What makes a prophecy authentic and how should it be delivered?
Already, there is a rash of prophecies by persons who claim to be men of God, foretelling what will take place in the New Year. While some are outlandish and clownish, others appear like mere guesswork, full of ‘mays.’ Past experiences have shown that these ‘prophecies’ are largely false. But really, is it every man of God that has the gift to prophesy? As men of God, what ought to be the format of prophecies, as seen from the Bible? What should be the manner of proclaiming prophecies and how should they be delivered in order to carry the weight of credibility? CHRIS IREKAMBA and ISAAC TAIWO report.
• ‘The Authenticity Of Any Prophecy Is Attested To By Its Accuracy’
• ‘God Still Speaks To Men Today, But Certainly Not For A Show’
• ‘The Spirit Of God Must Lead You To Speak’
‘What Authenticates Prophecy Of A Prophet Is When It Comes To Pass’
(Rev. Dr. Samson Olasupo .A. Ayokunle, President, Christian Association of Nigeria/President, Nigerian Baptist Convention).
Accuracy of prophecy depends on a number of factors: the first is the credibility of the so-called prophet. Right from the Old Testament, we had credible prophets, who never spoke unless they heard from God. We also had the false prophets.
What authenticates the prophecy of a prophet is its ability to come to pass. This is because the Bible says if a prophet speaks and it doesn’t come to pass, it means God has not spoken through him. Prophecies of a true prophet come to pass because the Holy Spirit usually moves them. The Spirit of God knows the mind of God, and it is out of that revelation made to the prophet, who speaks to human beings in human language. They must be able to communicate this to people without human addition or subtraction.
Prophecy of a true prophet may not come to pass on the other hand, if the people heed God’s warnings and remove what God detests from their lives. This was the case concerning the prophecy of Jonah, the prophet against Nineveh. God is merciful and does not want evil to befall anyone.
False prophecies abound in Nigeria for many reasons. Some of these false prophets want popularity and attention, and the media people promote them by running to them every year for prophecy. They hardly go to credible men of God.
False prophets speak every year to attract patronage, as well. They are, more often than not, commercial prophets, who advertise their enterprise through the media. Their bellies are their gods. They will eventually face the eternal judgment of God, not only for misleading people, but also for ridiculing the name of the Lord and the office of a prophet.
False prophets are increasing because some Nigerians are spiritually naive. They do not carry out due diligence by first of all examining the antecedents of such prophets before consulting them. Prophets who do not live worthy life cannot be God’s spokesmen! We appear to be too religiously gullible. We need to be more circumspect. The best prophecy to make things work out well for us as a nation and as individuals is to walk in the will of God through faith in Christ and righteous living.
‘Prophecies Can Only Carry Weight, If They Are Delivered In Line With God’s Mind’
(His Eminence, Dr. Samuel ’Emeka Uche, Prelate, Methodist Church of Nigeria).
Prophecy is inspired by God and if not inspired by Him, the first proof is that it would not come true. There are two types of prophecies: foretelling the present and the future. If, for example, I tell a thief that he should repent so that he would not get into trouble, if caught or avoid God’s judgment, I am foretelling what can happen to him, if he does not repent and the judgment is either now, if he is caught now and if he continues and eventually dies, he faces the judgment of God.
If, again, I tell a driver that speeding is dangerous, which may lead to death and he does not change his attitude to driving and eventually has an accident, I have told him of what would be the consequence of over-speeding. God, in like manner, warns about the end result of bad habits.
If I tell Nigerians to change from corruption, tribal sentiment, insensitiveness to others’ well-being and that the consequence of such things would not make the nation to move forward, I am foretelling.
The birth of Jesus Christ was foretold by a lot of prophets and eventually, it came to pass. What we have discovered was that some prophesy for self-gratification and to invite attention to themselves, which are not the reasons for prophesying or revealing the mind of God.
Prophecy is different from soothsaying, divination and all that. For prophecies to carry the weight of credibility, they should be delivered in line with God’s aim, which is to warn, correct and avoid God’s judgment, if perpetrators continue with evil habits.
‘Those Who Claim To Have Heard From God Should Be Godly’
(Most Rev. Emmanuel A.S. Egbunu, Bishop of Lokoja Diocese/Archbishop of Lokoja Province, Kogi State, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion).
Prophecy is a channel of communicating God’s mind to His people to instruct, guide, encourage, warn, or rebuke them. By its nature as a medium of communicating divine opinion, it is not subject to debate, as long as its credibility is ascertained. While the authority of prophecy should be beyond question, the human element makes verification necessary, so that sincere seekers of God and worshippers are not duped by warped minds masquerading as prophets. As far back as the days of Moses in the Old Testament, certain checks were put in place by God Himself: Deuteronomy 13:1-3 “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”
These people who claim to have heard from the Lord should be well known to be godly people. For sure, there is the gift of prophecy given by God, but every prophecy, even by godly people must be tested by the truth of the Bible, because it is the supreme deposit of God’s counsels. In an age of so much self-centredness in religion, where the tragic and widespread impression is that God’s relevance is limited to His servicing of our needs, so-called prophets will cash in on that, advertise themselves, and tell people all sorts of things, even when the people live anyhow, regardless of how God feels about their lives. True prophecy has the glory of God as its focus. No prophet, whatever his reputation, has a right to ignore God’s righteous requirements in the name of making people feel good about God. The prophet Jeremiah warns about that in these verses: Jeremiah 23:16, 18, 28 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Do not listen to the words of the prophets, who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. For who among them has stood in the council of the Lord to see and to hear His word, or who has paid attention to His word and listened? Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? Declares the Lord.”
