Prophets Yesterday and Today

There is so much controversy on the subject of a New Testament Prophet, that it really  becomes necessary to begin this whole subject at the very beginning.


PROPHET. One who is divinely inspired to communicate God's will to His people  and to disclose the future to them.

Below are quotes from The New Unger's Bible Dictionary , from these comments it is clear that the Old testament Prophet had the general function as a messenger. The messenger had a twofold aspect to his message. One aspect was doctrinal with a moral theme, declaring and explaining God's word and will to a people who were in need of correction or direction. The other was predictive by warning or proclaiming the future either as a conditional or unconditional situation and events

The general Heb. word for prophet is nabi', from the verb naba'; cf. Akkad. nabu, "to announce, call a declarer, announcer." The primary idea of a prophet, therefore, is a declarer, announcer, one who utters a communication... Two other Heb. words, ro'eh and hozeh, are used to designate the prophet, both meaning "one who sees," and sometimes rendered "seer." The three words occur in 1 Chr. 29:29, where they seem to be contrasted with each other:

 "Now the acts of King David, from first to last, are written in the chronicles of Samuel the seer [ro'eh], in the chronicles of Nathan the prophet [nabi'], and in the chronicles of Gad the seer [hozeh]...

Whether there is any difference in the usage of these
words and, if any, what that difference is, has been much debated. On the whole, it would seem that the same persons are designated by the three words. Sometimes the prophets are
called watchmen, Heb. sopim <Jer. 6:17; Ezek. 3:17; 33:2,6-7>; shomer, a watchman <Isa. 21:11; 62:6>; and ro`eh, "pastoral," a shepherd <Zech. 11:5,16>. The word is uniformly translated in the LXX by prophetes and in the NASB and NIV by "prophet." In classical Gk. prophetes signifies "one who speaks for another," especially "one who speaks for a god" and so interprets his will to man. Hence its essential meaning is "an interpreter." ... The function of the prophet, as already seen, was not merely the disclosure of the future, but included the exposition and application of the law, the declaration of God's will. It thus contained two elements-- the moral, or doctrinal, and the predictive.
(from New Unger's Bible Dictionary)
(originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (C) 1988.)

The Bible also explains that the Prophet obtained the message and understanding by supernatural means. The most common means were through dreams and visions as well as the more rare angelic visitations.

And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you,  I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. KJV Num 12:6

Examples of angelic visits to prophets: 1Ki13:18, 1Chr 21:18, Zech 1:9

Another means most common today was that of divine revelation by inspiration, or what believers today refer to as,  that small still voice of God's Holy Spirit . 2Peter 1:21

Are there New Testament Prophets today?

Prophet; the very mention of this word gives most of us today, the image of a wild eyed, ruffled haired, robe wearing, barefoot man with a large walking stick loudly proclaiming, , "Thus sayeth the Lord," or , "Woe unto you". This would be an accurate image for an Old Testament prophet, but what about prophets in the New testament times.
 

But didn't Prophets end with the writing of the New Testament?

There are some denominations that claim that Prophets were done away with after Christ and or the original twelve Apostles and that there are no such thing as Prophets in the New Testament times. There are others that say that the position or ministry of the prophet today has now become the Teacher. This in part is derived from the Greek and English slant on the word prophet as including interpreter. However, in the Old Testament times and in all of history there have been teachers and prophets as separate groups with separate functions. Even those that believe there are prophets or people with a prophetic calling today far too often emulate the Old Testament image. Some try and use 1Cor 13:10 as proof that after the New Testament was written, the gifts were no longer needed and ended. This is a misunderstanding and error of
scripture interpretation as we shall see. Here is the text:

" 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. When I was a child, I spake  as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man,  I put away childish things. 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 Cor 13:9-12 (KJV)


