How do I recognize a true prophecy before it gets fulfilled?

It was a pretty boring lesson a warm springday but Charlotte1, the teacher, just explained the subject as well and clearly as she could so that at least those who were motivated could grasp it.

All of a sudden, Magnus1 fell off his chair and was lying on the floor unconscious. Allmost anybody gathered around him to see what had happened. Charlotte asked Jenny1 to open a window for the ventilation was quite deficient. Perhaps that was why he fell unconscious?

Magnus opened his eyes and sat up. With squeaky voice and an appalled look he said: “Fredric1, if you do not instantly cease pecking your artery and learn to respect life, you will die!”

After the initial shock, the whole room burst out in a belly laugh. Apparently, the guy was oversensitive and couldn’t endure seeing someone play with their arteries. Charlotte asked them all to refrain from that activity and, come the break, most of the children gathered around Magnus to see if they could make him swoon again by pecking their arteries, hit them with pieces of stone or sawing with rulers. It had no effect.

Dart's Gold flower

What use do we have for prophets if we cannot tell apart a real one from one who makes things up? This article aims to give you a number of criteria to help you discern which messages should be taken seriously.


Prophet shouldn’t be a trade, though it has allways been one.

And Amazi’ah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.” Then Amos answered Amazi’ah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees”
— Amos 7:12-14, RSV.

It is God who chooses a spokesperson. Therefore, nobody can be sure to receive time after time a message from God as soon as one is requested by society. The choice will often fall upon a disrespected person so that the message gets communicated and not God’s authority.

Prophetic advice is given either to persons who appreciate hearing it or to groups of people where some may listen. In these groups there may be other individuals with a strong atheistic faith or an excessive need for control, who want to hinder the information from reaching its audience. This can lead to nasty conflicts.

There are also misconceptions. Some think the profet can tweak the utterance, so they try by means of persuasions and threats to make the prophet prophecy meeker things. It’s as smart as arranging better weather by threatening a meteorologist. Some think it’s possble to hinder a prophecy from getting fulfilled by preventing the people who were meant to hear it from hearing it. Of course it isn’t so. If you and I want to be informed in time, we must make sure that nobody prevents us from listening to prophets.

A prophet will never try to participate in the fulfillment of a prophecy that he or she has delivered.

Evaluation questions

Count points only for questions where you are sure of the answer. If the utterance get at least 5p, it was probably given by the holy spirit.

Situation & Audience

+1p, Is at least one righteous person affected by the message?
(Genesis 18:25) These are particularly precious to God.

+1p, Has a certain person attained an unreasonable lot of attention or respect due to people’s gregarious behaviour or due to organization?
(James 5:10) In this case we may count 1p if the message contradict that person’s theses. If the person consider himself to be a spokesperson of God — see the minus below.

-2p, Are there several false prophets around?
(Isaiah 9:14-17) In this case we had better get away, since we would never be able to identify a true prophecy in such an environment, and God wouldn’t send one.

-1p, If the statement concerns something that is already dealt with in holy scriptures, should all who are present already have that knowledge since their philosophies of life task them with studying such scriptures?

The messenger

+2p, Is the person righteous?
(Matthew 7:15-20) Count 1p if he/she has a different gender from yours, because then it is hard to know how righteous they are.

+1p, Is it surprising that the person, who usually expresses themself carefully, even dare make such a statement?
(Matthew 13:53-57)

-1p, Has the person who delivered the message something to gain from it?

-1p, Is the person interested in psychology, horoscopes, leadership or politics?
In which case it will feel freaking awesome when people beleive they have God’s authority behind their words.

-1p, Does the individual have a good standing in society?
(Luke 6:26) They have to prophecy on behalf of the god of this world in order to get that.

The message

+1p, Is the utterance of the message preceeded by a struggle between the messenger and the holy spirit, where the messenger tries to stay quiet while the spirit tries to make him/her talk?
(1 John 4:1) Experienced prophets learn when it’s no use trying to resist, but it should be possible to notice in an initial phase, that they do not have complete control over themselves. You can’t apply this item if you can’t see the initial phase.

+1p Does the message contain something that would be hard for a human to devise, something that sounds completely crazy and unlikely?
(Daniel 2:20,21)

+1p, Does the message make use of words outside the person’s active vocabulary?

+1p, Is the message timeless, so that it can benefit all mankind in all eras?
(1 Corinthians 14:3,4)

-1p, Is the message formulated within a certain level of literary style?
(Psalm 12:6 or 7) Since God’s wisdom is higher than that of men, it usually takes expressions from several different ages to represent it. Style is unimportant.

-1p, Does the statement show signs of having been translated from another language?
Some who play prophets have tried to mimic the style of King James Version and other influential bible translations where the Semitic syntax shines through. God has no reason to sound translated.

-2p, Does the message contradict God’s will?
(Malachi 3:6) Remember that your own understanding of God’s will might be flawed, so great care is needed here.

