Are There Prophets Today?
By James M. Frye
A Grace Bible Church Publication
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PUBLISHERS NOTE: All scripture quotations are taken from the Authorized King James Bible. Any deviations are not intentional. All underlines, bold and items within parentheses are the authors.
Literally thousands of people today claim to prophesy. Are these people really receiving and speaking divine messages from God? Are there prophets today? Many would tell us that there are. Others would say no. In this booklet we shall look at what the Bible has to say on this subject.
What Was A Prophet?
A prophet was someone who spoke for God. To be more specific, a prophet was one whom God spoke through. Prophets often declared this fact by saying "Thus saith the Lord".
And, behold, there came a prophet unto Ahab king of Israel, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Hast thou seen all this great multitude? behold, I will deliver it into thine hand this day; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD.
1 Kings 20:13
A prophet was the very mouthpiece of God. What they spoke was not there own words, but the very words of God.
For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
2 Peter 1:21
Old Testament & New Testament Prophets Were The Same
Some people tell us today that New Testament prophets were different than Old Testament prophets. Is this true? We will take a man named Agabus for our example of a New Testament prophet.
And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth [Famine] throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.
And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus. And when he was come unto us, he took Paul's girdle [Belt], and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.
From these two passages, we see two characteristics of a New Testament prophet: 1) They spoke for God (God spoke through them), and 2) They predicted the future. That is the very same thing that Old Testament prophets did. There is absolutely no difference between a prophet in Old Testament times and a prophet in New Testament times. Later we will see why people try to make this distinction.
Prophets And Prophecy
Some people also tell us today that there is a difference between a prophet and one who prophesies. They say that a person can prophesy all the time but not necessarily be a prophet. Is this true?
And when they came thither to the hill, behold, a company of prophets met him [Saul]; and the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them. And it came to pass, when all that knew him beforetime saw that, behold, he prophesied among the prophets, then the people said one to another, What is this that is come unto the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?
1 Samuel 10:10-11
Now Saul had never prophesied before in his entire life, but when the people see him prophesy they immediately assume that he is a prophet. Why? Because those who prophesied were prophets. This is not to say that prophesying once necessarily made someone a prophet (Saul wasnt). But there werent people going around prophesying all the time that were not prophets.
One who prophesied was a prophet, and a prophet was one who prophesied. The terms are used interchangeably in the Bible.
Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
1 Corinthians 14:29-32
The above passage is very clear. A prophet is one who prophesies and one who prophesies is a prophet.
Why is it that people try to make these distinctions today? The reason is that they are trying to avoid the Biblical tests for false prophets.
Tests For False Prophets
The Bible gives us two tests for detecting false prophets.
And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.
The first test for a false prophet is his accuracy. True prophets were 100% accurate. Not 95% or even 99%, but 100%. True prophets were controlled by God, so they never missed. If a prophet missed even one time, that "prophet" was a "false prophet".
Those who claim to be prophets today miss all the time. The amazing thing, however, is that even though they predict things that do not come to pass, they do not lose their following. In the Old Testament they would have lost their life. God so despised false prophets that in the verse prior to our last text, He instituted the death penalty for them.
But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.
There is a second test for false prophets.
If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
In this case, what the false prophet predicts comes to pass, but he is still a false prophet. God will sometimes allow this to test people to see if they love him with all their heart. The test this time is in the message the prophet gives.
Does it line up with scripture? Does it lead us into truth and following the God of the Bible? Or does it lead us into following after a false god or into ERROR. Some of the greatest doctrinal heresy today comes from the mouths of those who claim to be prophets. We test these so-called prophets by examining whether or not what they teach lines up with the Bible.
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try [test] the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world
1 John 4:1
It is the doctrine that is taught that is the test of the spirit behind the prophet. The Bible warns us that in the last days, many shall be deceived by evil spirits.
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
1 Timothy 4:1
So then, there are two tests for false prophets. First, a prophet has to be 100% accurate. If they miss even once they are a false prophet. Secondly, a prophet must speak according to sound doctrine. Their message may not contain doctrinal error. It must lead people in the way of truth and after the true God of the Bible.
God is Angry With Those Who Claim to Speak For Him That He Did Not Send
What does God think of people who presumptuously claim to speak for him?
Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart. Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land; By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed.
I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart;
Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD.
The last verse talks about the "lightness" of the false prophets. They do not take seriously the responsibility of claiming to speak for God. This is no laughing matter. If the person be a true prophet, fine. But if that man speaks presumptuously and is not a true prophet - woe unto that man. God will deal very severely with him. A person had better think twice before claiming to speak for God.
Are There Prophets Today?
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.
1 Corinthians 13:8-10
In this passage, we are told that three things shall pass away (prophecies, tongues, and knowledge). We have a three-fold passing away. In verse 8, all three are mentioned, but when we come to verse 9, only two are listed. Tongues are no longer mentioned. By the time we get to verse 12, knowledge (I know in part) alone is left.
This passage describes a three-fold passing away. First tongues, then prophecy, and finally knowledge. For information on tongues, see our booklet "Speaking In Tongues".
Let us look at prophesy.
