How Supernatural is Prophecy?

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Because of Moses’ speech impediment, Aaron became his spokesperson. God told Moses, “You shall speak to him, and put the words in his mouth,” (Exodus 4:15). The Lord later described this relationship between Moses as Aaron as being like the relationship between God and a true prophet (Exodus 7:1). So, as defined by the Bible, in genuine prophecy what is spoken has its source in God, just as what Balaam’s ass said, had it source in God (Numbers 22:28).

Genuine prophecy is speaking with such a high degree of divine inspiration that, without even alluding to Scripture, one can say with divine approval about what at the time is a current situation or a future one, “Thus says the Lord.” Without hardly trying, I’ve found thirty different prophets in the Bible using this expression.

Of course, there is no way that true prophets know everything. When they are prophesying, however, the God who knows everything is speaking. So what is said in a prophecy could easily contain information known only to the omniscient Lord. This is why we see in Scripture such things as:

    * When Saul could not find his father’s lost donkeys, he went to Samuel, thinking it likely that the prophet would be able to tell them (1 Samuel 9:5-6). Samuel did, indeed reveal this, but as God’s spokesman he revealed things of even more importance, of which Saul had known nothing (1 Samuel 9:15-16, 20).

    * During war, Elisha repeatedly informed his king of their enemy’s secret strategies (2 Kings 6:10-12).

    * When Jesus told the woman at the well things about her past that she knew that no normal stranger could have known, her immediate response was “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet,” (John 4:19).

    * Mocking soldiers blindfolded Jesus, saying, “Prophesy! Who is the one who struck you?” (Luke 22:64). Godless soldiers were not asking for a sermon! It would take supernatural revelation for a blindfolded person to do what they demanded. That would prove his ability to prophecy.

    * New Testament prophet, Agabas, prophesied of the coming of a famine (Acts 11:28) and, later, what would happen to Paul:

      Acts 21:11  . . . taking Paul’s belt, he bound his own feet and hands, and said, “The Holy Spirit says: ‘So the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt, and will deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’ ” (Emphasis mine.)

Even if a prophecy is astonishingly accurate, however, it might still be false (Scriptures). It must be consistent with the Bible and have originated in the heart of God.

That the act of prophesying might be an overwhelming experience is perhaps hinted at here:

    Numbers 11:25 The Lord came down in the cloud . . . and took of the Spirit that was on him [Moses], and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they did so no more.

But it is made clear here:

    1 Samuel 19:20-24 Saul sent messengers to seize David: and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying . . . God’s Spirit came on Saul’s messengers, and they also prophesied. When Saul was told, he sent other messengers, and they also prophesied. Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they also prophesied. Then he also went to . . . Naioth in Ramah. Then God’s Spirit came on him also . . . He also stripped off his clothes, and he also prophesied before Samuel, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Therefore they say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”

This, however, was a peculiar situation that needs to be balanced by 1 Corinthians 14:32: “The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets”.

When prophesying, the source of not the human intellect – not even Bible study – but heavenly revelation. Not surprisingly then, in stark contrast to Bible teaching or preaching, both New Testament prophecy and Old Testament prophecy, was associated with dreams and visions:

    Acts 2:17-18  . . . I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.
    Your sons and your daughters will prophesy.
    Your young men will see visions.
    Your old men will dream dreams.
    Yes, and on my servants and on my handmaidens in those days,
    I will pour out my Spirit, and they will prophesy.

Clearly, this is not the product of going to Bible school, but of a transformational spiritual experience.

The quote is an example of Hebrew poetry, a common feature of which is for a line to echo the meaning of a previous line. Here, dreams and visions are clearly linked with prophecy and are used as virtual synonyms for prophecy. In prose, it is saying that everyone, regardless of age or sex, will manifest prophetic revelations through the outpouring of the God’s Spirit.

This is, of course, about the New Testament gift. The role of visions in New Testament prophecies is spectacularly confirmed in Revelation, which is essentially one continuous vision (e.g. Revelation 1:12-16, 19; 7:1; 9:17).

Clear, Old Testament proof of the connection is found here:

    Numbers 12:6  . . . If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, will make myself known to him in a vision. I will speak with him in a dream.

    Hosea 12:10 I have also spoken to the prophets, and I have multiplied visions; and by the ministry of the prophets I have used parables.

Old Testament prophecies were so frequently associated with visions and dreams (and interpretation of dreams) that a full list is too extensive for me to bother with. For a quick glimpse, see Throughout the Old Testament. Without attempting anything exhaustive, it lists thirteen genuine Old Testament prophets who had visions or dreams. Even false prophets had, or claimed to have, dreams and visions (e.g. Deuteronomy 13:1-5; Jeremiah 14:14; 23:16; Ezekiel 12:24; Zechariah 10:2; 13:4).

So much was the genuine gift of prophecy not the product of the intellect, that prophets sometimes initially had no clue of the meaning of what they were seeing/saying:

    1 Peter 1:10-12 Concerning this salvation, the prophets sought and searched diligently. They prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching for who or what kind of time the Spirit of Christ, which was in them, pointed to . . . To them it was revealed, that they served not themselves, but you, in these things . . . which things angels desire to look into.

    Daniel 7:15-16 As for me, Daniel, my spirit was grieved within my body, and the visions of my head troubled me. I came near to one of those who stood by, and asked him the truth concerning all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things.

    Daniel 8:15-16 When I, even I Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it. Then behold, there stood before me something like the appearance of a man. I heard a man’s voice . . . which called, and said, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.”



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