Prophetic Passions and Protocols

By Francis Frangipane
(En EspaƱol)

When I came to Christ in 1970, America was already pre-wired with end-of-the-world forebodings. Nuclear war seemed inevitable, as Barry McGuire's dire hit "Eve of Destruction" warned. Revolution and lawlessness were spreading everywhere. Yes, the "times" were certainly "a-changin'" as Bob Dylan sang, and indeed so were we. From the rapture-ready hippie revival in the Jesus movement to Hal Lindsey's culture-shaping book, The Late Great Planet Earth, the charismatic movement emerged on the world scene overstocked with prophetic anticipations.

Thus, our preoccupation with all things prophetic has been a kind of spiritual birthmark; it is a prominent characteristic of who we are as last days Christians. Indeed, the '70s produced at least eight major end-of-the-world warnings from prominent authors and various church groups. Other warnings came in the 1980s, punctuated by the book 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988. When that failed, the revised edition came out with the same failed prophecies: The Final Shout: Rapture Report 1989. In the 1990s, especially with the approach of the year 2000 and the widespread computer failures expected from the Y2K Millennium bug, still more warnings came.

I do not doubt the sincerity of anyone who sounded the alarm prematurely. To me there is a difference between a false prophet and a wrong prophet. Yet when will we honestly look at this issue? False alarms have repeatedly misrepresented the Lord's coming over the last forty years.

On the front end of these apocalyptic warnings, evangelists report certain benefits: increased participation in altar calls and certainly more prayer and repentance among Christians who respond. Yet when the pre-announced date passes uneventfully, the effect of being repeatedly, but wrongly, warned leaves many hearts hardened and cynical. Meanwhile, the non-believing world observes the self-induced anxieties spilling out from the evangelical world, and in response, they fortify themselves against a religion that, to them, has symptoms of some illness.

We Can Do Better
While some may be offended at my words, all I am saying is that I believe the Lord has an upgrade coming to the prophetic ministry. I am not talking about losing sight of our prophetic times, but there are procedures, biblical guidelines, that would increase prophetic accuracy and thus bring more glory to God.

First, in defense of prophetic ministries, let's remember that it was God who placed prophets in the church (1 Cor. 14). The power released by a humble, accurate, new covenant prophet can be a revelation of the Lord Himself, causing people to fall on their faces in worship (v. 25). I have often been encouraged and guided by a prophetic word. Confirmed prophetic words, as Paul wrote Timothy, are spiritual weapons. They help us "fight the good fight" (1 Tim. 1:18).

Yet there are boundaries. Writing as "a wise master builder" (1 Cor. 3:10), Paul counseled, "Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge" (1 Cor. 14:29 NKJV). First, the admonition to minister as "two or three" tells us that prophets were an active part of the early church. However, Paul is seeking to present an important safeguard: no matter how spiritual we consider ourselves, we still see through a glass darkly. We need others. Jesus sent His disciples out in twos. He also spoke of the power that is released when two or three disciples are gathered in His name. The Revelation of John tells us that the last great prophetic move will be heralded by two prophets (not one) speaking and ministering together (Rev. 11).

Paul again repeats the principle of two or three in his second letter to the Corinthians, saying, "By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word [Gr: rhema] shall be established" (2 Cor. 13:1 NKJV). It is important to note that when it comes to discerning an actual word from the Lord, typically the best a prophet has is a witness of an unseen reality; he does not have a completed "word from the Lord." I know that statement might cause some to react, but let's be honest: there are times when prophets just miss it. By downgrading the weightiness of our communication to a "witness" instead of an irrefutable "word from God," we give the Lord time to confirm our words supernaturally, perhaps through another ministry at a different time.

Are you a prophet? Instead of saying, "Thus sayeth the Lord," it would be wiser and probably more true to say, "I have a witness for you. Let the Lord confirm it." If you are being ministered to by a prophet and have any question about what is being said, give the Holy Spirit time to confirm His word through one or two more people (unless you have an immediate confirmation in your spirit).

What if you have a national ministry and believe you have a warning to issue? There may be exceptions to this, but I'd suggest you present it first privately to your peers, as well as to the church leaders in the geographic region where the warning applies. Let someone outside your local ministry team confirm it independently. Give God time to arrange a supernatural presentation of His will. The combination of words that have been confirmed supernaturally by prophetic leaders from different ministries is a powerful catalyst for faith.

The restraints I suggest are not to hamper the prophetic but to place prophets as background players on a stage where the Word of God is the main attraction. One prophet may have a genuine warning yet miss completely the timing of his insight; another ministry knows something will happen on a certain date but isn't sure of the details. Remember, when Paul urges us to "let the prophets speak," he also counseled, "and let the others judge" (1 Cor. 14:29 KVJ). Do not be afraid to let your witness be judged, and if you question a prophetic witness, don't be shy about humbly saying that you don't bear witness.

Additionally, the witness of the prophetic should be measured against the truth of Scripture, as well as the voice and redemptive motive of the Holy Spirit. Prophetic ministry does not come to condemn, but to encourage and build up the church (1 Cor. 14:3).

If you have felt manipulated or wounded by false prophetic words, whether concerning the Lord's return or an imminent disaster or a personal word you were given, I pray you will not lose faith or become cynical. I urge you to heed Paul's words: "Do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good" (1 Thess. 5:20–21).

Remember also that just as we have had certain problems administering prophecy, so there were also problems in the first century. Our era is not unique. Yes, there is a mess at times, but there are also blessings, as God's Word affirms. Therefore, as we move deeper into the end times, let's seek God for a new prophetic anointing to fall.


Adapted from Francis Frangipane's book, Spiritual Discernment and the Mind of Christ, available at www.arrowbookstore.com.