God is restoring the apostolic and prophetic ministries into the Church today. From believers learning how to flow in the gift of prophecy to men and women being raised up as ministry gift prophets, there is a revival of apostolic and prophetic ministries in the Body of Christ all over the world.
The apostolic and prophetic is not only about hearing and speaking; it is about hearing and doing what God wants done here on earth. God is raising up apostolic and prophetic believers who not only serve within the local church, but also prophetic believers who are affecting the marketplace through practical ideas and strategies they have received from God. God is raising up prophets like Joseph and Daniel who will represent Him and be His prophetic voice in the high places of the earth today.
THE PROPHETIC REALM
Words are a powerful tool in communication. By using appropriate words, we are able to convey our ideas and thoughts, even our deepest feelings and emotions. Encouraging words of a friend or loved one can impart strength and bring reviving in times of hardship and difficulties. All of us can remember such times when the words of a dear one was especially meaningful and brought much blessing. While the words of another compassionate human person can bring great blessing, hearing the words of our tender and loving heavenly Father in critical moments of our lives can be truly life transforming.
And the Father desires to speak to us “in the now”—in the midst of our present circumstances and situations. He desires to speak His encouragement, direction and counsel into our lives. There are many ways in which the Father communicates to us, the foremost being the written Word of God, followed by the inward leading of His Spirit.
In this book, we consider one of the other modes by which He transfers His word to us—the Prophetic Ministry. The Lord has initiated many restorative moves of His Holy Spirit in the Church. The Church, which had become a spiritually feeble entity during the Dark Ages (400–1400 AD), began to go through a process of revival and restoration. Beginning in the 1500s, there was a steady increase in the depth of spiritual understanding and revelation imparted to the Church. The Protestant movement in the
1500s brought the revelation of salvation by grace through faith; the Puritan movement in the 1600s brought an understanding of the importance of water baptism and separation of Church from the state; the Holiness movement in 1700s brought an understanding of sanctification—of the Church being separated from the world; the Divine Healing movement of the 1800s brought a revelation and demonstration of God’s healing power for the physical body; and the Pentecostal movement in the early 1900s brought a revelation of Holy Spirit baptism and speaking in tongues. These briefly highlight the restorative work of God’s Spirit in the Church following the Dark Ages. However, from the turn of the 20th century, beginning with the Pentecostal movement, the Church has witnessed an unprecedented increase in the restorative ministry of the Holy Spirit. Following the Pentecostal movement, there have been several clearly identifiable moves in the Church that have caused the Body of Christ to rise to higher realms with God. Of these, the Prophetic movement that came into full recognition in the 1980s is among the more recent moves of God’s Spirit in the Church.
In recent decades the Church has been progressively understanding and manifesting more of the prophetic. More believers are being activated and trained to manifest and flow in prophetic ministry. This is exciting because as we progress in prophetic ministry, we will have a Body of believers who can clearly hear what God is saying and immediately say and do according to His directives. is exciting because as we progress in prophetic ministry, we will have a Body of believers who can clearly hear what God is saying and immediately say and do according to His directives.
While we will study these in detail, here is a quick overview of various stages of prophetic ministry.
All believers can be trained and activated to flow in the simple gift of prophecy (1 12:7–10,31; 1 Corinthians 14:1,31). The gift of prophecy is simply speaking under inspiration from God to bring edification, exhortation and comfort to people (1 Corinthians 14:3). The functions of believers in the Body of Christ are listed in Romans 12:4–8. This obviously is only a representation and not a complete list of all believers’ functions in the Body. Each believer has a specific function depending on the gift and grace given.
Prophecy is listed as one of the grace gifts and believers’ functions. These are believers who have the grace gift of prophecy and perform their function in the Body with prophecy playing a major role. There can be different degrees to which prophecy is manifested, as these believers are encouraged to prophesy in proportion to their faith (Vs. 6).
All believers who have learnt to flow in the simple gift of prophecy and those with the grace gift of prophecy can further exercise this gift as part of their function or ministry in the Body. For example, a musician can incorporate the prophetic in his singing or music. So also a teacher, an evangelist, a leader, a social worker, an administrator, an intercessor or any other believer functioning in the Body of Christ, can learn to integrate the prophetic into their ministry or function. These are prophesying believers who flow in prophecy as part of their ministry function in the Body.
