Thursday, June 7, 2012

Are New Testament Prophets Always Positive?

As we drove to the Church that morning, my interpreter, a precious young lady named Joy, turned to me with tears in her eyes. "May I ask you about something," Joy said. "There are many prophecies about terrible destructions and judgment coming on Korea. I am so afraid for my family and myself in light of what prophets are saying. What do you think?"

I replied, "That spirit is not the Holy Spirit. God is not a terrorist."
...In addition to terrorizing the innocent and unlearned, words of warning and impending judgment also have an ability to energize the enemy and add fuel to the fire of destruction he plans against people everywhere. There is a certain naive arrogance that has seeped into the tenor of much of what is being received today as prophecy. Judgment will come when Christ appears. Until that day, our commission is the good news of salvation, deliverance, healing, repentance and forgiveness. Let's make that adjustment in our thinking and our message, especially prophecy.  
                                                                   - Bonnie Chavda 
The New Covenant brings with it many changes for the better. Is the content of prophecy one of those changes? Since we live in the age of grace perhaps God is no longer sending prophets with messages of doom and gloom. That’s what some contend. 

Positive prophecy is really nothing new. In ancient Israel there were positive prophets among the people. These prophets gave the majority report, whereas the true prophets of God often gave bad news and minority reports (such as Micaiah in 1 Chronicles 18; Jeremiah 14:13-15; 23:9, 16-17, 21, 25, 30; 28:1-17; Micah 3:5; Ezekiel 13:10-16; Lamentations 2:14; Ezekiel 22:25). Noah preached a maligned and ignored message of judgment against the whole world – and he was right. Elijah once believed that he was the only true prophet left (1 Kings 18). Many true prophets were killed while false prophets were celebrated. Jesus said, “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26).

You may have heard it said that New Testament prophets are unlike Old Testament prophets because they always proclaim a positive message. Does such a claim stand the test of Scripture?

Judgment in the New Testament
On the day of Pentecost thousands were saved. As the fire spread, the Christian community grew fast. In no time the first example of judgment is given. A man and his wife sold a property and then claimed that they were giving all of the proceeds to the church. Peter prophetically discerned their lies.  He even foretold the judgment that would follow. They both died as a consequence of their actions (Acts 5:1-12).
King Herod gave a speech. Some of the crowd said that his voice was not that of a man but of a god. Since Herod did not reject this praise, God sent an angel to judge Herod. Herod died a  sudden and ugly death (Acts 12:21-23).
The church at Corinth had its faults. One of the more serious problems was their abuse of the Lord’s Supper. Paul prophetically pronounced that their so-called Lord’s Supper was the cause for many sicknesses and deaths in the congregation (1 Corinthians 11:29-30).
From the earliest days of Christianity there were false teachers. These teachers were not ignored. Rather, they were confronted (Titus 1:13; Romans 16:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14; 2 John 1:10). God used Paul to bring judgment to false prophets by delivering them over to Satan (1 Timothy 1:20; 1 Corinthians 5:3-5)
Since God continues to bring judgment in this age we should expect true prophets to warn about the coming judgments when fitting. There is simply no Scriptural basis for believing that God has stopped punishing sin.
New Testament Prophecies
Much of what the New Testament has to say concerning the future is about the final judgment. The greatest of all prophets, Jesus, warned that, for most people, the Day of Judgment will be bad news (Matthew 7:14; 20:16; Luke 13:23-30). Christ’s return is good news for some but bad news for most (Matthew 16:27; Revelation 22:12).
Another New Testament prophet shows up in the book of Acts. His name was Agabus.  His first recorded prophecy was that there would be a severe famine (Acts 11:28). He later prophesied that Paul would be arrested (Acts 21:10-11). Argabus was not an exclusively positive prophet. 
Paul was not always positive in his prophecy. When he prepared to leave the Ephesian church he gave a prophetic word. He warned the church that wolves were going to enter the flock and draw some away (Acts 20:28-31). Such a tragic prophecy cannot be characterized as positive.
Jesus continued to prophesy after his resurrection. Revelation chapters 1-3 contain some of these precious prophecies. There are some wonderful words of assurance and hope in those prophecies. But it would not be honest to call them exclusively positive (Revelation 2:4-5, 10, 16, 22-23; 3:1-5; 15-17).
Multiple New Testament prophecies warn us that the last days will not be glorious. These days will be marked by an increase in wickedness (2 Timothy 3:1-9; Jude 1:18; 2 Peter 3:3-7). Jesus compares the days leading up to his return to the situations just prior to the global flood and the judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah (Luke 17:26-30). The New Testament prophecies about the end of time (prior to the Second Advent) cannot be described as positive.
The fear of the Lord should be cultivated. Not that we, his children, are afraid of God. But we do need to develop and cherish a healthy reverence for God and his judgments (Matthew 10:28). God still corrects his children when they misbehave (1 Corinthians 11:32; Hebrews 12:17). His goal is to make sure we will  be saved from eternal punishment.
True men and women of God may not always tell you what you want to hear, but they will tell you what you need to hear. Beware of false teachers. Many claim to be prophets and are not. So be careful who’s teaching you heed (2 Timothy 4:3).  True prophets may hurt  you to heal you – just like the Great Physician.

P.S. No true prophet can "adjust" prophecies.
Let's make that adjustment in our thinking and our message, especially prophecy. - Chavda 

NAS 2 Peter 1:21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. 2:1 ¶ But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; 3 and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. 4 ¶ For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; 5 and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly thereafter...