Prophet: The Meaning

We begin with the basic root word, phe, and add the prefix, pro, to arrive at the most basic meaning of “speak openly.” The basic meaning of the prophetic is “to speak what is hidden openly.” Prophecy communicates hidden, mysterious, or unknown into the open, known, and understandable. We forth tell or foretell, but we are communicating something hidden into the open when we prophesy.

The many things and situations that have become “prophetic” in our modern exaggerations make this simple meaning unnecessarily complex. After all, mystery is mysterious enough without expanding the mystery with extraneous considerations. We can certainly understand that prophetic anything moves spiritual into natural in some form, so that dance, movements, sounds, symbols and signs, numbers, and natural events may contain clues to prophetic revelation.

God may reveal mysteries to anyone at any time. God may reveal spiritual reality to a donkey. God may cause a gourd’s life and death to communicate a revelation of a prophet’s temperament. God may use action to communicate a mystery. Or, God may speak plainly with very specific, direct statements. God may also share revelation through a many different voices, requiring that the many voices accept one another as authentic messengers in order for the entirety of the revelation to become available. Inherent in the word, action, and function that the word, prophetes, describes is communication, and that communication is understood to be expressed in words even when the mystery arrives in code, picture, concept, impression, visionary impression, or puzzle. Prophets may speak a message they arises from their spirits, hearing themselves proclaim something known to them only in hearing their own voices speaking. We are speaking here of the prophet in the New Testament, in which the finished work of Christ governs all functions of the kingdom, and of the “prophet” that Jesus bestowed upon the Ecclesia.

We are not speaking of the Old Testament prophets and the broader functions and variations of prophets as described in history before John the Baptist, including John in category, of course, but anticipating in John the shift to the New Covenant function. Prophetic revelation concern past, present, and future, the most common revelation involving the past.

Prophets see, know, hear, perceive, or communicate spiritual reality in natural events and conditions. They have nothing to communicate until they receive revelation. The revelation comes by means of Holy Spirit, communicated with the spirit of the prophet, through spiritual communications, so the prophet can communicate to the targeted or assigned audience.

The New Testament speaks of the spirit of prophecy, the gift of prophecy, and prophets. The New Testament use of the word, “prophetes,” includes many variables. For example, when the leader came to John the Baptist to ascertain his intentions, they were not questioning his authenticity as a prophet so much as seeking to know the type of prophet he considered himself to be.

Identifying Prophets “Are you that prophet?” they asked. Of course, the differentiation was in the minds of the leaders, not God or John, but the question remains valid because it is based upon the Bible and Its predictions of certain prophets assigned to do certain things.

We can benefit from this understanding for all kingdom leadership dynamics. Apostles assigned to do certain things. Evangels assigned to do certain things. Shepherds assigned to do certain things. So also, prophets assigned to do certain things. Add to that personality characteristics of prophets and the wide range of idiosyncrasies prophets develop in response to calling, gift mix, Providential pathway, assignment, and reactions or overcompensations to being continually misunderstood or simply living without a sense that anyone really understands prophetic experiences. Add to that the fact they do not understand themselves or their prophetic experiences, and we arrive at an impression that prophets are different from others.

The reality is that fivefold leaders in any one of the kingdom leadership dynamics are pretty much radically focused extremists in the sense of emphasis, priority, and function. They are specialists, and they should be! That is, kingdom leaders rise to places of specialization, and that specialization resists definitions based upon general “check this box” lists written to determine calling and assignment.

We do err demanding that any kingdom leader fit some prescribed mold as if every prophet has to be like Ananias, John the Baptist, or our several misconceptions about seers, prophets, watchmen, and apostles who prophesy. Add to that the superstitions, odd as well as false ideas about prophets and prophesy ingrained in the kingdom through misinformation, and the absence of a prophetic atmosphere or culture in which to function, and prophets start feeling like oddballs on earth when they are pretty much normal for the atmospheres of the kingdom of God.

Luke 16:16 says, “All the prophets and the Law prophesied with reference to John.”