As believers are further trained in the prophetic and begin to flow consistently in this, they begin to manifest and develop a prophetic ministry. This is where almost everything they say and do in ministry function is graced with a word from God or a directive from God. They begin to flow in more of the prophetic manifestations, which we will study later on. All believers, if they choose to press in to the prophetic, can develop and manifest strong prophetic ministry as part of whatever role or function they have in the Body of Christ.
The prophetic ministry gift (or as some call it, the “office of a prophet”) as mentioned in Ephesians 4:11,12 and once again in 1 Corinthians 12:28 is not available to everyone but is assigned to some, by our Lord Jesus Christ. The prophetic office in addition to manifesting prophetic ministry also carries with it governmental responsibility and authority in the Body of Christ. These ministries will emphasize laying strong doctrinal foundations (Ephesians 2:20), hearing from God and announcing new moves and directives of the Spirit (Acts 13:1,2), announcing the mind of God to the larger Body of Christ, to cities and nations (Acts 11:27–30); bring prophetic insight to solve problems in local church government or in the wider Body of Christ (Acts 15:2,6,26,32 ) and so on.
As believers progress from exercising the simple gift of prophecy to flowing in prophetic ministry, we can expect increased accuracy and an increased measure of the pure message from God and less mixture of human words and ideas. While we recognize that people at all stages, including those with the ministry gift of prophet, are merely human and therefore prone to mistakes, greater accuracy in hearing from God is expected as we progress into consistent prophetic ministry and from those in the prophetic office.
The first occurrence of the word ‘prophet’ in the Old Testament is found in Genesis 20:7 when God spoke to King Abimelech, in a dream, about Abraham saying:
He is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you shall live.
The Hebrew word for prophet here is ‘nabi,’ which simply means an “inspired man.” It is interesting to note that in its first usage, the prophet was an intercessor. A prophet therefore was identified as someone who had a close communion with God and one who could intercede for others. And out of that communion came inspiration where the prophet would speak the words of God to people. The other interesting inference we can make here is about prophet Abraham himself. We know that Abraham did not go about prophesying or giving the word of the Lord to people around him. And yet God called him a prophet. Abraham was a man who heard from God and walked in the divine purpose of God. He was prophetic in the life he lived, more than in the words he said. It is also interesting to note that the first reference to a prophet is tied in with prayer—”He is a prophet and he will pray for you and you shall live.” Prayer and intercession therefore is an integral part of the prophetic ministry. We can have people who pray and intercessors who are not prophetic. However, we cannot be prophetic without being strong in prayer and intercession.
And the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing.”
In keeping with Abraham’s calling as a prophet, God initiates the revelatory process in Genesis 12 when Abraham is called to go to a land which God would show him. Thereafter, Abraham receives several revelations and encounters with the Lord —in hearing from God—through dreams and angelic visitations. Also it is interesting how God initiates the revelatory process when it comes to what God was planning to do concerning Sodom and Gomorrah as recorded in Genesis 18. Once God reveals His intended judgment, Abraham steps into his role as prophetic intercessor. The Bible records “Abraham still stood before the LORD” (Genesis 18:22). Abraham stood before God as a prophetic intercessor and made his appeal saying, “Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). Like Abraham, prophetic people move into intense prayer and intercession when God reveals what He is about to do.
Moses and Aaron
God had appeared to Moses in the burning bush and commissioned him to lead His people out of Egypt into the Promised Land. Moses had complained about his inability to communicate effectively stating his lack of eloquence as an excuse. So the LORD came up with a solution and said to him:
Is not Aaron the Levite your brother? I know that he can speak well. And look, he is coming out to meet you. When he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. Now you shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth. And I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and I will teach you what you shall do. So he shall be your spokesman to the people. And he himself shall be as a mouth for you, and you shall be to him as God.
Then in Exodus 7:1, where we have the next occurrence of the word ‘prophet’ in Scripture, the context of its usage further clarifies the function of the prophet. The LORD said to Moses:
See, I have made you as God to Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet.
Once again, the Hebrew word here for ‘prophet’ is ‘nabi’ and occurs 309 times in the Old Testament. From the context of the second passage, we learn that ‘nabi’ is one who speaks for another. He is another’s mouthpiece. So a prophet of God is God’s spokesperson to the people—God’s mouthpiece. He speaks the words that God puts in his mouth.
