Here are various writer's sermons and materials on the New Testament
Gift of Prophecy...AND the Office of Prophet Old-New Testament...
Prophetic Call-The Office: by Art Katz a mirror of http://www.benisrael.org
Art Katz Biographical Interview
Picture of a Prophet: Leonard Ravenhill
The Prophetic Role of the Church: by Howard Snyder
God's Prophetic Ministry Through Prophets A.R. Copeland
“If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.” Rom. 12:6.
“If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.” I Peter 4:11
1. A need to express his message verbally.
2. The ability to discern the character and motives of people.
3. The capacity to identify, define and hate evil.
4. The willingness to experience brokenness to prompt brokenness.
5. The dependence on Scriptural truth to validate his authority.
6. A desire for outward evidences to demonstrate inward conviction.
7. A directness, frankness and persuasiveness in speaking.
8. A concern for the reputation and program of God.
9. An inward weeping and personal identification with the sins of those he talks with.
10. An eagerness to have others point out their blindspot.
1. Frankness may be viewed as harshness.
2. Interest in groups may be interpreted as disinterest in individuals.
3. Efforts to gain results may be seen as using gimmicks.
4. Focus on right and wrong may be judged as intolerance of partial good.
5. Emphasis on decisions may appear as neglecting spiritual growth.
6. Public boldness and strict standards may hinder intimate personal relationships.
7. The strong desire to convey truth may be interpreted as little interest in listening to another person’s point of view.
Spirit of Prophecy:
An Examination of the Prophetic Call and the Office of Prophet-abridged version of The Prophetic Call by Art Katz
The Prophetic Call-unabridged
The Prophetic Function
The quintessential function of the prophetic call is given to Jeremiah at the inception of his ministry:
Then the LORD stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me, "Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant" (Jer. 1:9-10).
In this statement, the first expression of the prophetic calling is judgment. Unless we have a stomach for that, we will not be allowed the privilege of the word that builds and plants. Note the order of the words: the hardest thing first. Everything that is painful to the flesh and that will earn for us the displeasure of men must first be addressed. The prophet is called to pluck up and break down the things that are dear to men. This includes their religious traditions, the false things that they have celebrated for generations and the things that they want to cling to because it has to do with their identity, their dignity and the way in which they even see themselves. Men will kill for this, and yet the prophet has got to tear down and destroy. And the things that are false will be contended for fiercely! His word then is destructive before it is benevolent. Unless we are willing to speak the destructive word, we will never be used for benevolence. The prophets who were faithful to speak the word of exile and judgment were also the ones likewise who were given the privilege of speaking the creative word of restoration and return.
A prophet identifies falsity and ruthlessly destroys it. There is something about his word that is like a fire. It is plucking up, rooting out and destroying before it is planting and rebuilding. Who wants to hear men like that? Prophets not only bring things into question; they absolutely reduce it to rubble before your eyes. For you to pick it up after that is to touch the unclean thing. They have identified it, and now you are stuck with that word. It is little wonder that such men are not welcome in places where people want to continue their mode of lifestyle unchallenged.
A prophet critiques and unsparingly lays bare, without fear or regard of man, the lie or even ‘conventional’ truth, that is to say, the assumed, mindless, uncontested premises that constitute death in the life of the hearer. He reveals the lie and blows the whistle. That lie may well be the lies of the false prophets. The whole world is predicated on lies, but how shall it know unless a word of truth comes. If that word is to come, then it is to come from one who is totally without fear of man. We all know that the fear of man is the most powerful and crippling factor that works in the lives of God’s ministers. To be free of that and to speak without regard to the fear of man is an ultimate statement that implies such a history of God’s dealing with that servant. We are all born with the fear of man. We live for the regard of man, for their acknowledgment and for their applause. Men love the acknowledgments of men, particularly prestigious men, but we have got to be weaned away from that necessity. It is a process; it does not take place in a day. Every time that God brings us to that place of weaning, we have got to submit to it. We need to come to the place where we are not only indifferent to the applause of men, but also to their biting criticisms and reproaches. A prophet requires, therefore, an extraordinary discernment to critique and an analytical ability that has been honed by the Spirit.
The prophet’s own lifestyle must itself, therefore, be a repudiation of the lie. We cannot expose false values if we ourselves are subscribing to them. There is something about apostolic and prophetic poverty that is more than an accident or happenstance. It is appropriate to the authenticity of our union with God. Camel’s hair garments and the eating of locusts are symbolically intrinsic to the prophetic life. There is a reason why John the Baptist was in the wilderness and not in Jerusalem, though he was the son of a priest. He could not be where the Establishment was. He could not enjoy its benefits and at the same time expose the falsity of it. We cannot in our own lifestyle indulge in the very thing that we are condemning before others. Lifestyle is, therefore, remarkably important with regard to the word that is to be proclaimed, and probably nothing more betrays whether you are a true or false prophet than this. The false prophets ate from Jezebel’s table. Elijah had to be fed by ravens and live by the side of a brook. It is not that one seeks to wear a camel’s hair garment because it is romantic or that you have to dress in such a way that marks you as being distinctive and different. Rather, the values that are false cannot have a place in us. A prophet is called to reveal the lie, the underlying premises that need to be examined in the light of God about values, about life and its purposes. Our own lifestyle must therefore be a repudiation of that lie, even though society and a carnal church sanctions it. A prophet’s speaking not only reveals the lie but also condemns and judges it. His word, as his life itself, is a divine destruct.
When Elijah said, "There shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word (1 Kings 17:1b)," he was not intimating that there would be a slight difference in Israel’s weather pattern. It meant that they were not going to have crops. They were not going to eat. They were going to experience a famine. It was going to be a judgment from God, and it was to come through the speaking of Elijah’s word. His word was not just a piece of information or an opinion, however much it may be that, but rather it was the event of judgment. It would actually affect the whole nation. It is this kind of word that needs to be revived and restored.
The prophet’s task is to establish an apostolic and heavenly alternative that is powerful and valid enough to utterly displace the lie. He presents a view of reality not yet existent, contrary in every point and particular to that which is thought to be ‘real’ and for which there is no precedent or model in the experience of the hearer. He brings a reality that obliterates the kind of validation and endorsement that the world’s values have had upon his hearers up to that time. If he had not come, they would have thought that what they were celebrating was real. When the prophet comes, however, he is not only blowing the whistle on what is false, he brings a compelling sense of what is true and what is eternally true. He brings the sense of eternity itself and inducts the hearer into it. By his speaking, he sets in motion and brings his audience to a place where what was superficially dismissed as ‘false’ becomes true. The word becomes creative and establishes the resonance of something not understood before—something that is ultimate and eternal. To pierce through the false and raise another kind of a standard and make that the foundation of life is an extraordinary kind of proclamation.
To add to that, those who embrace the perspective, which the prophet is setting forth as the alternative to the lie, condemn themselves to being pilgrims and sojourners in the earth. If they are going to receive a prophetic word like this that calls them to the same heavenly vision in which Abraham walked, then there will be real, if not radical, consequence for their lives. The word, therefore, that comes to the hearers has got to come with such a power, authority and credibility that those who embrace it know that they are in effect signing their death warrants. No one is going to sign that lightly who has not been persuaded by a word that invites that kind of consecration. Only a prophet, a foundational man, can bring the word of that kind. He calls for something of ultimate consecration on the part of the hearer—unto death. That is why false prophets are more invited and listened to than the true. The false prophet affirms the hearers in their present condition and assures them that they are ‘well-pleasing’ in the sight of God.
The prophet’s purpose is singly and jealously the Father’s will. He restores lost vision of a kind that energizes the people of God, especially in crisis times, when despair needs to be turned to hope—having initially been stripped of false hopes by the prophet himself. He does not balk at having to be cruel before he can be kind. In a word, the prophet brings the ‘moment of truth.’ Standing in the council of the Lord, he is able to perceive error and state boldly and unequivocally the requisite truth though it be utterly at variance with the consensus being demonstrated.
The prophetic task is to restore to men who have lost it or have never had it, the biblical mindset and the biblical view of things that are unchanging in God’s sight. He conveys the radical view of God, particularly to a people who are unwilling to hear it. If the prophetic word is critical to bringing an alignment of God’s people with God’s own view, then the kind of word that is brought by the prophets is the ultimate issue. Where there are authentic prophets who are willing to bring the unwelcome word, so will there also be a plenitude of popular false prophets who bring the false word of comfort and who say, "Peace, peace" when there is no peace.
Out of a consummate jealousy for the glory of God, the prophet sets forth the ultimate purposes of God in such a way as to obtain the sacrifices of his hearers to fulfill it. It is not enough just to set forth what God’s program is, but to set it forth in such a way that he has won the willingness of the hearers to be participant in obtaining the ultimate and eternal purposes of God—at sacrifice! The prophetic word communicates the eternal purposes of God in such a way as to win the commitment of his hearers to that sacrifice necessary to fulfill them. That takes more than mere explanation. The prophet himself epitomizes the suffering that such an adherence evokes. In other words, those who are going to embrace the view that he is presenting are opening themselves to suffering. The prophet, therefore, who is inviting them to that suffering has himself in some unaware sense to exhibit it and give the evidence that this is God’s way, and that this Cross is central to the faith. He makes clear to his hearers that persecution, if not martyrdom, is intrinsic to a faith of this kind—and wins their willingness. To win the hearer’s consecration to that call is an extraordinary stroke that requires the authority and anointing of those who bear His word. It is a call to ultimate and sacrificial things, and that is why that kind of a word will always be resisted.
The prophet announces and projects the impending end of this world in apocalyptic fury and judgment, sufficient to birth the longing for "a new heaven and a new earth in which there is righteousness." He not only brings to the awareness of the hearer that the world, which they have celebrated and where their own hearts are, is under judgment and is intended for destruction, but he also births a longing for the thing that comes down from above and which will replace this present age.
A prophet is a man of the Word. He abhors lightness while deeply respecting and guarding the sanctity of language and its meaning from abuse and cheapening. He is not, therefore, always your enjoyable household guest and is not good for easy conversation and small talk. He guards his mouth because he knows the sanctity of words and will not, therefore, give himself to frequent speaking as it debases the currency of words. There is with him a history of waiting and silences.
A prophet shuns the distinctions and honors that men confer. These things bring a certain aura of prestige and eminence and weight, but the prophetic man, in order to be true to God, is often the ‘wilderness’ prophet. Wilderness does not mean a necessarily physical isolation, but a conscious and willful separation from the kinds of things that are calculated to compromise. He does not effect any kind of prophetic outward ‘appearance’ to indicate his office. He is unprepossessing in appearance and demeanor and despises what is showy, sensational or bizarre. A prophet is intent on turning men to God and not to himself.
This calling is given and is not something that we ourselves summon or take for ourselves. But if we have it, then we need to know that God is going to work us over, again and again, in order to ensure that it is His word that comes forth and not our own.
The prophets of God in the redemption history of the faith have always been the oracular kind. Their word distinguishes their calling. The prophetic word is weighty and we know it when we hear it. It makes a particular demand upon our attention and likewise a requirement in our obedience. That kind of word can only come out of the council of God. Our concern is the debasing of the church, a decline in the value and the valuing of the spoken word, when that which is not out of His council is being announced as the prophetic word.
What an importance, therefore, this puts on true prophetic proclamation. The prophet speaks with an urgency. If you can hear God in that speaking and take it to heart and repent, then you will be saved from the very thing of which he is forewarning. To compound the issue, it may well be that the man is offensive in your sight, and you want to discredit him and find every reason for doing so. That gives, therefore, an urgency to the message of the prophet that makes prophetic proclamation distinctively different from teaching, evangelism or pastoral preaching. Jesus said about Himself:
If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin (John 15:22).
In other words, "My appearing and My speaking have removed from you all pretense. The truth has come in Myself, and now you are responsible. Before I came you had an excuse for your superficiality and for your religious ‘carryings on’ that you thought was the real thing, but now that I have come, now that I have spoken, you have no excuse. The divine standard has fallen. The reality of God, the revelation of His purposes has been presented, and now you are responsible for that. You cannot go on as you were before. If you choose to reject what has come, then be assured that you cannot go on as before. You will either fall back to something much less even than what you had before, or go on to a qualitatively new thing."
The truly prophetic man not only embraces both the past and the future; he himself is both. He is living in the eternal future while at the same time being in a clear continuum with the biblical past. There is something about his whole manner and being that shows in the unselfconscious and unpretentious way he bears himself. He is not in this world. We do not mean by that that he is a vain kind of flighty creature. He already hears a resonance of the things that are coming to pass. His anticipation, awareness and appropriation of that reality are so real for him, that even when he does not explicitly speak it as a subject matter, he already unwittingly expresses the aura of it. He brings a sense of the unbroken continuum of the faith. He is in the Son, the eternal and changeless One. He comes to a people who are locked in time and culture and who are slavish products, if not victims, of their age. He shows forth the one, timeless, irrevocable statement of God on truth and reality throughout all ages and the ages to come. The prophet stands more than any other beyond the conventional categories of time. He sees the eternal thing toward which everything is tending, and in a compelling manner, he brings the significance of that into the present moment for those who are hearing him.
To obtain ‘the mind of God’ and to be able to articulate that is inherent in the prophetic calling. There is always going to be a tension of opposition between the mind of the world and the mind of God, between our own thoughts and His thoughts. Prophets are always, therefore, going to run into a place of opposition and resistance, because God’s thoughts are not only pure, they are also contrary to our own and invariably make a painful requirement. You cannot hear God without being required of. We came to that conclusion in our weekly Bible studies: "If we are not hearing some requirement from God every time we assemble in the examination of His Word, then we are not hearing God. We are only using His Word as a text to have a study."
When God speaks, something has got to give. If we do not want to give
that something, then there is going to be a tension of resistance and rejection
of the word. If people cannot find their opportunity to oppose the word
by virtue of rejecting the word, they will find their point of opposition
in rejecting the man. And God will always give them something to find to
fasten on to. There will always be something provided if men want to find
a way to absolve themselves from the implications and the requirements
of God’s word. Yet at the same time, for the man who is bringing it, he
is not to justify it as an excuse where if he has defect he says, "Well,
that is what God uses." He needs to be grieved over the fact that there
is any defect and seek in every way to rectify and make right, and to be
impeccable and without offense before God and man. However earnest he will
be in that, men will still find offense. They found it in Jesus, and they
will find it in us, but "...blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended
in Me (Luke 7:23b – King James Version)”.
