Prophets Today?

prophets 1

Q My Sunday school class asked me the following questions: (a) whether there are still prophets today and, if there are, (b) whether they can foretell the future.
Looking up the Bible, I got a bit confused with the following arguments:
(a) On whether there are still prophets today:
1. Prophets were needed in the OT to convey the messages of the Lord because the Holy Spirit had not yet been given to believers (Jn 7:39). In the NT era, with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit upon our conversion, we don’t need prophets as middlemen, and the Holy Spirit will guide us and give us revelations of the future if there is a need to do so (Jn 16:13).
2. On the other hand, prophets did not end with the OT era. In the NT period, the Lord has given some to be prophets (1 Co 12:10, 28; Eph 4:11) and the NT books recorded a couple of them, some true (Acts 11:27, 13:1; Tit 1:12),some false (Acts 13:6; 1 Jn 4:1) . The NT books also alleged that in the end times, there will be prophets (Rev 11:10, 12) and false prophets too (Mt 24:24; Mk 13:22; Rev 16:13, 19:20, 20:10). Moreover the logical argument is that if there are bound to be no prophets nowadays, then by default, all prophets today and in the future end times must be false prophets and there is no need for discernment.
(b) On the direct linking of foretelling to a prophet:-
1. A prophet in OT is just the spokesperson of God, similar to Aaron being the spokesman of Moses (Ex 7:1 NIV) and did not necessarily foretell. Moreover, Jesus said “For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John (the Baptist)” (Mt 11:13; Lk 16:16), so even if there are prophets today, they can’t foretell. Anyone who foretells must be a false prophet.
2. On the contrary, prophets should still foretell because we still need to discern false prophets from true ones, and whether prophets are true ones will be measured by the accuracy of their prophecies (Deut 18:20-22).

Can you shed some light on this?

A. Let me try to reconcile the dilemma. Prophets were called by God to be His spokesperson, delivering a message from God, which could be a warning to His people, or a foretelling of the future. There were prophets in the OT and NT, but there is a qualitative difference between the two. In the OT one characteristic of the prophets can be summed up in the words “thus saith the LORD”, an expression which appeared 413 times in the KJV. They claimed that the message they were delivering were the very words of God Himself, and therefore authoritative. The NT prophets did not make this claim e.g.

Acts 11:27-28 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.)
• Acts 13:1 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul.
• Acts 15:32 Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers.
• Acts 21:10 After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea.
• 1 Co 12:28-29 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?
• Acts 14:29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.
• Acts 14:32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets.
• Acts 14:37 If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command.
• Eph 2:20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
• Eph 4:11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,
• Titus 1:12 One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.”
• Rev 11:10 The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth.

Aside from Paul (Acts 13:1) who was also an apostle and therefore spoke the Lord’s commands (Acts 14:37), the other NT prophets did not give new doctrinal revelation from God, nor do they speak with the same degree of authority. What they spoke must be weighed by others (Acts 14:29), and subject to the apostle’s authority (Acts 14:37). Their ministry seemed to be more confined to local congregations (1 Co 12-14), encouraging and strengthening the believers (Acts 15:32), unlike the OT prophets and NT apostles whose messages were universal to God’s people. I therefore draw a distinction between them and OT prophets.

The church, God’s household, is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph 2:20). I interpret the prophets to refer to OT prophets, not NT. OT prophets, as well as apostles, delivered the Word of God which preceded and formed the church’s foundation. NT prophets who expounded revelation already given come after the church, and cannot be her foundation at the same time.

Now, with this background, my opinion is that there are no prophets today in the classical divinely appointed spokesperson for God sense. The church’s foundation had already been laid and there is no need to keep laying it again. Everything necessary for our faith and practice have been delivered once for all to the saints. There are believers with the gift of prophecy (1 Co 13:2, 14:1), but they are local and practical, not universal and doctrinal. Can they foretell the future? Again, only in a limited sense what God specifically revealed to them. That’s why discernment is needed, always making sure what they predict is consistent with what is already revealed in Scripture. I hope this reconciles the divergent views you are facing.

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