The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

Practicing Discernment: Prophecies & Premonitions

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How do you know when a prediction about the future is from God? It’s not hard to sort these things out once you understand a few things about God’s communication style and His priorities for you. God has you on this planet for one reason: to give you the chance to decide how serious you are going to be about your relationship with Him. Every human has a relationship with God because God sustains us all. So even if we’re working hard at pretending He doesn’t exist, we are still utterly dependent on Him and our lives are being shaped by His decisions. When you are born, when and how you will die, who you will meet, what you will experience—all of these things are determined by God. It is God who is constantly putting a limited number of choices before us and those choices are the only ones we can choose between. So while we like to pep ourselves up with sayings like, “You can do anything you put your mind to,” the truth is that you can only ever do what God allows you to do.

Now the idea of some vast alien Being hovering over us and controlling our lives can either seem very unsettling or very comforting, depending on what we believe about God’s Character. Happily for us, the relativists are wrong: reality is not created by us. God is who He is, and if we have misconceptions about Him, they need to be unlearned if we are going to live in alignment with His truth. The truth is that God is good. He is not some sadistic monster who gets off on leading His creatures down paths of torment and destruction. God is a very kind and generous Creator who wants human beings to experience His best. But because God is not a doormat, He isn’t going to accommodate our bratty behavior. When we fight Him, He will come back at us with discipline. When we resist Him, He will put us through miseries in order to break us down. And because God created each of us with different purposes in mind, it is necessary for Him to put us through various kinds of hardships now in order to prepare us to get the most out of our experience in eternity. The paradise chapter hasn’t started yet, so we need to throw out the dream of “peace on earth” and recognize that this place is always going to be filled with hardship and strife. This is a training and shaping ground—it’s not the rest period. We’re here to be changed in positive ways through both negative and positive experiences. Getting the most out of life comes through total submission to God’s will for us, not through trying to control our own futures.

Now because life on this earth is a mix of good and bad, there is always some negative event coming down the pipe that God could freak us out about ahead of time. There is always some positive event as well which He could get us all excited about with some future prediction. But what would be the point? To get the most out of this life, we need to engage with the present and focus on learning the lessons the Holy Spirit is currently teaching us. If a first grader spends his whole school year peering into the window of a second grade classroom, he’s never going to learn what he needs to learn in order to graduate on to the next level. Whenever we think we know something about the future, we humans start obsessing. We let one fact or one glimpse consume us until we’re no longer thinking about anything else. It’s a complete waste of time, as far as God is concerned, and this is why He withholds future information from us 99% of the time. When He gives us a glimpse of the future, it’s like watching a five second scene in the middle of a movie that you’ve never watched. Because you haven’t seen what comes before that scene or what comes after, you’re guaranteed to misinterpret the glimpse you’ve been given. And if you were then to obsess over that scene for the next ten years and write many essays about what you think happens before and after it, you’d discover that all of your theories were wrong when you finally sit down to watch the whole film. Meanwhile, you will have squandered ten years of your life developing worthless theories. Where is the value in any of this?

How many so-called prophets have we seen obsessing over some end time theory that they’ve developed only to finally see their theories disproved when Jesus doesn’t come back on the day they thought He would? How many Christians are freaking out over negative dreams which they’ve decided must be some portent of coming disaster? What happens to your focus when some fearful thought drops into your brain that you decide is from God?

You’re going to die this year.
Something terrible is going to happen to your child.
You’re never going to get out of this valley period.
God is going to throw you into Hell when you die.
You’re never going to find a spouse.
You’re never going to be happy in life.
You’re going to be miserable in Heaven.
Your spouse is going to leave you.
The economy is going to tank and you’ll end up on the street.
You’ll never get a better job than this.
You’ll never kick this addiction.
You’ll always be a loser.
Everything you love is going to be ripped away from you.

