What Bible Prophecy is Not!


There is today a proliferation of Bible "prophecy" leading to widespread confusion about what is true and what is false. This is especially seen on the Internet. A lot of this confusion is due to a lack of understanding of definitions and what constitutes Biblical prophecy.

Let us briefly examine Biblical prophecy in the Old and New Testament and then critically apply these insights to one recent example of a so-called "prophetic utterance" to God's people which was given by a well-known Bible teacher.

The prophets of the Old Testament were brought forward by the God of Israel to speak to His people warning them of their departure from His Law and His ways. As God's model nation, Israel was to set the example for the rest of the world of what a Holy People would look like to outsiders. When there was significant deviation from God's intentions for Israel He spoke to His people through the prophets.

The prophets warned of impending consequences for persistent failures on the part of the king, the priests and the people. They also spoke of the certainty of Israel's long term future--of her coming Messiah and of Messiah's eventual reign over Israel--and the world--from the throne of David in Jerusalem. The predictions of the prophets regarding Israel and the surrounding nations have in times past been fulfilled with minute accuracy--and there is much more to come in the days that lie before us now.

The records of the prophets were incorporated by the Spirit of God into the inspired text of the Tanach, the Old Testament, the Word of God. The words of the prophets are therefore authoritative for believers in every generation.

The New Testament also contains predictive prophecy about the future, for instance in the Olivet discourse by Jesus, in the book of Revelation, and so on. The New Testament prophets rarely (but occasionally) also deliver warnings to specific individuals of near-term events about to happen. There are a few such predictions in the book of Acts, for instance,

Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world; and this took place in the days of Claudius. And the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brethren who lived in Judea; and they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul. (Acts 11:27-30)

Prophecies of this sort though rare in the New Testament are nevertheless crystal clear, intended for specific persons, and they are well defined. As always the test of true prophet is whether or not his prophecies come true (100%). If the prophet's words do not come true exactly, or if the man claims to speak for God when it is not God who is actually speaking, that man (or woman) is a false prophet and deserving of death. People who write books unsuccessfully predicting dates for the return of Christ are in this latter category!

Moses said,

"The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me [i.e., Messiah] from among you, from your brethren--him you shall heed-- just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, `Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, or see this great fire any more, lest I die.' And the LORD said to me, `They have rightly said all that they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brethren; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not give heed to my words which he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.

But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.' And if you say in your heart, `How may we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?'--when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously, you need not be afraid of him. (Deuteronomy 18:15-22)

The spiritual gift of Prophet in the New Testament is mainly one of gifted preaching--not primarily foretelling the future. The role of the New Testament prophet is clearly defined in 1 Corinthians 14:3:

On the other hand, he who prophesies speaks to men for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.

We can identify a New Testament prophet because his teaching and explanation of the Bible will edify (build up) believers in the knowledge of God. They will be encouraged and hope will be imparted to them, and they will receive comfort. They will not be left confused or uncertain about what they should do or not do.

This change in the role of the prophet in the New Testament as compared to the Old Testament is widely misunderstood and misused today. In his book "Body Life" Ray C. Stedman says this about the New Testament prophet:

A prophet is essentially a man who speaks for God, who unfolds the mind of God. In the early church, before the New Testament was written down, prophets spoke directly by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, uttering the truths that are now recorded in the New Testament. They unfolded what God taught, and thus the body was motivated, galvanized into activity. Men such as Mark, Luke, James, and Jude were not themselves apostles but they were associated with the apostles in the writing of the New Testament.

The gift of a prophet differs from that of an apostle: The apostle gives an authoritative declaration of the whole body of truth concerning Jesus Christ; but the prophet interprets that authoritative word and explains the truth so that it becomes very clear, vital, and compelling. The very word "prophet" suggests this. It derives from a Greek root which means "to cause to shine," and is linked with the prefix "pro" which means "before." Thus a prophet is one who stands before and causes the word of the apostle to shine.

This meaning of the word "prophet" is fully reflected in Peter's second letter when he says, "We have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place" (2 Pet. 1:19). Paul also says, "He who prophesies speaks to men for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation" (1 Cor. 14:3).