The Voice of the Prophet
God puts a great premium on the voice of the prophets. It is not just their words, but their voice that carries the urgency and divine seriousness of God. If you change that and yet retain the technical word, you have lost the message. There is the resonance of God in his speaking that conveys not only the content and the meaning, but also the disposition of God’s own heart and how He feels about what is being said. The mood of the speaking has nothing to do with the prophet’s choosing. There are times when he is like a piece of putty and he cannot alter it. He is uncomfortable speaking like that and wishes that he had the liberty to give the word the flourish that it needs. He is, however, as much bound in God in the manner of the speaking as the content of the speaking. Other times the same man is beside himself. He cannot be contained. He is falling off the edge of the platform (so to speak) in the intensity of the moment. In both cases, it is not the man who makes that determination, but God.
When the prophet, whom God has raised up early and sent often (Jer. 7:25), is not heard and the word is rejected, then the next and last thing is judgment. It is, therefore no wonder that there is an urgency in the speaking and that his words are designed to shock more than edify. The prophet is, therefore, often seen as being horrid, slashing and offensive. The most common accusation is ‘unloving,’ which he has to bear. That is the way it often sounds and appears, but how many of us can see that the harsh word is uttermost love? For a prophet, not to have spoken it would have been unloving—if that is what the urgency of the moment required. That is not a justification to be in that mode continually, but in the moment that God calls for it, it must not be withheld.
[The prophet’s mood is often in violent opposition to the mood that has already been established in the congregation, especially by the ‘worship team.’ We ourselves are frequently in conflict with worship teams and worship leaders. They seem often to have an independent purpose for their own activity, no matter what, and establish some kind of mood, however contrary to God it is. Instead of working in conjunction with the word that is to come, or sensing the mood and heart of God, they have already got their choruses numbered and what they are going to sing and do. They have their musical virtuoso, talent and amplifiers and they are going to ‘do their thing,’ and leave you to make the best of it afterwards as well as you can. Many messages have been dulled and the power of them lost because of that unspoken opposition and tension where worship ministry is celebrated as the ultimate thing in itself. We need perhaps to pull the plug out of every overhead projector and every amplifier! Let us rather just splutter and choke along and miss a word here and there and come into the spirit of God’s worship, than that we should be led with choruses and more choruses and more choruses. What it seems they are often really trying to do is to effect an atmosphere for a service, rather than touch the heart of God, let alone prepare for the receiving of a holy word for those assembled.]
A prophet will often send people home jarred and unhappy with many unanswered questions. He has not that mentality that wants everything to be wrapped up in one package with a ribbon on it, in one service, and send people home happy. He will let the people go home pained and even agonizing. He will raise perplexing questions that he himself has not adequately answered, and they themselves have got to wrestle and fight their way through to a truer place in God. There are very few pastors, maybe one in a hundred, who would be willing to allow his congregation to suffer that kind of stress and tension. "Send them home happy" is the unspoken premise of contemporary religion to which prophets do not subscribe. They are not in the mood for sending people home happy. They are of a kind to send them home agitated with questions that the hearers are compelled to consider and that cannot be asked and answered in one service.
The prophet’s suspicions are alerted if there is any bombast, theatrics or sensationalism that conjures up a manner or a mode of excitement or anything else that the ear loves to hear that would draw out those who are bored and want some kind of alternative to their boredom. The one who speaks of coming judgment should not invest it with anything more than the word itself. He does not have to bring to it an additional quality so as to make it compelling to the hearer. The word itself speaks for itself. Anyone who would seek to bring an extraneous element through his own personality or manner of speaking is likely false. The prophet, therefore, does not have great latitude in how he deports himself. If we are highly individualistic and want to cut a swath for ourselves or do our own thing in our own way, then we are disqualified.
Though the prophet’s life is wholly given over to God, there is no surrender of identity. In fact, his authentic identity is established. He loses his life but he has found it. Prophets are distinct, flesh and blood men with personalities. They are not robots who bear the word of God as a mechanical contrivance. They are formed in the womb, and that forming is God’s.
Proclaiming the Word that is "Given"
The spirit of the prophet is subject to the prophet. If it is not God’s moment, then we need to hold it. Something happens internally to the prophet when he contains and holds his own spirit and does not just spit it out. An ejaculation is always a great relief, but to hold it until the appointed time is beyond the issue of what relieves us. It is the issue of what glorifies God. There is still a ‘you’ involved when we blurt out something. We need to come to a place where there is no interest or satisfaction in ourselves. It is all the same to us to speak or not to speak, to be seen or not to be seen, to be used or not to be used, to be set aside or to be employed. Only then can we be used.
God’s purpose is not the alleviation of our tension, but the revelation of His glory. We are alleviation-minded and not glory-minded, and so long as we remain in that condition we will never be used to minister the Life of God. We have a question and so we expect an answer. The question may even be good and interesting, so why not ask it and get an answer! We have a need and we want it met. That is not being ruled by the Spirit of God but by self-interest. The fact that it is a ‘spiritual’ interest does not void it from being self-interest. The prophet does not operate by his own curiosity. Though something is good or valid, that does not justify expressing it. The only issue is what God intends in that given moment.
The prophet is not at liberty to address everything he sees. He can only address what God would have him to see. He does not proceed by his own seeing, or by his own hearing, his own subjectivity or his own impressions. He is the Lord’s, and maybe that is why God is more jealous over the prophetic man than any other. The prophet is one who is the communicator of God’s own word. It is not the prophet’s word. The prophet is dead. He has no life until God gives it, and God gives it for His purpose and glory only. Even when you see those who are being addressed falling like flies and going down on their faces under the power and the impact of that word, he himself subjectively experiences often absolutely nothing in that moment. He is absolutely impervious and totally unaffected by what has brought others down on their faces. He is simply out of it because it is not his word. He cannot exalt in it. It is not his work. It is the strangest of feelings to be somehow beside yourself and detached from the power and the effect of your own word, nor are you allowed in any way even to touch it or to draw forth any satisfaction for yourself.
There are times when a prophet will enter a fellowship that seems to ‘have it all together’ and they are worshipping enthusiastically—and everything seems to be right—yet he is grieving! He is almost doubled over and knotted in the inner man. He is anguishing in his soul, while everybody else is having a good time. How many people have been in such functions where they are the only ‘freak’? Everyone else seems to be ‘moved by God,’ and there is all kinds of talk about ‘the presence of God,’ yet you feel no presence at all. You are not conscious of any anointing. You do not see any blessing. All you see is a sea of soulish carnality and self-deluded people priming and pumping themselves up, and your one presence in that room is a contradiction to all that is going on. To top it all, you are not there as an observer; you are going to speak! What will you speak? Will you speak so as to confirm what people think is the spiritual reality they are celebrating, or do you take your whistle out of your pocket and blow it, and cry out, "Phony! Pretense! False! Self-effected! Hyped up production! Emotional! Sensual!"?
There are situations where you are not sure what to say or what to do. It is a remarkable kind of suffering to be in that kind of predicament, and then even after the moment passes, we are still assaulted by the thought of perhaps having missed the moment when we should have done something and we did not. It is a suffering, but that suffering is at the heart of the church. There is a suffering that remains to be filled up in the Body. This kind of suffering is inevitable, frequent and we have long borne it. Many of us have agonized over the condition of the church, and the Lord knows it, and there is a certain inevitability about it, a certain tension of not knowing. We will always wonder if we did rightly. We need to bear that suffering, and the Lord honors that. When the redemptive answer comes, it will come out of that willingness to bear that suffering as being intrinsic to the prophetic.
The Seriousness of the Word Spoken
There is a weight of responsibility on God’s people to correctly identify whom God has set before them, and there is a choosing. In making that decision and choice, something is struck that will profoundly affect that believing life for the rest of its days. Just the presence of the man, let alone the radical content of his word, puts a premium of requirement upon the hearer. What do you do with this man and this word? Something has come in a moment of time that requires something from you, and if you will not recognize it and give it, then you are not just going to go on, you are going to fall back. Something unexpected and incisive has come and your response to that will affect your whole continuance and future in God.
In the light of that, the prophet has a great responsibility to be the authentic thing that compels God’s people to choose with an earnestness that was never theirs before. How much more seriously do we need to consider our own walk, and for that reason, how dare we give ourselves over to casual, carnal lifestyles ourselves? There is a seriousness of God now coming to their fellowship that is making a requirement like nothing that it has ever known. All of a sudden they are having a guest speaker, and the moment he opens his mouth something is struck and something is required that was never required or even hinted at before and will be full of portent for all of their future.
The prophet’s function is so absolutely the matter of life and death, more so than can be said of other callings. If it is a false word, then it could be death. If it does not bring a warning, then it could also be death—literal, physical death. If it does not indicate the issues that are eternal, then it could be robbing the hearer. It is not an exaggeration to say that the rejection of the prophets was the death of Israel. How can one say more for something that is life or death for a people, and yet God invests that in flesh and blood, in mere man, who is subject to every frailty and weakness of his humanity! It is an enormous weight of responsibility that he can say, "Thus says the Lord", or even if he does not intone that inscription, it is implied, and the weight of that has to borne on the faintness and weakness of his mere humanity.
When God calls Ezekiel, "Son of man," He is not just mouthing a few
words. It is as if the prophet needs to be reminded of his humanity. God
chooses a frail piece of humanity for so ponderous a task because it is
a statement against the mystery of the principalities and the powers of
the air. The prophet himself in his own person, in the election of God,
is itself a statement against the wisdom of the powers of darkness. One
would think that God would reserve such elect speaking for Himself. He
alone is qualified and has the authority, and yet to invest it in flesh,
the very mystery of incarnation, runs smack dab into the heart of the wisdom
of the powers of the air. They would never have done a thing like that,
but would have chosen something appropriate to the task, for example, something
weighty, monumental, dignified and that carries all the credentials. God’s
prophets, therefore, are extremely conscious of their frail humanity, not
only at the inception of their call, but also in all the whole longevity
of their use.
The Anatomy of False Prophets
We need to be jealous for the truth of the prophetic calling. If the church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, then we cannot be careful enough in the consideration of this subject. Do our present-day prophets speak out of their own hearts and spirits? Do they draw from each other, or do they come to us out of the secret place of God? Out of what formative relationships in the Body have these prophets come? Has there been an appropriate nurturing, not only of the gift, but also of the character of prophetic men before they minister to the church? How long and how rightly have they been part of a local fellowship? Have they been sent out by the same in a sending that is more than a ceremonial, officious thing? Do we even know what a true sending is?
False prophets validate each other, where the one applauds, affirms and establishes the other, but it is not a fellowship that has validated them. They have not risen up out of the organic work of God itself, like the church in Antioch. Instead they pay tribute to each other and compliment each other, especially as those who are flowing in much the same thing. What is the source of their prophetic speaking? Where does the prophet get his word? If it is not out of the council of God, the secret place, how is it then God’s word? If men do claim to be commissioned, we have a right to look for evidence that they have indeed stood in that place.
In Jeremiah chapter 23, God gives us a powerful statement about true and false prophets. It is one thing to have an indictment against Israel, but when you begin to indict the prophets of Israel, the loftiest, the best and the noblest thing, then that must be a symbol or a statement of the low condition of a nation prior to its judgment.
"For both prophet and priest are polluted; even in My house I have found wickedness," declares the LORD (v.11).
It is remarkable how self-serving this reciprocal thing is between heads of apostolic and prophetic movements or fellowships and their prophets, and how comfortable they are with one another and how they affirm one another. The people are in an unspoken agreement with their ministers: "You present a biblical message. We will pay the bill and have a Sunday service that will leave our lives free from any kind of demand that would really touch our true vested interest and values. We don’t want a message that is going to challenge where our heart really is." As the priest, so also the people. As the pastor/preacher, so also the congregation. Into that situation we have to come prophetically—and likely be stoned!
Therefore their way will be like slippery paths to them, they will be driven away into the gloom and fall in it; for I shall bring calamity upon them, the year of their punishment," declares the LORD (v. 12).
It implies that there is not an immediate judgment, but rather an appointed future time in which God judges those who profane His house—even those who originally had authentic and holy callings. That may well be why the Lord is allowing to continue that which is presently being called prophetic or apostolic and is so popular, but for them, as with the priests and prophets of old, there will be a year of visitation or a time when God calls a halt.
Moreover, among the prophets of Samaria I saw an offensive thing: they prophesied by Baal and led My people Israel astray (v.13).
There is a consequence for false prophecy. It will affect the entire nation and therefore the entire church by the same principle.
Also among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: the committing of adultery and walking in falsehood; and they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one has turned back from his wickedness. All of them have become to Me like Sodom, and her inhabitants like Gomorrah. (v. 14).
Their view of truth and God is corrupted by their sensual and ungodly living. Walking in lies and committing adultery (or the frequency of divorce and remarriage) go hand-in-hand. If you are going to commit adultery spiritually or physically, then there is a way in which you have to inwardly justify yourself, and you can only do that at the expense of the truth of God. There is also a consequence in that it strengthens the hands of evildoers. There is nothing about their proclamation that causes repentance and return, but rather a condoning of those who are in a place opposed to God, who Himself hates divorce. It is something like judges today who cannot bring sentence upon transgressors. They cannot bring the severity of the law against the lawbreaker, because their own life personally is itself a transgression.
Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets, ‘Behold, I am going to feed them wormwood and make them drink poisonous water, for from the prophets of Jerusalem pollution has gone forth into all the land.’ Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you...’ (vs. 15-16a).
Notice that God still calls them prophets! It is maybe because the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable. They still retain their official title, but what they are performing under that title is in God’s sight an abomination. There is nothing more profane than when the sacred is not authentically sacred. When we take the sacred phrase, ‘Thus says the Lord’ and merely employ it as a device to obtain the attention of our hearers, then we are desecrating the sacred. We are making the sacred profane and once we have done that, what can be hoped for? If we are not as a priestly people setting forth the distinction between the profane and the sacred, what can be hoped for in the world?
They are leading you into futility; they speak a vision of their own imagination, not from the mouth of the LORD. They keep saying to those who despise Me, ‘The LORD has said, ‘You will have peace’; and as for everyone who walks in the stubbornness of his own heart, they say, ‘Calamity will not come upon you.’ (v.16b-17).
