Last month we began this series with an introductory post, which contained a few thoughts to set the stage for the rest of the series. To refresh our memory, here they are in a nutshell:God has created an opportunity to refresh/ reboot how we walk in the prophetic, to find a more biblical way — so that prophecy will thrive. Prophecy in the Old and New Testament is both the same and different — because of Jesus.Prophecy should be motivated by love. Love for God, (including his truth), and for others. Prophets also need to be loved and knit into the Body.
This month, I think we need to unpack the principle that prophecy in the Old and New Testaments is the same and different— because of Jesus. You see, if we don’t fully understand this concept, we muddle the two up and end up trying to be an Elijah or a Samuel in the church.* It doesn’t work. This is like us trying to sew an unshrunken patch of cloth onto a well-worn garment. Even if you have great intentions— it ends up ripping and you have a worse mess (Mt 9:16,17). You simply can’t mix the Old and New Covenants together.
THE NEW COVENANT IS BETTER IN EVERY WAY
There is a profound difference between the Old and New. The New is better in every way— it is truly glorious. All the key elements of the Old Covenant have been transformed, eclipsed by the jaw-dropping, Good News of the New. Think about this for a moment, here’s a quick summary: From the law —> to the law fulfilled by Jesus & the new law of love written on our hearts.From an exclusive priesthood —>to the Great High Priest & priesthood of all believers, we all get to come near! From the temple —> to the greater temple of Christ himself, & his people being built into the temple, the dwelling place of his presence.From continual, ritual sacrifices—> to Christ himself as our once-for-all sacrifice, & ours is the honour to worship him through presenting our bodies as living sacrifices.
Notice every element is fulfilled in Christ and has the glorious result of all of us --whosoever will—being brought into union with Him,
… and because of that, unity with each other.
It really is breathtaking, my quick little summary has in no way done justice to the majesty and wonder of the New Covenant.
But with this in mind as the backdrop, let’s consider if a prophet under the New Covenant, functions differently from those in the Old. Does prophetic ministry follow this trend of being fulfilled in Christand transformed to include all of us? Or are NT prophets just the OT prophets with a bit of an upgrade, maybe like a new haircut?
Hang in with me, this might just change your whole paradigm!
OLD TESTAMENT PROPHETS
In the OT, prophets were God’s oracles who enabled the people of God to understand his will. They guided, admonished, and instilled hope. They were called as individuals and were given a singular, powerful anointing. Their lives at times were a part of the message, to the point that they became living parables. Signs and wonders, as well as the accuracy and power of their words, ensured their voices had great authority. But this came with a high price, they typically walked alone, carrying this great burden and responsibility, only truly being understood and comforted by God himself. Still, because of their faithfulness, Israel heard the rhema** word of God.
Think about that. Even David, a man that walked so closely to God, needed a prophet beside him to be the one who heard God for him. The vast majority of the people of God in the OT days lived their entire lifetime without personally hearing the voice of God speaking straight to their hearts.
But then Jesus, the Word of God came, and everything dramatically changed.
I) THE WORD HAS COME
Jesus, God himself, has stepped into history to speak. Everything about him, his words, his lifestyle, his works, his death, and resurrection, all communicate the glorious message of God. He is the exact representation of the Father, he is the faithful witness (Heb 1:3, Rev 1:5). He is the ultimate Prophet, everything about him communicates God’s wisdom and ways, his love, and his redemption.
Even with his ascension, he continues to speak to and through his Church, using three primary, overlapping ways: the Spirit, the Word (scripture), and the revelatory gifts. They move together in beautiful harmony.
II) THE SPIRIT IS GIVEN
The glorious, powerful, Holy Spirit (that in OT days was just portioned out upon a few individuals) in this hour, has been, (and continues to be) poured out upon the whole Church. And the Spirit speaks! (Jn 10:3,27, 14:26) We can now all hear and even prophesy!
Remember what Peter declared at Pentecost— that the prophecy of Joel 2 was now fulfilled! This is for all of us!
