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The Gift of Prophesy
Prophets: Recievers of God's Revelation
In the last article entitled "Apostles Today?" we learned that the apostles and prophets laid the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:19,20). Some would say that there are prophets still in the Body of Christ today. This is a very dangerous belief in that it makes the assumption that God's revelation to mankind isn't complete. They are really saying that we can continually add to the Bible. And it is this open view of God's revelation that has lead some into heretical teaching in the Church.
I. What is a Prophet?
Some would identify the gift of prophecy with that of preaching. But a good pastor gets his message from the Word of God. Of course the Holy Spirit is still involved, but the Spirit does the work of illumination, shedding light on the Scriptures, and teaching us to apply them to our lives. The gift of prophecy, on the other hand, involves additional revelation from God.
The biblical prophet had the ability to receive direct revelation from the Lord, and then communicate that revelation to men. God's message could come to the prophet in various ways. Sometimes through visions and at times in dreams. But the Lord also spoke directly to him as well.
Whenever a prophet spoke from the Lord, it was free from error. Deuteronomy 18:22 says that:
"When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him."
God cannot communicate mistakes. He doesn't garble His message. And if He says something is going to happen in the future, it will happen. So obviously the predictions of a prophet have to come true.
II. Women And Apostles as Prophets
When most people think of prophets, they think of men. However, the Bible calls women prophets, or rather prophetesses, as well. Old Testament examples include Huldah, Deborah and Miriam. In Acts 21:9 it tells us of the four virgin daughters of Phillip who were prophetesses.
Also, in the book of Acts, the apostle Paul was said to have had the gift of prophesy. We see this in Acts 13:1. In this verse he is still called Saul, which is his Jewish name. But he is clearly shown to be a prophet. Although not all prophets are apostles, it would stand to reason that all apostles were also prophets. They received direct revelation from the Lord.
III. Prophecy Has Ceased
As we stated, the purpose for the New Testament apostles and prophets was to lay the foundation of the Church, the Body of Christ. To them was given the revelation which has been preserved for us as God's Word, the Bible. I Corinthians 13:8-9 tells us that the gifts of speaking in tongues and prophecy would cease when that which is perfect, or complete, has come.
Some would say that the thing which is perfect is when Jesus returns. This can't be however if you read the full context. Paul also says that when that time comes there will abide faith, hope and love (13). Obviously, faith and hope will no longer be needed when Jesus returns, for our faith is the evidence of things unseen (Hebrews 13:1). When He returns, we'll see Him face to face. And our hope is for His soon return. Upon His return our faith will turn to sight, and our hope will be fulfilled. Love alone will abide into eternity. However, we still need faith and hope today, even with the completed Word of God to which these verses are obviously referring.
The interesting thing is that people still think that God has to reveal anything else. Jesus is the final Word of God to man (Hebrews 13:1). He has died and He has risen again. He's in Heaven at the right hand of the Father. We know that the future holds His return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We also are aware that our job is to spread the gospel of the grace of God until He returns. What new revelation could we possibly need?
In Revelation, the very last book of the Bible, and the final chapter, it gives a fitting conclusion to the book of Revelation, but also a warning to all who would add to the completed Word of God when it says this:
"For I testify unto every man that hears the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. He which testifies of these things says: "Surely I come quickly." Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."
With this final "amen" the Word of God is complete. And we await the fulfillment of Jesus' promise to return. The apostle John, the final prophet, has completed the foundation that we now build upon today.
I am thankful that we are living in the exciting age when we have God's complete revelation to man. Jesus Christ was the person toward whom all of the Old Testament prophets were looking. And the New Testament prophets have laid the foundational teachings about the Lord Jesus Christ, including those about His death, burial, resurrection, ascension to the right hand of the Father, and soon return. These are the main teachings that we still rest upon today. We must continue to build upon that foundation by telling the world about Jesus Christ and letting them know of the reconciliation that they can have with God through faith in Jesus' name. May we remain faithful to Christ until He comes again.