This must be the very quintessence of what a false prophet is, namely, the giving of a false comfort and a false assurance of peace that does not regard the truth of the conditions that need to be faced. It is an unwillingness to bring a hard word. The things that are prophesied are normally flattering and encouraging to the flesh, rather than challenging or threatening. False prophets have historically prophesied peace when there is no peace. ‘Calamity will not come upon you’ is unhappily the kind of prophetic statement that is coming forth even today, especially in Israel. They are giving a false comfort to those who are not even properly aligned to God. Humanly speaking, we would not see these people as those who despise God. God sees them, however, as despising Him, and we need to see it as God sees it. The false prophets are actually bringing a kind of encouragement to those people who are already out of right relationship with God and give them an assurance that their relationship with God is in order.
But who has stood in the council of the LORD, that he should see and hear His word? Who has given heed to His word and listened? (v.18).
Here is the key verse. Everything in God, in the last analysis, comes down to the issue of relationship. He will never give anything independent of relationship. When He called Moses up to the Mount to receive the tablets of the law in order that he might teach them, Moses was first to come up and be there. How dare we say, "Thus says the Lord," who have not stood in the council of the Lord and heard His word? I think it is impossible for a flamboyant, gainsaying, gain-seeking minister to even be in that place. To be in the council of the Lord requires a certain humility, a certain brokenness, a certain utter dependency upon God, a certain capacity to wait and a certain separation from self-interest, fame, fortune and recognition. Men given to those things cannot be in the council of the Lord, and yet they are the first ones to so readily say, "Thus says the Lord!"
The characteristic of ministries today is toward the separation of ministry from relationship. We have made ministry a thing in itself. We talk about worship and the Lord, but somehow we are able to perform it out of an independent, virtuoso ability. Relationship is not only the key to the bestowing of the gift or the tablets of the Law, but the ongoing ability to rightly teach them. Once you sever relationship from ministry, you are on exceedingly dangerous ground. The ministry flows out of the life and the life out of the relationships, and if we break that connection and have a ministry independent of that, then it is not going to be a ministry that God recognizes, employs or honors.
But who has stood in the council of the LORD...?
This phrase implies a closeness to God. How is it, then, that these prophets who were speaking prolifically and influencing the nation toward evil were not in this place? Why did they not get the word of the Lord out of His council and out of His presence? That there should even be a moment’s hesitation about answering this question is a real statement about us! They were adulterers and walking in lies, and therefore, how can such men be in the council of God? This God is holy and you cannot come into that presence in that condition. You do not even desire to come into that place in that condition. That is why you get your words from others, or out of your own skull. Standing before God requires sanctification. It requires something about our own condition that permits that kind of relationship, particularly as it is in abiding.
It is being in the council of God and being in the presence of God that the word may come, but if you make the word and the attainment of it the condition for entering the presence, then you have already stepped off holy ground. You are coming in the spirit of utility and not in the spirit of devotion to God for His own sake. Moses was told to come up the Mount and be there, not for the benefit that was going to accrue to him for coming, even the ministerial benefit, but simply because God is God! He is the Creator and we are the creation. We are simply to be there, and if no word comes, then no word comes. If we come looking for a word in that expedient, utilitarian sense that we have, then it is no longer the holy ground. It is the spirit of the world that has the underlying premise that one must do this in order to obtain that. We simply do not know what it means ‘to do’ or ‘to be’ for its own sake. If we have never come to that place first with God, then how shall we come to it with men? There is, therefore, a warp in all that we do and say that does not have its true place out of the presence of God, which place cannot be entered in the spirit of utility.
Seeking the Lord is an extraordinarily difficult thing and few there be that have the incentive. It itself is a suffering, and in fact, just to be more ruthlessly honest, it is a dying. Living on the earth, in the flesh, in the world and in time, and to confide and to commune with God, is an extraordinary and ultimate attainment. If you attain it, then maintain it, because you do not want to have to do it all over again. We are talking about something very critical. What then shall we say for the whole rash of popular and sought-out prophets that have arisen in recent years? Are they speaking from the council of God? God’s judgment about the failure to obtain His word in that place is severe:
Behold, the storm of the LORD has gone forth in wrath, even a whirling tempest; it will swirl down on the head of the wicked (v. 19).
The word ‘wicked’ is almost exclusively used for those who should know better. It is those who profess or should have every reason to know God and are yet, by intent, acting wrongly. That is wickedness.
The anger of the LORD will not turn back until He has performed and carried out the purposes of His heart; in the last days you will clearly understand it (v. 20).
Notice that the judgment is deferred. It is not immediate, but it will come later for something now that is an offense to God, namely, the whole compromise of His prophets and the way it has affected the nation.
I did not send these prophets, but they ran; I did not speak to them, but they prophesied. But if they had stood in My council, then they would have announced My words to My people, and would have turned them back from their evil way and from the evil of their deeds (vs. 21-22).
We can know when the word is out of the council of God because it has this salutary effect. It will affect the nation or fellowship in turning it toward God, rather than away from Him and from their evil ways and their practices. Generally speaking, when men will invoke the phrase, "Thus says the Lord," it is almost a testimony to the fact that the Lord is not saying. If He is saying, then we do not have to embellish the statement by legitimating it. The statement itself will ring with the truth of God and the sense of God. Is it a quickened statement of God of an original kind that we need to hear in the crisis place that we are, or is it just some kind of an embellishment to give a charismatic endorsement to our meeting? If it is the latter it will have the effect of cheapening the whole integrity of that which is prophetic and make it a shamelessly light kind of thing that anyone almost at will can offer¾ and does!
When Israel’s prophets said, "Thus says the Lord," then you know that what is following is going to be a judgment that is so horrific that God validates even the words that bear His resonance, because they are words of ultimate judgment. It must, therefore, be clear from the inception that this is not the prophet speaking out of himself. We have it passed down to us as written prophecy of a kind that has affected the history of Israel. But in contemporary spoken prophecy we need to discern whether it is the Lord speaking authenticated by what is being said in terms of the anointing and the authority it bears, rather than in having it labeled for us.
The call to the prophet is the call to the Cross. It is a frequent, if not continual form of suffering of an exquisite and ultimate kind. Can we say, "Thus says the Lord" without actually articulating those words or implying those words in our statement, except that our word has indeed come through the Cross? It is out of a death. It is not our own word, but His, which can only come from that Cross-centered place. That was true for the prophets before the advent of the Cross. Elijah preceded the Cross historically, but he knew the death of it when he said, "...there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word." Jesus knew the Cross before He became crucified on it. The Cross only exemplified and made visible the thing to which His life was all along submitted.
‘Can a man hide himself in hiding places, so I do not see him?’ declares the LORD. ‘Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?’ declares the Lord. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy falsely in My name, saying, ‘I had a dream, I had a dream!’ (vs.24-25).
The heart of the offense in being false before God is that all of this
takes place as if He is not seeing and does not understand and is not aware
of what is being done. It is an enormous presumption, one that God notes.
It is, in effect, a complete absence of the fear of God or the reverence
for God as God. Those that do so really believe they are hearing from God
and that what they are communicating is the council of God! They have reached
such a place of deceit, that they have persuaded themselves of it, and
that when they say, "Thus says the Lord," it is in fact the Lord saying.
We can come to that condition by a gradual erosion, a little day-by-day,
slight kind of a thing, that when the process is finished, one is not only
false, but one thinks that one is still true. Thus there is a daily vigilance
required over the issues of the heart in order that deception does not
have its ultimate work, where the man deceived thinks that he is in the
right while leading many to their doom. That is why God urges us to exhort
one another daily while it is yet today, because tomorrow is already too
...who intend to make My people forget My name by their dreams which they relate to one another...(v.27a).
That is to say, to communicate a sense of God that is not God and allow those listening to think that it is God because they have attached the name of Jesus to it. False prophetic things and things that are deceitful will affect how people perceive and understand God, especially if it affirms them in their shallowness or a certain lightness and frivolity is communicated. God cannot help but suffer loss. They are prophesying "in the name of the Lord," but because it is false, the effect of it is to get people to "forget His name," which is to say, to lose the sense of God as God, of what He is fearfully and majestically in Himself.
We can know that it is God’s word because it is likely to be the word that is expressed in verse 29:
‘Is not My word like fire?’ declares the LORD; ‘and like a hammer which shatters a rock?’
In other words, "My word breaks up the deeps; it demolishes and it burns." If you want to distinguish between a prophetic word that is God’s word and a prophetic word that is assumed by man, conjured out of his own mind and imagination and that is false, then here is the distinction: God’s word is like a fire. His word burns and is like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces. It is devastating and brings an effect and contains a power that breaks in or burns through. It will never be some innocuous, syrupy thing that confirms us in what we already are, especially when our lives are slovenly and slack. His word should burn in our heart and reveal its true condition and not as we presumptuously thought it to be.
Every true word requires, and if we do not respond, then it means that we have not really heard. "Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts (Heb. 4:7b)." If we have heard, then it should evoke a response in us. Not to respond is to harden. There is no such thing as neutrality. The word of God when it is the word of God has to have consequence for ill or good. We can never ignore it or allow it to pass and nod our heads by saying, "Yes, that was a good and interesting word. I enjoyed that." It requires or we harden, and that is why we find so many people in a hardened condition, and then God’s last appeals would be a prophetic cry, but it has got to be like a hammer upon a rock that breaks through until the necessary repentance and release.
"Therefore behold, I am against the prophets," declares the LORD, "who steal My words from each other. Behold, I am against the prophets," declares the LORD, "who use their tongues and declare, ‘The LORD declares.’ Behold, I am against those who have prophesied false dreams," declares the LORD, "and related them, and led My people astray by their falsehoods and their reckless boasting (‘and by their lightness’- King James Version); yet I did not send them or command them, nor do they furnish this people the slightest benefit," declares the LORD (vs. 30-32).
There is a certain levity, a certain kind of air of casualness that seems to prevail in conferences and sessions where men who have not been sent of God have had opportunity to speak as if they had been sent of God. The unhappy thing is that great numbers of Christians in the world have never heard a true prophetic word spoken in the authority of God, and all they hear they assume to be normative. They have no basis for comparison. But to hear such a true word once is to be ruined forever for anything less. There is, therefore, a great cry and need for that word and that authority to come into the earth, that the church might be rightly ‘ruined’ and made candidates for the truth. It is the word that has become ‘event.’
False prophets steal God’s words from each other and often speak the identical kind of word. If we were to survey the last thirty-five years, has there not been a succession of fads, panaceas, gimmicks and things that we latch onto? There is a way in which one can test by a raised finger: "Which way is the wind blowing? What is current? What is now popular? I know that if I speak on ‘prosperity and faith,’ the people will love it; or prayer, or worship, or church growth, or power evangelism." We seem to go through periods where certain themes have found a place of popularity and then you just move in that; and you pick up what others are saying, and then you begin to say it. It is easier to hear the word from other men and to imitate and repeat that, knowing that it has already found approval and acceptance. We desperately need to hear all the more, therefore, what is on God’s heart; and the only one who can communicate that is that one who is close to His heart through a consistent communing. There is a door of dying to reputation, name and acceptance to find your way into the place of the secret council of God; but it is in that place alone that the word of the Lord will be given.
Prophetic Formation and Integrity
It is an ultimate calling that points us again to the premium, not of the office as some abstraction, but that it rests and inheres with the man himself. The man is the thing in himself. He is the prophetic man. His message is not some kind of an addendum. He is not a disembodied spirit who simply brings a word. He is bound up with the word. If you reject him, then you are rejecting the word with him, which is to say, rejecting the Word made flesh. We need to see the inseparability of the office and the man, and that is why prophets are not born in a day. That is why they are not going to be produced in a three-month school, or any comparable kind of thing. It is a work; a process whereby God invests Himself into the man in His own essential Person.
The prophet does not come to an identification with the seeing of God
in a day. There is a history of dealings, of heart-rending and heart-aching
disappointments, setbacks, castings away and conflicts that he just lives
with as being inherent with the call; and he bears it. He grew up in the
world, and the values of the world as a man. He is recruited and called
in, and brought out of the world, its values and seeing, and brought increasingly
into the place of God’s seeing. If the prophet’s word is going to devastate
others, then he himself must first experience devastation. He has first
to come out of his own false alignments and come increasingly into the
place of God’s seeing, and then in coming to that place, a courage to bear
the reaction against him. You wonder why anybody would want to be one!
The first evidence of a false prophet is somebody who likely wants to be
a prophet! It has nothing to do with what you want to be; it has to do
with the God who calls. It is nevertheless remarkable how many people are
attracted to becoming a prophet because their definition and view of prophet
is other than what we are describing. Their view is of something much more
exciting, romantic and self-glorifying.
The Body of Christ - The Place of Formation
It is not to be imagined that God is going to send men like that out into the world and into the nations who have not first been sharpened and made acute within their own fellowship. They need to bring the word into the band of souls to whom they are daily joined. If the fellowship will not bear and be supportive of their prophets, then there will not be men to be sent. He must be sent from a body who understands these things and recognizes the significance and the fatefulness of his speaking and acting. He needs to be sent with the laying on of hands, which means, "We not only identify with you, but we sustain you by our own intercessions, because we are going to suffer the consequence of what you are doing. We are in this with you." That is the ‘Antioch’ that we are waiting for, that men could be sent out of such a context with such an identification.
Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: ...And while they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said,...(Acts 13:1a and 2a).
In other words, when men of those two callings were found ‘together,’ that is to say, something more than sitting in the same room, "the Holy Spirit said..." Anybody who knows anything about this knows the painful tension between a teacher and a prophet. It is not because they are wanting to act contrary, but both of them, acting out of the integrity of their call, of necessity rub the other raw. The teacher wants it to be according to the Word—line upon line, precept upon precept. If there was not, however, the press that comes of visionary things to get the teacher beyond the safe, prescribed place according to the Word, the teacher himself would be limited. There is, therefore, interplay, with both men acting out of the integrity of their call, and yet necessarily chafing one another. That is where love comes in, namely, to bear the strain and the tension of that, and to receive therefore the benefit of it, and not to flee from it because there is a painful or irritating tension of interrelationship.
The Spirit of God called out of the congregation at Antioch, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Paul for the work to which I have called them (Acts 13:2b)." It was in the fellowship that they became separated from their own ambitions and defects. The Body of Christ, the prophetic body, the supportive body, is an enormously crucial thing in the shaping, the perfecting and the sending of the prophetic voice into the earth. That is what we are talking about as a prophetic community. They do not all have that call, but they all have that awareness. They all understand the primacy and importance of the prophetic word. Institutional situations will never produce a prophet. But there will never be any ‘Antiochal’ sending bodies unless we desire them and are willing for the cost of them.
