What is a prophet and prophetic ministry? As a seer, they are spokesmen, messengers, watchmen, and ambassadors standing in the gap. Christ set in the Church five distinct ascension gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. All of them are quite different, distinct, and carry different graces needed to equip the born-again believer for effectiveness in life and ministry.
Scripture declares, “And he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors, and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11). All five-ministry gifts are equally important. We need the apostle. He is a spiritual father, architect, and builder. We need the soul-winning evangelist that reminds us of reaching the lost. We need the pastor who counsels, nurtures and comforts, and the teacher to instruct, tutor, and explain God’s Word and ways. And we need the prophet, God’s voice of edification, exhortation, and comfort. All five ascension gifts have specific graces in their lives that add something important to the born again believer.
Prophets flow in revelation or rhema.“He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.” (Revelation 2:29)
We need to listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church, not just what the Spirit hath said. We need the freshness of prophetic revelation, that life-giving rhema that comes through the prophet’s gift. Without that refreshing, we die a boring religious death and are not spiritually relatable to our generation. We all need the prophetic voice to come into the earth that we might have a “living word” imparted to our lives. Without the life provided by the prophetic voice, the Church would be like the dry bones in Ezekiel’s vision.
God wants to raise a prophetic people who can hear His voice clearly. Not just lone prophets, but a prophetic people. It is important the world hears the Word of the Lord with power and refreshing that comes from the prophetic anointing. In other words, any believer is able to speak out something that God brings to mind. In addition, as I noted above, Scripture urges us to seek the gift of prophecy (see 1 Cor. 14:5).
The different levels of Prophecy:
Occasional Inspirational Prophecy can take the form of casual (but inspired) words of encouragement offered to other people. It can be really brief—like, “Yes.” If that is what God brought to your mind to say, it is a little prophetic word. Its importance may seem slightly heightened to you, or you may know that it is something you would not normally think of saying on your own. You just “give expression to the impression,” to borrow a phrase I have heard. You notice that your heart is beating in time with God’s heart of love and His fortifying comfort.
Consistent Prophetic Gifting
The keyword here is “consistent.” Prophets at this level experience a consistent stream of words, open visions, snapshot pictures, and dreams, which they are often able to report, interpret, and apply in an accurate way. Their prophetic output is still limited primarily to upbuilding words, but they are beginning to receive words with a greater weight of authority on them. Often people at this level of giving become quite interested in and committed to intercessory prayer. This makes sense because while prophets make the desires of God known to people, intercessors make the desires of people known to God, even as they endeavor to pray according to the will of God.
Not everyone receives prophetic words the same way. You can start to pick up how they receive words by listening to them. Some will start out with, “I feel…” or “I sense that…” while others will report, “I heard the voice of the Lord in a dream” or “I’m getting a picture of…” Others may have “open visions” (a theophany) in which they can hear the Lord’s audible voice. (A theophany is sometimes an indication of a calling beyond the prophetic ministry to the office of prophet.)
Proven Prophetic Ministry
People with a proven prophetic ministry have demonstrated over time that they possess mature character and wisdom regarding God’s purposes for His people. At least occasionally, their prophetic gift will operate in tandem with “signs and wonders” gifts such as healing, miracles, or deliverance, and they will have earned the respect and authority to administer corrections and possibly rebukes. Like all words from God, theirs will need to be confirmed by witnesses and judged by other prophets, but they will be uncommonly accurate and edifying.
At the same time, they have not become fiery “thus saith the Lord” prophets. In fact, they may appear to be weak instead of powerful, speaking in brokenness and humility. (See 2 Corinthians 13:7–9.) Thus, they can be misunderstood easily. Their function is to provide, in addition to significant strengthening and encouragement, sensitive direction and correction, and to help illuminate and articulate the particular truths or doctrines that the Lord wants the members of the body to know.
The Office of a Prophet
A person who holds the New Testament office of a prophet, although he or she will speak God’s words in a powerful way, nevertheless has less authority than those who wrote Scripture (see Eph. 4:11–12). I challenge people who aspire to the office of a prophet by saying, “You are not an office ministry prophet unless you have the capacity to equip and multiply.” This level of prophecy goes way beyond the scope of an inspirational gift, and they will be used most often to speak encouragement but also direction and correction, equipping, and commissioning.
Those with the office of a prophet have been proven over years of ministry, and they receive an unusually prolific flow of revelatory information. Sometimes they seem to be more at home in heaven than on earth, especially when they report an open vision by announcing, “I was there….” Without fail, their words carry much authority, as they speak with great accuracy and power, frequently ministering in signs and wonders gifts as well. More often than other prophets, they have experienced rejection and misunderstanding. I say that they are a little bit like Jacob at times, in that they walk with a limp.
Through their gifts, they provide edification, confirmation, direction, and correction to those in church government and often to leaders in the secular world. They establish, articulate, and emphasize what the Holy Spirit wants to have highlighted. In addition, they may predict future events with accuracy to help the Body of Christ mature in its position in the world. As they are fulfilled, these predictions are used to amaze and wake up unconverted people so that they will want to encounter God for themselves.
Prophets carry a great sense of spiritual authority. They enjoy rooting out, pulling down, and destroying all spiritual opposition that gets in the way of the plans and purpose of God. “See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.” (Jeremiah 1:10)
In this verse, nations are symbolic of the natural realm and kingdoms symbolic of the spiritual realm. To “root out” means to lay hold of the root of a thing and pull. The prophet is called to root out. He is called to pull down. He is called to destroy. He is called to overthrow. Notice that all these words deal with destroying the opposition. Prophets are God’s spiritual reformers and revolutionaries. To reform means to bring about change.