The church owes much to the ministry of prophets. Not only were parts of the Scriptures given to us by prophets but the great theologians and preachers of the church have been men with prophetic gifts. Men such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, and the founders of other denominations have been prophets, and many pastors and Bible teachers today have prophetic gifts. Usually men who speak at conferences are speaking as prophets, making the truth clear, shining, and gripping. They differ from teachers in that the prophet tends more to deal with the great sweeping principles of Scripture and reality, leaving the development of more specific areas to the teacher.

Paul says in First Corinthians, "to prophesy is to speak unto edification, encouragement and comfort," {cf, 1 Cor 14:3}: To so speak as to build with a word of edification. The church owes much to prophets. Not only were the Scriptures given to us by certain of the prophets but the great theologians of the church have been men with a prophetic gift.

Some of you own a Scofield Reference Bible. It has helpful notes written by Dr. Cyrus Scofield who was not a clergyman, not ordained to the ministry, but who was a lawyer, a layman. He had the gift of a prophet and his writings have been helpful to people in explaining the revelations of the apostles. He has made them clear, made them to shine, made them understandable.

Many of the great leaders of the church have been prophets, as Martin Luther, John Calvin, and the evangelical theologians of our day. Many pastors and Bible teachers also have prophetic gifts.

The counterfeit variety of New Testament prophecy, which we see so widely in society today, takes the forms of predictions to individuals or groups which claim to be direct oracles from God Himself. Or they are exhortations which are vague and generalized but in some way are supposed to apply to the group being addressed. The following is one example of what I believe New Testament is NOT. Sadly it came from a respected Bible addressing a conference in the Philippines. My friend Uri Marcus forwarded this to me after finding it posted on an Internet newsgroup.

Lance Lambert said this, speaking for and in the name of God:

"For too long have I been quiet", says the Lord, "but now will I arise in overflowing anger and fury. In dividing My Land and seeking to demoralize and destroy My People, Israel, they have thrown down the gauntlet. I, the Lord of Hosts, the Almighty One, I will take them on."

"Now I will become their enemy", says the Lord, "and I will judge them with natural disasters, by physical catastrophes, by fire, by flood, by earthquake and by eruptions. I will touch the seas, and the atmosphere, the earth and all that is within them. Moreover, I will touch them where it hurts them the most for I will touch their power and the foundations of their affluence and prosperity. I will smash their prosperous economies," says the Lord, "they have devalued Me, deriding My word and ignoring My covenants." (complete text at the end of the article)

Uri Marcus, a Christian friend and brother, is an outspoken Bible teacher and leader in the Messianic Jewish community in Israel. He analyzes this "prophecy" as follows:

This is interesting! "For too long have I been quiet." Really? This seems like G-d is quite frustrated with us, the world and the whole situation regarding Israel. We are pushing Him too far, and He is going to explode any minute if we don't behave!

This sure doesn't sound like the G-d I recognize from the Bible, who knows the end from the beginning. Is He a man, that He becomes so flustered, all of a sudden? Wasn't the Holocaust enough to get Him to arise in overflowing anger and fury? What about the Pogroms and the Inquisitions? These events were not horrendous enough for G-d, so He just remained "quiet"? Were we insufficiently demoralized then? Did not the nations seek to destroy us (His People) enough, that the Almighty might have threatened to "take them on" long ago? How many times in the course of the History of Israel since the Exile to Babylon has our Land been conquered and divided? Suddenly, only NOW G-d is fed up and ready to do something?

So, massive natural disasters are not enough? G-d will get us where it really hurts, in the pocket book? This sounds really weird. I though G-d was the one who provided wealth and prosperity. All of a sudden, its "their" prosperous economies," as if they did it without G-d or His permission in the first place?

My biggest problem with "prophecies" like this is that they are given in the first place! For whose benefit are these things 'delivered'? Even though it was given by Lance, with whom I am acquainted with, I would have to ask, "Did he or anyone give this to Clinton or Netanyahu or Arafat or John Major or any other world leader who might be in a position to respond to it?" If it was only for the benefit of Believers attending a prophecy conference, what is the point? I understand the purpose of prophecy to be G-d's speaking to someone. When it is given into the air at a conference like this, who is it for?

