THE MINISTRY OF THE PROPHET
BY KEVIN J. CONNER
“And He gave some, prophets . . . ” (Ephesians 4:11).
“God hath set in the Church . . . secondarily, prophets . . .” (I Corinthians 12:28).
“Are all prophets?” (I Corinthians 12:29).
Along with the ministry of the apostle, the ministry of the prophet is one that is much misunderstood. It too has been limited to the transitionary period of the early Church from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant economy. The ministries of “apostles and prophets” have been counted temporary and transitional ministries until the completion of the New Testament canon of holy Scripture.
And on the other hand, there is much misunderstanding and confusion over the ministry and function of the New Testament prophet when compared with that of the Old Testament prophet.
Both the Pauline Epistles of Corinthians and Ephesians clearly show that God has set in the Church “apostles and prophets” UNTIL the Church comes to unity and maturity. It is inconsistent to take the ministries of Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers and say they are still in the Church today and to relegate the foundational ministries of Apostles and Prophets to the early Church era.
The Church needs the prophetic ministry today. One of the signs of the last days is the prophetic word coming as a result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all flesh (Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:14-21).
Because of the predominance of the ministry of the prophet in Old Testament times, a rather complete consideration is given to such here. This is necessary in order to help us understand the distinction and differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament prophets.
We consider therefore, the ministry of the Prophet.
A. Definition of the Word
Webster’s Dictionary defines prophecy as: “Prediction of the future under the influence of Divine guidance, act or practice of a prophet; something predicted.” There are several words in Scripture used to refer to prophecy:
1. Old Testament Hebrew
Chazah = “to gaze at; mentally to perceive, contemplate (with pleasure); specifically to have vision of; to see, behold with the eye; to see as a seer in the ecstatic state.”
behold–Job 23:9; Psalms 17:2; 27:4
look–Isaiah 33:20; Micah 4:11
see–Isaiah 1:1; 13:1; Ezekiel 13:6-8; Habakkok l:l; Zechariah 10:2.
Massa = “a burden; specifically tribute, or abstractly porterage; figuratively an utterance, chiefly a doom, especially singing; mental desire.”
burden–Isaiah 13:1; 15:1; 17:1; l9:1; Jeremiah 23:33, 34, 36; Habakkuk 1:1
carry away–II Chronicles 20:25
prophecy–Proverbs 30:1; 31:1
song–I Chronicles 15:22, 27 tribute–II Chronicles 17:11
Naba = “to prophesy; i.e., speak (or sing) by inspiration (in prediction or simple discourse); prophesy under the influence of Divine spirit, in the ecstatic state.”
Translated: prophesy–I Samuel 10:11; Jeremiah 2:8; 26:11; Ezekiel 37:7; Joel 2:28; Amos 3:8 make self a prophet–Jeremiah 29:26, 27
Nebuwah = “a prediction (spoken or written)”
Translated: prophecy–II Chronicles 9:29; 15:8; Nehemiah 6:12.
Nataph = “to ooze; i.e., distill gradually; by implication to fall in drops; figuratively to speak by inspiration; prophecy, discourse.”
Translated: drop–Judges 5:4; Ezekiel 21:2; Amos 7:16 prophesy–Micah 2:6, 11
Thus in these Hebrew words we see prophecy as an ecstatic vision, a burden, a Divinely inspired utterance, a written or spoken prediction, and a dropping down of inspired speech.
The prophet was one who spoke for God as His mouthpiece (Jeremiah 15:19; Exodus 7:1; 4:16; II Peter 1:20, 21; 11 Kings 17:13; 21:10; 24:2). He was to “boil or boll forth like a trot spring or fountain”, ‘`to bubble up, burst forth with violence”, or “to speak utterance in an exalted and excited manner by the Spirit of God.”
2. New Testament Greek
Propheteuo = “to foretell events, divine, speak under inspiration, exercise the prophetic office; to proclaim a Divine revelation, prophesy, to foretell the future; to speak forth by Divine inspiration; to break forth under sudden impulse in lofty discourse or in praise of the Divine counsels.”
prophesy–Matthew 15:7; Luke 1:67; 22:64; John 11:51; Acts 2:17, 18; 21:9; 1
Corinthians 14:1, 3-5; I Peter 1:10; Jude 14; Revelation 1:3.
In Koine Greek the concept of prophecy was solidified to the point that only one word was used to encompass it. In the New Testament prophecy meant to proclaim a Divine revelation, to foretell the future, and to break forth under sudden impulse into inspired discourse.
B. The Nature of Prophecy
The nature of prophecy is basically twofold: forth-telling and fore-telling. There are as well, different degrees of prophetic inspiration.
1. Prophecy as forth-telling: This form of prophecy is in the realm of preaching: the prophet speaks for God to the people, communicating the mind of God for the present. Often the past will be used to deal with the present. This will include such things as exhortation, reproof, warning, edification and comfort.
2. Prophecy as Fore-telling: This aspect of prophecy is in the form of prediction: the prophet speaks for God, communicating His mind for the future. Often both the past and present will be used to deal with the future. Many times the purpose of prophetic prediction was to produce present godliness.
C Degrees of Prophetic Inspiration: Scripture reveals that there are varying degrees of prophetic funtion. These are:
1. The Spirit of Prophecy–This is defined in Revelation 19:10. “The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy.” The Spirit of prophecy is the Holy Spirit’s ability to come upon men and cause them to speak forth inspired utterances.
