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Are There Prophets Today?

Much like Apostles, there is the Office of The Prophet and gifts of prophecy; two separate things.  We know both existed and used in the days of The Bible but did they continue on after all the Apostles of Christ died?  The word itself, prophecy can mean various things.  We need to see the biblical definitions and uses of the word, then analyze the character of its use in scripture, research church history and compare with modern claims.

The Office of Prophet

We can peice together the bibical definition of the Office of Prophet in the information put forth in Exodus 6:28-7:2, Numbers 12:1-8, and Deuteronomy 18:9-22.  These verses make it clear that The Prophet is one who is chosen by God and speaks forth the message to people which God has revealed to him. Forthtelling and foretelling are two different types of messages.  The later is less frequent.  Forthtelling involved insight into the will of God; it was exhortative, challenging men to obey. On the other hand, foretelling entailed foresight into the plan of God; it was predictive, either encouraging the righteous in view of God’s promises or warning in view of coming judgment.  The divinely chosen person would be charged with God’s message, proclaimed it in oral, visual, or written form to the people on God's behalf.   It was their duty to admonish, reprove, denounce sin, threaten with the terrors of judgment, call to repentance, and bring consolation and pardon (Jonah 3:4).   Predicting the future was never intended merely to satisfy man’s curiosity, but was designed to demonstrate that God knows and controls the future, and to give purposeful revelation. The prediction given by a true prophet would be visibly fulfilled.

