10 tests for judging general prophecy

Marko Joensuu         No comments

Each day the Charismatic Church encounters a deluge of general prophecy predicting anything from a revival to trends in global politics. But it seems that we are giving our people very few—if any—tools for assessing these prophecies.

General prophecy differs from personal prophecy in that it is not concerned of individuals but of churches, regions, nations, world events and so on, although, if genuine, it will often impact individuals indirectly. 

The Trump prophecies are a form of general prophecy, as although they concern an individual, the main emphasis is on the impact of choosing one individual on a nation.

One of the things I have been astonished about is how millions of Christians have been willing to desert any biblical standards when it comes to the Trump prophecies. For biblical standard is not just about guessing the name of a president right, but it is also about revealing God's purposes behind the world events. 

The purpose of these ten tests is to help Christians assess general prophecy when it has been proclaimed, so that they don't have to wait until the fulfilment or failure of these prophecies. Clearly, there are many tests we can use, and although there are prophecies that will have to run their course before clarity emerges, at least we should be able to sift out clearly wrong prophecies through testing them

Proverbs 30:5-6 says: "Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar."

False prophecy is like adding to God's words; speaking in a manner of as if God has authorised us to do so—but God is not bound by our words, He is only committed to fulfilling His own words.

Before we get started, here is a list of articles I have written previously about the Trump prophecies.

Can we judge general prophecy?

The first hurdle we must overcome in judging prophecy is a teaching that doesn't seem to take false prophecy that seriously. Instead, this teaching instructs us simply to align with the 'recognised' prophets, and accept their word as given—with not much explanation if the word turns out to be wrong, as prophecy is seen as partial and fallible. But we are left with a paradox: why should we listen to prophets who have a prophetic 'office' if their words turn out to be fallible? Isn't it the accuracy of their words that should give these prophets their office? But instead, in today's prophetic movement it is an alignment with 'apostles' and other 'prophets' that seems to give these 'prophets' authority.

But this kind of thinking is based on misunderstanding 1 Corinthians 13. This misunderstanding probably started from a mistranslation of a singular word in KJV. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:8-11 (NKJV), 

“Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.”

Because Paul says that we prophesy in part, many prophets aren’t really that bothered if their words turn out not to be fulfilled. And if the standard to be used is that prophecies don’t need to be fulfilled 100% accurately, then getting them 50% right (for example, for Trump to win the election but not turning out to be the prophesied purger of corruption in Washington D.C., but rather a corruption automatum), then it is not a big deal, as even a partial fulfilment is considered adequate.

In this view, hitting the bullseye isn't necessary; sometimes it seems enough to be able to throw the dart in the right direction, even if it doesn't hit the target at all. 

I write about the historical development behind the reduced standards applied to prophecy in my book Supernatural Love: Releasing the Compassion of Jesus Through the Gifts of the Spirit.

But this kind of thinking is based on reading the Bible carelessly, as the Greek for “fail,” katargeo , is defined as, “1. to render idle… 2. to cause to cease” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon ). This has been translated much more accurately in other translations. For example, NRSV says, "they will come to an end". This one of the verses where both KJV and NKJV fail us, unfortunately.

Consequently, once the prophecy is fulfilled, it ceases in a sense that there’s no longer a need to wait for the fulfilment of the prophesied event. They have no more use, apart from the encouragement a fulfilled prophecy can bring. For example, prophecies about events preceding the return of Christ will cease, or become idle, after His return. Said another way, prophecies are helpful for a limited time, in contrast to the eternal benefit of love. So, when the prophecy has been fulfilled, its intended benefits have ceased. But a genuine prophecy should still be fulfilled accurately.

The verse 12's statement of seeing in a mirror dimly doesn’t refer to prophetic word, but to our subjective experience of Jesus in this age. Now we experience the presence of God dimly, but one day we will see Him face to face. Hence we shouldn't idolise or sometimes even fully embrace our supernatural experiences, as they are somewhat subjective and distorting God's reality.

