There are three aspects of a prophetic word. When receiving prophetic words it is important for the prophet to understand that there are three separate aspects to every prophetic word. If the prophet and those receiving the word do not understand these three aspects, we are almost guaranteed a problem with the word.
Revelation: The word is given out of the revelation of the Holy Spirit (see: Ephesians 1:17). Many times the Holy Spirit will speak to a prophet (or an apostle, or those functioning in a strong prophetic gifting) in words and pictures that are understood. But, this does not necessarily mean that a prophet should share everything that they see in its entirety. The Lord may show a prophet a drastic picture to drive home the importance of what He is saying, but the prophet may share it in other terms or pictures that get the point across to the individual to whom they are ministering. To share everything received and in the manner received can cause people confusion. Thus they are not helped by some words that were given exactly as they were received without using the discernment of the Holy Spirit to bring proper communication of the revelation.
Interpretation: Often people hear what they want to hear. Often, when a prophet prophesies over someone – they take what was said and tweak it ever so slightly. With this new interpretation, the individual now has a “word of the Lord” to do what he wants to do. So, every word a prophet receives needs to be rightly discerned by the prophet and delivered in a manner that it should not be able to be interpreted wrongly. He must express his revelation accurately and clearly.
Every prophetic word received should be shared with those the person is accountable to because they have his best interests at heart. There is always wisdom in a multitude of counsellors and they will help the person the discern and understand the word received through the ministry of a prophet.
Application: Every word when it is revealed and interpreted, needs to be applied. Someone I know uses an amazing example that helps us to understand this point. He states, “If the Lord shows me that my wife has become an idol in my life, I don’t get rid of her by divorcing her. No, I make adjustments and bring her to the right place in my life.” The right revelation from the Lord (she has become an idol), with the right interpretation (she is lifted above Christ) but with the wrong application (I need to divorce her) will bring about pain and sorrow. It is all in the application. The right application (Jesus needs to be exalted above your wife) will bring about health and maturity in his life.
We need to have Spirit-led revelation from the throne room of God; we need to have accurate interpretation as to the meaning of the word; and we also need Spirit-led application so that the revelation and interpretation are carried out in a redemptive, Kingdom-building manner.
Many times prophetic words delivered by prophets are conditional. If we follow through on our part, God will follow through on His part. God spoke over David that if he and his sons obeyed His commandments, the house of David would always reign over Israel. It was conditional upon their obedience. Of course we know that they didn’t follow through on their obedience, and the Kingdom was torn from David’s descendants.
There are also time frames to prophetic words delivered by prophets. Some may be long, some very short. Take for example the story of Hezekiah recorded in 2 Kings 20 and also in Isaiah 38. The Lord told Isiah to tell Hezekiah that he would die and not live. The Bible states in 2 Kings 30 that Hezekiah wept bitterly after Isaiah left. Before Isaiah got to the middle court of the king’s house, the Lord spoke to him again, and said, “Return to Hezekiah and say to him, ‘I have seen your tears. I have heard your prayer, and I will heal you..'” In this case, the first prophetic word was only accurate for a very short time frame – until Isaiah reached mid-court of the king’s house.
Then there was a new prophetic word given that was directly opposite the first one. That’s because God saw in Hezekiah’s heart something that caused Him to make an adjustment to the previous prophecy – to add 15 years to Hezekiah’s life.