Dr. Michael Brown has issued a call to test contemporary prophets, saying that recent prophecies about the COVID-19 pandemic form a perfect test case. Dr. Brown suggests that we can wait until mid-April and see if what two particular prophets predict comes to pass, and then we’ll know whether they (and prophecy in general) are legitimate.
Ordinarily I would agree with Dr. Brown that this is an interesting test case, but why wait? Why not test the prophets with what they’ve said already? Here is a sampling of items I found on the subject of this pandemic. The following is not an exhaustive list; there’s a lot of content out there on this subject, so material is not lacking.
Two items to note: First, I had not heard of most of the people in the following lists. A couple are household names (ex. Jim Bakker) but most of the rest are completely new to me. Second, this post is not an attempt to bash charismatics in general, or prophets in particular. I’m not making any statements against the idea that we can have modern-day prophets. As you’ll see below, I’m actually trying to apply biblical teaching to what I am hearing.
A number of prophets are said to have predicted the pandemic well before it began. However, their predictions are either 1) unavailable, 2) published after the fact, or 3) are so vague as to be meaningless.
In the unavailable department is Chuck Pierce. On March 12, he wrote:
“During that Head of the Year 5780 gathering on September 26-29, 2019, I began to prophesy that the nations would come into turmoil until Passover.
At Starting the Year Off Right 2020, God was saying that there would be a massive plague-like invasion that would test us through Passover.”
There are no links to specific video, audio, or transcripts in his blog. I would think that if he had content like that, he would be able to provide it. They are unavailable.
Chuck confuses me a little when he referred to the invasion in this way: “I prophesied that in Las Vegas on January 26.” The Starting the Year Off Right 2020 conference was in early January; did Chuck prophesy at the conference in early January and repeat it in late January? Where’s the recording of the late January prophesy? He doesn’t provide any links to any event.
(Note: Chuck could also be filed in the “after the fact” and “vague” categories, as you’ll see below; several of these prophets fit in more than one.)
Cindy Jacobs was referenced in Chuck’s blog as having given him a prophecy in early January. Again, Chuck doesn’t provide any supporting data.
You may be wondering, what’s the deal? Can’t we trust these guys? Why do we need “supporting data” anyway? The answer is because the Bible commands it. First John 4.1 says to test the spirits because of all the false prophets running around. In Deuteronomy 13.1-2 we read that the order is we are given a prophecy first, and then we see if it comes to pass — not the other way around. If Chuck and Cindy are prophets, then they should be able to predict things before they happen, not after.
After the fact
As I said above, Chuck Pierce and Cindy Jacobs are examples of after-the-fact prophesying. Robert Henderson is another. In an article published on Charisma’s web site on March 11, he wrote:
“Around three weeks before the coronavirus began to seem as a threat here in the United States against our economy, I had a dream.”
These are precisely the kinds of dreams we should be hearing about before the events they predict actually occur.
Tracey Cooke also talked about a dream in a video posted March 24. In it, he saw the Chinese government actually manufacturing and spreading the virus via vaccines and machinery. Tracey quoted Amos 3.7 in saying God will always give his prophets a heads-up before doing anything, but telling us this on March 24 hardly qualifies. In fact, Tracey seems to imply that he asked for this insight from God after the impact of the virus began to grow…again, not at all what we read in the passage from Amos. Shouldn’t God have been tipping Tracey off before all this began?
Vague to the point of meaningless
When I read prophecies in both the Old and New Testaments, I’m often struck by how confusing they are. What does Isaiah mean when he says the wolf and the lamb shall dwell together? Just what is the mark of the beast? When I hear modern-day prophets describe their visions, they’re not just confusing; they’re vague. Really vague. So vague to mean almost anything, or nothing.
Rick Ridings is an example. There’s a youtube video of him prophesying back in July of 2019, “about the coronavirus,” as it says in the description. But go ahead and listen to the video; you’ll see that the prophesy is about a shaking starting in Jerusalem and spreading to the ends of the earth. It doesn’t say what the shaking actually is, and it certainly doesn’t mention disease, China, pandemic, or anything related to our current situation. What does this prophesy have to do with the coronavirus? Are we to interpret “shaking” as “worldwide pandemic”? Claiming that a shaking is coming and then interpreting it to mean you called the coronavirus before it happened is quite a stretch.
