David Wilkerson, pastor of Times Square Church, founder of Teen Challenge, and a man who has done a great deal of ministry in difficult places to people with little hope that are often overlooked, posted an “urgent message” he felt compelled to give about coming destruction. He says it comes from God.
Here are a couple of thoughts about evaluating these kinds of claims. (Just for the record, I believe that miracles and prophecies haven’t ceased so that potentially there are genuine prophecies given today, but I think, particularly in the case of prophetic claims, the genuine article is pretty rare in practice. So I don’t dismiss prophetic claims out of hand.)
First, because someone claims to receive a prophecy or that the Holy Spirit has spoken to him does not compel us to accept the claim on its face. The New Testament consistently directs us to think, evaluate, and judge preaching and claims to speak for God, measuring them against what God has already revealed in Scripture. If someone speaks on God’s behalf, which by definition is what a prophecy is, we are to evaluate and judge his words. This kind of claim is by nature subjective and we don’t have direct access to that experience. Instead, we are to test the words.
Second, we should evaluate how the prophecies measure up to Scripture and we should also take into account the track record of past prophetic utterances by the same person. There’s a case to be made that New Testament prophets don’t have the same 100% accuracy requirement set for the Old Testament prophets, but if someone has the gift of prophecy there should be some kind of success and consistency in past prophecies. Here’s a brief record of some of Wilkerson’s past claims. It doesn’t appeal to me as a very compelling record to lend credibility to the current one.
Third, I look for specificity and details to actually be able to match up with the fulfillment so that we can know that the prophecy was fulfilled. Frankly, most prophecies I’ve heard in the church are general and vague warnings or encouragements that could potentially said to be fulfilled by a number of events. Apparently Wilkerson gave a prophecy a few weeks prior to 9/11 that seemed to be fulfilled on that day - and it could have been - but the prophecy strikes me as rather general, as his past ones have been, and this one turned out to have been given in proximal time to something that met its general description. If prophecies are meant to communicate something to us directly from God then it seems reasonable to me that we have to be able to know that it was actually fulfilled to confirm that claim. Generalities don’t do it.
All of this leaves me skeptical of Wilkerson’s latest claim. I could be wrong. But I personally don’t feel compelled to take this seriously for the reasons I’ve given. I don’t think it meets the standard of biblical prophecy.