Do we have the ability to recognize those who give evidence of the call? We are not to dampen them but encourage them. At the same time we are to show to them the admixture of flesh and Spirit still operative. By such a process of gentle and loving admonition and exhortation the Body can be a help to them. The prophet needs to be separated even from the self-consciousness of his own calling, let alone any subtlety of ambition that needs for him to be seen, applauded and recognized. He needs to be able to bear the reproach and rejection of what will invariably be the consequence of his faithfulness. Indeed, the prophet’s whole life and history in God is calculated toward that end. It is aggravation, consternation and every divinely calculated thing, because that is how the prophetic person is formed. There is no cheap way to incubate it. He has got to pass through the essence of the issues of life in order one day to address them with penetration and authority in others, compelling them to decisions for or against God.
While his most radical obediences will most likely be performed alone, the prophet is a man both communal and corporate, not in an idealized sense, but as one himself frequently critiqued of others and desiring it. The moment of obedience may come as one standing alone before Ahab, but the thing that makes that moment powerful and confrontational is that which preceded it, that is to say, in the man coming out of a true corporate life. That corporate life is not some idealized or romantic community out in the remote boondocks. It is rather a situation where that man is more subject to review and examination than any other that make up that community. If the community is not rendering that service, then I cannot think of anyone in greater danger than the prophet. The prophet must make himself accessible. A prophet who prefers privacy and who is unattended by others or is surrounded by a self-affirming, paid and mutually congratulatory staff is likely false or will become so. There is a difference between living in an interactive community and being surrounded and affirmed by a staff of paid employees.
It is another situation when you are living in proximity and relationship and where others have every freedom to critique you and speak into your life. The true prophet knows that unless he is receiving that kind of input and examination, then he will move into deception and that without even knowing it. Just because one has an anointing from God, it does not mean that one is invincible. The presence of an anointing does not necessarily mean that God’s statement of approval is on the individual’s life in its entirety. You can be anointed in the place of ministry, but the defects and contradictions in your life, personally and privately, need to be both attended and seen to.
Prophets are not to go out before they are threshed. They should be
welcoming the threshing and expect it, because there are subtleties of
soul in all of us—little insinuations of ambition, little presumptions
of pride, little romantic notions of what we think prophetic service is—that
God has got ruthlessly to deal with. This is necessary so that when the
prophet speaks, it is God’s word, not only in its content, but also in
the mood and spirit of its delivery.
Meekness - The Key to Revelation
The key then to apostolic or prophetic seeing and the receiving of the revelation of the mysteries of God is found in Ephesians 3:8,
To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ.
In other words, all true seeing is given to men like Paul, who indeed see themselves as the ‘very least of all saints.’ Paul is not being deferential and polite, and making the kind of statement that a chamber of commerce speaker would make. He actually saw himself as this. He was the apostle to whom was afforded such visions that God had to give him a thorn in his side, lest he be exalted beyond measure for the magnitude of the revelations that were given him. We must not, however, pass by apostolic character, which is to say, the deep humility, the authentic meekness and the Christ-likeness of the apostolic or the prophetic man. If the man is the thing in himself, then it is more than his knowledge. It is his very life; it is his character; it is his knowledge of God; it is what he communicates as one who comes to us out of God’s own presence. This statement, ‘the very least of all saints’ was Paul’s actual, stricken, heartfelt consciousness of how he unaffectedly and continually saw himself before God.
It is a remarkable irony that the deeper we come into the knowledge of God, the more we see ourselves as less. Instead of becoming more exalted by the increase of our knowledge of God, the further down we go in seeing how abase and pitiful we really are. It is a contradiction and a paradox, and it is a paradox to be found only in the faith. Authentic meekness or humility is not something that one can learn, emulate, or pick up at school. It is the dividend of God out of the measure of actual, real relationship with Him. It is the revelation of God as He is and the unutterable depths of it, that bring a man to this kind of awareness of himself. The revelation of what we are is altogether related to the revelation of who He is. The two things then necessarily always go together.
Then I (Isaiah) said, ‘Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts’ (Isaiah 6:5).
This is the prince of prophets, Isaiah, speaking here. The foundation of the church, as we have said, is the revelation of God as He in fact is. That is the foundation. It is not as we think Him to be, which is more often than not a projection of the way we would like Him to be, especially when we have chosen to celebrate one attribute of God and ignore another. The key knowledge is the knowledge of God as He is, both in judgment and in mercy, and the foundational men to the church are those who can communicate God in that knowledge. Paul had this knowledge because he saw himself as the ‘least of all saints,’ and saw himself as the least because he had this knowledge.
The Lord Jesus Himself was absolute. He used language in such a fierce and uncompromising way; He overthrew moneychangers’ tables. Was He meek even while He was violent and offensive? This act set in motion the things that eventuated in His death. How do we reconcile the act of violence that Jesus performed and the meekness of God? When we think of meek, we think of lamb-like, quiet and deferring. This is an aggressive act, and yet we are saying at the same time that it is meek. Meekness is total abandonment to God; all the more in an act or a word that would give an impression to the contrary, and lay the obedient servant open to the charge of a reproach for being violent, or being angry, or being too zealous. If God wanted to be violent and we withheld Him because it contradicts our personality, disposition, or preference, then we are putting something above and before God, namely, our own self-consideration.
A true prophet will not relent nor refrain. He cannot be bought or enticed
into being ‘one of the boys.’ He shuns the distinctions and honors that
men accord men. He necessarily has to or there would be a compromising
of what he is in God. He is scrupulous in character and will never use
his position to obtain personal advantage. He is naturally unaffected,
normal and unprepossessing in appearance and demeanor, despising what is
showy, sensational or bizarre. He is not necessarily the man that is going
to be wearing the hairy garment. He may be wearing rather a three-piece
suit! He will not call any attention to himself by externalities. He is
the thing in himself, in the depth and the pith and marrow of his being
because of his communion with God and his history in God. The false will
always lack meekness, but it is the indistinguishable sign of the authentic
prophet, and also the quintessential character of God.
Back to top
Spirit of Prophecy: An Examination of the Prophetic Call
the abridged version of The Prophetic Call
The Prophetic Call-unabridged
Art Katz Biographical Interview
An interview with Alistair Reese, New Zealand, April 2001
A: Give us your name, family status, occupation and your ethno-nationality.
Art: Well, I am a Jewish believer from both parents, married, and I have three children and six grandchildren. I am 72 years of age. Occupation? I write ‘retired’ when I have to fill out the passport or visa applications coming into different countries, but I am a spokesman for the Lord, a mouthpiece, and something of an author.
A: What have been some of the key influences that have helped you to form your worldview? Firstly, people.
Art: I am hard-pressed to think of any outstanding influence that has come through men. I have been grateful for pastors, ministers, and publishers over the years, but I cannot think of a single formidable personality, someone like an A.W. Tozer; however, I would say the brother from New Zealand in Palmerton North, Ken Wright, is probably one of the singular influences to bring a degree of balance and fatherly warmth to me at a stage when I was yet a bit up in arms and needed to be quieted in a right way. I have always enjoyed my time with him, his counsel with me, and he was a real benevolent influence. I could probably think of others, but it would take some time.
A: Okay, then, what about literature?
Art: Watchman Nee, A.W. Tozer, Berkhoff, the Dutch theologian, and, principally now in the most recent years, Karl Barth, have all influenced me with their work. I especially love Barth’s books; he has been a great influence. Then, of course, Paul himself has influenced me through his Epistles. I could think of a number of other authors over the years that have been significant, usually theologians who are not well known. I love Charles Spurgeon, of course; Spurgeon’s Treasury of David, his commentary on the Psalms, has been a great blessing for me. I have a German theologian, Hans Joachim Kraus, who is also the author of a commentary that has been a blessing from yet another perspective, not so much inspirational, but more scholarly. Walter Brueggemann, an American theologian of the Old Testament and the Psalms, has been a significant influence. I am thinking of the German Old Testament scholars and the Hebrew scholars like David Baron and Adolf Saphir. Their commentaries on Israel and the Messianic prophecies are excellent.
A: So then, moving on to experiences, what would be some of the experiences that have brought you to where you are now and caused you to think the way you think now?
Art: I would say that the greatest experience has been that of community for this past quarter of a century, having to go through various ordeals and trials, as I mentioned this morning, coming into meetings that are so compacted and tense that you stop breathing when you enter the room and feel that there is no answer to the predicament, then coming out two or three hours later walking on a cloud, because the Lord has brought some transcendent answer. One of the highlights was a trial of the brother whose flesh was given over to the devil, that his soul might be saved, a three-hour actual judicial hearing that was a transcendent experience; we heard housewives speaking out of such depths of wisdom and compassion, prompted by the significance of what we were about, and performing righteous judgment. I have had a host of experiences through the community that have been very formative in my life, and I am sure that I would be something other than what I presently am if my lifestyle had been modeled more along the lines of those who live privately and comfortably. I would not have appreciated the hardships, difficulties, confrontations, and misunderstandings. In recent years, the Lord has even tempered me in giving me a bit of a father’s heart and a pastoral heart, which I have never had in all the good times and did not think I was required to have, but it has come out of the necessity of living real life.
I have also been greatly shaped by experiencing the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I once had a great experience, probably the profoundest in God, in preparing the message on mercy. In Ma Brogger’s trailer up at the farm, the Lord lifted the veil, so much as a crack, and beams of light came forth in such a way that I was found two hours later when she returned with a friend, stretched out on the floor, on my face and unable to move. I was surrounded by wads of soaking kleenexes from my tears, and she went right to the phone to call for an ambulance; I could only gesture that it was not necessary, but I could not speak, I was so overcome by the power and the glory that had issued from this little crack of God’s revelation. Finally, they put me up on a seat, and I tried to explain what had happened. It was now time for me to speak, so they wanted to drive me down to the camp. I said that I could not get into a car, nor could I even ride on my bike. I could not touch anything made by man, and I could not even walk down the regular road to the camp; I said that I had to go the back way, so as to not see anyone before I went up onto the platform. That is how profound an experience that was.
The second experience, not as dramatic, was the 10-day fast and 24-hour prayer vigil that we conducted at one point in the community’s history. On the seventh or the eighth day of that fast, I was so spiritually spent and exhausted and wasted that I remember being stretched out on my face, unable even to pray. There was a groan, and something came on me that made me utterly aware of myself and my prostration as a piece of creation before the Creator; I realized how cursory and insufficient a little three-day fast had been when we prayed for a question of need prior to a trip, but a ten-day fast and prayer round the clock (because we were committed this time) brought a whole new dimension of the lowliness of myself, in view of the greatness of the Creator who is worth everything. No fireworks, no fresh baptism in the Holy Spirit, though we needed it, just that consciousness of God and myself and my own mortality and frailty was invaluable. I have never forgotten that experience, and I hope to retain it.
A: Art, how would you describe your Christian tradition in terms of the evangelical, charismatic, those sort of terminologies?
Art: Hard to pin down. Certainly, I am Spirit-filled, but I have been one of the greatest critics of the Charismatic movement. I have grown up in the Pentecostal movement, so I am a kind of ‘son’ of Pentecost, saved in the Assemblies of God in Jerusalem. I have spoken in many of their schools and churches over the years, though not in recent years, so it would be very hard to compartmentalize me. Of course, I am an evangelical, but I praise God for the latitude and freedom that I have that can fit into context and venues of almost any kind: Egypt, East Germany under Communist rule, Singapore with wealthy congregations. It does not matter, because I am at ease in every place, and I have spoken at many universities in confrontations because of my ex-Marxist background. So, what do we say? Messianic? Is that the name that is now given to Jewish believers? Yet, I am more opposed by Messianic leaders than by any other, because of my differing views on Israel. Shall we then say apostolic and prophetic? Yet, I have had more conflict with men who purport to be apostolic and prophetic than with any other. Therefore, I will just have to leave that question hanging.
A: Art, some Christian leaders in New Zealand call you a prophet. Do you accept that terminology?
Art: I accept it because it is not something I am free to deny. It is nothing that I would boast in as if it were something that I have fashioned or formed; it is something that has been given, and to deny the givenness is to repudiate or contradict the God who has given it. He has made clear over the years that this is indeed my calling. I acknowledge it, I am grateful for it, but I do not boast in it, and I do not—if it were not for the fact that an issue has now risen, where the issue of authenticity is at stake—I would not refer to it myself. But now we are at a place over the issue of Israel. Whether it has an apocalyptic and violent destiny or can rather progressively improve, is of great moment. If we are sounding a warning of something that is not to come, then we are bringing unnecessary disturbance, but if we are bringing a warning of a calamitous thing that must come and requires an appropriate preparation in the church, then there is no word more significant. So, on what basis do we offer our perspective? If it is only a personal opinion, then it can be as readily rejected. Therefore, when I speak, I say I am not giving an opinion, but I am speaking out of the perspective of the prophetic scriptures in keeping with my call, because I believe that God gives to men who have this office an understanding of prophetic scriptures that is not available to others. This now has become a critical question, whether something is an opinion or issues out of a man’s office and call; otherwise, I would not take the pains to speak of it. However, because of it, I am required now to address the subject of true and false prophets.
We have a whole book on our website on the prophetic call and a little 50-page booklet that you have obtained, The Spirit of Prophecy, an extract from that larger work, because I have over a quarter of a century of a history in this calling and am very jealous over the word; if we lose it, we lose everything. The prophet in this circumstance presages the coming of that which is apostolic and even prepares the church to anticipate and recognize it. Therefore, if the prophet himself is disqualified, or if the word loses its cogency, as I believe is happening now in the loose present popularity of the prophetic call, then the game is lost. I am very jealous of the prophetic word, its meaning and its integrity, for it has become an issue of significance in this hour.
A: How did you realize, or how did you know, that the nature of your ministry was prophetic as such, as opposed to pastoral, teaching, or whatever?
Art: It had to be brought to my attention by others, men like Ern Baxter, who, after I finished bringing three messages on the Patriarchs, followed them by thanking me, expressing that these were prophetic commentaries, and I naively thought, “Is that so?” In the beginning, other men making frequent allusion to the word ‘prophetic’ made me to be aware that they were seeing something that had not, at that time, been brought to my awareness. The first consciousness of this title came from other men acknowledging this in me, but I always knew that I was not a teacher. Except as a prophetic teacher, I have done the work of an evangelist; there is a very clear mode of being, of perceiving and expressing, that is distinctive of the prophetic, which is unquestionably what I am about.
