In recent years, leading prophetic voices have increasingly taught that prophecies that reprove (expose sin), correct (call for repentance) and warn of God's judgment are improper use of the prophetic. While there is some variance among the prophets who espouse this view, there is a common thread.
They reason that while these prophetic functions were common to the Old Testament, they have ceased in the church age because of Jesus. Their argument follows: Jesus carried God's wrath at the cross—it is finished. God no longer has wrath to give. Therefore, prophecies that reprove, correct and warn of His judgment are categorically false.
Last week, Shawn Bolz, a leading prophetic voice whose ministry has inspired and equipped thousands, shared a brief teaching video titled "Why Judgment Prophecies are Never from God." Bolz's post clearly presented the argument noted above adding, "In the New Testament, prophecy is to reflect the gospel" and "is not a tool to judge people but to build up and restore lives."
As someone who deeply values the prophetic and has long followed various prophetic ministries, including Bolz's, I have felt increasing concern for these teachings. While they initially sound plausible, I am not convinced they align with biblical testimony. It seems to me they serve to reduce prophecy to a function that is less than what scripture envisions.
While I admire and honor Bolz greatly, I also believe he misses the mark on this topic. Given the scope and influence of his ministry to the body of Christ, I feel it is important to provide a critical response regarding his view of judgment prophecies.
First, I want to restate my respect and admiration for Bolz. Not only is he a true brother in Christ, but he demonstrates various qualities that I seek to emulate in my own life and ministry. At the top of that list is the remarkable accuracy in which he functions in the word of knowledge.
Second, he contextualizes his prophetic ministry in a way that makes it accessible to people who are far from God. Third, he has a strong commitment to the local church (Bolz co-pioneered Expression58—a Pasadena, California based church). Finally, Bolz's ministry manner is marked by humility and void of hype. Each of these qualities stand out to me as a rarity, particularly among notable prophetic ministers in recent history.
While I do not know Bolz personally, several of my friends know him well and affirm each of these qualities in him. I have also observed his ministry in person. When Bolz shared at The Send in Orlando, he said that he was full of anxiety before calling out words of knowledge from the platform. This was no sidestep into false humility. I saw him backstage in the green room nervously pacing with a look of distress prior to taking the stage. Then he proceeded to call out specific individuals (including someone I know) among a sea of people with remarkable precision. It was astounding. For that and more I honor Shawn Bolz.
In what follows, I want to address three problems with Bolz's recent video and the teaching trend among notable contemporary prophets to categorically dismiss prophecies that reprove, correct and warn of God's judgment.
Problem 1: Bolz's view fails to note a critical distinction: believers are saved from God's wrath (1 Thess. 5:9), but not from His judgment/discipline (Heb. 12:3-17).
Contrary to Bolz's claim that "God no longer has wrath to give," the New Testament teaches that all unbelievers currently remain under God's wrath—and do so until which point that they repent and believe the gospel (John 3:36). Believers, on the other hand, have been justified by faith (Rom. 5:1); they no longer live under God's wrath but in His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). Though believers are saved from God's wrath, believers are not saved from His judgment and discipline. As the writer of Hebrews notes: "For whom the Lord loves He disciplines" (Heb. 12:6a). Discipline, the writer argues, is a sign of the legitimacy of our sonship (see Heb. 12:7–8).
The idea of God's discipline of His people is woven throughout the New Testament. Jesus gave disciplinary instructions for the unrepentant brother (Matt.18:15-20). Paul expounded on Jesus' instructions when he directed the Corinthian church to deliver the unrepentant believer over to Satan "for the destruction of the flesh, so that the spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord Jesus" (1 Cor. 5:5). Paul's teaching, along with the writer of Hebrews (Heb. 12:3-29), brings light to the redemptive nature of God's disciplinary work among His people. Indeed, when judgment begins with the household of God (see 1 Pet. 4:17), it's always an expression of God's kindness as it is intended to lead us to repentance and life (see Rom. 2:4; 2 Cor. 7:10).
So then, I do not affirm Bolz's claim that God no longer has wrath to give. Neither can I affirm that God no longer judges and disciplines His people. According to the New Testament, wrath remains for unbelievers, and God's judgment and discipline remains for His people.
