19 We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
There are many people who claim to be prophets. We might call them self-appointed prophets, who presume to speak in the name of The Lord. Jesus warned the early church of false prophets, who were "wolves in sheep's clothing". A prophet in simple terms is one who speaks God's Word in a timely manner. Prophets speak God's word under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to give God's message to a particular group of people.
For instance, there were prophets in Israel before Christ who warned the Israelites time and time again that if they didn't return to God they would be judged. Then, after the Jews were in exile because of disobedience, the prophets gave Israel the terms for how they could be restored. Finally, their were prophets who foretold of the Messiah, who would come to bring salvation to the Jews and the Gentiles.
Prophecy was as an important gift in the New Testament as well. Paul told the church in Corinth of the importance of the gift of prophecy, over against some of the more ecstatic gifts, like speaking in tongues. Because one word from God can build up the whole church. Paul said, "don't forbid the speaking of tongues, but eagerly desire the gift of prophecy. Here are some guidelines for the prophetic message:
1. Jesus Christ is The Lord and Savior of all humankind. He came in the flesh, was God, was sinless, and died for the sins of all mankind. Jesus literally died on the cross and literally rose from the dead three days later. He will come again to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
2. If a so called prophet came and said the world is going to end on this date, you know he or she is a false prophet. Jesus said no one knows the date except His Father in heaven. Or, if someone says Jesus was just a man, albeit a great teacher, he or she is a false prophet. Or, if they say Jesus only looked like a human, he was really a spirit being, because God would never enter a sinful body. He or she is a false prophet. If it is not as if we need to be obsessed with false prophets, but we need to understand what they look like.
Finally, we must remember the apostle Peter's teaching to the early church, who were already dealing with false prophets, "Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."
True prophets never disagree with Scripture, which is where prophecy comes from. A prophet is given a message from Scripture, or at the very least agrees with Scripture, which a particular purpose with a particular people today. As Paul says at the end of his teaching on spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14, "But eagerly desire the gift of prophesy". Bottom line we need true prophets to build up the church with God's Word, we just need to be aware that there are also false ones.