He gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-12 (NASB)
Can prophets predict the future? Yes!
There are 300 prophecies in the Old Testament about the first coming of Jesus, given years before Jesus, and then literally fulfilled. Example: Jesus born in Bethlehem, predicted in Micah 5:2 over 700 years before Jesus was born.
There are 600 prophecies about the second coming of Jesus in the entire Bible. Example: Israel becoming a nation again after foundering in oblivion, predicted in Ezekiel 36:8-12. A prophecy sitting dormant in the Bible for over 2,600 years and suddenly fulfilled in 1948.
How about prophecy today?
I have listened to those with a prophetic gifting have very specific words that were fulfilled. Personally, years ago, a prophet put a coat over my head and said, “As you are hidden today, when you grow older, this coat shall be gradually removed, and you will become increasingly visible to the nations.”
Since that prophecy, I have travelled 90 times to different nations. Opportunities for Interruptions and for Zoom conferences involving First Steps in Russia and Asia continue to increase – even in 2021.
But when someone prophesies, he speaks to encourage people, to build them up, and to bring them comfort. 1 Corinthians 14:3 (TPT)
There is a difference in the tonal quality of prophets in the Old Testament compared with today. In the Old Testament, they could be predictive to specific events and often focused on judgment for the sins of Israel.
In the New Testament, prophecy can’t be focused on judgment for Israel (as it was destroyed in 70 AD and only recently restored). They can be predictive, but mostly trend toward what the Apostle Paul writes about prophecy for encouragement, building up, and bringing comfort.
A difference in tonal quality!
My observation: When prophets today are specific about individuals whether to actual events or insightful encouragement, they are often right. When prophets today get predictive about political or actual geographical events, be careful and use caution!
There is a difference in how a true prophet in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament is discerned.
Old Testament, very simple, if you predicted an event and it didn’t come true, you were a false prophet. Old Testament prophets could receive a death sentence if they prophesied about another God other than Yahweh or predicted an event that did not come true (Deuteronomy 13:1-5 & 18:20-22).
Death for inaccurate prophecies!? I imagine those claiming the gift of prophecy today are glad they are not held to the Old Testament standards.
The New Testament has grace for prophets. Prophets can learn, be inaccurate, grow from mistakes, and get better in accordance with their commission of “encouragement, building up, and edification.”
All spiritual gifts in the New Testament have maturing and increase embedded. I have the gift of teaching, but I couldn’t write Interruptions 40 years ago!
New Testament prophecy is like learning to ride a bicycle. You fall off, realize what you did wrong, and get back on the bike. Someone once told me that it’s the same with a horse; I’m glad that I ride a bicycle for exercise!
Prophecy today goes seriously wrong when the prophet falls off the bike (or the horse) and won’t admit the error. It doesn’t bother me that a prophet fails, as it didn’t overly concern me when I saw my grandson fall off a bike last summer.
Yes, I winced, but then told him that the trickle of blood on his knee would heal. And I’m excited that he progressed to an electric motorcycle as a Christmas gift this year.
Prophets with wrong predictions need to ask for grace and hone their gift. And stop lying on the ground with a bruised ego refusing to admit the error.
Where are the Old Testament guidelines when we need them?