There are clearly prophets today. Denied and despised by many evangelicals who cling to their old theology books when the discussion concerning prophets was none existent, the fact remains Prophets are here and always have been, in both New Testament and Hebrew Bible ages. We shall discuss the issues of “non-canonical” prophecies, and, “The canon is complete, so we don’t need prophecy” syndrome in later pages. But let the reader rest assured, we are onto it.
There may be fake prophets – to be sure. But we do not burn all £50.00 notes because we have heard that there are counterfeits on the street, do we – or do you? I have always understood that the presence of a counterfeit is for no other reason that there is value in the genuine and authentic. After all, why would anybody try to fake pictures painted by people who sat down 3-400 years ago or even longer? Simply because the real and genuine is worth billions, and in some cases utterly priceless. Did you know that Leonardo (Da Vinci) painted a picture of what he thought jesus looked like and called it Salvator Mundi (Saviour of the world). This picture of Jesus, if you and I don’t mind, was purchased by an Islamic Saudi Prince for $450,000,000 in November 2017. No! That is not a typo. That is 450 million dollars. For years it was thought to be painted by somebody else and was once sold for 60 dollars. The Fiat declaration of experts that it was a genuine “Leonardo” increased its worth somewhat. And hold on to your hats while I tell you that the owner is said to have hidden it as “somebody might steal it.” No! Don’t laugh. The media think it was stolen in reality.
My rather distracted point here is that bad charactered personnel who are hailed as prophets need not disenfranchise the body of Christ that the true prophetic gift does not exist.
Throughout the sixty-six books of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, there are those who are born prophets, and there are those who are made prophets. There are also a considerable number of prophets whom we know very little of. There are prophets we don’t know the name of, or where they came from, or whether they lived long or short, whether they prophesied much or little. So, as with most of the glorious mysteries of Holy Writ, we simply have to piece together what we do know and extrapolate from that, understanding that if and when we know get to see and understand more, we may add to our present statement.
There are those in the world today who claim to be prophets simply because they have prophesied a few times and are highly exalted in their groups and denominations. It is commonly unwise to believe one’s own press. We need to add therefore that there are those who prophesy and are not prophets. It would be true to insert here that all prophets must prophesy in some manner. However not all who prophesy are prophets. There is a difference between prophecy that is one of the “gifts of the Holy Spirit,” and the prophet who is a “gift of Christ.” But that discussion is for another day.
Nobody knows what category Elijah fits into – “made” prophet or “born” prophet, educated and mentored, or raised up in the spirit by God Himself. We can only talk of what we see and here in scripture. There have always been prophets since the first days of creation, from Enoch in Genesis 5 onwards. When I say “prophets” I am meaning those who were divinely ordained and made a legitimate official mouthpiece of God and a carrier of God’s word. Take note that there have always been false prophets as well as the genuine articles. Most religious groups have those characters they would refer to as “prophets”. I have seen and noted that in some movements of God’s people, their “prophets” are such by different definitions and parameters. A strong, forceful leader who treads new territory or thinks out of the box is not necessarily a “prophet” per se. Such personalities, male or female, theologically pedantic and correct, or theologically different rendering the body of Christ to scratch their head concerning their doctrines, the body of Christ needs to assess, judge and put their feet and mouth where their convictions are without bringing anybody into disrepute simply because a “prophet” may differ with his or her tenets of the faith from the observer. There are female as well as male prophets. There are prophets who are seers and see things beyond their personal will – things that might not be compatible with any “Systematic Theology” book that has ever been written. There are those prophets in scripture who say the strangest things and yet are accepted as truly canonical. “Seven Spirits of God”! Really?”
The really important issue is not really whether they were born prophets or made prophets in their life time, whether they are male or female, or whether they are from the aristocracy of their own society or from the off scouring of their culture. The issue is, “Do they, or did they carry the living word of God?” As we research together into the nature of prophets, prophecy and the prophetic in general, I sincerely hope I can help my readers with the following insights. The point of all my qualifications of the prophetic is that many a non-Pentecostal evangelical frame of reference would ridicule the idea of “prophets today” without hesitation. So, a case needs to be made.
