In the mid 1980s God began restoring the office of the prophet back into its rightful and proper place of function in the Church that Jesus is building. Today, thousands of churches and ministers accept and themselves advocate this premise. But is there such a thing as “judgment prophets” today in the New Testament era. Even within Charismatic and Neo-Pentecostal churches espousing the validity of the prophetic and apostolic offices in today’s ecclesia, the issue of the prospect of judgment prophets being anointed, appointed, and sent by God with a special message from Him and equipped with supernatural powers such as what Moses was given by God produces sharp and sometime contentiousness debate. So, do judgment prophets exist today? Here’s one perspective.
In 1986 I attended what was billed as a “prophetic gathering” in a tiny Florida Panhandle town. What it was billed as is not what it was in reality. It really was a cleverly disguised recruitment rally for membership in a network of prophetic ministries that was a newly formed subsidiary of the hosting organization, which, in the words of the leader, who they called “papa-prophet,” would soon be recognized as “the international prophetic clearinghouse.” His amplification of this stunning declaration was that the advancements in technology that were on the horizons (in 1986) would soon make it possible for this organization to compose and maintain electronic dossiers on every person around the world who claimed to be a prophet, and use the “information” in those dossiers in their self-appointed “oversight” role over the emerging global prophetic movement. As shocking as this fascist-like statement was, and still is to this day, relatively few of those in attendance seemed to grasp at the time the implications such an outrageous and extreme proposition represented.
As preposterous and radical as it sounds to rational minds, becoming the international clearinghouse of the prophetic is exactly what that organization was successful in pulling off to some degree out of that initial conference. Aided by the approbation and endorsement of a number of other self-appointed Neo-Pentecostal ministerial “networks” with whom they were in league, this organization, “The Panhandle Prophets,” essentially achieved their goal of duping the majority of Charismatica into accepting the premise that this single, man-made organization was chosen and appointed by God as the supreme sanctioning prophetic organization in the world.
To a large degree, depending on one’s perspective, this organization under the auspices of its leader either successfully hijacked the emerging prophetic movement, or presided over a false “prophetic movement” that was a Satanic preemption of the emergence of a company of prophets that has yet to commence. Over the past three decades, The Panhandle Prophets have been somewhat successful at forging and maintaining a lock, of sorts, on the prophetic, which they have jealously guarded, because of the manifold self-aggrandizing benefits it has produced for them, not the least of which has been relative wealth. The hold they have been able to maintain over the prophetic is due to the fact that many carnal-minded Charismatic leaders have accepted the proposition widely promoted by this organization that they are the sanctioning organization for prophets. The self-stated self-view of the leaders of this organization is that God has appointed them to recognize, approve, and authorize prophets. The implication, which they of course deny, is that if a prophet is not “submitted” to and a “member” of this organization, he simply is not a genuine prophet.
Absurd as it sounds to the sane, many Neo-Pentecostal leaders actually accepted the ludicrous sales pitch of this organization and would only allow their “authorized and approved” prophets to minister in their churches, or contacted a representative of this organization to find out if a prophet who was contacting them to minister in their churches was authorized and approved by this leader and his organization. The upshot of the organization’s methods, though they have always adamantly denied that this was their intent, was blatant “black-balling” of prophets who were not a member of their organization, resulting in untold damage, not only to those prophets’ ministries, and thus their lives, but also to the Body of Christ who were prevented from receiving the benefits of those prophets’ ministries. In engaging in all these activities over a period of more than two decades, this organization has been among the worst violators of the divine admonition to which they themselves so often allude, “Touch not my anointed, and do my prophets no harm.” Obviously, their leaders and constituency are oblivious to the harm and hindrances they have inflicted upon the ministries of those prophets who they have adjudicated as “unapproved” because they have refused to cowtail to their authoritarian dictates and attempts to subjugate the prophetic under their auspices. Yet, to this day, I have never heard of anyone affiliated with this organization expressing any sort or degree of concern about any of the harm they have perpetrated upon outside prophets or the prophetic movement itself.
