Many people who come to this site do so using search terms that involves “Prophets and Seers.” This article examines the difference between Prophets and Seers, and the gift of prophecy and the seeing gift.
The Office of Seer and the Office of Prophecy
Not all people who prophesy or see in the spirit realm are Prophets (or Seers) from the standpoint of an office ministering to the Body of Christ.
I have heard Jonathan Welton, author of “School of the Seers”, caution against calling oneself a “Seer” from the standpoint of ministry, because he says doing so puts oneself in an office, and an office requires certain responsibilities and a high level of anointing from God.
On this site, when I use the term “seer”, I usually do not mean in the sense of someone holding an office to minister to the Body of Christ. I usually mean someone who receives spiritual revelation through his or her senses.
Welton also uses the word “seer” similarly. When describing what a seer is to a non-Christian, Welton says,
“I might respond by saying, “A person who operates as a seer can see into the spirit realm around us, similar to a psychic person. The difference is that a Christians has legal access to operate in that realm because Jesus lives inside of a Christian. A psychic has no right to ooperate in that realm, and it is dangerous for them do to so. God communicates to seers through visions, open visions, and dreams, as well as many other ways.” 1
So, a seer is someone who receives spiritual revelation through is his or her senses; someone claiming the seer office is akin to someone claiming the prophetic office. More on that below.
Examination of Seers and Prophets in the Bible
The Biblical authors wrote a whole lot about prophecy, visions, dreams, prophets and seers. About a third of the biblical text comprises of visions, dreams, and prophecies.
But is there truly a difference between a seers and a prophets? Isn’t a seer just someone who can see into the future? Isn’t that behavior condemned in the Bible? Isn’t a prophet just someone who prophesies about the future? Isn’t prophecy fortune telling?
Yes, No, Yes, No, and No.
Yes, there’s a difference. No, a seer isn’t someone who sees into the future. No, a prophet is not just someone who speaks about what is going to happen. And no, prophecy is not fortune telling.
At least not in the Bible or within a biblical worldview, anyway.
“nabiy” has to do with hearing and speaking, being a “mouthpiece” for God, declaring what has been heard. 3
“Ra’ah” mean “to see” as in seeing visions. Also, “to gaze,” “to look upon”, and “to perceive.” 4
“Chozeh” literally means “a beholder in vision” and can also be translated as “gazer” or “stargazer.” 5
If chozeh is translated stargazer, then you can see why some people apply the word “seer” to all types of fortune telling, but to do so is poor thinking.
John Paul Jackson explains further:
We also need to look at how the words are used. Many use the terms “seer” and “prophet” interchangeably. Furthermore, some believe that seers have not existed since the time of the Prophet Samuel (1150 B.C. – 1010 B.C.). They quote 1 Samuel 9:9: “(Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he spoke thus: ‘Come, let us go to the seer’ for he who is now called a prophet was formerly called a seer)”.
However, this is a shortsighted point of view and creates a dilemma: Why does Scripture continue to make a distinction between prophets and seers after the era of Samuel?
SEERS AND PROPHETS CONTINUE TO CO-EXIST
I believe that seers and prophets continue to “co-exist” throughout Scripture. Both Gad, the seer, and Nathan, the prophet, served in King David’s court (2 Samuel 24:4; 1 Chronicles 29:29). Asaph, the seer, and Isaiah, the prophet, were also contemporaries during King Hezekiah’s reign (2 Chronicles 29:30; 2 Kings 20:1).
Therefore, I believe that 1 Samuel 9:9 implies that Samuel moved from functioning as a seer to functioning as a prophet. Or, more likely that Samuel fulfilled both the functions of a seer and a prophet.
In addition, there seems to be a difference even between those who functioned as “seers”. In 1 Chronicles 29:29, the word “seer” is used twice, but it is not the same Hebrew word. “Now the acts of Kind David, first and last, indeed they are written in the book of Samuel the seer (7200), in the book of Nathan the prophet (5030), and in the book of Gad the seer (2374)” (1 Chronicles 29:29). Perhaps this indicates a difference in how Samuel and Gad received revelation from God.
SAMUEL’S VS. GAD’S EXPERIENCES
Samuel had a wide variety of revelatory experiences, perhaps broader than Gad’s. Samuel was gifted in visions, knowings, and dreams. He transcended time and geographic locality to watch events that were occurring simultaneously outside of his immediate geographic location. He knew who was coming to his door before the person arrived. He even predicted weather patterns (1 Samuel 12:17).
