Did you know that almost a third of the Bible is prophecy? In the Old Testament, prophecies were given as guidance to the people. God used prophets as His messengers to His people. Through them, He warned of what would happen if the people didn’t stop worshiping other gods. The prophets told of the trials the people would face for turning away from God. And in the darkest times, they foretold the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus, messages of hope for the people.
But prophecy didn’t stop after Jesus returned to Heaven. In the New Testament, the word of prophecy was a positive word that people could run to, not something they were afraid of. The power of the Spirit inspired (and still inspires) messages intended to edify and encourage the Church. According to St. Paul, prophecy is given to confirm and encourage and can only occur in a place and at a time that Jesus is known as Lord and honored as such (1 Cor. 12:1-3).
So why did the New Testament Church need prophets, and why do we need prophecy today?
- For guidance and direction. Face it, we get busy and sometimes we neglect the need to listen for the guidance of the Spirit. In those times, and in those times when the Church as a whole needs direction, prophecy provides the clarity we need. We see this in the New Testament as the Church was starting to grow. Prophecy guided them as they dealt with persecution, hardship, and teaching a new way of life. It does the same for us today.
- To instruct the body of Christ. In the Old Testament we see many instances where God used prophets to instruct the people, and Jesus continues to gives guidance through prophecy. What a blessing that we can always count on His instruction!
- As a means of revelation. One thing we will never be able to fathom is God’s complete understanding of what will happen when. The Book of Revelation is a great example. Even though we can hold that prophecy in our hands, it is impossible for us to fully understand parts of it at this time. Even when we can’t understand, however, Jesus works through prophecy to set a path for us that leads us to His side.
- To build the Church. As the Body of Christ, we work as one. Our goal is to spread the message of Jesus to all corners of the earth. Prophecy guides us as we do that, and it helps open doors and hearts to Jesus’ message and love.
I am so incredibly thankful for the gift of prophecy in our lives! It offers hope, guidance, instruction, and encouragement no matter what we are facing. Through it we can discern God’s desires for our lives and it helps us as we share Jesus’ never-ending love with the world. Today I will say a special prayer for a new generation of prophets to guide all Followers of Jesus as we continue on with our task. Will you join me?