... we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
1 Corinthians 13:9-10
Prophecy is in part. That is, it is a partial revelation of Gods truth. In the early days of Christianity, the New Testament was not yet complete. Scripture was still being written. The church at Corinth, for example, probably had a copy of one of the gospels (Mark, for example) and copies of the letters Paul had written to them. How then were they to know all the other truths that God had for them which had not yet been written down and collected into the New Testament? By prophecy, of course.
Each particular prophecy was only Gods revelation in part. But once that which is perfect has come (Gods complete revelation in scripture), then there is no more need for that which is in part (prophecy).
For example, there was approximately 400 years between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament. During that time, no scripture was being written. From the time of the last Old Testament prophet (Malachi), until the time of the first New Testament prophet (John the Baptist), there were no prophets and no prophecy. Once the Old Testament was complete, prophecy stopped.
What, then, would we expect to happen after the New Testament was completed? The same thing. Prophecy would stop. The last New Testament book to be written was the Book of Revelation. It was written around 90 AD. >From that time, there has been no such thing as true prophecy.
Now, what about knowledge?
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
1 Corinthians 13:12
The partial knowledge that we have in this life will be made complete (perfect) when Jesus Christ returns. Then we shall know as we are known.
So, things that are in part (prophecy and knowledge) pass away when their perfection (completion) comes. Prophesy (around 90 AD with the completion of the New Testament) and knowledge (at the 2nd Coming of Christ).
Some will object at this point. They will say That since "that which is perfect" is singular, therefore, there can only be one thing that is perfect (Either the completion of the NT or the second coming - but not both). Lets look at the text.
But when that which is perfect [singular] is come, then that which is in part [singular] shall be done away.
1 Corinthians 13:10
"That which is in part" is singular as well. If the fact that "that which is perfect" is singular means there can only be one thing that is perfect, then by this same reasoning "that which is in part" (which is singular also) must mean that there can only be one thing that is in part. Nonsense! Verse 9 tells us that there are two things that are in part -- prophecy & knowledge.
For we know in part, and we prophesy in Part.
1 Corinthians 13:9
These people read verse 10 as if it said "But when that which is perfect is come, then THOSE THINGS which ARE in part shall be done away.
That is not what it says! Look at the text.
But when that which is perfect is come, then THAT which IS in part shall be done away.
1 Corinthians 13:10
"That which is perfect" and "that which is in part" are both singular. There is a one to one correspondence between them. When one perfect thing comes then one thing in part is done away.
And it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the LORD: and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth.
From the above passage, we see that the Bible anticipated a time in which there would be no true prophets, and anyone who claimed to be a prophet would be looked upon as a false prophet.
There are many warnings in the Bible about false prophets.
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
1 John 4:1
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
For false Christ's and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.
Since there are no true prophets today, anyone who claims to be a prophet is a false prophet.
Sources of False Prophecy
If those who claim to prophesy today are not true prophets and what they speak is not from God, then what is the source of their message? In the Bible, we find two sources for the messages of false prophets.
1) Evil Spirits
And he said, I will go out, and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And the LORD said, Thou shalt entice him, and thou shalt also prevail: go out, and do even so.
2 Chronicles 18:21
The priests said not, Where is the LORD? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit.
And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
Evil spirits try to deceive people into thinking that they are receiving a message from God, when in fact the evil spirits themselves are the source of the message.
2) A Persons own heart
Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD.
How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart;
Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart.
Another source of false prophecy is a persons own heart. I think that there are two primary ways in which this happens.
1) Intentionally. Sometimes people just plain make it up as they go along. Maybe they are trying to impress others with how spiritual they are. There is a real temptation to do this in charismatic circles, because those who "prophesy" are often held in the highest esteem.
2) Unintentionally. Another way that this is done is that a person misinterprets their own thoughts (the voice of their own spirit) for the voice of God.
1) A prophet was someone who spoke for God. Their words were not their own, but the very words of God.
2) A prophet in the Old Testament was the same as a prophet in the New Testament. They both spoke for God and predicted the future.
3) A prophet is one who prophesies, and one who prophesies is a prophet. Those who went around prophesying all the time were prophets.
4) The Bible gives us two tests to detect false prophets. First, a prophet must be 100% accurate. They must never miss. Those who "make mistakes" are false prophets. Secondly, a prophets message must be biblical. It must lead us into truth and following the God of the Bible - not into following a false God or into ERROR. Those who give a prophecy containing false doctrine are false prophets.
5) God is angry with those who claim to be speaking for Him that he did not send. Anyone who "presumptuously" claims to speak for God will be dealt with most severely by Him if they do not repent.
6) Prophecy was in part. That is - it was only a partial revelation of Gods truth. When Gods complete revelation in scripture came, there was no more need for that which was in part, and prophecy passed away.
7) The Bible contains many warnings to beware of false prophets. The Bible anticipated a time in which there would no longer be any prophets.
8) There are two sources of false prophecy: A) Evil spirits - who try to deceive people with supposed messages from God; and B) A persons own heart - either by making up the message or by mistaking their own thoughts (the voice of their own spirit) for the voice of God.
What will you believe? Will you believe what the Bible says about prophets and prophecy?
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