The Spirit of prophecy was evident in the Godly line from Adam to Moses.
a. Adam prophesied concerning his bride and the marriage estate (Genesis 2:20-25).
b. Enoch prophesied of the second coming of Christ (Jude 14, 15).
c. Noah was a preacher of righteousness because the Spirit of Christ was in him (II Peter 2:5; Hebrews 11:7; I Peter 3:20).
d. Abraham was spoken of as a prophet (Genesis 20:7).
Isaac and Jacob had the Spirit of prophecy upon them as they blessed their sons (Genesis 27; 48; 49; Hebrews 11:20, 21). Note also Psalms 105:9-15).
f. Joseph prophesied of the Exodus from Egypt (Genesis 50:24; Hebrews 11:22).
At times the Spirit of prophecy fell upon groups of people. In Numbers 11:24-30 the Lord took of the Spirit that was upon Moses and placed it upon seventy of the elders of Israel and they prophesied. In I Samuel 19:20-24; 10:10 the Spirit of prophecy fell upon several groups of messengers, as well as upon King Saul. However, Saul was not among the prophets, but came under the Spirit of prophecy. Prophecy was the evidence of the Spirit coming on people in the Old Testament. So the Spirit of prophecy falls in meetings at times on New Testament believers.
The Gift of Prophecy: This is mentioned in I Corinthians 12:10; Romans 12:6; Acts 2:18 as one of the gifts of the Spirit. It can be defined as the God given ability to speak forth supernaturally in a known language as the Spirit gives utterance. It is seen as being an operation of the Spirit in the New Testament Church which must be exercised within Divine guidelines (I Corinthians 14:3, 25, 31; I Thessalonians 5:20). Philips’s four daughters are an example of this gift, in that the Scripture states they prophesied (Acts 21:8-14, 9). However’ they were not prophetesses, for Agabus the Prophet spoke to Paul (I Corinthians 14:31). That is, all may prophecy but not all are prophets!
The Office of a Prophet: In Hosea 12:10 and Hebrews 1:1 it is stated that God spoke to His people by the ministry of the prophets. A prophet was a person who was given the distinctive ministry of representing God before man. He did so by moving under the “prophetic mantle” that came upon him. The prophet was God’s mouthpiece, or spokesman, through which the Word of God flowed, whether forthtelling or foretelling. There were many men of God throughout the Scriptures who held this office. These will be dealt with in the following section. “Would God all His people were prophets”, said Moses (Numbers 11:29).
4. The Prophecy of Scripture:
In II Peter 1:19-21 the expression “prophecy of Scripture” is used to refer to the prophetical books of the Old Testament. Because the Scriptures are the inspired Word of God, the prophecy therein must be regarded as inspired and infallible revelation (11 Timothy 3:15, 16). This then is the highest degree of prophecy and requires the most careful and systematic interpretation. Each of the previous three must be judged by this fourth. The first three are fallible, the fourth is infallible. This type of prophecy is no longer given today as the 66 Books of the Bible are completed. Nothing is to be added to this completed Word (Revelation 22:18, 19).
D. The Ministry of the Old Testament Prophets
1. Designations of the Prophets
In all of the various periods of Israel’s history in the Old Testament, there appears to be no greater or grander ministry than that of the prophets. The prophets were noble and holy men of God. They were the representatives of God to Israel, declaring His word, His mind and His will to the nation in times of prosperity or adversity. The ministry of the prophet is seen to be distinct from the ministry of the priest. The priest was man’s representative before God by prayers and sacrifice. The ministry of the priest was from man into God. The prophet, on the other hand, was God’s representative to man. He was God’s ambassador who was sent from the presence of God with the words of God. His ministry was from God out to man. The prophet was the one who stood in the inner counsels of the Lord God. He received a particular message for his time, situation, generation and group although often such reached over to our generation (I Peter 1:10-12; I Kings 17:1; Jeremiah 23:16-22).
These prophets were known under the following designations:
a. The Man of God–I Samuel 9:6; I Kings 12:22. Morally and ethically, the prophets were indeed men of God, following, declaring and upholding the ways of God.
b. The Seers–I Samuel 9:9; II Chronicles 33:18; 35:18; II Samuel 24:11; Amos 7:12; Isaiah 29:10. The prophets were first called seers because of the visions, insight and foresight which they received from the Lord for the people. There were false prophets who “have seen nothing” (Ezekiel 13:3).
c. The Interpreters–Isaiah 43:27. The word “teachers” means “interpreters.” The prophets were the interpreters of the Law of the Lord. They interpreted the history of the nation in the light of the Word of the Lord.
d. The Messengers of the Lord–Isaiah 43:19; Malachi 3:1. The prophets were the Divine messengers, sent by God, bearing the messages of the Lord to the nation. They delivered the messages faithfully.
e. The Servants–Haggai 2:3. The prophets were also called the Servants of Jehovah. They were His slaves; love-slaves to the will and service of God.
f. The Prophets–Hosea 12:10. The most common designation is that of prophet. These men who were prophets were public expounders and preachers of the Word of the Lord. They spoke under inspiration of the Spirit. “Holy men of God spoke as they were moved of the Holy Spirit” (II Peter 1:21). They prophesied through both preaching and prediction. They represented God’s Word to Israel. They upheld the righteousness of the Law, the holiness and mercy of God, Divine sovereignty over the nations, and reproved the sinfulness of men.
E. The Development of the Prophetic Office
It is important to see the rise and development of the prophetic office. Two focal points are seen in the prophets Moses and Samuel.
