The God of “New Things”

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The God of “New Things”

James R. Aist

“Do not remember the former things nor consider the things of old. See, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not be aware of it?” (Isaiah 43:18-19a)

The more I study the Bible, the more I am impressed with the value and importance of gaining a greater perspective on the nature and ways of God. Isaiah wrote, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). My belief is also that God’s ways are higher than our thoughts. Throughout the history of mankind, from the Garden of Eden until now, God has been at work doing things that He has never done before, things that mankind has never heard of before, things that mankind could not have even imagined He might do. These “new things” always surprise us, but God has His entire plan in His mind already, for He declares the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:9-11). The purpose of my writing this article is to demonstrate that the God of the Bible is, in fact, the God of “new things”, that He has already done many “new things”, that He is doing “new things” now, that He will continue to do “new things”, and that we need not be afraid to embrace and participate in these “new things.” In fact, God characteristically invites us to join Him in some of the “new things” He is doing today. Now, let’s take a brief look at some of these “new things”, in order to gain a clearer perspective on this important characteristic of our God.

First, let’s consider a few of the “new things” that God has already done, beginning with the Old Testament:

  • God creates Eve from Adam’s rib (Genesis 2:21-22);
  • God sends “bread” from heaven (Exodus 16:11-35);
  • God makes water gush from a rock (Numbers 20:11);
  • A burning bush is not consumed (Exodus 3:1-4);
  • A donkey speaks (Numbers 22:28);
  • A snake on a stick is used to heal snake bites (Numbers 21:8-9);
  • City walls suddenly tumble down under their own weight (Joshua 6:5).

Next, let’s have a look at some more of God’s “new things”, as recorded in the New Testament:

  • Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit, rather than by a man (Luke 1:35);
  • Two men walk on water (Matthew 14:25-26);
  • God the Father raises Jesus from the dead, without human involvement (Galatians 1:1);
  • The Holy Spirit begins to indwell believers as they are saved (Ezekiel 26:27, Ephesians 1:13-14, 1 Corinthians 12:13, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, 1 John 4:13-15);
  • The Holy Spirit is, henceforth, poured out on all people, not just a few Prophets (Acts 2:17);
  • Items of Paul’s clothing bring healing and deliverance, from a distance (Acts 19:12);
  • A coin from a fish’s mouth is used to pay the tax (Matthew 17:27); and,
  • Mud made from spit and dust is used to restore a man’s sight (John 9:5-7).

Finally, here are some of the “new things” that God will do in the future:

  • Jesus will come again, in the air, to gather the saints to Himself (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17);
  • Evildoers will be cut off and banished to the Lake of Fire forever (Psalm 7:9; Revelation 19:19-21; Revelation 20:10, 14-15);
  • God will create a new heaven and a new earth (Isaiah 65:17; Isaiah 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1-5); and,
  • God will make all things new (Revelation 21:5).

Do not fear, Only Believe

As you can see, the God of the Bible is, manifestly, the God of new things. In fact, everything God has ever done regarding mankind was a “new thing” at some point in history! So, when you encounter a supernatural manifestation, remember that it may really be of God, no matter how strange or bizarre or unnecessary it may seem to be. His ways are higher than our thoughts, and its just like God to do something that is new to us. By all means, test it to see if it is of God (click HERE), and if it is, then don’t be afraid to embrace it. After all, that’s what Jesus would do (John 5:19)!

After Words

Please don’t misunderstand, and assume that I am saying that God will do only “new things” going forward; I am not. Of course He will continue to do many of the things that He has done in the past. For example, God will always be faithful and just to forgive our sins (1 John 1:9), the Father still draws sinners to Jesus (John 6:44), God still works in the saints to will and to do His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13), and Jesus still baptizes believers in the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8). God Himself does not change (Malachi 3:6), and Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). But, He is not confined to doing in the future only those things that He has done in the past. To believe otherwise is to put God in a box, and such a god is not the God of the Bible.

(To read more of my Bible-themed articles, click HERE.)

