“Isn’t Prophecy Supposed To Come To Pass…?”

Prophetic ministry is like walking a tightrope:  it doesn’t work if we get in the habit of making mistakes.

No other ministry demands so much attention to accuracy.  Deuteronomy 18:21-22 sets a standard for true prophecy:

And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’—when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.

My wife and I have been doing a lot of heart searching after a string of prophecies in 2008 that have not come to pass.

The first was about an earthquake in California – it was supposed to be the big one, and somehow it got attached to 8-8-08.  It didn’t happen.

The second was about the Lakeland Outpouring:  many of the prophecies were aborted when Todd Bentley’s issues came to light.

The third was about the presidential election.  I knew a lot of people who were hanging on to words that did not come to pass.

But prophetic people have something else in common with high-wire artists:  a safety net.

The safety net:  prophecy is conditional.

Scripture itself reveals that a prophecy can be the word of God without coming to pass.  Jonah’s story is an example.  God sent him to Nineveh and Jonah took the long way around to get there, but eventually he arrived and proclaimed:  “Yet forty days, and Nineveh will be destroyed.”

It was God’s word, but it didn’t come to pass.  The king proclaimed three days of fasting and prayer and led the nation in repentance.  God turned away His judgment and the city was spared for more than a century.

Jeremiah’s trip to the potter’s house — see Jeremiah 18 — explains what happened to Jonah’s word in Nineveh.  Jeremiah watched as the potter took a malformed vessel, reworked the clay, and made a new vessel.  Then God spoke:

“O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the LORD. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!  The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it…”

God went on to say that a nation that turns from righteousness can forfeit a promised blessing.  In other words, prophecy is almost always conditional, even if the prophet does not bother to explain the conditions.  God will turn away from judgment if we turn away from sin; He will withhold blessings if we turn away from righteousness.

Ezekiel 18 says God uses the same pattern with individuals.  His promise of blessing or warning of judgment can change if we turn towards Him in repentance or if we turn away.

For those of us who prophesy, this principle is a safety net if our words don’t come to pass.  God is the one who set the net there; if anything, more scriptures say prophecy is conditional than require that every word must come to pass.

Because of this principle, many prophetic people are saying prophecy is an invitation, not a prediction.  But others look on and wonder if there’s any point in prophecy – if the words are unlikely to come to pass anyway.

We’ve fallen into the net so many times that they’re starting to wonder if anyone knows how to walk on the high-wire.

God is giving us a hunger to see prophecy come to pass.

Frankly, the principles of the potter’s house easily explain the earthquake that didn’t happen, the glory that never quite got released in Lakeland, and the election that did not unfold as many had prophesied.  I don’t feel at all comfortable throwing stones at any of the people who gave these words or prayed over them.

But neither do I feel comfortable with our suave habit of falling into the net.  Granted, God put it there; it’s biblical to use it; it’s impossible to judge prophecy rightly without considering the unspoken conditions that go with it.

What ever became of the idea that God would simply speak, and the word would come to pass?  Do we have to expect that every word God speaks is negotiable?  Will He ever speak a word we can count on?

I Corinthians 12:4-6 implies that God will give us both kinds of words:

There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.  And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.

Sometimes God will give a word like the one Jonah gave Nineveh.  It will be conditional, and it may or may not come to pass.  But sometimes He will give words that surely happen, even if it looks impossible:  they will be like Jesus’ word to Peter that he was to catch a fish and would find a coin in its mouth.  We can expect both kinds of prophecy because Paul made it clear that the God who gives prophecy (or any other gift) will give it in a variety of ways.

We’ve been experiencing one kind of word, and it’s biblical.  But we’re hungry for another kind of word as well.  We want to see someone cross the high-wire without falling into the net.

Jesus doesn’t just speak prophecy – He fulfills it.

“The spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus.”  We’ve focused on one aspect of this – that Jesus will speak prophetic words through us.  But we may have been overlooking another side of Jesus:  He carefully fulfills prophetic words.

We find this in all four gospels, but especially in Matthew.  Matthew often said, “This was done to fulfill what is written…”  In other words, Jesus didn’t just prophesy; He made prophecies come to pass.   He hasn’t changed.  He’s still interested in fulfilling prophecy, whether it be the written words of scripture or the living words spoken by believers today.

After He multiplied the loaves and fishes, He went around and gathered the leftovers so they would not go to waste.  Today He is gathering the leftover fragments of prophecy that others may have tossed aside.  He will not let the word of God return void.  He watches over it, to make sure it comes to pass.