1. The Prophet Moses–The Letter of the Law
Moses stands unique among the Old Testament prophets because of that which he represents before God and the nation of Israel. Moses was the prophet who received the law of God on Mt Sinai. He actually became the foundation ministry and all succeeding prophets were tested by the Law given to Moses.
He is the “Paul” of the Old Testament (Numbers 12:6; Deuteronomy 34:10; 18:15-18; Exodus 33:11; Luke 16:29; Deuteronomy 13:1-5; Isaiah 8:16-20).
The Lord communicated with Moses face to face and he becomes a type of the Messiah who would be “like unto him” (Acts 3:22-33).
2. The Prophets Samuel to Malachi–The Spirit of the Law
It is under Samuel that we see a distinct development of the prophetic office. The Scriptures clearly mark Moses and Samuel as being key men in the prophetic ministry: “For Moses truly said . . .” (Acts 13:22).
“Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after . . .” (Acts 3:24).
“And after that he gave them judges about the space of 450 years, until Samuel the prophet . . .” (Acts 13:20; Hebrews 11:32).
Samuel was the last of the Judges and first of the line of prophets. Thus, from Samuel to Malachi we have the ministry of the prophets. It seems evident from the Scriptures that Samuel, under direction of the Lord, gathered together young men who were hungry after God into “schools of the prophets.” Here they received education and instruction out of the Law of Moses and were taught how to respond to the Spirit of the Lord in worship and prophecy (I Samuel 9:20).
The Scriptures speak of these centres, where the sons of the prophets would gather together in preparation for ministry. These men became known as “sons of the prophets” and there seemed to be schools of the prophets in these places.
* Ramah–I Samuel 19: 18-24.
* Bethel–II Kings 2:3.
* Jericho–II Kings 2:5, 7, 15.
* Gilgal–II Kings 4:38; 2:1.
The dominant purpose in the establishment of these “schools of the prophets’ was to maintain the spirit of the Law.
If Moses stood for the letter of the Law, the prophets indeed stood for the spirit of the Law. The true prophets of God never contradicted the letter of the Law; they upheld it. But when it degenerated into a dead form and mere’ritual, the Holy Spirit came upon them to inspire and revive the spirit of the Law. Thus we have the Major and Minor Prophets, then 400 silent years unto John the Baptist (Luke 7:26-28).
F. Old Testament Prophets in Relation to Kings
Not only do we see the beginning of the prophetic office in Samuel, we also see the beginning of the kingly office, or the monarchy in Israel. It was the prophet Samuel who anointed both Saul and David to their kingly ministry. From this period until the Captivities of the House of Israel and the House of Judah, there is a distinct relationship between the prophets and the kings. Most of the kings of Israel and Judah had a prophet of God sent to them. God’s purpose was to influence the government of the nation as a whole through the king by means of the prophetic word. The prophet represented the Word of the Lord to the kings, and the kings were judged according to their acceptance or rejection of the prophetic word.
In previous periods, men inquired of God through the Priest, but now inquiry of God was primarily through the Prophet. Thus, most of the kings were privileged to have the ministry of the Word of the Lord through the prophets.
* Saul and David had the ministry of Samuel (I Samuel 9, 10, 16).
* David had Nathan and Gad also as prophets (II Samuel 12; 24:1l).
* Solomon had the prophet Nathan (I Kings 1:38).
* Rehoboam had the prophet Sheminiah (I Kings 12:21, 22).
* Ahab had Elijah and Elisha (I Kings 17:1; 19:16).
The kings of the House of Israel and Judah had prophets sent to them. These are referred to as the Major and Minor Prophets, and are spoken of in the opening verses of the Major and Minor Prophets. Examples are: Isaiah 1:1-2; Jeremiah 1:1-2; Hosea 1:1-2; Micah 1:1. An understanding of the character and times of the kings of Israel and Judah is necessary for an understanding of the nature of the Word of the Lord through the respective prophets of that period.
G. Classification of Prophets
For the purposes of this section we will classify the prophets under two groupings: non-writing prophets and writing prophets.
There are a number of prophets mentioned in Scripture who were not involved in the writing of Scripture. These ministered in the realms of guidance, forthtelling, foretelling, and words of wisdom and knowledge. God confirmed their ministries with signs and miracles. In the Old Testament there were men like Aaron, Nathan, Gad, Abijah, Elijah and Elisha. In the New Testament there were men such as John the Baptist, Agabus and Silas. John came at the “overlapping” of dispensations as the last of the Old Testament prophets.
2. Writing Prophets
Out of the prophets God chose certain men to be inspired writers of Scripture (II Peter 1:20, 21). These prophets wrote Scripture in different styles: historical, prophetical and poetical.
a. Prophets who wrote Historical Books
Some prophets were primarily involved in writing history. Moses in writing the Pentateuch, and Samuel in writing the books of Judges, Ruth, I Samuel are two such men.
b. Prophets who wrote Poetical Books
Some prophets were inspired to write poetry. Two such men are David, who wrote many of the Psalms, and Jeremiah, who wrote Lamentations.
Prophets who wrote Prophetical Books
Many prophets were inspired to record their visions and prophecies. Daniel, Ezekiel and Zechariah, were especially prophets of vision. These they received and recorded under inspiration as infallible prophecy, foretelling the future and destiny of nations.
The prophetical books of the Old Testament have been referred to as the Major and Minor Prophets. This distinction refers only to the volume of their contents.
The Major Prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel and Daniel.
The Minor Prophets are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadaiah, Jonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. All of these books include both forthtelling and foretelling though greater emphasis in on the latter.
