What is Biblical prophesy, and who is it for?
This is going to be a somewhat difficult question to answer. The reason is, biblical prophesy is not just one thing, neither are biblical prophets.
First of all, the scriptures themselves are considered prophesy. 2 Peter 1:20-21 (NASB) says, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14:3 (NASB), “But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation.” In the Old Testament prophets were those who would tell of things to come or of God’s judgements. To add to this, prophets themselves all looked different, acted different, prophesied different, and lived different. In fact, God even used a donkey and a disembodied hand to prophesy!
To make it simpler though I guess I would say this: prophesy is something that is inspired by God and delivered for the point of producing something that God desires to get done or sending a message He wants sent. It is not simply telling the future but may be direction on what to do in a situation. In fact, prophesy doesn’t have to even be words! Sometimes it may be words of encouragement, sometimes it may be direction or correction through a person or event, and sometimes it is reading what is written, inspired of God (His Word), and having it change your understanding or path. Prophecy can even be actions. It can be for believers and at times it can be for unbelievers, and it can come through believers and sometimes through unbelievers. I would say even more simply, prophesy is God speaking to humanity and the prophet is who or what He uses to speak through.
Much of our understanding of prophecy seems to come through culture. Actually, much of people’s Biblical understanding or their “knowledge” of God, the devil, and angels is more culturally based than biblically based. I once had a discussion with someone who was raised rather harshly in a certain denomination. This person said to me, “Well, doesn’t the Bible say this or that?” I was like the Bible never says anything remotely close to that! They were shocked, but see this false understanding of scripture really caused them to see God in a poor light. I cannot express to people how much I have run across this very issue. This is why I almost incessantly say, “I want to know what the Scripture is saying, not what a man has to say about it!” We have to be people that so highly value the Word, that nothing else can penetrate it.
Now you may be wondering, “What does this have to do with prophecy?” Everything! The only way to judge whether or not prophecy is true and accurate, is if it aligns with Scripture. Not man’s ideas of Scripture but the actual intent of Scripture. I love these following verses, because they keep me grounded in so many things. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 (NIV) instructs us, “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good.” Boom! There it is! This was not written to ministers only, this was written to the believers. We all, having the Holy Spirit, are given the requirement to put to the test the things which we hear. That is not license to be critical but license to think critically!
There is a lot more that could be said, I think that this is a good topic for deeper discussion. What I’ve written is only an introduction to these things and let me be clear, I am not an authority on prophecy. I only know what I’ve studied and what God has shown me. As with all things of God, the potential knowledge is much more vast than we can comprehend. We should continue to seek His truth seriously, not being combative, but in earnest and hopeful pursuit of understanding.