Old Testament History of Prophets

Now considering the historical perspective of this Office, it was rare.   Noah was technically the first Prophet post Adam.  God spoke directly to him and he attempted to relay the warnings of the coming judgement to the people of the world; but of course they didn't listen to him.  Him as prophet was validated by God flood.  Then God spoke directly to Abraham and the was validated by God faithfully proving what he had revealed to Abraham (Genesis 12:2–3).  Next was Jacob, whom God spoke to in visions and later foretold the future that also was faithfully validated (Genesis 49).  Then there was Joseph which God spoke to him through visions of the future and allowed him to interpret dreams (Genesis 37, 40, 41).  Then there is Moses.  No doubt God spoke to him directly and validated him as a Prophet.  God even made his brother, Aaron, a Prophet, and mouth peice of Moses (Exodus 7:1–7).  Moses' sister was also revealed to be a Prophet but nothing is recorded of what she declared besides the fact that eventually, her and Aaron spoke out of their own accord and not of God (Numbers 12).  The office of Prophet was temporarily given to The seventy elders of Israel during Moses' time as well (Numbers 11:25).  Got not only allows people to temporarily fill the office but also allowed for evil men to be Prophets as well.  Balaam was such a prophet (Numbers 22–24) who's sin Jude warns about (Jude 1:11).  After Moses died, Joshua took over and God spoke to him and validated him as well (Joshua 1:1–9).  Then came Deborah, the only recorded female judge of Israel (Judges 4:4)In Judges 4:6–7, Deborah either passed on God’s message to the military commander Barak or enforced it; in Judges 4:9, she related a prophecy of future events.  Then came Samuel.  Samuel received his first message from God in 1 Samuel 3:4 when he was a small boy. He spent his life as God’s messenger; two of his most significant acts were anointing Saul (1 Samuel 9) and David (1 Samuel 1:13) to be king. Samuel’s words of God’s wisdom to Saul went mostly unheeded, and Samuel even returned from the grave to announce God’s punishment for Saul’s disobedience (1 Samuel 28:15–19). Again, another instance where God called another seventy prophets (1 Samuel 10:10).  Gad was a prophet to received a message from God to give to David (1 Samuel 22:5). Nathan seems to have been David’s primary link to God’s words. In 2 Samuel 7:4–17, Nathan told David that Solomon would build the temple. In 2 Samuel 12:1–15, Nathan rebuked David for committing adultery with Bathsheba and killing her husband.  God spoke to King David revealing details about the coming Messiah (Psalm 8; 22; 110).  The Tabernacle musicians in First Chronicles 25:1–7 who were appointed by King David prophesied through their music.  In 1 Kings 3, God asked Solomon in a dream if there was anything Solomon would like from Him. Solomon chose wisdom.   Elijah was probably the most significant prophet who didn’t write his own book. He proclaimed God’s word in the northern kingdom of Israel at the time of the evil King Ahab. It was he who ensured a widow was always supplied with oil and flour (1 Kings 17:8–16), who had a showdown with the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:17–40), and who was strengthened by God’s still voice in his fatigue and depression (2 Kings 2:1–11). At the end of his life, a chariot of fire took him to heaven, and his mantle fell to Elisha as his successor (2 Kings 2:1–12).  Ahab had four hundred false prophets who told them God was with them, but Jehoshaphat insisted on a prophet who actually heard from God. Ahab knew of one, but was reluctant to call him, since he never had anything good to say. Micaiah revealed that God had sent a lying spirit to the four hundred prophets in order to lure Ahab to his death. Ahab went to battle anyway and was struck and killed by a random arrow (1 Kings 22:13–28).  Elisha was Elijah’s successor and the second-most important prophet without a book. He spent seven or eight years as Elijah’s apprentice before Elijah was taken to heaven. He then helped wipe out organized Baal worship (2 Kings 10:28), brought a widow’s son back to life (2 Kings 4:18–37), and cured Naaman’s leprosy (2 Kings 5). His power and authority through God was so great that, when a dead man was thrown into Elisha’s grave, the man sprang back to life (2 Kings 13:2–21).   After Judah’s crops were obliterated by a swarm of locusts, Joel compared the devastation to what God would do if the people didn’t return to Him. Joel also predicted the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Joel 2:28; cf. Acts 2:16–21).  Amos was a Judean shepherd who was tasked with prophesying against Israel. His warnings were ignored, and Israel was taken into captivity by Assyria some time later.  God had Hosea marry a prostitute who remained unfaithful after they married. To show how God longed to forgive His people, He told Hosea to take Gomer back. In addition to the message to Israel of God’s faithfulness, Hosea includes a prophecy that Gentiles would one day follow God (Hosea 2:23).  Isaiah holds the record for being the prophet who is most quoted in the New Testament. He was an advisor to King Hezekiah of Judah but also had to walk barefoot and naked for three years as a portent against Egypt and Cush. His book contains prophecies of Jesus and John the Baptist, and Jesus used Isaiah 61:1–2 to begin His ministry in Nazareth. It’s possible that Isaiah was also a priest (Isaiah 6:4).  Micah served as a prophet during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah of Judah. His message mixed condemnation of sin with the promise of the coming Messiah. His book contains the only mention of Bethlehem as the place of the Messiah’s birth.  Jeremiah was one of the last prophets of the Kingdom of Judah and watched helplessly as it was picked apart by the Babylonians. Known as “the weeping prophet” because of how his words from God affected him, Jeremiah also gave the people a word of hope that they would return from captivity in 70 years. His counsel to submit to God’s judgment was ignored, and he was eventually taken to Egypt with the remnant of the royal family (2 Kings 25:26). Jeremiah also wrote the book of Lamentations, a lament for the fall of Jerusalem.   Habakkuk covered a lot of ground in such a short book. He prophesied Assyria’s fall, the Babylonian exile, and the future victory of the Persians. His prophecies were revealed in the context of a conversation with God, wherein Habakkuk asked God questions, and God responded.  In the visions and angelic encounters of Daniel 7–12, Daniel revealed more about the end times than any other book besides Revelation.  Ezekiel’s book of prophecy appears somewhat psychedelic, with its strange visions. Ezekiel was a priest exiled to Babylon in the second wave of deportations and relayed God’s judgment to the rebellious people. He also made several prophesies about the future, including the coming of Jesus, the New Jerusalem (Ezekiel 48:30–35), and the millennial kingdom (Ezekiel 44). Ezekiel was one of the few prophets who eagerly spread God’s message no matter what the resistance he encountered—although that may have been because God told him if he didn’t prophesy he would be held accountable for the souls of those he didn’t warn (Ezekiel 33).   Malachi was the last prophet to prophecy in Israel until an angel visited Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. As such, Malachi’s message was a call to obedience and a promise of the coming Messiah. Following Malachi’s oracle were 400 years of divine silence.  Not every single person who heard from God is named here but given the population of the world over these thousands of years, a Prophet of God was very rare. [1]

