As I write, the world is in the midst of the Covid-19 Pandemic. This unprecedented time has brought a newly formed virus to the whole of the earth, a fear of the sickness' transmission from one to another, and due to nearly world-wide stay at home orders and business closures, a financial cost which probably won't be fully known for years to come. In light of what goes into history books, it's a rather big deal.
Yet I can't find any evidence of a single self-proclaimed prophet of God who foretold of this moment in history before the moment began. There are some rather vague references to people who supposedly had the foreknowledge, but it seems that in this age where everyone who believes they are anyone records and posts everything they say, no one can find any video or audio evidence to back up the various claims. There are others who purportedly predicted this virus, but I've listened to the claims and they are all so vague that they could only be considered in hindsight, and if something different had hit the world, the same vague prophecies could have been considered for those too. The point is, no one said anything such as:
Thus says the Lord God... next year at this time a great and new virus will sweep through the whole earth, causing great fear among many, bringing death to thousands, overwhelming some cities with its suddenness. Freedoms will be removed and the world will be locked down. Work will stop for many, family members will die alone, and nation after nation will have to print non-existent money to make it through, increasing national debts by trillions in mere days.
Yet after the virus was known, all the prophets seemed to come out of the woodwork, not declaring the horrors of the virus, but as is their pattern, the mighty turnaround that would take place. Fortunately, some of these prophets gave dates, and said it would all turn around with the Passover. That time having come and gone, we can say all who made such claims were... wrong.
What's funny is that when these "prophets" first started talking about the mid-April turnaround, that did seem somewhat logical as the medical models for some parts of the world at the time kind of lined up, but because we "flattened the curve" due to the stay-at-home orders, the virus' progression was slowed, and the prophecies, quite possibly based on what the prophets had been seeing on the news, were proven false.
There was one heretical speaker who's prophecies and demands of God humored me, though they may have damaged my garden a bit. Kenneth Copeland, on March 30, 2020, posted a video where he executed judgement on Covid-19 as a self-proclaimed prophet of God. He demanded a vaccination to come immediately and called the coronavirus done. He declared the USA healed. Well, a few days later on April 3 things apparently weren't back to normal in the U.S. so Copeland went further. He called for a strong south wind, a strong high-pressure system, and a supernatural heat wave (which apparently the Lord told him to believe for) all over this nation and anywhere else in the world where it was needed to burn away the Coronavirus.
Looking at New York City, where the virus was most ravenous in the U.S. during Copeland's rant, the average high and low temperatures increase from 56/42 on April 1st through 67/51 on the 30th. Historical weather for April, 2020 shows that on only one day the temperature in NYC made it all the way up to 68 (the high point for the month). A few days got down into the 30s. In fact, much of the nation had abnormally cold weather through much of April. Maybe we can't make the demands Copeland thinks we can (or at least that he thinks he can).
Now, Copeland is admittedly an extreme example, but not by much. He's accepted by many in the "church." He has prominent airplay on the major "Christian" TV networks and he has followers in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions (at the time of this writing, he has nearly 450 thousand twitter followers alone). And while not to as showy of a degree, there are many like him. They are dangerous.
I want to look at what the Bible says about prophets and prophecy. First up, I want to look at Matthew 7:13-23 (ESV).
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
The above is the last block of teaching from the Sermon on the Mount, as recorded by Matthew. If we hear Jesus' sayings and do them, we'll be like the wise man who built his house on the rock. This section speaks to how easy it is to find ourselves on the wide road that leads to destruction. Many will travel that path. Prophets are the mouthpiece of God, and in many ways they are like the young lad crying "extra, extra!" on the street corners of decades past. They draw the crowds who come to hear what they have to share. The (printed) word they share will influence what road people travel - thus the warning immediately after Jesus speaks of the roads and admonition to take the hard and narrow road to life. We need to beware, because for the majority, the road the prophets will lead us down will be to destruction. It's the easy road and many will find that road. We are to take the hard road.
