A couple of months ago, David Wilkerson, pastor of Times Square Church in New York City, prophesied that a calamity was soon to come to New York City and other major cities (read his words here). His prophecy included some specific counsel about preparations that Christians ought to make. At the time, Marion and I prayed about whether God was calling us to take any action in response to this prophetic word. We concluded that there was nothing he was calling us to do in response to this particular message. I did not sense that I was to make any comment about how others should respond, so I said nothing.
Recently our church intercessory team has been studying the topic of prophetic ministry, and during our last meeting, the topic of David Wilkerson’s prophecy came up. I decided to see what other respected voices had to say about this prophetic message. I was looking for voices who respect prophetic utterances but also understand the need to test them (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22). So I began with John Piper, and he did not disappoint (see his comments here). Although he clearly has some concerns about this particular prophetic message, he just as clearly shows respect for the practice of prophecy and for David Wilkerson – all of which reflects Biblical grace and wisdom.
A search for other comments on Wilkerson’s prophecy led me to this blog. I don’t agree with everything it, in particular the following statement : “When someone claims they are speaking for God, they had better be not only accurate but absolutely perfect in what they say”. I believe that under the New Covenant there is room for learning from mistakes as we prophesy. Because the New Covenant allows all believers to prophesy, and because we all have the ability to discern and weigh prophetic words, it follows that the requirement of absolute accuracy in prediction does not apply to New Covenant prophecy.
Still, public predictive prophecy from a respected Christian leader – especially with dates attached – is a serious matter because of the potential for such words to cause disillusionment and discouragement to believers if they are not fulfilled. I remember a time, over 15 years ago, when I unintentionally caused significant discouragement to a young Christian who looked to me for spiritual guidance. She was discouraged in her faith because of a prophetic word that I gave her regarding her husband’s salvation. The word was meant to be encouraging, and at first she took it as such, but when it was not fulfilled her faith suffered a severe blow. Looking back I realize that on that occasion I prophesied out of my own desire as much as out of the leading of the Spirit, and because my words were not fulfilled, she experienced significant disillusionment.
I learned much from reflecting on this experience. Mistakes are part of the learning process in New Covenant prophecy, but we need to be careful about predictive prophecies. Before embarking upon the proclamation of predictive words, leaders need to learn to distinguish the thoughts and words that arise out of of their own soul from the thoughts and words that come from the Holy Spirit. If we do not learn to do this, the sheep may end up being discouraged and confused rather than built up.
That’s why I included a link to yet another blog post on this topic. This particular blog is interesting because it lists some of David Wilkerson’s past prophetic utterances. Again I don’t agree with everything in this post. In particular, this writer is not balanced in his assessment of what the New Testament says about the future state of the church, focussing only on the Scriptures that warn of apostasy, not those that speak of the glorious bride. This causes him to dismiss too quickly David Wilkerson’s teaching on this subject. But on the issue of David Wilkerson’s prophetic track record, this blog gives me cause for concern. Of course we all make mistakes, and we all are in need of both grace and mercy at all times. Still, when high-profile Christian leaders repeatedly prophesy disasters that do not occur, their credibility suffers and so does the credibility of prophetic ministry in general.
My own conclusion about David Wilkerson’s prophecy of March 2009 has not changed. He may well be right, or at least partly right. I do not doubt that God can use this prophetic message to cause many to examine their hearts. At the same time I’m skeptical about the reliability of the details. I’m not saying they’re wrong; but neither do I have an inner witness of the Holy Spirit in my spirit that this is a prophecy to which I should pay special heed. So I’m going to put it on the shelf and wait to see what God reveals – but I’m not going to dismiss the warning of impending judgment. Whether or not this particular word is accurate in all its details, we all need to take seriously the warnings in God’s word of increasing disturbances in the Last Days. But we also need to remember his promises to protect his own. We are called to walk not in a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).