When the “Supernatural” Is Not of God

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When the “Supernatural” Is Not of God

James R. Aist

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)

Fore Word

I want to make it clear, right up front, that I am not among those who, in the Last Days, are content to have a form of Godliness but denying the power thereof (2 Timothy 3:1-5). After more than 25 years of affiliation with and participation in Pentecostal/Charismatic churches and denominations, as well as more than 65 years of personal encounters with God (click HERE , HERE and HERE), I have the distinct impression that, often, too little consideration is given to the possibility that a supernatural manifestation may not be of God, but of Satan. The default setting seems to be that if it is supernatural, it must be of God, but that is not a biblical approach at all. The Bible clearly instructs us to test the spirits to see if they are of God or not (click HERE), and to hold onto what is of God. So, in this article, I want to relate some unequivocal examples of when the supernatural was not of God, but of Satan, so that a more balanced and biblical approach to the supernatural might become more commonly practiced be Christians going forward.

Introduction

Let’s begin by defining some relevant terms, shall we? “Natural” refers to things that are of this physical world that God created, often referred to as “nature.” “Supernatural”, on the other hand, refers to things that are above or beyond the natural, or not of this physical world. In this context, “supernatural” would refer to the spiritual realm, and, more specifically, to spirit beings or their activities. From the Bible, we know that spirit beings include God, angels (good and evil), demons and spirits (good and evil). Satan is the ruler of the evil angels, demons and evil spirits. Human beings are also spirit beings, but they have a physical body and a soul as well. God, as the Creator of everything, is ultimately sovereign over all of the physical and spirit beings. Jesus said that God is Spirit; consequently, whatever God does is supernatural. Likewise, whatever any of Satan’s spirit beings do is also supernatural.

Whenever we encounter a possible supernatural manifestation, I believe that the first thing we need to determine for ourselves is whether or not it is really a miracle at all. Many manifestations (e.g., random cloud formations appearing like Jesus or a cross, or rust dribbling down a statue) are easily explained by natural phenomena. Other manifestations (e.g., manufactured Words of Knowledge, messages from the “spirit world” or fake healing) may be nothing more than cruel hoaxes perpetrated by humans. Once such natural or manufactured phenomena have been ruled out as the cause, there are two possible sources of a supernatural manifestation: God or Satan.

Now, I assume that we are all familiar with accounts in the Bible of supernatural manifestations that were of Satan, not God. For example, the Bible says that Pharaoh’s magicians turned their rods into snakes (Exodus 7:8-12), and the Gadarene demoniac broke out of heavy chains and shackles using supernatural strength imparted by a legion of demons (Mark 5:1-13). But, to illustrate the point further, I want to give a more detailed account here of two supernatural encounters that I myself have had that were clearly not of God.

An “Angel of Light”

I was 19 years old, a college student and very naive and ignorant concerning spiritual matters and the Word of God. In my frame of reference at that time, anything supernatural was assumed to be of God.

Now, please keep in mind that I was fully conscious and aware during the entire supernatural encounter I am about to share with you. One Sunday afternoon, I was alone in my apartment praying earnestly to God for His guidance concerning a major life decision that I was about to make. While I was praying, I suddenly felt an invisible force pulling on me, weakly at first, but then stronger and stronger until my entire body fell limp and my upper torso was held upright (i.e., levitated) and literally pulled to the other end of the apartment by this force, with my lower legs and feet dragging along the floor. When I arrived at the doorway to my bedroom, the force released me, and I slumped into a full squatting position on the floor, still unable to move of my own accord. Then I saw, out of the corner of my right eye, a bright, round, white light about the size of a basketball. This light was situated at the juncture of the wall and the ceiling. Next, my gaze was turned toward the light, and a voice spoke into my mind. It told me what I wanted to believe as I had been praying to God, and the message was crystal clear and without any confusion on my part. Then my strength slowly returned and I was able to stand and walk.

In pondering what had just happened to me, I assumed that this entire and impressive spiritual encounter was a divinely inspired answer to my prayer. However, it was a frightening experience, and I have been reluctant to share it publicly until now. Believing it was of God, I acted on the message I was given.

As the years went by, it became more and more apparent to me that this “angel of light” had lied to me, because things were not working out as I was told they would. This development put me into a state of utter confusion, because I was, at first, certain that I had heard from God, who cannot lie. I was even in the midst of praying to God when this spiritual encounter occurred! “Surely God would not allow Satan to bring a false response to my prayer to Him!”, I reasoned.

