The previous article defined the basic concept of the function of a prophet, namely, to act as a mediator between God and man. Moreover, the prophet specifically pointed out the people’s transgressions, the sins of the house of Jacob, and did so under the power of the Holy Spirit (Isa. 58:1; Ezek. 22:2; 43:10; Mic. 3:8).
There are some, however, within the modern prophecy movement that claim that the requirements of the OT prophet do not apply to them since those rules were part of the law code and not for today’s age of grace. By claiming this, they seek to claim that they can receive a prophecy that does not come to pass and still claim be a true prophet. Can the NT prophet really proclaim a word from God that does not come to pass or does not line up with Scripture? Can the modern prophet, gifted by the Spirit of God, make a mistake?
Last time we saw that Jesus Christ came in the flesh to be the last mediator between God and man. Indeed, as Paul wrote to the Romans,
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Rom 5:1-2)
19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight. (Col 1:19-22)
Scripture clearly says that in the Church age, Christ is the only mediator and it is on the bases of His death:
For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, 7 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle - I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying - a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. (1Timothy 2:5-7)
The book of Hebrews describes Christ as mediator in the context of blood sacrifices:
6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. (Heb. 8:6)
12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. (Heb. 9:12-15)
Therefore, it is clear, from the context of Hebrews, that it was the priestly mediatorial role that Christ fulfilled as He offered Himself as a sacrifice for us and thus intercedes for us today. The office of priest is fulfilled in Him as all who are called by His name today are priests with Christ as the High Priest:
4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious,
5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5)
Therefore, it is the office of priest that has been fulfilled in Christ in His death, resurrection and ascension to heaven that satisfies the mediatorial requirement. What is left to be completed of the mediatorial function is the office of prophet, so we not turn to the office of prophet.
Details of the Prophetic Office
The prophetic office has the following requirements:
a. To Speak God’s words – Thus says the Lord…
The main function of the prophet of the OT was to speak God’s word to the people, to warn, reprove, encourage, exhort, to pronounce divine judgment on the people and call them to repentance. The OT prophet acted as a spokesman for God, receiving a message from Him and in turn proclaiming it in accordance with His commands. That was the main function of a prophet of God – to proclaim God’s word faithfully, accurately, and truthfully.
Since this is a fallen world, there appeared many false prophets who claimed to speak a word from God but were not. The true prophet of God exhibited some form of proof that they spoke from the true God. Often times this proof was in the form of a miracle, whether the miracle was in the form of a physical supernatural sign or a prophecy that was fulfilled in the near future. However, not all prophecy was future telling; many times a prophet would simply speak the word of God from the established Scriptures. This brings us to the main point. Prophecy has two aspects: future telling and simply Scripture retelling.
What developed in time was the “office” of prophet found in the OT under the Law code. Deuteronomy 18 describes the basic function of the prophet (though Christ is in view, the larger view of prophets in general is also present):
I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. 19 And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. 21 And if you say in your heart, how shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken? 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him. (Deut. 18:18-22)
Notice in Deuteronomy 18:20 the function of the prophet is to “speak a word in My name,” indeed, the Hebrew might better read “surely, the prophet that causes to speak presumptuously a word in My name, that which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.”
The prophet is to repeat accurately the word received from God and not add words that move the message of God to say something God did not say nor misrepresent Him. The true prophet of God spoke under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
There are some in the modern prophecy movement today that claim this does not apply to them since this is law, which is no longer applicable. This then gives them license to speak presumptuously or to speak a prophecy that does not come true yet they can still claim to be a true prophet of God. As with all dispensations, there are elements that are no longer in effect, but others that remain. Those elements that remain are universals, a prophet of God who has been chosen by God will never speak a prophecy that is not true, and to claim otherwise is to claim the Spirit of God is not able to control the mouth of His servant. How can we trust the Word of God was inspired by God, is trustworthy, reliable and infallible, if a different standard is used for the modern prophet? To prophesy is to speak for God and to claim to speak for God when one is not directly commanded to do so is to blaspheme God! “They speak a vision of their own heart, Not from the mouth of the LORD.” (Jer. 23:16)
The prophet of old was told: “And the LORD said to me, "The prophets prophesy lies in My name. I have not sent them, commanded them, nor spoken to them; they prophesy to you a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart.” (Jer. 14:14)
The prophet of today is told: “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. 4 For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment.” (2 Peter 2:1-4)
How then are we to understand the New Testament prophet? Is he indeed different with respect to speaking truthfully about God’s word? No! According to 2 Peter, a false prophet of old is equated with the false teacher of today and is not of the truth. False prophets and false teachers are reserved for the day of destruction and are described as blaspheming against God and truth. The true teacher (modern prophet) of God’s word is held to a high standard of speaking truth. A prophet of God, a teacher from God, and a man or woman of God will all speak truth because God is truth. God cannot lie. This is a universal truth of God. Likewise, the Spirit of God is called the Spirit of Truth. How then can a prophet of God ever speak under the guidance of the Spirit, speaking in the name of God, lie? Such a thing cannot be!
The New Testament prophet’s message is to be tested. That is the message of the apostle John as he addressed the Gnostic who believed that they could receive secret knowledge, a secret message from God when in fact they did not. Notice the apostle John’s strong exhortation to the church in his day:
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)
John was addressing the Gnostic teaching that the spiritual was good and the physical was evil so Jesus could not have been in the flesh. John exhorted them to test the prophet’s claim measures up to the truth of God’s word. With respect to the prophet speaking the truth of God’s word indeed the measure of the Old Testament and the New Testament prophet is the same. What is different is the result or judgment that comes upon the false prophet. In the OT law, the false prophet is to be killed, the NT prophet is to be exposed for being a liar – a false prophet who blasphemes the Spirit of God, for he is not speaking for God but for self.
In the next article we will examine the office of the Old Testament prophet and contrast him with the New Testament prophet.