What does the Bible say about the future?
Prophecy vs. prophecy
1 Thessalonians 5:20 Don’t despise prophecies.
This is understood in two different ways:
- Don’t despise God’s revelation through the Holy Spirit
i.e., the words of godly people around you.
- Don’t despise God’s revelation through the Bible
i.e., the words of prophets recorded in the Bible.
I feel like I’m caught between two different camps. I follow Bible prophecy scholars, particularly end-timesers. And I also listen to prophetic ministers, who receive specific revelation from God for individuals and nations. In saying “prophetic ministers”, I encompass all who commonly practice prophecy in their ministry – that is, giving spontaneous Holy-Spirit-inspired revelation. This is different to the specific office of the prophet or apostle. Most prophetic ministers avoid such titles but are often promoted as such according to evidence from their life and ministry.
Often, these two groups stand in opposition to each other. Many prophecy scholars denounce the prophetic ministers as being false prophets. These spirit-filled ministers can’t be bothered with this and are turned off by such legalism. They see these prophecy scholars as not being spirit filled, mocking what they don’t understand. Often prophetic ministers express a poor understanding of biblical prophecy, particularly end-times.
If all the prophetic ministers are false prophets, where are the real ones? Even, what would a prophet look like today? Well, we see that prophets in the Bible do some very weird, unchristian things: Ezekiel lay in the street for a year, Elijah was a hermit who ate locusts, and Hosea married a prostitute. But such behavior is used as evidence to expose “false prophets”.
1 Samuel 19:24 He also stripped naked and prophesied in front of Samuel like the others and lay down naked all that day and all that night. That’s why they say, “Is Saul also one of the prophets?”
These opposing camps go way back. In Jesus’ time, the Pharisees were expert prophecy scholars, “knowing” exactly how the Messiah would appear. But for them, God stopped giving prophecy when the Old Testament was completed. Meanwhile the Essenes such as John the Baptist, were renowned for their accuracy in prophetic predictions according to Josephus’ chronicles. But they didn’t follow the rules expected by the established religious leaders.
To be fair (and my often obnoxious, offensive self), I think both groups are wrong. There are two sides to prophecy, neither of which should be disregarded or despised. We should follow and study both. If a prophetic minister predicts something contrary to biblical end-times prophecy, they’re wrong. Likewise, a prophecy scholar, will go astray if they are not led by the Holy Spirit, as evidenced by the Pharisees.
1 Thessalonians 5:19 Don’t suppress the Holy Spirit. 20Don’t despise prophecies. 21Test everything – keep what’s good.
Prophets receive revelation on top of biblical study
Daniel is my favorite prophet. Much of the book of Daniel is prophecy into the distant future. The rest is great character lessons from history. Daniel received great revelation from God through dreams and angelic visitation, but this was founded upon his personal commitment to purity before God and diligent study of scriptures and biblical prophecy.
Daniel 9:2 During the first year of [Darius’] reign, I, Daniel, understood from the scrolls, the number of years the word of the Lord had specified through Jeremiah the prophet; that Jerusalem would remain abandoned for 70 years.
Throughout the gospels, we read the mantra of “as it was written”, connecting Jesus’ life to prophetic fulfilment. We also read Jesus’ many predictions of future events. Jesus studied the prophecies, to understand his mission, and he extended prior revelation with more detail, just as Moses did. I don’t buy into the idea that Moses’ generation were illiterate and knew nothing of Genesis; that he wrote it solely from some spiritual epiphany on Mt Sinai. But rather, I believe, he collated Genesis from ancient records, such as the books of Enoch, Noah, and the Book of Jasher. Through a combination of godly discernment and divine revelation, he established the truth, which withstands every modern scientific scrutiny.
We see also that Paul added spiritual revelation to his extensive pharisaic studies, also, I believe, on Mt Sinai.
Galatians 1:15 According to God’s will, who set me aside since I was in the womb and called me through his grace, 16to reveal his son in me, so that I would preach about him to non-Jews, I didn’t consult anyone. 17I didn’t even go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went to Arabia, and returned to Damascus.
Galatians 4:25 Because this Hagar is Mt Sinai in Arabia, …
Likewise, Elijah fled to Mt Sinai, also called Mt Horeb in 1 Kings 19, after defeating the prophets of Baal. There he received additional revelation, beyond his lifetime of dedication and study, to establish new kings and the school of the prophets.
What is prophecy?
Many have written books to answer this. Prophecy is forthtelling the words the Holy Spirit gives us, speaking things into being, whether immediate or distant future. The first prophecy is:
Genesis 1:3 God said, “Let there be light”. And there was light.
This isn’t a prediction, but a speaking into being = forthtelling.
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2The same was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made by him. Without him, no created thing was made.
Prophecy is creative. But prophecy can also be destructive:
Revelation 19:21 The rest were slaughtered with the sword of him who sat on the horse, whose sword proceeds out of his mouth. …
Proverbs 18:12 Death and life are in the power of the tongue. All who embrace it will receive its consequences.
