Although the ministry of the prophet was fully functioning throughout the Old Testament, it is important as we come into the New Testament times to see Jesus as our ultimate model of this ministry because the task of the prophet is to communicate God's words with God's heart. And ALL prophecy must be judged by the plumb-line and ultimate authority of the Holy Scriptures. (See 2 Tim. 3:16; 1 Thes. 5:19-21) We need to communicate the words of God out of the same spirit or attitude that God has. And the fullest expression of God's heart is seen in the person of Jesus; not Elijah, not Jeremiah, not John the Baptist, but Jesus.
The ministry of the New Testament prophet is a gift from the ascended Christ Jesus and proceeds out of what He was and is in Himself. (Eph 4:8-13) But as we explore the various kinds of prophetic ministry in this article we will find there are various expressions within in the operation of the prophet.
Kinds of Prophets
A study of names given to prophets in Scripture reveals a spectrum of ministry within the two primary components of the prophetic; perception and communication. It reveals that there are various functions, all of which are prophetic according to Scripture, and all valuable and necessary.
Seer or Watchman
In 1 Sam. 9:9 we see reference to the seer. "..when a man went to inquire of God, he spoke thus: "Come, let us go to the seer"; for he who is now called a prophet was formerly called a seer." This word is "ro'eh" or "ra'ah", and refers to a person who sees; an observer; a person endowed with moral and spiritual insight or knowledge. Essentially, the root "ro'eh", means 'to look at' or 'behold.'
The seer is one who has understanding of the times. This person has the ability to perceive and discern the spiritual significance of a situation and can give the Lord's perspective on a given situation. This person's strengths are giftings of illumination and discernment. This kind of prophet is extremely valuable as a watchman and intercessor in the midst of the Church.
In 1 Chr 29:29 we find an occurrence of three different words referring to three different prophets. "Now the acts of King David, first and last, indeed they are written in the book of Samuel the seer, (ra'ah) in the book of Nathan the prophet,(nabiy) and in the book of Gad the seer(Chozeh)." While both Samuel and Gad were referred to as seers, the actual Hebrew word is different in the second case and carries some broader implications. The word is "chozeh" and is defined as a person of unusually keen foresight; a person who sees visions; or a beholder in vision. The primary root, "chazah", means to gaze at; mentally, to perceive, contemplate; specifically, to have a vision of.
This kind of prophet is akin to the other seer, but the implications are that this person goes beyond simply seeing the current spiritual scenarios, but has a vision of what God is going to do or wants to do. This is the kind of vision that has a predictive element to it.
There are several places in Scripture where a prophetic message is called a "burden". For example Isaiah 13:1, "The burden against Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw." This word "burden" speaks more to the function or message, rather than the person, but is important to examine. The Hebrew word is "massa'", meaning simply "burden", but is used to describe prophetic utterances (Prov. 31:1) and even prophetic musical dirges (1 Chr 15:22). It implies the weightiness of the prophetic message prophets are sometimes called to carry.
Prophetic burden-bearers are called to pray. These are the prophetic intercessors. They can feel the grief of the Lord over the things that are not right. These prophets seem to live in the doldrums much of the time, but they are called there to pray "right" again those things that are wrong. God bless them!
The last two kinds of prophets can be described by how they communicate more than how they receive communication from God. The "nataph" or "herald" is the prophetically inspired preacher. "Nataph" means as a primary root word; to ooze, i.e. distill gradually; by implication, to fall in drops; to let something soak in gradually, or figuratively, to speak by inspiration. The word is translated "preach" in Ezekiel 21:2, "Son of man, set your face toward Jerusalem, preach against the holy places, and prophesy against the land of Israel;"
A herald is defined as a royal or official messenger, esp. one representing a monarch in an ambassadorial capacity during wartime; a person or thing that proclaims or announces. To herald means to give tidings of, announce, proclaim, publicize, to signal the coming of, usher in.
The content of their message is every bit prophetically inspired, and as their sermons or writings "soak in" you know you have heard from the heart of God on the matter. But their mode of communication is not necessarily ecstatic utterance prophecy.
The word "nabiy" is the most commonly used word in the Scripture for "prophet" and describes one who "gushes forth with an ecstatic utterance". This word describes one who functions as an oracle. The root word is "naba'" and means "to speak or sing by inspiration". A deeper connotation is "to bubble up, to gush forth, to pour forth". This is the word used in Amos 3:8 which states: "the Sovereign Lord has spoken - who can but (naba') prophesy", and Joel 2:28 which says, "...your sons and your daughters shall (naba') prophesy."
This is the "ecstatic prophetic utterance" prophet who speaks forth in the name of the Lord with a confident "Thus says the Lord...etc". This particular ministry goes beyond simple inspired insight; beyond prophetically insightful preaching or writing; and actually speaks God's words into a situation.
Although there are differing opinions across the Body of Christ about direct, "first person" prophesying; it is very clearly the most common mode of prophetic ministry throughout the Bible, and is the kind of spontaneous prophetic utterance that can frequently be seen in a growing number of Charismatic or Pentecostal churches.
to be continued....
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** Additional writing by this author can be found at: Supernatural Christianity Examiner