What Is The Gift Of Prophecy? Is It Still In The Church Today?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

What is the gift of prophecy? Is it still around today?

Old Testament Prophets

Not all of the Old Testament prophet’s writings were about future events. In fact, much of what the Old Testament prophets wrote about current events, like Jeremiah who wrote specifically to the nation of Judah who was about to go into captivity. He prophesied it would happen, and it did, but let’s be clear. This was not Jeremiah’s prophecy that Babylon would destroy Jerusalem. It was a direct word from God Himself. Jeremiah never tried to predict the future on His own, and when God spoke to him about the future, it was as sure as being history…history written in advance. The way the word prophecy in the Greek (“propheteia”) was used, was primarily meant to be “a discourse emanating from divine inspiration and declaring the purposes of God, whether by reproving and admonishing the wicked, or comforting the afflicted, or revealing things that are hidden,” (Strong’s G4394, “propheteia”), and that’s what these Old Testament prophets did. They rebuked the nations for their sins more than prophesying their future. Prophesying future events is only a part of what the prophets did. The Hebrew word for prophesy is “nebuw’ah” and means “a specific prophecy” or “a prophetic writing,” but at the simplest level, it means “to peak forth” or “forth telling” by the Greek definition. Its first or primary meaning is not to prophesy future events but to speak forth the words of God, from God.

John the Baptist

John the Baptist was actually the last of the Old Testament prophets. His ministry was the door that swung shut on the Old Testament but opened with the New Testament. He was that voice crying in the wilderness (John 1:23) spoken of by Isaiah the Prophet (40:3), and the one mentioned by the Prophet Malachi, writing of him, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes” (Malachi 4:5). John the Baptist was a prophet, but his main ministry was preaching and teaching about repentance and baptism, as this was before the Holy Spirit came to believers. John rarely prophesied about future events, but rather his ministry was one of rebuking, exhorting, and admonishing the people to repent and be baptized. John the Baptist never spoke on His own accord or predicted anything on his own. His primary mission was to preach baptism and repentance, so this prophet focused more on teaching that predicting anything in the future, and that was really the role of most of the Old Testament prophets too when you study them. Of course, they prophesied future events, but that was always against the backdrop of current events.

The Gift of Prophecy

To begin with, all believers have gifts. Some have more than one, but everyone has at least one, but what about the gift of prophecy mentioned by the Apostle Paul, who wrote about the spiritual gifts that God gives to believes. He mentioned that some had “the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues” (1 Cor 12:10), but clearly, these gifts are never intended to help the person but to help make the Body of Christ complete, with all members functioning where God was pleased to place them. It was His decision, not ours, which gifts would be dispensed. Others are listed in Romans 12 where again, prophecy is mentioned (Rom 12:6), but what did those who had the gift of prophecy do? Did the prophesied about future events? Rarely did that happen, and that was the exception, not the rule. Rather, they “spoke forth” the divine will of God or interpreted His Word for further clarification. The one who has the gift is prophecy is to make known the way and the will of God as defined in Scripture. Remember, they were speaking forth the truth about “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3), and not still being delivered by men. Those with the gift of prophecy never spoke for themselves or their own words, but always spoke the words or teachings of God.

Breath of God

The Apostle Peter has an important reminder that “no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet 1:21), so first of all we must know “that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation” (2 Pet 1:20). Knowing what the word prophecy means in the New Testament (speak forth), the Apostle Paul told Timothy to “not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you” (1 Tim 4:14), but this does not say that the council of elders prophesied that Timothy would be a pastor. It may be that the elders gave counsel that Timothy would be the right man. The laying on of hands was an act of ordination or anointing him to this new position as pastor, but we must be very cautious when people proclaim themselves as prophets and prophesy to us about what God has said. When someone says, “God spoke to me to tell you…” it puts up an immediate red flag. The Apostle Peter warned that “there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Pet 2:1), and they did…and they still are! What concerns me is all this new teaching by pastors and teachers, but here is a truism: if it’s new, it’s not from God; if it’s from God, it’s not new. Someone that’s been given “a word from God” may be sincere, but they may be sincerely wrong…and we should ask, “Which God? Is it the god of this world who has his own ministers, or the God of heaven?”


Is the gift of prophecy still in the church today? Yes, in the sense that we have teachers, pastors, elders, deacons, or other church leaders who speak forth the truth of God. Paul told Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim 4:2), and “for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear” (1 Tim 5:20). When it was necessary, Titus was to “rebuke them sternly, so that they will be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13), and that’s what prophets do! What Paul says to Timothy and Titus, he says to all church leaders. They are to “Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you” (Titus 2:15). The gift of prophecy is not getting a “word from God” but teaching the Word of God. It is putting forth the truth, even if it hurts, because we know the Word of God is like a double-edged sword, but the difference is, it cuts in order to heal.

Here is some related reading for you: The New Age of Prophets

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

How to turn your sermon into clips

Share the truth

Previous post:

Next post: