Interpreting Prophetic Words

by Pam Clark (

Now this is a big subject, so I can only highlight a few things, but they are things that I think are important and hopefully will be helpful to you. Because of the awakening of the prophetic gift in this last generation, it is a fascinating and captivating study.

Prophets have always been around but they began to be celebrated on the public stage in a big way about 20 or so years ago. A lot of the pentecostal type churches had recognized them, but not all were that educated on them and I believe one reason for that is that God had a special season of emphasis for them.

We have the prophets in the Bible whose stories or writings are shared in the canon of Scriptures. We know the Bible is an ordained book of God for our blessing, help and doctrine. God chose this Spiritual book for us for His reasons, and the predictive prophecies are unquestionably amazing. There is rich history and Spiritual help for us in many facets. The Bible is God’s Book!

Now Jesus Himself obviously taught about the five fold ministry, and Paul writes about it and especially defines it in the book of Ephesians chapter 4. It is very important for us to understand the role of ministry as we work at discerning prophetic words, so let me share God’s definition of His ministry callings:

Ephesian 4:
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it….
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,
12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up
13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.
15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.
16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. [NKJV]

When we understand the basic definition, we will better interpret the manifestations that result from their expressions.
I am going to focus mainly on the prophetic in this article, because there are many questions about it. When this awakening to the prophetic ministry first started becoming public, acknowledged and accepted, it was a rough season for some in the Church. Many pastors were unsettled by it, as they wanted to please God and not miss Him, but some of the manifestations of those who were called prophets were questionable.

1. There will be a warfare over the true gift.

The gifts of God will make a difference. God is staking a claim for His people and their acceptance of His ways are vital and necessary. Adam, representing all mankind yielded his will to the devil in the Garden, and must now return and submit his will back to God again. The devil will contend for that.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s with the supernatural move of awakening via the charismatic wave, most churches were comfortable with the role of the pastor and teacher. A few more excited churches also welcomed the evangelist but there was often complaint that they took each other for granted in some ways because not regarding the differences in their roles. Evangelists sometimes felt unappreciated and undercompensated, and pastors complained that these ministers did not always understand the labor that went into caring for the sheep and sometimes things were said but left undone because the evangelist had moved on.

But never the less, most of the Church was comfortable with the three-fold ministry. It was pretty widely accepted, whether they utilized the ministry of evangelist or not. How important it is to bring in the lost, but also how important it is to nurture and care for and raise up the flock! That was three divisions of labor – pastor, teacher, evangelist – but God had more!

When the prophet came on the scene in a more distinct way, there was a lot of awe and wonder about them. Sunday Schools and pastors had long focused on the more dramatic stories about them and so when people thought “prophet”, they wanted to see some signs and wonders and dramatic acts. And God had some, but there was more understanding needed. Dramatic acts can unsettle a person or ministry in such a way that foundations may not be clear and more is undone than done!

2. The role of the prophet and apostle is foundational, and their job is to secure and establish and ground the Church in ways that help make it stronger, not just provide the “wow factor.” Good ministry makes God “the wow.”

As prophetic words started being administered, competition with the occultic side was full on, and everybody wanted “a word” about their life. Most wanted (and expected) to see predictions that they could base things on, whether it was personal for them or for judging the prophet. There was a lot of expectation and the people began to define the prophet more than letting the Scriptures do it. And there is still some of that today.

There were and are many who know how to tell people what they want to hear. The Bible says they have itching ears for their own gain more than for the Cause of Jesus Christ. Some even charged certain amounts of money and the higher the price, the more “personal and special” the “word” would be.

3. We need a good understanding of the balance of the ministry work and the human person. This is very important.

Now God’s Word says that “a workman is worthy of his hire” and people really do need to eat and conduct business with their personal lives and family, and many took their views about this to the extreme. Some demanded the prophets (or ministers) to live on air while the ones they were serving feasted.

It appeals to the flesh to make the ministers serve them by creating limiting legislation on what they can and cannot do or have. Others made idols out of them and excessively catered to them. Both are wrong for it denies true freedom.

The Scriptures will always have our answers, we just need to learn how to interpret them correctly, rightly dividing the Word of Truth. When the prophets came on the scene, they were not only breaking ground for themselves but also for the apostolic season to come, a season we are now in. And again for them, many misconceptions have to be overcome, but if we stick to the basics, we will get there!

