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Whenever a human declares what’s going to happen in the future, they’re prophesying. But how exactly does prophecy work? Is it really true that certain humans have gained the ability to peer into the future? No, this is not true, and any human who claims to have such an ability has become deluded by his own ego. To understand how prophecy works, let’s pretend you have a buddy named Mark who has been away for a month. Mark claims that he spent that month in a country that neither of you have ever been to before. Mark then shows you a bunch of photographs that he says he took while he was on his vacation. They’re nice photographs, but how do you know that Mark actually took them? How do you know he didn’t just pull them off of the internet? How do you know that Mark really went to the places that he claims he went to? You don’t know, because you weren’t there. As you go through Mark’s photographs, you’re deciding in your mind whether you should believe Mark’s stories or not. When you see a photo of a café that Mark claims to have had lunch at, it seems like a plausible story. But when you come to a photo of the blue elephant that Mark claims to have seen, then you start to have your doubts. And when you see the treasure chest full of pirate’s gold that Mark claims to have discovered on a scuba diving trip, you find yourself suspecting that Mark never really went anywhere at all. You see, the pictures by themselves don’t prove anything. It’s really Mark’s character that you’re using to assess the accuracy of his story. You also have to take into account the fact that Mark has his own problems in life, and he might have a very good reason for wanting people to believe he left the country for four weeks. Before you just take Mark’s story at face value, you need to step back and look at the big picture. Things are never as simple as they first appear, and people lie to each other for both good and bad reasons.
Now today when you hear a Christian prophet making predictions about the future, you need to realize that if that prophet is the real deal and not just making stuff up, then the most they can ever do is describe to you the pictures of the future that God has shown them. Demons and angels are not capable of seeing the future—they can only make educated guesses. When demons feed people future predictions, they’re acting like the friend of a man who is writing a book. The friend figures that he knows the author pretty well, so he tries to predict how the author will work out his plot. But the author might surprise the friend by throwing in twists that the friend is not anticipating. This happens all the time between God and demons, which is why demonic prophecies have such a high failure rate. Now and then they get lucky, but they’re always working in the dark. Meanwhile, God is the One who directs the future—He is the One who actually determines what will happen. Because God is the only future Writer, He is the only One capable of giving a human prophet glimpses of that future. But here’s the thing about God: He’s a very metaphorical Guy, and many of the pictures that He shows His prophets are not meant to be taken literally. So when God shows a human prophet a series of future images, He might show them a combination of literal and metaphorical images. Metaphorical images are far more common than literal ones, and because inexperienced prophets don’t understand this, they often make the mistake of taking metaphorical images literally. When you start confusing metaphors with actual reality, you end up prophesying a lot of guff.
So how hard is it for a human prophet to tell the difference between metaphorical images and literal images? In many cases, it’s impossible. Consider how realistic many modern day movies look. If we were to show you a scene of two people talking about a common life issue, how would you know if they were having a real conversation or just reciting lines from a script? If they were good actors, you wouldn’t be able to tell on your own. Instead, you’d have to rely on information from people who did know—the people who did the actual filming and the folks in the film who were doing the talking. In the same way, when God shows a prophet scenes of the future, the prophet must realize that he is totally dependent on God to properly interpret those images. By themselves, prophets are incapable of drawing correct conclusions about what they’re being shown. But because most prophets don’t want to admit that humans have no wisdom on their own, and that all humans are very easy to deceive, prophets rush to slap their own interpretations on what God is showing them, then they plaster their guff onto the internet and boast about how sure they are. Then you come along. You read their theories, and immediately put your faith in whatever they’ve come up with as if they’re speaking the very words of God. But are they? For all you know, they’ve completely misinterpreted what God showed them—and that’s assuming God actually showed them something, which in most cases is not true.
