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The Only “Prophets” the Bible Says Will Endure Throughout the Church Age are False Prophets

by | Nov 25, 2023 | Apostasy, Cult, News, Opinion, Religion, The Church, Theology | 0 comments

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In today’s Christian landscape, an intriguing trend is unfolding: a surge of people claiming the titles of “Prophet” or “Apostle.” With an air of spiritual authority, they assert themselves as contemporary mouthpieces of God, equipped with new revelations and divine insights. However, a thorough examination of the New Testament reveals a different narrative, one that does not endorse an ongoing office of prophets or apostles but rather focuses on cautioning against false prophets.

The New Testament, the foundation and source of all Christian doctrine, makes it abundantly clear that the role of prophets and apostles was foundational and unique to the early Church. Ephesians 2:20 tells us that the Church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.” Note the past tense—it’s a foundation already laid, not an ongoing construction project. The apostles and prophets were instrumental in the revelation of the Gospel and the establishment of the early Church, roles that were distinct to that formative period in Christian history. And now these prophets and apostles are all dead, and we’re left with the Scriptures God gave us through them.

When it comes to prophecy, the New Testament’s primary emphasis is not on seeking new prophets but on discerning truth from falsehood. For instance, 1 John 4:1 implores believers to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” The warning is stark and indisputable, reflecting a concern that false teachings could easily infiltrate and corrupt the Church.

Matthew 7:15 also warns of “false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” The New Testament recognizes the potential for individuals to claim divine authority in spreading false teachings, emphasizing the need for discernment and adherence to the apostolic doctrine already received. The New Testament is replete with these warnings against false prophets: Matthew 24:11, Matthew 24:24, Mark 13:22, Luke 6:26, Acts 20:29-30, 2 Peter 2:1-3, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, Jude 1:4, etc. Yet, there is absolutely no mention of a continuing role of the office of prophet throughout the entire Church age.

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So then, what about Acts 2:17, which is often cited to validate the modern role of prophets? In considering this verse, a thorough understanding of its context is important. This verse, lifted from the midst of Peter’s Pentecost sermon, is often brandished by some as a carte blanche for ongoing prophecy. However, a closer examination reveals a different story. Peter, in this sermon, is quoting directly from 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.”

The key here lies in recognizing what “the last days” refer to. Peter is not speaking of an indefinite future period but of the dawn of the New Covenant era, inaugurated by Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension. This era, characterized by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, was unique in salvation history. It marked the transition from the old covenant, centered around Israel and the Law, to the new covenant, where the Spirit is poured out on all people, Jew and Gentile alike, breaking down the barriers that once defined God’s chosen people.

The prophesying, visions, and dreams mentioned by Joel and cited by Peter were signs of this new era, indications of the Spirit’s work in spreading the Gospel to all nations. They were not, however, establishing a new office of prophecy akin to that of the Old Testament prophets, whose role was to reveal God’s will and message before the completion of the Scriptures.

Tthe completion of the canon of Scripture marks a significant moment in redemptive history. With the New Testament, we have a complete and sufficient revelation from God. The role of the prophet, as a conduit for new divine revelation, becomes redundant in light of the sufficiency of Scripture. The Bible provides all the guidance the Church needs for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

While the early Church was indeed characterized by the extraordinary offices of apostles and prophets, the New Testament does not teach their continuation after the apostolic age. Instead, it warns vehemently against false prophets and emphasizes the need for doctrinal vigilance. The Church’s focus should be on the sufficiency of Scripture and the teachings of Christ and the apostles, rather than seeking new revelations or endorsements of self-proclaimed prophets and apostles. This return to the centrality of Scripture and the original apostolic teaching is not only a safeguard against false teaching but is the foundation upon which the Church stands firm.

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