In the original languages as defined by Dr. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance , face can mean the front of the human head or any inanimate object. Even with this broad meaning for face
however, in this context to claim this means a book specifically the Bible, is so far reaching it is a shame to even have to comment on it. This however becomes necessary because at least one large denomination has continued to use this idea to convey that the gifts and some of the ministries are now over. There are no other scriptures to cross reference or allude in any way to this transitional thought. The contextual illustrations used here refer to our present mortal linear understanding in contrast to the coming kingdom and the eternal perspective. Outside of our earthly mortal existence in the heavenly eternal realm we will see things as an adult within the eternal perspective and not as children locked in the present earthly linear existence with partial perception and understanding. Miracles and the gifts of the Holy Spirit with all the church ministry offices are still here for us today. We see this with the mention of Agabus a prophet sent to warn the Apostle Paul. (Acts 21:10) We also see Paul instructing the Corinthians about the gifts and offices of the church without any mention that this is transitory. 1CO 13 These were ageless directives for the entire Church of all ages to follow until the end of this present age. Mark 15: 15-20
 

The Holy Spirit makes the Difference
If you allow the Bible to interpret this subject within and by itself, clarification of this mistaken identity and action are clearly made . It becomes rather obvious by internal evidence in the New Testament that the ministry of a prophet still exists in the church age and extends past the original twelve apostles, and beyond the completion of the written New Testament, as a part of the New Covenant Church that still exists in the same capacity without change today.
Yes, there are New Testament Prophets BUT, The Holy Spirit makes a difference from the Old Testament Prophet.
 This difference is totally dependant upon the changing ministry and person of the Holy Spirit. We can understand that there was a limited function of the Holy Spirit that existed in the Old Testament times and a new expanded ministry of the Holy Spirit after the resurrection and ascension Of Jesus Christ in the New Covenant times.

In the Old Testament it is described that the Spirit of the Lord rested upon or came upon the prophet and inspired him with a message, or through him, demonstrated a supernatural act which confirmed his message and ministry. The prophet at times were required to be very demonstrative himself in the process. Isaiah 20:2 walked naked, 1Ki 13:33-35 soaked the alter
with water.
Moses had a desire and wished that all of God's people would have the Spirit of God upon them as prophets in described in Numbers 11:29 His hope and desire was, to an extent, fulfilled
at the day of Pentecost. Acts 1:5, 2:4  That is not to say that every Born Again, believer is a prophet, rather that each Born Again believer has the potential of a Prophet. Each Born Again believer enters a royal priesthood as the New Testament scriptures indicate.


"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:"                                      1 Pet 2:9 (KJV)

This order is one which allows each believer to receive spiritually endowed gifts to enhance his or her specific calling into the priesthood of God. Ephesians 4:8 gifts given to men, Romans 12:6 Different gifts by grace, 1 Corinthians 12:7 given to all, 1 Corinthians 14:1 to be desired by all. This priesthood is a position of exercised authority over the powers of darkness and servitude toward mankind . 1 John 4:4HS in you Matthew 16:14 Church's power, Luke 10:19 all power over enemy. The servitude is part of the gospel message of God's Love and plan through Jesus Christ. Therefore Prophecy personal or general, conditional or unconditional flows through a prophetic ministry bestowed by the Holy spirit as a gift through the individual which would still be considered today as a prophet.

New Testament purpose and manner of communication

This is the purpose associated with the prophetic message by the operation of the Holy Spirit through the individual with a prophetic ministry in New Testament times

"But he that prophesies speaks unto men to edification, and exhortation,
and comfort." 1 Cor 14:3(NKJV)


Understanding that this is the purpose of prophecy to the body of Christ in New Testament times, our manner of presentation is also tempered under the control of the Holy Spirit and translates in a manner of presentation mentioned by James.

" But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle,  and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them
that make peace".                      James 3:17 NKJV

 

Paul is described as a witness (Acts 22:15) and portrayed this kind of message deliverance throughout his life and asked us to follow his example. If the prophetic ministry is true it will always point to Jesus Christ.


"I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." (KJV) Revelation 19:10

The new testament prophet however, does not have to verify or in any way confirm the message he is declaring. He also does not have to be a convicting demonstrative voice of
melodramatics. That burden has been given to the Holy Spirit to convict of sin and to bear witness to the truth. John 16:7-11  Today we would simply be a witness to the truth and convey the hope that is within us. 1 Peter 3:15.
 