Having established that God's judgment and discipline continue today, we now turn to the second problem.
Problem 2: The New Testament does not expressly teach that prophecies concerning God's judgment and discipline of His people have ceased. Interestingly Bolz's claim that "judgment prophecies are never from God" carries the same burden of proof cessationists face when they claim that the sign gifts of the Spirit (i.e., prophecy, healing and tongues) ceased with the completion of the Bible. Ironically, both of these forms of cessationism fail to find New Testament Scripture to support their claims. They are theological deductions that go beyond Scripture. As such, the premises of these arguments are fundamentally flawed and the conclusions that follow cannot be trusted.
It is worth noting that the Old Testament prophets, whose ministries spanned hundreds of years, included many more prophecies of reproof, correction and judgment than that of the apostles and prophets recorded in the New Testament, whose ministries spanned mere decades. Still, the New Testament does give record of prophetic ministry that includes these elements, which brings us to the third problem.
Problem 3: Jesus and the apostles modeled prophetic ministry that included reproof, correction and judgment. Perhaps the most compelling argument against the cessation of reproof, correction and judgment prophecies is the fact that Jesus and the apostles modeled prophetic ministry with these elements, and they did so in a gospel-centric manner. (That is, their ministry embodied a redemptive aim.) Note the following examples:
—Jesus began His ministry proclaiming the same prophetic message as that of John the Baptist, saying "Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 4:17b), showing that His prophetic ministry built on that of John's—the last prophet of the Old Covenant.
—Jesus gave a word of knowledge exposing the immorality of the Samaritan woman (see John 4:16-18). This reprove did not condemn her but served to restore her (see John 4:28–30) and resulted in Samaria receiving Jesus for extended ministry (see John 4:39-42).
—Jesus reproved the Scribes and Pharisees and even dedicated an entire message to prophesy judgment woes against them (see Matthew 23).
—Peter prophetically exposed the deception of both Ananias and Sapphira (see Acts 5:3-4, 9) which was followed by God's judgment (see Acts 5:5, 10). This resulted in the fear of the Lord coming upon the whole church (see Acts 5:11).
—Peter prophetically reproved, corrected and pronounced judgment on Simon the Magician, leading to what appears to be Simon's repentance (see Acts 8:20-24).
—Jesus gave prophetic messages to John to give to the seven churches of Asia Minor (see Rev. 2-3). In addition to carrying distinct revelations of Jesus and affirmations specific to each church, these prophecies also included reproof, correction and warning of judgment should the churches not repent.
The prophetic ministry modeled by Jesus and the apostles shows more continuity with the prophets of the Old Testament than many today are inclined to admit. Indeed, if one were to embrace Jesus and the apostles as models for prophetic ministry today, one must necessarily conclude that it is a theological fallacy to suggest that prophecies of reproof, correction and judgment are never from God.
For those who reject Bolz's teachings about judgment prophecies, there is much work ahead. Our aim must be to develop healthy people and prophetic cultures that explore the fullness of this powerful aspect of the kingdom with love, humility and the fear of the Lord.
We must be willing to deliver and receive such prophetic messages from those in our communities and even inquire about the timing of delivering such words, and we must also be eager to admit and repent when we get it wrong. We must firmly and lovingly eradicate abuses and dysfunctions in all of their forms. We must be tireless in this work—so much is on the line.
The prophetic is a valuable gift to the body of Christ. God intends for it (in concert with the other gifts) to bring us to maturity—the fullness of the stature of Christ (see Eph. 4:11–16). For these reasons and more, this great gift is worth the cost of our due diligence, biblical thinking and critical dialogue to ensure we get it right. Let us remind ourselves that true prophecy at its core gives testimony to the character and nature of Jesus (Rev. 19:10)—and we cannot afford to diminish our witness of Christ.
So, I respond to Shawn Bolz: Prophecies of reproof, correction and judgment may well be from God.
Adam Narciso is the visionary and pioneer of Catalyst Ministries, a training and global outreach mission for the next generation. Since 2009, Adam has trained and mobilized over 40 international evangelism teams and has equipped thousands in the areas of identity, hearing God and evangelism via seminars around the world.
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