Four Roles

Prophets who are dealing with rulers have four main roles.

Categories of Ruler Rulers can be kings, presidents or prime ministers. For simplicity, I will refer to them all as rulers, regardless of their current title.

Prophets will respond to rulers depending on how they fit within the following four categories. The first two are described in the Old Testament. The second two relate to the New Testament age. Some of the scriptures about the first two groups will be applicable to the second two groups, respectively.

Prophets will have a different interaction with each of these different categories of ruler. I will describe them separately in more detail in the next few posts.

1. Telling Rulers what to Do

Prophets have the ability to give advice to rulers. They can share God's wisdom with them and tell them what to do, if the ruler wants to obey God and align with him.

2. Calling out Sins

3. Explaining what is Going on in their Situation

Explaining what is happening in the spiritual realms and how it is affecting events on earth is probably the main role of prophets speaking to rulers of any type. (See political authority and spiritual power below).

In the Old Testament, prophets did not fully understand the working of the spiritual realms. They saw God and humans as the main actors on earth. They lived in a two-agent universe. So when warning of bad things coming, prophets said that God was sending judgement against rebellious people. This is how they saw the world, but their vision was incomplete. (What they said is true, because ultimately God is responsible for everything and he does not shirk responsibility for what he has done).

Since the coming of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we have a fuller understanding of the relationship between the spiritual and physical realms. We understand that we live in a three-agent universe. The three actors on earth are God, humans and the spiritual powers of evil.

When modern prophets warn about bad stuff that is coming, they should not usually be declaring God's judgment. Instead, they will mostly be describing what the spiritual powers of evil are planning to do because the people have lost God's protection.

  • The OT prophets explained what was going on to pagan kings.

    • Jeremiah, Isaiah and Ezekiel all prophesied to the nations surrounding Israel and explained to them what was going to happen to them in the future. Of course, there is no evidence that they listened.

  • The Old Testament prophets explained to covenant kings what was going on in their world.

    • All the Old Testament prophets spoke to the kings of Israel and Judah and warned them about what would happen when they displeased God and lost his protection.

  • Modern Christian prophets will sometimes explain to non-Christian rulers what is going on in their nation. They will explain what the spiritual powers of evil are attempting to do.

    • Many of these rulers will not be interested in the prophet's understanding of what is happening in the nation. They might not believe that the spiritual realm is real. Even if they do, they might not welcome the prophet's wisdom.

    • Most modern rulers will prefer their own explanation of what is happening, especially if it was the basis for their political campaigns. They might prefer to blame all the problems in their nation on the previous government, or on a bogeyman nation, so they will not be interested in spiritual causes of their nations problem.

    • If their understanding of what is happening will not be welcome, the prophet might have to remain silent, and speak to intercessors who will receive it. They should wait for the prompting of the Holy Spirit before sharing the insights he has given them with unbelieving rulers. Prophets should not cast their pearls before swine.

    • Messages explaining what is going on will be more for the people than the rulers. Every citizen needs to understand what is happening in their nations so they can make good decisions.

    • A nation usually gets the rulers it deserves. If a nation has a non-Christian ruler, that probably reflects the character of their nation. This situation requires a change of heart amongst the people, not just the ruler. The ruler will not be able to change things until the people of the nation change to. The gospel of Jesus is the best way to make that happen.

    In this situation, evangelists will be more important than prophets. Of course, as they share the gospel of Jesus, they will explain what the prophets have revealed what is going on in their nation. They will proclaim that Jesus can rescue the people from the troubles that the spiritual powers of evil are wanting to bring if they put their trust in him. This will allow God to change the nation from the bottom up.

  • Christian prophets should share their understanding of what is happening in the spiritual realms with any Christian rulers.

    • This understanding will usually come prophets who belong to the same body of believers as the ruler, or prophets who have a close relationship with the ruler.

    • Christian rulers might be wise to establish relationships with several independent prophets, so they can sure of getting a clear word in every situation.

Christian prophets who are explaining the spiritual situation on earth will need to understand discerning seasons and the role of prophetic events.

4. Warning of Danger

Some dangers will be physical threats. In Old Testament times, communications were slower than today, so prophets would warn of attacking armies before the military watchmen had seen them coming.

