A question arose as to what do I think about there being prophets today. That is an excellent question given that there are various individuals who are claiming to be prophets these days. Is there such a thing as a prophet of God today?
To answer that question we need to first analyze what a prophet was. What did a prophet do? A prophet was person to whom God spoke directly and whom God commissioned to bring His Word to the rest of mankind. He only spoke what God wanted him to say. He did not speak for himself. The prophet generally dealt with three things. He announced the sins of the people of which God was finding them guilty, he pronounced God's judgments upon those sins, and finally he usually predicted future events. If he was a true prophet of God, those events would come true. There was zero tolerance for false prophets. Deuteronomy 18:20 “But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.” One wrong prophecy meant that the prophet was not of God, for God's prophecies always come true. True prophets were always disliked and usually killed, (how's that for irony) because they were telling the people things that they did not want to hear - the truth. People do not like to hear about their sins, nor that God is going to punish them for it.
Technically the first person to make a statement about the future was Adam when Eve was created. Genesis 2:23-24 “And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Adam was speaking of his and Eve's future children and how the institution of marriage would work. It was a pronouncement of how the future world would operate, so it was a prophecy, however Adam was not relaying God's Words to mankind (at least not then), he was not bringing attention to sin (for man's sin did not exist yet), nor was he pronouncing God's judgments. There was nobody for Adam to prophesy to, so he really was not a prophet in that sense.
The first person to be recorded as being a prophet was Enoch. Jude 1:14-15 “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” Enoch was relaying God's pronouncement of judgment on mankind for their sins, but the really interesting thing is that Enoch was prophesying about Christ's Second Coming. And this was before the Flood.
Noah was not actually called a prophet, but he was. He was a preacher of righteousness, warning the antediluvian world of God's impending judgment for their wickedness, and his blessings and curse on his children are recorded in Genesis 9:25-27 “And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.” This was a prophecy about the descendents of his offspring that can be seen even today. This would seem to qualify him as a prophet.
Until Abraham, there is no record of God speaking directly with anyone and having them relay His message, so there are no known prophets until Abraham. We know that Abraham was a prophet, for we are told so in the story of King Abimelech when he took Sarah believing her to be Abraham's sister instead of his wife. Genesis 20:7 “Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine”. It seems that God spoke directly to the patriarchs, and each one prophesied, at the very least, over his sons. From this point on, God seems to have chosen specific people out of the tribes of Israel to be prophets to the nation.
Whereas the patriarchs simply prophesied, but were not necessarily labeled as prophets in the Scriptures, during Israel's time as a nation God raised up men who held what might be called the “office” of a prophet and went by that title. From Moses on, God no longer would speak to just any individual with whom He wanted to have communication, but spoke through specific people that were known by the nation to have direct communication with God. For instance, Samuel was one of those people. Then of course there were those who left us written manuscripts of their prophecies. We know them collectively as the major and minor prophets in the Old Testament.
Why did God do this? Why did He raise up prophets? In understanding why He needed them then, we can more fully understand whether or not there exists such an office for the church today. Before God gave the Law to Moses, there was no written record of God's Laws or His commands for man. In giving the Law to Moses, He showed the people their sins, and the punishments of those sins, and the future blessings and curses that came with obedience or disobedience. So we can see that until the Law was given, there was no way for man to know what God wanted to say to him. The only way God had of communicating with mankind was to speak directly to an individual and have them pass on the information to the rest of the world. As Israel fell into sin and quit listening to God's written Word (the Law), God raised up individuals to warn them of their sins, and the consequences of those sins. These became the basis for much of the Old Testament Scriptures. Now we understand that these prophecies not only applied to the people then, but that they have much farther reaching consequences for our own future and the end of this age. They tell us much about what we can expect before the Lord' return.
When Christ came, He came not only to become our High Priest and future King, but He was also a Prophet. He told us what the future holds. In fact, the last book of the Bible is the Revelation, not of John as some say, but of Jesus Christ. John simply was the stenographer who recorded it all. And the one thing that Christ points out is that He is giving us all the revelation and prophecy that there is left to give. We are warned about adding anything further to God's prophecies, for in this book lies all the information that God feels we need. Revelation 22:18 “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.” Now the Word of God is complete, and we, unlike those early patriarchs, or even the early Church, who did not have the New Testament and still relied upon new revelation from the apostles until the Bible was complete, do not need to have God speak directly to us, for we have His Word written down for us to study at our leisure. The Bible is God speaking directly to us. Everything we need to know about future events lies within its pages.
So does that mean that there is no such thing as a prophet today? If one can distinguish between the “office” of prophet and simply the gift of prophecy, then I would have to say that no, there is no such thing as a prophet who holds the “office” of prophet today. There is no one spokesman through whom God is speaking directly and revealing new revelation to the Church. Is there anyone who has the gift of prophecy? Yes, clearly Scripture teaches that one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is the gift of prophecy. Romans 12:6 “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith.” In fact we are warned to not despise prophecies. We are to carefully check them so as to see if they are true. 1 Thessalonians 5:20 “Despise not prophesyings.” So what is the difference?
