Both Scripture and experience reveal that God imparts prophetic words in a number of ways. All prophecy comes from God through the Holy Spirit, but it operates differently in different people. The Old Testament uses several different Hebrew terms to describe the various modes of impartation.
Within the overall realm of the prophet lies the particular and distinctive realm of the seer. The word seer describes a particular type of prophet who receives a particular type of prophetic revelation or impartation. Thus, all true seers are prophets, but not all prophets are seers.
According to Strong’s Concordance, the Old Testament uses two words primarily to refer to a seer: ra’ah and chozeh. Ra’ah literally means “to see,” particularly in the sense of seeing visions. Other meanings include “to gaze,” “to look upon,” and “to perceive.” Chozeh literally means “a beholder in vision” and can also be translated as “gazer” or “stargazer.”
When it comes to prophetic revelation, a prophet is primarily an inspired hearer and then speaker, while a seer is primarily visual. In other words, the prophet is the communicative dimension, and the seer is the receptive dimension. Whereas the active work of the prophet is speaking forth a message from God, ra’ah and chozeh focus on the experience or means by which the prophet “sees or perceives” that message. The first places emphasis on a prophet’s relationship with the people; the second places emphasis on a prophet’s revelatory relationship with God.
All true seers are prophets, but not all prophets are seers. A prophet may have the particular grace to hear and proclaim the word of the Lord and yet not necessarily function as profusely in the revelatory visionary capacity as a seer does. The seer, on the other hand, may move quite remarkably in this visionary dream capacity, yet not be as deep in the inspirational audible graces of hearing and speaking. Nevertheless, both move and operate in the prophetic realm, but in different capacities or dimensions.
The seer realm describes a whole other aspect of the way the prophetic operation occurs. Generally speaking, seers are people who see visions in a consistent and regular manner. For the most part, their prophetic anointing is more visionary than auditory. Rather than receiving words that they attempt to repeat or flow with, they often see pictures that they then describe. These pictures may be in the form of waking visions, or as dreams while sleeping.
I know many prophetic nabiy’ people who are not seers at all and who do not move in dream realms, but are nonetheless strong prophetic vessels. At the same time, I know other people who are profoundly gifted in “seeing”— they see angels, demons, lights and colors, dreams and visions—but who do not manifest as much in the inspirational capacity to encourage people spontaneously and verbally.
One of the differences is that, whereas the prophetic word of a nabiy’ is often spontaneous and activated by faith, that of a ra’ah or chozeh seer is more dependent upon the manifested presence of God. Many seers will see something beforehand. For example, before going to a meeting or strategic appointment, a seer may receive a picture of a certain person at that meeting sitting in a certain place dressed in a certain color. The seer may even be given the person’s name. Later, in the meeting, the seer will begin scanning the crowd looking for that particular person. If that person is actually there, this becomes a “green light” for the seer to move forward. For seers, seeing in the natural what they had already seen in the spirit activates their faith and calls forth courage within them.
This kind of prophetic anointing has a lot to do with quietly waiting on God. There are times, as observed from my own experience and that of others, when one waits on God for what seems to be an extended period of time, only to have Him come at the last minute. Quite often, impartation in the seer realm comes only after a time of patient waiting and contemplative meditation upon the Lord. I have often heard it stated: God is slow but He is always on time! But thank the Lord, if we wait, He will come!