Are there any true prophets in God’s Church today?
It depends on what is meant by the term, “prophet.”
Smith’s Bible Dictionary describes a biblical prophet as follows:
“The ordinary Hebrew word for prophet is nabi, derived from a verb signifying ‘to bubble forth’ like a fountain; hence the word means one who announces or pours forth the declarations of God. The English word comes from the Greek prophetes (profetes), which signifies in classical Greek one who speaks for another, especially one who speaks for a god, and so interprets his will to man; hence its essential meaning is ‘an interpreter.’”
Easton’s Bible Dictionary explains:
“(Hebrews nabi, from a root meaning ‘to bubble forth, as from a fountain,’ hence ‘to utter’, Comp. Psalm 45:1). This Hebrew word is the first and the most generally used for a prophet. In the time of Samuel another word, ro’eh, ‘seer’, began to be used (1 Samuel 9:9). It occurs seven times in reference to Samuel. Afterwards another word, hozeh, ‘seer’ (2 Samuel 24:11), was employed. In 1 Ch. 29:29 all these three words are used: ‘Samuel the seer (ro’eh), Nathan the prophet (nabi’), Gad the seer’ (hozeh). In Joshua 13:22 Balaam is called (Hebrews) a kosem ‘diviner,’ [the new King James Bible says here, “soothsayer”] a word used only of a false prophet.
“The ‘prophet’ proclaimed the message given to him, as the ‘seer’ beheld the vision of God. (See Numbers 12:6, 8.) Thus a prophet was a spokesman for God; he spake in God’s name and by his authority (Exodus 7:1). He is the mouth by which God speaks to men (Jeremiah 1:9; Isaiah 51:16), and hence what the prophet says is not of man but of God (2 Peter 1:20, 21; Comp. Hebrews 3:7; Acts 4:25; 28:25). Prophets were the immediate organs of God for the communication of his mind and will to men (Deuteronomy 18:18, 19). The whole Word of God may in this general sense be spoken of as prophetic, inasmuch as it was written by men who received the revelation they communicated from God…”
Even though the meaning of the word “prophet” most certainly includes godly understanding and inspired preaching, more is involved.
Wayne Blank defines a prophet in this way, in “Daily Bible Study” (on keyway.com):
“The English word ‘prophet’ originated from a Greek word which meant to tell before i.e. pro means before and phemi means to tell… The Hebrew word of the Old Testament that is translated as ‘prophet’ [nabi]… means an inspired speaker… The Greek term of the New Testament that is translated as ‘prophet’… also means an inspired speaker…
“The LORD’s prophets are often regarded as having only been there to prophesy coming destruction, but they only did so within the context of preaching and teaching God’s Truth – and what would happen to those who rebelled against it. The LORD’s prophets, who were therefore also experts in God’s Law, also prophesied great good that is coming upon those who obey God’s Law.”
As can be seen from the foregoing, one of the responsibilities of a true biblical prophet is to foretell the future.
The website of bible.org gives interesting points regarding the meaning of the word “prophet”. Even though we do not agree with everything stated there, we quote a few correct excerpts, pointing out that a prophet has certain tasks. He is given the commission:
“To make known to men the laws of God [compare Zechariah 1:6]
“To call the people back to obedience to God’s laws [compare 2 Chronicles 24:19]
“To exhort the people to sincerity in worship [compare God’s directive to the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 7:1-11]
“To warn them of Divine judgment upon sin, both personal and national [compare God’s directive to Jeremiah in Jeremiah 36:27, 30-31]
“To foretell future events which God had willed [compare God’s directive to Jeremiah in Jeremiah 30:1-3]…”
So we see that we must not limit the role and function of a true prophet to “just” foretelling the future, but this aspect is most certainly included.
The above-mentioned website (bible.org) continues to point out the difference between true and false prophets, as follows:
“God had told Jeremiah to announce that Jerusalem would be captured by the Babylonian army, as a punishment for the sins of the people. False prophets opposed Jeremiah and denied his words, suggesting that he was a traitor. But God said that the false prophets themselves would die by the sword of the Babylonians. This was literally fulfilled, and thus the words of Jeremiah were proved to be God’s message, while the popular message of the false prophets was shown to be lies, even though they had dared to use the name of [God].”
Another website, biblebell.org, explains that there are “two categories of prophetic activities,” in that “a prophet speaks forth God’s messages in two main categories,” that of “preaching” and “foretelling.” Examples for a “preaching” prophet can be found in Isaiah 1:16, 19: In uttering God’s words, the prophet Isaiah “encourages, comforts, or reproves the people.”
