Prophecy is a broad term. In the Bible it is often defined as preaching, teaching, exhorting, etc. Prophecy in modern times has come to mean almost exclusively the prediction of future events. But this is only one aspect of prophecy as defined in the Word. Mike Oppenheimer in his article called "Apostles & Prophets Today" gives this apt definition of a biblical prophet:
The Old Testament prophets taught the basic truths and principles of God, and the facts and nuances of man's relationship with Him. They condemned sin, they brought comfort to the remnant, and conviction to those who sinned. They were invariably persecuted by the target portion of Israel, and most importantly, they spoke of things to come both near and far into the future Deuteronomy 18:15 -19 tells us of the nature of a true prophet.
Predictive prophecy, then, is only one aspect of prophetic ministry and is defined as a prediction of present, near future and distant future events where there is nothing known definitely about that event or even that it would occur (except by God, which we will cover later.) It is also NOT predicting something that is known to be planned in the future. That is simply prediction, not prophecy. Many false prophets today make predictions they falsely call "prophecies" based on events they are planning to carry out in order to fulfill their "prophecies" and thereby gain followers to themselves. This is not true predictive prophecy, given by the Lord, that is about an unknown event or occurrence at a future time.
Let's start with a known premise. Anyone can predict the future to a small degree. Mediums, psychics, fortunetellers, witches, business prognosticators, stock market analysts, Christian "prophets" and even you and I. Anyone can hit by luck on predicting a future event based on a number of factors such as intuition, a careful study of trends, etc. So there are three types of predictive "prophecy". Notice I put "prophecy" in quotes as we will define what true prophecy is as compared to what we are describing here.
Type 1 - Predictions made based on human intuition and analysis of facts.
It is possible to get predictions right a certain percentage of the time based on good information about the world around us and calculated guesses based on those facts. The more informed you are, the more education you have, and the stronger you are in applying deductive reasoning--the better your predictions will be. This method produces results that are varied, but generally a very small percentage of predictions made by information and intuition alone will come to pass. Psychics usually fall into the category of Type 1 and sometimes Type 2. Here is a study that was done on psychics to show you just how low a percentage of accuracy they have.
At the beginning of 1978, Ralph Blodgett decided it was time to settle this matter of “psychics.” So he did what other people had generally only thought of doing. He went from one magazine vending counter to another, buying up the first-of-the-year sensational and gossip tabloids. Then he took his loot home and carefully compiled a list of 250 definite predictions for the year 1978.
As the year passed, he kept close tab on the news stories as they broke—in the newspapers, as well as the major news, science, gossip and sports magazines—and kept watching for fulfillments of those 250 predictions.
Then he sat down at the end of the year and put it all together. Out of 250 specific prognostications, by the thirty leading psychics of the world, less than 3 percent (i.e., 6 out of 250) could be listed as reasonably fulfilled. Ninety-seven percent missed the mark entirely. (The six correct ones had been stated in such general terms that it was not difficult to find someone or someplace that could fulfill them.)
“What kind of predictions are we talking about? Here are a few for 1978 that flopped: U.S. space shuttle disaster sets program back 10 years; another major power failure to hit New York City in early 1978; a fire ravages the White House; the price of gas to reach $1.50 a gallon in U.S.; Quebec to split from rest of Canada; Carter to impose mandatory nationwide four-day work week in January; Cuba to apply to become fifty-first state; nationwide postal strike to halt all Christmas mail; Carter to reintroduce the draft in September; discovery of a cancer cure; Red China and the Soviet Union to go to war; CIA and FBI merge into a super spy agency; and remains of Atlantis discovered in Mediterranean off Turkey.”—Ralph Blodgett, “Supermarket Psychics Spin the Roulette Wheel Again,” These Times, March, 1979.
10 million Japanese will come to Christ by the year 2000; it helped to bring down the Berlin Wall and opened Albania to the gospel; it deposed dictator Manuel Noriega; it lowered the crime rate in Los Angeles and broke the power of demons over Japan (C. Peter Wagner, Breaking Strongholds in Your City, 1993, p.25
Benny Hinn has made a multitude of false predictive prophecies. Here is just a sampling:
tells me - Fidel Castro will die - in the 90's. Oooh my! Some will try to kill
him and they will not succeed. But there will come a change in his physical
health, and he will not stay in power, and Cuba will be visited of God."
