Monday, April 06, 2015
In Church Today: Prophets or No Prophets?
Are prophets and prophecy valid today?
Are we making a mistake by teaching there are today no more Christian New Testament church age prophets?
It is a very awesome God who made the heavens, the earth and ALL that they contain. The outward and inward lack of unity in Christendom has been apparent for nearly the entire two millennium of her existence. Those who say “I believe God in Christ” (as do I) should be very careful how they understand His Book and how they teach it to others. God looks on our hearts. Even to broach a controversy such as this one is risky indeed. So I want to say I am at peace with you and love you without regard to your “position” in this matter, notwithstanding the very serious judgment of Revelation 22:18-19. In this effort I ask questions and also state opinions. I offer them here not as authoritative as I am not the Author of what is true, but do offer them as an attempt to arrive at the truth.
It is said that Augustine died and after several minutes passed he came briefly back to life and uttered these words: “All my writings are straw.” It is a fearful thing to know that what we say and write can be burned up and forgotten. If that is the true end of this treatise, may it come to that rather sooner than later.
May God speedily disabuse and deliver all He came to save from whatever lies and confusion has crept into our minds, hearts and souls. Maranatha.
James 2:12 So speak ye, and so do, as men that are to be judged by a law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to him that hath showed no mercy: mercy glorieth against judgment.
1 John 4:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3 and every spirit that confesseth not Jesus is not of God: and this is the spirit of the antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it cometh; and now it is in the world already.
4 Ye are of God, my little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world. 5 They are of the world: therefore speak they as of the world, and the world heareth them. 6 We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he who is not of God heareth us not. By this we know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.
7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is begotten of God, and knoweth God. 8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 9 Herein was the love of God manifested in us, that God hath sent his only begotten Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
12 No man hath beheld God at any time: if we love one another, God abideth in us, and his love is perfected in us: 13 hereby we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have beheld and bear witness that the Father hath sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. 15 Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God abideth in him, and he in God. 16 And we know and have believed the love which God hath in us. God is love; and he that abideth in love abideth in God, and God abideth in him.
17 Herein is love made perfect with us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as he is, even so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love: but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath punishment; and he that feareth is not made perfect in love. 19 We love, because he first loved us.
20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, cannot love God whom he hath not seen. 21 And this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his brother also.
A. a discourse emanating from divine inspiration and declaring the purposes of God, whether by reproving and admonishing the wicked, or comforting the afflicted, or revealing things hidden; esp. by foretelling future events
B. Used in the NT of the utterance of OT prophets
i. of the prediction of events relating to Christ's kingdom and its speedy triumph, together with the consolations and admonitions pertaining to it, the spirit of prophecy, the divine mind, to which the prophetic faculty is due
ii. of the endowment and speech of the Christian teachers called prophets
iii. the gifts and utterances of these prophets, esp. of the predictions of the works of which, set apart to teach the gospel, will accomplish for the
Those today who believe prophets and prophecy (and apostles?) have ceased use 1 Corinthians Ch 13 as a basis for that view. It is not a passage easily interpreted literally.
Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
Everything depends on “when that which is perfect” comes. What is that thing perfect and when does it come? If we can know these things are and that they have come, then we can be much more certain that prophecies, tongues and knowledge have been done away with. What is perfect and when it will (or has?) come are not readily apparent. If a literal interpretation is desirable we must not forget that God is Spirit and He is the Word.
John 6:63 makes it very clear that:
“It is the spirit that giveth life; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I [Jesus] have spoken unto you are spirit, and are life.”
Are Paul’s words spirit and life? A literal interpretation of God’s words must rest on the foundation, that foundation id Jesus Christ (1Corinthians 3:11) and that foundation is Spiritual. Apart from the Holy Spirit, what is “literal” is next to worthless. We need to be very sure of how we use the word literal, for it does not occur in the Bible, BUT the word letter does!