More years passed, and, by now, I had become a student of the Bible and was a bit savvy concerning spiritual matters. But I was not yet fully convinced that this “angel of light” was not of God, even though what it said to me did not square with present reality. Then one day, as I was reading in 2 Corinthians 11, I came upon the verse that says “…even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” (verse 14). That caught my attention, but I tried to read on anyway. Each time I tried to read on, my gaze was directed back and glued to “…even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” Finally, I saw the connection between this verse and my earlier experience with an “angel of light”: that wasn’t God, that was Satan deceiving me and setting my life on a course that did not end well! And, there it is. This supernatural experience was not of God at all, but of Satan, no more doubt about it. (Note: It is not uncommon for the Holy Spirit to quicken, or bring alive, the written word of God to a Bible reader in this manner. In Pentecostalism, this experience is sometimes referred to as an example of the “Rhema word” of God. For a sound, biblical teaching by Watchman Nee on the Rhema word, see text pages 51-59 at this link: https://s3-us-west-1.amazonaws.com/bfa-media/ebooks/TGC-eng.pdf)

A Slithering Serpent

Early on in my experience with Pentecostalism, I was an active member of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International (Ithaca, NY, chapter). A much larger chapter in nearby Syracuse, NY, invited me to be their keynote speaker at their next monthly meeting, and I accepted. They wanted me to relate my experiences in researching and publishing, on the Cornell University campus and to the Ithaca area, the facts and truth about homosexuality. Of course this was an inflammatory mission I was on, and the area homosexual activists were all up in arms about it, opposing me with every hateful and devious attack they could think of. The devil hates it when someone sheds light on his nefarious deeds of darkness, doesn’t he?

When the day came for my presentation, there was a sizable crowd of about 150 people who showed up to hear what I had to say. No more than about 10 minutes into my speech, I noticed to my left a woman standing in the aisle near the back of the crowd. As I continued to speak, I saw in the corner of my eye that she had laid down on the floor and was moving through the aisle toward me. When she was about half way to the front, I could see clearly how she was moving along the floor: she was face-down, her body taking the shape of a crawling snake and slithering toward me, all the while lifting her head, wagging her tongue at me and hissing audibly – just like a snake! I knew almost immediately that we were seeing a supernatural manifestation that was demonic in nature, so I continued right along with my speech so as not to allow this demon to disrupt my message. When the serpent lady had reached the edge of the open area where I was standing, a couple of the local men of the chapter came and quietly picked her up off of the floor, escorted her out of the auditorium the same way she came in, and ministered to her out in the foyer. This demonic manifestation was very impressive and creepy, but it didn’t spoil God’s purpose for my being there!

My Point

I want to encourage us all to not be too quick to conclude that anything that is supernatural is of God. False prophets can work signs and wonders too (click HERE). While it slanders God when we are duped by “wolves in Sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15), it is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit to attribute to Satan the miraculous works of God (Matthew 12:22-30). So, we must be very careful to always test any supernatural manifestation before we conclude that it is, or is not, of God (See Addendum, below). Peter and John did not believe the report that Jesus had been raised from the dead until they had direct, physical confirmation themselves, and Thomas withheld his worship of the resurrected Jesus until Jesus gave him the physical confirmation he was holding out for. Perhaps we would be wise to follow the example of these Apostles and require confirmation that supernatural manifestations are really of God, rather than being quick to just assume that they are. I have to believe that if God wants us to know what He is doing, He can and will make it clear to us, if we are willing to inquire, listen, watch and wait.

Addendum

I would be remiss if I didn’t share with you, for what its worth, some of the tests I use to evaluate the authenticity and the source of claimed “supernatural” manifestations. So, here is a “short list” of my tests:

  • Is there a verified, natural explanation available?
  • Is there a verified fleshly motivation to fake a miracle?
  • Do the human instruments of the manifestation appear to be trustworthy and reliable witnesses?
  • Does it involve anything that the Bible expressly prohibits?
  • Is it serving God’s purposes or Satan’s purposes?
  • What are my natural and my spiritual gifts of discernment telling me about it, if anything?