A: How would you describe prophetic ministry?
Art: Well, there is a whole book on this subject on our website. It took me five days at Youth With A Mission in Lausanne years ago to begin an assessment of what the word ‘apostolic’ meant—and they are very similar. ‘Prophetic’ is expressing God’s own heart and perceiving things as He Himself sees them, a certain mode of being, living, a certain jealousy of an intense kind, a certain concern for His glory, His Name, His honor, a certain seeing through appearances to the reality beneath. Had you been with me Sunday morning, you would have seen this demonstration. I walked into a church, and I was instantly uncomfortable. After I attended their prayer meeting in the side room, where the discomfort was not lessened, I came into the sanctuary and watched the worship team and the pastor performing. When I got up, my first word was, “What would you think if out of your very congregation, some young man or adolescent went berserk and shot up his high school and his teachers?” I said, “You’re in an environment conducive to that conduct in your unreality. You’re forming the nexus out of which that kind of aberration can take place,” and I did not lighten up or let up. I went right on through, breaking down the facade and its appearances, confronting them with the truth of their conditions, and the pastor, after I finished, had the temerity to come up and take the microphone and continue in the same droll, mealy-mouthed way that I had identified before as being false. I could not believe it, and I could not bear it; I got up and had to tell him, “You have said enough, much too much.” In fact, if he had continued, then I really would have caused a scene. As it happened, we had lunch with this pastor and another family—the brother who hosted the lunch is here now—and when we had lunch together, I said, “You need to go before the congregation tonight and apologize for continuing in the same mode that God had exposed as being false and ask their forgiveness for seeking to go back to ‘business as usual’ after this corrective word from God.” But I do not believe that he did it.
In this confrontation, you have a small picture of what it means to be prophetic: fearless, uncompromising, no concern for how one will be regarded in terms of reputation, no question of the jealousy of God for reality to address the thing that is quickened, where there is no other thought or message that can be considered but that thing that is pulsating in your heart because of your identification and union with God. It does not always take that form, but frequently it will. So that is prophetic, to speak for God out of the sense of God Himself, without concern for what the effect will be, whether it has been received or rejected, or how you personally will be received. In fact, I thought to myself, “Surely, if ever I qualified for being stoned, it’s now.” I was bringing down the whole house, the whole thing that had had too long a history of deceit and religious hypocrisy. They either had to stone me or fall before the Lord as being the word of truth. I think many in the congregation did, but the pastor himself was so rooted in that system that he continued to babble and had to be reprimanded.
A: I think there is a sense where you have answered this question already by that example, but I wonder—you might be able to further clarify—how would you describe the nature of your prophetic activity?
Art: It is an attempt to restore lost foundations, to bring the breadth of God’s ultimate purpose, particularly as it pertains to Israel in the Last Days, to underline the significance of that understanding for the church, and what it requires sacrificially of the church to fulfill. Yesterday, I used words like ‘cosmic, primordial, eschatological, and apocalyptic.’ I am attempting a breadth of understanding that the church has lacked and for which reason it is one-dimensional, shallow, and vacuous today. That is the prophetic seeing. It is rooted in Deuteronomy. My Holocaust book, understanding the Nazi Holocaust, has been a statement of God’s judgment, promised in Deuteronomy. All of the prophets were Deuteronomic in their understanding of blessing or curse and understanding of divine causation of sin and consequence. To bring that view of God, particularly in judgment, to a church that has not been disposed to see it, is one of my continuing burdens. Yesterday, I used the German word, weltanschauung for worldview, a cosmic perception of the faith, which, once understood, can help the church to see itself in that larger context; otherwise, it is doomed to a mere succession of Sunday services and programs. It needs to have this overview, the arching overview of God, and see it in its context and its great history, even in its primordial pre-history. There is a great theme of the salvation of God written into His whole enterprise that needs to be understood; otherwise, we reduce salvation itself to a mere formula—step one, step two.
I am called and formed to breathe out this breadth of understanding, by which the church can identify itself and take up its task and calling to appropriate and to serve out of the prolific endless and indestructible life of God Himself. It is the call of the church to resurrection reality. When it sees the mandate and magnitude of its call, that it cannot be fulfilled on the basis of its own religious well-meaning intention, it will be brought into the glory of God’s own Life. Because I not only describe that call but speak it out, this thing from that Life, they hear not only the proclamation, but they see the demonstration in the very word that comes to them! So the prophet is called not only to proclaim, but also to demonstrate in himself, to be the thing in himself, to which the church is called in its own prophetic stature and identification. When I spoke at a Revival School on the subject of Israel, it was like a door, like a furnace door bursting open and an apocalyptic view of things gushing out on these young people. When I finished, the director of the school tried to smooth it over because it upset some of their categories. He even put revival in a lesser place in the keeping with the greater purposes of God, of which revival is only a means, not the end in itself. However, the students came up on the platform when everything was dismissed and were touching me like, “Aahhh, where did this guy come from? What is it? We have heard of the prophetic, but this is the thing in itself. We have heard, we have seen with our own eyes, we have touched with our own hands, this remarkable reality.”
A: Art, what do you think is at work in that kind of a presentation? What is happening?
Art: It is the very Life of God, the indestructible Life, not only as an energy, but also as a content and as a character. I used the word ‘Davidic’ yesterday. The church is called to a Davidic kingdom; it is not just a governmental scheme, but also that which has a character in keeping with God Himself! The Life conveys the wisdom of God, the energy, the dynamic, but also the Spirit, the form and the essence of what He is in Himself, for the spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus. What we are setting forth is the Lord Himself; therefore, the way in which men regard us or treat us is invariably and often their statement toward Him. Their rejection of us is their rejection of Him. It is never a question of self-pity if I am rejected, but I feel sorry for those who do not realize what their rejection of the prophetic man constitutes with regard to Him, seeing that the spirit of prophecy is His own testimony. It is an awesome calling, and I am grateful beyond words that this is my privilege by the sovereignty and ordination of God. I am a privileged man.
A: Can you describe the main area of your prophetic concern?
Art: The issue of Israel is my concern, and it is ironic that the thing that most contends against my apocalyptic view is the present sentimental, humanistic, and idealistic, if not romantic, affinity of Christians, usually Charismatic, for Israel. This militates against the glory that God intends for a redeemed Israel, which, in my opinion, may require the sinking and extinction of this present political entity. That is my jealousy—to bring, to convey, a view of the meaning of Israel in dimensions that the church has not yet begun to suspect. The church much prefers a sentimental relationship, because it requires less of them. To be participant in the restoration of Israel after a humiliating defeat and exile, being expelled into nations, and sifted through nations, makes of the church God’s salvific agent. In order to perform that, the church itself must come into a greater and ultimate stature. I would say that is the brunt of what I am about and what occupies me: bringing this view to the church. It is remarkable what it will require.
Being in the Philippines, a third world country, I saw poverty-stricken men wanting so much to succeed as pastors as a means of escaping poverty. I brought to them a view of what all of this means for the church and for the ministers that completely controverts that ministerial model; I watched men forsake this model at the loss of their own hope for success, as only Israel, rightly depicted and conveyed, has the power to do. The issue of Israel, in the last analysis, is the issue of the Kingdom. We cannot understand Israel except in the theocratic context, in which its restoration means the “word [going] forth out of Zion” (Isa. 2:3). The actual rule of God over the nations waits for this, the nexus of a restored Israel. That is why Israel will be so bitterly opposed, even unto annihilation, by the powers of darkness. In the absence of this theocratic view, every kind of petty kingdom has flourished in the religious world; denominations, movements, individual ministries are petty kingdoms, for the want of the knowledge of the great Kingdom, inexorably connected with the issue of Israel’s restoration. You cannot appropriate and understand and seek the Kingdom of God independent of Israel’s restoration. When the disciples of Jesus said to Him, at the end of His 40 days of resurrection instruction on the Kingdom of God, “Is it time now to restore the Kingdom of Israel?” (Acts 1:6), they were not rebuked for that question, because it was totally scriptural and valid. It is the Kingdom of Israel, it is the Davidic Kingdom, and it must issue from the throne of David, from the holy hill of Zion. To say that is not to confine it to Israel. It goes out from Israel to all nations. Therefore, this is my principal burden: to communicate the dimensions of what Israel means for the Church in the context of this theocratic rule.
A: This morning, when you were talking, you talked about the office of a prophet. Does that mean that everything you do is prophetic, or do you have a sense that sometimes you are prophetic and sometimes you are not?
Art: I am not sure that you can take off the garment. If the prophetic man is the thing in himself, then it is not just something that he puts on ministerially. It has got to be consistent with the totality of his life. His marriage is a factor; the character of that marriage, its failure, humiliation, is the very design of God in shaping the man, so you cannot separate his life from his function. All of it is designed to attain or obtain the prophetic reality. I think I am always in that mode; I am always thinking, and my thoughts are being always attuned. Therefore, I see significance in little things and have a tendency to interpret all things in this contextual light of God’s significance in the totality of His sovereignty that cannot be compartmentalized, where you distinguish ministry from life. The ministry issues from the life. It is a total thing.
A: How would you relate that to, or compare that to, the general people of God being a prophetic people and their understanding of what it means to be a prophetic people, as opposed to the office of prophet?
Art: I think that the office models for the church something of their call as the church. The church that is not prophetic is, ipso facto, not the church; it ought to function to the nation in a way that is relative to the way in which the prophet functions to the church, interpreting for the nation the significance of current events or future things in the context of history and of the whole breadth of the prophetic word of God. The church that is prophetic ought to be doing that for its nation. I gave the example yesterday of the Japanese minister who leaped to his feet in a minister’s conference in Osaka when I suggested, or more than suggested, that the atom bombs that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not mere political military decisions, but the judgment of God for a nation that has historically kept Him at arm’s length. The nation needs to see this catastrophe not as some arbitrary thing issuing from men, but from God, intended for their redemptive repentance. This man leaped up and cried out, “Lord, make me a prophet for my nation!” I believe that the church in the nations ought to serve that function to interpret for the nation that meaning of its own events.
I mentioned yesterday that the funeral of Princess Diana was a scandal of failure for the church in the world, and especially in England, for not interpreting it for what in fact it represents and allowing it to go in some unquestioned premise as being a ‘Christian’ funeral. She was a debutante and a jetsetter, immoral, and humanistic, who even received an occultist’s consultation; yet, she obtained all the trappings of Christian burial at the highest levels of the Anglican church, with their clerics of the greatest order, intoning with great solemnity, as if this were in fact the burial of a Christian! The church should not have stood still. It was a silence that needed to be broken. That does not mean that we are going to be successful or even heard, but to be silent in the face of some direct contradiction of the faith, to diminish God by it, calls for a statement. Our failure to make it condemns us and lessens us even in our ability to discern the next time when such response should be called for, until we are so habituated to the world that we do not even look up. I have never recovered from the silence of the church of England and felt required myself to write a statement on the prophetic significance of Princess Diana’s funeral—it is on my website. It has not caused a beep anywhere, so it may be without any consequence, but I could not be silent. The church should not be silent; it needs solemnly to address society on those things that contradict God and His image and purpose in man. If that is defamed and despoiled, then we cannot remain silent, and I have counseled even East German Christian leaders of their obligation before Communist authorities to oppose propaganda campaigns that have resulted in widespread opposition, because men cannot live with the lie. Even if it meant they were going to prison, without any hope of succeeding, they could not afford to be silent. That is the prophetic church.
A: Art, how do you know that what you are doing and what you are saying is authentic in the biblical sense of the word?
Art: Well, I think your question answers itself. When I present my perspectives, I say, “I’m not giving you something I’ve received by a light going on, or a dream, or a vision, or some revelatory experience. What I’m giving you is a knowledge or insight from Scripture of accumulative kind that is revelatory but founded in the Word. It’s not some extra-biblical view of a kind that seeks your attention. This is rooted in the Word and therefore can be tested in the Word. You can fault me of anything that I’m saying if it is contradicted by what is itself in the testimony of the Scripture.” Also, I am living in a community where I am not functioning as the prophet, but I am a brother who is subject to criticism of other brothers, to their correction, that would keep me in the straight and the narrow way.
A prophetic man has a great sense of his responsibility before God: “My Lord, to be Your mouthpiece, to speak Your Word. How dare I traffic in this, or take my liberty, or use it for any self-aggrandizement or take liberties with Your Word, or seek affect?” There is a great ponderous weight of responsibility before God not to violate the trust, and yet we hear Elijah say, “As the Lord my God lives before whom I stand it shall not rain or dew, but according to my word” (1 Kin. 17:1), and he commands the widow woman to feed him first; we also hear Paul say, “Follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1), and Moses describes himself as the meekest man upon the face of the earth. In one sense, it sounds like the most arrogant egotism, but in the deeper sense, it issues out of brokenness and a humility that men of this character, substance and history, know and have. Therefore, I would say that brokenness, the dealings of God, is a requisite for the prophetic man. God has to keep him somewhat in that state at all times, keep it current and let him taste humiliation frequently. I mentioned today, even when he has sought the Lord with fasting and believes that he has the Lord’s Word, to hear an indictment that you have failed the Lord and have grossly, adversely affected God’s people, and to consider that, yes, that might be true. You always live in the tension that you might fail; therefore, you take as great a precaution as you can and being careful over what you say, but knowing also that in the volume of much speaking, there is sin. My daily prayer is always, “Forgive me, Lord, for the iniquity of much speaking, because invariably something will slip in, the tone of accent, an illustration that is not totally Yours, for which I ask Your forgiveness and Your cleansing, and that will be more perfectly the expression of Your heart and life.” That is a great and awesome responsibility and call, and that is why such men need to be prayed for, need to be attended by prayer, by intercession. Those men who are not in that kind of relationship and have organizations rather than communities, who of necessity would affirm them and not bring correction, are in the greatest danger of becoming false.
A: You have given some examples already; are there any others that come to mind of some impact of your prophetic ministry?
