God has called prophets to bring His Word to mankind in all the seven dispensations of earth's history. Each dispensation is headed by a prophet who represents the stages in human redemption. These seven prophets, and what they symbolise, are as follows:
- 1. ADAM who brought about the FALL -- he symbolises our fall from God's presence;
- 2. NOAH who rescued his family and representatives of all living things from the earth's FLOOD -- he represents our rebirth as new creatures in Christ through BAPTISM;
- 3. ABRAHAM who became the earthly father/patriarch of the redeemed through FAITH in God -- he represents our ADOPTION into the FAMILY OF CHRIST and the principle of MULTIPLICATION;
- 4. MOSES who instituted the preparatory LAW of the MILLENNIAL THEOCRATIC GOVERNMENT -- he represents the LIMITATIONS that must be imposed on man by outer COMMANDMENTS until they are fully obedient to the SPIRIT;
- 5. DAVID who instituted MESSIANIC KINGLY RULE -- he represents the fruits of faith and obedience to Law, namely, man's calling to be rulers in Zion;
- 6. JOHN THE BAPTIST who prepared the way for the FIRST ADVENT OF CHRIST -- representing the FORGIVENESS OF SIN through FAITH in, and SUBMISSION to, Christ;
- 7. THE NEW COVENANT PROPHET preparing the way for the SECOND COMING OF CHRIST -- representing the CONQUERING MESSIAH, the JUDGMENT and the MILLENNIAL KINGDOM GOVERNMENT.
The Bible reveals the existence to two kinds of prophet: (1) The PROPHET-PATRIARCH, who is a family or clan head with the permanent gift of prophecy. He is usually responsible for theocratic government; and (2) The born-again BELIEVER on whom the spirit of prophecy falls.
Old Testament prophets usually fell into the second category. They lived lonely and persecuted lives. Examples of these would be Nathan, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea and many others. Those falling into the first category include the 7 Dispensational Prophets listed above plus prophets like Samuel.
New Testament prophets were an integral part of the Church and were found in almost all local congregations. Like their Old Testament counterparts, they were often lonely and persecuted in the world. Nowadays, when the ministry of prophets is not usually accepted, they are persecuted not only by the world but by the Church also.
The New Testament prophet is not a wild-eyed, scatter-brained man, but represents order, discipline, total commitment, wisdom and insight. Sometimes, however, they, like their Old Testament counterparts, are dramatic in order to illustrate their message.
1. What drama did the prophet Isaiah enact? (Isa.20)
2. What drama did the prophet Hosea enact? (Hos.1:1ff)
3. What drama did the prophet Jeremiah enact? (Jer.27-28)
Sometimes God calls His prophets to do strange things in order to convey His message in a manner unlikely to be forgotten. Prophetic behaviour can, therefore, be a little out of the ordinary.
4. How do we know that prophets are a part of the Church in all dispensations? (Amos 3:7)
A. Why do you think God announces His acts through messengers? What is His purpose?
5. What is the ultimate purpose of prophets? (Isa.62:6-7)
6. What are the three foundation stones of the Church of God? (Eph.2:20)
The foundation stones of the Church are Jesus Christ (the chief cornerstone), apostles and prophets.
B. List the Churches you know who claim to have apostles and prophets as an active part of their ministry. Which of these actually ordain apostles and prophets, and which act according to the New Testament pattern? Why do you think apostles and prophets are absent from the vast number of Christian churches?
We will now identify some of the characteristics of God's New Testament prophets.
7. What did God say he would do for all generations, and what would happen to them? (Luke 11:49)
8. Name the eight gifts that the Lord has appointed in the Church of God? (1 Cor.12:28)
This is a list showing the ministries of the local congregation in order of importance. Though not everybody has the same gifts, all are to "eagerly desire the greater gifts" (v.29-31, NIV). The prophetic gift ranks as the second most important in the Church.
Those who are born again of the Holy Spirit gain access to the Father through the Holy Spirit and become "fellow citizens of God's people and members of God's household" (Eph.2:18-19, NIV).
9. In order to become a member of God's true household, or Church, what must the local fellowship of believers include? (Eph.2:20)
Where true apostles and prophets are not found, the true Church of God is not found either, because there is no spiritual temple. And if there is no spiritual temple, then there is no complete dwelling place for God's Spirit (Eph.2:21-22).
10. Who was it who revealed the mystery of the ages to the people in the early Church? (Eph.3:5)
11. Which five ministries are essential in the Church of God to prepare the saints for works of service and to build up the Body of Christ? (Eph.4:11-12)
12. What won't happen until all these five ministries are properly in place in the Church? (Eph.5:13-15)
The result of the absence of these ministries is factionalism in the Church and contradictory teaching.
