Publication: Pastoral Letter, November 2011
Dear Friend in Christ:
I have been writing to you about the power of the prophetic word. The first two letters were “Before We Proceed” and “The Womb of the Word.” This letter is about the spirit of prophecy. The Holy Spirit testifies to Jesus; this is a profound truth.
The coming of Jesus was prophesied. During His earthly ministry, Jesus Himself prophesied. And all true prophecy witnesses to His presence in the Holy Spirit. Prophecy authenticates the Bible, the Life of Jesus, and His Word. This dynamic is beyond human ability and reason. Prophecy indicates the supernatural involvement of God, the Holy Spirit. True prophecy testifies to the One Who sees the end from the beginning. It does not proceed from the mind man, but from God (see Isaiah 46:10; 1 Peter 1:10-12; 2 Peter 1:20-21). And, God performs His own Word.
Let us look at how the Bible records prophetic words regarding the future birth and life of Jesus:
Genesis 3 – the seed of woman; Genesis 12 – the seed of Abraham; Genesis 49 – the seed of Judah; Isaiah 11 – the seed of Jesse; 2 Samuel 7 – the seed of David; Isaiah 7 – the seed of a virgin; Micah 5 – born in Bethlehem; Isaiah 11 and 61 – the Holy Spirit upon Him; Isaiah 40 and Malachi 3 – a messenger goes before Him; Isaiah 50 and 53 – He would be crucified; Psalm 16 – He would rise again; Jeremiah 31 – He would make a New Covenant; Daniel 7 and Isaiah 9 – He would reign; Joel 2 – He would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh.
These are but some of the prophetic words that were given and preceded the birth and life of Jesus Christ. Each Word was performed with specificity! They are all historically accurate. This reality testifies to the authenticity of the Bible and Jesus Christ as the Messiah.
PROPHECY SURROUNDING HIS BIRTH
When Jesus was to be born, and following His birth, there was a sudden increase of prophetic words, all of which harkened back to Old Covenant prophecies. Luke chapters one and two are accounts of these prophetic words, and numerous other examples followed.
Gabriel appears to Zacharias and then to Mary, and gives prophetic words. Mary goes to see Elizabeth based upon Gabriel’s prophecy (a 50 mile journey). Mary greets Elizabeth. Both Elizabeth and her unborn child are filled with the Holy Spirit. Then Elizabeth prophesies, followed by Mary’s prophesy. When the baby, John the Baptist, is named, Zacharias prophesies. When Jesus is brought to the temple, both Simon and Anna prophesy.
Later, Mary and Joseph leave for Egypt following a prophetic word of warning; then after some time, they return to Israel by a prophetic word. The increase in prophetic words seem to proceed and accompany great historical events.
In the early 1900s, Armenian Christians were warned by prophesy to leave their area and escape the coming massacre by the Turks. Many thousands were slaughtered, but the prophetic word also saved thousands of believers who heeded that word. Many came to the United States, including the Shakarian family. Demos Shakarian began the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship, which touched many people around the world – including me. We all owe a lot to that prophecy.
PROPHECY IN THE EARLY CHURCH
Prophecy did not cease after the Old Covenant or the Gospels, It continued after the ascension of our Lord. Jesus prophesied to the disciples that the Spirit would continue to guide and reveal truth to them (see John 16). There is no evidence that He removed that promise.
In Acts 2, Peter referred back to Joel in the Pentecost sermon. In verse 39, he said that the promise of Pentecost was for all who would believe, those far off and as many as the Lord would call. In Acts 10, the Lord revealed to Peter that he should go to Cornelius’s house, and Gentiles were filled with the Holy Spirit. Acts 19 records that other Gentiles were filled and all prophesied simultaneously. In 1 Corinthians 12, prophecy is mentioned as one of the spiritual gifts.
In Ephesians 5, the apostle Paul gives the imperative, “Be filled with the Spirit.” Then, in 1Timothy, Paul told Timothy to fight well by the prophecies given to him. In 2 Timothy 1, Timothy is told to stir up the gift that was in him by the laying on of hands.
Of course, the references to the prophetic are far more numerous than the references I have cited. The entire book of Revelation is prophetic. In fact, every word of God is prophetic; it both creates and comes to pass.
One of the most damaging ideas to ever hit the Church is the idea that these works of the Spirit ceased. Nowhere in the Bible is that ever mentioned. The 1 Corinthians 13 reference is simply that love must be the motive; that when all gifts cease, love will continue. The notion that the gifts have already ceased robs us of all the benefits of God’s power in our lives. What a tragic thought.
DO WE HAVE THE SAME SPIRIT?