In times of difficulty or confusion, God may send His prophets with specific messages. Prophets are to be under the control of the Spirit of God, who helps us to exercise self-control, when tempted to go overboard. The Bible is the supreme revelation of God and all who keep close to the Bible will find it to be a reliable compass for all of life’s journey and seasons. What we need more than the craving for, and obsession with specific prophecies is to see God always on Heaven’s throne, fully in charge. When He speaks to a contemporary situation, it is to call the attention of His children to specific things. Those who claim to speak in God’s name are accountable to Him. All true preaching of God’s word from the Bible, in specific contexts, as inspired by God, ranks as prophecy. Apostle Peter’s insight on the nature of prophecy is a helpful conclusion here: 2 Peter 1:21 “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God, as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
‘Prophecy Is Not An Insinuation, It Goes Beyond Rationalisation’
(Special Apostle (Prophet) Sunday Korode, General Leader, Cherubim and Seraphim Movement, Ayo Ni o)
First, the purpose of prophecy is to reveal to human beings the mind of God in terms of His plans, purpose and programmes. This, He does so that mankind can be purposefully and properly guided. Therefore, prophecy is not an insinuation and it goes beyond rationalisation of situations.
Beyond these, we have been warned that quite a number of things will happen at the last days, which include emergence of false prophets and this is the reason we should move closer to God, so that we can be endowed with discerning spirit. It is then we would be able to know who is talking and by which power
The Bible says that by their fruits, ye shall know them. Any prophecy that is contrary to the truth is a prophecy in the air. The truth we are talking about is the Word of God, which is the benchmark to certify the veracity of prophecy or prophecies. If, therefore, prophecies are inconsistent with the Word of God, those prophecies are false. This is where the gift of the Spirit of discernment becomes very crucial.
In the Bible, when king Ahab wanted to go to war, he wanted to know his fate. Unfortunately, however, the 400 prophets led by the senior false prophet Zedekiah, the son of Chenaanah prophesied falsely that Ahab would go to the war and come back. Unfortunately, Ahab, whose prophecy that he would not come back alive, eventually came to pass, hated the only true prophet that spoke the mind of God, Micaiah, the son of Imla. The number of false prophets outnumbered the number of the only one prophet, who spoke the truth as we have it today — the Spirit of God.
The Word of God and the prophecy, if it comes to pass, are the determining factors of the genuineness of any prophecy. Any prophecy that is against the Word of God, which is the reference point, is not from God. Prophecies are revealed about the future of an individual, people and nations. The Bible says that the wages of sin is death. If any prophecy glorifies sins, it is not from God. And such prophet is looking for cheap popularity. God is God of judgment and He warns people about impending judgment, if they stick to sins. However, He is not God of doom, Who at all times would be declaring doom. No! He does not condone evil and will not tolerate sins. If the prophecy of doom does not come to pass, the prophet has told a lie. However, if God foretells of doom concerning a nation and they repent like Nineveh, He can still forgive and change His mind. The bottom line is that the Spirit of God (Spirit of Discernment) and the Word of God are the sure barometres to measure the genuineness of prophecies.
‘Prophecy Is Not An Educated Guess Work Based On Newspaper Reports’
(Rev. Francis Ejiroghene Waive, General Overseer, Fresh Anointing Missionary Ministries Inc./Senior Pastor, Church of the Anointing, Warri Delta, State)
Bibilical prophecies are never timed for regular periodic delivery. The Holy Spirit is not your water tap that you can turn on and off as you please. In the scriptures and till today, ‘holy men of God only speak as they are moved by the Holy Spirit.’ True prophecy in Christianity is not an educated guess work that is based on newspaper reports or the political leaning of the prophet. Comparatively, what we see in Nigeria today, as a yearly prophetic show is deplorable, to say the least.
Of a truth, God still speaks to men today, but certainly not for a show. Any child of God who prays and waits on the Lord will get a sense of direction for his life. This also applies to any believer, who will pray for the nation and national affairs, thus having a basis for prayer and action. But to engage in an annual ritual of prophesying just to make a name is completely unbiblical and ungodly.
In the Bible, true prophets delivered God’s message with humility to only persons concerned with the prophecy. Whenever there was a national issue, it was delivered to the king or ruler. And there is no example or command in the Bible on yearly prophetic utterances. God remains sovereign even in the prophetic. The prophet can’t force God to speak at any particular time.
The New Testament places greater emphasis on the written word of God than on prophetic words, which can be subject to human manipulation. The child of God should, therefore, depend on the Bible for instruction, doctrine and direction. Any prophecy that is in conflict with the written word of God, the Bible, should be discarded completely.