When they are written down and disseminated through the Internet, are we supposed to study them like we study our Bibles? What does it mean that these are 'words from the L-rd'? If they truly are words from the L-rd, it would seem that we should add them to the white pages at the end of our Bibles, no?

As I read through this so-called prophecy, a few things bothered me. First of all, it seemed as though G-d was making a political speech. Either that, or Lance was taking the opportunity to make political statements in the context of a prophecy. It almost appears as if, in our pursuit of hanging onto the Land, that it will come to us as a result of our clever political deals, rather than because we trust and obey G-d.

This sounds more like the church, than it does the unbelieving nations. I wonder to whom this was really written?

Lance continues:

Beware of uncommanded work that you may not uncover yourselves and become casualties. For all that which I commend you to do, there is grace and power and wisdom and you will be fully covered."

Uri Marcus then comments as follows:

What in the world is 'uncommanded work'? Work the Bible doesn't command? Work that G-d did not command someone by a word of some sort? This kind of thing really bothers me, because it creates doubt. Did G-d command my work? What if He didn't? Is the Nehemiah Fund commanded? How do we know? Because Lance Lambert or someone else with a direct line says so? What does it mean that I could become "uncovered?" How will I know if I am covered? I don't want to be a casualty? Who does? I sure wish Lance (or G-d) would be more clear with these directions and commandments. I don't have any trouble understanding the ones in the Torah and in the Prophets. How come these are so cryptic? Yet, the general tone of Biblical prophecy is that we should be working until Yeshua returns, not hiding and waiting for Him, fearful of some "uncommanded" work resulting in our becoming casualties.

In testing this so-called prophecy, as we are commanded to do is Scripture, I find this one everything but "spot on." I think this one tends to promote fear and a cloister mentality among believers, rather than a confidence in walking with G-d in the world. I don't think this came from G-d at all. I think it is a false prophesy. That is unfortunate for Lance.

It is also my two shekels' worth, since you did pass it to me, with a communicated urgency that I should read it.

I agree with my brother Uri Marcus. So-called "prophecies"---such as the one quoted above--do not in my opinion fit the New Testament models and guidelines for Bible prophecy in the times we now live in. How does Mr. Lambert's statement " speak to men for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation?"

Is this really God speaking? Is God saying something new He has not already said much more clearly in the Bible? How is the audience supposed react to this "direct message" from God? Why was this group in the Philippines chosen to receive such a special message when it does not seem to be directly relevant to them? How are God's people around the world instructed, edified or called to action by this oracle? Are not God's words authoritative for all mankind? Since this "prophecy" seems to me to fit none of the New Testament guidelines I am forced to consider it an example of false prophecy.

 

Original Text of "Prophecy" by Lance Lambert:

"My anger is stirred up," says the Lord, "against the nations for they are dividing My Land and seeking to destroy My Heritage. My furious anger is like a boiling cauldron against those powerful states that have produced such strategies and who by pressure and manipulation are seeking to implement them. Now I will become their enemy", says the Lord, "and I will judge them with natural disasters, by physical catastrophes, by fire, by flood, by earthquake and by eruptions. I will touch the seas, and the atmosphere, the earth and all that is within them. Moreover, I will touch them where it hurts them the most for I will touch their power and the foundations of their affluence and prosperity. I will smash their prosperous economies," says the Lord, "and I will overturn and overturn and overturn that they may know that I am the Lord. They sit like potentates, so safe, so secure, believing in their own cleverness and wisdom and power but I, the Lord, I will cause them to stumble. I will lead them into confusion and disorder. I will blind them and delude them so that they will make mistakes because they have not regarded Me, nor honoured Me, but rather they have devalued Me, deriding My word and ignoring My covenants.

"For too long have I been quiet", says the Lord, "but now will I arise in overflowing anger and fury. In dividing My Land and seeking to demoralize and destroy My People, Israel, they have thrown down the gauntlet. I, the Lord of Hosts, the Almighty One, I will take them on."