H. Classification of Written Prophecy
In the writings of the prophets there can be found three major classifications of prophetic revelation. These are woven together throughout prophetic Scripture like a threefold cord, and are often so closely entwined that they are difficult to separate. The three are: Local Prophecy, National-Destiny Prophecy and the third one is Messianic Prophecy.
1. Local Prophecy
Local prophecy refers to those instances when the prophet spoke to his own generation about their spiritual condition and God’s desire for them. This is viewed primarily as preaching in which the timeless principles and truths of God’s character and being are revealed and applied to the life-situation of the prophet’s own generation.
Truth is eternal and remains the standard by which every generation is measured. This, truth is applicable to all generations and the truth applied to the prophet’s day is also applicable today. However, before the interpreter can safely apply the prophet’s message to present time he must be careful to study and accurately discern what the prophet was saying to his own generation. In order to do this the interpreter must thoroughly acquaint himself with the moral conditions of that day. Interpretation precedes application.
Some examples of local prophecy are Isaiah 40:18-31; 55:6, 7; Jeremiah 26; and Micah 6:8. These prophecies obviously include timeless principles applicable to all generations.
National-destiny prophecy is when the prophet speaks concerning the future history of the radons. This is viewed primarily as prediction in which the prophet may use the nation’s past history and its present condition as the stage upon which their future judgment and/or blessing is portrayed.
Though primarily concerned with the destiny of the chosen nation of Israel, the prophets also predicted the destiny of the Gentile nations.
Some examples of National-destiny prophecy concerning the nation of Israel are: Isaiah 11:11-16; 43:1-28; Jeremiah 30; Ezekiel 27 and Romans 9, 10, 11.
Some examples of National-destiny prophecy concerning the Gentile nations are: Isaiah 13-23; Jeremiah 46-5l; Ezekiel 29-32; Daniel 2, 7; Amos 1, 2; Obadiah end Nahum.
In interpreting this area of prophecy, the interpreter must use the Hermeneutical Principle of Ethnic-Division so as not to confuse the destiny of the nations.
3. Messianic Prophecy
Messianic prophecy is when the prophet speaks concerning Christ and the Church. This is viewed primarily as prediction in which the prophet may use various elements of past history, the present local situation, and even the future national destiny to foretell the ultimate phase of God’s purpose in the Messianic era. Messianic prophecy encompasses all that relates to Christ and the Church, from His first coming through to His second coming.
It was spoken of by Peter as “the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow” (I Peter 1:10-12). Messianic prophecy may be divided into three groupings, based on three stages of fulfillment:
a. The First Coming of Christ
These prophecies deal mainly with the birth, growth, ministry, sufferings and exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ. Most of the Old Testament Messianic prophecies pertain to the first coming of Christ and its related events.
Some examples of these are: Genesis 3:15; Deuteronomy 18:15-18; Psalms 2, 8, 22 and 40; Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; 40:1-8; 52:14; 53:1-12; 61:14; Jeremiah 31:31; Micah 5:1-2; Zechariah 11:12-13; 13:9.
b. The Church
These prophecies deal mainly with that which was to be the fruit of Messiah’s sufferings, even the glory of the Church (Ephesians 3:21). There are many Old Testament prophecies which deal with the coming of the Gentiles into the kingdom of the Messiah. The New Testament clearly shows that these prophecies were predicting the grafting in of the Gentiles into the olive tree so that both Jew and Gentile could become one Body in Christ (Psalms 18:49 with Romans 15:9; Deuteronomy 32:43 with Romans 15:10; Psalms 117:1 with Romans 15:11; Isaiah 11:10 with Romans 15:12; Romans 11:13-25; Ephesians 3:6; I Corinthians 12:13).
Some examples of Messianic prophecies concerning the Church are: Isaiah 9:6-9; 26:14; 35:1-10; 54:1-17; Jeremiah 31:33, 34; Joel 12:28-32; Zechariah 2:10, 11; Malachi 1:11.
c. The Second Coming of Christ
These prophecies deal primarily with Christ’s return to consummate that which He initiated in His first coming. Though there were only a few specific prophecies in the Old Testament concerning Christ’s second coming, there are many which deal with its related events. Many of these prophecies deal with “the Day of the Lord” and its climatic judgments. It should be noted that the burden of New Testament prophecy is the second coming of Christ.
Some examples of second coming prophecies are: Genesis 49:10; Isaiah 2:10-22; 13:6-16; 24:1-23; 30:26-33; 34:1-17; Daniel 2 and Daniel 7; Joel 3; Zechariah 14; Malachi 4:1-4; Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21; I Corinthians 15; I Thessalonians 4:14-18; 11 Thessalonians 2; 11 Peter 3: 1-13; Revelation I9.
I. Christ, THE Prophet Like Unto Moses
Undoubtedly the greatest of all the Old Testament prophets was the prophet Moses. The Law was given by Moses (John 1:17). Moses was the foundation prophet of the Church in the Wilderness (Acts 7:38). All Old Testament prophets were tested, as to their authenticity, by what Moses had said. All who spoke were measured according to the revelation given to Moses.
Moses was the Mediator of the Old Covenant. He received direct revelation of the name of God, as the I AM. He was the architect, under God, of the Tabernacle of the Lord, the Aaronic Priesthood, the sacrificial system, and the Feasts of the Lord. The moral, civil and ceremonial law was delivered by the Lord God to and through him to Israel, the people of God (Exodus 20: 18-21; Deuteronomy 4:10-40; Hebrews 12:18-21; Exodus 2540; Leviticus 1-27; Numbers 1-32; Deuteronomy 1-34).
Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Moses wrote the Pentateuch, the foundational books of the Bible. All was done in the name of the Lord and as the Lord commanded. He was the faithful servant of Jehovah (Hebrews 3: 1-6).
All true prophets of the Old Testament times were types of Christ, but Moses was the supreme type.
Moses prophesied of Christ (Deuteronomy 18:15-22), and warned of false prophets (John 5:3947; 6: 14; Acts 3:22-23).
There are particular phrases in the utterance of Moses concerning Christ which show Him to be THE Prophet of God, the Divine Spokesman for God.
1, The Lord God would raise up to Israel a Prophet
As the Lord raised up true prophets, so He would raise up One who would be THE Prophet, THE Divine Spokesman. Whereas “the word of the Lord came” unto the other prophets, Christ would be THE WORD made flesh. The Word would not only come to Him. He would be THE WORD (John 1:1-3, 14-18). He was the Divine Word incarnate, God’s mouthpiece. This sets Christ as a Prophet apart from, above and unique and distinct from all other prophets. All true prophets pointed to Christ. He was the fulfillment of their Messianic utterances and their office. Christ was raised up indeed to Israel (John 4:19; 7:40; 9:17; 1:21; 6:14).
2. This Prophet would come from among the Brethren
This foretold the incarnation of Christ, the Word made flesh. The only way the Christ could come from the midst of His brethren after the flesh was by way of the virgin birth, taking upon Himself sinless humanity (Hebrews 2:10-14).
This Prophet would be like Moses
As noted, Moses was one of the most remarkable types of Christ. There are many comparisons between Moses and Jesus. However, Christ the anti-type was greater than Moses the type. Moses was the servant in the house while Christ was the Son over His own house (Hebrews 3:1-6).
We note some of the major comparisons:
a. Both were born of the chosen nation Israel.
b. Both were miraculously preserved from death as children and preserved in Egypt.
c. Both had the revelation of the Name of God, the I AM.
d. Both had signs and wonders in their ministry.
e. Both experienced rejection of their brethren.
f. Both were meek men.
g. Both came to exaltation in God’s time.
h. Both had great intercessory ministry.
i. Both spoke the words of God.
j. Both built a house for the Lord to dwell in.
k. Both were mediators of Covenants.
1. Both were founders of a Church.
Many others could be given, but Jesus was indeed “like unto Moses”, but excelled in glory (II Corinthians 3).
4. This Prophet would be a Mediator between God and Man
Israel did not want to hear God speak to them direct and asked that they might have a Mediator. God gave them Moses. Thus God spoke to Moses and Moses to Israel. So God has spoken to us in Christ and Christ speaks to His people as the New Covenant Mediator.
5. This Prophet would speak the words of God.
As God put the words in the mouth of Moses and Moses spoke them, so the Father put His words in the mouth of His Son who spoke them (Acts 3:32; John 17:8, 4:25; 8:28; 12:49, 50; 14:10, 24).
a. He forthtold (Matthew 5-6-7, etc.).
b. He foretold (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21).
6. This Prophet would speak in the Name of the Lord
Jesus not only spoke in His Father’s Name, but also came in that Name, clothed in the nature, power and authority of the Father. Moses spoke in the Name of the Lord also, not in his own name (John 8:55-58; 5:43; 12:13).
7. Those who refuse this Prophet would be Judged
All who refused to hear Moses were judged by stoning. All who refuse to hear God the Father through His Son will be judged (John 12:48-50) in the day of judgment.
Christ is the only infallible Prophet for He was God THE WORD made flesh. He was God’s mouthpiece (John 1:21, 25; 7:40; 6:14; 4:19; Matthew 21:11, 46; Mark 6:15; Luke 7:16; 24:19; John 9:17; Luke 9:8, 19; John 8:26; 14:10, 24; 17:8).
All prophets of Old Testament or New Testament times will be judged by Him and according to Him as to character, word and spirit.
J. Calling, Qualifications, Ministry and Recognition of New Testament Prophets
The Prophet, like the Apostle, or any other ministry must have a distinct calling from God, and know his calling. Old Testament prophets knew they were called of God. New Testament prophets should have this same inner conviction by the Holy Spirit. A prophet must know that God has “set” him in the Church (Ephesians 4:11; I Corinthians 12:28, 29). “The Word of the Lord” should come to him in clarity and truth.
The Prophet, as all of the fivefold ascension-gift ministries, should have the qualifications of an elder. The Prophet is also a ministry elder and must have character qualities in order to be all that God wants him to be. To be a prophet without qualifications leaves one open to deception because of the very nature of the prophetic ministry. To have charisma without character leaves one open and vulnerable to the enemy of the people of God.
A study of the prophets ministry mentioned in the New Testament, along with those in the Old Testament shows us what the ministry of the prophet is in the Church.
a. Prophets have been set in the New Testament Church (I Corinthians 12:28, 29).
b. Prophets are second in order in the Church (I Corinthians 12:29).
c. Prophets are one of the fivefold ascension-gift ministries, an extension of Christ’s own prophetic ministry and gift (Ephesians 4:11).
d. Prophets have the spirit of prophecy upon them (Revelation 19:10).
e. Prophets have the gift of prophecy (I Corinthians 14:3, 31; 12:8).
f. Prophets are given for:
1) The perfecting and maturing of the saints,
2) The work of bringing the saints into their ministry,
3) The edifying and building up of the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:9-16; Ezekiel
37. Word and Spirit bring the body together).
g. Prophets, undoubtedly, were used to confirm the separation of Paul and Barnabas to apostolic work from the Church at Antioch (Acts 13: 1-4).
