N.T. Wright defines prophecy in the best, most succinct way I have ever read. He says that prophecy is “the Spirit-led interpretation of scriptural truth.” I would add only one thing: Prophecy is the Spirit-led interpretation and application of scriptural truth. And I say this because it seems to me that prophecy has a way of going beyond mere interpretation of what the text said to addressing current situations and applying what Scripture said. However, I love this definition because it grounds prophecy in the Scripture. It connects organically Word and Spirit, which can never be separated.
Too often prophecy is seen as a subjective, mystical experience where men speak out of their own mind rather than speaking the mind of God. And the mind of God can only be known by the Scriptures. However, the Scriptures cannot be understood apart from the Spirit of God. They are “spiritually discerned.” Thus, the church functions as a prophetic community when we explain the sense of Scripture and apply it to current concerns by the illumination of the Spirit. Prophecy functions properly when the Spirit of God gives revelation and illuminates the meaning of the text giving present direction for the hearers. Our preaching must be prophetic in the sense that it explains the meaning of the Word by the Spirit and gives a Spirit-Word for the people of God today.