(To read more of my biblically themed articles, click HERE)

Prophecy in the New Testament Church

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Prophecy in the New Testament Church

James R. Aist

In the last days it shall be,’ says God, ‘that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even on My menservants and maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy. (Acts 2:17-18)

Introduction

It is not my intention here to attempt a comprehensive treatise on prophecy. Others more qualified and authoritative than I am have already done that. Mine is more of an introductory level treatment encompassing personal research and commentary that I have been motivated to explore, assemble and record here, for what it’s worth. Nor will I get deep into the ongoing controversy concerning whether or not prophecy is for today. Suffice it to say that the Scripture verses quoted above say that prophecy is for the Last Days, in which we live. Moreover, a great many born-again Christians, including myself, bear witness to the operation of prophecy in the Christian church today, so my interest lies mostly in understanding it and practicing it, insofar as God gives it to me and to my contemporaries of like faith.

Before Pentecost, God spoke to His chosen people, Israel, through a select, few individuals called “prophets” (Hebrews 1:1), who spoke to the people for God through the working of the Holy Spirit. The punishment for giving a false prophecy was, at that time, extremely severe, even death. But, at Pentecost, God did a “new thing”: He began to pour out His Spirit on all believers, not just a few, chosen prophets, such that all became eligible to prophesy. The old order of communication through a chosen few was replaced by a new order of communication through, potentially, all who would put their faith and trust in Jesus. Apparently, false prophecies were no longer to be punished by the death of the one prophesying; rather, the hearers were to judge the prophecies as to whether or not they were of God, and to firmly hold onto what is good. But, this does not mean that God is no longer offended by false prophecies. Pentecostal theology teaches that there is now sufficient grace to cover false prophecies, but if God were not still offended by them, why would grace be required in the first place? After all, false prophecies, being not really from God, are lies perpetrated about God, are they not, regardless of the good intentions of the prophet?

This “new thing” that God did ushered in a major prophecy makeover that is still in effect today. So, then, what is prophecy in the modern Christian church, and how can we judge whether or not the prophecies are of God?

A Pentecostal Definition of “Prophecy”

Dr. Cecil M. Robeck, Jr. has defined prophecy as “A spontaneous manifestation of God’s grace, received by revelation, (sometimes as a vision, at other times as impressions or thoughts) and spoken by the Spirit through a Christian who has been given a gift of prophecy in the language of those who hear the prophetic word spoken.” Such definitions apply specifically to prophecy in a meeting of a church body. In the New Testament, preaching and prophecy are two separate and distinct operations, although preaching can, and often does, incorporate prophetic messages.

From this definition, we can see that there are three things that must happen in order for the prophetic process to be complete: First, the Holy Spirit must give the gift of prophecy to a Christian of His choosing; second, the Holy Spirit must give to that person a revelation from God; and third, the revelation must then be spoken to those whom God wants to hear it. Thus, true prophecy is initiated by the Holy Spirit and manifests first as a revelation given by the Holy Spirit. The one prophesying then turns the revelation into a prophecy by speaking it to those who hear. In other words, the Holy Spirit operates the prophecy, while the human being merely co-operates with the Holy Spirit in the process.

Regarding the aspect of spontaneity in prophecy, let me first point out that spontaneity is commonly present as an element of true prophecy in the definitions of most Pentecostal and charismatic writers. As you will see in the Bible passages below, with true prophecy, the spontaneity is in the giving of the revelation to the human being, which is according to the will of the Holy Spirit, not the will of the human being. However, there appears to be flexibility in when the revelation is to be shared with those who are to hear it: if the revelation comes during the meeting, then it is to be given as soon as possible during the meeting. But if the revelation comes before the meeting, then one is to wait until the meeting has begun and then give it at an appropriate time.

Bible Passages on “Prophecy” in the Christian Church (with my personal commentaries in italics):

Acts 2:17-18 ‘In the last days it shall be,’ says God, ‘that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.

All true believers are eligible to prophesy, because God has poured out His Spirit on all flesh. But, 1 Corinthians 12:10 says that they can only do so if/when the Holy Spirit chooses to use them in this way.

1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies.  Examine all things. Firmly hold onto what is good. Abstain from all appearances of evil.

Examine all prophecies to see if they are from God. Accept those that pass the tests, and reject those that do not. The tests are the written word of God and the spiritual gift of discerning of spirits. Note that there is no explicit judgment of the prophet and no punishment specified for delivering a false prophecy…only grace, instead, according to Pentecostal Theology. But remember, that does not mean that we should celebrate false prophecies and take even more risks in prophesying, any more than we should “…continue in sin that grace may increase” (Romans 6:1-2).