In the New Testament, there are only 24 named Prophets of God or gifted with prophesy and 4 named false prophets.  Given the early church history; the 12 Apostles, 70 disciples, 500 eye witnesses of Jesus, and thousands of people who came to faith at Pentecost and thousands more during the ministries of the early church; again, a Prophet of God in the early church was also rare.

Now considering the history from Noah, all the way to John, there were only a couple hundred prophets in scripture over the thousands of years.  The Office of The Prophet was every exclusive and rare; even after The Holy Spirit descended upon the church.

Did The Office of Prophet Continue?

In Ephesians 4:11 Paul notes the designations of Apostles and Prophets.  Some jump to the conclusion that because he notes this after Pentecost that this must mean they continued.  But considering the history and time of his statement, we see that many of the Apostles and Prophets in the NT were still alive; thus the chosen office holders were still alive, still holding the office.  Those positions were still in present tense at the time of his writing. This does not say anyone will be following after them.  Also, The Office of Prophet is not the same as the gift of prophecy.

The Gift of Prophecy 

Paul then explains how the gift is different from the office.  In 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 he addresses the gift.  1 Corinthians 12:3 opens up and states "...no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit."  Does this then make every professing Christian hold the office of Prophet?  No.  He then reveals the 'gift' rather than the office when he states "Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit." in the next verse.  1 Corinthians 12:10 notes the gift of prophecy which is more specific and different than just professing simply Jesus is Lord.  In 1 Corinthians 14:1-3 he elaborates on this gift.  "Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, and above all that you may prophesy. For the person who speaks in another language is not speaking to men but to God, since no one understands him; however, he speaks mysteries in the Spirit. But the person who prophesies speaks to people for edification, encouragement, and consolation."  He then continues "I wish all of you spoke in other languages, but even more that you prophesied. The person who prophesies is greater than the person who speaks in languages, unless he interprets so that the church may be built up.".  Why is this kind of prophecy greater than speaking and interpreting languages?  He then goes in into 1 Corinthians 12:22-25 "But prophecy is not for unbelievers but for believers. 23 Therefore, if the whole church assembles together and all are speaking in other languages and people who are uninformed or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your minds? 24 But if all are prophesying and some unbeliever or uninformed person comes in, he is convicted by all and is judged by all. 25 The secrets of his heart will be revealed, and as a result he will fall facedown and worship God, proclaiming, “God is really among you.”.  The big question here WHAT is being prophesied and what makes it greater than being able to translate and speak other langauges?  We see that The Prophets spoke the word of God to the people.  Paul declares in 2 Timothy 3:16 that "All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness".  Hebrews 4:12 declares "For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart.".  

And there it is.  The Gift of Prophecy declares The Word of God; and THAT is greater than knowing more than one language.  The Word of God is for believers in that it teaches, rebukes, corrects, and trains in righteousness.  The Word of God convicts and judges the hearts of unbelievers and when it penetrates their soul, they fall facedown and worship God!  REMEMBER the time period.  In most cases, during this time, not all the writings of the New Testament have been written.  The Apostles did a lot of traveling and were not always present at the churches.   How then did these early churches hear God's Word?  Through those who were gifted with prophecy in the absence of The Apostles.  Just as in the Old Testament, those who were gifted with prophecy could also be validated by those whom were gifted with miracles and healing; just as the Apostles themselves were validated.  This is why the gift of prophecy existed in the early church, during the time of the Apostles as Paul noted.  The big question is: 

Where there gifts of prophecy in the church post-apostolic age?  