We have to note that false prophets don't appear as false prophets. They appear as sheep. They appear as Christians. We will see them as one of us... but then how can we know if they are sheep? By their fruit. The example is clear. "Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?" To these rhetorical questions, we answer "no." Thorn trees bear thorns. Thistles do not give grapes. False prophets' words do not come true. A grape vine says "I'm going to make a grape" and a grape comes forth. A thistle says "I'm going to make a grape" and no grape comes forth. With my background, I've heard hundreds of prophecies, and for all of them, I should look back and ask... did a grape come forth?
We need to be careful. The fruit is what the tree produces. A prophet produces the fruit of words - words that foretell the future/something God has said. If that word does not come to pass, it's equivalent to the promised grape of the thorn tree. Many people point to a prophet and may say "look at the encouraging words he uses," or "look at the mighty works she does." But those aren't the standards of a prophet. And when they stand before Jesus at judgement, he'll say "I never knew you. Depart from me." We also need to be careful not to say "well, they got that part right." The above makes it clear - a good tree cannot bear bad fruit. And those trees are to be cut down and thrown into the fire. We will recognize the good trees (prophets) by their fruits. The rest will be the ones who say on that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not..."
While many self-proclaimed prophets preach that prophecy is improving or increasing or becoming more accurate, you'll notice the above does not give the possibility of an 80% correct prophet. A good tree cannot bear 20% bad fruit. 1 Corinthians 13:9 says "For we know in part and we prophesy in part" but this does not mean that we prophesy incorrectly. If a prophet had prophesied that we would see nation after nation having to print non-existent money to make it through the next year, increasing national debts by trillions in mere days, that prophecy would have been "in part" but still 100% correct. The Jehovah's Witnesses use Proverbs 4:18Proverbs 4:18 (ESV & NWT)
ESV: But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.
NWT: But the path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established. (The Jehovah's Witnesses' Bible) to excuse their false prophecies and past mistakes. This verse says "But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day." But that doesn't work either. This verse is simply saying that as we grow as Christians, we'll see more and more of the glory and brightness of Christ. It is immediately contrasted in verse 19Proverbs 4:18-19 (ESV)
But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble. with the wicked, who are in deep darkness, not even knowing what causes them to stumble. If someone proclaims "the Lord says," the Bible does not give them room to be even slightly wrong.
Now, we don't live in a day where we would be expected to kill those who error regarding the power of God, but it would be expected that they repent of the sin, and if they habitually walk in such sin, they should be called out as false accordingly, because the Bible does say that those "trees" will be cut down and thrown into the fire. Consider Simon, who practiced magic, who found salvation listening to Philip and was rebuked for wanting to purchase the power to give others the Holy Spirit by laying on of hands (see Acts 8:9-24Acts 8:9-24 (ESV)
But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed. Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.” ). Similarly, those who are claiming to prophesy wrongly should be given warning and a chance to repent.
Since all scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (see 2 Timothy 3:162 Timothy 3:16 (ESV)
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, ), I next want to look at Deuteronomy 18:9-22:
When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do this. “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.
There are a couple of things to note here. First, we are to only want to hear from God. Consider the list of abominables: diviners, fortune tellers, omen interpreters, charmers, mediums and necromancers. The people in the land were using every trick known to "hear a word," among the other practices of witchcraft. This speaks to our natural human desire to want to hear a word (as an aside, see 1 Kings 22 for a great example of King Jehoshaphat only wanting to hear a positive word from his prophets). We need to be careful not to fall into that trap. Instead of seeking everything the people of the land sought, God promises that he will instead raise up a prophet from among the people. The New Testament confirms this prophet was ultimately Jesus (see John 6:14 and 7:40John 6:14 & 7:40 (ESV)
6:14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”
7:40 When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” , Acts 7:37Acts 7:37 (ESV)
This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.’ and Acts 3:19-26Acts 3:19-26 (ESV)
Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.” ). But before the ultimate fulfillment in Jesus there were other prophets sent to speak to the people.
