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James M. Frye
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Many people in our
day claim to prophesy. Are these people really receiving and speaking divine
messages from God? Are there still prophets today? Many would tell us that
there are. Others would say no. In this article we shall look at what the Bible
has to say on this subject.
What Was A Prophet?
A prophet was
someone who spoke for God. To be more specific, a prophet was one whom God spoke
through. Prophets often declared this fact by saying "Thus saith the Lord".
Kings 20:13 And, behold,
there came a prophet unto Ahab king of Israel, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Hast thou seen all this great
multitude? behold, I will deliver it into thine hand
this day; and thou shalt know that I am
A prophet was the
very mouthpiece of God. What they spoke was not their own words, but the very
words of God.
Peter 1:21 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.
Old & New Testament Prophets Were the Same
Some people teach
that New Testament (N.T. from here on) prophets were different than Old
Testament prophets. Is this true? Let’s look at a man named Agabus
for our example of a N.T. prophet.
11:27-28 And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. And
there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be
great dearth throughout all the world: which came to
pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.
21:10-11 And as we tarried there many
days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus. And when
he was come unto us, he took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet,
and said, Thus saith
the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of
From these two
passages, we see two characteristics of a N.T.
prophet: 1 - They
spoke for God (God spoke through them), and 2 - They predicted the future. That
is the exact same thing Old Testament prophets did. There is absolutely no
difference between a prophet in Old Testament times and a prophet in N.T. times. Later we
will see why people try to make this distinction.
Prophets and Prophecy
Some people also
teach that there is a difference between a prophet and one who prophesies. They
say that a person can prophesy all the time but not necessarily be a prophet. Is this true?
10:10-11 And when they came thither to the
hill, behold, a company of prophets met him [Saul]; and the Spirit of God came
upon him, and he prophesied among them. And it came to pass, when all that knew
him beforetime saw that, behold, he prophesied among
the prophets, then the people said one to another, What is this that is come
unto the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?
Saul had never
prophesied before in his entire life, but when the people see him prophesy they
immediately assume that he is a prophet. Why? - Because, those who prophesied
were prophets. There weren't people going around prophesying all the time that
weren’t prophets. One who prophesied was a prophet, and a prophet was one who
prophesied. The terms are used interchangeably in the Bible.
Corinthians 14:29-32 Let the prophets
speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing
be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first
hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn,
and all may be comforted. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to
The above passage
is very clear. A prophet is one who prophesies and one who prophesies is a
prophet. Why is it that people try to make these distinctions today? The reason
is that they are trying to avoid the Biblical tests for false prophets.
Tests for False Prophets
The Bible gives us
two tests for detecting false prophets.
18:21-22 And if thou say in thine heart, How
shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which
the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously:
thou shalt not be afraid of him.
The first test for
a false prophet is his accuracy. True prophets were 100% accurate. Not 95% or
even 99%, but 100%. True prophets were controlled by God, so they never missed.
If a prophet missed even one time, that "prophet" was a "false
Those who claim to
be prophets today miss all the time. The amazing thing, however, is that even
though they predict things that do not come to pass, they do not lose their
followers. In the Old Testament they would have lost their life. God so
despised false prophets that in the verse prior to our last text, He instituted
the death penalty for them.
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.
There is a second
test for false prophets.
13:1-3 If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth
thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which
thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the
words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with
all your heart and with all your soul.
In this case, what
the false prophet predicts comes to pass, but he is still a false prophet. God
will sometimes allow this to test people to see if they love him with all their
heart. The test this time is in the message the prophet gives.
Does it line up
with scripture? Does it lead us into truth and following the God of the Bible?
Or, does it lead us into following after a false god or into ERROR? Some of the
greatest doctrinal heresy today comes from the mouths of those who claim to be prophets.
We test these so-called prophets by examining whether or not what they teach
lines up with the Bible.
John 4:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try
[test] the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are
gone out into the world
It is the doctrine
that is taught that is the test of the spirit behind the prophet. The Bible
warns us that in the latter times, many shall be deceived by evil spirits.
Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the
latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits,
and doctrines of devils;
So then, there are
two tests for false prophets. First, a prophet has to be 100% accurate. If they
miss even once they are a false prophet. Secondly, a prophet must speak
according to sound doctrine. Their message may not contain doctrinal error. It
must lead people in the way of truth and after the true God of the Bible.
God is Angry with Those Who Claim to
Speak For Him Whom He Did Not Send
What does God
think of people who presumptuously claim to speak for him?
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.
23:25-26 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;
23:31-32 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.
The last verse
talks about the "lightness" of the false prophets. They do not take
seriously the responsibility of claiming to speak for God. This is no laughing
matter. If the person was a true prophet, fine, but woe unto that man who
claims to be speaking for God whom God did not send. God will deal most
severely with him. A person had better think twice before claiming to speak for
Are There Prophets Today?
Corinthians 13:8-10 Charity never faileth: but whether there
be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease;
whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know
in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is
perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
In this passage,
we are told that three things would pass away/cease (prophecies, tongues, and
knowledge). In this article, we will examine prophecy and knowledge. For
information on tongues, see my article "Speaking In Tongues".
Let’s look at
Corinthians 13:9-10 ... we prophesy in part. But
when that which is perfect [complete] is come, then that which is in part shall
be done away.
Prophecy was in
part. That is, it was a partial revelation of God's truth. In the early days of
Christianity, the N.T. was not yet complete, and Scripture was still
being written. The church at Corinth, for example, probably had a copy of one
of the gospels (Mark, for example) and copies of the letters Paul had written
to them. How, then, were they to know all the other truths that God had for
them which had not yet been written down and collected into the N.T.? – Through
prophecy, of course.
prophecy was only God's revelation in part. But once that which is perfect had
come (God's completed revelation in the N.T.), then there was no more need for that
which was in part (prophecy), and prophecy ceased.
The same was true
with the Old Testament. There was approximately 400 years between the end of
the Old Testament and the beginning of the N.T.. During that time, no scripture was
being written. From the time of the last Old Testament prophet (Malachi), until
the time of the first N.T. prophet (John the Baptist), there were no
prophets and no prophecy. Once the Old Testament was completed, prophecy ceased.
What, then, should
we expect to happen after the N.T. was completed? - The same thing;
prophecy would cease. The last N.T. book to be written
was the Book of Revelation. Since that time, there has been no such thing as
Now, what about
Corinthians 13:12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face
to face: now I know in part; but
then shall I know even as also I am known.
What kind of
knowledge is being spoken about here?
Corinthians 13:8 Charity
never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be
tongues, they shall cease; whether there
be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
cease, prophecies would fail, and this “knowledge” would vanish away. Many mistakenly think this passage is referring to the
second coming of Christ, and that only then will tongues, prophecy and
knowledge pass away. This verse makes that impossible. This passage is not
talking about the partial knowledge that we have in this life, for when Jesus
comes that knowledge will not
“vanish away”. It will be increased. Will we suddenly have all of the knowledge
which we have learned prior to the second coming taken away from us? No, that
partial knowledge will be added to with the additional revelations brought to
us by the revelation of Jesus Christ. This passage is not speaking of the second coming.
As we have already
seen, “that which is perfect” is a reference to God's completed revelation of the N.T.. What sort of knowledge would “vanish
away” and “be done away” once the N.T.
was completed? Only
“revelation knowledge” qualifies.
1 Corinthians 12:8 For to one is given by
the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
of the spiritual gifts listed in the N.T.
word of knowledge”. It was a revelatory gift by which a person was given
“knowledge” directly by God via revelation. Like the gift of prophecy, this
knowledge was only a partial revelation of the truth which would be revealed in
the entire N.T..
Corinthians 13:9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in Part.
Before the N.T. was completed/perfected, people only knew part of the revelation
God was going to give - but now that the N.T.
completed/perfected, that partial revelation knowledge has been done away.