Again, we must take into consideration the time.  By that time, after John, all the Apostles wrote Holy Scripture.   We can then look at the writings of the generations of the disciples of the Apostles to see if they record a continuance of the gift of prophecy.  Clement of Rome, appointed by Peter and disciple of John wrote pointing to the previous writings as his authority and did not exorcise any gift of prophecy.  Papias of Hierapolis, a disciple of John and friend of Polycarp who was also a disciple of John also did not note any continuance of the gift.  Ignatius of Antioch, appointed by Peter and a disciple of John, who was also friends with Polycarp does not note a continuance of the gift.  Polycarp of Smyrna, a friend of Papias and Ignatius, and disciple of John also does not in any of his writings note a continuance of the gift.  Irenaeus of Lyon, who was a disciple of Polycarp wrote extensively against heresies in his day, always referred back to what had been written by The Apostles and does not note any true continuance of the gift.

Irenaeus does however give an account of a Marcus who claims to prophesy.  It is very interesting how this self proclaimed prophet teaches another woman to prophesy, because it sounds very familiar to the efforts of Word of Faith and Charismatic people now.  "It appears probable enough that this man possesses a demon as his familiar spirit, by means of whom he seems able to prophesy, and also enables as many as he counts worthy to be partakers of his Charis themselves to prophesy... he frequently seeks to draw after him, by addressing them in such seductive words as these: “I am eager to make thee a partaker of my Charis, since the Father of all doth continually behold thy angel before His face. Now the place of thy angel is among us: it behoves us to become one. Receive first from me and by me [the gift of] Charis. Adorn thyself as a bride who is expecting her bridegroom, that thou mayest be what I am, and I what thou art. Establish the germ of light in thy nuptial chamber. Receive from me a spouse, and become receptive of him, while thou art received by him. Behold Charis has descended upon thee; open thy mouth and prophesy.” On the woman replying, “I have never at any time prophesied, nor do I know how to prophesy;” then engaging, for the second time, in certain invocations, so as to astound his deluded victim, he says to her, “Open thy mouth, speak whatsoever occurs to thee, and thou shalt prophesy.” She then, vainly puffed up and elated by these words, and greatly excited in soul by the expectation that it is herself who is to prophesy, her heart beating violently [from emotion], reaches the requisite pitch of audacity, and idly as well as impudently utters some nonsense as it happens to occur to her, such as might be expected from one heated by an empty spirit. (Referring to this, one superior to me has observed, that the soul is both audacious and impudent when heated with empty air.) Henceforth she reckons herself a prophetess, and expresses her thanks to Marcus for having imparted to her of his own Charis. She then makes the effort to reward him, not only by the gift of her possessions (in which way he has collected a very large fortune), but also by yielding up to him her person, desiring in every way to be united to him, that she may become altogether one with him." (Against Heresies: Book I, Chapter XIII).

How does Irenaeus know that this prophet and the gift of prophecy is false?  He is dedicated to the teachings of the Apostles "read with earnest care that Gospel which has been conveyed to us by the apostles, and read with earnest care the prophets, and you will find that the whole conduct, and all the doctrine, and all the sufferings of our Lord, were predicted through them."  (Against Heresies: Book IV, Chapter XXXIV)

In 314AD, Miltiades, bishiop of Rome, wrote about the Montanist movement and their inability to validate their claims.  He paraphrases their claims: “For if after Quadratus and Ammia in Philadelphia, as they assert, the women with Montanus received the prophetic gift, let them show who among them received it from Montanus and the women. [they claim] For the apostle thought it necessary that the prophetic gift should continue in all the Church until the final coming. But they cannot show it [in scripture], though this is the fourteenth year since the death of Maximilla.”  Only 14 years after one of Montanist's prophetess passes away and they still can not validate their claims.   Eusebius then adds "Miltiades to whom he refers has left other monuments of his own zeal for the Divine Scriptures".  Miltiades is focused on scripture and seeks to only validate claims through divine scripture; of which Montanist's can not.

