Unfulfilled Prophecy

Most charismatic prophecy is not concerned with the future but the present, but there are occasions both in Scripture and today when the Holy Spirit may want to reveal things that are to come (John 16:13). This kind of personal prophecy can sometimes cause much angst and disappointment, especially when things we have put our faith in don’t seem to happen. Just how do we deal with that? It may be comforting to know that there are a number of solid, biblical reasons why prophetic promises do not find fulfilment.

Firstly, believe it or not, some prophetic words are for prayer only and not actually intended to come to pass. On one occasion, the Father revealed to Christ that the devil had plans to ‘sift as wheat’ the disciples. This heavenly information was intended to fuel Christ’s prayer so that the evil intended was thwarted (Luke 22:31-32). The same principle occurred in the days of the prophet Amos (7:1-6). Never take a nightmare to be a sure fire glimpse of the future. If we feel that something difficult or dark is coming, we should pray. The problem may be averted in this way, or we may receive God’s strength to help us through the situation (Psalm 23:4).

When there is an intended fulfilment, we have to accept that some prophetic words are very much connected to a specific time in our lives. Many biblical prophecies were fulfilled at an exact time and location, while others have yet to be fulfilled because the time is not yet right. Jesus, who came into the world at the right time (Galatians 4:4), knew that much of His life and ministry was governed by a divine clock. It took thirteen years for the dreams of Joseph to become reality in his life and the day before they did, the jailed Joseph must have seemed further away from their fulfilment than ever! But God had a time. So if you have been awaiting something to happen, remember that God is never late – our problem is we usually want Him to be early!

Most Christians believe that if a word is from God then it must come to pass. While there are some prophetic events in history that God has sovereignty over completely and their fulfilment is assured (for example, the second coming of Jesus), the “whatever will be, will be” doctrine is not biblical. Take a look for example at Jeremiah 18:7-10 where the Lord reserves the right to “change his mind” (humanly speaking) about blessing the people if they are not living correctly before Him. On the other hand, Jonah prophesied the destruction of Nineveh only to find, due to their repentance, the judgment had been averted. Even Isaiah’s word to Hezekiah did not come to pass when the frightened king changed his heart (Isaiah 38:1-6). Just think how these men’s prophetic reputations were ruined!

We must not think of prophetic ministry as some kind of supernatural “filmed footage” from the future. The Spirit will show us God’s desire for our lives. But if He says that we are going to be a great evangelist, for example, then we should get ourselves in training. If He reveals that He wants to use us to help the poor, then it is over to us to start the research and the work. We must play our part. Prophetic words may also fall down because, like the Judge Samson, the character of the person does not develop sufficiently to sustain the life time of the ministry God desired to impart.

Of course, we must also face up to the painful fact that some prophetic words we have been clinging to were never from God in the first place. Many tears have been shed and disappointment suffered because of mistakes made, either by the prophet or, just as common, by the person listening who “heard what they wanted to hear” rather than what the Spirit may have been saying. Don’t grow angry with God and always use Deuteronomy 18:21-22 as a guide. Only the Bible is the infallible Word of God. Everything else is open to mistakes!

So don’t be disheartened if your dream has not come to pass yet, rather run the checklist!

1. Are there some timing issues I need to pray through?
2. Have I made a mistake? Am I sure God really said it?
3. Have I been inspired to change my life in accordance with that prophetic word and am I ready to receive the promise of God? If not, some alterations of my life are needed.

God bless you as you hear the Shepherd’s voice. You were made for it. That’s no mistake.

Originally published in JOY Magazine, March 2009

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