When your buddy Mark shows you pictures of his vacation, he hands you a physical pile of photographs that you can touch and feel. When God shows His prophets images of the future, He downloads those images directly into the prophet’s mind. Sometimes those images arrive when the prophet is awake, other times they might be part of a dream. Now every human on the planet has an imagination, and every human on the planet dreams. So as a prophet sees images moving through his mind, how good is he going to be at accurately discerning the source of those images? Some images are being cooked up by his own imagination, and they’re being inspired by the prophet’s personal hopes, fears, and biases. Another very strong possibility is that demons are dropping the images into the prophet’s mind. It is a very simple thing for demons to create images, visions and dreams in human brains and they do this kind of thing all the time. Before a prophet can conclude that he is really working with an image from God, he must first rule out the far more likely scenario that the image was produced by demons or by his own imagination. Do you know how good modern day prophets are at this kind of discernment? They’re terrible at it. This shouldn’t come as a surprise when you see how bad Christians are at discernment in other areas of their lives. If a prophet doesn’t know better than to call every word in the Bible “God-breathed,” how good is he going to be at telling who’s talking in his own mind? But then you come along, you hear the prophet throwing around the p-word, and that’s all it takes for you to park your brains and believe whatever you’re told.
All wisdom comes from God, and God is the only One who can teach humans how to accurately discern truth from lies. But here’s the thing about God: before He’s going to teach a prophet how to accurately interpret prophetic visions, He is going to demand that the prophet be embracing the soul attitudes that God says He wants from all humans—things like reverence, submission, dependency and trust. You see, when you’re a prophet that is not all you are. First and foremost, you are a powerless speck of a human who is supposed to be pursuing a relationship with the One who created you. How you’re treating God in the privacy of your own soul is going to greatly impact how God responds to you in other areas. Why should God help you hone your discernment skills if you’re giving Him a bunch of snarky attitude? Why should God tell you anything about the future if you’re going to go out and use that information to try and exalt yourself in the eyes of the world?
Look around at the revolting world of Christian prophecy and what do you see? A bunch of humans shoving God out of the spotlight while they try to use His words to glorify themselves. And yet is this what the prophetic calling is about? When God calls humans to speak messages for Him, is He also giving them a free pass to strut around boasting about how anointed they are while they act like they’re part of some inner circle that no one else can join? When God speaks, He draws all people towards Himself—He doesn’t shove most of them away while He exalts a few over-inflated egos. When God speaks, He turns people’s focus onto Him—He doesn’t encourage everyone to applaud some blind numskull who doesn’t know anything about anything until God gives him a clue. You see, true prophets aren’t smarter than you. They aren’t more “dialed in.” They aren’t powerful, and they don’t have access to supernatural powers. They don’t have greater influence over God than you do, their prayers aren’t more effective than yours, and they didn’t have anything to do with God calling them to be prophets. Being called to function as God’s prophet is like having a monumental task dropped into your lap—one that is far too complicated for you to figure out on your own, and one that you can screw up in a thousand different ways. The prophetic calling is a sober, frightening, and utterly overwhelming thing. If you have even an ounce of wisdom, you’ll get on your face and beg God to help you to not make a total mess out it.
The more God chooses to publicly associate Himself with you, and the more insights He gives you, the more accountable you become to Him. Being called to be a prophet is like God handing you a loaded gun. If you fumble around with a cell phone, whatever happens, you won’t be at risk of killing yourself. But if you fumble around with a gun and accidentally press the trigger when the barrel is pointing at your body, you’re going to end up seriously injured or dead. There’s no room for being flippant and casual when you’re speaking for God. Before you start a sentence with the phrase, “God says this,” or “God wants that,” or “God thinks this,” you’d better be darn sure that you have God’s Authorization to make those claims about Him. And you’re not going to get that kind of clearance from God if you’re giving Him a bunch of attitude and blowing off all of the other convictions He’s giving you in life.
Because defying God has always been the more popular choice among humans, the overall quality of Divine prophecy which humans have produced has always been pretty poor. Sure, there’s always been real prophecy somewhere in the mix, but you have to push through a whole lot of false prophecies in order to find it. Because any fool can get up and say, “Thus says the Lord,” and because prophesying about the future is a guaranteed way to attract attention to yourself, prophet posers have been with us since the beginning.