- BORN PROPHETS A.THOSE THAT HIT THE FLOOR OF LIFE RUNNING
In the Bible we have the record of John the Baptist, before being named and before his birth leaping prophetically in his mother’s womb when the pregnant Mary entered the room where his own mother was. Such was the spiritual sensitivity of the Baptist even in the midst of gestation, he leapt in his mother’s womb at the Mary and was thus aware that the hardly formed Christ was as near to him as the layers of flesh between his between the two wombs. The prophetic anointing on John was present even in the womb.
In recent church history we have the wonderfully mysterious and awe-inspiring stories of the early life of people like William Branham, Paul Cain and John Paul Jackson, all of whom tell accounts of them innocently and gleefully sharing pieces of information and predictive insights with friends and family that were later vindicated as truly prophetic. It is as if the prophetic gift was deposited and functioning before they even knew what it was to be justified by faith or had any language that would define themselves as Christians. These men were exercising and moving in the prophetic gift before they were even converted properly to Christ.
B. THOSE THAT ARE BORN WITH THE PROPHETIC GIFT SEEDED WITHIN THEM YET UNRELEASED.
Jeremiah was born with all the necessary equipment of a true prophet. God said to him when, as a man generally assumed to be in his thirtieth year, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew[a] you. Before you were born, I set you apart. I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Wow! I ask, if it was all done and dusted before he was out of his mother’s womb, how come he was ignorant of that fact for the first 30 years of his life, so much so that he chose to argue with the Almighty when Yahweh touched his lips and told him to start speaking what God was telling him. It seems logical to explain this by saying that Jeremiah’s gifting was “reserved” inside the locked box of his own soul and spirit until Yahweh spoke to him (as per Jeremiah chapter 1) and unlocked the said box. I talk of “the box” as a euphemism for a priceless treasure, that was obviously deposited within Jeremiah but was unseen, unknown by man, and utterly a surprise to Jeremiah himself.
It could, of course, be reasoned that the prophet over all prophets, in fact, the source of all prophecy (Jesus Himself) was not in anyway released to minister until he was thirty years old. Jesus, the living Christ, God incarnate did not actively prophesy or prophetically minister until he had been baptised by his cousin John the Baptist and then anointed by the Holy Spirit who came upon Him and remained with Him. However, I have to stop myself short and add that I cannot in any way think that Jesus had any gift “locked” until that day. I believe it would be sound to explain the situation that the fully released man from Nazareth was ready to minister but would not until he had fulfilled “all righteousness” and been baptised in Jordan and baptised from heaven by the Spirit of God.
Abraham was the first human being in the Bible that God Himself verbally owned as His prophet. But this gets a little more complex with the father of the faithful, because we have no particular textual account where Abraham prophesied in the stereotypical manner of the later prophets – that is – declaring some message or insight as a word from God. I have always understood this as simply revealing that, uniquely, Abraham was himself the message by nature of the new name God gave to him, changing it from Abram to Abraham. Although he did make some startling statements that preachers have always presented as prophetic statements, i.e. things like building altars and instead of making sacrifices on the altar he simply called on the Name of the Lord. Wow! Swallow that if you can dear reader. And then there is the answer to his son Isaac who asked where the lamb was for sacrifice as he ascended Mount Moriah. The earth-shaking reply, seen by many as a prophecy with universal application was, “God will Himself provide a lamb.” Prophecy? Yes! But those throw away lines and moments that are scattered through Abraham’s 175 years on the planet do not exactly qualify him as “a prophet” of any particular degree. But Yahweh Himself revealed to Pharaoh and Abimelech that they should be afraid to mess around with Abraham or his wife because, said Yahweh, “He is my prophet.” Strange, eh?!
B. MADE PROPHETS.
- THOSE WHO WERE MADE PROPHETS BY THE DIRECT CALL OF GOD.
