Prophecy is an interesting topic in the Church today. There are those in the dispensationalist camp that claim this gift is no longer available, that it ceased with the first generation of Christians. Mostly people believe this who have never seen prophecy in their own congregations, and since they believe their congregations are completely all right with God, prophecy does not occur any more.
There are those in many of the mainline camps that claim the gift of prophecy is misunderstood and is not foretelling the future as much as it is forth-telling the present. In other words, the prophet “tells it like it is” and outlines the rewards or consequences for a current course of action. The net effect, though, is that they agree with the dispensationalists that prophecy, as most commonly understood, no longer happens.
Both of these views are very American-centric in their assumptions. Prophecy is alive and well in other parts of the Church in other parts of the world. Why it is not seen more in America is a topic of some debate, and I do not wish to delve into that topic just yet.
Towards the end of Acts, Paul receives numerous prophecies, “from city to city” (20:23), that if he goes to Jerusalem he will be imprisoned and suffer. Then there is this passage:
After staying there [Caesarea] for several days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. He came to us, took Paul’s belt, tied his own feet and hands, and said, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: ‘In Jerusalem the Jews will bind the man who owns this belt, and they will hand him over to the Gentiles.’” When we heard this, we and the local believers urged Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Paul replied, “Why are you doing this? Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I’m ready not only to be arrested but even to die in Jerusalem for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus.” Since we couldn’t talk him out of it, the only thing we could say was, “The Lord’s will be done.”
This Agabus already had a reputation for being a faith-filled prophet, as he had forewarned the Church about the coming famine. Now he forewarns Paul that he will be captured, which confirms the same prophecies concerning his trip to Jerusalem that he has received all the way back from Greece to the Holy Land.
I love the effort the believers make here, and truly at each stop along the way prior to this scene, to dissuade Paul from going to Jerusalem. This is not a contradiction of the Holy Spirit’s leading. Rather, it shows the compassion and love the disciples all had for one another.
In the end, the only appropriate response to a true prophecy of God is what the group ultimately says, “The Lord’s will be done.” May we all have the same kind of faith and commitment to God!