Essay by David W Gray, February 16, 2009
Not long ago I casually mentioned to a church leader that I don’t believe there are prophets during this present time. He appeared to be surprised by what I said and asked, “Do you really believe that?”
Before I go any further and so that we can be on the same page of understanding, let’s define the word - prophet.
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines prophet as:
1: one who utters divinely inspired revelations: as
a: often capitalized: the writer of one of the prophetic books of the Bible
b: capitalized: one regarded by a group of followers as the final authoritative revealer of God's will <Muhammad, the Prophet of Allah>
2: one gifted with more than ordinary spiritual and moral insi ht; especially: an inspired poet
3: one who foretells future events: (predictor)
4: an effective or leading spokesman for a cause, doctrine, or group
5: Christian Science
a: a spiritual seer
b: disappearance of material sense before the conscious facts of spiritual Truth
The WebBible Encyclopedia defines prophet as:
Hebrew: nabi, from a root meaning "to bubble forth, as from a fountain," hence “to utter”, compare Ps. 45:1)
Nabi is is the first and the most generally used for a prophet. In the time of Samuel another word, ro'eh, "seer", began to be used (1 Sam. 9:9). It occurs seven times in reference to Samuel. Afterwards another word, hozeh, “seer” (2 Sam. 24:11), was employed. In 1 Ch. 29:29 all these three words are used: "Samuel the seer (ro'eh), Nathan the prophet (nabi'), Gad the seer" (hozeh). In Josh. 13:22 Balaam is called (Hebrew) a kosem “diviner,” a word used only of a false prophet.
The “prophet” proclaimed the message given to him, as the "seer" beheld the vision of God. (See Num. 12:6,8.) Thus a prophet was a spokesman for God; he spake in God's name and by his authority (Ex. 7:1). He is the mouth by which God speaks to men (Jer. 1:9; Isa. 51:16), and hence what the prophet says is not of man but of God (2 Pet. 1:20,21; compare Hebrews 3:7; Acts 4:25; 28:25).
Prophets were the immediate organs of God for the communication of his mind and will to men (Deut. 18:18, 19). The whole Word of God may in this general sense be spoken of as prophetic, inasmuch as it was written by men who received the revelation they communicated from God, no matter what its nature might be. The foretelling of future events was not a necessary but only an incidental part of the prophetic office. The great task assigned to the prophets whom God raised up among the people was "to correct moral and religious abuses, to proclaim the great moral and religious truths which are connected with the character of God, and which lie at the foundation of his government."
Any one being a spokesman for God to man might thus be called a prophet. Thus Enoch, Abraham, and the patriarchs, as bearers of God's message (Gen. 20:7; Ex. 7:1; Ps. 105:15), as also Moses (Deut. 18:15; 34:10; Hos. 12:13), are ranked among the prophets.
The seventy elders of Israel (Num. 11:16-29), "when the spirit rested upon them, prophesied;" Asaph and Jeduthun "prophesied with a harp" (1 Chr. 25:3). Miriam and Deborah were prophetesses (Ex. 15:20; Judg. 4:4). The title thus has a general application to all who have messages from God to men.
But while the prophetic gift was thus exercised from the beginning, the prophetical order as such began with Samuel. Colleges, "schools of the prophets", were instituted for the training of prophets, who were constituted, a distinct order (1 Sam. 19:18-24; 2 Kings 2:3, 15; 4:38), which continued to the close of the Old Testament. Such “schools” were established at Ramah, Bethel, Gilgal, Gibeah, and Jericho.
The “sons” or "disciples" of the prophets were young men (2 Kings 5:22; 9:1, 4) who lived together at these different “schools” (4:38-41). These young men were taught not only the rudiments of secular knowledge, but they were brought up to exercise the office of prophet, "to preach pure morality and the heart-felt worship of Jehovah, and to act along and coordinately with the priesthood and monarchy in guiding the state aright and checking all attempts at illegality and tyranny."
In New Testament times the prophetical office was continued. Our Lord is frequently spoken of as a prophet (Luke 13:33; 24:19). He was and is the great Prophet of the Church. There was also in the Church a distinct order of prophets (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 2:20; 3:5), who made new revelations from God. They differed from the “teacher,” whose office it was to impart truths already revealed.
Okay, as we see above the word prophet has a few distinct definitions. For this essay, I am only going to write about the “predictor” or in Biblical terms, the “seer.” In this essay, I’m discussing the prophet as one who is able to foretell the future.
I’m not going in-depth with the details of the groups of prophets in the Bible nor discuss Biblical prophets by name. But I hope as you read this you will discover from the Bible if prophets (predictor/seer) really exist today.