This is in consistency with the rest of the Bible that always teaches that genuine prophetic words are meant to be taken accurately, although they don't mostly give us a full picture. In essence, seeing and knowing in part—when it comes to prophecy—is like having only some of the pieces of a large jigsaw puzzle—we are often unable to see the whole picture, but what we can see in the individual pieces is still accurate. For example, we might see some of the pieces of the sky and clouds, but we don’t have any pictures of the landscape. Often, over a period of a time, we will begin to receive more pieces, and then we might be able to see the landscape and its relation to the sky.

But it is typical of the present-day prophetic movement to ignore most of the Bible and instead insist on misinterpreting and misapplying a singular Bible verse.

Both Paul and John command us to test any prophecies.

The apostle Paul says, “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.” (1 Corinthians 14:29)

The apostle John says, “Beloved, do not believe every Spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1)

So, as we are exhorted by both John and Paul to test the prophets and their prophecies, we should safely be able to do so, especially as Jesus and the Old Testament prophets also warn us of false prophets.

What is the purpose of prophets?

Much of the thinking behind prophets having the ability to predict general world events and events related to a nation comes from the Old Testament. It can be argued that the prophets still have this function in the New Testament Church, but it has clearly been somewhat repurposed in Paul’s thinking, as he introduces a new function for the prophets. 

Paul writes in Ephesians 3:1-9, 

“For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery.”

One of the main purposes of prophets in the Church is to make plain the administration of salvation in their generation, and sometimes in future generations. We know that it is God’s will to bring people from all nations to Him, but the administration of this plan must be done according to His will. We can see this in Acts 16:6-10 when Paul sees the vision of a Macedonian man:

"Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, 'Come over to Macedonia and help us.' Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them."

It was the Holy Spirit who obstructed Paul from following the general commission to preach the gospel and showed him how he should administer the gospel at that time. 

This same principle applies to our generation. To see how that can work please read 12 lessons from a fulfilled vision (although this article should really be updated, as God has already accomplished so much more!)

Prophets combat false doctrine

One of the prophetic functions that we have missed nearly completely in the Charismatic movement is combating false doctrine. In fact, we often justify the poor or false doctrines of the prophets by saying that they are prophets! But the Bible doesn’t give us permission to have this excuse, as Ephesians 4:11-14 demonstrates.

"So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming."

One of the main functions of the prophets in the New Testament is to combat wrong doctrines and help Christians hear God for themselves—by being built into the head, who is Christ. Many today seek to replace the ministry of aligning to the Head with aligning to the prophetic and apostolic ministries themselves, teaching that this is the way Church will be blessed, but in fact, the Church will only be blessed when she is aligned to Jesus. The job of the prophets is not to make the Church obedient to themselves, but to Christ, and as Paul says, their job is done when the Church has reached full maturity and knows Christ.

But how can we assess prophecy that predicts the future? Do we simply need to wait until the prophecy has clearly been fulfilled or unfulfilled? Thankfully, there are many measuring tools that we can use that will help us to understand which prophecies we might need to take seriously, and which ones, clearly not.

10 tests for judging general prophecy

Here are 10 tests for judging general prophecy.

1. You will know them by their fruits

Jesus says in Matthew 7:15-16: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.” 

Looking at the Trump prophecies, we are beginning to see their fruit now, as many Christian leaders, still believing in the Trump prophecies, still feel forced to defend racism and clear lies. But we shouldn’t have waited until Trump became President, as these issues were clearly visible earlier, only the Trump prophecies blinded millions to ignore them.

Linked to this is the question whether the prophets display the fruit of the Spirit or not. For example, Lance Wallnau writes in a Facebook post on 17 January 2018:

"'OUT!' CNN reporter Jim Accosting cast out after badgering President.
The President didn't even raise his voice, he spoke calmly and pointed to the door. Cast him out with a word.
Reminded me...When evening came, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils, and he cast out the spirits with a word.' (Matt 8:16)
Sorry. Couldn't resist."