“ … I will pour out my spirit uponall flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.” Acts 2:17,18
The Spirit of God flows through us, speaking to us individually and corporately, revealing Jesus and the specific good news of the kingdom that applies to that moment and need (Eph 1:17, Rev 19:10).
III) THE SCRIPTURES ARE USED PROPHETICALLY
The Spirit directed the writing and assembling of the NT, as he did the OT, and he continues to speak through these holy words; so under the New Covenant, the scriptures come wonderfully alive to our hearts.
His Spirit speaks prophetically through the words of the Bible and causes them to leap from the pages, with perfect application to our hearts and lives in the moment we are in. But not just to us, when preached, the scriptures are a prophetic trumpet to the world, revealing the wisdom of God in Christ, calling all to “repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”
IV) NEW TESTAMENT PROPHETS
But there is still more!
There are also individuals who, (although hearing God and prophesying is available to all of us), there are some who are uniquely gifted by the Spirit to flow in this revelatory side of Christ’s nature. These are the NT prophets. The word of the Lord comes to them directly or through dreams, visions, and all manner of supernatural encounters.
They hear and speak, but in addition, they activate the muscles of prophetic revelation in the Body of Christ. They provoke us to be a fully prophetic people, to expect to hear God, to listen for the voice of the Spirit, to follow where he leads. They serve like yeast, to leaven the whole lump prophetically so that our evangelism, our planning and vision casting, our team building, counseling, discipling, or our children’s ministry (just to name a few) all have a prophetic flavour to them. This indeed is glorious.
So then, a NT prophet is the same as in the OT in that they hear and speak forth the word of God and they experience unusual supernatural encounters,
but they are radically different in that they are knit into the body of Christ --which is also hearing.
They are surrounded by a hearing and speaking community. They don’t hear for the Body, they hear withthe Body, and serve the Body to become sharper and more revelatory in its hearing. They equip the Body for works of service (Eph 4:12).
If you are a prophet in this day, you are a New Testament, New Covenant prophet. Praise God! We need you and are so excited to see you flourish!
But in order to do so, you’ll need to shed any OT orientation that you’ve carried as a part of your identity or in how you function. Remember, the Old and the New can’t mix. If that’s you, here are two keys that will help you make that shift:
COMMIT TO THE LOCAL CHURCH
Jump in and get committed to the local church where you can joyfully, faithfully, serve, where you can be known and cared for, where you can be shaped and discipled by those with other gifts. This is necessary for everyone, regardless of their gift, but those with prophetic gifting must be even more intentional. You see, prophets can live lives marked with unusual supernatural activity which can leave them misunderstood, and thus create a great temptation for isolation. Resist this. The flip side is that supernatural activity can also become a source of pride, fight this too, for God will resist the proud even if they are highly gifted prophets. So choose humility, Jesus, the Great Prophet, modeled humble servanthood, let’s follow him.
YOUR IDENTITY IS A SON OR DAUGHTER - NOT A PROPHET
Prophets are very prone to let their gift define their identity, which ends up becoming a terrible trap. When your primary identity shifts from being a son or daughter of God to a prophet of God, you have to work to maintain that identity. You have to keep proving yourself. This puts a responsibility on you to perform— to prophesy in any given situation, to be the one with the powerhouse word of the Lord. You might even find yourself getting territorial or competitive if other prophetic people rise up around you making you feel threatened. Or you might become resentful or insecure if your church’s leadership doesn’t give you a platform for your gift.
Lay down the burden of prophetic performance and rest in the simple, unshakable, firmly established, New Covenant identity of sonship or daughterhood. This you don’t have to earn; nor maintain. Trust the Father to release you in your gift, to open doors, and give you both the word and the platform when it’s time for you to speak, just as he did for Jesus (Phil 2:5-9).
* Credit needs to go to Josh Hoffert (Wind Ministries) for identifying this issue as a big place of confusion.
** Rehma words are words which are sometimes called the "now" word of the Lord. They specifically apply in that moment.