At the “prophetic gathering” hosted by this organization that I attended back in 1986, there apparently arose a debate among the attendees who had come from all over the world under what turned out to be an erroneous assumption that what was being convened was an open forum for prophets and prophetic people to discuss what they sensed God was speaking and doing in the church, the nation, and across the globe. Obviously this was never the intentions of the conveners. The “question,” as the leader referred to it, was over the existence of “judgment prophets,” and apparently there was some cause for him to address it in one of the meetings. I remember his response was vague and equivocating. The essence of it was that while he could not entirely dismiss the specter of “judgment prophets” existing today, he also could not justify the concept with the requisite that prophecy should be unto edification, exhortation, and consolation.
While it’s not my intent to be unkind, I have to confess my inward reaction to his response was, “This is the person being acclaimed by this organization as the ‘prophetic pope,’ and that’s his answer to what may be one of the most crucial issues to the church in the last days as we await the return of Christ?”
Time and space will not permit a treatise on the Biblical evidence of judgment prophets here, but the overwhelming answer to that question from the preponderance of Scripture is that judgment prophets do indeed exist today, have always existed, and will always exist, certainly through the end of the Church Age. Just one example based on the papa-prophet’s response is that the main passage he is referring to, First Corinthians 14:3, is not even talking about “prophets,” per se, that is, the office of the prophet, but rather the gift of prophecy, which is made clear by its prefatory phrase, “One who prophesies.”
There are vast differences between the office of the prophet and the gift of prophecy, and confusion resulting from convergence of the two has always caused a lot of problems in terms of the operation of each. To expand upon the differences very briefly, the Ministry Gift of prophet is given by Jesus as the Head of the Church only to “some” (Eph. 4:11), not “all” (1 Cor. 12:28-30). The Manifestation Gifts [charismata], on the other hand, are distributed by the Holy Spirit “to each one as He wills (1 Cor. 12:4-6). The simple Manifestation Gift of prophecy is indeed limited to edification, exhortation, and comfort, however, the Ministry Gift of the prophet has no such restrictions, but also includes the six facets of the prophetic office: to root or pluck up, break down, destroy, overthrow, build, and plant (Jer. 1:10).
There is no doubt or equivocation in my mind that there are judgment prophets and that they are beginning to emerge in significant numbers. I have also made my stance clear on the topic in numerous previous posts. In light of the multiplicity of problematic matters existing in the church at-large, including the deluge of deception that has been released from the pits of hell that is causing Jesus’ prediction that even the elect shall be deceived in the last days, I personally pray that the day of the company of judgment prophets God will bring upon the scene comes quickly.
Art Katz posits in the following article the proposition that God actually requires His true prophets to be spokesmen of His judgments as a prerequisite of the privilege of speaking genuine words of benevolence, a premise with which I fully agree. Inherent in the article is the concept I also wholeheartedly agree with that its really not so much a matter of whether there are “judgment prophets” and prophets who, in juxtaposition, would be “benevolence prophets,” but rather that prophets are prophets, and genuine prophets are called upon by God to pronounce words of judgment as well as announce words of blessing. His perceptions concerning the prophetic function are dead on target, and could only be articulated as they are by someone who has himself lived it.
The Prophetic Function
By Art Katz
The quintessential definition 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).
The first expression of the prophetic calling is judgment. Unless we have a stomach for that, then 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, namely, their religious tradition, the false things that they have celebrated for generations, the things that they want to cling to because it has to do with their identity and 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. The things that are false will be contended for fiercely! He has got therefore to be painful and a destroyer. 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. Only the prophets who were faithful to speak the word of exile and judgment were also the prophets who spoke the word of restoration and return. They were given the privilege of speaking the creative word of restoration.
It would be a much simpler task if we just had to establish fresh principles where it falls on virginal consciousness. When you first have to deal with and penetrate a whole existent medley of opinions and traditions that have become dear (if not sacrosanct), you will ironically be accused of being opposed to God!
