Today I’m going to be posting up the the third part of my notes from the third talk I gave at the Last Days Bible Conference. That talk was about a biblical understanding of tongues, healing and prophecy. The previous post I put up contained my notes about healing, and the one before that contained my notes about tongues.. Today, I’m going to be posting the notes about prophecy.
As in the previous two posts, my main objective in addressing the subject was to try to give, from the Bible, a definition of tongues, healing and prophecy as practice by Christ, the prophets and apostles. Though there are plenty of questions regarding prophecy that come up in contemporary evangelicalism (though people don’t always realized that the question they’re asking is about prophecy), I hope once again to tackle a majority of the questions at a foundational level since a majority of people assume a wrong definition (that conveniently fits their expectations or experience) and then twist the biblical data to conform to their assumed definition, leading to many questions.
Here we go again!
In sorting out questions of prophecy, we only have three questions:
1. What is a prophet?
– The first occurrence of the Hebrew term “prophet” (navi in Hebrew) occurs in Genesis 20:7, but it’s a passing reference to how Abraham is a prophet.
– The next occurrence of “prophet” is in Exodus 7:1, and that’s where we see a prophet acting as a prophet. Exodus 7:1-2 says,
“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh…’ ”
– Moses stood before Pharaoh as if he were God, speaking through Aaron. It’s worth pointing out how Moses isn’t the prophet, but Aaron was the prophet of Moses. Moses was to tell Aaron what he wanted to say, and Aaron was to tell Pharaoh. Moses’ words were given to Aaron; Aaron spoke Moses’ words for him.
– Remember: when Pharaoh didn’t heed Aaron’s words, the Egyptians were punished for disobeying the command of God, not disobeying the command of Moses or Aaron.
– If there’s any questions about the relationship of Moses and Aaron, Exodus 4:14-16 sets the record straight. In the passage, God said to Moses regarding Aaron,
“You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him.”
– As Aaron was Moses’ prophet in Exodus 7:1. Moses spoke to him and “put the words in his mouth,” and was “as God to him.”
– Just as God actually places his words in the mouths of his prophets, Moses placed his words in the mouth of Aaron.
– Aaron’s job was to pass those words onto whoever was to receive them.
– God was revealing his divine oracles through both men. To disobey a prophet is to sin, because the voice of a prophet and the voice of God are the same thing.
– A “prophet” is a person who speaks God’s words from their mouth. Every prophet speaks with God’s moral perfection and divine authority/power behind their words.
– This understanding of “prophet” continues on throughout the Old and New Testaments. Balaam spoke God’s words as if he were God himself (Num. 24:10-13), as did Elijah (1 Kin. 17:8-24), Jeremiah (Jer. 28:1-29:14), Ezekiel (Ez. 2:7-3:11), Elisha (2 Kin. 7:1-2, 16-20), Isaiah (2 Kin. 20:1-11) and all the rest.
– There was absolutely no concept of semi-reliable or semi-fallible prophecy; when true prophets spoke and people didn’t listen, divine punishment and even death inevitably followed.
– Also, death accompanied false prophets as well. Claiming to be a prophet was a serious matter.
– A prophet who taught heresy was a false prophet (Deut. 13:1-8) and a prophet who got predictions wrong was a false prophet (Deut. 18:21-22). The judgment for false prophesy was death (Deut. 13:5, 18:20; 1 Kin. 18:40; 2 Kin. 23:19-20), since God treats falsely claiming to speak for him as a rather serious offense .
– If people truly understood the seriousness of the offense against God represented by the thousands of false prophets in the Charismatic Movement, people would literally run from the churches in which false prophets are found.
– Also, It was common in the NT and OT for prophets to be verified via miracles:
– Moses was given validating miracles (Ex. 4:1-9).
– Elijah was validated by predicting the famine in Israel (1 Kin. 17:1-2), the perpetuation of the widow’s flour and oil (1 Kin. 17:8-16), the raising of the widow’s son from the dead (1 Kin. 17:17-24), the fire from Heaven on Mt. Carmel (1 Kin. 18:36-40), etc.
– Elisha was validated by the parting of the Jordan (2 Kin. 2:8, 2:14-15), the healing of the well (2 Kin. 2:19-22), his cursing of the mocking youths (2 Kin. 2:23-24), the prediction of the pools (2 Kin. 3:16-17, 3:20), the prediction of the defeat of Moab (2 Kin. 3: 18-19, 3:21-25), etc.
– Jesus also produced a few miracles too, and Christ himself spoke of how they were God’s testimony to his authenticity (John 5:30-38, 10:25-38, 14:8-11).
2. Did the defintion of “prophet” change in the New Testament?
– No. Charismatic intellectuals try to change the definition of prophet to water it down:
– Sam Storms (certainly one of the more biblically savvy among the more eccentric element in Renewal circles) says that “prophecy is ‘the human reporting of a divine revelation.’ Prophecy is the speaking forth in merely human words of something God has spontantously brought to mind.” (Beginners Guid to Spiritual Gifts, 110).