In the modern world, the threats of danger will more like be spiritually based, even if the ultimate effect is physical, ie death or injury.

  • The prophets warned covenant kings when dangers were threatening.

    • Jeremiah warned King Zedekiah what would happen to him because the spiritual powers of evil had gained authority to destroy Jerusalem (Jer 34:2-3; 39:6) He gave a similar warning to King Jehoiachin (Jer 35:30-31).

    • Elisha warned when the King of Aram as attacking Israel, before he got there (2 Kings 6:9-10).

  • The Old Testament prophets did not usually warn the pagan kings about threats of danger to them.

    • Isaiah did not warn Sennacherib that his armies would be struck down by a plague (Is 19).

    • The one exception is Nebuchadnezzar, who was warned of a massive spiritual collapse that would strike him down (Daniel 4). I think God did this to demonstrate his sovereignty over pagan kings in a very public way. We should not happen this to happen very often.

    • Belshazzar got about 12 hours warning about an invasion by the Medes (Dan 5:22-30). This warning was probably more to raise Daniel up before the new emperor than to warn the Babylonian king.

  • Non-Christian rulers will be vulnerable to spiritual attack. These spiritual attacks might sometimes translate into physical threats. God is not obliged to warn rulers who have rejected his grace about troubles that are coming against them. However, if God does reveal to a Christian prophet that a non-Christian ruler is threatened by spiritual or physical danger, the prophet should share as the Holy Spirit leads. The ruler might not be willing to heed a warning from a Christian prophet, but sounding an alarm is the gracious thing to do.

  • Prophets should warn a Christian ruler about any threats of danger that God reveals to them.

    • The warning is most likely to come from a prophet who is fellowship with the ruler.

    • The prophet Agabus warned Paul about the danger that would face him when he arrived in Jerusalem (Acts 21:10-11). I presume that he would have done the same for a believing ruler if he had encountered one.

New Zealand

New Zealand is a secular nation with a declining Christian memory. The Prime Minister is not a Christian. There are almost no Christians in the labour government and only a few Christians in the opposition. When thinking about prophetic proclamation, this puts New Zealand in the category of a non-Christian ruler. Prophetic people who are called to speak to the nation should keep this in mind.

  • Telling the ruler what to do.

    The Prime Minister is not a Christian, so she does is not seeking the wisdom of God. Prophets would be wasting their time if they gave her advice about what to do. There is no reason why she would trust people who claim to be speaking for God. She has plenty of human advisors whom she trusts, so she does not want the advice of Christian prophets.

  • Calling out the ruler's sins.

    Our ruler is not a follower of God, so we should not expect her to obey his standards. If she sins, that is just what sinners do. Indicting her for failing to live according to God's standards is unfair.

  • Explaining what is going on in the physical and spiritual realms with respect to New Zealand.

    • Our Prime Minister probably does not believe in the existence of the spiritual realms, so she will not be interested in what is happening in that space.

    • The truth is that the government does not know what is going on and what it should do. It is stumbling from mistake to mistake, claiming to be basing its decision on science, at a time when the best science is trying to reach firm conclusions, and many critical issues have not been decided. The government has boxed itself into a corner and does not know how to get out.

    • The leader has been left with the futile task of covering up the mistakes while explaining what the governments are doing for the nation. They are ignoring the spiritual causes of the problems, so they will eventually fail. When their failure is eventually exposed, the leader will have to take the blame.

    • The people of the nation need to understand what is going on, so prophets should be explaining to them what is happening in the spiritual realms. The message could be summed up with the warning that getting caught on the wrong side in a war you do not understand is a serious mistake.

  • Warning of Danger

    • Along with the adulation of most of the people, the Prime Minister is really hated by some Christians. Some who are not Christians hate her even more. I presume that her people and her minders are aware of this hatred from the email she receives and the comments on social media, so she does not need prophets to warn her of any danger that she faces.

    • The Christians who really hate their ruler, should be aware that when she goes, and that might be sooner than they expect if she is drawn back to her children. The men who make the decisions will have to come out from hiding behind her and face the public. She will be replaced by someone who is far more hostile to judgmental Christianity. They will be wishing that they had her back again.