In this story Trump is like Jesus and CNN reporter is like a demon. 

But this goes clearly against the teaching of Jesus about loving your neighbour and even your enemies. If the fruit of a prophecy is hatred, and the prophets spread hatred, they are clearly not bearing the fruit that comes from being part of the Vine.

Unfortunately, the biblical Jesus has largely been replaced by a Republican Jesus in large part of the American Charismatic Church.

But we don't have the right to make Jesus into our image. Instead, our calling is to be transformed into His image.

2. What is their worldview and theology?

Again, Lance Wallnau provides us with a good example. He writes about Trump:

“It’s the year 20 million Christians watched a deliverer fight, seemingly alone in the center of the Coliseum. That’s going to change in 2018”.

Lance paints a picture of a world where a leader who doesn’t even pretend to profess Christ becomes the deliverer—not through accident, but as if he were anointed by the Holy Spirit. It is a worldview of a thoroughly politicised Christianity, where the opposing political party has become akin to the devil, and where the saints have been replaced by the Republicans.

Now, you might agree to this worldview. But it is not a biblical worldview or biblical theology.

3. Do they have a strong agenda?

When you inspect a prophet and he or she has a clear political agenda, it is possible that their political agenda will blind them, as they can begin to prophesy from their political assumptions. But that is not the voice of the Lord, only the voice of the political assumption. 

Personally, I have come to understand that a strong agenda or framework can make us deaf to to the voice of God.

2 Samuel 7:1-5 tells about King David intending to build a temple.

"Now it came to pass when the king was dwelling in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies all around, that the king said to Nathan the prophet, 'See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells inside tent curtains.' Then Nathan said to the king, 'Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.' But it happened that night that the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying, 'Go and tell My servant David, "Thus says the Lord: 'Would you build a house for Me to dwell in?'"'" 

The prophet Nathan made an assumption that because God had anointed David, he would automatically make the right decision, so he didn't even inquire the Lord. Today, the Charismatic Church is full of these assumptions based on the perceived calling of a party, leader or denomination, and those assumptions are blinding us. 

Basically, we don't inquire the Lord, because we think we already know the answer. But no matter who you are, you don't have the right to add to God's words.

God hasn't given us the right to speak on His behalf—not until we have heard His voice clearly.

4. What is the fruit of their previous prophecies?

What is the fruit/outcome of their previous prophecies? What is their track record? When they prophesied last time, what happened? This doesn’t refer to not yet fulfilled prophecies but clearly expired, unfulfilled prophecies.

Here, you can often 'cheat' a little, in a sense that you can also inspect the prophecies of the prophet's friends.  

For example, in 2012, well known prophets such as Rick Joyner looked into Mormon prophecies to justify voting for Mitt Romney. I wrote about these prophecies in Why did so many prophets get the US election wrong?  

If a prophet has got a main prophecy wrong last time, it probably means that we shouldn’t automatically believe their next major prophecy. And also, if he or she clearly stands in agreement with prophets who have got their prophecies clearly wrong, it is only rightful to question their judgment. I know that this is a tricky area, as you can stand in agreement with someone on, say evangelism but not on prophecy, so I might stand in unity with someone in an evangelistic campaign, but not when it comes to their prophecies. On the other hand, if your read my writings, it will become clear to you pretty quickly what I think about their prophecies, although I might not name an individual.

5. Who are their friends? 

Proverbs 22:24-25 says, “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways  and get yourself ensnared.”

This is one of the main reasons why I have stayed away from much of the prophetic movement, as we can so easily be ensnared by our friends. 

When it comes to the present-day American prophetic movement, it is useful to perceive it as a fairly unified block that tends to agree with each other, especially when it comes to political prophecy. You will never hear any one prophet within the prophetic movement criticise the prophecies of another one. 

