Recently, a friend asked me to explain the terminology used to indicate times and seasons in the Bible and among modern prophets. I wrote my friend the following letter, and I hope that it is helpful for you also.
You asked about the "'times and season" issues that prophets face when prophesying.
First, I admit it is easy to get the timing of a prophetic word wrong. I have done so. I had to repent because I accidentally misled someone. I specifically remember [back when Mike was a resident] about prophesying that a disastrous storm was coming. I said it would happen within two weeks. It did come, but it was more like two years. Fortunately, our pastor, Max Flynn, stepped in and corrected that word so folks didn't panic.
When giving a prophetic word, I often warn people that God's timing differs from humanity's. God exists outside of time and steps into time as He will.
Therefore, when prophesying, if I have some sense of the time element associated with the prophecy, I may say something like,
I only state a specific time if I feel a strong impetus to do so. An example would be, "I believe that the Lord is declaring that within the next two years…."
Remember what I said about prophets often seeing prophecies like we would see distant mountains while driving across the prairies? While the mountains [like the Rockies] can be seen from a far distance away by those living on the plains, the Rockies appear as one long, flat, bumpy mountain. However, as we drive closer and closer, the specific peaks separate, and we can see more and more detail.
Bishop Bill Hamon, in his "red book," Prophets and Personal Prophecy, wrote an excellent discussion on Biblical times and seasons. I also discussed this topic [more briefly] in my first book, God's Delivery Service. Your husband has a copy so you can read pages 206-208.
Two crucial points to be understood about God's timing. First, when He opens a "new season" in someone's life, He does not view that "season" as man does. We think of "seasons" as three months (like fall, winter, spring, and summer]. However, when God begins a new season, that season could extend into chronological years. A new season began when God started restoring the prophets [around 1987]. However, that season continues as new prophets undergo the maturation process and are released into powerful ministries.
Another critical point is that all prophecy is conditional. If the prophecy is received and properly addressed, it may come to pass rapidly. If the prophecy is rejected, it may never be fulfilled. For example, Jonah declared that Nineveh would be destroyed in 40 days. The people repented, and destruction was averted. Jeremiah and the other prophets said that if Israel and Judah repented, God would forgive their sins—even the worship of Baal and the murder of the children in sacrifices to Molech. They did not, and both nations faced destruction and exile.
However, even if the recipient of a prophecy is obedient to God in all areas of his life, a prophecy may be delayed by the actions of others. Joshua and Caleb believed in God's prophetic word, but they were hindered for 40 years by the unbelief of the general population of Hebrews [Numbers 14]. If I sense God is dealing with others before a prophecy comes to pass, I might say, " Daughter [or son], God is pleased with your faithfulness and pure heart. He is now arranging circumstances and dealing with the hearts of others so that. . . ." Basically, I have to ask God what to say and how to convey His thoughts.
So again, if I feel that God wants a prophetic word to manifest very soon [in man's chronological timeframe], I will say something like,
"You need to speak to your parent/spouse/spiritual leader on confirmation of this word and to understand how to prepare for the fulfillment of this word and the timing of the fulfillment. God will not move until there is an agreement of calling and training –especially when spouses are involved.
Notice that while I have not attempted to interpret their word for them, I did attach a short teaching to the end of the Word. I do try to make a distinction between the two.
In most prophecies, I do not get a specific sense of timing, nor do I mention the time element. However, I think this will change as we approach the end of time. The Holy Spirit will begin speaking of specific times and seasons [especially time limits for nations and people to repent]. Again, I often have to ask the Holy Spirit how to phrase things.
One last thought: In the medical profession, the motto is, "First, do no harm." I think that this is a motto that prophets should adopt. We know that we are bondservants to the Lord Jesus Christ. Our priority is to love Him and serve Him to the best of our ability. The Scripture clearly warns us in 1 Corinthians 13: 1-8 and Matthew 7:21-23 that if love for the Lord and love of the brethren do not motivate us, we need to keep our mouths shut. Presumption and pride have led to the downfall of many prophets.
So never pretend to know more than you do. Speak with all the grace and love you can muster, as accurately as you can, but admit you don't know everything about a prophetic word [unless God gives you a specific interpretation]. We carry "the mail for God"; we don't necessarily understand what we carry, nor the time-stamp on the message.
May God bless you greatly and take these words and give you revelation far beyond what I can write.