I’m taking time for heart searching these days.  It can be biblical for prophecy to go unfulfilled if man does not do his part, but I see Jesus wanting to bring the word of God to pass.  Are our prophecies the kind of words He wants to fulfill?  Are they what God plans to do, or are they wishful thinking?

I’m not interested in criticizing everyone else’s ministry.  Satan is the one who accuses the brethren; I don’t want to help him with his work.  But I’m asking God to fill my mouth with words that He can be glad to watch over and bring to pass.  I’m asking Him to help me make it clear that a word is conditional, if it is; and that people will understand what the conditions are.

But I’m also trusting Him to know whether man will meet the conditions or not, and to take that into account when He speaks.  I sense that He would like to demonstrate that it is possible to get from one end of the high-wire to the other without falling into the net.

Are you hungry for something clearer in the prophetic?  If so, it’s a God-given hunger, and He wants to satisfy it.  “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.”

Stan Smith  ::  ©2009, GospelSmith  ::  http://www.gospelsmith.com

17 responses to ““Isn’t Prophecy Supposed To Come To Pass…?”

  1. It’s happening now man!Wars and rumors
    of wars,false prophets etc…i think your thinking about Daniel’s words…

  2. I got this email from a friend in CA:

    “Stan, Thank you for your wisdom and boldness in correcting us. I appreciate that you care enough about the Body of Christ to exhort us with your article. I pray many read it an heed your words. (I tried to make a comment on your website, but it wanted an email address that I didn’t want made public, so I’m replying to you directly.)”

    [Feel free to send comments by email if you don’t want to go public on the blog. — S.S.]

  3. To be proven prophecy is given from God and I believe that God gives true prophecy to those he can trust and those that trust HIM. I can say to you Stan that some prophecies may happen that day, next day,next month or even next year. Believe me some people who are shown propectic things may come through writings,visions or even dreams. But the true thing about it is that only a real connection with God will reveal what God is really saying to us. In a prohetic dream he may show parts and you have to know that he is givng us a piece or part of the puzzle. you may have that dream or vivsion or may not see the other part til later. that is how i have seen HIM work in my life. I have been having dreams and vision since I was little girl and believe me what he gives me or shows me comes to past. I hate it when people come to me like I am a fortune teller. Asking me what is God saying about me, I respond what you say about yourself,because logiclly we already know how we are only God will reveal his will for our lives. Either will will go the way he wants us to go, or just go our on way. I believe God talks about us in the heaven when we are reaady for a change and decide to do so, and yes I believe HEAVEN rejoices when we are ready to put away our old ways and change into the person he had already called. I say now that whatever gift we have we should use it for the edification of the church and the GLORy of God.
    We all have our own opinions,But only God knows the answer.

    • I like your thought that prophecy isn’t fortune-telling, and particularly like the line, “But the true thing about it is that only a real connection with God will reveal what God is really saying to us.” The bottom line for all of us is that we can’t let prophecy or any other ministry substitute for a relationship with God Himself.

    • Dear Lisa,
      I have had hundreds and hundreds of incredible prophetic visions over the past ten years as I became intensely committed to Jesus. BUT most of the promished prophecies with specific dates have not come to pass.
      Do you wish to share more?

      • Hi Aril —

        I looked for a comment from Lisa and didn’t find it, but will send a quick answer myself. All of us can truly hear from God one day and make a mistake later. That’s why the Bible commands us to “prove ALL things and hold fast what is good.” We have to stay alert. I’ve posted more about this at http://www.squidoo.com/learn-to-hear-from-God-day-23. There are more links at the bottom of that page; most of them tie into how we can prove all things and hold fast to what is good. Blessings — Stan

  4. Nineveh was destroyed 70 years later so it did come to pass.
    If God said something it will surely come to pass, no doubt about it.
    God can show something that is going to happen and we can pray in some cases to prevent it.
    As did the people of Nineveh, they repented and God held back the judgment.
    Not all prophecies are conditional such as the land promise given to the Jews.
    God gave that promise before Abraham was even circumcised.
    Prophets must be 100% accurate or they are false prophets.

    • Yes, it’s puzzling. Jonah’s word did come to pass — not in 40 days as he had prophesied, but in 70 years. So the mercy of God touched two generations through his prophecy before the word came to pass!

