For our Sunday evening adult Bible Study I’ve been taking questions and doing my best to provide – if not answers, at least insight. One question concerned whether ‘prophecy’ is still a function of modern Christianity and if so, what does it look like. My methodology always begins with a linguistic definition of the term. We all carry ideas of what words mean but we often find, upon examination, that our ideas are a little hazy. It is crucial for us to understand what Biblical prophecy is and isn’t before we start to include or exclude any prospective modern examples. But very few tasks are as simple as we’d like them to be. We have to look at the various words from the languages of the Bible (especially the Old Testament) which we translate as ‘prophet’ and decide whether all those words are really talking about the same thing. If our English translations have conflated different ideas into a single term, the difficulty of our task multiplies exponentially. Accordingly, in this vocabulary study I will examine only such terms as are applied to several different individuals we would recognize as ‘prophets’.
What would prophecy look like today?
*A public as opposed to private exercise
*An exercise for the sake of those who already believe rather than a more evangelistic enterprise
*A heavy or weighty ministry – carried as something of a burden
*A message/ministry planted by God inside the prophet and possessed of sufficient internal pressure that it must be delivered (flow forth)
*A ministry by one who has been given to see a clear vision (of the future or of the present situation) and must communicate that vision to those who cannot or will not see.
Note: this is the beginning, not the end of a methodology for defining and recognizing prophecy. But – the better we can define what we’re looking for, the more likely we are to recognize it when we see it and the less likely we are to be fooled by counterfeits. I may return to this topic in a future blog. In the meantime, I will add only one question and one statement.
Question: What would be the differences between ‘prophecy’ and ‘preaching’?
Statement: If an alleged prophet makes a prediction – it had better come true and there is no batting 500. Harold Camping is out.
Pastor and Author Terry Bailey, Senior Minister of Indian Run Christian Church