Romans 2:29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. 2 Corinthians 3:4 And such confidence have we through Christ to God- ward: 5 not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to account anything as from ourselves; but our sufficiency is from God; 6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of a new covenant; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
7 But if the ministration of death, written, and engraven on stones, came with glory, so that the children of Israel could not look stedfastly upon the face of Moses for the glory of his face; which glory was passing away: 8 how shall not rather the ministration of the spirit be with glory? 9 For if the ministration of condemnation hath glory, much rather doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. 10 For verily that which hath been made glorious hath not been made glorious in this respect, by reason of the glory that surpasseth. 11 For if that which passeth away was with glory, much more that which remaineth is in glory.
The Pharisees were guilty of twisting the literal letter of God’s words to suit their own agendas. The letter of the Mosaic law condemned sin. Yet it was a spiritual God who gave it to Moses, and a spiritual necessity that required it be given. The Pharisees took that literal/spiritual law and twisted it into something God never meant it to mean.
It will I fear be a grave mistake to impose our literal interpretation of the scriptures on the Holy Spirit rather than be taught the lettered “words of the prophecy of this book” BY the Holy Spirit. I don't mean to discount the meaning of the words, but let God the Holy Spirit define them that we may have an understanding of His Spirit in our spirits. God delivered us from the letter of the law by the Messiah into the New Covenant; it is very clear that the Holy Spirit is foundational as God for our spiritual life everlasting and all pertaining to that life.
John 16;13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
In the definition just below the very first definition states: 1 taking words in their usual or most basic sense without metaphor or allegory: dreadful in its literal sense, full of dread. It is noted that in the Bible we see over 200 “literary” devices used; among them are metaphor and allegory. We may not (I don't) know how each of the devices operates according to “rules” of scholarship, but we can by the Holy Spirit know what is of God and what is of man.
literal |ˈlitərəl, ˈlitrəl|
1 taking words in their usual or most basic sense without metaphor or allegory: dreadful in its literal sense, full of dread.
• free from exaggeration or distortion: you shouldn't take this as a literal record of events.
• informal absolute (used to emphasize that a strong expression is deliberately chosen to convey one's feelings): fifteen years of literal hell.
2 (of a translation) representing the exact words of the original text.
• (of a visual representation) exactly copied; realistic as opposed to abstract or impressionistic.
3 (also literal-minded )(of a person or performance) lacking imagination; prosaic.
4 of, in, or expressed by a letter or the letters of the alphabet: literal mnemonics.
a misprint of a letter.
ORIGIN late Middle English: from Old French, or from late Latin litteralis, from Latin littera (see letter) .
usage: See usage at literally.
1 a character representing one or more of the sounds used in speech; any of the symbols of an alphabet: a capital letter.
• a school or college initial as a mark of proficiency, esp. in sports: I earned a varsity letter in tennis | [ as modifier ] : a letter jacket.
2 a written, typed, or printed communication, esp. one sent in an envelope by mail or messenger: he sent a letter to Mrs. Falconer.
• (letters) a legal or formal document of this kind.
3 the precise terms of a statement or requirement; the strict verbal interpretation: we must be seen to keep the spirit of the law as well as the letter.
4 (letters) literature: the world of letters.
• archaic scholarly knowledge; erudition.
5 Printing a style of typeface.
1 [ with obj. ] inscribe letters or writing on: her name was lettered in gold.
• classify with letters: he numbered and lettered the paragraphs.
2 [ no obj. ] informal be given a school or college initial as a mark of proficiency in sports: juniors who lettered in soccer, basketball, or softball.
to the letter with adherence to every detail: the method was followed to the letter.
ORIGIN Middle English: from Old French lettre, from Latin litera, littera ‘letter of the alphabet,’ (plural) ‘epistle, literature, culture.’
literally |ˈlitərəlē, ˈlitrə-|
in a literal manner or sense; exactly: the driver took it literally when asked to go straight across the traffic circle | tiramisu, literally translated “pick me up.”