Fasting, prayer, laying on of hands, and the Spirit speaking are the things seen in this matter here. Such here constituted a local presbytery of “prophets and teachers” involved in the ordination and sending out of other ministries (I Timothy 4:14; 1:18; 11 Timothy 1:14).
h. Prophets, such as Judas and Silas, ministered in exhortation and confirmation in the Churches (Acts 15:22; also read Ezra 5:1; 6:14).
i. Prophets, like Agabus, in warning predicted (foretold) by the Spirit the coming famine, which word came to pass (Acts 11:27-30). The disciples responded by sending relief to the saints.
Agabus also foretold what would happen to Paul at Jerusalem, confirming what Paul already knew (Acts 21:8-14).
Prophets had a distinctive ministry in the early Church, as seen in the Corinthians Epistle. The prophets spoke, two or three, giving complete testimony (I Corinthians 14:29-32).
This chapter relative to prophecy includes:
1) Exhortation-“to stir up”
2) Edification–“to build up”
3) Comfort-“to bind up”
4) Conviction–“to open up” the heart and expose the secrets therein and cause people to fall down and worship God (I Corinthians 14:3, 24, 25 with I Samuel 11-12, Nathan and David’s sin exposed by the prophetic word).
k. Prophets are not infallible and their utterances must be judged by the infallible word of God (I Corinthians 14:29, 30; Galatians 2:9-14). A prophet should be humble enough to allow his word to be judged. If it is the mind of God there is nothing to fear. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established (Deuteronomy 19:15; II Corinthians 13:1).
1. Prophets must have their spirits under control and be subject to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will never cause prophets to act or speak contrary to His will or word (I Corinthians 14:32, 33). The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. Temperance or self-control is a fruit of the Spirit that should work with the gifts of the Spirit and the Lord (Galatians 5:22, 23).
m. Prophets may be given certain gifts of the Spirit, and signs of the prophetic office as the Lord wills. False prophets have counterfeit signs (Matthew 24:11, 24; Mark 13:22). Prophets may be given:
1) Visions-Numbers l2:6-8.
2) Dreams–Numbers 12:6-8.
3) Word of Wisdom–I Corinthians 12:69.
4) Word of Knowledge.
7) Gift of Faith.
8) Discerning of spirits.
9) Prophecy, exhortation, edification, comfort, conviction.
10) Peculiar signs, examples of which are seen in the following:
* Jeremiah with a yoke on his neck–Jeremiah 27.
* Hosea married a harlot–Hosea 1-3.
* Isaiah walks uncovered and barefoot for three years–Isaiah 20: 1-6.
* Ezekiel in mock sedge on a tile, on his side for many days, eating of cow dung, burning portion of his hair, prophesying to a boneyard, etc.–Ezekiel 4,5,37.
* Ahijah tearing a new garment to 12 pieces–I Kings 11:30.
* Jeremiah’s signs–Jeremiah 13:1; 18:1; 19:1; 25:15.
* Isaiah’s sign children–Isaiah 8:1 (Hosea also, Hosea 1-2.)
* Prophesying to mountains, digging through walls–Ezekiel 6:1-3; 12:1-6.
* Agabus binding Paul with a girdle–Acts 21.
Prophets will be inspired (illuminated) preachers of the Word of God (Hebrews 1: 1-2; II Peter 1:20, 21; I Peter 1:10-12).
Isaiah, Jonah, John the Baptist, Judas, Silas, Agabus, etc. All these prophets receive illumination on the revelation given by inspiration.
Prophets, with the Apostles, are foundational ministries in the Church (Ephesians 2:20-22; 3:5). They work together and lay the foundation which is Christ.
p. Prophets of God will always have to contend with false prophets. Elijah, Jeremiah, Micah, Amos, Paul and Silas, etc., all had such to contend with. The people will know the true prophets by having a love for the truth (II Thessalonians 2:1-12; Revelation 13; Matthew 24:11, 24).
q. Prophets will have Divine revelation given to them concerning the Church, along with the Apostles (Ephesians 3:1-5).
It is important that God’s people know how to recognize and accept the ministry of the prophet. In order for a prophet to be released in his ministry, he must be received, once he is recognized as a true prophet (Matthew 10:41, 42).
Often prophets are not received in their own country (Matthew 13:57; 23:29-37; Mark 6:4; Luke 4:24; James 5:10).
We are to believe the Lord’s prophets and prosper and be established (II Chronicles 20:20).
We are not to touch the Lord’s anointed prophets (Psalms 105:15).
John the Baptist was the greatest of all prophets because he came at the close of the Old Covenant Age and introduced Messiah of the New Covenant Age (Luke 1:76).
a. New Testament Prophets
In the early church we have the following references to prophets, both named and unnamed.
1) Ananias was possibly a prophet to Saul (Acts 9:1-15; 22:10-15).
2) Judas and Silas were prophets (Acts 15:32).
3) Prophets and Teachers at Antioch (Acts 13:14).
4) Prophets sent from Jerusalem (Acts 11:27).
5) Prophets at Tyre (Acts 21:4).
6) Agabus was a proven prophet (Acts 11:28; 21:10-11).
7) Prophets at Corinth (I Corinthians 14:27, 29; 12:28, 29).
8) Prophets at Ephesus (Ephesians 4:9-11).
9) Prophets among the scattered Churches (II Peter 2:1-2; I John 4:1-3). 10) False Prophets at Crete (Titus 1:10-13).