In the Old Testament, Yahweh talks about prophets who were talking at the same time as His guys, and He paints a pretty detailed picture about how those prophets worked. They would often charge for their insights, and the things they prophesied were heavily influenced by their personal biases. Towards those who they didn’t like, they’d prophesy Divine curses and damnation. Towards generous tippers, false prophets would prophesy wealth and glory. Whenever ancient Israel was having a hard time, Jewish false prophets would all declare that better days were right around the corner.
When you’re a false prophet, it’s much more lucrative for you to synchronize your “visions” with the guys who are already well-established. You sound a lot more credible when you just piggyback on someone else. This is why if you’re trying to break into the world of near death experiences and make it big by claiming to have actually been to Heaven or Hell, you should make sure your personal experience of those places lines up with what the big boys and girls are already saying. If you spin their same lies, by talking about the bad smells, the graphic sights, the scary demons, and the Christians who are frying for not forking over enough cash to their leaders while they were on earth, then maybe one of the big names will back you up and then you’ll really get a boost. You see, in the world of prophecy, trusting the majority is a really bad idea. If you’re shopping for a good vacuum cleaner, the one that gets the most positive reviews is probably a good choice. But if you’re trying to find accurate prophecy, you want to look for the visions that don’t align with the popular patterns—the prophecies that aren’t making it on any bestseller list. In the world of prophecy, the product being pushed is messages from God, and God has never been One to spout a bunch of stuff that humans love to hear. When prophecies become popular, they’re popular for the wrong reasons—either because they’re appealing to human egos, aligning with popular trends, promoting carnal attitudes, or coming across like a well directed horror movie.
Today you can find scores of American prophets declaring in the Name of Jesus that America is about to embark on her golden era. Is she really? No, but when you’re an American who wants to see your own country prosper, you start telling yourself that your personal wishes are actual messages from God. If instead you’re someone who is personally fed up and disgusted with America’s hatred of God and you just can’t wait to see her get pounded, then you start telling yourself that God is the One giving you visions of New York getting nuked or of the American economy suddenly tanking. And once you have decided to repackage your own lust for revenge as a “word” from God, then you go scouring through the Bible for a verse that you can use to help sell it. Oh, look: New York City is spread out over a series of islands—she’s like “a city that sits on many waters.” In the Bible we find God prophesying disaster in several places for “a city that sits on many waters”—let’s pretend that He’s really talking about New York City in those passages. Of course He isn’t, because it’s not like modern Americans are the first people to ever see the advantage of building cities by bodies of water. But once you’re comfortable sticking God’s Name on your own unresolved hate issues, ripping verses out of context and boldface lying about what they mean is a breeze.
The critical point that we want you to be learning from this post is that the quality of Christian prophecy is affected by many different factors. First, there’s the maturity of the prophets themselves: how good are their discernment skills? Do they even understand what discernment is? Since it is God who teaches humans how to discern, and since God won’t give wisdom to humans who are constantly fighting Him, a prophet’s personal relationship with God becomes a huge factor in how helpful he or she is going to be to you as source of truth. Since you can’t see into the souls of other people, you’re very limited in how well you can assess where a prophet is personally at with God. But while you’re limited, you’re not totally without indicators. When you’re trying to assess the quality of prophets’ personal relationships with God, look at what they teach about how you should be personally relating to God. Stop being so dazzled by the fact that they’re talking about the future and look at what they’re saying about what you should be focusing on today. Are they teaching you to trust God alone in life, or are they teaching you to trust them as well? Are they even talking about the importance of honoring God in life, or are they too busy trying to get you to honor them? What kinds of soul attitudes are they encouraging you to have? Are they teaching you to stress or trust? Reverential submission to God is the basis on which your whole relationship with God is built: are the prophets you’re listening to even talking about submission? And here’s a really big one: are they ever warning you not to just accept what they say until God personally confirms the truth of their message to you?
