What is prophecy, then? Simply put, prophecy is communication from God to mankind. Some prophecy can be speaking of future events, and other prophecy might not be. Prophets were utilized as a mouthpiece for God—they listened to God and then conveyed God’s message to the masses. Some examples of prophets are Elijah, Isaiah, Moses, and Jonah.
In the context of Revelation 19:10, John has seen the fall of the evil world system called Babylon the Great (Revelation 18). A great multitude in heaven is celebrating and singing praise to God because of that judgment (Revelation 19:1–3) and because it is now time for the wedding supper of the Lamb (verses 6–8). An angel says to John, “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” (Revelation 19:9). At this proclamation, John falls to worship at the feet of the angel who is communicating this prophecy, but the angel insists John rise to his feet, for he is but “a fellow servant” (Revelation 19:10; cf. Colossians 2:18).
In response to John’s wrongful worship, the angel says, “See that you do not do that! . . . Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10, NKJV). It is critical to understand that this statement is a response to John’s intention to worship the angel. Because of the construction of the clause in the original language (Greek), there are three common understandings of the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy:
1. Jesus is the substance of all prophecy, or, put another way, Jesus is the common theme among all prophecy.
2. All true prophecy bears witness about Jesus. Therefore, all prophecy should cause us to worship Him alone.
3. The message or testimony given by Jesus is the essence of true prophecy. Jesus is the Word, and no prophecy comes to us except through Him, ultimately pointing to God as the source of all true prophecy.
The NIV translates the angel’s statement as “It is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus.” The NLT’s wording is “The essence of prophecy is to give a clear witness for Jesus.” The wording of both these translations prefers one of the first two interpretations, above. The third interpretation, however, seems to fit best within the context of Revelation 19:10. John is not to worship the angel but God alone. Since John was worshiping the angel in response to the prophecy given, the angel ensures that John understands Jesus is the source of the communication and He alone is worthy of the worship (cf. Luke 4:8; Acts 14:11–15).
Following the angel’s command to John, we ought to worship God alone. We are to worship not the purveyor of the message but the Source of the message. While God has made many beautiful things, such as angels, He is alone worthy of our praise (cf. John 17:3; 1 Timothy 1:17; 6:15; 1 Samuel 7:4).