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What is the spiritual gift of prophecy?

We find the spiritual gift of prophecy listed as one of the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:10 and Romans 12:6. As used in the Old Testament, the Greek word propheteia means to "speak forth" the divine will of God and to interpret His purposes. The Old Testament has 17 books of prophecy from which we can learn the global implications of Jesus and His coming kingdom. Christ’s birth is revealed in Isaiah and Micah, and His atoning sacrifice is declared in Isaiah. Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah all speak of Christ’s return. These Old Testament prophecies are why people recognized Jesus' true nature when He came to earth.

"Prophecy" has a few different meanings in the New Testament, depending on how it's used. In reference to Old Testament prophets, it relates to predicting events related to Christ's kingdom and reign, including all the warnings and encouragement that go with these prophecies. "Prophecy" also referred to speaking about spiritual works which would affect the kingdom of Christ.

Today, when we speak of those who have the spiritual gift of prophecy, we're mostly referring to those who are called to teach and speak God's truth from His Word.

Many people misunderstand the gift of prophecy as a gift to predict the future in any given situation. While Old Testament prophets did "foretell" upcoming events in God's bigger plan for mankind, this was not the same thing as predicting the future—like a fortune teller. The prophets were proclaiming God's established design and how His will would unfold for humanity over time and eternity.

A modern-day "prophesier" is a teacher who speaks forth the counsel of God based on what has already been established in the Bible. Once the New Testament was complete, the door was closed, so to speak, on new global revelations from God. Jude 3 talks about "the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (emphasis added). This means that the faith we hold in Scripture has been settled forever; nothing needs to be added or refined. Revelation 22:18-19 specifically warns against adding new prophecies to God's Word.

Be Wary of False Prophesiers

Peter warns about false teachers within the new church and how they will suffer the same fate as false prophets in days past (2 Peter 2). This seems to indicate that "prophets" are a thing of history, while "teachers" are things for today. Previously, the gift of prophecy was used to communicate new revelations from God that needed to be shared with the world because God's truth had not yet been fully revealed. Today, the gift of prophecy is used for improving, growing, teaching, and encouraging believers (1 Corinthians 14:3) now that God's truth has been fully revealed in Scripture.

That said, any Christian who claims to have a "new" revelation from God should have their claims examined carefully. It's one thing for someone to say, "I had a dream that God said X about X." But it's quite another thing to say, "God gave me a message for you, and you must obey it now."

God does not contradict Himself (Hebrews 6:18; 1 Corinthians 14:33), so whatever someone claims is a message or teaching from God should align with what Scripture already says. And even then, use discernment with any advice anyone might give you (even us!). Always check spiritual teaching/instruction against God's Word for validation (2 Timothy 3:16), and of course, when in doubt, ask God for wisdom concerning anything that is confusing or that you're unsure about (James 1:5).

TL;DR

In Old Testament times, the gift of prophecy was used to communicate new revelations from God that needed to be shared with the world because God's truth had not yet been fully revealed. Today, the gift of prophecy is used for improving, growing, teaching, and encouraging believers (1 Corinthians 14:3) now that God's truth has been fully revealed in Scripture. A modern-day "prophesier" is a teacher who speaks forth the counsel of God based on what has already been established in the Bible.

By: Catiana Nak Kheiyn

Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org. She loves audiobooks, feeding the people she cares about, and using Christmas lights to illuminate a room. When Catiana is not writing, cooking, or drawing, she enjoys spending time with her two kids, five socially-awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.

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