Note how the promise of the Prophet came about. It was because the people no longer wanted to hear the voice of the Lord or see his great fire any more. They did not want to hear from God directly. They wanted a mediator, because in their sinful minds, the mediator would be easier to bear. God Granted their wish and ultimately, Jesus was The Mediator. Later, the prophets, speaking the words of God, became too much for the people and they then demanded a king (See 1 Samuel 8). God again granted their wish and ultimately, Jesus was The King.
I think it's neat. Every time the people want something lesser because they don't want to hear from God so directly, God gives the people what they want, but ultimately, God gave us Jesus, who was the very image and word of God the people did not want in the first place. We must ask, are we seeking words from prophets because we don't want the very Word of God that has already been given to us?
Even before Jesus, God made clear the standards of a prophet. Deuteronomy 18:20-22 make it plain. Verse 20 says:
But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.
And how do we know if the word spoken was the word God gave the prophet to speak (the question of verse 21Deuteronomy 18:21 (ESV)
And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— )? Verse 22 answers:
when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously.
And as we just saw, God takes presumption seriously, because that prophet shall die (verse 20Deuteronomy 18:20 (ESV)
But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ ).
Next I want to look at Jeremiah 23:9-32:
Concerning the prophets: My heart is broken within me; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the Lord and because of his holy words. For the land is full of adulterers; because of the curse the land mourns, and the pastures of the wilderness are dried up. Their course is evil, and their might is not right. “Both prophet and priest are ungodly; even in my house I have found their evil, declares the Lord. Therefore their way shall be to them like slippery paths in the darkness, into which they shall be driven and fall, for I will bring disaster upon them in the year of their punishment, declares the Lord. In the prophets of Samaria I saw an unsavory thing: they prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel astray. But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.” Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts concerning the prophets: “Behold, I will feed them with bitter food and give them poisoned water to drink, for from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has gone out into all the land.” Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’” For who among them has stood in the council of the Lord to see and to hear his word, or who has paid attention to his word and listened? Behold, the storm of the Lord! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the Lord will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intents of his heart. In the latter days you will understand it clearly. “I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds. “Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the Lord. Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who steal my words from one another. Behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who use their tongues and declare, ‘declares the Lord.’ Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the Lord, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the Lord.
Here, Jeremiah is speaking about the false prophets in the land who are leading the people of God astray with their words. In Samaria, the prophets prophesied by Baal, but in Jerusalem, it is their own sin that seems to be the source of their prophecies. And the people likewise, in their sin, are strengthened by the false prophets so that "no one turns back from his wickedness." When the prophet's life is filled with personal compromise, that compromise will spread to the people.
We are told in verse 16Jeremiah 23:16 (ESV)
Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. to not listen to the prophets who fill us with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds and not from God. Their prophecies are from their own heart. They say that it will be well with us, we will have peace and that no disaster shall come upon us.
Does this prophetic message sound familiar? It is a very common message today.
The passage doesn't even say the false prophets do this knowingly or purposefully to harm. It's quite possible that the prophets, blind to their own sin, speak words that they wish were from God - words of peace and success over evil that may want to overtake us. But no matter how good the message, we are told not to listen. Their prophecies are vain hopes. Not the true hope of salvation and the world to come, but vain hopes for the world now. God did not send these prophets, yet they ran with "his" word.
Verse 22Jeremiah 23:22 (ESV)
But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds. gets to the heart of the matter. It reads, "But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds (italics mine)."
The prophecies of God lead people to a knowledge of sin and the need for repentance.
The false prophets, conversely, claim their dreams to be words of the Lord rather than just dreams (the words of the Lord are compared to wheat whereas dreams are compared to the chaff). They speak peace, when there is no peace. With their honey dripped words they draw in crowds of unsaved people and tell them that God loves them and has a great plan for them and wants mighty things for them, week after week, without ever telling them that actually they are heading towards God's judgment and must repent, causing them to understand the truth and significance of their sin and what Jesus did at the cross because of that sin.
