The Nature of the Prophetic in Israel and the Church

I know I have been called into the five fold ministry. I know it’s strongly in the prophetic realm. However, I am wondering: Are there levels or different prophetic realms? I am mostly able to tell people about things to happen in their life.

God has given gifts to men. All that was in Christ in fullness and without the measure is apportioned by measure and degree to the members of His body according to the sovereign pleasure of the Spirit. But the prophets did not all move in the same way. Some, such as Elijah and Elisha were more prolific in the miraculous, while other prophets, just as legitimate and anointed in their own way, did not do many miracles. “John did no miracle.”

If there were occasions where one of the prophets would predict what would happen in an individual person’s life, this was certainly the exception and not the norm. For the larger part, the prophets were led to declare the future experience of the nation based on the law of the blessing and the curse revealed in the covenant. You might say they were the enforcers of Moses. Prophecy was a phenomenon that operated within the context and framework of the covenant. The Hebrew prophets of Israel were in continuity with the Spirit in Moses (“a prophet like unto me”) pointing on to the ultimate prophet like unto Moses, namely, Jesus. Their concern was to guard the covenant for the sake of the nation’s witness to the truth and glory of the God who elected them to that end. I think it is much the same with prophets that the Lord has given the church. Their principal concern is not to predict happenings in the personal lives of individuals, but the focus is on the spiritual health, direction, and obedience of the corporate body in their particular locality of witness. Of course, there are prophets that God sends to address the general condition of the church as a whole. These are the “preaching prophets” that bear the burden of the Word of the Lord to the people of God and to the nations.

Apart from a circumstance of necessary church discipline, I personally would expect it to be a great rarity, and only under a unique set of circumstances, that an individual should receive specific direction or even predictive details from another member of the body. This can be very heady and dangerous. I’m sure you’d agree that in most cases, direction is a matter of faith, conscience, and a personal sense of the Spirit’s leading in every new circumstance. This way, a great deal is protected. It avoids a perilous dependency on someone else’s gift for personal leading and direction. It also avoids the peril of pride for the person that begins to acquire a reputation for prophetic accuracy in the lives of individuals. Rather, the prophetic unction that is in keeping with the true Hebraic tradition is more typically focused on the general edification and or warning of the body to keep in step with the Spirit and thus fulfill the righteousness promised in the gospel, which fulfills the righteousness that the Law demands but could never give on the basis of the will and works of man.

The emphasis of true prophetic insight will always be the gospel in application to the life both corporate and individual, but most often the corporate life of the assembly. When things become very descript and detailed about what’s going to take place in a particular individual’s life, there is the obvious danger that other kinds of spirits can find opportunity. Not to quench any authentic working of the Spirit, but it doesn’t hurt to remind ourselves that prophecy which is especially personalized to individuals is probably the easiest kind to be mimicked by spirits of clairvoyance. Therefore, even a degree of accuracy is not the final test of true prophecy (see Deut 13:1-3). A better test is Isa 8:20 which speaks of the larger prophetic tradition of Israel’s (and I believe the church’s) true prophets. It says: “To the law and to the testimony, if they do not speak according to THIS Word, it is because there is no light in them.”

True prophecy is not just about predictive accuracy, but conformity to the moral character of God as set forth and defined in the covenant pointing on to the gospel as its fulfillment. So yes, there is great diversity in the way the Spirit moves in the unique personalities of Israel’s and the church’s prophets, but there is a common prophetic tradition that conforms to the criteria of the covenant in both responsibility, promise, and the eschatology of future grace. That is the criteria of authentic prophetism as I understand it. With your permission, I’d like to refer your question to one other brother, who has more understanding in this kind of question than I do. He is a close personal friend and colleague. He has wrestled more deeply and is more exercised in this aspect of the prophetic than I am. My orientation is more that of a teacher specializing in prophetic themes.

Yours in His precious service, Reggie Kelly

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