Something already prophesied gained its fullness with hope of fulfillment in John. So, historic prophetic anticipation culminates with the ministry of John. Because he is faithful to that assignment, Jesus walks into a prophetic fullness, water baptism thus signifying that John’s assignment is legitimately anticipatory of the One who will come as Messiah.

So, John is a prophet with a specific assignment who cannot function as any other prophet while being all a prophet is and should be. This helps us understand that all prophets are prophets but not all prophets are the same. Then, with Jesus becoming the Prophet, we have a new meaning for “prophet” never before available.

Jesus bestows this meaning of “prophet” upon the Ecclesia, as Paul tells us, and the role of prophet is defined by Jesus.

The Function of the Prophet

Prophets communicate speak by the spirit of prophecy, with prophetic charisma or grace flow, and prophet’s function (some say, “office”). While we have general instructions by Paul on the function of prophets and prophecy in an assembled group and these instructions appear to limit prophecy to three very specific modes, prophets are not limited to edification, comfort, and exhortation. Prophets are foundational in function with apostles.

In the function of “prophet,” prophets prophesy with more authority, recognizable in this function by their leadership more than a style, volume, dress, or recognition. That is, we do not recognize the authority by some superstitious or natural sign. They reveal at a depth, scope, and application greater than believers who are not prophets. They give correction, provide words that give direction, and their words activate something hidden that respond to their authority.

We recognize the authority because of what responds to it, not by the fact that they use a title. Prophets are leaders. Jesus bestows, sends, calls, and favors prophets because of His love for the Ecclesia, His desire for Her maturity, the completion of Her as a building, the full function of Her as a body, and the complete preparation of Her in adornment as a Bride.

Prophets, with all that heavenly authorization, remain under authority to those with whom they share assignment, validated and accountable for their prophetic function to leaders and other prophets. Prophets, though pressed into uniqueness, continue to submit themselves and their function to others who all operate according to kingdom principles, procedures, and protocols.

No matter how well they receive and communicate revelation or what level or scope at which that revelation operates, prophets are never operate without obvious, identifiable, and confirming personal accountability for life, living, and communication. Given the very nature of their fiduciary relationship with the kingdom, they maintain a high standard of accountability.

Prophet as Leader

The term “leader” means influence authorized by someone greater than the leader. Prophet is no different. Since the prophet belongs to God in a special way, and the prophetic function is so amazingly powerful, like apostles, prophets must seek a constant and continuous submission point for life, living, and ministry. The operations of prophets, prophetic people, prophetic experience, prophetic worship, and prophetic anything in the kingdom prescribe a process, and that process protects the integrity of the prophetic.

The most obvious definition of “false” prophet begins with the absence of this kingdom protocol of submission. I never listen too seriously to prophets that refuse the process. They are consistently communicating something that smells of flesh, contending with superstitions, and processing their personal issues, the ones that are usually the reason they refuse accountability and avoid submission.

Thinking that their gift is enough—“I hear God and I’m a prophet, so just forget the process and any accountability; my gift is enough proof I’m authentic”—they stubbornly insist that they be heard and given leadership, honor, and attention. However, the real motivation pressing them to demand honor is a deep need to prove what they cannot prove without following kingdom protocol.

In other words, until the prophet submits to the kingdom, the prophet remains outside the kingdom mainstream, speaking at the kingdom instead of speaking from within the kingdom. On the other hand, the prophet is a continuous threat to the status quo of human leadership because they speak from Someone higher than any human leader. At any moment, a prophet, speaking God’s Word, may challenge the leaders to whom he or she is submitted because the prophet speaks revelation. So, this seeming contradiction also confuses some prophets into believing they are exceptions to the rules, that only by maintaining a strong sense of “otherness” from other prophets or leaders can they hear, see, or speak properly. This is the most common motivation for prophetic dysfunction, even to the point of fatal flaws that make some prophets false.

The Meaning of “Prophet”

The rather ridiculous assumption that prophet means preacher and preaching is prophecy arises from the extremes of modern evangelicals who refuse to believe the Bible actually means what It says about grace gifts that operate in all believers. While we usually shrug this off as “people who just don’t like tongues,” the reality is that they don’t like the Bible!