As in all ministries and functions within the Body of Christ, so it is among the prophets of God. The “cluster of prophets”, though all having the office of the prophet, will manifest great variety, according to the personality, the character, temperament, and gift of grace given them. This is evidenced in the variety of prophets spoken of as the Major and Minor Prophets in the Old Testament times. It is true in New Testament times also. It is according to “the measure of the gift of Christ.”
Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel had the greater measure of the gift than did Micah, Joel, Amos and other of the lesser prophets; yet all were prophets of God.
There were prophets to the nations, Israel and Gentile nations.
There were prophets to the kings in the Old Testament.
There were prophets in and to the New Testament Churches.
Thus there is great variety of the gift and office of Christ’s ministry as the Prophet. All are fragmentary extensions of His Prophetic office in His people.
b. Ministry of the Prophetesses
God, at times, bestowed the prophetic ministry on women. In the last days, the Lord said he would pour out His Spirit on all flesh, including “sons and daughters, servants and handmaids” (Acts 2:17-22 with Joel 2:28-32). We note some of the Prophetesses mentioned in Scripture.
1) Old Testament Prophetesses
* Miriam, Moses’ sister, was a prophetess and led in the song of the Lord and the dancing women (Exodus 15:20).
* Deborah was a prophetess, judge and mother in Israel and led in prophetic battle song with Barak (Judges 4:4).
* Huldah was a prophetess who spoke and taught the Word of the Lord at Jerusalem (II Kings 22:12-20; II Chronicles 34:22).
* Noadiah also was a false prophetess in times of restoration from the Babylonian Captivity (Nehemiah 6:14).
* Isaiah’s wife was a prophetess, along with her husband’s ministry (Isaiah 8:3).
* There were apparently false prophetesses in Ezekiel’s time also along with false prophets (Ezekiel 13:17-23). Read the whole chapter for it deals with men and women in false utterances.
* Anna, 84 years of age, of the tribe of Asher, served God with prayers and fastings in the temple as a prophetess and was accepted by the priests there (Luke 2:36-38).
2) New Testament Prophetesses
* Jezebel is the only specific mention of a New Testament Church having a prophetess, who taught false doctrine as a prophetess and teacher (Revelation 2:20).
* Philip, the Evangelist, had four daughters which did prophesy, but they were not called prophetesses. The Lord sent Agabus, a male prophet, to speak to Paul the apostle (Acts 21:7-9). However, it does show that the Spirit fell on “handmaidens” in the last days in prophecy.
The Holy Spirit is available for all flesh, men and women. If the Lord is pleased to pour out His Spirit on women as well as men, then we must be willing to recognize and accept any God-given in the Church, even as above. (The subject of Women’s Ministry will be dealt with in a subsequent chapter).
K. Distinction between Old Testament and New Testament Prophets
It is essential to understand the particular difference between the Old Testament and New Testament Prophet for a proper recognition of the prophet’s function in the New Testament Church. Christ did not choose any Prophet in His earthly ministry. He chose Twelve Apostles. THIS immediately shows a break with that which was in the Old Testament times in the powerful and dominant ministry of the Prophet. He chose no prophet before the Cross, but after His crucifixion, resurrection and ascension. He chose Apostles to be the foundation of the Church and the city of God (Revelation 21:14).
We note these further facts about the Old Testament prophets. They fall into two particular groupings, which help us to distinguish the New Testament prophets ministry from that of the Old Testament.
1. Prophets of Guidance
Moses, Aaron, Samuel, Elijah and Elisha, etc., were especially prophets used in the ministry of guidance. The word of wisdom, word of knowledge, forthtelling, foretelling, miracles, etc., confirmed to all that they were Prophets of Jehovah who revealed and declared the mind of God, and often times, His personal will to the people. They were God’s spokesmen.
Guidance was given through Prophet, Priest, Urim and Thummin, Vision, Dream, Voice, Angelic visitation, etc., because the Holy Spirit was not available for “all flesh” under Old Covenant times. Man did not have direct approach to God through Christ, but through an earthly Mediator and Priest.
Prophets of Vision and Scripture
a. Prophets of Vision
Daniel and Zechariah were especially Prophets of Vision. They were Seers, in which God gave them visions, which they recorded under Divine inspiration as infallible prophecy, foretelling the future and destiny of the nations of earth. However, Daniel did not utter prophecy as a Prophet or Spokesman of God to the people, as far as we understand.
b. Prophets of Scripture
Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Joel, Hosea, Amos and an of the Writings Prophets, the Major and Minor Prophets, were particularly used in the realm of prophecy, the prophetic Scriptures. In the fullest sense of forthtelling and foretelling they spoke of the destiny of nations, both Israel and Gentile. God spoke and caused them to write infallible Scripture. yet He overruled the fallibility of these men, using their personalities through it all. In inspiration He overruled their infirmities and imperfections and caused infallible revelation to come through fallible men. Yet most of these Prophets were not used in the realm of the miraculous, as were the Prophets of Guidance, like Moses and Elijah and Elisha.
These Prophets of Scripture became God’s voice for their present and the future generations.
3. Distinctions between Old and New Testament Prophets
The two essential differences between Old and New Testament Prophets are as follows:
a. Old Testament Prophets were especially used in guidance, direction, and enquiry of the mind and will of God, because the Spirit was not available for all flesh.
b. Old Testament Prophets were especially used to utter and write infallible Scriptures. (II Peter 1:20).