A prophet not only identifies falsity, but he 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? They not only just bring things into question, but 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 lifestyle unchallenged.
A prophet critiques and unsparingly lays bare, without fear and regard of man, the lie or even ‘conventional’ truth, that is to say, the assumed, mindless, uncontested premises that constitute death in the midst of life. It is to reveal the lie, to expose it and to ‘blow 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 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, until we come to the place where we do not need it. We need to come to the place where we are not only indifferent to the applause of men, but also to their criticisms and reproaches.
A prophet requires, therefore, an extraordinary discernment to critique and an analytical ability honed by the Spirit. It is not a ‘taking of pot shots’, but an apprehending of God’s own view of something, and expressing that.
The prophet’s own lifestyle must itself, therefore, be a repudiation of the lie. We cannot ‘blow the whistle’ on false values if we ourselves are subscribing to them. There is something about 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 ‘blow the whistle’ on 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. 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 value, about life and its purposes, and therefore your own lifestyle must be a repudiation of that lie, however much society and even the church legitimates it. A prophet’s speaking not only reveals the lie but condemns and judges it. His word as is 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),” it was not just saying that there will be a little difference in your 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 interpretation, however much it may be that, but rather it was a statement of judgment. It would actually affect the whole nation. That kind of word needs to be revived and restored. It is a trembling proposition to bear, and I can think of a few minor instances in my own experience where my word was a word of judgment, and God acted according to what I spoke. The church to whom it was spoken no longer exists because that was the word of judgment itself.
The prophet’s task is to establish an alternative, powerful and valid enough to utterly displace the lie. He presents a view of reality not yet existent and that is contrary in most points and particulars 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 heavenly and an eternal sense 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, but he brings a 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 the 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, and must be, an extraordinary kind of speaking.
Those who embrace this model that the prophet is setting forth as the alternative to the lie, and that is a heavenly alternative, condemn themselves to being pilgrims and sojourners in the earth, and therefore able to die ‘not having received the promise.’ If they are going to receive a prophetic word like this that calls them to the heavenly vision in which Abraham walked, then this is going to be the consequence for their life. The word, therefore, that comes to the hearers has got to come with such a power, authority and credibility that the person who hears says, “If I say ‘Yes’ to this, then I am signing my death warrant.” No-one is going to sign that lightly who has not been persuaded by the word that invites that kind of consecration. Only a prophet, a foundational man, can bring a 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 hearer in his present condition and tells him that in that he is already ‘well-pleasing’.
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. A man who can bring the necessary but painful, cruel word that must come in order to build is not unloving but very love itself. In a word the prophet brings the ‘moment of truth’. Standing in the counsel 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, the biblical mentality and the biblical view of things that are unchanging in God’s sight. He conveys the 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 His 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.
A prophet does not major in minors. Out of a consummate jealousy for the glory of God, he 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— as sacrifice. That is where the prophetic word is more than the word of explanation. It does not just explain what the eternal purposes of God are, but he communicates it in such a way as to win the commitment of his hearers to the sacrifice necessary to fulfill them. That takes more than explanation. The prophet 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 sense to exhibit it and give the evidence that this is God’s way and that the 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. It is one thing to establish that the cross, persecution and martyrdom are intrinsic to the faith, but 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. That is the prophetic task. We are not bringing information, but rather calling men to ultimate, 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 that they have celebrated is under judgment and is intended for destruction, which means it will destroy a lot of where their own heart is, 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 who 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 the ‘wilderness’ prophet. Wilderness does not just mean 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.
Source: http://www.benisrael.org/OnlineBooks/prophetic_call/ProphCall_01.htm . [Chapter 1 of Book: The Prophetic Call]
The Ephesians Four Network Blog features commentary, teaching, and prophetic words relative to the establishment and advancement of the Kingdom of God on Earth through the Church that Jesus is Building. The contributing editor is Dr. Steven Lambert, whose website address is: www.slm.org, where you can find many more articles and information about his ministry.