      And the land promise to the Jews is another prophetic puzzle. They possessed the land for a few centuries, as per God’s promise; they lost the land for 70 years as God chastened them for idolatry and sent them to Babylon; in the past century they have returned to the land.

      You bring out a good point: that even when a generation or a few generations forfeit God’s promise through unbelief or disobedience, a true prophetic word waits for those in whom it can be fulfilled.

      And this leaves me wondering what words of scripture wait to be fulfilled in our generation?

    • The prophecy was, “Yet [40 days] and Nineveh will be overthrown” (Jon 3:4 KJV). According to your 100% accuracy confirmation for a true prophet, Jonah was a false prophet; “Yet forty days…” was either God’s word (see Jonah 3:1-5) or either Jonah or the writers of the Bible added to God’s word. Stan’s explanation stands. God Himself says that the sins of the fathers will be visited upon the children, but He also says that the children can avoid that visitation if they don’t continue in the sins of their father’s (see Eze 18). God watches over His word to perform it, but it would appear He has put a safety net under it for all of us, not just the prophets.

  5. It may be the most important statement you made is the one about not wanting to criticize anothers’ ministry as satan is the accuser of the bretheren and you don’t want to help him in his job. Love is the basis for all true acts in the Kingdom and a humble heart is the one the Lord shall abide in, with manifestation of gifts following in power.

  6. I often look forward to prophetic words from God. I attend a church that’s considered a prophetic church and my pastor is called the ” eagle eye prophetess” because she sees things that sometimes take 20 years to happen. She also says that prophesy is conditional and unconditional and also look for confirmation from other prophets. I’m so grateful for the gift, but I sometimes feel like why would God even speak it if he’s not going to do it? Why do the blessings sometimes take so long and look like they are futher away than when they were first spoken? I don’t want to cry or wonder anymore whether God is going to fulfil his word and I’m doing my part to remain prayerful and faithful.

    • God’s timing is often a mystery. Sometimes it takes a long time to hear from God. Sometimes after we hear, it takes years for the word to come to pass. In either case, we have to learn to wait. If nothing else it is an investment in humility; it’s an act of faith affirming that God can and will do something that’s beyond us.

      I’ve learned to get a life while waiting. In other words God may promise a new phase in my life — such as becoming a husband a father, a pastor, a prophet. He spoke each of these things into my life at various points. At first I tended to agonize over each promise until it came to pass. In time, I learned to enjoy life during the waiting period: walk with God and enjoy Him, serve His people however I could, and enjoy the unique blessings of the season I was in while waiting for the next season God had promised. One by one, the promises have come to pass.

      Resurrection blessings — Stan

  7. I came to you website becaus I am becoming confused about today’s prophetic ministry where lots of prophetic words are spoken but no conditions are given. Our local church’s prophets have brought messages of admonition to the church about things that are going on and at the same time God has told us what He will do when we turn back to Him and obey Him and seek Him. We also had prophetic words spoken to many people in the church by a young man who God is raising in the prophetic ministry, but no conditions were given. The message of the Word of God was cut short because so many prophetic words were given. Can you please, set me straight if I am wrong to feel a bit confused about this prophetic ministry that we are seeing during these last days. Blessings without conditions.

    • God doesn’t always speak in a formula of blessings and conditions. For instance, Jesus simply said to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven you. Take up your bed and walk.” Were there conditions? Possibly, but Jesus didn’t declare them. Later, He spoke to the woman taken in adultery: “neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

      We prophesy in part. God doesn’t always lead the prophets to declare the whole counsel of God every time they prophesy. This is why prophecy must be judged — not just declared true or false, but set in a Godly context. I’ve written a lot more about judging prophecy in my 31-day devotional, “Learn To Hear From God.” See http://www.squidoo.com/learn-to-hear-from-God-day-26 and some of the related links at the bottom of that page.

  8. Also, Cathy, generally we don’t need a prophet to remind us of God’s conditions for blessing if we are ‘of age’; no longer little children who continually need to hear the rules. God does not change and He has given us all the “conditions” we need in Scripture. If we personally get a word, or hear one given corporately, concerning prosperity, we can be confident of recieving what was spoken; it’s our Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom (Lk. 12:32). And we should know that we can short circuit God’s intentions for us just as Israel did; which things were written for our benefit (1Cor. 10:11). If the prophets don’t include all this, perhaps it’s because the Lord has told you (collectively) so already and considers its inclusion to be no longer necessary when He tells you of His desire for us.

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