• informal used for emphasis or to express strong feeling while not being literally true: I have received literally thousands of letters.
usage: In its standard use, literally means ‘in a literal sense, as opposed to a nonliteral or exaggerated sense’: I told him I never wanted to see him again, but I didn't expect him to take it literally . In recent years, an extended use of literally (and also literal) has become very common, where literally (or literal) is used deliberately in nonliteral contexts, for added effect: they bought the car and literally ran it into the ground. This use can lead to unintentional humorous effects ( we were literally killing ourselves laughing) and is not acceptable in formal English.
If a word spoken by a believer to the church contains no novel (previously unheard) prediction (with regard to the 66 books of the Holy Bible) is it the speaker a prophet and his word prophetic? Predictive prophecy is easily judged, it either comes to pass with accuracy or it does not. But the definition of prophecy is more that just predicting future events.
C. a discourse emanating from divine inspiration and declaring the purposes of God, whether by reproving and admonishing the wicked, or comforting the afflicted, or revealing things hidden; esp. by foretelling future events
If a word is found declaring the purposes of God, reproving and admonishing the wicked, or comforting the afflicted, is it prophecy? Must prophecy be predictive? If it does make a novel prediction which then comes to pass as predicted, can it be of God?
If a word is said to be added to the words of the prophecy of this book, must it be added as the book of Mormon, or some other word apart from the 66 Books of the Bible? What is the nature of a word which can said to be unlawful or unspiritual when added to the Bible’s word? What is the nature of a word added to the words of prophecy? (It is easier to see what a word taken away might be from those words which are written.)
I believe the words we are warned NOT to add are words added which alter the truth (Jesus IS the truth), the character of God, or the plan of God. (Words taken away may also alter the truth, the nature of God, or the plan of God.)
If a word does seek to change the truth, change the character, or change the plan (will) of God, is it allowed? NO! Is a word in accord the truth, the character, and the plan (will) of God allowed? Is it allowed, not as an addition to scripture, but as an oracle of God, as an utterance of God? I believe a word can be spiritual without damaging literal meanings. If such words are not possible, the words we speak and teach in church and seminary seem less that spiritual. If the scriptures cannot teach us how we are to speak the truth, ought we to speak at all, or write at all?
A lot of Christians go to church, to seminars, to conferences, even to Bible schools and seminaries and just swallow whole the teachings they are given. They don’t question anything but accept the men (and women too?!) as authoritative and never look beyond those teachings to the Holy Spirit! Many have followed human teachers AS IF THEY WERE PROPHETS, as if all of their utterances are GOD BREATHED! But the Holy Spirit ought to be, MUST BE the One (first and last) to teach us; we ought to, we must submit our thoughts, speech and written words continually to Him and to God.
If I want a seminary degree I should be careful, for many will require of me their flawed (sometimes egregiously flawed) version of the Doctrine of God and the apostles.
In the matter of the cessation of prophecy and prophets today I have selected some scriptures for consideration (with emphases in bold type). Am I indulging in eisegesis? Or have some thrown the baby (prophet) out with the bath water. It is for you and I a matter to take to God for His judgment (and for that a prophet may be MOST HELPFUL).
Many cite 1 Cor. 13 as proof that prophecy and tongues have ceased.
1 Cor 13: 8 Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall be done away.
9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part;
10 but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.
I believe that it is as one has translated verse 10: “But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.” The perfect renders partial prophecy, partial knowledge and partial speaking inferior and unnecessary because it is partial, but it does not invalidate the partial revelation we now enjoy.
I asked some who believes prophets and prophecy are no longer valid to say why that is so. They told me that the proof was too long and involved to present to me. I fear it was! And that they would have had to go to their teachers texts to be able to begin the presentation to me. Odd for those who are concerned others have ADDED to words to God’s book to need to add a proof “long and involved” to explain a doctrine directed to words added to the “book of this prophecy!” And here I write these many words, and they must be discerned and judged, but by whom? Certainly God will give a verdict! Nevertheless, could it be that a prophet might be “what the Great Physician” ordered!