Most prophets don’t want you to realize that you have just as much access to God as they do, or how could they pull rank on you? And yet the truth is that you do have just as much access to God, and any prophet who is really trying to honor God is going to loathe the idea of you treating him like a stand-in for God in your life. A prophet who has the right priorities should not have any qualms about raising the possibility that his predictions could be totally wrong. Even if the prophet himself is convinced that he is right, he should never be telling you to base your own confidence on his confidence, because that’s the same as telling you to put your faith in a human instead of in God Himself. Prophets who are obeying God will be driving you towards God, and frequently reminding you that He is the only One who you can trust. God exalts Himself, and He utterly scoffs at the notion that any created being could ever come close to being His equal in any way. Prophets who promote themselves as wise or try to pull rank on you by waving titles and testimonials in your face are telling you that they’re only in the prophecy business to profit off of your gullibility.
God does not sell truth to people. That’s such a critical point to understand that we need to say it again: God does not sell truth to people. Can you imagine someone coming up to Jesus and saying “Are You really God?” only to have Him say, “Give Me ten bucks and I’ll tell you”? The whole notion of charging people for access to God’s truth is beyond obnoxious, and yet today this is an extremely common practice among Christian leaders. Pastors charge you to hear them preach. Prophets charge you to hear them prophesy. Worship leaders charge you to hear them play songs which they claim to only be singing for the glory of God. And of course these “bilking the brothers in the Name of Jesus” events are heavily advertised and promoted as life-changing. You’re told that you won’t want to miss the fabulous pearls of wisdom that are being cast by Sister Shady who has such a deep love for the human race that she isn’t about to help anyone until she’s got a fully loaded wallet. Or there’s Prophet Pompous, who claims to be just bursting with shocking revelations about what God is going to do—insights which are going to drastically affect your personal future. Prophet Pompous is only holding a conference because he wants to spread the word as quickly as possible—but only to paying customers. Don’t fork over the cash, and Prophet Pompous is going to purposely leave you in the dark because—don’t you know?—God only helps people who are financially well off. Of course even if you attend his conference, Prophet Pompous will intentionally leave you hanging until you buy his groundbreaking new book, which he’s conveniently selling in the lobby for some hefty figure. See how it works? Predicting the future has always been a lucrative business, and for every lying prophet, there are scores of paying suckers who will blindly believe whatever they’re told.
Let’s go back to your friend Mark and his questionable stack of photographs. If you don’t know much about elephants, and if you really trust Mark, then he might be able to sell you on the idea that he really did see a blue elephant. Once you accept his story as true, you’re going to be quite impressed, then you’re going to go out and tell all of your friends and coworkers that blue elephants really do exist. Later on when you do some research and discover that Mark was intentionally lying to you—well, that’s going to take some work to get over.
Today we’re living many centuries after the last book of the Bible was penned. We’re living thousands of years after the days of men like Moses and Isaiah. From our vantage point, we can look back and realize that Jesus and Yahweh were telling a lot of blue elephant stories in both the Old and New Testaments. When Yahweh told the prophet Isaiah that Israel’s Messiah would rule from Jerusalem and turn Israel into a world power, Isaiah had no reason to think Yahweh was lying. For centuries the Jews eagerly awaited the arrival of a Messiah who would overthrow their oppressors and lead Israel into her golden age. Then Jesus came. Talk about a letdown. Jesus failed to fulfill many of the prophecies Yahweh gave about Him. Jesus never reigned on a throne in Jerusalem. He didn’t turn the political nation of Israel into a world power. He didn’t stop all wars everywhere. He was nothing like the Jews were expecting, and He certainly wasn’t what they wanted. But then, just as Jesus’ small band of diehard followers were trying hard not to ditch Him, He prophesied that He was going to die and leave them. Sure He’d resurrect after three days—but only to totally abandon them on earth. Knowing that His boys weren’t ready to deal with this kind of news, Jesus tossed a blue elephant story into His series of true predictions. After predicting that the Temple would fall and that the Romans would massively persecute the Jews—all things that actually did occur—Jesus said that He would return within a matter of decades.
