Seven Myths & Misconceptions Relative to the Prophetic
A myth can be defined as “a widely held but false belief or idea.” It can often be very difficult, if not impossible, to ascertain just how or when a myth started or by whom, but left unchecked, the result is widespread misinformation and error masquerading as truth. Most believers today never stop to question what they believe because they believe that everything they were taught to believe is true. For some, truth is relative and is only a matter of opinion. After all, how can two or more people reading the same book (Bible), or even the same passage in the book, come to two or more completely different opinions and arrive at two divergent conclusions?
This begs the question: What is truth? King David answered it best when he said, “The entirety of Your word is truth”—not a small portion taken out of context (Ps.119:160)! In other words, truth is not what you think it is. Truth is not what some teach and preach it is. Truth is not even what the majority believe it is. Truth is what God’s Word—in its entirety—says it is!
The following may come as a surprise to many of you, but the prophetic movement of today is not without its share of myth and misinformation. As a matter of fact, I would be totally surprised if you—yes you—haven’t bought into at least one of the seven myths and misconceptions mentioned below.
Myth #1: There is an “office” of prophet
As popular a notion as this might be, there is simply no Scriptural evidence to support this myth, at least not in the usual sense of “office” being used to describe an ecclesiastical position of authority through which the prophet exercises his ministry. Like everyone else, I once believed and also taught this fallacy in my earlier days of ignorance because it was the generally accepted belief and doctrine. But the more I began to study the Word of God for myself, and the deeper I got in my studies, the more I realized that assumed understanding based upon religious tradition is the breeding ground for error. Every single one of us must make the decision to be either a Berean or a simpleton.
The fact, or rather, the truth of the matter is “there is no Greek word in the New Testament corresponding to ‘office’.”[i] It is a foreign concept in the New Testament. This is not to say that the concept of a prophetic office existed in the Old Testament either, because it didn’t. The Old Testament never employed any such vocabulary or concept regarding the prophet. But please just don’t take my word for it; examine the book yourself! You will find that the only place that the term “office” occurs is in extra-biblical sources or supplements like Bible dictionaries, commentaries, etc.—sources seeking to define or interpret the Bible. The problem with this interpretation, however, is that it is based upon an inaccurate and unbiblical world view. It was founded on the premise that Christianity is an institutionalized religion, which it currently is, but it is not what Jesus birthed and is continuing to build. The Kingdom Community Jesus purchased with His blood and birthed on the day of Pentecost was/is spiritual and organic in nature, where authority was/is exercised relationally—through acts of service—and ministry was/is based upon function rather than position.
Of course, if you were to open a concordance and look up the word “office,” you would probably find as many as eight occurrences; however, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the word was ever employed in the original Greek. For example, the word “office” (KJV) or “position” (NKJV), employed by these and similar translations in 1 Tim. 3:1, 10, 13, is not in the original Greek but an unfortunate insert by translators who took the liberty of projecting their own doctrine into the text to aid in the reader’s understanding. The word “office” was inserted again by the KJV translators in texts like Luke 1:8, 9 and Heb. 7:5 even though, again, there was no such word employed in the original Greek text. In other occurrences like in Rom. 11:13 and 12:4 (KJV), the true sense and meaning of the Greek word translated as “office” is clearly relating to spiritual function rather than position.
This issue is debunked more fully in our new book titled Prophetic Divergence: Distinguishing Characteristics of the Third Prophetic Dimension. Sufficed to say, however, that there is a world of difference between position and function in the prophetic. Those who view the ascension gift of prophet as a position to be occupied or appointed (ordained) to by a governing religious system or body—including a church, denomination or network—will always operate from a limited and impotent religious paradigm that is antithetical to the Kingdom. But those who view this prophetic dimension as a gifted function received by God’s sovereign grace and exercised through authentic relationship and humble service will experience divine validation as they continue to operate in accurate Kingdom architecture.
Myth #2: The Holy Spirit gift of prophecy is lesser or inferior to Jesus’s ascension gift of prophet
We have all heard this line teaching before. It is one of the foundational principles of the present-day prophetic movement. Based upon this logic or line of reasoning, the Holy Spirit gift of prophecy is inferior to the ascension gift of prophet in its ability and unction to bring spiritual impact, change and transformation. It is also limited in scope, restricted to “edification, exhortation and comfort,” with no capacity or authority to bring correction, direction or rebuke. At first glance, this might even seem plausible, except it’s not. Firstly, there is no competition in the Godhead. The Godhead operates and functions according to the principle of complete unity, equality and plurality. Every member of the Godhead is equal in person and power though not necessarily in rank, which means that no member is inferior to the other. In other words, Jesus is not inferior to the Father, and neither is the Holy Spirit. This alone makes such a proposition preposterous!