In the most general sense, this witness concept is true for every believer in Christ and even more pronounced for the New Testament Prophet. When you think of a witness in a court situation, a witness simply testifies what he has been told, personally experienced or saw . He does not defend it, he does not enforce it, he does not debate it, He simply tells those who ask or are willing to hear. This is the job of the witness and a part of our calling as Christians in general. It
is also the manner in which a message today is conveyed through the modern day prophet. This same attitude and action would reflect the prophetic aspect as well. Announcing judgment conditional or unconditional would not depend on a reinforcement by the prophet like the Old Testament prophets of the past. The Holy Spirit would convince and convict and certainly bring to pass events on His own. The Prophet's role is simply to be the messenger and witness. There are rare occasions when the New Testament prophet may have a supernatural gift that does re-enforce the message but it is usually in extreme cases and situations experienced by missionaries in a dangerous field. Or in my case, as pioneer Christian Biker bringing the gospel to the outlaw biker community, I have on occasion experienced this supernatural gifting as an addition. However in all cases in the New Testament times the sole motivation is grounded in Love leading toward Christ.

The Characteristics and Actions of a Prophet Today
The various actions of the Old Testament prophets in contrast to the expected actions of a New Testament prophet becomes clear with two steps of Biblical knowledge. The first step is
realized by seeing the role of the Holy Spirit in New Testament times in contrast to the Old Testament role as we have already discussed.
             

Temperament of the Prophet

The second step is to understand the personal character and nature of the individual called into this kind of ministry. They are the same for the Old Testament prophet as well as the New Testament Prophet. However, the manner and method of communication for the New Testament administration, is most of the time completely the opposite from the natural characteristics. It is only by the leading and control of the Holy Spirit by tempering, adjusting and focusing these
natural characteristics that the new Testament Prophet can administer his or her ministry with the compassion, mercy and grace required by the New testament directives.
 

These are some of the natural inclinations of character that most prophets Old or New have.  A prophet has a strong sense of justice but often times can come across as judgmental or critical. They despise bullies and any kind of injustice. They are not usually shy in challenging authority or the status quo. They are activists against the unjust social orders of their societies. They tend to be reactionaries willing to make personal sacrifices for doing the right thing. They have a
natural keen sense of discernment which many times can make them appear as socially negative people. Their passion against injustice and their zeal to respond can make them jump to conclusions un-tempered by the Holy Spirit. They are also visionaries which can see changes or danger coming long before others. They are also associated with a short temper related to the contrast of their insight by the lack of it in others They are often the black sheep of the flock and
many times became that way because of their own choices and uncompromising nature. They are tenacious in standing on their beliefs and not subject to compromising them. Good or bad these are the basic characteristic tendencies of a prophet but not always exclusive as Daniel's own life did not reflect many of these natural character traits. These are generalized inclinations and not absolutes that we are locked into.
 

The natural undisciplined side of the prophetic personality can have a very negative display. This person can be an obnoxious overbearing know it all who concentrates on the negative. He can be a strong willed, hot headed, reactionary, ready to fight and rebel against anything mainstream. However the same tendencies tempered by the Holy Spirit and focused with a servant attitude can produce a very wise, positive man or woman of God and a warrior of the Lord. This tempering can produce a powerful insightful messenger of God well equipped with knowledge, patience and skills to communicate with compassion, mercy and wisdom, the will of God and coming events.

I hope this has given you some understanding and helped you in your own attempts to move into this realm of sharing what God has given you to convey to others. Whether we have the specific gift as a prophet or simply as a child of God, these principles of communication can apply to us all.

In His Service, Jim W.

The Lord gave me a poem one early mourning during my prayer time about Prophets. I am not a poet nor do I write poetry but I was given this one which was personal to me. I think it is something that could apply to us all , so I would like to share it with you


       
Reflections For A Prophet


When sin reins in your heart;
it will tell you who you arenít
it will tell you what you canít be or do,
it will make you passive, permissive and powerless to be inspired or inspire
others,
it will keep your mouth shut when it should be opened.
it will discourage depress and bring about distress, by frustrating the will
of God...It will make you LOSE!
When I your Lord rein in your heart:
I will confirm who you are in me.
I will show you what can be, and what you will do,
I will make you bold, confident and powerful to be inspired and inspire
others.
I will open your mouth as a wellspring of life that does not faint.
I will encourage and inspire with vision, my way and my will that leads to
true freedom even in the midst of hell. This is my victory, I have
purchased for all...and it with me, you shall WIN the call!