Art: Well, I mentioned the Holocaust message that came in Kansas City was certainly one, as 2,000 people went down. That was the first statement on the Holocaust at a big charismatic conference of 1977, and I had volunteered for the theme, ‘The Holocaust: Confrontation and Repentance.’ I made it my own title, took all of my scraps that I had saved over the years, came to the hotel room, spread them out over the window sill and desk, from one end to the other, filled the entire space, and looked at all of this material with despair. How would I ever fashion a message out of that? I sat down, rolled up my sleeves, and did not get up for eight hours. I forgot lunch, had not eaten breakfast, and realized that I was meant to fast. When I finished, I had an outline, and I came back every evening from the sessions of this conference, looking at the outline, now stone cold dead. I could not get a word, waiting for the Lord to put the flesh on that skeleton, till the Saturday morning came that I was to speak; I had nothing more than the outline.
The brother with whom I was to share that speaking time had to leave abruptly—his wife had a child at two or four o’clock that morning, so I had the whole speaking time for myself. I got up, and all I could do was read it in a monotone voice, and there was deadliest silence that ever followed a speaker, not an ‘amen,’ not a ripple, not a sound, that gave every appearance of unbelievable failure before 200 Jewish believers and 2,000 charismatic Christians. Then, as I finished, I was confronted by some man coming down the aisle saying that he was a prophet, Jewish, sent by God, that I had offended grievously against the Body of Christ and needed to repent of the message. I was looking at him in stunned astonishment because it could have been true, and in that moment, BOOM!! Cries broke out all over the auditorium, the deepest heart cry of repentance I had ever heard then, or ever since, and people virtually tumbled out of their seats, called the Jewish believers to stand, and asked for forgiveness of those in the audience against whose forefathers we had offended by our Jewish presence in Europe as a critical voice against the faith, mocking the virgin birth and all these things, and people stood up in the congregation out of German and Polish backgrounds asking our forgiveness, as Jewish believers, for their forefathers assault against us. It was an event. It was a piece of church history.
Something like that also took place in Jerusalem in 1974 after a message on Elijah, where I had chosen not to accept the invitation to be a speaker. I did not want to give up my hidden identity if the Lord had a future purpose for me in that land, and was tacked on at the end. I was spotted at the passport control, and my name was on a blacklist; they assumed that I had nothing to hide, so I was somehow unknown and still being allowed into the country. Then the circumstances unfolded. The Jewish believer called to replace me never showed up because he was sick, and people saw me around. There was not a single Jewish speaker on a conference in Jerusalem. “Why don’t we invite Art?” So they give me five minutes, then seven minutes, but as I was speaking on Elijah, a note came up, saying take 45 minutes, so I took 45 minutes! Only later did I find out that it really said take 4-5 minutes. All these years later, 29 years later, I still suffer the reproach as the man who does his own thing, but it gave the Lord the platform to bring the Word of the Lord before that people, and is now one of the chapters in the book Reality: The hope of Glory. There have been certain significant epochal statements that the Lord has been pleased to make through me over the years for the church, for which I am grateful, but each one was an experience of death, like that of a eunuch for Christ’s sake, and you never know when those moments are going to come.
A: How would you describe your relationship with the church?
Art: Well, which church do you mean? I think the church at large does not even know of my existence, but the Lord put the word ‘remnant’ in my heart some years ago, so I seem to be a factor for a certain remnant of the church in many nations who have been prepared and are fitted for a word of this kind. I have not been a charismatic ‘darling,’ and as one brother said to me, “Art you could’ve gone so far with your gifts. We don’t know of anyone who so challenges God’s people in the way you do, but unfortunately you can’t be counted upon. If only you would play the game, if only you would go along and employ your gifts in a right way, there’s no limit to what would accrue to you and your benefit.” I have never played the game, and I once asked a more current, internationally-recognized prophet, “How is it that I’m not invited to your prophetic functions, seeing that I have the history in this calling long before any of you?” He said, “Art, the reason you’re not invited is that you are not an ‘in-house’ prophet. We can’t count on you to go along. You might upset the apple cart.” What I recognize in this flush of the new prophets is a fraternity of mutual, self-congratulatory men who affirm one another, and I do not fit in with that environment. They know it, and so I am not in that dimension. I am not known, or if I am known, I am either little known or scorned. So what church are we talking about here?
I sent out a circular letter for 50 prominent men in America who were either prophetic or aligned in somehow with that calling, to raise questions about what is now being accepted and defined as being prophetic on the basis of the accuracy of prediction. I said that for me, the issue was not prediction at all, let alone its accuracy, but the issue of oracular pronouncement. A prophet is distinguished by bringing the statement of the oracular mind of God to the church in the hour, and I am not hearing that. What I am hearing is homilies and truisms, and little preachments to get the Word out of the way and then go to the real business for which the people have come: personal prophecy! Yet, these men are called the oracles of the hour, and I am pained that they allow themselves to be so described when there is not a word that issues from them that in any way suggests that. Now they are doing with the word ‘apostolic’ what they have already done in trafficking with the word ‘prophet,’ forming organizational frameworks by which men align themselves in that word, which in itself is the very contradiction of what the word ‘apostolic’ means in its ethos, that is, antithetical to human organization!
I cannot express in so many words, how profound my jealousy is for these two great words ‘prophetic’ and ‘apostolic’; they are the foundations of the church, and if they lose their meaning, their cogency, if they stand for something other than what God intends, then we have lost the game. If I could, I would say to these guys, “Listen, play your games with other language—‘Body of Christ, church growth, power evangelism’—go ahead, but don’t touch these sacred words; they’re not yours to defame and to employ.”
I think this is the great issue of the hour, and I am jealous for other prophetic men to be watchmen on the wall and to be careful how these great words are understood and employed. To stand against these organizational, fraternal collectives of men who congratulate one another and call that ‘being submitted.’ I was told in Singapore, by one of their American spokesmen, that I am out of relationship, and I am not truly submitted, and that is why I have the strange views of Israel that I do! But he did not even begin to touch the depth of the authenticity of what we know as a very real submittedness, they have it only in the organizational, mutually applauding and congratulatory framework, which is a deceit and a contradiction of the very words ‘prophetic’ and ‘apostolic’! There is something here of grave concern that we need to be aware of.
A: Do you have a relationship with the non-Christian world?
Art: I don’t think so. I mean, maybe only in the places where I have spoken at universities. I believe that as the crisis of Israel deepens, the Jewish authorities will not be in any place to give explanation; therefore, I foresee the possibility of addressing secular Jews, not in churches, but in public lecture halls, libraries, or university venues. We must bring the spiritual into the secular, because the crisis will obtain for us an opportunity to be heard. [Since this interview, and as of November 2002, the Lord has moved Art to New York City in direct availability to the Jewish community there.] Other than that, I could hope that maybe my book The Spirit of Truth might be equally as valuable for the non-Christian reader as the Christian reader, because the issue of truth is the issue of reality. I would like to have a greater involvement with non-Christians, but the little effect I have had is a letter to the editor of our local newspaper over some issue that has come up in our locality when the last Star Wars film came and there were these 6-7’ cutout, bizarre figures from that film, fostered by Pepsi-Cola Corporation who paid $25 million or so for the rights to use these figures, so that I could not go into a store without having one of these figures brooding over me. I wrote a letter to the editor, calling for a public outcry against the invasion of our privacy by this commercial undertaking that had captured our own children to the point where they sleep out on the street, waiting for the theatre to be opened to be the first ones in to see this bizarre thing that has invaded us. It is not a private thing that you can choose; it invades you. So, in that way, I have had some very minimal voice to the secular community, but I hope that it will increase. Like the issue of Princess Diana’s funeral, it is a secular thing that requires and deserves a prophetic interpretation and a prophetic outcry. In that charade, both British society and Christendom itself suffered enormous loss.
A: Art, can you describe how you receive the content of your message?
Art: Well, for example, Ezekiel 37, where I shared from today, was quickened in a new way at the very outbreak of the intafada [the Palestinian uprising in Israel], in the very first stoning of children against Israeli occupation. Something happened in my inner man; in my spirit, I knew that I knew that this was the beginning of the end for Israel. This innocuous stone throwing was the beginning of the end for this Zionist state. How did I know that? The Lord just triggered something in me. It is interesting how a message will be birthed or conceived. How did I fall upon Paul’s statement on widows and slaves? I just stumbled upon it, but it fastened itself and came alive in my spirit. Crises will produce something, different situations. It is just a brooding in the Scriptures in my devotional time every morning in the book of Psalms. I read the Psalm for the day, and it often becomes my Sunday message at my own fellowship. The Lord just has a way of triggering and generating and drawing from the well of salvation in things, both old and new in Christ, which He has invested in me. So I read and meditate on Karl Barth and other writers, and the Lord will call for it. I do not have a photographic memory—memory is my worst faculty—but the Lord can call for the resonance, or the residue, or the substance, the cumulative weight of things that have been nurtured, cultivated and deposited in our being, at any time. He can bring these thoughts into any kind of conjunction with other things as a synthesis of a new kind that is appropriate to the hearer. It is a remarkable phenomenon, the birthing of the word. I am continually not preparing the message, but being a prepared man. I am continually reading, studying, weighing up, and letting the Lord draw forth from those riches.
A: Art, are you able to describe something of the process of being able to discern the difference between something that you know has the Lord’s mark on it and something that is coming out of, for example, your own frustrated persona or that kind of thing?
Art: The only safety in not expressing personal pique as being somehow the prophetic heart of God is to be free from personal pique. That is to say, the work of the Cross has got to be deeper in us than in men of other callings. I do not think that teachers, as much as I respect them, love and admire their work, have the same depth of dealings from God as the prophetic men. The Lord has had several speak to me a verse from Isaiah that describes my own calling: “You are a threshing machine with fine teeth that will thresh up the hills as chaff” (41:15), and I think to myself, “What they don’t know is that before I’m allowed to thresh others, I myself am threshed.” The only thing that will save us from interjecting any personal pique or petulance or pet thing and calling that the prophetic statement is that the Lord is continually dealing with the root of self, so that you are free from personal pique, and what you express is not some vagary of your own imagining or some personal thing, but God’s own heart. Yet, it comes out of your personal life, out of your marriage, out of your community, out of your circumstances.
A: Art, what about the presence of God? Do you see any relationship between the presence of God and the prophetic?
Art: Well, I am always enjoying the presence of God. I don’t make a fetish out of it, and I do not seek it as a thing in itself. In fact, I am saying that what the Church needs is to learn to function in obedience in the absence of the felt presence of God, because we are coming to a place where we have to come full circle in what was the Lord’s own experience, and in the great crises of testing, we will also be required to say, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” We will experience the actual forsakenness of God, at least in terms of the felt presence. I do enjoy a continual sense of God’s presence, but I never seek it for the experience, and in my daily morning devotional times, I am not prompted by that presence, and it is very often conducted in the absence of that presence.
I am concerned for the way in which the issue of God’s presence is now becoming a significant theme in contemporary church life, and we even have the audacity to think we can invoke it by performing something; for example, we think certain choruses or a style of worship will actually usher in God’s presence, which makes Him the respondent to our initiative, and that is dastardly. I oppose that greatly. There is a great emphasis now on experience and presence that is disturbing and of great concern, because it is not the preparation for the kind of Last Days obedience that will be required, with or without the sense of God’s presence. We are a sense-sated church, and so much disposed towards feeling; that is why we have even blurred the distinction between soul and spirit. If something revs us up and affects us emotionally, we automatically assume that that must be God. When our knowledge of God is so minimal, and we are hungry for experience, we will not be much concerned as to what the source of that experience is.
I have stood out like a proverbial sore thumb in the midst of the most electrifying view of people falling and crying, and I am strangely undisturbed and unaffected. Either I am the deadest man who cannot even be moved, or I have kept my spirit inviolate, and anything that comes to me as experience, if it is not conformable to and compatible with what I already have in the knowledge of God by the Spirit, then I will not allow entrance. I think that the church is presently paying a great price for its easy acceptance of anything that comes that is emotionally moving, whatever lifts them up; later on, the enemy who, has much call for that kind of thing, has a hook in those who have subscribed to it, such as this generation of people who puncture themselves, perforate themselves, tattoo themselves. With every such act, the enemy has gained access.
I am also concerned for this trend in our recent Christianity that is called ‘revival.’ When I see the Word of God disparaged, these men under the so-called power of this intoxicating spirit choke and splutter; they are unable even to speak responsibly and defend their faith. Defending the faith is much more powerful and much more rewarding than anything that has ever been attained by the preaching of the Word, and when I hear the Lord disparaged in the name of experience, you can believe that every antenna in me goes up instantly, as this is not of God, but coming out of another place. So much for experience! Of course, experience is to be cherished, but it is not to be sought in this mindless and uncritical way. I think the reason for the wellspring of this emphasis is the lack of a confidence that believers have in the knowledge of God, and that is why they run to these prophets for a word of prophecy, an experience. They will traverse the earth, when He is already available right in their prayer chamber, because they need an experience or word to confirm that God loves them.
This confidence in God has safeguarded me, and has made me impervious to entreaties in the realm of soul and feeling; even when the entreaties seemingly serve the ostensible purpose of repentance with North American Indians and those who have brutalized and offended against them, I am totally unmoved. I sat through such a meeting in Canada where they were going up to the microphone and asking for forgiveness, and while everyone around me was weeping, including the people that brought me to the conference, I was unmoved. As we were driving home, “Art what did you think of this tonight?” I said, “When you saw me, I was totally unmoved, and I am trying to understand why that is. Certainly I am concerned for reconciliation, for the injustices of the task, but I felt that this was staged, this was contrived, this was a soulish counterfeit that was not waiting on the Spirit of God, and it was humanly manipulated.” And do you know what I think? I think my view of Israel and the judgment of God has been so foundational in my understanding of God, that somehow in itself it gives me strength against the incursion of soulish things. I don’t know how to explain this. It is as though a right apprehending of the mystery of Israel is God’s own provision against the deceptions of the Last Days, because the receiving of God in judgment brings an iron to the soul on a depth of apprehension of God that somehow also serves to insulate us from the soulish entreaties to which we would otherwise be subject. The church is suffering in that way from the centrality of Israel rightly understood, and it is therefore easily moved and taken in by many of these episodes.
A: Struggling to define these terms that we are looking at, ‘prophetic, prophet,’ etc., you have talked a little bit about some of the disquiet that you have with that neo-prophetic movement, if we can call it that. There is another school that labels itself prophetic, and they are, I suppose, in the political realm; they are talking about social justice, and the term ‘prophet’ is used to refer to people who operate in that realm. Do you have any comments to make about how wide you think we can enlarge this term and still remain valid?
