If we compare the ministry of prophets under the Old and New Covenant, we see a number of differences…
Prophets in the Old Testament…
The Holy Spirit came upon them
Frequently they were used to give warning and foresight
Those who were in authority used prophets to hear from the Lord for direction
Often their prophecies also had a demonstration with the Word
They called people to repentance
They most often were alone and living away from other people
They were feared by both the average person and the one in authority
They spoke of Messiah coming
Prophets in the New Testament…
They call people to embrace the provisions of the New Covenant by entering into a relationship with Jesus Christ
The Holy Spirit lives within them
The often affirm what the Holy Spirit has already been speaking to people
They equip people to hear from God for themselves
They declare that Jesus Christ is here and has provided all that is needed and necessary
They mingle among the people
They use their gifts to expose the works of darkness
They desire to bring the body to maturity and unity
Sometimes prophets tend to look at life from a seemingly mythical viewpoint and forget to be practical.
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are on a camping trip. After a good meal they were exhausted and went to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend.
“Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see.”
Watson replied, “I see millions and millions of stars.”
“What does that tell you?”
Watson pondered for a minute. “Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in our Galaxy. Time wise, I deduce it is approximately a quarter to three. Theologically, I can see that the Lord is all powerful and that we are small and insignificant. What does it tell you?”
Holmes was silent for a minute, and then spoke. “Watson, you idiot, it tells me that someone has stolen our tent!”
Sometimes that is the way it is with a prophetic person. They think in symbols and pictures. They read all manner of things into each and every situation, and they miss the most practical application of what they are looking at.
For example, a prophetic individual is driving down the freeway and realizes he is going the wrong way. Since he just passed exit seven he thinks to himself, “Seven is the perfect number so I must be in the perfect will of God.” He turns around at exit eight, and since eight is the number of new beginnings, he thinks to himself, “The Lord allows us to make mistakes and start anew. Even though I made a mistake I am in the perfect will of the Lord.”
The truth is, this prophetic person probably just missed his exit – plain and simple! Not trying to make fun of the prophetic, but sometimes we try to spiritualize something that is not very spiritual at all. It is just a human error.
If prophets make those kind of statements too often, it turns people off. When prophets do speak the true Word of the Lord, people may question them because they think they are coming from another world again.
The truth remains, however, that someone with a prophetic gift goes through life looking at everything and anything through a prophetic lens. This is how they view life.