The prophecies in the Bible
aren’t predicting the future,
but rather God speaking the future into being.
Since he’s spoken it, it will happen.
Similarly, prophecies spoken
by our peers are not predictions,
but speaking into being what God has revealed.
In some cases, prophecies don’t happen.
Jonah 3:4 Jonah … cried out and said, “In forty days, Nineveh will be overthrown”
Jonah was so pissed off, when they repented, and God didn’t smite them while he watched in spiteful expectation from the overlooking mountain. This prophecy was not fulfilled because it was conditional, maybe not as Jonah expressed it, but through God’s intention behind it. In other cases, a prophecy, particularly of blessing must be received. If it’s rejected, e.g., by disbelief, then it won’t happen. Similarly, with horoscopes etc., these can be received and come to pass, along with receiving the associated demons who help to make it happen.
The office of a prophet
While I’ve spoken about prophetic ministers, there are ministers who are anointed and appointed through the laying on of hands to be apostles and prophets.
1 Timothy 4:14 Don’t neglect the gift that’s in you, which was given through prophecy when the elders laid hands on you.
Ephesians 4:11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, 12to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ will be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, reaching the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
I expect apostles, prophets, and evangelists to be known for supernatural acts being a core part of their ministry – healings, and supernatural revelation – whether knowing what is hidden, what to do, or discerning the presence and work of spirits. I don’t expect them to be perfect because we’re all human.
1 Corinthians 13:8 Love never fails. But where there’s prophecies, they’ll fail, where there’s unknown languages, these will cease, where there’s knowledge, this will pass away. 9Because we have incomplete knowledge, and incomplete prophecies. 10But when perfection comes, then that which is incomplete will be done away with.
The mark of a true prophet is not perfect revelation, but an alignment with God’s word, and open recognition that Jesus is God in human form.
1 John 4:1 My loved ones, don’t believe every spirit, but test if the spirits are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2You’ll recognize the Spirit of God by this: every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ came physically is from God. 3Every spirit that doesn’t acknowledge that Jesus Christ came physically, is not from God. This is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard will come, and even now, is already in the world. 4You belong to God, little children, and have overcome them. Because that which is in you is greater than that which is in the world. 5They belong to the world. Therefore, they speak worldly things, and the world listens to them. 6We are of God. Those who know God listen to us. Those who don’t belong to God don’t listen to us. This is how we distinguish between the spirit of truth and the spirit of deception.
False prophets subtly introduce teachings that deny the power of God and lead to immoral liberties, and exploitation of those they teach. They are actually enslaved to their own corruption, being caught in a cycle of performance to make a living.
2 Peter 2:1 There were also false prophets among the people, just as there’ll be false teachers among you. They’ll subtly introduce destructive heresies. They even deny the Lord that rescued them and bring swift destruction on themselves. 2Many will follow their evil ways, causing the way of truth to be smeared. 3They’ll exploit you through greed and tall tales. Their judgment won’t be far away, and their punishment won’t rest.
19While they promise freedom, they’re enslaved to corruption. Because a person is enslaved to that which overcomes them.
You’ll be able to tell a false prophet by the results of their ministry. Are people freed from sin and sickness? Do people glorify God as they did when Jesus and the early apostles performed miracles? Do their teachings draw people to personal purity and dedication to God and his truth?
Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets. They’ll come to you in sheep's clothing, but inside they are hungry wolves. 16You’ll know them by their fruits. Do people gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a corrupt tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree can’t bear bad fruit, and a corrupt tree can’t bear good fruit. 19Every tree that doesn’t bear good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20So, you’ll know them by their fruits. 21Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the Kingdom of Heaven; but those who do the will of my Father, who is in Heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name? Haven’t we cast out demons in your name? Haven’t we done amazing miracles in your name?” 23I’ll answer them, “I never knew you. Get away from me, you evil-doers.”
Now, I don’t expect that every Christian is great at receiving spiritual revelation, nor being an expert scholar in biblical prophecy, because every person has their particular calling and gifting. I do expect that a mature Christian is comfortable with and has a general understanding of these two important facets of prophecy. Churches that lack in either of these areas are lacking spiritual maturity. I don’t mean to condemn, but to reveal an area of potential growth.
For me, God has given me an inquisitive mind and a deep urge to inquire and investigate his truth of the past, present, and future. When I write, it tends to be a very intellectual process, but God’s spirit leads me to what I produce. This is common for many preachers. When I first wrote this chapter as a blog article, I didn’t really know what I’d say until I sat down and wrote. This is a process of supernatural revelation i.e., prophecy. Other articles are more the result of an academic pursuit with hours of research and contemplation on various scriptures and commentaries, although also a spirit-led process. It’s less common for me to have a specific prophetic word for someone. This is an area that I’m growing in with practice and submitting to an environment where this is nurtured.
