By Joseph Mattera
There has been much written about the office and function of prophet in the past three decades. In this article I will be writing regarding my own experience in understanding what the Bible says about the prophetic ministry, and I will attempt to connect this to today’s world.
First of all, by prophet I am not referring to a person who exercises the gift of prophecy as taught in 1 Corinthians 14:2-4 (consisting of general exhortations, comfort and consolation, which everyone in the church is encouraged to do; read 1 Corinthians 14:39). I am also not referring to a person preaching a sermon to a congregation. I am speaking about a person who, through much prayer, travail, and meditation in the scriptures, regularly stands in the council and heavenly assembly of God (with the angels and other messengers of God’s court) to hear what the Spirit is saying, so that the mind and heart of God can be communicated to the church and nation. Examples of a prophet standing in the council and/or court of the living God to hear His word are found in Isaiah 6:1-9; Ezekiel 1-3,10; Jeremiah 15:19; extraordinary examples of this can be found in the New Testament with the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:1-12 and the Apostle John in Revelation 1:9-20 and 4:1-2.
Jeremiah 23:16-22 shows that the main distinction between false and true prophets is that false prophets speak without being in the council of the Lord and, hence, utter words without ever being sent by God.
David Chilton says the following about prophets in his book The Days of Vengeance:
“The prophets not only observed the deliberations of the heavenly Council (cf. 1 Kings 22:19-22); they actually participated in them. Indeed, the Lord did nothing without consulting His prophets (Amos 3:7). This is why the characteristic activity of the Biblical prophet is intercession and mediation (cf. Gen. 18:16-33; 20:7, the first occurrence of the word prophet in Scripture). As members of the Council the prophets have freedom of speech with God, and are able to argue with Him, often persuading Him to change His mind (cf. Ex. 32:7-14; Amos 7:1-6). They are His friends, and so He speaks openly with them (Gen. 18:17; Ex. 33:11; 2 Chron. 20:7; Isa. 41:8; John 15:15). As images of fully redeemed Man, the prophets shared in God’s glory, exercising dominion over the nations (cf. Jer. 1:10; 28:8), having been transfigured ethically (cf. Isa. 6:5-8) and physically (cf. Ex. 34:29). They thus resembled the angels of heaven, and so it is not surprising that the term angel (Heb. mal’ak, Greek angelos) is used to describe the Biblical prophet (cf. 2 Chron. 36:15-16; Hag. 1:13; Mai. 3:1; Matt. 11:10; 24:31; Luke 7:24; 9:52)” (page 82).
So how do those standing in the office of prophet function in today’s world?
First of all, prophets are people who regularly engage in deep intercession and travail for the purposes of God to be fulfilled on the earth. Whenever a person is in true Spirit-led travail of soul, they are literally standing in the council of God—participating and pleading with God to have His way on the earth. A person who has no such deep experience with God will probably only be able to move in the simple gift of prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:2-4) and not function in the office of prophet for the nation or church.
Second of all, true prophets take what they hear from God in the heavenly courts and pray or pronounce the will of God by faith, so that His will is done and His kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven (Luke 11:2). When it is spoken in prayer, they are pronouncing divinely inspired orders from God that are then transmitted from the throne room to the angelic beings (both good and bad) who serve as the spiritual archetypes that influence the earth realm (read Matthew 18:18-19; Ephesians 3:10).
Third, prophets can also be preachers who don’t only come with prepared sermons based on human wisdom of words but speak a specific word to the church and/or people that they heard from God in the heavenly courts. This kind of preaching transforms individuals and congregations because the force and authority of the Holy Spirit is behind it, and is manifest as arhema word (Hebrews 4:11-13).
Fourth, prophets have a deep thirst to be in the presence of God and meditate on the word of God so they can actually engage God in the scriptures while God burns His searing hot truth and light into their being! This in turn enables the prophet to understand how to apply the word of God to the people or situation he or she is confronting, counseling or speaking into.
