Having surveyed the history and precursors of modern renewalism (Pentecostalism, Charismaticism and Neo-Charismaticism) and discussed two major aberrations of this movement (the baptism with the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues), we now come to prophecy. By prophecy, renewalists are not simply referring to quotations from the Bible or explanations and applications of Scripture. By prophecy, Pentecostals, Charismatics, and Neo-Charismatics mean utterances in the post-apostolic era which they claim are direct revelations from God. So what should Christians, and especially Reformed believers, make of all this? Three tests regarding ongoing prophecy are set forth below, as well as the answers to two evasions.
Test one involves asking, and getting answers to, these sorts of questions: Have you heard teaching by a modern prophet which is contrary to the Bible’s teaching? Do renewalist prophecies contain false predictions? Do you know of a prophecy which was contradicted by events? One brother I know asked these questions to many renewalists and all of the people with whom he spoke said, “Yes!” What a damning indictment!
David Wilkerson, an Anglican Charismatic, predicted in 1972 that within the next twelve months the Berlin Wall would fall. But it fell 17 years later, in 1989! What did the church do in that instance? What did the church do in the many other instances where renewalist predictions have been proven false? If not in all cases, at least in the vast majority of them, Pentecostal and Charismatic congregations do absolutely nothing by way of church discipline. So much for the third mark of a true church (Belgic Confession 29)!
Deuteronomy 18:22 declares, “When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.” Regarding a prophet who makes a prediction which does not happen, “that prophet shall die” (v. 20). 1 Corinthians 5 tells us that the New Testament equivalent is excommunication. Has anyone heard of a Pentecostal being excommunicated because his or her prophecies were not fulfilled? Perhaps such a thing occasionally happens but if so it is exceedingly rare!
The Kansas City Prophets maintain that, if two-thirds of their prophecies come true, that is “pretty good”, for that is a lot higher than it has ever been up until then! All the Kansas City Prophets have admitted that they have made predictions which did not come to pass. The Charismatic John White, who prophesied that he was going to live but subsequently died, said that, since we are all human beings, modern prophets will make mistakes in their predictions (even though God is speaking through them)!
Do you know how many false prophecies it takes to reveal a person as a false prophet? One! Just one! Anyone who utters a single false prediction in God’s name and remains impenitent should be excommunicated as a liar and a false prophet.
Imagine a Pentecostal prophet who makes a prediction that actually happens. However, the one who predicted it teaches false doctrine. How do we evaluate such a thing?
Deuteronomy 13:1-5 deals with this and so provides us with our second test. Verse 1 speaks of a prophet who performs “a sign or a wonder” which comes to pass (v. 2). But this prophet also teaches false doctrine (v. 2). Even though his sign or wonder or prediction came to pass, he too is to be put to death as a false prophet (v. 5) or, in New Testament terms, excommunicated.
Deuteronomy 13 explains that God’s purpose in all this is to test His professing people. If you really love God with all your heart and keep His commandments, even though someone does wonderful signs, because he teaches false doctrine, you must renounce him and excommunicate him (vv. 3-5).
If tomorrow morning’s newspapers carry accounts of remarkable prognostications by the Pentecostals that have been fulfilled—let us say, the nation’s capital is destroyed by an earthquake and prophets from a Pentecostal assembly had predicted this—we still would not receive them as Christ’s messengers. Why? Because mixed in with their proclamations comes Arminian free-willism and other false doctrine. God would thereby be testing you: “Do you love me? Do you love the truth? Or are you more interested in the signs and wonders of a false church?”
To go further, here is a third test. Let us say, for sake of argument, that there is a man who claims to be a Christian prophet and who makes predictions that always come to pass and who teaches orthodox doctrines. What would you do then? You ought to remember Ephesians 2:20, which states that “the apostles and prophets” are “the foundation” of Christ’s church. This foundation was laid in the first century and, being a foundation, can never again be re-laid or augmented! The doctrine of the apostles and prophets, the foundation, is found in the complete, sufficient, inerrant and infallible Word of God.
Therefore, whether or not an extra- biblical prediction comes to pass, and whether or not their other doctrines are orthodox, any person who claims to be a prophet who receives direct revelation from the Lord is, by definition, a liar and a false prophet. Why? Because God is no longer giving direct revelation, since He has already laid the foundation of His church in the Holy Scriptures He delivered by the apostles and prophets whom He sent almost 2,000 years ago!
There are two main attempts to wriggle out of this. The first evasion is the claim that there are two types of prophecy: inerrant and infallible prophecy found in the Bible, and fallible and errant modern prophecy which can and does include mistakes. This is the teaching of Wayne Grudem, amongst others.
This ought to strike you as a wretched argument, one to which the renewalists have been driven simply because they know (and practically everybody else knows) that there are numerous failed prophecies in the Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Neo-Charismatic movements. Direct revelation from God is, by definition, authoritative, inerrant and infallible, for He is the God of truth who “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2), unlike the renewalist prophets and their apologists.
The second evasion—and this one is increasingly popular—is that God speaks today to unevangelized heathen (especially, it would appear, to Muslims) by dreams or visions. A number of former Muslims have said that Christ appeared to them in their Islamic lands in a dream or vision and told them to go to such and such a place to hear God’s Word from such and such a church or person.
There are even a number of Presbyterian and Reformed people who accept their claims. For some of these Protestants, this is the start of their own descent to Pentecostalism or Charismaticism, while for others, at the very least, it weakens their grasp of the truth of the sufficiency of Scripture and their opposition to the heresy of ongoing revelation.
Setting aside questions about the sort of church or Christian (whether true or false) these Muslims went to, and to what sort of Jesus they were converted (whether the true Christ or a false Christ), we deny that God gives direct revelation through dreams or visions, even to unevangelized heathen, even in Islamic countries. We do this because receiving a revelatory dream or vision from God, especially one that does not declare divine judgment upon the recipient (cf. Daniel 2; 4), constitutes a person as a prophet.
A prophet has two aspects to his office. First, he receives direct revelation from God and, second, he passes it on to the people. But the extraordinary office of a prophet has ceased since it was a temporary office involved in the laying of the foundation of the New Testament church (Ephesians 2:20). Today, instead, we have the ordinary office of prophet included in the office of believer. This is a permanent office given to all Christians, in which we search the Scriptures and by the Spirit know the mind of Jesus Christ, and then speak of Him to others.
What we need today is not false prophets or false prophecies but the proper exercise of the believer’s office as prophet, so that he hears, loves, obeys and witnesses of Jesus Christ, as He is set forth in Scripture and through the faithful preaching of His gospel by true ministers in their office of pastor or teacher. Where love for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3) is lost, there is a congregation or an individual wide open to renewalism. Where love for God, His Christ and His Word is strong, the church is based solidly on the only true foundation and so is totally uninterested in the siren song of false prophets and ongoing prophecy!
Written by: Pastor Angus Stewart | Issue 38