk.  Tongues are only for those that can discern the working of the Holy Spirit, which are those that believe and have the Holy Spirit within them.  But prophecy has a working for the unbeliever as well in that by hearing the prophetic words of God, as “the secrets of his heart are revealed”, they understand that God is God.  For this reason, Paul preferred that more of the church prophesy than speak in tongues.
Prophecy can also offer comfort to the hearer and give encouragement. In Acts 23:11 God spoke to Paul and said “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.” Paul had just been arrested and placed in prison.  Ahead of Paul were trials by Felix, and Festus, and Augustus Caesar, a ship wreck, and for all the things he would suffer for the cause of Christ, he would need God’s words to strengthen him.  God promised that Paul would bear witness in Rome, and He safely delivered him to Rome.

When I was a little girl my grandmother Pearl and grandfather Joe went to a Pentecostal church service where they had been told that a woman gifted with the gift of prophecy would be speaking.  Though they were members of a Baptist church, they did not let the fences of denominations guide their beliefs, but were willing to accept the whole word of God from wherever they could hear it.  While sitting in the service, the prophet spoke to my grandfather.  She spoke two prophecies to him.  She first spoke that a woman would cause him great grief, and looking intently at him, she said “and if you don’t quit smoking, you will have lung cancer and die.”  He didn’t have cigarettes with him.  In those days smoking was still seen as a sin, and he dared not take them to church.  But she knew he was a smoker, as God revealed it to her.
Within four years’ time of hearing this prophecy, it all came to pass.  My uncle had married a woman and had two children who were 3 and 5 at the time.  He found out that she was cheating on him, and either committed suicide or was murdered, no one knows which.  She left the two children with my grandparents and never came back for them.  My cousins were later adopted by my grandparents.  My grandfather choose not to heed God’s warning and continued to smoke, and did become ill with lung cancer and died when I was in the fourth grade.  But because the prophecy had been spoken, their hearts were prepared for what had come. 

My grandmother also received prophetic visions from time to time.  One night she sat up in bed and told my grandfather that a relative had been in a car accident.  She’d seen him hit a light pole, and he was dead.  Minutes later the phone rang to tell her the very thing she had seen in the vision God gave her.  God’s vision had prepared her for news that, once again, would be hard to handle.
Today people seek to know their future for entertainment through fortune tellers, astrology, and even Chinese cookies!  These are all evil in the sight of God who tells us to stay away from diviners, sorcerers, and those that worship the stars instead of their creator.  But God still offers truth from a source that is pure and good and true.  His Holy Spirit speaks of the things yet to come when they are needed, and not for the entertainment of the hearer.  Test the spirit when you hear a prophecy.  Use the Spiritual gift of discernment.  Does it edify the body of Christ?  Does it give correction to the hearer?  Does it bring comfort?  Satan enters into the same ministries as God’s people, which is his role as the father of lies.  But the Holy Spirit cannot be denied.

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