In contrast, Gad’s revelatory gift was not as well documented. It is possible that he walked in the same level of prophetic gifting as Samuel, but there is no record of this. Scripture indicates that he carried the Lord’s rebuke to David for numbering Israel (2 Samuel 24:11-13). He also helped arrange Levitical music (2 Chronicles 9:25), and apparently wrote a history book about David’s reign (1 Chronicles 29:29).
Did people go to a seer more than to a prophet? It seemed to be common practice for the people of Israel to look to the seers for direction (1 Samuel 9:6-9). It was also common for them to bring the seer an offering for his livelihood (1 Samuel 9:7). There are also several instances where people went to the prophet for wisdom and direction from God.
In conclusion, prophets and seers still function today, as they did in biblical times. In fact we are seeing a worldwide renaissance in these types of revelatory gifts… 6
The example John Paul Jackson gives of Samuel and Gad reflect two people operating in the office of Prophecy and the office of Seer; and I agree these are still functional today, although under the New Covenant (not the Old Covenant, under which Samuel and Gad operated).
However, the biblical authors recorded many others who prophesied and were called seers who did not operate in the office, but used their gifts situationally: as God directed in the moment. Obvious Old Testament examples include the elders who prophesied in the Israeli camp, upsetting some people (how dare people prophesy under God’s direction!) and Moses’s assistant alerted Moses. Check out Moses’ response:
Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. And as soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied. But they did not continue doing it.
Now two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the Spirit rested on them. They were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp.
And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”
And Joshua the son of Nun, the assistant of Moses from his youth, said, “My lord Moses, stop them.”
But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” (Numbers 11:25-29, ESV)
That wish of Moses would come true in Acts Chapter 2! Note, Moses equates prophesying with prophets, but he is not talking about the office, but the act. So while some seers in the bible held the office, most did not.
As explained elsewhere on this site, most seers in the Bible were worship leaders, priests, a produce farmers, or businessmen. 7
When it comes to spiritual revelation, then, the seer receives it visually or through other physical perceptions. It may take some effort for them to translate what they are seeing or perceiving into words and they may not understand what they see. In addition, some spiritual revelation comes to seers audibly, through scent, taste or touch.
Seers Taste Spiritual Revelation
And he said to me, “Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey. (Ezekiel 3:1-3, ESV)
Seers Smell Spiritual Revelation
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. (2 Corinthians 2:14, ESV)
Seers Feel Spiritual Revelation
“Someone touched me. I know that power has gone out from me.” (Luke 8:46, ESV)
My site is generally geared towards people who do not know what they are seeing or how to interpret it, and would like to understand its nature and uses, hopefully within the context of the advancing Kingdom of God, in a New Covenant relationship with God, filled with the Holy Spirit, for the glory of Jesus Christ.
My supposition is that some people’s brains are wired in such a way that they easily perceive things from the spirit realm. When such people come to Christ and are filled with the Holy Spirit, God can activate further gifting in them, especially to discern what it is they are seeing. And yet, sometimes, it still leaves them at a loss for words.
The gift of prophecy, however, is primarily auditory. People speak what they are hearing or sometimes the words just flows from their heart, and the words are God’s words. It’s immediate. The seeing gift sometimes takes some processing.
What is Prophecy?
There is a difference between someone who uses the gift of prophecy and the “Office of Prophet” (i.e., someone who prophesies and a Prophet). In the New Covenant, every follower of Christ can move in this gift to some level, if they want to and ask for it. But that does not make everyone who moves in the gift a Prophet.
Peter explained that 40 days after the Crucifixion, God poured out the Holy Spirit on all flesh, and sons and daughters would prophecy: the gift of prophecy moves equally in men and women! 8
Prophecy is God saying through you what you heard him say. It contains considerable weight in the spirit realm. Prophecy is God releasing his words through us. Prophetic speech can actually release grace and faith.