Corinthians 13:9-10 For we know
in part, and we prophesy
in Part. But when that which is perfect [complete] is
come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
Once this revelation
was perfected in the completion of the N.T., then believers would “know as they
are known”. That is, they would know everything that God wants them to know
about Him, just as He knows everything about them. God has always known
everything about us, but now we have the knowledge of everything He wants us to
know about Him (for now) in the completed N.T.. Prior
to the completion of the N.T., we only knew part of these truths and,
therefore, were only able to see the glory of God through a glass dimly
(darkly). But now, with the fullness of this revelation being completed, we can
see God’s glory clearly (face to face).
1 Corinthians 13:11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a
child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
We don’t have
to wait until the second coming in order to come to full spiritual maturity and
put away childish things. But believers did need to wait until the completion
of the N.T. - for only then did they possess God’s full revelation on what it
means to be fully spiritually mature. Once again, this passage is speaking of God's completed revelation of the N.T. and not the second coming. So, are there
prophets today? No, there are not prophets today. As we have seen, true prophecy
passed away with the completion of the N.T.
There are many warnings in the Bible about false
John 4:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the
spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing,
but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
24:11 And many false prophets
shall rise, and shall deceive many.
13:22 For false Christ's and false
prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it
were possible, even the elect.
Since there are no
true prophets today, anyone who claims to be a prophet is a false prophet.
Sources of False Prophecy
If those who claim
to prophesy today are not true prophets and what they speak is not from God,
then what is the source of their message? In the Bible, we find two sources for
the messages of false prophets.
1. Evil Spirits
Chronicles 18:21 And he said, I will go out, and be a lying spirit in the
mouth of all his prophets. And the LORD said, Thou
shalt entice him, and thou shalt also prevail: go out, and do even so.
2:8 The priests said not, Where is the LORD? and they
that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the
prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit.
16:13-14 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth
of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of
the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils,
working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole
world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
Evil spirits try
to deceive people into thinking that they are receiving a message from God,
when in fact the evil spirits themselves are the source of the message.
2. A Person's own heart
23:16 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.
23:26 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;
14:14 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.
Another source of
false prophecy is a person's own heart. There are two ways in which this
1) Intentionally. Sometimes people just plain make it up as they go
along. Maybe they are trying to impress others with how spiritual they are.
There is a real temptation to do this in Charismatic circles because those who
"prophesy" are often held in the highest esteem.
2) Unintentionally. Another way that this happens is when a
person has been taught false doctrine regarding prophecy and, therefore, seeks
to try to prophecy. They then misinterpret their own thoughts (the voice of
their own spirit) for the voice of God.
1) A prophet was
someone who spoke for God. Their words were not their own, but the very words
2) A prophet in
the Old Testament was the same as a prophet in the N.T.. They both spoke for God and predicted
3) A prophet is one
who prophesies, and one who prophesies is a prophet. Those who went around
prophesying all the time were prophets.
4) The Bible gives
us two tests to detect false prophets. First, a prophet must be 100% accurate.
They must never miss. Those who "make mistakes" are false prophets.
Secondly, a prophet's message must be biblical. It must lead us into truth and
following the God of the Bible - not into following a false God or into ERROR.
Those who give a prophecy containing false doctrine are false prophets.
5) God is angry
with those who claim to be speaking for Him that he did not send. Anyone who
"presumptuously" claims to speak for God will be dealt with most
severely by Him if they do not repent.
6) Prophecy was in
part. That is, it was only a partial revelation of God's truth. Once God's
complete revelation in scripture was finished, there was no more need for that
which was in part and prophecy passed away.
7) The Bible
contains many warnings to beware of false prophets.
8) There are two
sources of false prophecy: A) Evil spirits - who try to deceive people with
supposed messages from God; and B) A person's own heart - either by making up
the message or by mistaking their own thoughts (the voice of their own spirit)
for the voice of God.
What will you
believe? Will you believe what the Bible says about prophets and prophecy?