(Benny Hinn, Orlando Christian Center, Dec. 31st, 1989
"The Lord also
tells me to tell you in the mid 90's, about '94-'95, no later than that, God
will destroy the homosexual community of America. [audience applauds] But He
will not destroy it - with what many minds have thought Him to be, He will
destroy it with fire. And many will turn and be saved, and many will rebel and
be destroyed." (Benny Hinn, Orlando Christian Center, Dec. 31st,
"The hour is
urgent. Many of you have known me for many years. But I am telling you right
now, things I haven't said years 'n years 'n years ago. I believe - here this,
hear this! I believe, that Jesus, God's Son, is about to appear physically, in
meetings and to believers around the world, to wake us up! He appeared after His
resurrection and He is about to appear before His second coming! You know a
prophetess sent me a word through my wife, right here, and she said 'Tell your
husband that Jesus is go'n to physically appear in his meetings.' I am expecting
to see, I am telling you that - I feel it's going to happen. I, I, I'm, I'm
careful in how I am saying it now, because I know the people in Kenya are
listening. I know deep in my soul, something supernatural is going to happen in
Nai - in Nairobi Kenya. I feel that. I may very well come back, and you and Jan
are coming, to - Paul and Jan are coming to Nairobi with me, but Paul, we may
very well come back with footage of Jesus on the platform! You know that the
Lord appeared in Romania recently, and there's a video of it? Where the Lord
appeared in the back of a church and you see him on video walking down the isle?
Yeah! Paul do you remember when I came on TBN years ago and showed you a clip of
the Lord appearing in our church in Orlando, on the balcony on the wall? Yeah.
You, you remember that? [Paul Crouch] Very well, I saw it! [Benny Hinn] That was
'80, 80 something, '86, what - whatever. You know I always wondered why the
Lord, why did He do that? Do you know why, now I look back? That was the
beginning of the greatest move of God in our church. Because '83, '84, and '85
were horrible years for me, horrible years. Eighty-six the blessings of God
began, but they began with a - with this manifestation of the Lord's face on, on
the balcony, that stayed for eight weeks. Eight solid weeks! The Lord has done
this in the past, but He is about to do it again, now hear this, I am
prophesying this! Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is about to appear physically in
some churches, and some meetings, and to many of His people, for one reason - to
tell you He is about to show up! To Wake Up! Jesus is coming saints! You have
held back from the Lord in the past, don't you dare do it now. The day will come
you'll stand before Him and give an answer. How dare we not give to God. How
dare we hold back." (Benny Hinn, TBN Praise-a-thon, April 2nd, 2000
Hinn based his first two predictions on things he had obviously heard in the news. The last one he based on the word of another false prophet, Ruth Heflin, now deceased. I'm sure she now knows the error of her ways, but Benny is still making false prophecies daily on his TV program.
These are just two examples of many I could give. For false prophecies by heretics who call themselves prophets today, look under the names we expose on our pages at DITC. You will discover that there are many Type 1 "prophets" out there who are making up things from their own imaginations. The Bible tells us the M.O. (modus operandi) of false prophets.
Jeremiah 14:14 Then the LORD said to me, "The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds.
The enemy also predicts. He puts thoughts and ideas into the minds of people regarding future events. Note the message Peter spoke by the prompting of Satan in his mind.
Matt. 16:21-23 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!" Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."
1 John 4:1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
1 Corinthians 14:29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.
1 Thessalonians 5:21 Test everything. Hold on to the good.
Duet. 13:1-3 If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, "Let us follow other gods" (gods you have not known) "and let us worship them," you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul.
Deut. 18:20 But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death."
A true predictive prophecy from God will also come true. But there is a difference. ALL prophecies of God come to pass. I am not talking about conditional prophecies here, though they also come to pass in one of two ways as God has spoken. I am addressing straight ahead predictive prophecies. Every single prophecy of God has or will come true, so any prophet of God will be 100% correct all the time. There is no error with God because He is the Spirit of Truth. Therefore there is no error with human prophets if they truly hear from God. If they do not know FOR CERTAIN they have heard from God, they need to keep their mouths SHUT! If they make a prediction and claim they got that prediction from God and it fails, then they are liars and must be considered to be false prophets according to the Word of God. If they refuse to repent of false prophecies they have made in the name of the Lord, they are to be rejected, marked, and avoided. There is no "learning curve" for prophets of the Lord because there is nothing to learn regarding predictive prophecy. They have either heard the voice of God directly, or they have not. They are either truthful having the Spirit of truth, or they are liars of their father the devil.
John 8:44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Micah 2:11 If a liar and deceiver comes and says, ’I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer,’ he would be just the prophet for this people!
Jeremiah 5:31 The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?
2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
1 Tim. 4:1-2 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.
Revelation 21:8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars— their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."