And, if someone should have forgotten this basic rule:
-10p, Does the messenger him-/herself try to cause the statement to come true?
However, this is rare since it is so obviously disqualifying.

Contemporary prophecies

Society has certainly changed and so has, to some extent, the role of the prophet. In the post-Christian Western society, prophetic claims are met by a mix of doubt, disgust and frustration of the fact that an institution that many people have deselected from their lives returns to guide them. For this reason, God no longer elects anybody for ministry as prophet in our days, but lets ordinary people prophecy sporadically as needed. If someone were to be called prophet, then that person would become a target for nith and loath from the people who don’t accept God’s justice. Consequently, neither should we call anybody prophet.

In the past, the prophet would walk from village to village and proclaim the message from the street corners of the city. Today, more people live in towns and cities than in villages2. Neither the police nor the prospective listeners will be cooperative if a prophet today proclaims a message on a street corner, which has led to the prophetic word finding new modes of expression in the cities:

“The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls,
and whispered in the sounds of silence.” — Paul Simon

With the breakthrough of television, God’s ability to reach out with prophecies was reduced for a period of time, but today people spend on average more time on the Internet than they watch TV. This means the Internet has become a new forum, with much the same properties as the city, where prophetic messages appear in unexpected places and in sneaky shapes. To learn to find them is as hard as to learn to spot chanterells in the woods, though arguably it is a more vital faculty, well worth your zealous practice.

White rose flower

Magnus took a pause from watching the teacher since he had to turn his head so far to the left to be able to see her. In front of him sat Fredric and pecked his wrist with the tip of his finger. Their eyes met. Magnus leaned forward and said: “Please quit doing that! It’s not healthy to keep doing that.”

Fredric went on tapping his wrist and Magnus decided to ignore it. After a couple of minutes, a sentence was formed in that part of the brain where the things we are going to say get stored just before we speak them. Magnus felt the mouth opening and air streaming into his lungs, but he really didn’t want to utter the sentence that had formed — that if Fredric didn’t immediately cease pecking his arteries, he would die. It was completely nuts! You don’t die just because you peck the arteries of your wrist with your finger nails, and Fredric was, as far as Magnus could tell thoroughly healthy.

Magnus compressed his lips and looked down. It was scary. Where did that sentence come from? Would more such things befall him? Why couldn’t it be gotten rid of? He began to think of what visual changes Charlotte would have to go through in order to look like a pink elephant. It wasn’t particularly kind or respectful, but at the moment the need for something to focus on was pressing. “Fredric, if …” The sentence was there again! No word had come over his lips but it was real close this time. “I always use to think out at least half the first sentence before I say something”, Magnus thought, “but this time I was about to start talking after two words”. He bent forward and pressed his cheek against the cool desktop. “Multiplication table… save me!” But it helped not to think of something else. It only got worse, for as soon as the thoughts drifted away, the words came back. Now the gut unnerved itself. What was that which came flying? Oh, the floor.

When Magnus woke up, he knew what had happened. He had swooned and it didn’t matter much. It’s allright to fall unconscious at times and blame dehydration or something — as long as it doesn’t happen too often. “Fredric!”

The word came over his lips before he could react. “If you do not instantly cease pecking your artery and learn to respect life, you will die!”

The laughter that followed was natural. Had Magnus not found the situation so awkward he would himself have participated in the laughter. Charlotte asked if he was rattled by something Fredric had done. Well maybe, but it wasn’t like he cared. How do you answer a question like that?

Still a year after the event, the children remembered what had happened. “Your prophecy never came true. See, Fredric is still alive.”

Five years after the prophecy, Magnus and Fredric were still in the same class and were very good friends. Fredric’s attitude towards life had not changed though. He used to pluck off legs and wings from insects to test if they would survive, and he called for violence against Christians “for they don’t fight back”.

The class would make a journey to the mountains and go skiing, but five pupils were too poor to afford it. Magnus was one of them. So they sat instead in a study room doing extra math exercises.

Fredric, however was on the trip. It is being told that on his way back to the hotel from the pistes, he came off course, went into a field and collided with the only tree that stood in the field. After a while in coma, he died.

1. The names are randomized.
2. United Nations Population Fund

One comment

  1. A testcase has emerged:

    A pastor has prophecied that Robert Mugabe (president of Zimbabwe) will die in October of 2017. Let’s see how likely it is to be inspired!

    “Is at least one righteous person affected by the message?” — The ones who are primarily affected by it are the ones who try to succeed Mugabe, and we cannot be sure any of them are righteous.

    +1p for unreasonable amount of attention.

    Since the messenger is a pastor, he is probably interested in leadership and has a good standing in society. This yields -2p.

    For a 93-year-old person to die in October is quite reasonable, so that gives no points. It turns out that, even though the article doesn’t tell us much about the message or the professed prophet, it still couldn’t have reached higher than +4p, so this is not divine prophecy according to the scoring method.

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