The early church tests the prophets of Montanus of the mid 2nd centery and expose it.  Eusebius records Apollonius' writings of the 2nd century refuting them.  It is again ironic, how it seems as though he is describing the Word of Faith movement now.  He is quoted "[Montanus] to be making additions to the doctrines or precepts of the Gospel of the New Testament, which it is impossible for one who has chosen to live according to the Gospel, either to increase or to diminish."

Already knowing Holy Scripture, Apollonius points out that these new prophets are "making additions" to the gospel.  Something Paul and John both warned about (Galatians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 11:4; Rev. 22:19).
 "... he [Montanus] became beside himself, and being suddenly in a sort of frenzy and ecstasy, he raved, and began to babble and utter strange things, prophesying in a manner contrary to the constant custom of the Church handed down by tradition from the beginning... Some of those who heard his spurious utterances at that time were indignant, and they rebuked him as one that was possessed, and that was under the control of a demon, and was led by a deceitful spirit, and was distracting the multitude; and they forbade him to talk, remembering the distinction drawn by the Lord and his warning to guard watchfully against the coming of false prophets. But others imagining themselves possessed of the Holy Spirit and of a prophetic gift, were elated and not a little puffed up; and forgetting the distinction of the Lord, they challenged the mad and insidious and seducing spirit, and were cheated and deceived by him... secretly excited and inflamed their understandings which had already become estranged from the true faith... and filled them with the false spirit, so that they talked wildly and unreasonably and strangely, like the person already mentioned...."
Very interesting how these prophets, who violate what the Apostles taught, act like those who claim to be "slain in the spirit" or how they phrase 'in the spirit' now.  The church even met to consider their claims and actions to determine if they are in fact true or not.  When tested against Holy Scripture, it is easy to determine that they were not, but false prophets.
For the faithful in Asia met often in many places throughout Asia to consider this matter, and examined the novel utterances and pronounced them profane, and rejected the heresy...
Just as Paul encouraged (Acts 17:11) and John required (1 John 4:1).  They remained faithful the Word of God and rightly judged these prophets as heretics.
His [Montanus] actions and his teaching show who this new teacher is. This is he who taught the dissolution of marriage; who made laws for fasting; who named Pepuza and Tymion, small towns in Phrygia, Jerusalem, wishing to gather people to them from all directions; who appointed collectors of money; who contrived the receiving of gifts under the name of offerings; who provided salaries for those who preached his doctrine, that its teaching might prevail through gluttony... We show that these first prophetesses themselves, as soon as they were filled with the Spirit, abandoned their husbands...Does not all Scripture seem to you to forbid a prophet to receive gifts and money? When therefore I see the prophetess receiving gold and silver and costly garments, how can I avoid reproving her?...For although the Lord said, ‘Provide neither gold, nor silver, neither two coats,’(Matthew 10:9) these men, in complete opposition, transgress in respect to the possession of the forbidden things.  For we will show that those whom they call prophets and martyrs gather their gain not only from rich men, but also from the poor, and orphans, and widows...But if they are confident, let them stand up and discuss these matters, that if convicted they may hereafter cease transgressing. For the fruits of the prophet must be tried; ‘for the tree is known by its fruit.’ (Luke 6:43-45)... Exposing him, through him we expose also the pretense of the prophet [Montanus]. We could show the same thing of many others. But if they are confident, let them endure the test... when Maximilla was pretending to prophesy in Pepuza, resisted her and endeavored to refute the spirit that was working in her; but was prevented by those who agreed with her.” (Book V). 
Is it ironic that the Word of Faith movement and the Prosperity Gospel seem to go hand and hand?  Interestingly here, we see the same thing, only 1,830 years earlier.  What the Word of Faith and prosperity teachers claim now, is nothing new.  They claim to see visions, prophesy, and ask for monetary blessings as they live in mansions, wear expensive clothing, drive luxury cars, and brag about owning private jets and luxury boats.  All the while misquote, twist, and add to Holy Scripture and profit off of doing so.

There are two extremely important factors here: (1) None of the disciples of the apostles, and their disciples, note the real continuation of the gift of prophecy, and (2) those who did claim be gifted with prophecy after the apostolic age fail when tested against Holy Scripture.  We CAN come to the conclusion that the gift of prophecy was not existent in the same fashion from the Apostles after they passed.  And that is just a fact of early church History.