2 Peter 1:20-21 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of the Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation. For no prophecy at any time was produced by the will of man, but holy men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

True prophecy does not proceed from the will or the imagination of human beings. Instead, people are moved by the Holy Spirit to relay a message from God. The Holy Spirit, not a human being, initiates and operates the process.

1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Do not just believe that everything a prophet says is from God, really is from God; there are many false prophecies being floated around. Rather, test every prophecy and decide for yourself if it is from God. This rule applies to even the most famous and esteemed of “prophets.” The tests are the written word of God and the spiritual gift of discerning of spirits.

1 Corinthians 12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.

Paul is about to teach the Corinthians all they (and we) need to know about prophecy in the Christian church body. [If he were to leave out any essential information, then the Corinthians (and we) would still be ignorant after learning all that Paul teaches here.]

1 Corinthians 12:6 There are various operations, but it is the same God who operates all of them in all people.

It is the Holy Spirit, not the human being, who operates the gift of prophecy. We just co-operate with the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:10 …to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.

Note that “discerning of spirits” follows immediately after “prophecy” in this list. Perhaps this order of mention was meant to imply that to effectively “test the spirits to see if they are from God,” one needs to exercise the gift of “discerning of spirits.” The test of the written word of God should always be applied also. The gift of prophecy is not given to all Christians as a result of their conversion; rather, it is distributed only to some, according to the will of the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:10 But that one and very same Spirit works all these, dividing to each one individually as He will.

It is the Holy Spirit, not a human being, who distributes the gift of prophecy (cf. Hebrews 2:4) as He wills, and then He works them Himself. Prophecy doesn’t “just happen”; the Holy Spirit, not a human being, initiates the process by giving someone with the gift of prophecy a revelation from God.

1 Corinthians 14:1 Follow after love and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.

Of all of the spiritual gifts, prophecy is the one most to be desired. (One may wonder, then, if maybe some of the time and energy we Pentecostals have been focusing on the gift of tongues might have been better spent on the gift of prophecy. I’m just sayin’.)

1 Corinthians 14:3 But he who prophesies speaks to men for their edification and exhortation and comfort.

Apparently, these are the three main purposes that God has in mind for giving us prophecy revelation in and for the church body.

1 Corinthians 14:5 I desire that you all speak in tongues, but even more that you prophesy. For greater is he who prophesies than he who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edification.

Not only is prophecy greater than tongues, but the prophet is greater than the tongues speaker, unless there is an interpretation. A message in tongues with interpretation in a church meeting is a revelation from God to edify those present; it is man-ward directed, whereas tongues spoken privately is God-ward directed to give praise and glory to God.

1 Corinthians 14:12 So, seeing that you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that you may excel to the edifying of the church. (cf. Young’s Literal Translation: “So also ye, since ye are earnestly desirous of spiritual gifts, for the building up of the assembly seek that ye may abound.”)

I see in this verse something that goes beyond just “…earnestly desire to prophesy.” What I see here is a call to action, an instruction for us to make every effort to get better at discerning the voice of God, so that our prophecies are true. Thus, teaching about prophecy that is aimed at improving our ability to discern the voice of God may be both biblical and encouraged.(Caution: In my opinion, prophecy practice sessions are suspect at best, because they are based on the false teaching that it is a human being, not the Holy Spirit, who initiates the process of prophecy. See 2 Peter 1:20-21, above.)

1 Corinthians 14:24-25 But if all prophesy and there comes in one who does not believe or one unlearned, he is convinced by all and judged by all. 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.

Pentecostal Theology holds that “…the secrets of his heart…” refers to hidden sins. According to this view, prophecies in the church body can convict a hearer of sin.

1 Corinthians 14:26 When you come together, every one of you has a psalm, a teaching, a tongue, a revelation, and an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.

Tongues, with interpretation, is for the edification of the whole church, just like prophecy is.

1 Corinthians 14:29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.

All present at the meeting are to listen to the prophecy, and judge what is said (to decide if it is from God). There is no mention of judgment of, or punishment for, the prophet if the prophecy is found to be false. Instead, according to Pentecostal Theology, there is grace to cover these human failures. But, that does not mean that we should celebrate false prophecies and take even more risks in prophesying, any more than we should “…continue in sin that grace may increase” (Romans 6:1-2). The two main tools that we have to judge prophecies are the written word of God and the spiritual gift of discerning of spirits.