Poltical Authority and Spiritual Power

When prophets explain what is going on to rulers and their people, they will explain that the next big thing in the modern world is the failure of political power and the collapse of human governments.

Modern rulers have amassed an amazing range of responsibilities. In addition to defending their nation's borders, they have committed to:

  • eliminating economic recessions or depressions and ensuring economic stability;
  • ensuring that businesses are able to thrive, and survive through tough times;
  • providing cradle-to-grave social security for all citizens;
  • educating all children to their full potential;
  • ensuring that everyone behaves nicely towards everyone else in society;
  • providing the best possible health care for everyone who needs it;
  • and so on.
All political parties in most nations commit to these objectives.

In the golden years following the end of World War 2, it began to seem like these objectives were a possible achievement, although no ancient rulers or emperors had ever tried to do these things. The Roman Empire focussed on protecting its borders and enriching the powerful people in Rome. They did nothing for the ordinary people, except to extract as much revenue out of them as possible, and leave them impoverished.

Now, the truth about the grandiose promises of political leaders is emerging. Events are demonstrating that attempts to achieve all these things by political power is a false dream and a promise that is fading.

  • The first big failure was the Global Financial Crisis. Governments showed their true colours by rescuing the big banks, but leaving ordinary people to suffer as the real economy tanked and took years to recover from the damage they had done.

  • The arrival of Covid-19 has further exposed the inability of governments to do the things that they have promised to do. They have been unable to prevent the spread of the virus, or prevent an economic recession from developing.

The problem is that governments are the main vehicle that the principalities and powers in the spiritual realms (government-spirits) use to exercise their authority and power. So, when humans put their faith in governments to restore blessing to their lives, and governments increase their powers to accomplish their excessive promises, the power of the government-spirits is amplified.

As human governments become more powerful on earth, the government-spirits in the spiritual realms gain more authority and are able to work greater evil one earth. This means that reliance on political power is self-defeating. As governments have taken greater responsibilities, the powers of evil have been working greater evil on earth. The Global Financial Crisis and the Coronavirus are not their best efforts. They will do worse on earth before they are done, and governments will be powerless to deal with the problems they create, even though that have promised to deliver their people from every evil.

Unfortunately, God is the only one can deliver the people of the world from evil, but he can only do that if they put their trust in him, surrender their allegiance to Jesus, and free the Holy Spirit to work on earth. If they keep shutting Jesus out, the world will continue to experience more of the same, and worse.

Romans v Ephesisans

Many Christians live with a contradiction between their understanding of Romans 13:1 and Ephesians 6:10. The latter passage explains that our struggle is against principalities and powers and world rulers in the spiritual realms. These words are political terms. A principality is a territory ruled by a prince. These characters are spiritual powers who work on earth by manipulating and controlling political power on earth. (Because no one knows what a principality is, I call them government-spirits to describe their role more accurately).

Many Christians realise that government-spirits can dominate and control governments in places like Nigeria, North Korea and Iran. However, they seem to assume that government-spirits cannot control the governments in places like the USA, UK and New Zealand. Yet Paul says that we are all struggling against government-spirits (principalities and powers). The proof that this is true is the reality that when a change of government occurs, most things carry on the same. The reason they don't change in the way promised by the politicians is that the same government-spirits remain in control.

Submitting to the authority of a government that is controlled by government-spirits is extremely dangerous for Christians. This means that the common understanding of Romans 13:1, that everyone should submit to their government cannot be true (Christians in Hitler's Germany discovered their mistake too late). If government-spirits in the spiritual realms control a government on earth, Paul would not urge followers of Jesus to submit to it, because that would leave them vulnerable to these evil spiritual powers.

I have explained in Understanding Romans 13 that Paul was reiterating God's way of government, based on local judges applying his law. He was telling Christians they should submit to every government, regardless of their situation.

Christians should review their understanding of Romans 13:1 in the light of Eph 6:10. The government-spirits that control our nations have had too much power for too long, given that they were defeated on the cross. So, it is foolish for Christians to submit their power by submitting to the human governments that they control, in a vain hope that political power can make the world a better place.