Prophecy is no joke. The words of a prophet are meant to birth repentance in the hearts of wicked nations, foretell the future and inspire hope in the hearts of the righteous followers of Yahweh. Unfortunately, we have strayed far from a scriptural definition of prophecy.
The following quote summarizes what most people believe about prophecy.
Those responsible for perpetuating this heretical mindset will have to answer to God when they stand before Him on that Great and Awesome Day, for leading an entire generation astray.
Right now, false prophets and teachers reason in their minds that there is a difference between the Old Testament Prophets and New Testament prophets, but there is no proof of that in His Word. In fact, the Bible says quite the opposite.
Before going forward, please read Appendix A: “How to Tell the Difference Between Old Testament and New Testament Prophets” It will provide more of a backdrop to what I am writing about in this article.
The False Prophet “Proof Text”
Most of the modern day false prophets will parrot each other, using the following verse as their proof text for their definition of New Testament Prophecy.
But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.
If we were to isolate this Scripture, as many often do, and apply our current understanding of the words “edification,” “exhortation” and “comfort,” this would be great news! We would come to the simple conclusion that prophecy should be gentle and appealing to our emotions. However, if you take in the context of the surrounding Scripture AND the literal translation of the words, this assumption couldn’t be further from the truth.
The Purpose of Prophecy
“Pursue love, and desire spiritual [gifts], but especially that you may prophesy.”
Here we see the importance of prophecy. We’re supposed to pursue it above EVERY spiritual gift. This underscores how vital it is to get our understanding of prophecy right. Why is this so important? Because it has to do with the building up of the body of Christ – His church (ekklesia) – His called out ones. He wants us to succeed in His mission for us here on earth before He comes. We’ll dig deeper into this as we progress further into this study.
But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.
Let’s not overlook this Scripture about prophecy, as it does offer a definition of what prophets are to accomplish in their prophesying to men. However, it is not meant to paint prophecy as a nice little spiritual gift that gives you a warm feeling all over your body when you hear it, as the false prophets would have you believe. You will find that the false prophet’s “proof text” will actually condemn the very ones who misapply it.
What follows is a deeper look into the terms “edification,” “exhortation” and “comfort,” but before we go there, we need to understand that these terms cannot be correctly defined with our current Western mindset. Although God doesn’t mind blessing His children with material “things” and letting us “feel” His love, His primary concern is our eternal destination, and whether or not we are walking toward that destination. As a result, our temporal comforts will always take a back seat to His eternal purpose for our lives.
- prophetic-prophet – (the act of) building, building up
- metaph. edifying, edification a. the act of one who promotes another’s growth in Christian wisdom, piety, happiness, holiness
- a building (i.e. the thing built, edifice)
When we see the Strong’s definition [oikodome – G3619] of “edification,” we see that it has to do with the act of “building up”, strengthening, fortifying, and making stronger. The Old Testament Prophets tied the act of “prophesying” to building a wall.
O Israel, your prophets are like foxes in the deserts. You have not gone up into the gaps to build a wall for the house of Israel to stand in battle on the day of the LORD.
A prophet’s role is to strengthen the believers so that when the day of battle comes (and it will come), they are able to stand. Now tell me what will strengthen a saint more – unscriptural prophecy that is easy on the ears and soothing to the emotions, or a prophecy that brings people to their knees in repentance? Read further and find out.
They have envisioned futility and false divination, saying, “Thus says the LORD!” But the LORD has not sent them; yet they hope that the word may be confirmed. Have you not seen a futile vision, and have you not spoken false divination? You say, “The LORD says,” but I have not spoken. Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Because you have spoken nonsense and envisioned lies, therefore I am indeed against you,” says the Lord GOD. “My hand will be against the prophets who envision futility and who divine lies; they shall not be in the assembly of My people, nor be written in the record of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord GOD.”
Why will all of the above come upon these false prophets?
Because, indeed, because they have seduced My people, saying, “Peace!” when there is no peace – and one builds a wall, and they plaster it with untempered mortar – say to those who plaster it with untempered mortar, that it will fall. There will be flooding rain, and you, O great hailstones, shall fall; and a stormy wind shall tear it down. Surely, when the wall has fallen, will it not be said to you, ‘Where is the mortar with which you plastered it?'”
A false prophet will not warn you, he will seduce you. How will he seduce you? By saying “soft things” to you to lull you to sleep. The sad thing is the sheep want it that way.