Nabi-Prophet and Seer-Prophet
1 Chronicles 29:29
Now the acts of King David, first and last, indeed they are written in the book of Samuel the seer (Heb. ‘roeh’), in the book of Nathan the prophet (Heb. ‘nabi’), and in the book of Gad the seer (Heb. ‘hozeh’).
We see two kinds of Hebrew words used to describe prophets in the Old Testament: ‘nabi’ and ‘roeh,’ along with its alternative ‘hozeh.’ Both the Hebrew words ‘roeh’ and ‘hozeh’ referring to “the seer,” deal with visions, gazing at or seeing something in the spiritual realm, supernatural revelations, a seeing person. This refers to the word of the Lord coming through the visualization process— seeing visually what God is revealing. This is expressed in 2 Chronicles 9:29 in the mention of “the visions of Ido the seer.” A seer was called thus, because of his frequent visions—things he saw in the spirit realm. Hanani is also referred to as a seer by using the same Hebrew word ‘roeh’ (2 Chronicles 16:7,10). Several other seerprophets are referred to using the Hebrew word ‘hozeh’ —Asaph (2 Chronicles 29:30), Heman (1 Chronicles 25:5), Jeduthun (2
Chronicles 35:15), Iddo (2 Chronicles 9:29; 2 Chronicles 12:15), Jehu, the son of Hanani (2 Chronicles 19:2), and the prophet Amos (Amos 7:12).
I was no prophet (Heb. ‘nabi’), nor was I a son of a prophet (Heb. ‘nabi’), but I was a sheep breeder and a tender of sycamore fruit. Then the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go prophesy (Heb. ‘naba’) to my people Israel.’ \
THE PROPHETIC REALM
The word ‘nabi’ translated as ‘prophet,’ and a similar Hebrew word ‘naba’ translated as ‘prophesy’ deal with the inspirational nature of prophetic reception, the ‘nabi’ being “the inspired” man. A common meaning of these words is to bubble-up or flow forth. In a similar fashion, another Hebrew word ‘nataph’ is translated as ‘prophet’ and ‘prophesy’ in Micah 2:11. ‘Nataph’ means “to ooze, distil gradually; to fall in drops; to speak by inspiration.” These carry the idea that the words of the Lord are released through inspiration and they bubble up or come as drops—words, sentences, phrases— bubbling up from within the prophet, in contrast to the visual process of prophetic reception through visions. While all these words are used to refer to the same prophetic office, it appears that depending on the way God communicated with the prophet, he was referred to either as a seer-prophet or a nabi-prophet.
1 Samuel 9:9
(Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he spoke thus: “Come, let us go to the seer”; for he who is now called a prophet was formerly called a seer.)
However, when understanding the nature of the prophet’s mode of receiving revelation, we must not necessarily restrict or limit a prophet to a single mode of reception. Obviously this does not mean that a nabi-prophet will not have visions and dreams or that a seer-prophet will not have the word of the Lord bubbling up from within. We can never put God in a box and restrain His working.
A seer-prophet could also receive the word of the Lord the same way a nabi-prophet did and vice-versa. They were in fact used interchangeably as indicated in 1 Samuel 9:9 and Amos 7:12,14. Hence the “seer-prophet” and “nabi-prophet” categorization broadly identifies two ways in which God would speak to His prophets.
How Does the Prophet Hear from God?
Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets. A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken! Who can but prophesy?
The prophetic ministry is one of the many different ways by which God transfers His word to the human race. God in His own sovereignty has chosen to have spokespersons on the earth. The Lord has purposed to convey the thoughts and intents of His heart to the prophets. He reveals His secret, things not revealed to others, to His servants the prophets. When God speaks to the prophet, he can do nothing but prophesy. When a lion roars there is a definite response of fear in the human person. Even so, when the Lord speaks, the prophet has a sense of ‘compulsion’ to release the word that God has spoken. Jeremiah expressed it thus:
O LORD, You induced me, and I was persuaded; You are stronger than I, and have prevailed. I am in derision daily; everyone mocks me. For when I spoke, I cried out; I shouted, “Violence and plunder!” Because the word of the LORD was made to me a reproach and a derision daily. Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.” But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not.
When God speaks, His prophetic word is like a burning fire within us and we must release it to those He intended. A brief overview is presented below, from the Old Testament, on how the prophets heard from God. In a later chapter, we will discuss at length some of the ways we hear from God today and prophets in the New Testament.