Secondly, this is what I like to refer to as a false dichotomy. Contrary to popular religious belief, there is fundamentally no difference between the two as far as their prophecies are concerned or the source from which they originate from. Every prophet is gifted with the Holy Spirit gift of prophecy, though not every person with the Holy Spirit gift of prophecy is necessarily a prophet. There is no “gift” of prophet given by Jesus as far as it being something to be pursued, desired or possessed like the other charismata (gifts) given by the Holy Spirit. The prophet becomes the gift and, as such, ministers with the same charismatic gifts given to all believers by the Holy Spirit. This proves that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are working in concert, not in competition. The reality is that the prophet ministers or prophesies with the same Holy Spirit gift of prophecy given to other believers. And it is not a more elevated or concentrated form either. It is the same gift, just the prophet has greater rank by virtue of his calling and function. It doesn’t necessarily mean that his prophecies are more accurate or that they have greater scope or impact. This is a misunderstanding of Paul’s teaching in 1 Cor. 14:3—which, by the way, applies to all prophecy, including that which proceeds from the prophet—and will be addressed as a separate myth below.
The dangers of this line of thinking, beyond the obvious defamation or misrepresentation of the Godhead, is the tendency to misinterpret spiritual rank by misapplying the term “prophet” based upon gifted prophetic performance alone. But a true prophet is never defined by how well he prophesies or by the scope or impact of his prophecy. Any gifted prophesier can do the same, if not better. What defines a prophet is not his gifted proficiency but his spiritual maturity. Greater detail on this subject can be found in our new book, Prophetic Divergence: Distinguishing Characteristics of the Third Prophetic Dimension.
Myth #3: Prophecy was intended to be blessing oriented, always positive, and full of “encouraging” words.
Arguably one of the most dangerous and deceptive lies relative to the prophetic, this particular myth is based on poor exegesis and an incorrect understanding of Paul’s original teaching in 1 Cor. 14:3, where prophecy is defined in the context of edification and exhortation and comfort. It would take far too much time and space to debunk this myth in detail while performing a significant word study on the various Greek terms used by Paul. Fortunately for us, this information is available in our new book, Prophetic Divergence: Distinguishing Characteristics of the Third Prophetic Dimension. Sufficed to say, none of these English words convey a clear and accurate picture or message compared to the original Greek. This is one of the limitations of English and English translations, which is not an original language. As such, there is a great deal lost in translation.
Even if we were to ignore the translation issue for a moment, we would still have to come to terms with the context. Paul is declaring a spiritual principle that applies to all prophecy in general and not to any one group in particular. There are no definers, preconditions or exceptions in the text which in any way limit its application to any one type of prophecy, such as from a layperson or regular believer (who is not a prophet). Paul is addressing the entire Kingdom community at Corinth, including every individual believer, regardless of their spiritual status, vocation, calling, ministry or rank. This means that whatever Paul is teaching here should find historical relevance and application in every prophecy recorded in the Scriptures, whether the prophecy originated from a prophet or not. If our interpretation of the text cannot meet this standard, it must be thrown out. This means that the myth of prophecy always being “positive” and “encouraging” is without a scriptural leg to stand on. We know this because as we study the true prophets and prophetic ministry throughout Scripture, there is overwhelming evidence that these prophecies were never soft, fluffy and flattering. And they were rarely ever “positive” (according our carnal definition) or blessing oriented (the Kingdom of God is not a “bless me” club). On the contrary, they were often “negative” (according our carnal definition), critical, and full of judgment (Jer. 28:8-9). Even the Jeremiah 1:10 prophetic principle contains twice as many negatives as it does positives. And according to this principle, the negative always precedes the positive.
The false prophets, however, were always positive, full of blessing, and encouraging, telling their hearers exactly what they wanted to hear. This pattern did not change in the New Testament, which means there must be more to edification, exhortation and comfort than we have previously realized (Acts 5:1-11, 7:51-53, 9:15-16, 21:10-11; Heb. 12:3-11)—and there is!
Each one of the Greek words employed by Paul in 1 Cor. 14:3 communicates an undeniable but profound building principle. If you’ve ever participated in any significant building or construction project, you know that building often entails many “negatives.” This can range from the more obvious aspects such as clearing land or demolishing old and preexisting foundations or structures to the subtler aspects such as hammering a nail or sanding a piece of wood. These “negative” aspects are essential to any successful building project and often precede the “positives,” like a nice shiny coat of paint. Without what we wrongly consider “negative,” nothing is truly being built. Therefore, if prophecy is to build rather than just “bless,” it cannot be limited to only “positive” declarations.
Stay tuned for part 2.
[i] Walter L. Liefeld, Ephesians, vol. 10, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), Eph 4:11.