Art: I have had no personal contact with anyone who pursues social justice in the name of that which is prophetic, but I think I mentioned this morning that the call of Moses as Israel’s deliverer out of Egypt was not the basis of his apprehension of the slavery or the injustices perpetrated by this people who had moved him 40 years before to kill an Egyptian, but God’s perception and His hearing the cry that had risen up to Him. “Therefore, I send you” (Ex. 3:10). I was in a seminary once, and I watched these middle class students’ beating hearts, crying crocodile tears for the injustices in Latin America, the poverty and the exploitation of the poor. I was not at all impressed. It was more a cathartic release for their middle class guilt, because God does not call us to a direct lineal response to injustice, but to Him, or else we be deceived and drawn away by apparent need. It is not for us to discern, but only to be sent by Him who rightly discerns and moves. Therefore, I would be somewhat suspicious of those who have seized upon social themes and calling that prophetic as acting out of their own initiative; their motives might be dubious and self-serving. The only valid response to social ills is what is sent from God from heaven, and not our own direct apprehension of the ill itself. This saves me, and the entire church, from running off in every direction.
A: Art, I know that you are an infrequent but long-term visitor to New Zealand. What can you see as the challenges facing us as a church?
Art: As I mentioned this morning, this is the only nation where I have heard myself saying that God will not only meet with Jews in the wilderness of New Zealand, but that the whole nation will be a wilderness among the nations. It may well be that the whole nation will be given to the receiving and providing of refuge for Jews in flight. That means that there is an exceptional call, not only on the church within the nation, but also on the nation, per se, as a nation. Last night, I was profoundly impressed by the prayer that I heard going up from this congregation—the depth of the prayer, the earnestness, and the hunger that was expressed. I would have to look back far in my experience to remember another occasion of hearing the saints from any nation expressing prayer in that kind of depth. I have appreciated New Zealand for producing saints of this kind. I felt myself so unworthy to be the Lord’s spokesman to them. I am glad for last night and for what was revealed; whether they themselves realize it or not, in their prayer and in their cry, there was something that I have not seen elsewhere in a spiritual depth. Therefore, there must be a destiny, a calling, for this church and nation that is beyond, what belongs to others. Why that is, I do not know. Geographically, where you are located, safely distanced and remote from other nations, might be the key. It is the farthermost ends of the earth where God will expel them and then bring them back. He has not spoken that to me or revealed that to me, but I am privileged to minister here and sense this quality and this depth among the saints.
A: Art, is there anything you want to add to this whole subject?
Art: Just a thought that this issue of personal morning devotion before the commencement of the day; it might be more significant that anyone knows, and it might be the actual factor of Israel’s hope of deliverance. For this, I use the text of Mark, chapter nine, of the young man who was thrown into the fire by a demonic spirit. “How long has this been going on?” Jesus asked the father. “Since childhood” (v. 21), since infancy, since the inception of his life, so that, prophetically, I am thinking, “What is being represented here? This is not just a child being molested, harassed. This is a child that is the particular object of demonic fury seeking to kill him.” This must represent Israel itself. The disciples, being unable to cast this out, asked Jesus, and He answered, “This kind [this ultimate kind] cometh not out but by fasting and by prayer” (v. 29). The way that I have been given to understand that in the light of my own experience is that it is a prayer beyond petition. It is that communion with God where we linger and wait in His presence, because He is God and not because of anything that we would receive of utilitarian kind, that imbues us with something of Himself, so that when we have to confront Last Days’ demonic activity, we bring that reality, which is the accumulation of the daily times with God, that is greater than the visible reality of their power. What we obtain in that early morning communion will be critical in the Last Days for Israel’s deliverance. It is not heroics; it is devotion.
I would just encourage those who are reading this interview to be inspired to not neglect the commencement of the day with the Lord, not just for the issue of their petition or reading of an obligatory chapter, in order that they have done their religious duty, but to spend sufficient time in the Lord’s presence, even when it is not felt, so that something is given of what is God Himself, ultimate reality. In the Last Days, we will defeat and move and deliver a victimized Israel from the clutches of those dark powers. That would be a last encouragement that I would like to express.
The prophet in his day is fully accepted of God and totally rejected by men.
Years back, Dr. Gregory Mantle was right when he said, "No man can be fully accepted until he is totally rejected." The prophet of the Lord is aware of both these experiences. They are his "brand name."
The group, challenged by the prophet because they are smug and comfortably insulated from a perishing world in their warm but untested theology, is not likely to vote him "Man of the year" when he refers to them as habituates of the synagogue of Satan!
The prophet comes to set up that which is upset. His work is to call into line those who are out of line! He is unpopular because he opposes the popular in morality and spirituality. In a day of faceless politicians and voiceless preachers, there is not a more urgent national need than that we cry to God for a prophet! The function of the prophet, as Austin-Sparks once said, "has almost always been that of recovery."
The prophet is God's detective seeking for a lost treasure. The degree of his effectiveness is determined by his measure of unpopularity.
I am bombarded with talk or letters about the coming shortages in our national life: bread, fuel, energy. I read between the lines from people not practiced in scaring folk. They feel that the "seven years of plenty" are over for us. The "seven years of famine" are ahead. But the greatest famine of all in this nation at this given moment is a FAMINE OF THE HEARING OF THE WORDS OF GOD (Amos 8:11).
Millions have been spent on evangelism in the last twenty-five years. Hundreds of gospel messages streak through the air over the nation every day. Crusades have been held; healing meetings have made a vital contribution. "Come-outers" have "come out" and settled, too, without a nation-shaking revival. Organizers we have. Skilled preachers abound. Multi-million dollar Christian organizations straddle the nation. BUT where, oh where, is the prophet? Where are the incandescent men fresh from the holy place? Where is the Moses to plead in fasting before the holiness of the Lord for our moldy morality, our political perfidy, and sour and sick spirituality?
GOD'S MEN ARE IN HIDING UNTIL THE DAY OF THEIR SHOWING FORTH. They will come. The prophet is violated during his ministry, but he is vindicated by history.
There is a terrible vacuum in evangelical Christianity today. The missing person in our ranks is the prophet. The man with a terrible earnestness. The man totally otherworldly. The man rejected by other men, even other good men, because they consider him too austere, too severely committed, too negative and unsociable.
Let him be as plain as John the Baptist. Let him for a season be a voice crying in the wilderness of modern theology and stagnant "churchianity." Let him be as selfless as Paul the apostle. Let him, too, say and live, "This ONE thing I do." Let him reject ecclesiastical favors. Let him be self-abasing, nonself-seeking, nonself-projecting, nonself-righteous, nonself-glorying, nonself-promoting. Let him say nothing that will draw men to himself but only that which will move men to God. Let him come daily from the throne room of a holy God, the place where he has received the order of the day. Let him, under God, unstop the ears of the millions who are deaf through the clatter of shekels milked from this hour of material mesmerism. Let him cry with a voice this century has not heard because he has seen a vision no man in this century has seen. God send us this Moses to lead us from the wilderness of crass materialism, where the rattlesnakes of lust bite us and where enlightened men, totally blind spiritually, lead us to an ever-nearing Armageddon.
God have mercy! Send us PROPHETS!
Back to top
Back to top
Salt, Light and Sheep among Wolves In his life and teachings, Christ showed concretely the values of the Kingdom of God. The Sermon on the Mount tells us what the Kingdom of God is like, the kinds of values and relationships that mark it.
The practical effect and importance of Christ's kingdom teachings have too often been kept in quarantine by two errors. One of these says Christ's words are exclusively for the definitively-established Kingdom and therefore have no application to the contemporary Church in history except as they show what the Kingdom will be (or should have been) like. This kind of dispensationalism must be rejected as unbiblical. It has the same effect as cutting such passages right out of the Bible and rests on a highly selective interpretation. It is the very teachings that strike us as impractical or impossible to apply to which the Church should pay close attention!
The other error says the Sermon on the Mount deals with personal ethics but not with social ethics; therefore the Church must look elsewhere (either to other scriptures or to "the scientific analysis of the class struggle" or to some other teacher) for guidance on social and political questions. This view rests on a false premise and a false dichotomy. The Sermon on the Mount, like Jesus' teachings in general, is highly social if it is anything. There is no dichotomy in Jesus between the individual and the social dimensions. The Christian community is a social fact, and in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus outlines the qualities cherished by that community. "The personhood which he proclaims as a healing, forgiving call to all is integrated into the social novelty of the healing community."8
So Jesus shows what the reign of God is like, and the Church's mission is to incarnate and demonstrate the values he taught. The Church is to be a sign of the Kingdom in the world.
Jacques Ellul defines the Christian's function in the world in terms of three figures used by Christ: the salt of the earth, the light of the world and sheep among wolves.9 Each of these figures suggests a specific function of the Church.
Salt suggests the Church's role of preservation. As salt the Church is a sign of the covenant between God and his people (Lev. 2:13). The Church, in covenant relationship with God, leavens society and its structures, preserving them from death and braking the world's mad drive toward self-destruction. It is Christ who moment by moment sustains the fallen creation (Heb. 1:3; Col. 1:17), and at its own level the Church shares in this sustaining work.
As light the Church is a means of revelation to men. The Church has no revelation in itself, of course; but it is "a community under the Word." Not only does it live in fidelity to the Word; its function is also to bring the light of the Word to bear on the world and show the true nature of the world's problems. It can do this only because it has first received and obeyed God's Word. Here the Christian's role goes beyond preservation: "He reveals to the world the truth about its condition, and witnesses to the salvation of which it is an instrument."10
Finally, the Church lives as sheep among wolves. This suggests the demonstration in the flesh of the reality of the Kingdom. Christ is the Lamb of God, and his little flock, the Church, enters the Kingdom by the same door Jesus had to pass through. Jesus' sacrifice was once and final, but "the life laid down" is the permanent ethical principle for the Church. The only true Christian ethics is crucifixion ethics. Ellul explains:
In the world everyone wants to be a "wolf, " and no one is called to
the part of a "sheep." Yet the world cannot live without this living
witness of sacrifice. That is why it is essential that Christians should
be very careful not to be "wolves" in the spiritual sense-that is, people
who try to dominate others. Christians must accept the domination of
other people, and offer the daily sacrifice of their lives, which is united
with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. l 1
The Prophetic Role These comments suggest the basic character of the Church's prophetic role. More specifically, I would outline the following four ways in which the Church fulfills its prophetic function.
1. The Church is prophetic when it creates and sustains a reconciled and reconciling community of believers (2 Cor. 5:16-21; Col. 1:21-23; Phil. 2:1-11; Eph. 2:1-22). When this happens, evangelism takes on prophetic dimensions. Reconciliation with God must be demonstrated by genuine reconciliation within the Christian community and by a continuing ministry of reconciliation in the world.
This means that in each local Christian assembly reconciliation must be more than a theory and more than an invisible spiritual transaction. Reconciliation must be real and visible. Racial and economic exploitation and all forms of elitism (including that of a professionalized clergy) must be challenged biblically. Unholy divisions in the body of Christ must be seen as sin and worldliness (1 Cor. 3:3-4). Likewise the local church must work to bring full reconciliation between marriage partners, parents and children, and employer and employee when alienation and discord in these relationships are discovered within the Church (Eph. 5:1-6:9).
Such a community of reconciliation can exist in the world only in active tension with surrounding culture. The differences and distance between the Christian community and the larger human community will vary from one time and place to another, depending on the extent to which culture is godless and under Satan's dominion. As society becomes more godless, the Church must increasingly both see itself and actually structure itself as a self-conscious counterculture. This is necessary for its own faithfulness to the gospel and for any truly prophetic role in the world. In much of the world the Church is moving into an era when it must increasingly take on the marks of a counterculture.
2. The Church is prophetic when it recognizes and identifies the true enemy (Mt. 10:28; Lk. 12:4-5; Eph. 6:12; Rom. 8:38-39; 1 Cor. 15:26; Rev. 12:9; 20:2, 14). Satan's trick is to point to false enemies and pose false alternatives. Man in his sin clouded blindness eagerly follows, for he is only too ready to believe that the real villain is someone else (not himself) and the real power is some impersonal force or historical process (fate, destiny, progress, technology, dialectic-or even "the will of God" in an impersonal, abstract sense). Adam and Eve's reaction in the Garden after their Fall illustrates this moral buck-passing.
Man's true enemy is Satan and the "principalities and powers" under his control (Eph. 6:12 RSV). Therefore true liberation always means first of all breaking the bondage of sin at the personal level through the power of Jesus Christ. "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace" (Eph. 1:7). This means being "made alive" after having been "dead in . . . transgressions and sins" (Eph. 2:1). Salvation begins here; this is the one indispensable narrow gate which Satan wants to block, for it is here that man dies to himself, repudiates Satan and acknowledges God as sovereign and Jesus Christ as the only way to God and thus to God's Kingdom (Acts 4:12).
Satan would introduce a shortcut to the Kingdom that bypasses the cross and gets himself off the hook as the archenemy. He perpetually holds out before the Church the same temptation he suggested to Jesus: "All this I will give you . . . if you will bow down and worship me" (Mt. 4:9). Jesus' response is the permanent command for God's people: "Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only" (Mt. 4:10).
The temptation to accept substitute gods and counterfeit satans is always before the Church. At various periods in history the Church has been deceived into warring against false archenemies: Turks, Saracens, insubordination to the hierarchy, rebaptism, the Indians, the Jews, Negroes, whites, Nazism, communism, socialism, the bourgeoisie, capitalism, imperialism. In the name of opposition to these enemies Christians have been willing to put others to death; for when the Church accepts Satan's definition of the enemy, she also readily adopts Satan's tactics.
The Church must see clearly enough both to identify the true enemy and to discern how and where Satan is working today. 12 Satan does work through social structures, ideologies, movements and persons. But the Church must see the enemy behind the enemy in order to avoid false alternatives and a false definition of the problem. She must not reduce faith to ideology-even a religious ideology-and thereby compromise the very gospel itself.
False enemies call forth false solutions which usually are the reverse image of the supposed culprit. Thus the Church is tricked into fighting on the enemy's turf and with his weapons. Too often the Church has let the world define the nature of the battle.
Thus if the foe is seen as communism, Christians are tempted to commit themselves unreservedly to free enterprise. If the enemy is "dependent capitalism and neocolonialism," Christians get behind Marxist socialism. If the danger is a point of doctrine, Christians turn orthodoxy into a bludgeon; if it is a specific behavior, conformity becomes a straitjacket.
