The lack of appreciation that all prophecy is conditional causes many to end up with unfulfilled prophecy in their lives. This leads to disappointment and the inevitable relational fallout because they feel it is not their fault. This problem is sourced in the larger subject of the differences between Old and New Covenant prophecy, lack of understanding of which continues to undermine the effectiveness of the gift of prophecy in the wider church today.
While I recognise that there will be occasions when God moves sovereignly by his grace, biblically and for daily practical application, New Covenant prophecy is conditional. Unconditional prophecy is where God swears on himself, or his name, so that the outcome is certain. There are no conditions to the fulfilment of the prophecy. The second coming of Jesus would be an example of unconditional prophecy.
The misunderstanding of this principal means recipients of prophecy, in the misguided belief that it is unconditional, do nothing and inevitably undermine or negate the timely or intended outcome of the prophecy. The biblical conditions in prophecy inevitably reflect the changes in prophecy between the covenants and therefore are helpful in clarifying this area as well. In order of occurrence, but not necessarily priority, there are 5 key biblical conditions in prophecy:
- Clearly understanding the correct interpretation of a prophecy is a condition to its fulfilment, and not something that can be taken for granted. Prophecy can be full of imagery, poetry and examples, which can make the interpretation challenging. Furthermore in the New Covenant a whole variety of gifts, anointings and experiences will bring the prophecy; not like the stature of the Old Testament masters. Interpreting the correct subject matter, message meaning and implications is key to fully engaging with the word.
- One of the main conditions in New Covenant prophecy is that it is a biblical requirement to test all prophecy. This is in direct contrast to proven Old Covenant Prophets in the Old Testament. All prophecy, regardless of the deliverer, experience or track record, is required to be tested for authenticity, alignment and aim (motivation).
- One New Covenant test most people would be familiar with is compliance with the Bible, the written word of God, both the letter and the spirit of the word. Our lack of experience in understanding and applying the 6 biblical tests leaves us vulnerable to ‘wild goose chases, false hope and red herrings’ to name a few. Testing enables us to be sure what the will of God is and then act on it with confidence.
- Another critical implication of not appreciating prophecy is conditional is that as a result we do not move in faith, consequently undermining the fulfilment of our prophecy. “A prophecy is not alive in our lives until we have faith in it”. That is faith in God, and not faith in the Prophet or hope in the reward.
- Faith is the biblical means of bringing heaven to earth, our access to the spirit realm and engaging with the invisible fulfilment of prophecy. Faith is the New Covenant basis of our relationship with Jesus and ‘all’ that he does, which by definition includes New Covenant prophecy.
- Having arrived at faith the next stage is to play our part in the fulfilment of the prophecy. Faith without works is dead so clearly we have a part to play. However while this is recognising we are co-workers with Jesus, it does not mean seeking to make it happen in our own strength, like Abraham with Ishmael. God will pre-prepare us to hold (stand) our new ground, and this may well require prior training, finances and character preparation before we can enter the words fulfilment.
- One of the more challenging conditions to the fulfilment of prophecy is knowing when, as well as where, the word applies. Timing can be considered a key area in the interpretation of any prophecy, as it obviously has a significant impact on our receiving of the word.
- Many words are discarded because they simply just don’t fit our foreseeable circumstances, when it is actually a matter of timing. There is also the natural desire to see a word fulfilled sooner rather than later due to our own subjectivity and the instant world we are surrounded by.
The above are the major conditions in all New Covenant prophecy, but they are not an exhaustive list! For example, as in the Old Testament, if there are conditions specified in the prophecy they may be more obvious but they are still conditional.
Furthermore, in the New Covenant we have the Bible, the truth, which is a complete work. We are all familiar with the ‘small print’ in every contract or agreement, and the bible can be considered the small print behind every prophecy, because it is the truth and applicable ‘all of the time’.
My sincere prayer is that understanding the conditional nature of New Testament prophecy will enable us to fully, faithfully and fruitfully engage with the many inspiring, encouraging and transforming prophetic words Father is seeking to release in us and through us.