In this post, guest author Claire looks at what the bible says about the nature and purpose of prophecy.
Over the last three years, TB Joshua Watch has publicised aspects of TB Joshua’s ‘ministry’ that to some of us raise concerns. This sites has raised concerns about particular aspects of Mr Joshua and SCOAN – in particular ‘healings’ that have not been proven to be the case, the apparent cult like nature of SCOAN and prophesies that are not all that they appear.
Some of those commenting on this site accuse Mr Joshua of being a ‘false prophet’ whereas others fervently support him and claim him to be a ‘man of God’. In this article, I want to look at prophecy and what the bible actually says about it.
In many of the videos that this site has linked to, Mr Joshua is shown predicting some terrible event (a plane crash, a mass shooting) and asks the audience to pray. These videos are re-publicised after an event to show that he did indeed forecast the event (although often this site contends that these videos are edited or vague and therefore cannot be said truly to forecast anything).
So what does the bible say about prophecy – is Mr Joshua actually prophesying? Many commentators on this site on both sides of the argument point to Deuteronomy 18 v 22 – ‘If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.’ Presumably this is why SCOAN puts out videos after tragedies that appear to prophesy the event in question – a sort of ‘Here you are! It happened! It was true! It was from God!’
But while the Bible tells us to test prophecies to see if they are true, it also gives us some broad principles that we can use to understand whether what Mr Joshua does is prophesy even if it does come true (or could be perceived to be).
Firstly, the clearest instruction is in 1 Corinthinans 14 v3 ‘But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort’. Do Mr Joshua’s ‘prophecies’ do this? Well the ones I have seen (and I am no expert) don’t. They seem to focus on a potential tragedy and ask people to pray, but I do not see how this causes strengthening, encouragement and comfort.
In John 16 Jesus talks to his disciples about the Holy Spirit: ‘But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.’(v13,14) A prophecy should tell you what is to come and should bring glory to Jesus. Even if you believe that Mr Joshua does indeed prophesy the truth, I do not see how his predictions of tragic events bring glory to Jesus.
Deuteronomy 13 v1-3 encourages us that the prophecy should lead us to God:
If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer.
Now I am sure that there will be some people who fervently trust Mr Joshua and who will feel strongly that Mr Joshua is not encouraging them to follow other gods, but these people should accept that these verses do at least show that the fact that a prophecy comes true does not mean it comes from God. I dispute that Mr Joshua’s ‘prophecies’ come true, but those who believe they do cannot rely on this to ‘prove’ that these ‘prophecies’ are therefore from God. Deuteronomy 18 v22 tells us that if it doesn’t come true it can’t come from God, Deuteronomy 13 v1-4 tells us that that doesn’t mean the opposite is true; if a prophecy does come true, that alone doesn’t mean it comes from God. If it comes from God it should lead us to God. I’m not convinced that Mr Joshua’s ‘prophecies’ do this.
And surely if a prophecy comes from God, it should reflect the nature of God. God is love. The most famous description of love is in 1 Corinthians 13:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
How do Mr Joshua’s prophecies match up to this? And how does Mr Joshua himself match up to this? The Kingwatch website makes the point that it is often easier to test the prophet rather than the prophecy:
‘Testing individual prophecies can often be difficult. What every Church needs is a prophet who has a proven track record, a person who is known for speaking the word of the Lord. It is easier to test prophets than individual prophecies. A prophet can be watched over time to see if his life is bearing fruit for the Lord (Matthew 7:15-20). Every church needs a proven prophet who can be trusted to bring a reliable word when one is required.’
Having said that, it is also important to make sure that we do not reject what may be a prophecy through a hardened heart. All prophecy must be tested and tested vigorously on a range of measures including:
- Did it come true?
- Did it provide strength, encouragement and comfort?
- Did it bring glory to Jesus?
- Does it lead us to God?
- Was it brought in love?
It is up to all of us individually to test Mr Joshua’s ‘prophecies’ vigorously. Those who are sceptical must not test with a hardened heart, looking for evidence that they are not true; and those who believe should remember to test properly and not simply accept each ‘prophecy’ because it falls from the lips of Mr Joshua.