Here is the response to a friend I met here in Oklahoma City. We met most randomly and when he found out I was a member of the church he made it clear he was once a member. He left for a number of questions he had and could not find answers to. I asked if I might take a stab at them. He gave me the three questions and I wrote them down with his e-mail. The first question dealt with why the end of the Old Testament says “The End of the Prophets” and yet we believe in prophets after the fact. I told him that was a fairly simple answer as the New Testament answered the question for us. Here is my response. I am not convinced it is the most orderly way to present it, but I think it does pretty well for doing it all in one sitting.
I have been looking up these scriptures for a couple of weeks now and trying to piece things together. You will notice the Bible Dictionary is paraphrased (although not cited!) as well as a couple of other documents like the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.
If I royally confused something, or need some more clarification, please let me know. I already know I messed up the citation markings and format. I am so confused on them at the moment. I am sure law school will sort me out very soon!
I know I am delayed in my answers. Moving into a new home, starting law school, and getting a host of other things squared away take time. Additionally, I want to prepare some to give a quality and more comprehensive answer to your question. These are not questions easily answered in one short sentence or two. I expect you do not want just an answer, but also some scriptural references to reinforce what I am talking about. Therefore, some of the answers may take a couple of e-mails.
The first question relation to prophets ending with the old testament seems to me pretty straight forward. “If the end of the Old Testament states ‘The End of the Prophets’ why do you believe there were prophets afterward?” However, in doing some homework, I find out it is not easily contained in a few short statements with a scripture reference or two to back it up. While the gospel is very simple, we can dig in deep to find all sorts of nuances. That is what is so beautiful about the gospel of Jesus Christ. It comprehends all things and is simple enough a child can understand it.
Initially, the question is, what is a prophet? The classic Merriam-Webster gives 5 definitions. 1) one who utters divinely inspired revelations. As one who writes the prophetic books of the bible or as one regarded by a group of followers as the final authoritative revealer of God’s will. 2) one gifted with more than ordinary spiritual and moral insight. 3) one who foretells future events. 4) an effective or leading spokesman for a cause, doctrine, or group. 5) the last definition is the one used by Christian Science which I don’t think is of any relevance to what we are speaking since Christian Science is not part of our discussion. That seems pretty straight forward. I don’t think we will differ there. Let’s recap some of it more directly with Christian theology.
The work of a Hebrew prophet was to act as God’s messenger and make known God’s will. Often the message was usually prefaced with the words “Thus saith Jehovah.” They taught men about God’s character, showing the full meaning of his dealings with Israel in the past. It was part of the prophetic office to preserve and edit the records of a nations’ history; and such historical books as Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Sam., 1 and 2 Kings were known by the Jews as the former Prophets. It was also the prophet’s duty to denounce sin and foretell its punishment. He was to be, above all, a preacher of righteousness. When the people had fallen away from a true faith in Jehovah, the prophets had to try to restore that faith and remove false views about the character of God and the nature of the Divine requirement. In certain cases prophets predicted future events, e.g., there are the very important prophecies announcing the coming of Messiah’s kingdom; but as a rule a prophet was a forthteller rather than a foreteller.
I don’t believe you would have any issues with what we have characterized as a prophet thus far. I think that pretty well generalizes what most individuals see when looking at the prophets of the Old Testament.
Whether being translated from the greek or the hebrew, the equivalent word basically means, ‘inspired teacher’. These senses all include the idea of prophecy. As is apparent, the words come from essentially the same place. A prophet is a person who possesses the capacity of prophecy. It is required then that we look into what prophecy means.
Revelations 19:10 tells us, “…I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” A testimony of Jesus Christ requires revelation and prophecy. When the Spirit of God speaks to our hearts and we feel the confirming witness of Jesus Christ, that is revelation. At that point we can say to ourselves, “if I believe, I will be saved” or “through Jesus Christ I will be resurrected” or “because of Christ I will be raised up to his everlasting kingdom” or some other variation. Indeed, if I say to myself or another person that according to such and such a principle you will be saved or damned, that is prophecy. You are a foreteller of circumstances which can and will occur according to your knowledge of Jesus Christ. If Revelations is correct, and I testify it is, then your testimony of Jesus Christ in your life makes you a prophet. For without the witness of Christ until salvation through revelation you would have neither faith nor hope of those things which are to come. Paul in Hebrews 11 mentions a number of prophets and even Sara and comments in verse 13, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” They were all prophets because they had a testimony of Jesus and looked forward to his promises. These individuals were first prophets to themselves and to others.