The author adds that “from this standpoint, a pastor who preaches, in full and accurate accord with God’s Bible, is functioning as a prophet.”
An example for a “foretelling” prophet can be found in Isaiah 7:14, in that he “gives the people the word of God concerning the future.”
You might want to review our Q&A on prophets in the Church of God today. We explain that the Church of God does have prophets today in the sense of inspired preaching, including preaching on prophetic events which are specifically described in the Bible, but the Church of God does NOT have today “ordained” or “appointed” prophets who are receiving revealing godly visions and dreams about the future; who are directly inspired by God concerning prophetic events which are not set forth in Scripture; and who proclaim those previously unknown future events with unerring and infallible godly authority.
“We do not claim that there are presently any ministers in our organizations who have been ordained by God to the rank and function of apostle or prophet; nor do we believe that God has given anyone else outside our organizations such ranks and functions. When God chooses to set aside some of His ministers for such responsibilities (as He will, for instance, in regard to the two witnesses), the fruit of such persons will make this fact abundantly clear to those in God’s Church. For instance, God manifested and revealed without doubt the apostleship of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong, the late human leader of the former Worldwide Church of God, who died in 1986. Today, even though some claim godly approval for stating that they are apostles and/or prophets, it is our judgment that their claims are false, as in our opinion, they have not manifested the signs of an apostle or prophet in their lives.”
At the same time, we explained in our Q&A about the two witnesses that true godly prophets will arise in the future, as for instance the two witnesses will clearly be such prophets. We stated that “at the very end, just prior to the return of Jesus Christ to this earth, two extraordinary human beings will prophesy and warn this world for 3 1/2 years. During the time of their testimony, no one can harm them, as they will have supernatural protection and powers from God… they will be human beings, sent by God to give this world a last warning, going before the returning Christ ‘in the spirit and power of Elijah’ and Moses (compare Luke 1:17).”
In addition, we pointed out in our Q&A on the prophetess Deborah, that even though there were true prophetesses in the Old Testament, no such office of a prophetess exists in the New Testament Church. We stated: “There is no Biblical record that women were called or ordained to an office of prophetess in the New Testament Church. In fact, God does not permit a woman to preach or to prophesy in Church services… Men have served as prophets and women as prophetesses, as the Word of God clearly illustrates. In the Church of God, today, men may still be called to be prophets (among other offices)–which is by ordination (Compare Acts 11:28; 21:10-11; 1 Corinthians 12:27-28; Ephesians 4:11; Hebrews 5:4). Women, such as the four daughters of Philip [compare Acts 21:9], may also be chosen to speak prophetically through the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit, but not in Church services, and not as ordained ministers or as ordained prophetesses. The ONLY ordained office within the Church of God that is held by women is that of DEACONESS–an appointment based on solid maturity and selfless service.”
Finally, in our Q&A on “THAT” or “THE” Prophet, we explained:
“The Prophet who was [spoken of by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15 and who was] to come was none other than Jesus Christ [compare Acts 3:19-26]. Jesus has many titles and designations; apart from being the Son of God and the Savior and Messiah (the Anointed One), He is also the only Mediator between God and man, our High Priest and the King of kings and the Lord of lords; He is the Apostle of those apostles whom He appoints (Hebrews 3:1; Ephesians 4:11), as well as THAT Prophet of those holy prophets whom He sends. Anyone who misappropriates any of those titles to himself (or approvingly permits such misappropriations to be applied to him) is claiming privileges and designations which are limited and strictly belong to, and which are reserved for Jesus Christ; and such a person will have to give account for what he claims to be, says and does, whoever he might be.”
To summarize, there are most certainly “prophets” in God’s Church today who preach with godly inspiration and who speak on prophecies which are recorded in the Bible. God might also give some of His servants special insight today into prophetic events and details, which might not be specifically mentioned in Scripture, but which would be in line with prophecies contained in the Bible (compare Amos 3:7-8; Isaiah 44:26; Revelation 19:10). But at this point, there are no ordained prophets in God’s Church anywhere, and we do not believe that those who claim otherwise are telling the truth. We do find, however, that in the future, the Church of God will have again ordained apostles and prophets, in accordance with the directions of Jesus Christ, the living Head of the Church (Ephesians 4:11-16).
Lead Writer: Norbert Link