Put simply, we need more prophets who are ready to lose their friends, if necessary. But if someone spends twenty years in close fellowship with clearly false prophets, it is unlikely that their prophetic gift remains pure.

Jeremiah 23:30-32 says “'Therefore behold, I am against the prophets,' says the Lord, 'who steal My words every one from his neighbor. Behold, I am against the prophets,' says the Lord, 'who use their tongues and say, "He says." Behold, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,' says the Lord, 'and tell them, and cause My people to err by their lies and by their recklessness. Yet I did not send them or command them; therefore they shall not profit this people at all,' says the Lord."

Don’t share people’s prophetic words unless you have seriously prayed over the and felt the release. According to Jeremiah. you might be held accountable for false prophecies that you share, even when they are not your own! 

6. Is it in clear contradiction to the Word?

Again, Lance Wallnau says, "Jesus chose a businessman to give him governmental keys to restore the kingdom. Jesus is putting his hand on a Peter right now; like you’re just saying, it’s a businessman. Trump is a businessman with the keys of the kingdom right now to wreck what hell has been doing over the United States.”

This is in a direct contradiction to the Word and in direct contradiction to what Jesus teaches about the Kingdom. Only the disciples of Jesus can have any spiritual authority of the Kingdom, and here Lance gives Trump the apostolic authority of Peter. 

7. How carefully or carelessly does it handle the Word?

This is slightly different from the prophecy clearly contradicting the Word. Is the way the prophecy uses the Scripture prophetically in consistency with the intended use? How casually does the prophet handle the Word? Does he or she even care about the intended use?

For example, "I heard the Lord say, 'Donald Trump is a wrecking ball to the spirit of political correctness,'" Wallnau says"After I met him I heard the Lord say, 'Isaiah 45 will be the 45th president,'" he explains. "I go check it out; Isaiah 45 is Cyrus."

But this shows a huge amount of disrespect when it comes to the Bible. To begin with, Lance should know that the chapter and verse structure of the Bible was added in the Middle Ages, and it was not there originally, so at best, this could be a ‘prophecy’ by a medieval clerk. Also, the Hebrew Bible also gained the chapter and verse structure only after the Christians introduced it in the Middle Ages. This is something he should explain, but he doesn't either know about it or care about it. But telling that would seriously damage the credibility of his prophecy.

The prophetic movement is full of careless reading of the Word. In fact, it often relies on the fact that most Christians don't know their Bible! But if prophecy is God’s word, it should be in consistency with God’s Word, so we should study the Bible diligently. But much of the time, the prophets seem to twist the Word of God for their own purposes.

2 Peter 3:14-18 says: 

“Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.”

8. How seriously do prophets take the accuracy of any prophetic words?

Often, prophets refer to other prophets’ words or their own prophetic words as if they had been fulfilled. But how accurately do they do it? For example, it has been said that Kim Clement prophesied that Trump will be the president in 2007. You might have heard the recording that allegedly proved that.

So, did Kim Clement prophesy that Trump will be the president? NO. This claim is based on a very poor listening of the actual prophecy. 

According to Kim Clement’s prophecy, Trump will become the trumpet and Bill Gates will open the financial realm to the Church. What follows is a prophecy about a president—who Kim Clement doesn’t name—who will rule for eight years. 

As Kim Clement never names the president, the only prophetic thing about this “prophecy” is that there will be a president who will stay in White House for eight years.

But how did Kim Clement himself interpret this prophecy? Unfortunately, he is no more around, so we must go with what he has said or written. At least on April 9 2008, he clearly seemed to think that the president he prophesied about was Barack Obama.