4. We need ALL of the five fold ministry as well as ALL of the other ministry gifts. In true faith, everyone becomes a minister of ministry work.

The functions may vary, the way it is carried out might be different, but in the anointing of God, small things can become pivotal in the Kingdom of God. We just have to be working together for the best results to come forth.

In Ephesians 4 in the NKJV used above, it is called “works of service” and other translations will read “works of the ministry.” Christians are born again and created to do good works! We must be doing something to express our faith or it is dead. Anyone can do helping services as kindnesses but our main purpose is to express Christ and witness Him, not just ourselves. Love cannot rule if it cannot be seen and God has chosen to express Himself through us! So we must learn how.

5. All ministry is called to establish us in the faith. Whether it is prophecy or signs and wonders, or just sharing our faith in the ways we know best, what we do can make serious life changes as well as eternal differences.

Because of a lack of true understanding, a frivolity has come in the Church that is really not quite right. There should be joy and rejoicing, but there is a silliness that is not a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Fun is not wrong, but it should be good clean fun, as that will never steal from us and it will refresh you and often keep you out of temptations. We must judge it all, Jesus said, by the fruit: Is it contributing to a love and devotion to a righteous God who can change our lives?

All this brings us to the question of how do we handle prophetic words. Some are not fully understood, some are, some have dual meanings, some can be riddles, and some are like a surgery. Some can be warnings, some can be land markers, some can infuse hope, some can be like keys that open doors to avenues in life.

Again we must go to Scripture, for all of our understanding on this. A prophecy, or a prophetic word, is a message from God. God can be gentle, God can be firm, God can rebuke and God most of all will love. We need to know His nature and character!

Some of that understanding comes through study, and the rest of it comes through experience. Prophecy will foretell and forth tell. Prophecy will put a light on something that helps you to see Spiritually.

Psalm 36:9 says: “For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light.” And Jesus said, in Matthew 6:23, “If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” We want to, no we must, see with our Spiritual eyes!

Not every prophetic word that is given today is meant to be a canon of Scriptures. Every word should be holy and meant to glorify God, but Old Testament and Bible prophets are under a different covenant in the New Testament dispensation. For one thing, it says that Jesus gave some to be prophets, as members of the five fold ministry. At Pentecost, it came to pass that His sons and daughters would prophesy! (Acts 2:17-18)

The gift of prophecy is for edification and exhortation and comfort (I Corinthians 14:3) and the ministry of the prophet (the office gift) is defined in the Ephesians 4 passage above. A person may have a calling, but if they are not prepared for that calling, they are not effectively functional in that gift. We all have to start somewhere in our devotion to God, and most would agree there is a learning and discipling process.

Not every prophetic word is meant to stand the test of time immortal. I know some would like for them to be that way, but that is not how Scripture defines them. We must follow Scriptural interpretation! There is some flexibility, but honoring God and increasing His Kingdom quality is foremost and utmost. A simple prophetic word of comfort like a prompting to tell someone that Jesus loves them could be a prophetic word that avoids a suicide. They are no small thing, even if they appear to be to a natural thinker.

Prophetic words of exhortation or warning may prevent a disaster of precious souls. Prophetic words of edification will help people in the building of their life in Christ. A word may mean one thing at one time and later be seen a different way. If we know our basics, we will not go off track. We are told to “despise not prophesying” but we are also to have a reverential respect for prophecy.

Prophetic office words will carry a greater weight by reason of their purpose for grounding and establishing. Some words will be true for the time they are given, some words will help establish clean doctrine in a person’s life. God gave all of this to us because He knew we needed it.

As also stated in the above passage, there are winds and waves of doctrines. What that means is there are spiritual ebbs and flows. We are in a battle for the souls of men and the enemy not only has counterfeits, but it means there is movement in the spiritual world. Some movements are by God’s people and presence, others are by their opposition. Jesus described the Spirit like a wind – you can’t see it but you feel the effects. Things do fluctuate but alignment with God assures a completed victory.

Prayer changes things and so situations can change. The lack of prayer or discontinued prayer can make a difference also, but prayer that is effective must come from the heart. Heaven hears those kinds of prayers. It is my prayer that you will be open to a teachable spirit so that God may increase your life in Him more and more.

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