‘Prophecy Is Grossly Abused Today, Especially In Nigeria’
(Dr. Cosmas Ilechukwu, General Overseer, Charismatic Renewal Ministries, Worldwide)
Prophecy is a revelatory tool God employs in communicating His thoughts to people. He reveals what He has to say through a human intermediary known as a prophet. In the Old Testament, only a few individuals were given the privilege of serving in the prophetic office and such were God’s spokespersons. Good examples would include Moses, Elijah, Isaiah and Daniel. The Bible can be said, basically, to be a book of prophecy and God used so many prophets to reveal what are recorded in it. Prophecies are usually predictive, but not necessarily prescriptive. Whereas there are still authentic prophets today, the cacophonies of voices that fill our media blaring personal opinions in the name of words from God are wearisome. The authenticity of any prophecy is attested to by its accuracy. God prescribes death penalty to any person, who presumes to speak in His name, but whom He did not send. “But any prophet who falsely claims to speak in my name or who speaks in the name of another god must die.’ “But you may wonder, ‘How will we know whether or not a prophecy is from the Lord?’ If the prophet speaks in the Lord’s name but his prediction does not happen or come true, you will know that the Lord did not give that message. That prophet has spoken without my authority and need not be feared” (Deuteronomy 18:20-22). Prophecy is grossly abused today, especially in the Nigerian religious space.
In the post-Pentecost Christianity, the gift of prophecy has become widely distributed among God’s people, a truism that prompted Paul to say, “You can all prophesy one after the other. In this way all the people can be taught and encouraged” (1 Corinthians 14:31). This shows that prophecy today is more of a tool of teaching and encouragement than of prediction. The growing practice among us, where many people, a good number of who are mere charlatans, are brandishing all kinds of ideas, which are no more than mere figments of their jaundiced imaginations, should be seen for what they are – people jostling for public attention for personal gains. Such are people, who edit their so-called prophecies, when the opposite of what they predicted end up happening. The Bible warns that “prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit”(2 Peter 1:21).
For a prophecy to be taken seriously as coming from God, the person giving it must show that his or her lifestyle and general demeanour match the holy character of God; and that their prophecies prove true. We all need discernment to know the difference between true and false prophets today.
‘Anyone Called Into This Office Will Be Known By His/Her Fruits’
(His Grace, Most Revd. Emmanuel Josiah Udofia, Primate of the African Church/President, Christian Council of Nigeria)
The manner of prophecies is to be according to Biblical injunctions and is to be delivered as being revealed by God. Every prophecy by God must come to pass except by divine intervention. For example, the interception of Hezekiah’s, death message sent by Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 38:1-5) “Hezekiah, Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will add to your life fifteen years.” Prophets are the mouthpieces of God. The Church in the New Testament was built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief Cornerstone (Ephesians 2: 20). The office is one of the five fold ministries given to the church to profit with. It is not self-imposed, but anyone who was called into this honourable office will be identified by his or her fruits.
Nevertheless, the secret things belong unto the Lord our God, but the things, which are revealed, belong to us and to our children forever. If it is the will of God to reveal a secret, it is for us to take action. It can be prayed for or against, and it is of God to affirm and establish it. Here is the point, where many think the prophecy, which does not come to pass is either fake or rash prophecy.
Remember that Godly kings in the Bible had prophets. Saul had Samuel (I Samuel 9:27) David had Abiathar. (I Samuel 30:7-8), etc. Therefore, there is no taboo in seeing vision about what will happen in the nation, but the citizens can stand in the gap through fervent prayer either for counter action or for manifestation of the prophecy.
However, believing in the Lord our God, makes someone to be established, while believing in his prophets makes one to prosper – II Chronicles 20:20. We must understand that, where there is no vision, the people perish, but he that keeps the law, happy is he – Proverbs 29:18.
For A Prophecy To Be Credible Those Behind It Must Be Spiritual’
(Rev. Fr. Ralph Madu, National Secretary General, Catholic Secretariat, Abuja)
The irony of it all is that many people claim to be prophets, saying one thing or the other, whether it comes to pass or not. It is also saddening that these prophets carry many people along and yet there is no truth in what many of them are prophesying.
A lot of them prophesy that one person or the other would die and I personally do not see any angle of prophecy in that. Many people die daily. Whether, they prophesy that someone would die or not, people die and there is nothing new about that.
However, it surprises me how many people follow these fake prophets and take them by their words. This is nothing, but the spirit of the age and many people are very gullible.
In our church, such spirit of prophecy does not operate and even then, we have a way of discerning the kind of spirits operating in whatever capacity. There were many prophets, who prophesied about Clinton, during the presidential election in America and today; we have the answer to those prophecies. At that time, many people believed those prophecies. People should be more intelligent in the way they reason and in the way they absorb things.
One thing is that, these types of prophecies have not just started. They have been on for quite a while. Prophecies can only carry the weight of credibility it deserves, if those prophesying are spiritual. However, those at the receiving end must equally be spiritual, intelligent and refuse to be gullible.