The word “prophet” comes from the Greek prophetes, from pro (”before” or ”for”) and phemi (“to speak”). The prophet is thus the one who speaks before in the sense of proclaim or the one who speaks for, i.e., in the name of (God). In the OT there are three terms for the prophet: roeh, nabi, and hozeh. By inspiration, God speaks to the nabi, who must transmit exactly what he receives. The mode of inspiration is verbal. The Bible depicts the mechanism of inspiration as the act by which God puts words in the mouth of the sacred writers. Inspiration does not suppress individuality. It is the miracle of ‘theopneustia’ (2 Tim 3:16) that the Prophet communicates his thoughts to men. God uses men of different culture, character, and status in order that his word might be accessible to all.

Details of Old Testament Prophecy:

The prophecies of the writing prophets of the Old Testament may be divided into three main groups:

(1) Prophecies concerning the internal destiny of Israel. These declare the judgment of God on the unbelief and iniquities of the people but promise restoration after the testing period of the exile.

(2) Messianic prophecies. These point to the coming Redeemer of Israel and the world.

(3) Eschatological prophecies. These refer to the last days when the kingdom of God will be set up on earth.

Details of New Testament Prophecy:

Theologian Wayne Grudem describes the Gift of Prophecy as

“[R]eporting something that God spontaneously brings to mind…prophecy today is merely human words reporting what God had brought to mind, while the prophecies that were written down in the Old Testament were men speaking God’s words to report what God had brought to mind.”

I do not think that Grudem’s definition gives more clarity but rather creates quite a difficulty. If a man of God is describing what God has brought to mind in their own words, it cannot be less authoritative because man articulated God’s words. When we look at the mechanism of prophecy, we note that God desires to speak with precision and clarity, without any possibility of ambiguity of what he said. The Gospels resemble this reality; God has spoken via different men accounting for the same facts in other terms. Manfred Weippert, according to whom

“[P]rophecy is present when a person (a) through a cognitive experience (a vision, an auditory experience, an audio-visual appearance, a dream or the like) becomes the subject of the revelation of a deity, or several deities and, in addition, (b) is conscious of being commissioned by the deity or deities in question to convey the revelation in a verbal form (as a ‘prophecy’ or a ‘prophetic speech’), or through nonverbal communicative acts (‘symbolic acts’), to a third party who constitutes the actual addressee of the message.”

Another point to note is that when we reflect on biblical prophecy in the New Testament we recognize:

(a) Prophecies already fulfilled.

(b) Prophecies in process of fulfillment.

New Testament guidance, therefore, was of more than one kind. It included revelatory words given for the improvement, encouragement, consolation, and general benefit of the Christian community (1 Cor 14:3-4). It also included another dimension, related directly to a special work of the Spirit upon the prophet by which the Spirit revealed a word from the risen and exalted Christ (cf. John 16:12–14; Rev 1:10 with 4:1–2a). This part of the Prophet’s ministry was the result of a direct revelation of an aspect of the divine mind hitherto unknown until the New Testament canon was established (Eph 3:5; Rev 10:7; 22:6). Like Old Testament prophecy, this new prophetic message was an immediate communication of God’s (Christ’s) word to his people through human lips (cf. Rev 16:15; 22:7; see also Rev 2–3). Subsequent guidance should then be reported under the gift of knowledge and the gift of wisdom for individual edification and guidance (1 Cor 12:8).

 Should we believe in modern guidance?

There seems to be quite a confusion about what is deemed a “thus saith the Lord” prophecy, and an impression where God gives guidance. God still guides, but God does not give new canonical revelation. Charles Spurgeon relates an incident where God revealed to Him what a young man had done. He wrote that

“[H]e suddenly broke off from his [sermon] subject, and pointing in a certain direction, said, “Young man, those gloves you are wearing have not been paid for: you have stolen them from your employer.” At the close of the service, a young man, looking very pale and greatly agitated, came to the room which was used as a vestry and begged for a private interview with Spurgeon. On being admitted, he placed a pair of gloves upon the table, and tearfully said, “It’s the first time I have robbed my master, and I will never do it again. You won’t expose me, sir, will you? It would kill my mother if she heard that I had become a thief.”[2]

It is important to note that Spurgeon did not endeavor to call himself a prophet since that event. Even though he did affirm what he called “impressions of the Holy Spirit” Spurgeon explains:

“There are occasionally impressions of the Holy Spirit which guide men where no other guidance could have answered the end. I have been the subject of such impressions myself and have seen very singular results therefrom.”[3]

God can clearly reveal and work as he wills (1 Cor 12:11) even to convince the sinner of the secrecy of his sin to draw him to the Cross of Christ (1 Cor 14:24–25). I agree with Spurgeon that these ‘impressions’ are not prophecy. The purpose of prophecy should not be one-sided, or, as Jon Bloom says, for

“Holy Spirit-inspired, authoritative, infallible, Scripture-equivalent revelation — the kind of revelation all evangelicals agree ceased at the close of the apostolic age.”[4]

Prophecy can also be an emphatic form of guidance that still persists in everyday life even though we need to be cautious and sober (1Cor 14:29).


[1] Signs and Wonders today, Pg.183.

[2] C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography, Volume 2: The Full Harvest 1860-1892, Pg.60.

[3] C.H. Spurgeon, A Well-Ordered Life, Pg.368)


[5] Jeremiah 17:7-9.



[8] The Kingdom and the Power, Pg.84-86.

Short Biography: Rudolph Boshoff has completed his BTh and his BTh Hons at SATS and is currently pursuing his Masters in Theology with a specific emphasis on Islam at the same institution. He is also actively involved with Cult and Muslim Evangelism (Ad Lucem Ministries) and he also lectures full-time at a local seminary in Randburg (RBC).