It is CRITICAL to note what Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23:
"Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, Lord, Lord, didn't we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?' Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness."
He also states in Matthew 24:11,24:
"and many false prophets will arise and mislead many.... False messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders to lead astray, if possible, even the elect."
Even Deuteronomy 13:1-3 makes known that false prophets can give signs and wonders THAT CAN COME TRUE.  That still does not make them a true prophet of God though.  A True prophet is seen in the message.  They make know the Will and Word's of God that will NEVER contradict each other or purposefully lead anyone to idolize anything.  Their message is supremely the Glory of God alone and no other Gospel than the one the Apostles preached.

CAN There be a gifted prophet in our time?

All the discussion above is about history up to this point.  CAN God gift someone prophecy ? OF COURSE! God does as he pleases for his divine will.  Can a missionary go to a far away land where there is no source of scripture, and boom, the Holy Spirit grants him the gift of prophecy to deliver to them God's Word?  OF COURSE!   The issue at hand is, are there CURRENT prophets or people who have the gift of prophesy?  Given the scriptural and historical evidences and testing the claims of popular modern teachers who claim it; not so far.  Current Prophets and those who have claimed the gift of prophesy have been nothing more than modern Montanists who either add to God's Word and/or flat out contradict it.  Who knows, there very well may be very humble faithful believers who are gifted with prophesy who are not widely known.

What About Acts 2:17-18?

"In the last days, God said, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.'"  This is a fun verse that Word of Faith and Charismatic people love to point to.  Here, Peter is quoting from Joel 2:28-32.  Keep in mind, prophesying can mean simply proclaiming God's truths.  Notice after quoting Joel, Peter then gives them the Gospel message.  A message that can not be believed without having the The Holy Spirit in you.  So, God pours out his spirit and empowers anyone to receive and believe the gospel message, then, enabling them to prophesy the truth of the gospel message.  The Apostles and all the disciples were doing signs and wonders that validated their prophesying this gospel message; just as Joel stated hundreds of years before.  In the FULL CONTEXT of Acts 2:14-41, we see that Peter is pointing out that the time that Joel is predicting is for their age ("in those days") in history and does not say "for the rest of history" or "in all the days to come" or "until the end of the age".  Do not forget that preaching the gospel message, is, in a simple sense, prophesying.  It would be wrong to read into what is not said.  Peter and Joel do not say this continues but it also does not say it will stop.  It DOES however say that "in those days" of Peter, the Spirit pours out on "all people" (Jews and gentiles) and they will prophesy;  exactly as recorded in Acts and in the age of the Apostles.  Using this verse to justify modern day prophesy is dishonest and implying what is not stated. 

Conclusion

The Office of Prophet is chosen by God, ordained by God, in direct communication with God, the claims are in harmony with God, and validated by God.  The gift of prophecy was given by The Holy Spirit to those to proclaim God's Word in the absence of the Apostles before the completion of Holy Scripture.  After the passing of all the Apostles, there is no evidence outside of scripture of any Disciple of an Apostle or their disciples, in their own writings, prophesying or stating the continuation of the gift or office.  Any claim or attempted of post-apostolic prophesy has been disproven by the false prophets own contradictory claims or their contradictions of God's Word.  It is a historical and modern fact that the gift or prophesy does not exist the same way it did in the age of Apostles; or at least the known self proclaimed gifted prophets are not the same.  However, God, if he so chooses, could grant anyone at any time the gift.  Proof of the true gift is the prophesies faithfulness to all that God has already declared and consistency within itself.  There may be true gifted prophets out in the world but the ones on TV selling New York Times Best Sellers books are nothing more than modern Montanists for the digital age.

Because we can not state that the gift of prophesy has fully and completely ceased or that God will never gift it in the future, here is a biblical test to determine if prophetic claims are of God - The Eight point Prophecy Test


1.  https://www.gotquestions.org/prophets-in-the-Bible.html

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