The Church must always accept the Bible's definition of man's problem and its identification of the enemy. The Bible is very clear that "the last enemy to be destroyed is death" (1 Cor. 15:26). The identification of this enemy can be a test for the Church. All ideologies, institutions, men and movements are powerless in the face of death. The Church is on target only if its warfare and struggle lead to victory over death. "What sort of savior or god would he be who could not or would not save us from death, sin, and hell?" wrote Martin Luther. "What the true God promises and carries out must be something big."'3 If the Church sees clearly and acts faithfully, it will share Christ's victory over literal, physical death and will also win many kingdom victories along the way. But if it is tricked into fighting false enemies, it will lose its redemptive power and be impotent at the gates of death.
3. The Church is prophetic when it renounces the world's definition and practice of power (Mt. 20:20-28; 23:1-12; Mk. 9:35-37; Lk. 9:46-48; 22:24-27; Jn. 13:12-17; Phil. 2:1-11; 1 Cor. 1:1831). Jesus talked about power, but he insisted that his followers see and use power differently from the way the world does.
The two passages in Matthew (20:20-28; 23:1-12) should be examined carefully. In Matthew 20:25-28, in response to James's and John's request for pre-eminent power in the coming kingdom and in answer to the other disciples' reaction to this request, Jesus said,
You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their
high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead,
whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever
wants to be first must be your slave just as the Son of Man did not come
to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.
Superficially it appears that the problem here is James's and John's desire for a position not legitimately theirs. But Jesus defines the situation more fundamentally: the world's concept of power must not operate within the Church. "Not so with you." Power in the Church is not a question of position or hierarchy or authority; it is a question of function and of service. The greatness of a Christian is not according to office, status, degrees or reputation, but according to how he or she functions as a servant.
In politics it is different. In politics "high officials exercise authority." But not in the Church. With one statement Jesus rejects the political model for the Church.
Similarly, in Matthew 23:1-12 Jesus rejects the religious hierarchical model. Religious leaders, like political leaders, exercise authority. But they do not practice what they preach. They are concerned about status, position and titles. But what does Jesus say about his own followers?
You are not to be called "Rabbi, "for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth `father, "for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called "teacher," for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. " (Mt. 23 :8-12)
Jesus shows here that the political mindset of Matthew 20: 25 had been assimilated by the established religious leaders. But he rejects it for the Church. Status and authority based on hierarchical position are totally foreign to the kind of community Jesus forms.
It could be argued, of course, that Jesus is merely exhorting to humility here, and not giving a fundamentally different basis of relationships from that of the world. But taken at face value, Jesus' statements in both these passages suggest something more fundamental: the servant or slave is the true model for ministry and relationships among Jesus' followers. And if these teachings were true for the Twelve, they are true for us. They express God's desire for the Christian community in the days between Christ's first and second comings.
What is it that Jesus is rejecting here, really? Is he not rejecting all power based on position and status rather than on Christian character and Christ likeness? This very idea is scandalous to the world for the world says power and position are synonymous and that the goal of power is to control. Jesus says the goal of the Christian is to serve others and glorify God, and the way to such service is through the cross. This is true power, however foolish it appears to the world.
The world is deluded. It believes that real power is a matter of politics. As Jacques Ellul reminds us, "There is a kind of cloud of confusion surrounding politics, a political obsession according to which nothing has significance or importance apart from political intervention and, when all is said and done, all issues are political. 1115 This supposed ultimate significance of politics is the "political illusion" to which the Church falls prey. "Therefore we reject all overestimation of political decisions, all idealizing of any political regime ...." 16 For politics is relative and by its very nature tends to pose relative questions in absolute terms.
The Church must reject making politics or the State ultimate and sacred. It must renounce political weapons in favor of the armor of God of Ephesians 6:10-20. This passage shows us both the weapons of the Church and, by contrast, those of the world. The stated weapons of the Church are truth, justice, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the Word of God and prayer. For each of these the world has its demonic distortion.
In place of truth the world brandishes propaganda. Propaganda is truth twisted for political ends. In secular warfare truth is not sacred but is merely a tool to be used. But in the Church it must not be so! There must be strict adherence to truth in every sense; there can be no compromising here, for God is the God of truth and Jesus Christ is the truth (Jn. 14:6).
In place of justice or righteousness the world substitutes violence and oppresion-and calls them justice. In human warfare righteousness is a victim in almost every sense. The Church must pursue justice defined in biblical terms and must steadfastly reject all violence, manipulation and injustice.
In place of the gospel of peace the world preaches the gospel of power. Liberation becomes a mere power struggle wherein political power is taken from the bad guys and given to the good guys. The weapon of the Church is to preach good news about the shalom Christ brings-peace with God, reconciliation among persons and harmony throughout God's creation. The Church renounces the gospel of power as both illusory and ultimately ineffective.
In place of faith the world creates ideology. Ideology is a false faith leading to total commitment to false gods (the Fuhrer, the State or the ideology itself). The world recognizes the value of faith; faith is functional. It is indispensable for warfare. And so faith becomes a technique, merely a means to an end, the tool of ideology. For the Church, "the shield of faith" means total commitment to and dependence on Jesus Christ (not on some "ism" or even "Christianity"). Personal relationship with the living, liberating Jesus is the best defense against ideology.
In place of salvation the world places a false, this-worldly utopia. The world secularizes Christian eschatology and then sacralizes the result. It defines a false Kingdom of God, shaped politically and economically, and then raises this goal to the level of absolute good. But the Church insists on the full biblical meaning of salvation.
In the place of the Word of God the world fabricates its own human sources of revelation. Most often these are science, technology, philosophy or a false messiah (whether political or religious). The Church has no faith in scientific analysis or technological breakthroughs except as these can be shown to be in harmony with the incarnate Word and the written Word. The quickening, discerning Word of God must always be the Church's ultimate source of revelation.
In place of prayer the world substitutes effective action. To the world, prayer is a cop-out and an opiate to keep people from what is really important. But the Church renounces this false view and insists that, in the light of the Word of God, prayer is effective action.
The Church must be marked by total and exclusive reliance on the armor of God. To the world this will appear as weakness and folly. "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; and chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong" (1 Cor. 1:27). The gospel and the Church are weak precisely where the world looks for strength. This is the pattern left us by Jesus Christ. Such renunciation of power shows the mystery and the absurdity of the Kingdom of God, and is truly prophetic.
4. The Church is prophetic when it works for justice in society (Ps.82:1-4; Amos 5:21-24; Lk. 3:10-14; 4:18-21; Mt. 11:4-6; Eph. 5:11). Christians bear a particular responsibility to the poor and oppressed. God's people are called to defend the cause of the poor and needy within each nation and worldwide. l' The treatment of the poor, the needy and "those who have no social power"18 becomes a test of the justness of any society or political system. Therefore when the Church works in behalf of the poor it is meeting specific human need and it is making a politically significant contribution.
The Church works for the physical and social needs of people not as though this were the primary or exclusive task of the Church but as a testimony that redemption and holiness (which are truly spiritual and moral) include every area of life.
In the political sphere the Church is concerned less about equality than about liberty and the safeguarding of personal rights and dignities, especially those of the defenseless. The gospel is first of all a message of liberation, and then, derivatively, of equality. An insistence on liberty is necessary to guarantee that any achieved equality not degenerate into a lowest common-denominator equalism understood in merely quantitative or economic terms.
Whether and how Christians should participate in political processes is a many-sided question that depends upon a multitude of factors. Perhaps we can conceive of a continuum, at one end of which is counterculture and at the other, political and social participation. In some contexts the Church must exist almost exclusively as a counterculture; in other situations society may be so leavened by the gospel that active political and social participation is possible. Between these two poles lies a broad range of likely roles for the Church. In any specific context, as culture deteriorates morally and spiritually and comes increasingly under Satan's domination, the Church must move progressively from active involvement to the counterculture stance. Presumably movement in the other direction would be possible under opposite conditions. These issues and circumstances require great spiritual discernment.
The Church is prophetic when it is truly the messianic community which reveals the nature of the Kingdom and the mind and stature of Jesus Christ. As it carries on the works of Christ it fulfills its kingdom tasks.
But this will never be a neat, clear-cut, triumphant road for the Church to follow. Obedience to the gospel in a world where Satan is still active means living with tension. This is part of the meaning of the Incarnation. The Incarnation makes sense only through faith in God. If it is faithful, the Church's career will largely parallel that of Jesus Christ.
We, as Christians, can never be sure we have all the answers or see all things clearly or are really "making progress." We are therefore constantly forced back to total dependence on the incarnate Christ. We should be alarmed when we are at home in the world or have total "peace of mind." Christian life in a non-Christian world is tension, stress and at times even agony. A whole system of social techniques aims to adjust the individual to the world and eliminate tensions. But being a Jesus-follower means accepting the scandal of Jesus' statements that he came to bring not harmony but discord; not peace but a sword (Mt. 10:34-36). For only thus may true peace finally come.
In summary, the Church's kingdom tasks include the proclamation of the gospel in such a way that men and women respond in faith and obedience to Jesus and join in building the Christian community. This community is a new social reality which, through its likeness to Christ and its renunciation of the world's definitions and tactics, reveals the true nature of God's reign. "Our Lord called and continues to call out a new society of persons unconditionally committed to exchanging the values of the surrounding society for the standards of Jesus' kingdom."19 Only on this basis can the Church work with integrity for justice and peace in the world. Thus the prophetic and evangelistic dimensions of the gospel are totally interwoven in the life and witness of the community of the King.
It may be helpful to backtrack a bit and explore a question raised earlier:
What is the relationship between church growth and the Kingdom of God?
GOD’S PROPHETIC MINISTRY THROUGHT PROPHETS
By A.R. COPELAND
When you study the Old Testament, it is easy to observe three God-appointed offices which He filled by divine appointment, namely, that of priest, prophet and king. The priest represented the people of God. The king was God's ruler over the people in their civil affairs. God's prophets were spokesmen to men for Him. In God's revelation to men you will note that these three offices worked together for a fuller revelation from God to men. The priest in the religious realm was designated as a mediator whose business was to offer sacrifices to God as a covering for men's sins, made necessary because all men were sinners, and needed God's mercy and grace. Men also were lawless and had to be ruled. Only God can rule, thus He appointed kings to rule in His stead so that lawlessness might be curbed from overrunning the Just. According to scripture men who are both sinners and lawless were likewise ignorant and needed God's word of instruction concerning God the Creator whose law and order must be followed by those whom He governed. God's prophets dealt with the people's problems of ignorance. Thus we see the ministry of prophet, priest and king were used to sum up God's will, word and way and make same known to man, for God's glory and praise.
ALL THREE OF THE OFFICES OF PRIEST, KING AND PROPHET WERE IMPORTANT, BECAUSE GOD ORDAINED THEM. Since each of these offices operated in different spheres of life, throughout Israel pertaining to both earthly and heavenly things, each was important in its particular sphere, and jointly all necessary to set forth the will of God in dealing with men. The prophet's office is better understood than we realize it was primarily used for the purpose of the prophet as a spokesman for God in his particular generation, yet gave forth utterances to be fulfilled over the period of months, years, generations unto the end of the age. Sometimes God's prophets would make astounding and sensational pronouncements from God concerning the future. The prophet would always have to grapple with the present issues of his day, yet throughout the prophetic books of the Old Testament there are revealed things that the prophets said would come to pass. The word "prophet" in the New Testament largely means preacher, including his ministry of consolation and instruction, while the prophecy of the Old Testament was largely one of condemnation. The prophetic office could hardly be coveted as the prophetic ministry of the prophet always, if called of God, delivered God's message given him, which means at times he condemned the society of his day and likewise his own generation of kith and kin. This was then as now, unpopular and nothing is more less desired today than unpopularity, which is why so few will speak out against flagrant sins within and without the church, no matter where, when or why.
OLD TESTAMENT PROPHETS DID NOT HESITATE TO DEAL WITH SOCIAL ISSUES OF
THEIR TIME AND CONDEMNED THE GUILTY ON THESE VERY GROUNDS THEY WERE AT
FAULT IN. If you will read carefully the Old Testament prophets, you will
note they rebuked all sorts of problems when motivated by any sort of immorality,
such as adultery, blasphemy, covetousness, drunkenness, and intoxicating
wine. One of the things especially you will note the prophets condemned
was the oppression of the poor, fatherless children, and many widows. Prophets
dealt with such things as undue taxation, extortion, and high interest
rates. When necessary the prophets did not hesitate to condemn avarice,
greed, and theft. You will note they condemned business men for having
improper balances and using false weights. Throughout the Old Testament
the prophets were certainly involved in all the pressing problems of their
day, and they did not hesitate to boldly rebuke what they heard, saw and
(1) You will especially note God's prophets did not hesitate to become involved in both moral and religious issues and likewise in social matters. You do not have to read far until you realize the prophets denounced hypocrisy, idolatry, and lawlessness.
(2) Prophets always denounced without hesitation, the substitution of man's words, opinions and desires for God's revelation.
(3) God's prophets warned also about political issues and instructed the Israelites concerning that nation's attempted alliances with foreign nations. They were especially warned not to trust surrounding nations for deliverance, especially from judgments that would be sent from Almighty God to correct their thought, word and deed.
PROPHETS WERE SEVERELY PERSECUTED IN THEIR DAY.
(1) Jeremiah became so unpopular that when he told them a nation would capture and destroy Jerusalem, and they could not resist it, they rebelled at this type of discipline, even though it came from the hand of God.
(2) Relevance of present day religionists against God called preachers is similar to that of the Old Testament days. Modem times and customs have not changed men's evil minds, sinful attitudes, and disobedient hearts.
(3) Jeremiah made it clear the heart was deceitful above all things, and incurably wicked and also stated, " I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins (test the conscience), even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings "Jeremiah 17:9, 10.
(4) Centuries ago men discovered most all, if not all, the many ways man could sin which he knew and learned about, and it's no different today insofar as man's heart is concerned, because, he knows more ways in which to improve sin and soften it so as to make it not look so bad.
(5) God's prophets in the Old Testament dealt with man's sinful heart and condemned it for what it was. Because man's heart by nature is under wrath (Judgment) (Eph. 2:13), the fact remains these scriptures properly apply to present day world citizens.
(6) The prophet Isaiah declared (Ch. 1), "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, 0 earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider" Vss. 2, 3.
(7) In plain English what Isaiah said is that people don't have the sense of an animal, such as the ox or the ass. That is a striking statement, but Isaiah knew all domesticated animals would respond when master calls to feed them.