These are all forms of future predictions. What happens when you assign credibility to this kind of rot? You end up feeling fearful, depressed, defeated, and hopeless. You lose your grip on the reality of God’s love for you and you start viewing Him as some scary Monster who is out to get you. Why would God say these kinds of things to you? He wouldn’t. When God speaks, He always speaks in a way that inspires your soul and draws you closer to Him. God speaks hope into your relationship with Him, not despair. Even when He’s totally annoyed with you, God is always going to show you a way to get back into a good place with Him. Once you are His kid, God is never going to say to you, “Forget it. I don’t want you anymore. From now on, I’m going to make your life a hellish misery because you’ve crossed Me one too many times.” Now if you push God too far, is He going to find ways of eternally avenging Himself? Of course He is. God is not a doormat. He’s not going to look at rebellious souls and the souls who are sincerely trying to honor Him and act like He can’t see any difference. It matters enormously how we treat God, but even when we’re brats, God still loves us. Yahweh describes the New Covenant as an eternal covenant of peace between Him and us. This means He’ll never hate us like He hates those who He throws into Hell. This isn’t a hard concept for us to grasp, for on this earth, plenty of us have unruly kids who we find draining to be around, yet we still love them dearly. In the same way, God loves His brats. His relationship with them isn’t nearly as joyful as it could be if they’d stop fighting Him, but He still loves them, and He sees them in an entirely different camp as those who refused to ever submit to Him.

The only souls who God speaks condemnation over are souls who He has eternally written off. It’s very real for God to say to someone, “You have rebelled against Me for the last time and now I will never forgive you.” In fact we find examples of Him saying things like this to people in the Old Testament—condemning people to Hell while they are still alive on the planet (see Three Priests Who Went to Hell & Cancelled Invitation). Yet when we read these accounts, we find an interesting pattern: those who are eternally cut off by God don’t find His announcements of their damnation to be upsetting. When God spiritually cuts people off well before their physical death, He takes away their desire to repent and be in a right relationship with Him. Because of this, those who are truly condemned simply don’t find their dire situation upsetting. The only souls who melt with fear at the thought of God cutting them off are souls who are falling for demonic impersonations of God’s Voice. Invariably these souls really want to be in a right relationship with God, and this is the only reason the threat of being shunned by Him carries such power. And of course once we really care about being in a right relationship with God, we are in no danger of being condemned by Him, so all of our terror is completely unfounded. Yet fear in any form is very oppressive to our souls, which is why we want to get back to truth as soon as possible. God is never going to speak hopeless messages into your life. When God speaks, there is always a positive spiritual lesson to be learned which He will make clear to you. If you don’t know what the lesson is, then it isn’t God talking, period.

Discerning the source of prophetic messages and premonitions really isn’t complicated. God doesn’t tell us the future just to freak us out. He doesn’t drop a bunch of vague hints and then leave us to fill in the blanks with our worst fears. It doesn’t matter if you have some vivid dream of disaster in your future, or if Prophet Pompous has a vivid dream about you. Whenever people start talking about the future, get your mental dumpster ready because 99% of the future predictions you come across are going to be complete rot.

ANALYZING MESSAGES ABOUT THE FUTURE

The next time you come across a future prediction of any kind, run through the following questions to determine if it is from God or not.

1. How does this message turn my attention to God? When God speaks, He always turns the spotlight onto Himself. Even when God prophesies about things He’s going to do in other places and other lives, He always finds a way to work Himself into center stage. One of the main reasons God shares future information with us is to glorify Himself. If God isn’t anywhere in the message, or if all the glory is going to beings other than Him, then you need to reject it as invalid. God always exalts Himself.

2. What is the positive spiritual lesson for me in this message? As a general rule, God talks to you about you. He doesn’t talk to you about what He’s doing in the lives of other people because it’s none of your business. So predictions about other people which sound like some juicy bit of gossip in a celebrity magazine are clearly not from God because there is no spiritual lesson for you. If God is telling it to you, then it will be something that affects you. If a personal lesson isn’t leaping out at you, then you need to reject it.