Modern apostles and prophets
I’ve had a few queries and comments about modern apostles. For some people, there’s just the twelve apostles, so all the alarm bells go off when someone is introduced as an apostle. That seems presumptuous, maybe even heretical.
I appreciate this reaction. It’s good and healthy to be disturbed by teaching that is different from what we have received. We must let this challenge us and judge it – like fishermen sorting through fish caught in a net, throwing out the bad and keeping the good. However, it’s not healthy to immediately reject an idea, without first investigating it thoroughly. 2,000 years ago, the Pharisees were so ingrained in their interpretation of scripture, that they killed the Messiah instead of receiving his amazing gift. Despite seeing the evidence of the church growing around them, they continued in their rebellion until they were destroyed in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD.
When we talk about the twelve apostles, we think of the twelve disciples who spent three years living with Jesus. But then Judas hung himself and was replaced with Mattias. Then the Holy Spirit came and infilled 120 people and thousands more that day. The most influential apostle in the Bible was Paul, who wrote half the New Testament. But he never met Jesus. Then there was Apollos of Acts 18, who went out teaching before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and knew only of John’s baptism. He is named alongside Paul and Peter as one followed by early Christians.
Acts 14:14 calls Barnabas an apostle. Romans 16:7 says that Andronica and Junia were of note among the apostles. This implies there are numerous apostles, some of whom were women, just as there are prophetesses throughout the Bible. Galatians 1:19 recognizes Jesus’ brother James.
Some claim that God gave the apostles, only for a short time, to establish the Church – therefore there are certainly no apostles today. This sounds very much like the claim that supernatural signs and wonders ceased – they were only for a special time to establish the Church. I consider this an excuse made by political powers who commandeered the Church without the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Dr Ken Johnson investigated this claim by reading through the writings of the ancient Church fathers, to determine where they stopped talking about miraculous healings and demons being driven out. He gave up looking after about 350AD – well beyond the time alleged, as he continued to find witnesses of the supernatural.
I bought The Complete Works of the Church Fathers for a few bucks on Kindle, which contains about 10 Bibles worth of sermons etc. I scanned this for “apostle”, expecting to find people later being called apostle. I found only one case – of a person who led a sect. However, lack of evidence is not evidence in itself.
This presents a dilemma for me as I can provide no proof of apostles beyond the first century. So, what’s up with all these people I stumble over today who are called apostles? Are they all charlatans? But I’ve experienced that they’re wonderful godly people. After encountering them, my spirit is warmed, and I’m invigorated to seek a closer relationship with God. They’re manifesting the supernatural and God is glorified through this. There’s also prophets and evangelists that I encounter in similar manner.
The Bible warns us of false prophets and apostles. But how can there be false apostles and prophets when there are no real ones?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostle presents various meanings of apostle, with the original Greek word meaning “sent one”. Pentecostal churches tend to equate an apostle with a missionary or church planter. The Catholic church believes the Pope has inherited apostleship from a long line of Apostolic Succession beginning with St Peter. Other leaders of the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches are also considered to have succeeded such apostolic lines – in the same way that Elisha inherited Elijah’s prophetic mantle.
Actually, I’m content to concede that we’re recycling an ancient term for something similar, but not the same. This doesn’t negate the value in teaching the five-fold ministry, with teacher, pastor, evangelist, and prophet specialists and over-arching apostles.
Paul is proof that an apostle need not have met Jesus naturally. It’s therefore reasonable that this continues to happen today. In fact, this is the testimony I hear from apostles – that their position is birthed from years of such a deep, continually intimate experience with Jesus. Now, that’s what’s important – regardless of title, that we seek intimacy with God, spending hours in his presence through prayer, fasting and studying scripture – living a life preoccupied with Christ and his will, and giving up our own natural desires and comforts.
Mark 16:17 These signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they’ll drive out demons; they’ll speak in new languages; 18they’ll pick up snakes with their hands; and if they drink deadly poison, it won’t hurt them at all; they’ll place their hands on sick people, and they’ll get well.”
If we’re a believer, but not manifesting the supernatural, then we should question why our experience doesn’t match the Bible. Perhaps like Apollos, we’ve gone out to preach before being filled with the Holy Spirit. We love God, but have had an inadequate spiritual education, having only learned from the Pharisees or Sadducees (fundamentalists or liberals).
- Pray that God would fill you with his Holy Spirit.
- Stop listening to those who accuse Godly people of using the devil for their miracles like the Pharisees did to Jesus.
- Seek out believers with good Bible teaching, who manifest the signs Jesus said would follow believers.
If you’d like to learn more about modern apostles, and teaching about the five-fold ministry, I highly recommend Apostle Collette Toach who has been training and mentoring supernatural ministers for over 20 years. I always finish watching her YouTube teachings seeking a deeper intimacy with God.