The language Jesus used in describing what His famous Second Coming would be like is what we are basing our expectation of a Rapture on today. And yet the reality is that the whole Rapture theory is just another blue elephant. Jesus did not come back in the timeframe in which He said He would—a timeframe which is far more clear and limited than Christian leaders will admit today (see How long is a biblical generation?). The point is that there’s nothing simple about sorting out Divine prophecy. God is famous for cranking out misleading metaphors and straight up lies about what is going to happen. At the same time, He has a long history of accurately predicting epic disasters days, weeks, years, and even centuries before they occur. So does the fact that God is not always straight up with us mean we are clear to blow off anything He says? Not at all. God keeps us on our toes. When He starts prophesying, we need to listen, and then we need to ask Him to show us how He wants us to respond to the things we are hearing. Is He really the Source of the prophecy we’re hearing or is the human prophet delusional? If God is the Source, should we be taking Him literally or metaphorically? When Yahweh prophesied about a worldwide flood, He was being literal, not metaphorical. What happened to the people who blew God off and not give any serious thought to what He was saying? They died frightening deaths and most of them ended up on the wrong side of eternity.
When Yahweh prophesied about Israel falling to the Babylonian and Assyrian Empires, He mixed literal descriptions of what would happen with metaphorical imagery that helped people understand how terrifying the events would be. In the end, Israel was sacked just as Yahweh said she would be, and those who refused to listen to His many warnings were caught spiritually unprepared.
When Jesus prophesied about His coming crucifixion and resurrection three days later, He was very literal: providing many graphic details of what He would experience. Because His boys found the subject matter upsetting, they wouldn’t listen to what Jesus was saying, and as a result, they had a much harder time dealing with His death.
When Yahweh and Jesus prophesied about the fall of Rome in Revelation, They used a ton of metaphorical imagery. In real life, Rome was not going to fall in the lifetimes of the Jews who Revelation is speaking to, but the metaphorical imagery taught many important lessons to those who were willing to listen.
There’s always something useful we can learn when God speaks, no matter what style He is using. But if we’re going to learn the right lessons and not miss critical warnings, then we must each be looking to Him directly for guidance in how we ought to apply what He’s saying. Christian or not, God will give you all of the information and resources you need to succeed with Him if you sincerely care about pleasing Him.
When we look over the prophecies God gave in the past, we find a pattern of Him speaking up with warnings and guidance before He does something that He knows humans will find shocking. The greater and closer the approaching calamity, the more guidance God tends to give. He certainly doesn’t have to give us a heads up about what He’s planning to do, but He does, because He’s nice like that.
The end times mark a unique period of human history: a last window of opportunity for us to make spiritual choices which will greatly impact our eternal futures. God could remain silent on the topic and leave us all to scramble about in terror and confusion. But instead, He is sharing a generous amount of information and identifying ahead of time what the most challenging aspects of this period will be for dots like us. As our Creator, God knows how we think and what assumptions we are prone to making. The purpose of all of the end time information we post is to help you spiritually thrive in the midst of circumstantial chaos by having a correct understanding of what is happening and keeping your focus on the priorities that God wants you to have. Naturally we’re going to say that we’re getting our information from God, but by now you should understand that such a claim isn’t good enough for you to just put your faith in what we say. There’s nothing straightforward about interpreting Divine prophecy, and since you don’t know how accurate our interpretations are, you need to go directly to God for guidance. Should you consider anything we say as credible, or should you just write us off as fruit loops? Only God can tell you. But you do need to ask Him, because until He tells you to ignore us, you could be blowing off warnings about the next worldwide disaster, and that’s something you really don’t want to go into spiritually unprepared.
Can a prophet of God read your mind?
Defining THE WORD OF GOD: Its Biblical & Modern Day Meanings
Navigating the End Times Without the Bible: Yes, It Can Be Done
Understanding the Purpose of Terror in the End Times
Learning to Recognize God’s Voice: Seven Principles
Ezekiel 13-14: Yahweh Condemns False Prophets
The Prophetic Books of the Bible: Who’s Talking?
Preparing for the End Times: Interacting with God’s Prophet
Identifying False Prophecy About the End Times