Their message is not from God, but is instead they prophesy the deceit of their own heart. While some probably know they're fooling the people, using their version of the gospel for (financial) gain (see 1 Timothy 6:51 Timothy 6:3-5 (ESV)
If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, (verse 5) and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. ), many are likely deceived, and some may wholeheartedly believe they are doing God's service. They may want to not offend and therefore think it's correct that they do not speak about sin. Sadly, this too is the deceit of their own heart and no matter how encouraging the message, it profits the people nothing.
Next, I want to turn to Ezekiel.
The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel, who are prophesying, and say to those who prophesy from their own hearts: ‘Hear the word of the Lord!’ Thus says the Lord God, Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! Your prophets have been like jackals among ruins, O Israel. You have not gone up into the breaches, or built up a wall for the house of Israel, that it might stand in battle in the day of the Lord. They have seen false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘Declares the Lord,’ when the Lord has not sent them, and yet they expect him to fulfill their word. Have you not seen a false vision and uttered a lying divination, whenever you have said, ‘Declares the Lord,’ although I have not spoken?” Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Because you have uttered falsehood and seen lying visions, therefore behold, I am against you, declares the Lord God. My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and who give lying divinations. They shall not be in the council of my people, nor be enrolled in the register of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord God. Precisely because they have misled my people, saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace, and because, when the people build a wall, these prophets smear it with whitewash, say to those who smear it with whitewash that it shall fall! There will be a deluge of rain, and you, O great hailstones, will fall, and a stormy wind break out. And when the wall falls, will it not be said to you, ‘Where is the coating with which you smeared it?’ Therefore thus says the Lord God: I will make a stormy wind break out in my wrath, and there shall be a deluge of rain in my anger, and great hailstones in wrath to make a full end. And I will break down the wall that you have smeared with whitewash, and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation will be laid bare. When it falls, you shall perish in the midst of it, and you shall know that I am the Lord. (Ezekiel 13:1-14)
These verses mirror many of the others we have looked at. This warning is to the prophets directly. The pattern is similar. The false prophets speak of their own hearts yet declare they are speaking the words of God. They misled the people, saying, 'Peace,' when there is no peace. They speak the words the people want to hear. They are not building up the true church. Verse 5 says:
You have not gone up into the breaches, or built up a wall for the house of Israel, that it might stand in battle in the day of the Lord
Instead of pointing out where the church needs correction and to be brought back to the truth of God's word, they simply say "peace." Verse sixEzekiel 13:6 (ESV)
They have seen false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘Declares the LORD,’ when the LORD has not sent them, and yet they expect him to fulfill their word. points out that when they have seen false visions they expect God to fulfill their words. Such presumption! Where there are weaknesses in the church, these prophets instead cover the weakness with "whitewash," with compliments, with assurances that we are all good people and God wants nothing but greatness for us. In the end, the people will realize they've been deceived and the prophets will perish in God's wrath. A serious warning indeed.
From all of the above, consider the commonalities. The false prophets typically prophesy good things - peace regardless of circumstances and protection from the evil that would befall us. They don't bring the people to repentance and their hope is not in the world to come, as the Bible describes hope, but in the idea that everything is to be good now. Biblically, prophecy is typically used for warning, but the false prophets typically only offer encouraging words (much as do many popular prophets today).
Some may say, "That was the Old Testament. Today, prophecy is for the encouragement of the church." I don't disagree that God uses prophecy for the encouragement of the church, but maybe we misunderstand what encouragement is. What are some Biblical examples of prophecy per the New Testament?
In Luke 2:25-35Luke 2:25-35 (ESV)
Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” , Simeon is permitted to see Christ before he dies. He prophesies "Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed." (Verses 34-35)
In Luke 2:36-38Luke 2:36-38 (ESV)
And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. , Anna prophesied specifically about Jesus to those who were looking for the redeemer.
In Acts 2:14-41Acts 2:14-41 (ESV)
But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him, “‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. , Peter speaks under the direction of the Holy Spirit about Jesus, explaining who he was to the people at Pentecost.
In Acts 11:19-30Acts 11:19-30 (ESV)
Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul. , Agabus warns of a severe famine which would come over the entire Roman world.