Prophecy works in the context of the covenant relationship, which is why prophecy in the Old Testament is different than prophecy under the New Covenant, but it contains the generally the same themes:
- The heart of God for a group of people, and
- Instruction regarding what is coming. 9
Within the context of the Old Covenant, between God and the nation of Israel (which hosted the Temple), God often appears emotional in the Old Testament prophecies. This is because he was upset that the nation of Israel was not upholding its end of the bargain, and he had to bring judgment, according to the terms of the agreement. 10
On occasion, biblical authors recorded, God sent a prophet to other nations or cities to warn them of coming judgment of their wickedness, even though they did not have a covenant with him. On occasion, the warning worked, the people repented, and God did not bring judgment.
But things are different in the New Covenant, which is between God and Jesus (who is both God and Man), and in which God does not hold the world’s sins against it anymore. 11
The Temple now resides in individuals who are in Jesus by faith, and thus, prophecy is now much more relational, even working on an individual basis.
Through Christ, God reconciled all the world to himself, and then entrusted this message to his people: God is not mad at you, so change your mind about God and be reconciled to God!
From now on, therefore, we (Christians) regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us: “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor 5:16-21, ESV
Accept this truth by faith, and God will live in you: Heaven will come and make you new, conforming you to be just like Jesus!
It’s a good message.
So prophetic speech after the Cross functions differently than prophetic speech before the Cross. Or I should say, prophetic speech after the Old Covenant died away is different, because the Old Covenant lasted until 70 AD, but the New Covenant began at about 30 AD.
Office of Prophet
I do not have a good understanding what the “office of prophet” is or how it functions under the New Covenant, and so I won’t teach on it until God gives me that revelation. Instead, I’ll quote from a source I trust.
First the scriptural reference:
“And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.” (1 Cor 12:28 ESV)
“The primary aim for the prophetic office (or the other offices listed) is not to do the ministry to which they have been gifted, but rather to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. Rather than they only being the gift (as it is with the gifts of the spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12), the prophet him or herself is the gift. The gift is not the ability to prophecy, but the person is the gift to the body of Christ for training and equipping…. It involves ministry to the church as well as to individuals. This involves a high level of anointed and responsibility.” 12
Conceivably, someone who moves in the gift of prophecy, grows in that gift, receives a special anointing or call, and begins equipping others to move in that gift could be said to have the Ministry of Prophecy. This is still different than the Office. That is another level of anointing and requires higher responsibilities, and as I do not have a full revelation of what that is, I’ll stop there.
Except to say this:
Because someone moves in the gift of prophecy, that doesn’t mean they are a prophet. And because someone calls themselves a Prophet does not a Prophet them make.
Because of the Good News of the Cross and how awesome Jesus is and what he accomplished for us, I get very annoyed with so-called prophets declaring judgment is coming on America or any other nation on the earth. If your reading of scriptural prophecy contradicts what Jesus accomplished on the Cross, the passing away of the Old Covenant, and the eternal significance of the New Covenant, then you need to reinterpret your reading of prophecy in scriptures.
And yes: this goes too for the book all about the revealing who Jesus Christ is, The Book of Revelation. We must interpret Revelation in light of the New Covenant and what Jesus reveals about Jesus, and especially in its historical context, not heat of certain modern bible teachers.
If any so-called modern prophet predicts anything that contradicts what God’s heart towards the earth is through the Cross and in the New Covenant, then that prophet should be utterly rejected and ignored. No, not stoned as commanded in the Law of Moses… the Old Covenant has passed away, remember? We can turn away from false prophets in grace and love. But still, turn away.
- Jonathan Welton, The School of the Seers: A Practical Guide on how to see in The Unseen Realm, Destiny Image, 2009, p 59. ↩
- James Goll, The Seer: The Prophetic Power of Visions, Dreams and Open Heavens, Expanded Edition, Destiny Image, 2012, 26-28 ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- Reprinted from The Elijah List John Paul Jackson is the founder of Streams Ministries International and is the author of many books. John Paul lives in the Lake Sunapee region of New Hampshire. ↩
- Asaph and his brother were seers and worship leaders, 2 Chronicles 29:30, Iddo the priest, 1 Chronicles 9:29, Amos was a fig picker and a marketplace minister, Amos 7:12. ↩
- See the Book of Acts, Chapter 2. ↩
- Putty Putnam, School of Kingdom Ministry Manual: Understanding and Accessing the Kingdom, Coaching Saints Publications, 2013, 190. See the entire chapter “Prophecy”, 187-204. ↩
- Ibid., 190. ↩
- Read about the New Covenant in the Book of Hebrews, especially chapter 8. ↩
- Ibid.,203-204. ↩