Four Aspects of a Prophetic Word
Posted on December 22, 2018
by John E. Thomas
Do you have a word from God, but it seems like nobody is responding?
In The Art of Hearing God, we talk about the four parts of a prophetic word: revelation, interpretation, application, and proclamation. Each of these is important to communicate the heart and will of God to your listeners.
The first part is revelation. How did God speak to us? Was it in a dream or vision? A visitation from an angel or a Scripture verse that came alive? Did we have a thought, feeling, or knowing that we recognized as coming from God?
I think this is the easiest part of receiving a prophetic word because we can’t force it or cause it to happen one way instead of another. The only thing we can do is position ourselves to pay attention to God and “catch” what He says.
The second part of a prophetic word takes a little more maturity. Depending on how the revelation came, the interpretation may be easier or harder to discern.
For example, if we heard God’s audible voice, in most cases little interpretation is needed. But when the revelation comes through a feeling, that can be tricky. First we need to figure out if it was our feeling (something going on inside of us), another person’s feeling (we can pick up on those, too!), or God’s feeling.
If the emotion was ours or another person’s, we need to discern if it agrees with God’s perspective on the situation or if it is a soulish response (something human and potentially sinful).
When the revelation comes through a dream or vision, we need to know what metaphors are involved, what they represent in this particular context, and how they fit into the whole. Interpretation is something we grow in as we study and interact with the Spirit of God.
So we’ve received revelation from God, and we know what it means—now what? What are we supposed to do with it?
No matter what God is saying, it’s good to seek Him for answers to these questions: Who needs to hear this message? Is it something we just need to believe for and wait to see happen? Or is it something we need to respond to with boldness? Do we need to pray for it or against it? Is there something we or someone else needs to do to prepare for this prophetic word? Does it call for repentance or thankfulness, worship or instruction?
Those questions may seem overwhelming, but don’t forget the most important part of prophecy: This is something you get to do with God. There really is very little pressure on you here, because He is the One who is acting and moving. Anytime you have a question about prophecy or interpreting dreams, He is the answer.
This is the most overlooked aspect of a prophetic word. Many of us assume we can take a prophetic word and run with it, proclaiming or sharing it the way we received it, but often there is more to the process.
In Scripture, many people received revelation and then did something in the natural that corresponded with that revelation. Agabus proclaimed a prophetic word over Paul by taking his belt and tying his hands together (Acts 21:10–11). God instructed Zechariah to receive an offering, use it to fashion a crown, put it on the priest’s head, and store the crown in the temple afterward (Zech. 6:9–14). Ezekiel formed a model of Jerusalem, lay on his side next to it, and stayed there; he cooked and ate food and didn’t move from that position for a long time (Ezek. 4).
When we’ve heard from God, it’s good to ask Him a few questions about what He said: Should we share how the revelation came to us or just what it meant? Should we share the entire word or only a portion? Do we communicate any criteria that must be met for the word to happen? Or do we leave that part out so the person or people can choose how they will respond on their own, like the people of Nineveh did when Jonah prophesied to them?
How All of This Works Together
When we know we’ve heard from God but it seems like nobody is responding, we need to remember these four aspects of a prophetic word. Until all four aspects come together, it is possible our listeners will not act. Paul wrote that revelation must be understandable for someone to respond to it (1 Cor. 14:6–9). Understanding is also necessary for the word to pass the “love” test (1 Cor. 13:1).
Honestly, since the point of the prophetic is to help people respond to God, we don’t need to put much thought into how people respond to us. We may not “get” all four aspects with every prophetic word God gives us, but we will be more effective with our prophetic gifts when we seek Him for answers in all four aspects.
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