In Acts 21:10-12Acts 21:10-12 (ESV)
While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul's belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Agabus uses Paul's belt to warn him that he will be handed over to the Gentiles by the Jews.
In Luke 21, Jesus prophesied that the temple would be torn down, that many would come in his name claiming to be him, that nation will rise against nation, of earthquakes, famines and pestilences, and fearful events and great signs from heaven that would come before his return. He also prophesied that his people would be seized and persecuted, and some would be put to death.
Much of the book of Revelation speaks to rather harsh words of rebuke and happenings yet to come.
In God's eyes, I'm sure all of these prophetic words were for the encouragement and building of the Church.
There are those who say that prophesy, in its entirety, was done away with once the New Testament scriptures were penned and the canon was closed. One of the arguments they use is from 1 Corinthians 13:8, which says:
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.
But I must ask, has knowledge too passed away? The scripture continues in verses 9 and 10:
For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
The perfect has not come (this is referring to Jesus' return), so we can not use these verses to support that prophecy has been done away with.
Conversely, those who support prophecy often support the idea that prophesy isn't to be held to the standards exemplified in the Old Testament (or even as exemplified by Jesus in the sermon on the mount). They say that because 1 Corinthians 14:3 says "On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation" then modern prophecy is only to be uplifting and encouraging. The fatal flaw here is the human view of "uplifting." As I alluded earlier, warnings of famine and persecutions would have been uplifting to the Church from God's perspective. Additionally, in discussing prophecy later in 1 Corinthians 14, Paul says:
But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you." (1 Corinthians 14:24-25).
It is not logical to think that by saying "God loves you, protects you and has a personal plan for your success" that one will be convicted by all and called to account of all, the secrets of his heart being disclosed. Paul's narrative, when viewed in its entirety supports that prophecy still can happen today and that it will still follow the same purpose as it always has, and that is to point to Christ, bringing people to realization of the seriousness of their sin and need for Jesus because of what he did at the cross.
I can find no scripture which excuses modern prophets from the standards of prophecy found in the Bible. I can find scripture which excuses modern eaters from the standards of eating found in the Old Testament (see Acts 10:9-16Acts 10:9-16 (ESV)
The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven. ), but I can not find such a scripture regarding prophets or prophecy. We should not pretend one exists. Rather, we should judge all prophecies according to the fullness of the Word of God (see 1 Corinthians 14:291 Corinthians 14:29 (ESV)
Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. and 1 Thessalonians 5:20-221 Thessalonians 5:20-22 (ESV)
Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. ).
Going back to 1 Corinthians, I find it interesting that right after Paul says "So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But all things should be done decently and in order" (1 Corinthians 14:39-40) he then immediately reminds the people in his next sentence:
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures..." (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
It's as if Paul feels the need to stress what prophetic words should point to.
Having said I believe prophecy may still occur today with the stipulations that we hold prophets to Biblical accountability, I want to speak briefly to the NAR movement, whether or not those in it identify themselves as such. We are in a world where there have arisen many modern day self-appointed apostles and prophets. The idea is that in these latter days God has restored the offices of apostle and prophet. For others, the thought has always been that these offices faded away once the canon of scripture was completed. I haven't landed on one side or another of this argument, but I will say the better scriptural argument seems to go to the cessationist. Regardless, I think we need to take seriously the words of Ephesians 2. Laying the foundation of our salvation and having been brought into the household of God, Paul says starting in verse 20, that the household of God is "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit." (italics mine)
Yes, the building of the Church continues today, but the foundation has already been laid - once, with Christ being the chief cornerstone. A building's foundation is NEVER laid twice unless the entire building is torn down and a new building is constructed after digging out the old foundation. To me, this makes it clear that the offices of apostle and prophet were temporary offices that existed during the initial foundation of the modern Christian church. It is quite logical that with the completion of the canon the foundation was completed, and since everything else was built on this foundation of the apostles and prophets, that they no longer operate in today's Church. Rather, the apostles and prophets themselves are the time capsule in the Church's history, embedded in the foundation of the building.
Hmm... maybe I have landed on one side of the NAR argument.