There are several reasons I believe that prophets and prophecy seem rare in history after the death of John the Beloved. One is that the prophets may not have been writing their words down. Or that others were not writing them down. Because of the gentile rejection of Jews and the doctrines of the Old Testament, it may be a judgment of the church after the first century that no prophet spoke! As in the Tanakh where many of the children of
rejected God’s prophets and
their “hard” words, it may well be that the gentile believers and perhaps even
Jewish believers also rejected prophets and their words after the first
century. It does seem very reasonable to say that predictive prophecy after
Revelation was written seems unnecessary. However there are other purposes for
prophecy. Most important are the warnings prophets give to those straying and
warnings they give to the church regarding those who are doing harm. It would
be immaturity, carnality and unbelief which caused people to shut their ears
against warnings and even against encouragement and comfort prophets can speak
to the church. Israel
Of all the gifted Old Testament saints, God’s true prophets received the worst opposition and treatment from the children of
. From “Abel unto the blood
of Zechariah son of Barachias,” including Moses and Aaron, God’s TRUE prophets
have been despised, opposed, imprisoned and murdered/martyred. I dearly hope that
if prophets are today a benefit and blessing from God, that none by saying they
have ceased deprive the church of their words. The words of a prophet are not
his or her own; they are God’s words. Israel
Are their false prophets today? Yes there are, and Jesus and the apostles warned us there would be those “who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.” But does this mean that their will be now no more prophets?
For many the issue hinges on these verses:
Rev 22:18 I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto them, God shall add unto him the plagues which are written in this book: 19 and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city, which are written in this book.
After much thinking and some studying a question came into my mind: Does one have to be a prophet to “add” or “take away from the words of this book?” I believe any man or woman could make those mistakes and do make them! But of prophecy:
1 Corinthians 14:29 And let the prophets speak by two or three, and let the others discern.
30 But if a revelation be made to another sitting by, let the first keep silence.
31 For ye all can prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be exhorted;
32 and the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets;
33 for God is not a God of confusion, but of peace.
It is somewhat unnerving to think that there are no prophets in the church today, for they serve a purpose: “that all may learn, and all may be exhorted;” It is a prophet who is ORDAINED to judge prophecy! How can such a matter as the cessation of prophecy and prophets (and tongues, knowledge AND apostles) have arisen except that words have been taken away from the prophecy of this book!!!!! If prophets are no more who can judge even false prophecy? Are those who say prophets are no more actually taking the entire 12th chapter of Corinthians and more away from the words of the prophecy of this book?
Num 11: 29 And Moses said unto him, Art thou jealous for my sake? would that all Jehovah’s people were prophets, that Jehovah would put his Spirit upon them!
What are warned about in Rev. 22:18-19? We are warned about adding or subtracting words from “the prophecy of this book.” Which book is this? Is it Revelation or the entire Bible? Are 1 Cor. 12 and 14 words from “the prophecy of this book?” I believe as many do that the Bible’s 66 books are God breathed or God inSpired. But if they alone are God’s breath, every word man breathes out by speech or on paper is not from God. I can live with others interpretation that we are forbidden to add any more written words to the predictive prophecy of Revelation. I can even see how unnecessary added words are to those who receive the Bible as God’s breathed. But I fear that some who teach the cessation of prophecy today may be guilty of doing the very thing they preach against: taking away the words of the prophecy of this book (or at the least their iteration and reiteration)!
There are so many worthy and Holy words to learn in “this book,” be it the whole Bile or only Revelation. But so many offer their own thoughts as shibboleths by which they judge their neighbors outside the Kingdom! Because they do, should we turn away words which encourage us?
1 Peter 4:11 if any man speaketh, speaking as it were oracles of God;... that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, whose is the glory and the dominion for ever and ever. Amen “...if any man speaketh, speaking as it were logi0n (speech, or utterance) of God.”
Is my speech and my writing relevant to the warning of Rev. 22?? Is anyone today able to speak for God? As an oracle of God? If to speak or write is to risk adding or subtracting from God’s prophetic message and incurring very serious consequences, then we all ought to be a much more sober people. But if to remain silent when we are inspired by God to speak may be to bury the talent God has given.
