I was asked the following question:

What is the definition of “prophecy?”

If I were to define what a “prophecy” is, I would point to I Peter 1:19-21, which reads:

19. And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; 20. knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21. for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

This is a passage that is often used by men to support orthodox viewpoints. They point to the words “private interpretation.” Then, any time anyone wants to suggest an interpretation that is not the “normal” one taught by men who are respected scholars or by denominations, they will accuse the person of having a “private interpretation.” But this is not speaking of the interpreting of God’s words, but of the giving of God’s words. No word of prophecy ever comes from one’s own thoughts, one’s own exposition, or one’s own interpretation of things. Rather, prophecy comes when men of God speak words that come to them from the Holy Spirit. In other words, to speak a word of prophecy means to speak the words of God.

Now we have in our culture an idea that “prophecy” always has to do with the future. But this is not the idea set forth in I Peter 1:21. Those who predict the weather, or who make prognostications or guesses about the future, are not prophets in the Biblical sense. A prophet, one who speaks God’s words, could speak of the past, if that is what the word of God given to him is about. He could speak of the present. Or he could speak of the future, for God is certainly capable of speaking about that as well. But the bottom line is that a prophecy is given when a set-apart man of God speaks words as he is moved to speak them by the Holy Spirit.

Now this “moving” does not have to do with vague emotions, with strange dreams, or with omens. It does not mean that God gave the person the thought, but the prophet interpreted it in his own words. As II Timothy 3:16 says, all Scripture is God-breathed. That is, the words of a prophet are the very words of God.

Many men claim to speak prophecy today. Yet if their words are analyzed, none of them are worthy for inclusion in the Word of God. And that is what a real prophecy would ultimately be: a word from God, equal in value to the Scripture Itself.