– Sam Storms then comments on “fallible prophecy” and says:
“We must remember that every prophecy has three elements, only one of which is assuredly of God. First there is the revelation itself, the divine act of disclosure to a human recipient. The second element is the interpretation of what has been disclosed, or the attempt to ascertain its meaning. Third, there is the application of that interpretation. God is alone responsible for the revelation.” (116)
– Storms then says that “the revelation often comes in the form of words, thoughts or perhaps mental pictures impressing themselves upon the mind and spirit of the prophets.” (119)
– Sam Storms’ definition is entirely arbitrary and doesn’t seem to correspond with what we actually see prophets doing in the New Testament.
– NT Prophets act just like the OT Prophets:
– Mark 13:11 – Jesus, talking about the future trouble of the apostles, says: “And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.” (Luke 12:12 says something similar)
– Luke 1:67 – Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied.
– Acts 13:1-4 – “Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. 4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.
– Acts 21:11 – “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.’”
– Acts 28:25 – ” The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet:”
– Eph. 3:4-6 – God reveals his mysteries now to his holy apostles and prophets…
– Heb 3:7 – uses the phrase “The Holy Spirit says” before quoting Psalm 95:7-11.
– 1 John 4:1-6 – Prophets are still tested by what they say and whether or not they conform to previously received revelation.
– 2 Peter 2:1 draws a hard parallel between false prophets of the Old Testament and the false teachers in the New Testament.
– Rev. 10:9-11 – “So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me, “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” 10 And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter. 11 And I was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.”
– Rev 11 – The two witnesses are verified by miracles: they can breathe out fire (11:5), cause drought, plagues, and turn water to blood (at will) through the divine power that is given to them (11:6), and rise from the dead and ascend bodily into heaven (11:11-12).
– Even though they’re in the distant future, they’re not a different type of prophet.
– Rev. 19:20 – The false prophet performs lying signs.
– If the prophets became fallible in the New Testament, we don’t actually see that happening anywhere…except for a singular example that gets constantly trotted across the wasteland:
Acts 21 and Agabus’ “error”:
– The main argument here is that Agabus said that the Jews would bind Agabus in Acts 21:11, but Acts 21:33 says the Romans were the ones who bound Agabus.
– The whole “the Jews didn’t bind his hands” line is just naive. Acts 21:32-32 says that the Jews were attempting to beat Paul to death.
– Homicidal mobs generally don’t fight fair.
– The fact that the text records that the Romans bound Paul with chains (Acts 21:33) doesn’t mean that the homicidal mob didn’t have the basic sense to bind the hands of the man they were attempting to kill.
– The NT prophets were “prophets” just like the OT prophets. There’s no change of definition or some sort of 2 levels of prophecy in the NT.
Where are all those kinds of prophets?
– It seems pretty obvious that there’s nobody in the entire Renewal that is willing to try to pass the OT tests for being a prophet.
– The mark of prophets in the Renewal is one of unadulterated error, both in prediction and doctrine.
– It seems strange that the people claiming to be prophets in the Renewal say the stupidest things, are the worst at interpreting scripture, and are the worst heretics.
– When Cessationists pick out the “bad apples”, the Renewal folks cry foul since we’re judging the movement on the basis of a few…but the bad apples are all the spiritual giants.
Two Other Points:
“Hearing the voice of God” is functioning like a prophet.
– If a person “hears God’s voice” and it’s not equal in authority with Scripture, it’s not the voice of God. God is not an impressionist; he cannot speak as if he’s Ba’al. God can only speak with his own voice, and that voice is one of untainted truth and authority. This doesn’t mean that contemporary revelation needs to be added to Scripture for there is an important difference between spoken and written prophecy. This does mean that all words of God carry his full weight of authority; there is absolutely no such thing as sub-biblical divine revelation. Sub-biblical revelation is false revelation. Sub-biblical prophecy is false prophecy.
– There’s a rather large difference between the specific guidance and propositional revelation. The Holy Spirit leads (i.e. Acts 15:28, 16:6-10; 2 Cor. 2:12-13) and providentialy orchestrates the affairs of life (i.e. Ex. 1:15-2:10), but sensing that the Spirit is placing Taco Bell on your heart isn’t the same as him saying “God to Taco Bell.”
Focusing on dreams and visions is a mark of a false prophet.
– False Teachers actually have often receive what they think is revelation that comes in the form of lying dreams/visions from their imaginations (Lam. 2:14; Is. 9:15; Jer. 14:14, 20:6, 23:16, 26, 27:9-10, 14-16, 29:8-9, 21, 31; Ez. 13:2-9, 17, 22:28; Zech. 13:2-6; 2 Pet 2:3).
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “I made it through without a single prophet/profit pun” Unger