The difference is today we are not receiving the kind of new revelation as the prophets of old did. There is no “office” of prophet for an individual to hold in which the “nation” of Christianity turns to receive direct communication from God. That office was done away with when Christ finished the written Word of God, and gave us the Holy Spirit, its interpreter. Now every individual has direct access to the throne of God through Christ and the Holy Spirit. And we have all the information of the past, present, and future in the Bible. It contains information about all our sins, the condemnation and punishment for those sins, the consequences for individuals and nations that sin, and the future events up to the very end of time itself when God creates a new heaven and earth for all eternity.
Where the change comes in with the gift of prophecy, is that while God has made this accessible for every person, most people do not have the discernment, or possibly the desire to know all these things. So God has given certain individuals within His Church (in the sense of all believers) the ability to see things more clearly. They have a gift of discernment to see sin and Satan creeping in the door before anyone else can. They have a tendency, much to the annoyance of most other Christians, to point out that sin and apostasy that is taking place. They warn that if the sin is not halted, what the consequences (based upon God's Word) will be. They do not give their own opinions, as much as quote God's Word when pointing something out for consideration, although most of the time it seems that the listeners do not realize the difference and think that they are merely expressing their own opinion, which they see as no more valid than their own. The fact that these people quote God, as Christ did when confronting the Pharisees seems to escape people. They know God's Word extremely well (compared to the rest of the world or Christians in general), they hold to God's Word as being inerrant, and they preach God's Word without apology and no concern as to whom they may be offend. They are generally not liked by other Christians, as a rule (at least we no longer kill them), and find themselves going from church to church (as they are kicked out) warning of God's impending judgment on not only the heathen, but on the apostate Church. Today most of them have left the church (as an organization, not the body) entirely and are found outside of the collective, as it were, standing alone with the few and far between remnant. They preach the future about the Second Coming of the Lord and warn people to get their spiritual lives in order, for God's judgment begins with His own House. They have a greater understanding of what the future holds, and sometimes God shows them things about the future, so that they may warn people. This is what they do. They are not fortune tellers.
What they should not be doing, however, is preaching “new revelation.” By that I mean doctrinally changing what God's Word has said and adding to it, or subtracting from it. Anyone who claims to have “new revelation” or discerns God's Word solely through “revelation” is a person to whom one must listen to with great discernment and care, for more often than not these are wolves in sheep's clothing. God's Word is understood through study, not instagrams from God that pop into people's heads, or dreams and visions. 2 Timothy 2:15 “ Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” We rightly divide or understand God's Word by study. Diligent study. That is not to say that there is no such thing as the Holy Spirit giving enlightenment, or having a valid dream or vision, but these things must always, always be filtered through the Word of God and checked over to be substantiated. And of course the old rule of “did id come true” is still the rule of thumb. I can't even count the number of people who have been making predictions based upon dreams and visions that are 1) totally unscriptural and 2) never come true. These people are so sure they are hearing from God and are prophets, but they are being deceived by that well-known person who poses as an Angel of Light. Most of them don't know the Scriptures all that well (a must for a true prophet), so they don't even realize how off-base their predictions are. They are basing everything on mystical experiences and feelings, while God told us to base our knowledge on studying His Word.
Is it possible that a person with the gift of prophecy can predict the future? Yes, it is possible, but often that is more a matter of observation, and the ability to extrapolate where events are headed based upon the history of the the consequences of people who have committed the same sins in previous situations, and what the Word of God says God will do based upon the circumstances. As the time grows closer to the Lord's Coming, and we possibly lose our access to His written Word, the possibility of people prophesying events that personally impact upon those within their influence will probably increase proportionately to the need for it for the sake of survival.
In the end, everyone needs to be studying their Scriptures so that they have discernment and can check any prophecies that are given to see if they are valid or not. Add to that the test (concerning predicted events) of it coming true, and people should be able to weed out the false prophets from those who truly have the gift of prophecy. Another trait will be that a person who truly has this gift will never use it for personal gain or pride. Just accepting the label of “prophet” is prideful, and most of those who truly have this gift will not accept the label, because it scares them. It holds great responsibility, and they are already burdened enough just by having the knowledge of what calamities await the Church, much less the world. They do not seek notoriety, and generally as said, they are outcasts from the usual fellowship. That is actually one way of helping to spot a true one.
So to sum it up, there is no longer an “office” of prophet for the nations, but there are those with the gift of prophecy. It lies with the reader to make sure that they know how to spot a phony from the real thing. One of the greatest false prophecies today is that the apostate Laodician church is never going to be judged by God, but be allowed to escape any sort of persecution or chastisement for their sins, for God doesn't want His Bride bruised and battered. Tell that to the martyrs through the ages that lived holy lives for God. Here's what God says about those prophets of today who tell the people they will have peace and safety and that no harm awaits them. Note that in Jeremiah 23, God specifically mentions that this refers to the “latter days.” Our day.
Jeremiah 14:14-15 “Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart. Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land; By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed.”
Jeremiah 23:16-32 “Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD. They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you. For who hath stood in the counsel of the LORD, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it? Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly. I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings. Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD. I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart; Which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbour, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal. The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD. Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that steal my words every one from his neighbour. Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD.”