That this is a rebellious people, Lying children, Children who will not hear the law of the LORD; Who say to the seers, “Do not see,” And to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us right things; Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits.“
Being disciplined as a child is almost NEVER pleasant, but it strengthens a person’s character and shapes his/her personality. The same is true for prophecy. But the mature welcome rebuke.
Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you.
- a calling near, summons, (esp. for help)
- importation, supplication, entreaty
- exhortation, admonition, encouragement
- consolation, comfort, solace; that which affords comfort or refreshment
- thus of the Messianic salvation (so the Rabbis call the Messiah the consoler, the comforter)
- persuasive discourse, stirring address
- instructive, admonitory, conciliatory, powerful hortatory discourse
As you can see, “exhortation” [paraklesis – G3874] can include a combination of both “admonition” and “encouragement,” but I want to focus on the first definition – “a calling near.” This is the primary definition and, I believe, the intended one.
Look at how the prophets “exhorted” in the Old Testament (again, read Appendix A if you haven’t, for my reasoning behind this). They were constantly calling Israel back to God, begging the nation to repent of their sins so that God’s comfort could come.
Still not convinced? OK, fine, let’s look at a New Testament exhortation from Peter.
Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.“
Do you see how exhortation did not change between the Old Testament and New Testament? Repentance and consecration (“Be saved from this perverse generation.”) were vital components, just as they were in the Old Testament.
Most modern day prophets want to use the term “exhort” to mean “spur one another on towards love and good deeds.” There’s nothing wrong with “spurring one another on,” but tell me, when you’re exhorting in your prophesying, what is more important? To call someone nearer to God, or to preach “be nice?” Again, teaching each other to be nice isn’t wrong, but that’s a teacher’s job; we’re talking about prophesying.
- any address, whether made for the purpose of persuading, or of arousing and stimulating, or of calming and
- consolation, comfort 
I can hear some of you saying “A-HA! We got him now!” Look back, I never said that comfort [paramythia – G3889] didn’t have a part in prophesying. But again, we need to be using the Old Testament prophets for our model. God filled close to 1/3 of the Bible (give or take) with messages from the prophets, and it wasn’t to show you how prophecy “used to be.”
When did the prophets speak of the comfort of God?
It was always after Israel repented and returned to God! Make no mistake about it – God wants to show you favor (grace) and God wants to love on you, but it just won’t happen without a consecration to His purposes.
So What Does Prophecy Look Like?
With those 3 terms (edification, exhortation, comfort) firmly under our belts, we can see from the remainder of 1 Corinthians 14 how this fits together.
Although it seems like exhortation and comfort are secondary in importance to edification (they are no longer mentioned in Paul’s discourse on prophesying), you should be able to see how they all work together to build up the believers and keep them on the pathway to their eternal destination. Having said that, we need to see that edification is the focus for the rest of the chapter.
He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification.
Here again, Paul talks about the importance of the edification of the church while prophesying. He also talks about it in verse 12.
Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel.
Remember when I wrote earlier about prophecies causing repentance and how it was like building up the walls of Israel (God’s people)? Are you still convinced that there is a difference between Old and New Testament prophets? Well, let’s take a look at yet another New Testament example of biblical prophecy.
First, let me clarify something.
Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe.
We can see here that prophecy is only for believers. Many in the prophetic movement want to go out and prophesy over unbelievers. According to this New Testament Scripture, you shouldn’t do that. Perhaps it’s because of the confusion surrounding terms used in the following verses.
But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever [apistos – G571] or an uninformed person [idiotes – G2399] comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on [his] face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.
The word “unbeliever” is the Greek word “apistos,” which actually means one who is unfaithful, faithless and not to be trusted. “Unlearned”, however, is the Greek word “idiotes.” This term needs to be taken in context, as there are a few definitions, but is most likely someone who may be a believer, but doesn’t know much in regards to the faith.
These two people are prime candidates for prophecy as they, more than likely, need to be warned and have a lot of sin to repent of. Verse 25 backs it up because we see that they are being convinced by all (more than one), they are being convicted by all, and their hearts are being revealed to all.
This flies in the face of the definition of modern-day prophets and modern-day prophecy, but it is the Word of God. I know this may be a wakeup call for some, and some of you may think it harsh, judgmental and heavy, but I’m not going to be found in opposition to God when He returns. We really need to get this right. Perhaps if we employ more scriptural edification, exhortation and comfort, the church can move forward and we can hasten the coming of our King.