Kim says, “For they have unfairly spoken against an African man, and I'm not talking about Jeremiah Wright; I'm talking about Obama. For God said, ‘Even though you may think this or that, there is an element of righteousness inside of him to reach out for Jesus. Therefore, I will sway it next week,’ says the Spirit of God, ‘and I will cause My man, My power—to exalt in the White House what is necessary to declare victory. For this time, I shall rise up and I shall make known who I am in a way that I have never done it in this nation,’ says the Lord. For the Spirit of God says, ‘Do not say, “Is it this one or is it that one?” Hear me out. I am raising up My mantle, My voice. This nation shall be awakened to a spiritual activity that has been dead for 42 years. Listen to Me,’ says the Lord. ‘I will take over in a way and in a fashion that will bring a force of spiritual unity in this nation for the first time. You can believe it or not. I will take white and I will take African, and I will bring a unity in the Church between the two of them,’ says the Spirit of God."

So, if the prophecy itself doesn’t state it clearly, and the prophet himself didn’t clearly believe in this interpretation, I don’t think that we have the right to use this prophecy the way it has been used. 

If prophets don't take their own words seriously nor take the words of other prophets seriously, but they twist them, it is unlikely that they have ever prophesied God's words.

9. What is its relationship with reality?

Jeremiah Johnson, one of the prophets who prophesied quite early about Trump, didn’t prophesy clearly that Trump would be elected, but that he would become a trumpet and that “Trump does not fear man nor will he allow deception and lies to go unnoticed.” 

But Mark Taylor, the fireman, prophesied clearly about Trump becoming president,  The Spirit of God says, I will protect America and Israel, for this next president will be a man of his word”.

By any reasonable fact-checking standards Trump has lied perhaps more than any other American presidential candidate and now president. Ever. In fact, he seems to be in a continual war against reality. But this was all clear already when Trump's presidential campaign started.

Mark Taylor, the fireman, also prophesied, “For I will use this man to bring honor, respect and restoration to America. America will be respected once again as the most powerful and prosperous nation on Earth.”

But the survey of opinion in 134 countries showed a record collapse in approval for the US role in the world, from 48% under Obama to 30% after one year of Donald Trump—the lowest level Gallup has recorded since beginning its global leadership poll over a decade ago.

Isaiah 5:20 says: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

Woe to us when we call a lie the truth and a truth a lie! And if we need to do that to justify a prophecy then it is likely that the prophecy is false.

Proverbs 24:23-24 says: “To show partiality in judging is not good: Whoever says to the guilty, ‘You are innocent,’ will be cursed by peoples and denounced by nations.”

God always acknowledges reality, but He has the power to transform people and reality, hence the Bible is full of words "nevertheless" and "but". 

10. How seriously does it take the meaning of words?

False prophecy often redefines words, much like propaganda. For example, what did it mean for Cyrus to be anointed in the Old Testament? Here many read the current-day Pentecostal meaning of the word 'anointing' back into the Old Testament. 

But the 'anointed' one in relation to Cyrus has a completely different meaning that the 'anointed' One when it comes to the Messiah. Again, the way we use the word 'anointed' is often rather different from the New Testament times. 

But here, people like Lance Wallnau quite deliberately abuse the contemporary meaning of the word 'anointing' without explaining the biblical context they are referring to, knowing that although they are technically right when they use the word 'anointing', most of their followers will read the current-day Pentecostal meaning into the ancient context. That means that the word 'anointing' when it comes to Cyrus has effectively been redefined.

Unfortunately, the Charismatic Church is full of these kinds of wilful redefinitions of words. That is why proper exegesis of the Bible is necessary before we attempt to teach it. 

If you find prophets continually using biblical and contemporary words in an unconventional way, there is a chance that they are in the business of redefining words, which often means the difference between an unfulfilled and 'fulfilled' prophecy.

You can connect with Marko on Twitter @markojoensuu and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mpjoensuu/ or by visiting markojoensuu.com.

Published by Marko Joensuu

Marko Joensuu has worked for over sixteen years in the publishing and media ministries of Kensington Temple. He is an author, publisher and screenwriter.
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