"Therefore , you who know Me, whom I have redeemed and saved at such a cost, who seek to serve Me and to stand before Me in the place of intercession, learn to abide in Me. For all these storms and troubles will come upon both the redeemed and the unredeemed. I am your true refuge and shelter. Do not trouble or fear, but trust in Me for I will be your strength. Beware of uncommanded work that you may not uncover yourselves and become casualties. For all that which I commend you to do, there is grace and power and wisdom and you will be fully covered."

"Do not fear" says the Lord, "for I am in charge and I will fulfill all My purpose. Out of this turmoil, I will bring a saved multitude beyond number from amongst the nations. And I will bring the Bride, the Wife of the Lamb, using the pressures, the afflictions and the turmoil, to purify her and refine her, if, only in a faithful remnant. And in the midst of all this shaking, in the very eye of the storm, I will save Israel. For I will open her blinded eyes and her closed mind and her locked heart and she will recognize her Messiah, her Lord and her Saviour. Tenderly and with unfailing love will I lead Israel. She who is bespattered with blood, persecuted and hated, I the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, will bring out of this turmoil, redeemed and with glory."

"Therefore in love, fear Me", says the Lord "your Saviour and your Deliverer, and learn to wait on Me and wait for Mr. To such I will look, to those who have laid down their lives for My sake, who have humbled themselves before Me, to them I will open My heart, and reveal My Mind and give understanding. For those that wait for Me shall never be confounded nor ashamed. But the self-centred, the self-serving and the self-contained, those who are proud and superior, they will be broken, "says the Lord, put your trust in Me alone. Let Me be your all and you will come through this time with treasure for I will be your eternal and unfading treasure. . International Intercessors Leaders Conference. (Word from the Lord released through Lance Lambert; Caliraya, Laguna, Philippines, 2/11/98).


Comment Added: It seems to me (and this is not a prophetic utterance), that the big problem here is the "thus says the Lord". If the same substance were offered as one man's insight, or opinion, it could weigh in as exhortation or warning, etc. In my opinion the peril here is putting his words in God's mouth. Seems to me a true word of prophecy is the reverse. Elaine Stedman. 7/9/99.

Comment added: In 1 Timothy 4:16, Paul writes, "Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers."

To the Galatians, Paul wrote: Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!" (Gal. 1:7b-9)

These are strong words. When the church at Thessalonica believed the rapture had already occurred and they had missed it, and were thrown into confusion, Paul spent quite a bit of time in his second letter to them reviewing doctrine and prophecy.

Most of Paul's epistles, as well as the entire epistles of James, Peter, and John, are concerning correct doctrines. It is the major theme of the NT -- what is the right belief?

So I cannot help but state right up front that doctrine is of utmost importance to the Christian. Yes, Christ alone saves, but after that comes sanctification, education, spiritual maturity. All these are related to knowledge of Biblical doctrine.

Because God's thoughts are NOT ours, and His ways far above ours (read Isaiah), we dare not try to "explain" what the Bible clearly says in terms of our own comprehension WHEN OUR COMPREHENSION MEANS DENYING OR ALTERING WHAT IT IS THE BIBLE IS SAYING. That is what "liberal Christianity" is. It is the effort to filter the Word of God through human understanding, thus bringing Biblical doctrine down to the post-modern world of "what it means to you may not be what it means to me, but God loves us all!"

The first question Satan asked Eve in Eden was "Did God REALLY say....?"

That is the exact question liberal Christianity asks today. And, like Satan, those who espouse it, are encouraging us to "use our own heads" in areas where our comprehension does not match up with God's clear Word.

That is not to say that all of His Word is or is not clear. That is to say, however, that we need to ask HIM for wisdom, and not each other in a good many more cases than we are doing now. Liberal Christianity turns us from God to man. Biblical Christianity turns us from man to God. Especially in matters of doctrine.

--Helen Fryman Setterfield, July 11, 1999.

Thanks also to Mark Goeller for additional helpful comments, December 20, 1998


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