3. If it’s a positive prediction about my life on earth, where’s the eternal focus? Most singles want to get married. Most married women want to have kids. Every human wants to prosper in this world and be well-liked. Because we have such similar dreams and goals, it’s extremely easy for false teachers to lead you astray with ego-pleasing predictions about how God is going to bless your socks off in the near future. But before you start putting your faith in a promise that you’ll get married or that you’ll have children or get a promotion or become super popular, ask yourself, “Where’s the eternal focus?” God is not going to encourage you to dig your roots down in this temporary world. He is going to keep you focused on eternal priorities. Because He is so jealous by nature and He knows how prone you are to getting way too invested in earthly things, He’s not just going to dangle some juicy carrot of earthly blessings in front of you and say, “Look, if you’ve got all this coming to you in the future, what do you need Me for?” No, when God predicts future blessings in your life, He will do it in a way that encourages you to keep your focus on Him. To the single, God might say, “I’m going to bring you a spouse in the future, so stop obsessing over it because there are many other things I want to teach you in the meantime.” Or to the woman who is struggling with infertility, He might say, “I am going to make you a mother, but not until I feel the time is right. In the meantime, I want you to focus on our own relationship. I should be far more important to you than some other human.”

4. If it’s a negative prediction about my life on earth, where is the countering hope? God only tells us about negative events in our future in order to help us prepare for them. He’s not just going drop some fearful grenade on you of, “Your loved one is going to die.” If He were to tell you about such a thing in advance, He would put it in a way that will give you countering hope. “I’m going to be taking your child home soon, but I will never leave you. Your child does not define you, I do. I am your strength and hope in this life. Let Me teach you how to see things from the eternal perspective so that this loss will not devastate you.”

Now sometimes God announces forms of discipline ahead of time. But when this is the case, He will always give us a positive spiritual focus, even if we’re currently in a rebellious state. To the rebellious Christian, He might say, “If you do not stop fighting Me, I will take away your health.” Notice here how He makes it clear that the punishment can still be avoided if the soul will repent.

Other times, God is not willing to shield us from consequences that we deserve. “Because you refused to do what I said, I’m going to bankrupt your business and ruin your reputation in this community. But if you remain in alignment with Me, I will use all of this to strengthen our personal bond.” Here God makes it clear the punishment cannot be averted, but notice how He turns the focus onto positive spiritual gains that can be made if the soul stays in alignment with Him. He doesn’t promise financial restoration—instead He turns the focus off of earthly things and onto eternal priorities. A stronger relationship with God is far more important than earthly success. God will always turn our focus onto eternal things.

5. Is my direction clear? If you can’t give clear answers to the above questions without a bunch of assistance from other people, then God isn’t talking. Vague confusion is a common trademark of demons. When God wants you to do something, He makes His will clear to you in your own mind. You will understand what He wants you to do. You aren’t going to be left feeling uncertain and worried.

CONCLUSION

Remember that future predictions in your personal life are going to be rare events if they happen at all. For the most part, God doesn’t tell you the future because we humans aren’t designed to handle future knowledge well. Whenever God does give us some future glimpse, we need to remember that He is intentionally leaving a lot of important details out, and that means we should expect things to unfold in surprising ways. When God prophesied the birth of Isaac, He intentionally left out the fact that Ishmael would be born first (see Rethinking Ishmael). When He anointed David to be king of Israel, He didn’t say that David wouldn’t actually sit on the throne for over a decade. When He prophesied a future Messiah through Isaiah, He didn’t mention that another 700 years would pass before that Messiah ever showed up. God never tells us the whole story. We mustn’t be defining our lives by future predictions. What God wants from us today is what matters, and that is what we need to focus on.

FURTHER READING:
How to Tell When God Is Speaking to You Through Someone Else
Identifying False Prophecy About the End Times

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