Thus although there will be variations of the Prophetic ministry in the New Testament Church, as there was variety in Old Testament Prophets as God willed to use them, yet these differences will always remain.
It is therefore important to note these facts and truths:
1) No New Testament Prophet was ever used in guidance and control of another person’s life. They were used to confirm the already known and revealed will of God. But, for New Testament believers “as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:14). This is God’s norm. To resort to a Prophet for direction, guidance or control, is to violate the ministry of New Covenant believers, of having access to God through Christ, by the Spirit, who is available for “all flesh” in this dispensation.
No New Testament Prophet was ever used in the utterance of infallible Scripture. All prophetic utterances were to be judged by the Word of Scripture (I Corinthians 14:29, 30, 32). Most of the New Testament was written by the Apostles!
Thus, for New Covenant believers:
* Guidance and direction comes from the infallible Word of God, the Scriptures.
* Guidance is also by the indwelling Holy Spirit, always leading in harmony with, never contrary to, the infallible Word He inspired (Romans 8:14).
* Guidance may be confirmed through various ministries set in the Church, such as Prophets.
L. Testing the Ministry of the Prophet
There are some basic tests by which all Prophets, as well as other ministries, may be proven.
Both Old Testament and New Testament abound with evidences and warnings against false prophets. Undoubtedly this is because of its inspirational ministry and the emotional nature of the prophet that there is greater danger of deception. Many passages warn of false prophets. Wherever and whenever there are true prophets, Satan will stir up false prophets in order to deceive people.
Note–Matthew 24:11, 24; Jeremiah 5:30, 31; 26:15; 28:9; Ezekiel 13; Revelation 16:13; 19:20; 20:10; Jeremiah 23:18-22; Revelation 13; Matthew 7:15-23; Deuteronomy 18:22; I Timothy 4:1-2; II Thessalonians 2:1-12; 1 Kings 22; Revelation 2:2; I John 4:1-2; Luke 6:26; II Peter 2:1-2; II Timothy 3:13; I Corinthians 12:1-3; Isaiah 8:18-20; Micah 2:11; Mark 13:22; Acts 13:4-12). It seems as if there are more warnings against the false prophets than any other ministry, although the truth can be applied to all false ministries.
There are seven major tests of false prophets and these may be applied to any of the ministries for testing them.
I. Test of the spirit (I John 4:1-3)
We have to discern and test the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
In I Kings 22 we see prophetic utterances by the prophets and the three spirits that can be at work in prophetic utterances.
a. The Holy Spirit in the mouth of the one true prophet–verse 17.
II Chronicles 15:1; 24:20; I Corinthians 14:29-33,37; 12:28-29; Ephesians 3:5; 4:11; Revelation 18:20; Luke 2:36; Acts 13:1-2; 11:27; 15:32; 21:10. The Holy Spirit inspires true utterances of the word.
b. The Human spirit–verse 15. Note also Ezekiel 13:1-6; Jeremiah 23:16, 17, 26-32.
Here they spoke out of their own heart, their own spirit, and had seen nothing.
c. The Satanic spirit–verses 22, 23. Here it was a lying spirit in the mouth of all the prophets of Baal. Read also Isaiah 8:19, 20; I John 4:1; II Peter 2:1-2; II Thessalonians 2:3-12; Revelation 13:11-18; 16:13, 14; 19:20; Matthew 8:29; Acts 16:17.
Thus we have to “try”, test or prove and examine the spirit behind the utterance.
2. Test of Fulfillment of Prophetic Word (Deuteronomy 18:22)
Does the word come to pass or not? This is another test of prophecy. All knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord for the Lord let none of his words fall to the ground (I Samuel 3:19-21).
Test of Worship (Deuteronomy 13:1-5)
Though the prophet may give a sign or have dreams that come to pass, another test is whether his word leads one away from the worship of the true God to the worship of false gods (Revelation 13; Matthew 24:11, 24; II Thessalonians 2:1-12). It is the worship test. True prophets cause us to worship the true God.
Test of Doctrine (I John 4:1-6; I Timothy 4:1-3; Isaiah 8:18-20).
All prophets have to be checked out doctrinally against the revelation of the Word of God. The major doctrines of redemption, the fundamental truths of salvation have to be checked out. If they speak not according to this Word it is because there is no light in them (Matthew 24:11, 24, 25; Mark 13:22; Matthew 7: 15-23; Revelation 16:13, 14; Jeremiah 14:16; Ezekiel 14:10, 11).
5. Test of Fruit (Matthew 7:15-23; Revelation 2:20; Romans 6:16-22).
False prophets may have gifts but lack holiness of living. What is the fruit of their ministry, their life? This is the test. By their “fruits”–NOT gifts–shall ye know them. Must not mistake charisma for character. Fruit is the outward evidence of the inner nature and character of the tree.
6. Test of Covetousness (Micah 3:11; II Peter 2:1-3)
Covetousness is the root sin. You shall know false prophets and other ministries by their love of money. They make merchandise of the people of God.
Judas, Simon, Achan, Sapphira and Ananias all fell over money. The love of money is the root of all evil. It drowns men in destruction, perdition and numerous temptations (I Timothy 6).
7. Test of Ministry to the People (Jeremiah 23:18-23)
Jeremiah’s test of prophets was whether they turned people to God from their sinful lifestyle. Without holiness none shall see the Lord (Hebrews 12:7-14).
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS TAKEN FROM THE CHURCH IN THE NEW TESTAMENT AND PUBLISHED BY BT PUBLISHING 1982, PAGES 153-168. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIHGTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.