Fifth, prophets have an understanding of the times in which they live (1 Chron. 12:32). Through both natural knowledge (from reading newspapers, books, and interaction with high-level societal leaders) and spiritual knowledge (when in prayer or fellowship with God) they are able to take the natural knowledge they have assimilated and present it with clarity, divine accuracy and power! Thus prophets not only read the Bible but also keep up with current events so they can apply the word to contemporary situations.
Sixth, prophets always have a window open to God in their souls, resulting in them regularly moving in words of knowledge, words of wisdom, discerning of spirits and prophecy, even when they are not engaged or totally focused in an act of prayer or in a church service or setting. Thus they are always in fellowship with the person and presence of God and are able to hear what He is saying at a moment’s notice, even in the midst of their mundane, daily activities.
A close friend of mine serves as an extraordinary example of this. Once while he was walking in an airport terminal, he felt an impression to give a word of guidance to a total stranger, who was at that moment praying in his heart for divine guidance. The result of this prophetic word was confirmation for Pastor Jonathan Cahn to write the New York Times bestselling book The Harbinger. (You can read Steven Strang’s account of this by clicking here.)
I have often operated in this gift, but many times the person I am speaking to doesn’t know it because my words come in the context of a regular conversation, yet with significant results. (I can give many examples of this but do not have space in this article.)
An examination in the gospels shows that Jesus regularly moved in words of knowledge as part of His evangelistic and prophetic ministry, to confirm His word to those He was speaking to (read John 4; Mark 2:8-10; 3:1-7).
Seventh, prophets do not have to be pastors or preachers, but can be marketplace leaders who function with a high degree of intimacy with God and use it in a profound way to engage culture and affect change in the lives of those they are working with. For example, read the prophet Daniel chapters 2, 4, 5 and the account of Joseph in Genesis chapters 40 and 41. These are two men who had secular jobs but utilized their prophetic callings to transform nations and empires!
Also, my prophetic friend mentioned in the previous point is not a full-time preacher but an accountant!
Eighth, prophets walk in the royal favor of God. Somehow they are usually at the right place and the right time! Thus, God is always providentially opening up doors for them or guiding them, even when they are not aware of it!
Ninth, prophets are able to divinely interpret the redemptive reasons for the suffering, pain, and seasons of life that people experience. They are able to give profound words of advice that can transform a life, answer a prayer, bring clarity to an enigma, or help a person discover their purpose, just with a short conversation, prayer or prophetic word. Whole books of the Bible like Isaiah, Jeremiah and Amos illustrate the power of prophets who are able to interpret the times and the seasons for the people and nation they live among.
Tenth, prophets are called to represent God to a people or nation and bring a covenant lawsuit to them (Micah 3:8). The word witness was originally a legal term regarding a person that was an aide to a person bringing a lawsuit, even to the point of being part of the legal process that involved execution! Thus, prophets who stand in the heavenly council as witnesses of the Lord not only hear God’s will regarding a people or nation but can actually be part of the process that brings judgment to that person or people group.
Biblical examples of this include Elijah in 1 Kings 17:1, when the prophet declared to King Ahab that Israel would have a drought until his word released rain; Peter in Acts 5, when he pronounced judgment upon Ananias and Sapphira for lying; Paul in Acts 13, when he blinded Elymas the sorcerer for obstructing the gospel; and John in Revelation 1:3, when he bore witness to the words of Christ that resulted in bringing judgment on false Israel and the pagan systems of the world that Israel was in cahoots with.
Finally, most importantly, prophets have learned that those who are friends with politicians and wealthy people are a dime a dozen. But those who are intimate with God are very few on the earth! The most important function for a true prophet is to be a friend of God who knows God and speaks to Him face-to-face as a man speaks to his friend (Deuteronomy 34:10; John 15:15).###
Joseph Mattera has been in full-time ministry since 1980 and is currently the Presiding Bishop of Christ Covenant Coalition and Overseeing Bishop of Resurrection Church in New York, a multiethnic congregation of 40 nationalities that has successfully developed numerous leaders and holistic ministry in the New York region and beyond. Visit his website at: http://josephmattera.org.
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