Now I’m going to write something here and say it as a “word” I have only begun to think may be from God. From Him as prophecy? As a teaching? As a “word?” I can’t say yes or no out of fear I may be wrong. But if there are no more prophets today, how will I be judged as true or false? 1 Cor. 14:29 And let the prophets speak by two or three, and let the others discern. And if there are no more prophets today WHO DOES have God delegated authority to judge a word said to be prophetic, or anything at all? You may say we have the Bible as the final authority for faith and doctrine, but I must ask how am I able to hear that Book except by the Spirit of God? And “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17.
If you are not a prophet, how can you judge prophecy or what is claimed to be prophetic? Even the written prophecy of Revelation? I take this position: Even if I don't understand all the Bible I have faith the original manuscripts are inerrant. My knowledge and understanding may remain in great part (prayerfully a lesser part) incomplete, not full, partial.
1 Corinthians 13:2 And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
1 Corinthians 12:31 But desire earnestly the greater gifts. And moreover a most excellent way show I unto you...
1 Corinthians 14:3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men edification, and exhortation, and consolation. 4 He that speaketh in a tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church39 Wherefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. 40 But let all things be done decently and in order.
How is it that God sent Jesus and then the Holy Spirit who inspired Paul to write clear instructions (by the Spirit) to the church with her prophets and 100 years God then rescinded, canceled, took away the gift, the truly high gift of prophecy which we should desire and do need to EDIFY the church? Or did the church after John's death simply wander away and close her eyes to prophecy and prophets, and apostles. Men in the flesh tend to reject authority and the prophets and apostles have authority.
Can a man speak or write the truth in accord with the character of God? If he does, is it not as an oracle of God at the least? If he does so, is this prophetic? If a man testify of Jesus is it prophecy?
Rev 19: 10 And I fell down before his feet to worship him. And he saith unto me, See thou do it not: I am a fellow–servant with thee and with thy brethren that hold the testimony of Jesus: worship God; for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
Have I taken some single verses and sections out of their context? Undoubtedly I will be seen as an eisogete by some. I welcome greater wisdom that my own, but am not inclined to welcome greater eisogesis under the color of context. God looks on our hearts; should we not seek to know His? Should we not seek the Holy Spirit's guidance into the context of the entire Bible? That will be a Spirit led enterprise or fall short. I fear Context Context Context may itself become a pretext. Or worse, a literal idol.
Before you think me an idiot remember that the prophet Isaiah was cleansed in order to fulfill his call. If I am not cleansed by the Messiah’s blood...
1 John 2:27 And as for you, the anointing which ye received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any one teach you; but as his anointing teacheth you; concerning all things, and is true, and is no lie, and even as it taught you, ye abide in him.
...if I have not the anointing... for any gift or word, please pray for me!
Num 11: 29 And Moses said unto him, Art thou jealous for my sake? would that all Jehovah’s people were prophets, that Jehovah would put his Spirit upon them!
Matthew 23:30 And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.
31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.
32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.
33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
34 ¶ Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:
35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.
36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.
37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
1Th 5: 16 ¶ Rejoice evermore.
17 Pray without ceasing.
18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
19 Quench not the Spirit.
20 Despise not prophesyings.
21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.
23 ¶ And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.
Rom 11: 1 ¶ I say then, Did God cast off his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
2 God did not cast off his people which he foreknew. Or know ye not what the scripture saith of Elijah? how he pleadeth with God against
3 Lord, they have killed thy prophets, they have digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.
4 But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have left for myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to Baal.
Isa 30: 8 Now go, write it before them on a tablet, and inscribe it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever.
9 For it is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of Jehovah;
10 that say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits,
11 get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of
to cease from before us. Israel
12 Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and rely thereon;
13 Therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant.
14 And he shall break it as the breaking of the potter's vessel that is broken in pieces; he shall not spare: so that there shall not be found in the bursting of it a shard to take fire from the hearth, or to take water withal out of the pit.
May we hear God by His Holy Spirit on these matters from thee, Lord Jesus our Savior, first and last, Amen.