1 Corinthians 14:30 If anything is revealed to another that sits by, let the first keep silent.

Some prophecy revelations are received during the meeting, and these are to be given priority in the order of presentation at the meeting.

1 Corinthians 14:31 For you may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged.

Prophecies are to be given one after another, not while others are being given, so that all of the prophecies may be heard and judged by all, and all may be encouraged.

1 Corinthians 14:37 If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that what I am writing you is a command of the Lord.

Paul has received these instructions directly from Jesus, so his teaching here about prophecy in the church body is, itself, a true prophecy. It is not subject to challenge.

General Commentary: Notice that all of these verses pertain specifically to the use of the gift of prophecy in the assembly of the saints for the edification of all assembled. Nothing is said here of either revelations about individuals, or whether or not we are to share such personal revelations with anybody. I am presently of the opinion that revelations from God about individuals are just words of knowledge to be kept to oneself, unless God instructs you to share the revelation with the individual or a group, in which case it then becomes a prophecy, by definition. I have yet to find in the Bible any instruction or permission to share God-given personal information about an individual to any group of people (e.g., a small group or class within a church body, an entire church body, a conference or convention of “prophets, a TV audience, a book audience, the internet, etc.). Pentecostal Theology commonly refers to revelations from God about and for individuals as one example of “Rhema.” (For a sound, biblical teaching by Watchman Nee on the Rhema word, see text pages 51-59 at this link: https://s3-us-west-1.amazonaws.com/bfa-media/ebooks/TGC-eng.pdf)

Now I am going to tread briefly into an area of the current practice of prophecy (what I call the “modern prophecy movement”) with which I am, perhaps, less familiar. The New Testament clearly presented to the New Testamant church the accepable parameters and practices for true prophecy at that time. But, is God limited today by what He prescribed for the New Testament church regarding prophecy, or is He free to do another “new thing” now, if He wants to? The Bible says that God is in heaven and does whatever He pleases (Psalm 115:3). So, I am currently of the opinion that God may be doing some new, “new things” regarding prophecy in His church, but only insofar as they do not contradict or violate what is written in the New Testament. God does not contradict Himself. So, our challenge and our charge today is to not quench the Holy Spirit as we test the spirits of prophecy and prophets to see if they are of God. And, I believe God would not require this of us if He would not enable us to do it. That said, I strongly recommend that we proceed with very careful scrutiny and great caution in evaluating where the new things in contemporary prophecy are coming from. Just because something is supernatural doesn’t necessarily mean it is of God; it could be of Satan, instead.

How to Recognize False Teachers and False Prophets

Unfortunately, there are many false teachers and false prophets in the present day Christian church, as Jesus warned us there would be (Matthew 24:11). To help us be prepared to recognize them as we encounter them, I have compiled the following list of Bible verses, with my personal commentaries:

  1. There will be many others like them (Matthew 24:11 and 1 John 4:1)
  2. By their own will they will produce prophecies (2 Peter 1:21)
  3. They will appear to be Christians;e., they are “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15)
  4. They will bear evil fruit (e.g., false prophecies) (Matthew 7:16-20)
  5. They will not endure (i.e., abide in) sound doctrine (2 Timothy 4:3)
  6. They will gather to themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires (e.g., Prophecy Conventions?) (2 Timothy 4:3)
  7. They will teach what men, having “itching ears”, are eager to hear (2 Timothy 4:3)
  8. They will turn from the truth to myths (2 Timothy 4:4)
  9. They will be out of control (2 Timothy 4:5)
  10. They will manifest signs and wonders to deceive even the elect (Matthew 24:24)
  11. They will secretly bring in destructive heresies (2 Peter 2:1; Jeremiah 23:14)
  12. Many will follow their ways (2 Peter 2:2)
  13. They will blaspheme the way of truth (2 Peter 2:2)
  14. They will be presumptuous and arrogant (2 Peter 2:10)
  15. They will revel in their own deception (2 Peter 2:13)
  16. They will forsake the right way (2 Peter 2:15)
  17. They will speak arrogant words of vanity (2 Peter 2:18)
  18. They will promise “freedom” (2 Peter 2:19)
  19. They will speak lies in hypocrisy (1 Timothy 4:2)
  20. They will put their own words into God’s mouth (Jeremiah 23:16)