The question is not does the Spirit still operate. The question is, do we have the same Spirit of the prophets, of Jesus, and the early Church?
We read in 2 Peter 1 that the “Spirit of Christ” was in the prophets. Do we have the Spirit of Christ? If so, we have the Spirit of Prophecy. I am not so concerned about whether I have the gift of prophecy, but do I have the Holy Spirit of prophecy, the same Spirit that they had? If so, and I am not functioning in a prophetic atmosphere, do I need to stir up the gift – the gift of the Holy Spirit?
From Genesis to Revelation, the prophetic was a lamp and guide to God’s people. The prophetic actually continued long after the ascension of Jesus. At various times in history, there has been a revival of the prophetic Word. The prophetic is not always predictive; it is often an inspired proclamation of truth meant to quicken the hearts.
Of course, everything that seems to be “prophecy” is not from God. Because it is impressive, many aspire to prophesy who are not inspired to prophesy. In my next letter, I’ll discuss how we can know the difference. But let us not ignore the real because of the false (see Jeremiah 23; 1 Thessalonians 5:20). For example, there are many false advertisements, but we continue to advertise. We soon learn the difference, and I pray that the Church will also when it comes to prophecy.
HOW TO BUILD
We all want our churches to grow, and in recent years, we have seen a movement to market out churches like a business – market-driven and user-friendly. This has produced a host of church shoppers looking for cut-rate Christianity. It seems to work in many cases. I emphasize “seems”. I do not fault those who desire to see church growth, nor do I compliment those who fail to grow – and many do fail. The issues are larger than our numbers.
Here are some important questions we must ask concerning how to build: Are we building on the whole counsel of God (see Acts 20:27)? Are we preparing people for the future (see 1 Thessalonians 5)? And are we producing Christians that resemble the early disciples in character, power, and commitment (see Matthew 28:18-20)?
The presence of the Spirit of Prophecy is a Biblical barometer of the presence of Jesus. When the true Spirit of Prophecy is present, Jesus is there. We can build on the market or we can build on the Holy Spirit – but not on both.
If we build our lives and churches on the Word and Spirit of God, it may exclude some who simply want religion as usual, but it will include those who are hungry for God and who see their need for His power.
So, what do we do with this? Do the times require a serious reappraisal of our lives and churches? I believe so (see Romans 13:11-14). Religion can be hypnotic. Liturgy can be a good thing, but it can also produce sleep-walking through life. And those who think that they have no liturgy, usually not only have one, but have a poor one. If we do it the same way each Sunday, or each day, we do have a liturgy.
The Holy Spirit wants to awaken us to reality, warn us to repent, and renew our relationship with God in the Holy Spirit. There is some evidence of prophetic increase – some good, others not so much. We need to hear His voice. Things have changed, and we must change as well. We need more than a revival; we need an awakening. I am hearing some say that it is coming. It is already happening in some places. What will it look like? I do not know, but if it truly affects the Church, it will affect the culture and that will be the measure. A return of the Holy Spirit in power will cause individual Christians to regain a prophetic posture toward the culture. May it be so!
WE NEED YOUR PRAYER
In closing, I want to give you some updates, and ask for your prayer. Like others, we have had serious difficulty lately with our mail. As you probably have heard, the US Postal Service is making significant cutbacks. Some of our mail has come as late as one month after it has been postmarked. Local post office workers have demonstrated against government appropriations. Please keep this matter in prayer, and pray that we will be able to meet the needs and opportunities facing our ministry in these days.
In the meantime, we are encouraging our friends to consider supporting us online through our website at www.csmpublishing.org. There is a tab for giving posted right at the top of our homepage. Online giving and communication provides a more immediate form of contact, and it buffers us against the turbulence facing our postal service.
Thank you for your prayers and support for this ministry. We know that you have many demands on your finances. We believe that the Lord will supply resources for the publication of His Word in these trying times. Thank you for believing that with us.
P.S. There are two new audio releases I want you to know about, which I believe will be encouraging to you. First is the six-message series, “The Power of the Prophetic Word” which is a live, in-depth, expanded presentation of some of the material I’ve been sharing with you in these letters. Also, my son, One-to-One®Magazine Editor Stephen Simpson, has just released a dynamic new testimony entitled “The Courage to Change”, which focuses on how to prepare and position ourselves for the provision of the Lord in and through our lives. For more information, please see the enclosed card.
Scripture Reference: Isaiah, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, Genesis, 2 Samuel, Psalms, Jeremiah, Daniel, Joel, Acts, Ephesians, Jeremiah, 1 Thessalonians