Posted Nov 15, 2020 by Michael L. Brown

There is a tremendous focus on prophetic words today. Did charismatic prophets really predict a Trump victory in 2016, even before he had announced his run for the White House? Should these prophets be trusted today when, virtually, to a person, they assure us that Trump really did win the 2020 election and that the final results will prove it? And beyond these specific questions, what is the primary purpose of prophecy?

It is this last question I want to focus on – and I will do so later in this article – but it’s important we clarify some things up front.

To be perfectly clear, none of us who believe in prophetic ministry today believe that anyone can add to the Bible. Perish the thought. That is rank heresy of the highest order. Anyone who makes such a claim or wants his or her words to be received on the level of Scripture should be openly and clearly rejected.

The Bible stands alone as God’s Word – the Word of God – and that alone is our infallible guide to salvation and godly living.

But that doesn’t mean that the Spirit is no longer speaking. Why would that follow? The Scriptures have a unique and irreplaceable function. Nothing challenges their role.

At the same time, we have a personal relationship with a personal God, and Jesus Himself said that we, His sheep, hear His voice (see John 10:27; the Greek speaks of an active, ongoing hearing and obeying).

The Spirit may direct us to go into a certain career. Or to embark on a particular ministry endeavor. Or to encourage our faith in a dark time. How does that compete with Scripture?

In the same way, the Spirit continues to speak to us through prophetically gifted people.

But hear this clearly: Prophets are not glorified fortune tellers. Their role is not to give us abstract information about tomorrow. Instead, if they give us information about tomorrow, there will always be a practical reason for it.

It could be to prepare us for difficult times (see Luke 22:31-32; Acts 11:27-30; 20:22-24). It could be to build our faith, helping us to hold on until the answer came (see Acts 27 and Paul’s role during the shipwreck). It could be to bring something unexpected to our attention, causing us to change our planned course (see Acts 16:6-10).

When it comes to Trump, it is possible that, because he was such an unlikely candidate, God revealed to a number of prophetic ministers that he would be used to accomplish good for America and for Israel. (You can evaluate all the prophetic words here relative to 2016.)

In the same way, it’s possible that these same prophetic ministers have been declaring that Trump will serve a second, consecutive term because of a massive attempt to steal the election from him. The prophets would then be saying, “Don’t lose heart! It will happen.”

Or they could be wrong. All of them. It has happened before. (Note the striking account in 1 Kings 22, where all the king’s prophets gave patriotic prophecies. Only an outsider had the real word, and it was a bad one.)

But before you pick up stones to stone them (yes, I’m speaking metaphorically), let’s wait until the final verdict is rendered.

Either way, though, whether they are right or wrong (some of them are my colleagues and friends), there are several things we can say for sure.

First, prophesying about political outcomes is not the primary purpose of prophecy. Rather, as rendered in the NLT, “the essence of prophecy is to give a clear witness for Jesus” (Revelation 19:10). In the end, He must be central.

Second, the Church is not led by prophets. They do not give national or international directives to the Body of Christ. They are fellow-ministers, along with others who are gifted and called. That’s also why it’s inappropriate for contemporary prophets to point to 2 Chronicles 20:20 (where the king of Israel tells the people to believe a specific prophetic word), in order to tell people today, “Believe our message!”

Third, the words of contemporary prophets must be tested and evaluated (1 Corinthians 14:29; 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21), since, according to Paul, “we prophesy in part” (1 Corinthians 13:9). Plus, in this New Testament era, every believer can potentially prophesy (Acts 2:17-18; 1 Corinthians 14:39). That’s why we do not stone them to death if they get something wrong, as was mandated in Old Testament times. But that’s also why we do not lend them the same authority that was given to Old Testament prophets.

So, to every contemporary prophet who wants to speak with Old Testament authority: remember the penalty for missing it.

Fourth, and most importantly, one of the central functions of prophets is to expose idolatry and warn against leading on the arm of the flesh. Only God is to be worshiped!

We actually see this right in Revelation 19:10, where John, the author of the book, is about to worship the angel who had spoken to him: “Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.’ For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (ESV).

This mighty, awe-inspiring angelic being is telling John, “Don’t worship me! I’m a servant of God just like you are. Worship Him only! The ultimate purpose of the prophetic spirit – the very Spirit that inspired you to write this book of Revelation – is to testify about Jesus. All eyes are to be on Him!”

To the extent that contemporary prophets have not consistently exposed our exaggerated trust in Trump as some sort of political messiah, they have failed to bring the full message of God. That is a serious error that must be addressed.

And, in all candor, it makes no sense to me that, with a massive stream of pro-Trump prophetic pronouncements, there were so few warnings about our idolatrous trust in a very strong but very flawed man. Something has been sadly missing.

We have often shouted MAGA more loudly than we have proclaimed the gospel, and we have sometimes focused on Trump as much as we have focused on Jesus (in some cases, even more so). Where were the all prophetic warnings about this?

So, whether or not the Trump prophecies prove true for the 2020 election, it’s clear that we have some major housecleaning to do.

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neptune posted a comment · Nov 17, 2020
In general, we should be very slow to call others "false prophets." Here's an excellent article on how prophecy fundamentally changed in the New Testament: https://www.samstorms.org/enjoying-god-blog/post/why-nt-prophecy-does-not-result-in--scripture-quality--revelatory-words--a-response-to-the-most-frequently-cited-cessationist-argument-against-the-contemporary-validity-of-spiritual-gifts- |||||| And here's an insightful quote from a book called "The Holy Spirit & You" by Dennis and Rita Bennett: "A man may be strongly used in the prophetic office, and yet may be completely wrong from time to time. HIs words must never be accepted because of his ministry, but tested by the Word and the Spirit; this does not mean at all that he is a false prophet, but that he is still not perfected and therefore liable to error. 'We prophesy in part' (1 Cor. 13:9 KJV)."
czarpaul posted a comment · Nov 15, 2020
A broader question would be at what point should you stop listening to a prophet?? When he is consistently wrong how many Mulligans do you give him??? Some people keep excusing prophets who are almost always wrong yet shouldn't we at some point say you do not speak words from God??
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SteveW posted a comment · Nov 15, 2020
One further point. There is only two options, either those who prophesied a Trump victory are true prophets or they are not. There simply isn't a third option. Could the Lord have told his prophets that Trump would win and then withdrew that because the church was trusting in a man instead of Him? Certainly, He is sovereign and He can do whatever He likes. But then why didn't He tell his prophets of this change in direction? This would also contradict Amos 3:7, "Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets". So, no, either they are prophets of the Lord, or they have spoken presumptuously.
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emilyschelling82 posted a comment · Nov 15, 2020
Excellent article, per usual.
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SteveW posted a comment · Nov 15, 2020
Thank you for a very balanced article Dr Brown. The only point I would add is that I do not know many Christians who have been trusting in Trump. My take is it is like Joshua 5, where he says to the Angel of the Lord, are you for us or them and he replies neither. I don't think any Christian believes Trump is the answer, but is a step in the right direction.