The fact that everyone can be a prophet is mentioned in several places throughout the scriptures. Moses voiced his approval of two of the Seventy who were prophesying in the camp. “And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them” (Numbers 11:29). In the next chapter he tells the people how to tell a false prophet from a correct one giving affirmation to other prophets than just himself. “And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches: and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” (Numbers 12:6-8). “And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem: Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper” (2 Chronicles 20:20). “Surely God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).
If all who have a testimony of Jesus have prophecy, then all who have a testimony of Jesus are prophets. Moses desired that all people were prophets having prophecy and a testimony of Jesus. These prophets must maintain the testimony of Jesus thereby maintain that spirit of prophecy and revelation. All the Lord’s people can be prophets as long as they maintain that testimony of Jesus and the attached revelation and prophecy.
According to this line of reasoning, as long as there is an individual with a testimony of Jesus, we have prophets upon the earth. Indeed, I would argue the New Testament teaches us that prophets did not end with the Old Testament.
“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John” (Matthew 11:12-13). The prophets and the law prophesied until John the Baptist. This does not distinguish a stop at the end of Malachi’s time.
Christ was known for prophesying. Indeed, they mocked him for it. “And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet him, and to say unto him, Prophesy: and the servants did strike him with the palms of their hands” (Mark 14:65). If Christ did in fact prophesy, he was a prophet after the Old Testament. “And when they had blindfolded him, they struck him on the face, and asked him, saying, Prophesy, who is it that smote thee?” (Luke 22:64). “Saying, Prophecy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee? (Matthew 26:68).
Zacharias prophesied, “And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying,” (Luke 1:67).
Paul talks about prophecy as one of the gifts, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith:” (Romans 12:6). He speaks as if they happen presently, “Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.” (1 Corinthians 11:4). “To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues” (1 Corinithians 12:10). “And thou I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have charity, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:2). “But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edified the church. I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying” (1 Corinthians 14:3-5). He certainly is encouraging prophesying there, which makes those individuals doing the prophesying prophets.
Indeed not only does Paul encourage prophesy, he warns us against denying it with the very succinct, “Quench not the Spirit. Despite not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21) To Timothy, “Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. (1 Timothy 4:14).
Peter, the leader of the church, had a few things to say about prophecy as well. “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts. Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:19-21).
If these instances are not enough to show that prophecy, and therefore prophets, were well and alive in the New Testament, how about instances where there will be prophets to come testified in the New Testament?
“And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.” (Revelations 11:3). These two witnesses will prophesy and stand as prophets to Jerusalem at some later day yet to come.
Well, I have held so far that having the gift of prophecy entitles one to be a prophet. I have shown where a number of instances show that prophecy was still alive and well in the New Testament. What about the testimony of the New Testament of prophets?
The people of Jesus’ day considered John the Baptist a prophet. “And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not believe him? But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet.” (Matthew 21:24-26). “The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. (Luke 16:16). John was considered present day for them. Even Jesus Christ states that the prophets were until John. This is to the present moment and even after Jesus Christ was born.
John was blessed by his father Zacharias, “And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways:” (Luke 1:76).
Luke eludes the prophets are still around, “As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:” (Luke 1:70).
Peter indicates the same thing. In fact, he even says Christ is the prophet who Moses testified. “But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled…And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in they seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities. (Acts 3:18-26). “Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.” (John 6:14).
After the death of Jesus Christ, there are mentions of prophets. “Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.” (Acts 13:1). They even mention them by name. “And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them.” (Acts 15:32). “And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus.” (Acts 21:10).
What is more, the prophets are mentioned as being a part of the church. “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God: And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.” (Ephesians 2:19-20). Now that scripture does not clarify the fact that the church has presently prophets and apostles. But it does state Jesus Christ was definitely among the apostles and prophets, in fact the chief cornerstone of them. However, the next chapter makes it clear prophets are a part of the New Testament church, “Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his hold apostles and prophets by the Spirit.” (Ephesians 3:5). “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; (Ephesians 4:11-12).
Anyhow, I think that should all suffice for the moment. I believe I have showed very clearly that prophecy, prophets, and the testimony of Jesus certainly did not cease with the Old Testament. The New Testament is replete with all of the above. Indeed, Paul makes it clear that prophets are one of the fundamental and operating parts of the church. In fact, all prophets take their cue from he who was a prophet in every sense, even Jesus Christ!
It is my testimony that Jesus Christ lives, that he suffered in Gethsemane, that he died on the cross, and that he was resurrected on the third day. It was the testimony of all true prophets who have ever lived. In fact, Jesus Christ bore testimony of it himself. He was the one who was to be lifted up. It is through his name, his power, and his capacity that the church of God was organized and continues to operate even until this day.
If you have questions concerning this, please feel free to e-mail you. I have been pretty exhaustive in the references I could find. I hope it is very clear what I am trying to show. As I get a chance, I will start working on your other questions.