Ever since I became a believer, prophecies of the Bible, and the prophets have fascinated me. The prophetic scriptures which have come to pass, not only about Jesus’s first coming defy mathematical odds, and the physical world which points to the supernatural.
For years I’ve equated certain people as being ‘almost prophetic’. Those being learned and knowledgeable about the past and present, who could generally interpret what the future would hold. Men like our founding fathers who knew that while they left us the strongest form of government, which was bound to protect and uphold the Constitution, would fail if people grew complacent, selfish and morally corrupt. One can predict something basing it on common sense, and in a sense can seem almost prophetic. But what about true prophets? What separates them, those from the Bible, to those who claim the title of prophet in our times?
For that, we need to understand what a prophet of God was. Foremost, it was a person called by God, chosen by Him to speak His word to the world. Not all of the prophets had words only for Jews of Israel, or for the immediate time of the prophet, but for the gentile world and future as well. Isaiah for instance is full of prophecies given that concerned the Jews of the time, but also for the future of Israel under Roman authority in the time when the prophesied Child who would be born, Emmanuel God with us, the Son that would be given. But the prophecies also concerned the Government of this future King of Kings.
We need to understand why God chose prophets. We can find reasons which are given in scripture: Hosea 12:10 tells us that they are witnesses and God’s Word spoken “I have also spoken by the prophets, and have multiplied visions; I have given symbols through the witness of the prophets.” God mostly chose Prophets to guide His people in the right way, as recorded in 2 Chronicles 24:19 “Yet He sent prophets to them, to bring them back to the LORD; and they testified against them, but they would not listen.”
Isaiah 30:10 is interesting, “They say to the seers, ‘See no more visions!’ and to the prophets, ‘Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions.’” That last sentence sounds like so many of our modern day ‘prophets’, who love to prophecy a healthy life, abundant in all your dreams coming true, and that God so loved the world that He wants us to be happy and wealthy.
Do all prophets prophecy doom and gloom? As we learned from Isaiah, many judgments of destruction which were prophesied also included blessings, and which would ‘happen’ depended on the people’s choice and behavior. Hosea again, reminds that God protects by the prophet’s warnings “By a prophet the LORD brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet he was preserved.” And Ezra 6:14, ““So the elders of the Jews built, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they built and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the command of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia.” It depends on if one chooses to listen and obey the voice of God through His prophets.
Hey! Don’t shoot the messenger….
God sent His prophets to warn, and most times, the prophets were not very popular, and often despised and persecuted. Why? Because the real prophet of God spoke the truth. It’s believed that Isaiah was sawed in half, Jeremiah was kept in stocks, thrown in prison, and down into a cistern. Micaiah mentioned in 1 Kings 22 was put in prison with nothing but bread and water. Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada the priest, was stoned to death for rebuking the people who worshiped at Asherah poles and idols, and for forsaking the Temple.
Many more forms of abuse were recorded against the prophets in the Old Testament. In the New, we know John the Baptist publicly rebuked Herod for marrying his brother’s wife. For this, Herod had John put in prison, and later beheaded.
True prophets of God had an important mission both in the history of the Old Testament and in the early years of the church. God’s word and truth proclaimed and to give warnings to wayward behaviors, to tell the future events, thereby showing God’s sovereignty and a glimpse of His plans for mankind and this world. While there is and probably always be disagreement of whether God has called prophets for our times or not, in the early church, the gift of prophecy is one of those given to some by the Holy Spirit. It was for the building on the foundation (which is Jesus), teaching, edifying and giving revelation. All of these functions focused on Jesus and edified Him as our Cornerstone. He is the solid rock upon whom all the living stones of His church are build upon.
The Revelation of Christ given, such as from John, was God’s final revelation to all believers then and now, to reveal the future of the believers, the world, evil and Christ’s coming Kingdom. Prophets of God throughout history, including the early church have always revealed truth from God. In the early church, the believers didn’t have the all the new testament scriptures we have now and some didn’t have any of the books. The prophets of the early church proclaimed God’s message to the people who would not have access to it otherwise.
So, are there still prophets of God today? Are they needed? I believe that God already revealed His full plans and will in the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ and through prophecies in all of scripture. However, in many ‘closed’ countries around the world where access to God’s Word is virtually non existent, I do believe God has His messages being shared through prophets, but it’s the same messages which have spoken His truth throughout the ages which proclaims His truth and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
If there is any prophesying in the church today it will be something that God has already revealed about Himself. I highly question anyone who says they have a “new revelation”from God, especially if it contradicts something He has already said in Scripture, or there is no scriptural basis for what is being ‘revealed’. Especially if it’s claimed as a special revelation, which so many false prophets use to edify self over God.
We are told that many false prophets have gone out into the world. We are warned to test the spirits, and as I read in 1 Thessalonians last night, test everything. God has revealed already through His scriptures, using prophets and prophecies to show us things that will take place. Jesus has revealed His expectations of those who will follow Him. And I have news for many Western Christians, a true believer’s life is not the best life now. But truly following Him, trusting in Him in every circumstance, praising Him through the good and the hard times, living for, and if necessary, dying for Him, and daily putting off our own desires and being made more like Him. Loving God, and loving others- even our enemies. And sharing Him with others are what His commands boil down to. Not an easy life, but abundant in the knowledge that we being obedient, will be blessed beyond our imaginations for eternity spent with Him.
I guess we could use Prophets of God today. Reminding us that we serve a Holy and righteous, Sovereign and mighty God. One who loves, but also who has more than we know in store for those who love and obey Him. Though in our day they may not be prophets in the same sense as the New Testament prophets, speaking God’s truth is greatly needed today, even in the church.
Appreciate the Prophets of God, for their messages of truth from Him shows how much He loves us. Beware of those who promise lofty things and predict smooth sailing and happy prosperous times. Matthew 7:22, 23 warns these false prophets, “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”
It all comes down to a very basic formula- read scripture daily. Learn God’s word and His revelation to us. Test what you hear from people who’ve taken the title of prophet, compare what they say to what the Word of God says. If it contradicts the Bible, get rid of it. If it agrees with the Bible, pray for wisdom and discernment as to how to apply the message to your life.
Have a blessed day all!