Over the last few months, we’ve been looking at the prophetic gift and noticing the need for a renewal in this vital ministry. In a sense, we are asking the Lord to reset us to the original “factory settings” that marked the first release of the revelatory gifts right in the Book of Acts.
We’ve looked at the importance of love, and recognized we need to love prophecy, God’s truth, God’s Church, and those who prophesy. We’ve also looked at the uber-important distinction between Old and New Testament prophecy which means there is a major difference for how prophets function in the New. Our third post addressed the essential, but so often missing, need for biblical discernment to partner with prophecy and with that, the reality that our sense of resonance with a word is not enough.
Now, here in our final blog of this series, I’m going to write about the two biblical plumb lines that guide us and assist us in identifying authentic prophecy; that which comes from the Spirit of God. This teaching is actually a very abbreviated version of two much more in-depth articles that are a part of the Learning to Discern course. If you are looking for more, you can certainly access those by subscribing to Come Aside. This would be especially helpful if you want to be equipped to teach others to grow in discernment.
OUR TWO PLUMB LINES
Rev 19:10 “ The spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus”
1 Cor 14:3 “…But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging, and comfort.”
The Revelation 19:10 plumb line is the vertical one that aligns us with Jesus. It pointedly tells us that the spirit of prophecy, or if we were to say it another way —the essential essence of prophecy, or the DNA of prophecy if you like— is the testimony of Jesus.
Now, what is the testimony of Jesus?
This was a phrase used in the Apostle John’s writings as a synonym for the gospel. What the early Church was testifying to was that Jesus had been raised from the dead and this was proof that he was indeed the Messiah and the Son of God.
But they understood the gospel was of course more than the resurrection, it was who Jesus is, what he taught, his works, his life, his death, and his promise to return. For them the gospel didn’t just reveal God’s plan for salvation and secure their place in heaven, it revealed how to live this new life in glorious union with him (and each other).
This is what the angel is saying to John: true prophecy must be in complete harmony with the gospel. It must be cut from the same cloth.
Now you might gloss over at this point and say, “sure, I get it, I’ve always known that prophecy needed to align with scripture, no need to belabor this point.” But wait.
What I’m saying is different, this vertical plumb line requires prophecy to authentically align with the historical, biblical gospel of Jesus Christ, not with any of the current variations of the gospel that have arisen in these days. We have self-help, celebrity-idolizing, cross-avoiding “gospels” which are so different from the gospel that the apostles preached and died for. Another important point is that it’s the whole gospel that prophecy needs to align with, not just a solitary verse plucked from its context.
It also means that true prophecy will bear the same fruit that the gospel does and this leads us into considering the second plumb line; the horizontal one.
THE HORIZONTAL PLUMB LINE
The horizontal plumb line of 1 Cor 14:3 maps out for us the impact that true prophecy will have on the church or the individual. It will be to us the grace of God, encouraging, strengthening, or comforting— depending on our need. However, in the same way that we needed to understand what the testimony of Jesus means biblically, we also need to understand what God considers encouragement, strengthening, or comfort. It’s likely different than what we expect. For many of us, especially those that are Canadians, we might think this means that prophecy should be nice, it should say things we want to hear, because after all —that would encourage us.
However, Jesus is going after more than an emotional lift. He’s looking to authentically and deeply encourage, strengthen, and comfort, and so at times he rebukes, corrects, calls us to die to our flesh, and to put all our trust in him. This is the gospel, it’s the only way to actually have abundant life; to have a life in union with him. Plastering happy face stickers over everything isn’t his way, he goes after truth in the inward parts and brings us close to him by bringing us through the cross. The cross is where we find true transformation, peace, and freedom. So a true prophetic word may lovingly rebuke us or it may reveal there is suffering in the path ahead, but even if it does—as it does— it will woo us to trust and love Jesus all the more.
If you are hearing prophetic words in this hour that merely forecast what’s in the coming days yet they don’t point you towards Christ, implicitly or explicitly inviting you to love and trust him more, I’d consider setting these aside. We are all weary with the difficulty of these days and hungry for accurate revelations of the future— when will this change and what will it look like when it does? But friends be careful, the temptation in the beginning that the Devil enticed Eve with, was to be empowered with knowledge so that she could stand independently and not have to dependently, trust in God.
“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (words of Satan in Gen 3:5)
Knowledge is good, but our desire to know the future can come from a discomfort with having to trust God with the unknown.
If the Lord shows us what’s coming, wonderful, but instead of orienting everything toward this, let’s make knowing Jesus and his gospel our focus. Let’s instead pray for more prophetic words to be given to the Body which reveal Jesus’s heart, his priorities, and what he’s doing in these challenging days.
May the Lord give us a Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ, seeing him revealed as he builds his Church, seeks and saves the lost, and ultimately, fills the whole earth with his glory (Mt 16:18, Lu 19:10, Num 14:21).
By Sara Maynard