After Words

No one will find it enjoyable to label a prominent personality in Christendom a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”, but the many warnings in the New Testament about false teachers, false prophets and false doctrines in the end times are there for a reason and demand our careful attention and appropriate action. We are instructed in the New Testament to test all of these teachings and prophecies to see if they are from God…or not. God’s written word, or logos, is a test that should always be applied. The spiritual gift of discerning of spirits is also available to us and can be used to determine what is and is not from God. If you are not prepared, or willing, to make such determinations, as the Bible instructs us to do (Ephesians 4:11-16), then I challenge you to prepare yourself and muster the courage of your convictions to speak out so that others will not be fooled by the “wolves in sheep’s clothing” that you encounter. In my opinion, there is no better way than this for us to “defend the faith.”

Further Reading: If you are interested in further exploring the topic of prophecy in contemporary Christianity, I highly recommend “What does the New Testament really say about the gift of prophecy?” by Eddie Hyatt (click HERE).

(To read more of my biblically themed articles, click HERE)

 

 

The Reverse of the Curse

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The Reverse of the Curse

James R. Aist

God has been impressing on me lately the incredible magnitutide of what He has already done to bridge the spiritual gap between Himself and mankind that began when Adam chose to obey Satan instead of God in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). God’s response to that “original sin” was three-fold: 1) He pronounced curses on Adam, Eve, Satan and all of creation; 2) He drove Adam and Eve from the Garden so that they could no longer eat of the tree of life and live forever; and 3) He severed the spiritual connection into which He had created Adam and Eve in the first place. The latter is the spiritual gap that original sin caused, and I want to focus here on the extent to which God has already bridged that gap, how incredibly far God has gone to more than restore our former spiritual connection with Him. To do that, I will focus on God’s presence as manifested by the Holy Spirit.

Before sin entered into the world, it was just Adam, and Eve and God; He was their God, and they were His people, one might say. Once sin entered in, however, He was no longer their God, and they were no longer His people. This spiritual disconnection between God and mankind persisted from generation to generation, with God dwelling only with or among His people, keeping His distance, as it were.  But, God did promise that the day would come when He would be their God and they would be His people again (Jeremiah 24:7), as it was in the Garden of Eden before sin entered the picture.

So, in the fullness of time, God sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to spiritually reconnect (i.e., reconcile) mankind with Himself. But God went much farther than merely re-establishing the former spiritual connection. At Jesus’ request, God sent the Holy Spirit to actually dwell within each person who would receive Him as their Lord and Savior, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Ezekiel 36:27! Never before had the spiritual connection between God and mankind been either this intimate or this powerful. Now, all who believe in Jesus have within them the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11)! Moreover, the fact that God would place the Holy Spirit within each new believer is proof positive that He has, in fact, made us to be “the righteousness of God in Christ (Romans 3:22).” Otherwise, we would not be morally fit for co-habitation by the Holy Spirit (Psalm 5:4)!

Now, let’s pause for a moment to summarize: God was with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden; God was with the Isrealites in the wilderness as they followed Him around for 40 years; God dwelled among the Israelites in temples built in the Promised Land for His presence; God was momentarily within at least one prophet when he was prophesying (Ezekiel 2:2); when Jesus came, God dwelled among men for 33 years and the spiritual connection with the Father was re-instated; but, when the Father sent the Holy Spirit to believers, for the first time ever God dwelled within men permanently. “Why is that such a big deal?”, you may ask. Its primarily because the Holy Spirit within us is a God-given guarantee that we will, for sure, always have eternal life (Ephesians 1:14)! Our salvation has been sealed by the Holy Spirit within us (Ephesians 1:13).

At the beginning of this article, I pointed out that God’s response to Adam’s “original sin” was three-fold, and, so far, I have dwelt on only the third response. But the Bible tells us that God will re-create the kind of utopian scenario that existed in the Garden of Eden before sin entered the world, and that we will be together with God once more on a renewed earth, where we will reign with Jesus forever. In the meantime, let’s remember that God has already done more than merely remedy our spiritual separation from Himself: His Spirit now dwells within us! God sure knows how to more than “reverse the curse”, doesn’t He?

(To read more of my articles with a biblical theme, click HERE)