Fact is, not one tiny shred of evidence within or without the Bible hints that God planned for everything to stop working like it does in the New Testament when the last apostle died. With tons of evidence to the contrary, more than a billion people practicing the reality today, and the most obvious evidence that more than twelve apostles lived and functioned legitimately, this silly idea assumes that only twelve lived and only when they were alive did God intend for grace gifts to operate. (Sounds as ridiculous as Mormonism or WatchTower errors when you think of it, but enough Scofield Bibles have been printed, sold, and read that people think the Bible says so.)

When we examine the spirit of prophecy, gift of prophecy, and function of prophet, the meaning of “Prophet” must answer to Jesus. He fulfills the meaning, sets the new meaning, and bestows this grace upon those He calls to be prophets.

Note that prophecy occurs in many ways, involves many people, and weaves into and throughout all that kingdom Ecclesia is and does. We can never separate the direct involvement of Jesus with His Ecclesia within His kingdom from the leadership of kingdom leaders, and the way Jesus remains involved requires revelation. Here is where the evangelicals felt it was necessary to join the ancients rebels of God’s kingdom in killing prophets so they could protect traditions: if Jesus involves Himself in the kingdom at all, He does so spiritually, not physically.

He speaks by means of Holy Spirit, with spiritual communication. But, those who reject the prophetic demand that the only source of kingdom information is the Bible. To know if a person should preach on Jonah or Timothy in a given setting, the person has to read the Bible. Of course, the Bible is prophetic! But, the Bible isn’t exhaustive.

You can read the Bible for years without It telling you what to preach next Sunday, where to live, who to marry, how much to give to a particular mission project, or whether or not to agree to move to China on a mission for the kingdom. Holy Spirit tells you, and when He tells you, He reveals the hidden.

So, add to that the reality that Holy Spirit can speak through a prophet at the level of a prophet’s leadership assignment, scope of authority to reveal revelation, and use the words prophesied to activate spiritual things in people hidden in their spirits, for example. Every time Holy Spirit reveals something hidden, the process of prophecy has begun. In this sense, every believer is prophetic! Of course, not every believer is a prophet. But, spiritual reality is the only reality of the kingdom, and the revelation of spiritual reality is the very definition, technical and working definition, of prophecy.

The prophet enters Into this context to provide leadership for the prophetic process. To involve Jesus more, we increase prophetic maturity. So, the highest order of Divine Providence, since providence is God’s involvement in human life and history, includes prophecy. The most powerful moment of the prophet’s humility comes when he is silent simply because God has asked him to say nothing or has given him nothing to say.

At that moment, he is no less a prophet, and the mature prophet who has outgrown the need to continually self-sooth with gift capacities displays. The mature prophet lives in revelation mode without requiring constant affirmations from God about what to think, breath, say, or do. They expect the prophetic as part of who they are instead of a “entering into a prophetic mode” by charismatic gymnastics. They enter their closet because they live in their closet, not to put on their Superman tights.

Taking the weirdness out of the prophetic vastly improves its purity, empties it of tenacious superstition, and allows for it to mature uncomplicated by distractions.

Since the New Testament prophet is designed and defined to function in a kingdom culture, with apostles and other leaders, the prophet functions in that context, with principles, procedures, and protocols that uniquely distinguish the prophet as leader, citizen, and special representative.

The most powerful moment of the prophet’s humility comes when he is silent simply because God has asked him to say nothing or has given him nothing to say. At that moment, he is no less a prophet, and the mature prophet who has outgrown the need to continually self-sooth with gift capacities displays. The mature prophet lives in revelation mode without requiring constant affirmations from God about what to think, breath, say, or do. They expect the prophetic as part of who they are instead of a “entering into a prophetic mode” by charismatic gymnastics. They enter their closet because they live in their closet, not to put on their Superman tights.

Taking the weirdness out of the prophetic vastly improves its purity, empties it of tenacious superstition, and allows for it to mature uncomplicated by distractions.

Since the New Testament prophet is designed and defined to function in a kingdom culture, with apostles and other leaders, the prophet functions in that context, with principles, procedures, and protocols that uniquely distinguish the prophet as leader, citizen, and special representative.

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