One interesting fact I learned from the Bible is all the prophecies we know to be fulfilled to date by the Old Testament prophets occurred mostly after their death. I’ve attempted to find some actual number but haven’t so far. Not including Jesus, there is only one named prophet in New Testament that was still alive during the fulfillment of his prophecies (Acts 11:28).
Another true fact is so far all the prophecies that have come to pass were fulfilled with 100% accuracy. To my knowledge since the completion of the written word of the Bible, no other man or woman born after that time has been 100% correct all the time.
So what is the test for a prophet? Deuteronomy 18:21-22 makes that answer very clear.
21 You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD? 22 If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.” (NIV)
Clearly from this passage in Deuteronomy there is no allowance for less than 100% accurate prophetic proclamations. Unfortunately a large number of Christians are going to be upset with me because I have the audacity to reveal the Biblical truth. Some are going to try to claim the above scriptures didn’t mean what it says. I hate to burst your bubble but truth is truth and there is nothing you or I can change about it. There are a large number of Christians who have high respect for men and women known as present day prophets. A large majority of them, if not all, have a significant failure rate in their proclaimed prophecies. Yet these Christian followers continue to support them.
I know I’m getting a little off track here but I had a recent harrowing experience and as a result I made some very bad decisions. I encountered a person I now believe to have this aura about them that was from the devil, yet they had the initial appearance of a Christian. I was ensnared by this person and I let down my guard. I ignored the signs and was sucked right in. I think in a way that many Christians may be ensnared by some of the present day so call prophets and they don’t even realize it.
“But David,” you may be saying, what about the five-fold ministry as written in the New Testament? Rather than me writing more on this, I found two opposing articles covering this subject on the internet. There are more articles online but these are the two I selected for you to read. Please take time to read both articles. If you don’t you’ll miss some valuable lessons and won’t be able to follow my essay completely. Due to copyright laws, I could not present them here.
Are There Modern Day Apostles and Christian Prophets Today? By Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.
The Faulty Foundation of the Five-Fold Ministry By Robert Bowman
Another thing I’ve learned as I’ve studied this is, in the New Testament prophet or prophecy mostly related to teaching and preaching more than telling the future. In all the versions of Bibles I currently have, none of them really made it clear as to proper definition of the word in its context. Only when I studied Greek reference books and online study sites was I able to discern the correct usage of the word. As a result, some of the scriptures I intended to use in this essay, I could not because prophecy and prophet referred to teacher or preacher, not as predictor or seer as I first thought is was.
It’s no wonder that so many Christians can be mistaken when even our Bibles of today don’t adequately clarify the true meaning of the original word. But with the power of the internet there is no reason we can’t learn and study the Bible more.
One thing is for sure, the New Testament adequately warns us of false prophets. We are also told to test all that we hear. (Acts 17:11 and 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22) In fact I expect you to test what I have written in this essay.
There is one scripture that has permeated my thoughts for a number of years now. That is Hebrews 1:1-2.
1 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. (NIV)
Here I believe Jesus is shown to be the last great prophet. He has trumped all other prophets before him. He is the completion of Old Testament prophets. Jesus’ and the apostle’s prophecies will come true some day. Besides, what more needs to be said beyond that what has already been written in our Bible for our present day? I think nothing. If people are going to reject the Word of God, then no present day man or woman can do anything to change that. Only the power of God can do that as unbelievers begin to seek the truth. And where does the truth come from?
John 14:6, Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (NIV)
And just how will they hear about this?
Romans 10:17, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (NIV)
Notice this verse does not mention prophetic proclamations of future events, but only the Word of Christ. Our Christian responsibility is to preach and teach in love. And be ready to give them answers when they’re ready to hear it.
In closing, to answer my question, I’m not convinced we have any present day prophets able to predict future events with 100% accuracy. Will there be a time in our future when foretelling prophets like in Biblical times will rise up? At first I thought no. But as I continued to research this I think so when we are in the last days. When are the last days? I hope to cover that topic in my next essay. I believe for this present age, Jesus and His apostles gave us the prophecies that we need to know. Anything beyond that, I’d ask for what purpose? For what I have seen so far, most of the so called prophets of today have done nothing more to cause the appearance to the world that we Christians are failures living in a fantasy. There has been so much damage by an increasing number of bad apples in the United States in recent years that I think Christianity here has lost its strong witness to the unbelievers. We are quickly becoming the minority. Unless God intervenes, I think it’s only a matter of time before Christians in the United States are persecuted in unimaginable ways. That’s not prophetic, just common sense based on His Word.
Prophets and Prophecy - http://www.apologeticsindex.org/p10.html
The Fatal Failures of Religion: #6 Mistaken Identity by Bob Deffinbaugh, Th.M.- http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=610
Old Testament vs. New Testament Prophecy by Anton Hein - http://www.apologeticsindex.org/p01.html
Online Study Resources:
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