“The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” So says the angel to the apostle John. What this means, according to G.K. Beale, the greatest living interpreter of the last book of the Bible, is that we are a prophetic people.
But how are we to understand this?
To be prophetic means to speak forth God’s word. That in turn implies the capability to hear and understand that word. To be a prophetic people, therefore, has to mean we are a people who can hear God.
This kind of statement often brings controversy and conjures up visions of slightly odd individuals saying strange things and claiming to have a pipeline to heaven which no one else can contradict.
People outside the charismatic world often believe a claim to prophecy is a claim to revelation on the level of the Bible. I have to say that in over forty years of leadership, I have never met anyone in any kind of church circles who claimed to possess revelation on that level. Anyone who does claim that is clearly not to be listened to.
But can we really hear God? When I address this issue, I point out that we all believe the devil can speak to us. He lies, he tempts, he points us in the wrong direction. We never hear his voice (thankfully), but we know in our spirit the whisper of his lies.
And so if the enemy can “speak” to us in that way, surely God can. After all, Jesus said his sheep would hear his voice.
Every time we read Scripture and God seals its truth in our hearts, that is God speaking to us. Every time we hear good Biblical teaching or every time someone comes to us with wise Biblical counsel, that is God speaking to us.
But I believe there is more than that. It wasn’t that long ago I was talking to a couple after church and found myself saying to them they were contemplating a business investment, and I felt to reassure them it was the right thing to do and to go ahead. I had absolutely no idea whether they were thinking any such thing or not. Later, I found out that the very next Sunday an elder of their church had gone up to them and stood in exactly the same place and said exactly the same thing. What the two of us said to them was a confirmation of discussions known only to them. On the basis of it all, they made a very substantial investment.
Was this crazy or ill-advised? Not at all. They had already prayed at length, discussed the pros and cons and all the financial details. Their decision was wise and prudent. But the words the two of us spoke to them were a powerful encouragement and confirmation to move ahead.
I often hear God like this. Sometimes I’m not sure where the line is between Biblical counsel and something I feel God is “speaking” to my spirit. I never claim to possess a hotline to heaven. I always submit what I hear in humility, and urge it to be tested and considered in the light of Scripture, prayer and godly counsel. What I hear from God is almost always a confirmation of something the person has already known, but needs some form of encouragement in.
Peter had passed by the lame man at the temple countless times. One day, he heard God and knew it was the right moment to pray for him. And the kingdom was advanced.
We are fighting a battle against an enemy with supernatural power. We need to fight back with the empowering of the Holy Spirit. As Scripture says, the weapons of the flesh are not enough.
To claim to hear God in this way is not heretical or strange, and most certainly does not undermine or lessen the absolutely authority of Scripture.
Fill your mind and Spirit with Scripture, and then ask God to apply it as you listen to him in your daily experience. You may be surprised at the results.