13. What will happen in the Church when all five ministries are properly in place? (Eph.4:15)
The New Covenant Church of God has all five ministries in place. Obviously these do not come automatically by simply ordaining people to offices; they come through obedience to the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
C. What would you do if a Church announced that it had all five ministries in place? How would you test its claims?
14. What are the apostles and prophets of God not looking for? How do they behave in the Church and what will they be only be too willing to do? (1 Thess.2:6-8)
Any prophet who seeks to make himself the centre of attention and who enjoys receiving the praises of men is not a true prophet of God.
15. What other characteristics do these prophets display? (1 Thess.2:9)
16. What is one of the things that God's apostles and prophets look forward to the most? (Rev.18:20)
17. Of what is a prophet of God deeply conscious of? (Is.6:1-7)
18. What pardon does a prophet receive if he preaches the message God gives him? (Isa.6:6-8)
19. What is a prophet's immediate response when he hears God's call? (Isa.6:8)
20. Who gives the prophet the words that he is to speak? (Jer.1:9)
A prophet is a man whose mouth has been touched to speak for God. He is God's representitive as though He were physically present. This not only places a heavy burden on the prophet but on those who hear his words too.
21. What are the six tasks that a prophet must do? (Jer.1:10)
The prophet has an extremely difficult and painful job to do. Moreover, he cannot act arbitrarily in his own human strength. All that he does, however destructive in appearance, has, as its long-term goal, the building up of souls and the planting of the Gospel further afield. But before nations and individuals can be built up and planted, they must first be metaphorically "uprooted, torn down, destroyed, and overthrown". This means that all their false thinking and feelings must be removed, like weeds in a garden, before the holiness of the Lord can find place in their minds and hearts.
22. What three things must God's prophets be and do? (Ezek.33:7)
The prophet must be acutely aware of everything that is going around him. He must be a watchman over the Church, like a shepherd guarding the flock. He must always be in the right spiritual condition to hear the Word of the Lord and not the imaginings of his own heart. And he must act immediately upon hearing the Lord's Word.
23. What will happen to the prophet who fails to lift up a warning voice? (Ezek.33:8-9)
The office of prophet is not for any man who is seeking popularity or power for he will have none of these in people's eyes, save amongst those who are pure in heart and are able to discern the Lord's ways.
24. By what principle do prophets operate? (Heb.11:3)
A prophet cannot function in his own wisdom but only in God's. The Word he receives is not necessarily understood by him at first. He must therefore act in faith based on the assurance he has received that God's Word never returns to Him empty. He knows that his own knowledge and experience, though great, can never substitute for God's revelation. He must therefore always remain humble and teachable and yield complete control of his life to God. Without this total surrender he cannot function in his office.
He cannot attain this state in a day but only through constant, and often painful, self-discipline and correction at the hand of God. God's Word is not to be trifled with, and he knows it. Only false prophets treat the Word of the Lord lightly and listen instead to their own lusts.
25. What special blessings attend God's prophets and what power does God give them? (Jas.5:16-18)
This does not mean that a prophet can arbitrarily behave as he wishes. He cannot do anything without God's permission and will always seek that permission before acting. Though he will be blamed by the unspiritual for bringing calamity and sickness upon a wicked people, in truth it is only God acting through him. He is not the source of any supernatural power, just a medium for it so that God's will and power might be revealed.
26. What else must the prophet do? (Isa.35; Rom.8)
The prophet always brings life to the righteous and death to the wicked. The desert of sin remains so for the sinners (and may get worse) but turns into rivers for the repentant. A prophet is therefore both a bringer of fear and of peace, of sorrow and of joy.
27. What did Jesus come to destroy? (Heb.2:14-15)
28. What else did Jesus come to do? (Rom.8:28)
A prophet, when he speaks the Word of God in the power of God, is acting as God's representative on the earth. When he speaks, the people are under an obligation to listen and obey. If they will not listen and obey, then the Lord will raise up a people who will.
In order to receive the authority to speak as the Lord's representative, a prophet must die to self. He must not be his own, but belong completely to God.
29. What happens to prophets who speak for themselves -- who are "soulish" [speak from their own souls] rather than "spiritual [speaking through the Holy Spirit]? (Jer.23; Ez.13)
Prophets are made by God over a long period of time. No beginner can be pure enough to be a prophet. The office takes years of discipline, training and chastisements. The "trainee prophet" will make many mistakes, learning in part through trial and error in proportion to his obedience to the Word.
The budding prophet will be thrashed, beaten, humiliated, scorned, laughed at and rejected, will fall into error and arise -- only to fall again, until every part of him knows, like Nebuchadnezzar with grass in his mouth -- that "the Most High God rules the Kingdom of men and gives it to whom He will" (Dan.4:32).
The office of prophet is not for the proud or arrogant -- but for the meek and humble, the one who is constantly conscious of his own nothingness before Almighty God and who is willing to do things God's way, and not men's. For he must stand with a sword and pierce every soul with prophetic judgment, discerning the thoughts and intents of every heart (Heb.4:12).
Copy and memorise the following scripture: Amos 3:7