Are we also Among the Prophets?

A Pentecostal minister I know says he was recently woken by the Lord, in order to give him a message. He quickly uploaded a video of himself onto Youtube to share it. The prophetic message? ‘The hour of darkness is not over yet’. God never sent me such a message because I already knew as much. Anyone who thinks that darkness’ time concludes prior to Christ’s return would do well to study the Bible more. Did He send the message at all? Are there still prophets today?

It has become fashionable in some circles for church leaders to call themselves apostles and prophets. Some shy from these brazen declarations, merely describing their ministries as ‘prophetic’, or ‘moving in the prophetic’. Who wants an old fashioned preacher or Bible teacher when men and women better tuned to God's mind are available to excite and enthuse. In charismatic churches there are those who claim the office, whose pronouncements are eagerly seized upon by lesser mortals. More controversially, there are those within our own, evangelical churches who think they alone are right in all matters of faith and conduct. They wouldn’t describe themselves as prophets, but their righteous anger when any think others mistaken is worthy of any Old Testament firebrand.

In that Old Testament, there were seers and prophets, men, and sometimes women, who enquired and saw God’s will and proclaimed it: “When a man went to inquire of God, he said, “Come, let us go to the seer,” for today’s “prophet” was formerly called a seer” (1 Sam 9:9). Some foretold the future, all forthtold God's perspective. Some performed miracles, other were thrown down wells for their trouble. Some wrote down their words, like Isaiah, while others’ were recorded for them, like Elijah. What they said was authoritative and certain. Often they would start ‘Thus says the LORD…’

Similarly, there was a formal office of prophet in the New Testament church, one of whom was Agabus. Their words were not generally recorded and none of them wrote our NT scriptures. Their ministries and levels of authority were inferior to the apostles who took on, and enhanced, the role of OT prophet, becoming truly authoritative proclaimers of God’s revealed word. When they did prophesy, their words were not binding. For example, when Agabus warns Paul of his impending arrest and captivity in Jerusalem, the apostle did not alter his travel plans, carrying on as before. Prophesying shifted between the testaments, losing its authority as it approached the coming of the Christ, the actual Word of God. The prophet became the possessor of God-inspired thoughts rather than words, whose function was to exhort, warn and encourage. He was no longer God’s direct mouthpiece and his words had to be weighed and tested, for they might be mistaken.

I believe this kind of prophecy continues. It is usually, but not exclusively, found in Bible-preaching pulpits, where the message speaks to the hearers' very hearts, or else it addresses a specific situation in a congregants' life which the preacher did not otherwise know. We might even prophesy to each other. An anonymous person texted me a few years ago with a scripture I needed to hear. I never did find out who it was, but the verse was God confirming something about whaich I had been praying. Yet even genuine modern 'prophesiers' are prone to error and may not know when to shut up. And is prophesier even a word? It certainly is in my mind’s theological dictionary. I believe the office of prophet died out with the apostles’ and their writings. Its function, however, remained. Just as a church may send one out to a mission field, rendering him a ‘sent-one’ (apostle, but without bearing the apostolic office), so one who faithfully shares a spiritual truth may be said to prophesy but without wearing a prophet’s lanyard.  

There is a category of prophet which has always existed, since at least the time of Jehoshaphat, and probably long before. There’s an abundance of them today, too. They speak lies while shrouding the gospel in spiritual-sounding ephemera. The more obvious examples found cults over which they wield absolute power. Others more subtly lead astray our churches. The false prophet is as busy as ever. Of such, beware. 

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