The Gift of Prophecy – Fact or Fiction?

April 10, 2024

Our world is filled with self-pronouncements from individuals who claim the role and title of prophet or prophetess. But, are these assertions authentic? How does one know the genuineness and validity of such claims?

Examination of a prophet’s authenticity is necessary because Satan, the enemy of God and father of lies (John 8:44), seeks to use prophets as tools to deceive humanity in these final days of Earth’s history given God’s desire to utilize the gift of prophecy for the growth and edification of His people (1 Corinthians 12:4-11; Ephesians 4:12, 13). To be sure that we know the legitimacy of true prophets, coupled with refuting Satan’s falsehoods, it is necessary that we apply the biblical tests of a prophet to validate a professed prophet’s attributes in harmony with the word of God.

In his work, A Prophet Among You, T. Housel Jemison, shared the following four biblical tests of a true prophet that should be applied to any professed prophet. First, the prophet’s message must agree with the Bible. Isaiah 8:20 (KJV) says, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” True prophets of God are never verbally in contradiction with God’s word.

Second, the prophet’s message must come to pass. Flippant, errant or inaccurate messages are not characteristic of a true prophet. “The prophet which prophesieth of peace, when the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that the Lord hath truly sent him.” Jeremiah 28:9 (KJV). 

Third, the prophet’s life should be in agreement with the Bible and bear good fruit. One’s example and influence to others should attest to a life in harmony with God. In short, “one must walk the walk, and not just talk the talk. Jesus said in Matthew 7:15-17, 20 (KJV), “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. . . Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” 

Fourth, the prophet must confess that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is both our Lord and Savior and lived on this earth. Jesus’ life exemplifies two natures harmonized, divinity and humanity, but never completely blended. 1 John 4:1-2 (KJV) says, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God.”

The Bible is clear that the prophetic gift is relevant for us today as proper utilization of this gift, along with other gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4-11), is needed until “we all come in the unity of the faith.” Ephesians 4:12, 13 (KJV). I thank God that I’m a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church which believes that “the gift of prophecy is an identifying mark of God’s remnant church and was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G. White,” as stated in Seventh-day Adventists Believe. Her writings, “while not a substitute for Scripture,” or on the same level of Scripture, “are a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction for the church.” With the emergence of many self-proclaimed prophets (Matthew 24:11), coupled with the question of fact versus fiction, we praise God for the gift of prophecy, and the biblical tests of a prophet in order that we might hear God’s message of truth for us. 

By Carlton P. Byrd, D.Min.