There are those prophets who are called to be so, directly by God (Amos 7:14). Amos had no tutor or mentor, no training in the prophetic gift, no schooling or familial tradition. He was a farmer and he received the call of God to leave the nation of Judah – which was his natal state and beloved land and crossed the border to go to the northern kingdom of Israel. His lack of “religious demeanour” or “bearing of character” caused the main religious priest in Samaria to take violent offence at him. He was ordered to go back home to his farm. That is a line that suggests he had an accent that gave him away. Amos was picked out of his workaday “job” and sent to give messages to the powers that be in the northern kingdom. He was made a prophet without any human intervention, as far as we know.
- THOSE WHO WERE MADE PROPHETS BY THE IMPARTATION OF AN EXISTING PROPHET.
There are prophets who are made prophets by the ministry and impartation of other prophets.
God sent Aaron to Moses to be his (i.e: Moses’s) prophet. Aaron was thereby a “made” prophet by virtue of the instructions of Moses to Aaron. We have no evidence that God spoke directly to Aaron, in fact, it is emphasized – especially in Leviticus, many times – that Yahweh told Moses what to say and do with Aaron. The call to Aaron was enacted and empowered by Moses who was also a prophet.
Then there is Elijah and Elisha. Elijah cast his mantel over farmer Elisha. And after some years of being Elijah’s valet, butler and hand washer, the invisible prophetic mantel of the Holy Spirit that was cast over him by prophet Elijah fell upon him from above as Elijah ascended into heaven. The reality was wrapped up in the symbol. The anointing of God was so heavy that the substance was equivalent to and imparted immediately by the symbol of Elijah’s mantel. Elisha, after Elijah’s ascension and departing, lived in double the anointing that had rested on Elijah. It would seem logical to state that a candidate for prophetic ministry enters into the depth and breadth of the prophetic gift that is at least equal to the man who ministers the imparting – unless one asks for more, of course. As with Samuel to Saul, Elijah to Elisha, and Paul to the “about twelve” in Acts 19, the principle of the prophetic gift being given by the ministry of another “man of the Spirit” is clearly exemplified in scripture enough times to be understood..
The spirit of Elijah did RESTupon Elisha. Elijah cast his mantel originally at the instructions of Yahweh. The size of Elisha’s farming operation suggests that at the time Elijah found him Elisha had no plans at all to take holy orders. He was a secure, wealthy, firmly entrenched farmer.
- UNKOWN FACTORS OF PROPHETS.
- THOSE WHO APPEAR FULL GROWN AND EMPOWERED WITHOUT ANY VERIFICATION OF THEIR SPIRITUAL DERIVATION.
Compare John the Baptist and Elijah. Who tutored Elijah? Who taught John? Was there any human connection to Elijah’s call? Was John walking as a prophet from childhood? That is not inconceivable. Elijah appears full grown and mature as a prophet in 1 Kings 17:1. However, who taught him? Who baptised John the Baptist? Both of these men were pursued by Godless women into doubt and depression. Both of them lived in the wilderness. But in a more physically determined profile … where and how did the two of them fill their spiritual armoury.
Where did the prophet Obadiah come from and how did he assert his prophetic authority? How did Hosea maintain his authority and kudos among his people being married to a prostitute? How did Joel rise and from where and how did his anointing fall upon him? Nobody knows when he lived or where he came from. All we have is the book that is verified as inspired by the way Christ and the apostles utilise its contents.
There are several prophets that appear momentarily in the pages of biblical history only to disappear as quickly as they appeared, leaving nothing behind them but the trail of inspired utterances that changed the course of the Middle Eastern world in biblical days.
Some of these men seem to be utterly unqualified by worldly standards. Like Elijah and John the Baptist, there was absolutely nothing to cause a following apart from the fact that they had heard from God and were speaking on His behalf. Somehow, despite the strange distant profile and life style of Elijah and John, the masses gathered around them and they fully served and impacted their generation. Did you know that John the Baptist is surmised as having ministered to the public, in the desert places, for no more than three months. Even Christ Himself stated that amongst the prophets of men, there was none greater than John the Baptist. That is one remarkable eulogy for a prophet who was only known as such for a ninety day ministry.