Rev. Angus Stewart
Having surveyed the
history and precursors of modern renewalism (Pentecostalism,
Charismaticism and Neo-Charismaticism) and discussed two
major aberrations of this movement (the baptism with the
Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues), we now come to
prophecy. By prophecy, renewalists are not simply referring
to quotations from the Bible or explanations and
applications of Scripture. By prophecy, Pentecostals,
Charismatics and Neo-Charismatics mean utterances in the
post-apostolic era which they claim are direct revelations
from God. So what should Christians, and especially Reformed
believers, make of all this? Three tests regarding ongoing
prophecy are set forth below, as well as the answers to two
Test one involves
asking, and getting answers to, these sorts of questions:
Have you heard teaching by a modern prophet which is
contrary to the Bible's teaching? Do renewalist prophecies
contain false predictions? Do you know of a prophecy which
was contradicted by events? One brother I know asked these
questions to many renewalists and all of the people with
whom he spoke said, “Yes!” What a damning indictment!
David Wilkerson, an
Anglican Charismatic, predicted in 1972 that within the next
twelve months the Berlin Wall would fall. But it fell 17
years later, in 1989!
What did the church do in that instance? What did the church
do in the many other instances where renewalist predictions
have been proven false? If not in all cases, at least in the
vast majority of them, Pentecostal and Charismatic
congregations do absolutely nothing by way of church
discipline. So much for the third mark of a true church (Belgic
declares, “When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord,
if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing
which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken
it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.”
Regarding a prophet who makes a prediction which does not
happen, “that prophet shall die” (v. 20). I Corinthians 5
tells us that the New Testament equivalent is
excommunication. Has anyone heard of a Pentecostal being
excommunicated because his or her prophecies were not
fulfilled? Perhaps such a thing occasionally happens but if
so it is exceedingly rare!
The Kansas City
Prophets maintain that, if two-thirds of their prophecies
come true, that is "pretty good," for that is a lot higher
than it has ever been up until then! All the Kansas City
Prophets have admitted that they have made predictions which
did not come to pass. The Charismatic John White, who
prophesied that he was going to live but subsequently died,
said that, since we are all human beings, modern prophets
will make mistakes in their predictions (even though God is
speaking through them)!
Do you know how many
false prophecies it takes to reveal a person as a false
prophet? One! Just one! Anyone who utters a single false
prediction in God's name and remains impenitent should be
excommunicated as a liar and a false prophet.
Imagine a Pentecostal
prophet who makes a prediction that actually happens.
However, the one who predicted it teaches false doctrine.
How do we evaluate such a thing?
deals with this and so provides us with our second test.
Verse 1 speaks of a prophet who performs "a sign or a
wonder" which comes to pass (v. 2). But this prophet also
teaches false doctrine (v. 2). Even though his sign or
wonder or prediction came to pass, he too is to be put to
death as a false prophet (v. 5) or, in New Testament terms,
explains that God's purpose in all this is to test His
professing people. If you really love God with all your
heart and keep His commandments, even though someone does
wonderful signs, because he teaches false doctrine, you must
renounce him and excommunicate him (vv. 3-5).
If tomorrow morning's
newspapers carry accounts of remarkable prognostications by
the Pentecostals that have been fulfilled—let us say, the
nation's capital is destroyed by an earthquake and prophets
from a Pentecostal assembly had predicted this—we still
would not receive them as Christ's messengers. Why? Because
mixed in with their proclamations comes Arminian free-willism
and other false doctrine. God would thereby be testing you:
“Do you love me? Do you love the truth? Or are you more
interested in the signs and wonders of a false church?”
To go further, here
is a third test. Let us say, for sake of argument, that
there is a man who claims to be a Christian prophet and who
makes predictions that always come to pass and who teaches
orthodox doctrines. What would you do then? You ought to
remember Ephesians 2:20, which states that "the apostles and
prophets" are "the foundation" of Christ's church. This
foundation was laid in the first century and, being a
foundation, can never again be relaid or augmented! The
doctrine of the apostles and prophets, the foundation, is
found in the complete, sufficient, inerrant and infallible
Word of God.
Therefore, whether or
not an extra-biblical prediction comes to pass, and whether
or not their other doctrines are orthodox, any person who
claims to be a prophet who receives direct revelation from
the Lord is, by definition, a liar and a false prophet. Why?
Because God is no longer giving direct revelation, since He
has already laid the foundation of His church in the Holy
Scriptures He delivered by the apostles and prophets whom He
sent almost 2,000 years ago!
There are two main
attempts to wriggle out of this. The first evasion is the
claim that there are two types of prophecy: inerrant and
infallible prophecy found in the Bible, and fallible and
errant modern prophecy which can and does include mistakes.
This is the teaching of Wayne Grudem, amongst
This ought to strike
you as a wretched argument, one to which the renewalists
have been driven simply because they know (and practically
everybody else knows) that there are numerous failed
prophecies in the Pentecostal, Charismatic and
Neo-Charismatic movements. Direct revelation from God is, by
definition, authoritative, inerrant and infallible, for He
is the God of truth who "cannot lie" (Titus 1:2), unlike the
renewalist prophets and their apologists.
evasion—and this one is increasingly popular—is that God
speaks today to unevangelized heathen (especially, it would
appear, to Muslims) by dreams or visions. A number of former
Muslims have said that Christ appeared to them in their
Islamic lands in a dream or vision and told them to go to
such and such a place to hear God's Word from such and such
a church or person.
There are even a
number of Presbyterian and Reformed people who accept their
claims. For some of these Protestants, this is the start of
their own descent to Pentecostalism or Charismaticism, while
for others, at the very least, it weakens their grasp of the
truth of the sufficiency of Scripture and their opposition
to the heresy of ongoing revelation.
questions about the sort of church or Christian (whether
true or false) these Muslims went to, and to what sort of
Jesus they were converted (whether the true Christ or a
false Christ), we deny that God gives direct revelation
through dreams or visions, even to unevangelized heathen,
even in Islamic countries. We do this because receiving a
revelatory dream or vision from God, especially one that
does not declare divine judgment upon the recipient (cf.
Dan. 2; 4), constitutes a person as a prophet.
A prophet has two
aspects to his office. First, he receives direct revelation
from God and, second, he passes it on to the people. But the
extraordinary office of a prophet has ceased since it was a
temporary office involved in the laying of the foundation of
the New Testament church (Eph. 2:20). Today, instead, we
have the ordinary office of prophet included in the office
of believer. This is a permanent office given to all
Christians, in which we search the Scriptures and by the
Spirit know the mind of Jesus Christ, and then speak of Him
What we need today is
not false prophets or false prophecies but the proper
exercise of the believer's office as prophet, so that he
hears, loves, obeys and witnesses of Jesus Christ, as He is
set forth in Scripture and through the faithful preaching of
His gospel by true ministers in their office of pastor or
teacher. Where love for the faith once delivered to the
saints (Jude 3) is lost, there is a congregation or an
individual wide open to renewalism. Where love for God, His
Christ and His Word is strong, the church is based solidly
on the only true foundation and so is totally uninterested
in the siren song of false prophets and ongoing prophecy!
The Charismatics and the Word of God
(Great Britain: Evangelical Press, 1985), p. 11.
John F. MacArthur, Jr., Charismatic Chaos
(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992), pp. 66-69.