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Prophecy in the Church Today: an interview with Michael Sullivant

 

We see in the book of Acts how prophetic revelation is often linked with the occurrence of miraculous healings and conversions. Two outstanding examples in of how the prophetic is linked to evangelism are seen in the conversion of Saul of Tarsus and of the household of Cornelius. Prophetic visions, anointed proclamations and prayers, trances, angelic visitations and supernatural voices all played into these world-altering events. These kinds of accounts are not one-time super-human testimonies that only happened in the first century. Accounts similar to these have been repeated throughout history wherever the gospel has gone forth–especially on the front end of reaching the unreached people groups.

I know of a number of contemporary testimonies of people coming to Jesus through obviously prophetic means, the most common of these being spiritual dreams given to people who did not know Jesus as Lord at the time.

PR: Are there things prophetic individuals can do to constructively reach out to open-but-cautious Christians?

Many sincere believers have never had an obvious encounter with prophetic ministry, although they actually have “heard” the voice of God in one way or another. There are many constructive ways that prophetically gifted people can reach out and encourage fellow followers of Jesus without confusing or offending them. When I find myself ministering to believers for whom this ministry is unfamiliar, I often adapt my approach to make it more “user-friendly”. If the Holy Spirit is granting prophetic revelation in their case, then it will hit the mark on its own, regardless of our methodology. One main way that I do this is to turn my prophetic insight into a personal prayer for them. Another way is to ask questions based upon the insight that I have received. Still another helpful approach is to give credible and reasoned testimony about how the Holy Spirit is still moving in these ways in our day. There are many books that contain these kinds of accounts and many people have personal stories to tell along the same lines. It has been well said that a person with a testimony is never at the mercy of a person with an argument. Finally, it is fruitless to argue with fellow believers about this matter, for we might find ourselves disobeying the great commandment while attempting to share this good news about the power of the Spirit. This is an irony that is best for us to avoid.

PR: Do you have any closing words for us?

There certainly is a great deal more that can be said about the prophetic ministry of the Holy Spirit. In closing, let me return to the well-known prophecy of Joel that Peter quoted on the day of Pentecost. I believe that this prophecy, like so many others in Scripture, contains various degrees of fulfillment.

I like to compare theses great Biblical prophecies to the overlapping picture transparencies of the human body that can be found in some encyclopedias. Each picture overlays the previous to add more detail, literally adding flesh to bones and skin to flesh. These prophecies had a true application within the generational circumstances in which the prophets first spoke them. This would be like the transparency of the human body that pictures the skeletal system. But there are aspects of these divine utterances that were not totally fulfilled in their original cultural context. God was also foretelling what would come to pass in the generation that saw the incarnation of the Christ. This could be likened to the next transparency of the body in which we see the placements of the vital organs. It is in this sense that Peter declared that what happened in the upper room that day was the fulfillment of Joel’s ancient prophecy. However, there was even more to come from this word from God in the future of human experience. By simply looking at the specific content of the prophecy, it is clear that there are elements that have not, even as yet, come to pass upon the earth. These are events that are reserved for the “very last days” of the “last days” that began at the ascension of Jesus Christ. There are eschatological dimensions to the fulfilling of many of these Old Testament prophecies—much as another transparency of the body is laid over the previous ones, thereby creating a fuller picture of the whole.

 

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Category: Pneuma Review, Spirit, Spring 2004

About the Author: Michael Sullivant and his wife Terri live in the Kansas City, Missouri area. They have given themselves to planting communities of faith in several U.S. states, pastoring, teaching, writing, coaching, building leaders and traveling to offer ministry in many nations. Michael is the author of Prophetic Etiquette: Your Complete Handbook on Giving and Receiving Prophecy (Creation House, 2000), and Your Kingdom Come (Creation House, 2000), and a devotional commentary called The Romance of Romans: God's Big God-Story (2011). www.radius-group.org

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