Let’s go back to Chuck Pierce for a moment, looking at his “plague-like invasion” prophecy. As with Rick Ridings, this vague language could mean almost anything. An invasion of whom, or what? And how is it like a plague? A “plague-like invasion” is certainly not the same as saying “a plague will invade.” Nor is there any indication as to where the invasion will be, as Chuck only says it “will test us.” Who is us? Chuck’s followers? The church? The world? A prophecy this vague can be interpreted to mean just about anything.
Unavailable, after the fact, and vague
Surely our prophets can do better than to provide undocumented, after-the-fact, and vague references to some future occurrence, then proceed to appear on talk shows, write articles, and post videos telling us they called it.
The purpose of COVID-19
It seems to be fashionable for prophets to tell us the reason for the pandemic. I have two problems with this; the first is that the prophets are all giving us contradictory reasons for the pandemic. Here is a sampling:
- Rick Wiles says coronavirus is a death angel; those who are right with God have nothing to fear, while those who are not right with God will get an “attitude adjustment.”
- Asher Intrater says it’s a curse from God on China because they don’t allow the freedom of religion. He says it can be stopped “in an hour” if China would change its laws.
- Tracey Cooke says it’s being intentionally produced and spread by the Chinese government.
- Robert Henderson says it’s a plan of the devil to deny Trump a second term.
- Perry Stone says it’s a scheme of Satan to kill off older people. He also says it’s a punishment from God on China, and a punishment on the US because of the legalization of abortion and same-sex marriage.
Apparently, then, it’s being sent by God to target individuals, and it’s a punishment on an entire nation. Christians are exempt, and it is specifically targeting Christians. It’s divine punishment, and it’s a scheme of Satan.
Not all of these are mutually contradictory, of course, but some of them are. And notably, none of the prophets refer to prophecies made by another prophet, either to affirm or deny that prophet’s evaluation of the cause. What does Rick Wiles, who (along with many others) says that Christians are specifically protected from the virus, think of Perry Stone’s claim that the virus is targeting Christians specifically? What does Robert Henderson think will happen to Satan’s plan to destroy the US economy if China allows freedom of religion?
Separately, each statement by one of these prophets sounds like something we might read in the Bible. Put them together, though, and it’s a hopeless jumble of contradictions and confusion.
And this brings me to the second problem I have with the attempts of these prophets to give us the reason behind the pandemic: Jesus tells us not to. In Lk 13.1-5, Jesus addresses two tragedies: one a natural disaster, and one man-made. In both cases, he very clearly points out that it’s wrong to blame the victims of the tragedy, or to even find blame at all. Instead, he calls us all to repent. Our modern-day prophets who are lining up to give us the reason behind our most recent natural disaster should listen to their Master.
A number of prophets have claimed that they have prophetic authority to stop the spread of the virus.
- On Feb 26, Rodney Howard-Browne cursed the virus.
- On Feb 28, Shawn Bolz announced the end of the virus, saying the tide is turning.
- On March 5, Cindy Jacobs declared the virus illegal and ordered it to cease.
- On March 20, Lou Engle held a fast at which he “stretch[ed] out His rod of authority out of Zion and rebuke[d] the Coronavirus.”
Of course, there’s a difference between praying in faith and making declarations based on God-given authority. The Bible is full of exhortations to do the former; we are to approach the throne of grace with confidence, to ask in faith with no doubting, and believe that we have received it.
These prophets were not doing this; they were not asking God to do anything. Instead, they were declaring, in the classic manner of an Old Testament prophet. It didn’t work.
But should it?
Which is it?
This brings up something which has bothered me. Our modern-day prophets claim that New Testament prophets have a different ministry than their Old Testament brethren, and so should be held to a different standard. In the same breath, though, they claim the level of authority that an Old Testament prophet held.
It seems they are saying, in effect, “We don’t have to be 100% accurate, and for sure don’t stone us if we get it wrong, but in the meantime we have authority over nature and the nations.” Can they have it both ways?
I wonder if prophetic authority and prophetic responsibility go hand in hand. Our modern-day prophets seem to want the best of both the New and Old Testaments, a little like Lite beer: all the taste and only half the calories. And like that beer, they leave us a little flat.