It’s one of the beloved scenes from the book of Genesis: Jacob’s wilderness dream of a ladder between heaven and earth. He woke up and poured oil on the stone he had used as a pillow, and then named the place Bethel, the house of God.
Jacob’s story shows three things God wants in His dwelling place: Jesus is the rock; the Holy Spirit is the oil; and the open heaven is our access to Him and His to us. Wherever we might want to make God feel at home – in our personal lives, our ministries, our churches – we need to make sure these three ingredients are in place.
And while these ingredients are relevant to every Christian and every ministry, they are central to the call and the anointing of prophets. Any of us who relate to prophetic ministry in any way, whether by giving or receiving prophecy, can use Jacob’s story to help us stay on track.
Are we getting it right? The rock, the oil, and the open heaven all show us what prophetic ministry is meant to accomplish.
The Rock: Jesus Himself
I don’t have to go through the many scriptures that liken Jesus to a rock. Any chain reference Bible or concordance can lead you to them. But one key principle about prophetic ministry is so simple and basic we tend to think we have outgrown it: “The spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus.” (Revelation 19:10)
Don’t get me wrong. Not every prophecy will focus on Jesus. God is free to speak about anything that affects us. The prophets in scripture gave battle plans, told how to access divine prosperity, and gave direction in times of national crisis. The list could go on and on, but anything that mattered to His people was something God might speak about through His prophets.
Some therefore have said that the testimony of Jesus is the testimony given by Jesus, the words He is speaking about current events.
If we read nothing but the Old Testament, we will find plenty of evidence that this is what prophecy is all about. We see prophecies that came to pass sometimes in their own generation and sometimes a century or two later.
But when we read the New Testament, we see prophecies that had one meaning when the prophets had given them and another higher meaning when Jesus came to fulfill them. This means Old Testament prophecy often had two or more fulfillments: a historical fulfillment in their own day, another fulfillment in the ministry of Jesus, and sometimes yet one more fulfillment in our own lives as Christ lives in us.
We see these levels of prophecy in the life of David. He often consulted the prophets to find out whether God wanted him to fight a battle or not, but few of these prophets’ words were recorded in scripture. David’s Psalms were recorded instead, and astonishingly many of them give a clear portrait of Jesus.
The testimony of Jesus is more than just what He tells us about the next election or the next earthquake. It is a revelation of Him, an opportunity to know Him better. This is what prophecy is meant to give us.
Do you know Jesus better because of your connection with prophetic ministry? If so, you’re getting it right; if not, somebody is missing the point – either the voice that speaks prophecy or the ear that hears it.
The Oil: The Supernatural Presence Of The Holy Spirit
Many scriptures use oil as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. The Bible uses other symbols as well: wind, fire, rain, rivers. If God wants to live in a house built on the rock, He also wants to live somewhere anointed with the oil of His Spirit. His house must be a place where His Spirit can move.
Perhaps more than any other ministry, prophets are people of the Spirit. Pastors can chatter amiably with people to make them feel at home; prophets don’t want to talk until they have a word from God to deliver. Teachers can teach anything they find in scripture, but prophets have to hear it from God before they’re ready to stand in front of people and speak it. Prophets can’t bear to function without the fresh touch of the Holy Spirit.
Unfortunately, prophets sometimes get busy and take shortcuts. Sometimes we become so zealous to help the whole church take its first steps in the prophetic that we dumb things down to an intellectual level. Or rather than taking time to hear something fresh from God, we present something that was fresh long ago when God gave it, but like yesterday’s uncollected manna it has now bred worms and begun to stink.
I’m not pointing the finger at others here. This is a temptation I face myself. I continually have to remind myself to slow down and take time to receive something fresh from God. And I have to treat my intellectual resources with the utmost suspicion; it’s too easy to fall back on knowledge rather than trusting God for something the flesh can’t produce.
Human intelligence can never substitute for the Spirit of God. Human study and education can never approximate the touch of the Holy Spirit. Scripture makes it clear: the natural mind of man fights against the things of the Spirit.
Some have taught that the left-brain dominance of our culture has made us allergic to the things of the Spirit and a right-brain dominance would cure the problem. But the Bible doesn’t say the left side of your brain fights the things of the Spirit and the right side doesn’t; it says the whole mind is at war with the Spirit.
Those of us who teach have tried to identify principles that will help us line up with the Holy Spirit. I’ve done it myself. Some teachings have been better than others, and some students have grasped the material better than others.
But increasingly, I am meeting people who are trying to get into the things of the Spirit by human understanding. We have gone into the depths of symbolism, finding that a dream about this symbolizes that. We have gone into deep research into history so we can identify how God wants us to pray and strategize. We have worked out the numerical significance of the notes we play in prophetic song and created a mysticism of sound.
Don’t get me wrong. There is a right way to use these bits of knowledge. But let’s be careful not to begin in the Spirit and end in the intellect of the flesh.
Ask yourself: has my connection with prophetic ministry made me more dependent on Him and less dependent on my own intellect, or has it been the other way around? God’s house isn’t the stone with Jacob’s head on it, sound asleep. It’s the rock anointed with the oil of the Holy Spirit.
The Open Heavens
The open heavens are too big a subject for this short article, but this ingredient is all-important if we want to make God feel at home. On our end it means we have access to the things of heaven; on God’s end, it means He has access to the earth through us.
Jesus is Jacob’s ladder. He came right out and said so in the last line of John 1. Then in John 3, Jesus said He had come down from heaven and was still in heaven, while He stood in the dark and talked to Nicodemus in Jerusalem. He was in both worlds at once, heaven and earth.
Does Jesus live in you? If so, you are an open heaven too. Hebrews 12:22 says you are now in the heavenly Jerusalem; Ephesians 2:2 says you are seated in heaven right now; Colossians 3:1-3 says your life is hid with Christ in God, and it is your responsibility to seek the things which are above.
We can’t afford to neglect God’s gracious gift of the open heavens. His dwelling place is the intersection of heaven and earth, and that is what He has called you to be.
Again, more than any other ministry, prophets are preoccupied with the open heavens. Some preach and prophesy about it. Some report encounters with angels, with the visible glory of God, or of visions of Jesus. Some bring us into prophetic worship and an opening of the heavens over the whole congregation, and the whole church gets to taste more of the glory of God than they thought they would ever get to access.
Ask yourself: do the prophets bring a sense of heaven and earth joining together, or is everything locked in the earth? If the prophets are saying it correctly and if their hearers are hearing correctly, the prophetic word will change our thinking, because the kingdom of heaven is at hand – not far away, but close enough to touch.
The Prophetic Church.
I’ve said these three ingredients characterize the house where God feels at home, and that in a special way prophets are called to help the church realign itself with these three key ingredients. But this ministry isn’t reserved for the prophets alone, for Acts 2:17-21 Peter made it clear that the whole church is meant to be prophetic:
‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved.’
What is this outpouring of the prophetic Spirit for? So all of us, by the Spirit of prophecy, can have firsthand revelation of our Rock, Jesus Himself. So all of us can prophesy and see dreams and visions, experiencing the oil of the Spirit as a supernatural flow of His presence and power. So all of us can experience the open heavens, seeing the wonders that are going on there.
This is what prophecy is for: more of Jesus, more of the Holy Spirit, and more of heaven on earth. Accept nothing less.