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Old Testament vs. New Testament Prophecy


Old Testament vs. New Testament Prophecy


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In Old Testament times, there was no direct link between God and men - other than the men whom God appointed as links. Those men were God's prophets, God's friends, and God's leaders. For example, Moses inquired of God, and would pass on God's words to the people.

Prophets, those who speak forth God's Words, had to be 100% correct when they shared God's Words with the people. After all, there was no simple way for people to check those words. The only test was to see whether the word came true. If it came true, the prophet was a prophet of God. If not, the prophet was not a prophet of God.

As time progressed, a record grew - both oral and written. As it grew, this record enabled people to double-check prophecies and teachings more easily. This is what we see the Bereans do in Acts 17:11:

(Acts 17:11 javascript popup window NIV) Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Jesus' sacrifice reconciled us to the Father.

(1 Timothy 2:5-6 javascript popup window NIV) For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, {6} who gave himself as a ransom for all men--the testimony given in its proper time.

The link between God and men is restored, enabling God to sent the Holy Spirit into our hearts:

(Galatians 4:6 javascript popup window NIV) Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ''Abba, Father.''

Nevertheless, we have a treasure in jars of clay (2 Cor. 4:6-7 javascript popup window ). And as Romans 6, 7 and 8 javascript popup window makes clear, we are still a mixture of flesh and Spirit - water and wine, so to speak.

Thus, Paul - in the midst of instructing the Corinthians on the place, purpose and practice of the spiritual gifts - says:

(1 Corinthians 13:9-12 javascript popup window NIV) For we know in part and we prophesy in part, {10} but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. {11} When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. {12} Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

This is why all prophecy must be tested:

(1 Corinthians 14:29 javascript popup window NIV) Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.

Again, the context of this statement is Paul's discussion on the spiritual gifts. He is not talking about the office of ''prophet'' - someone established by God in a position of spiritual authority - but rather about people who use the spiritual gifts (and specifically the gift of prophecy) as listed in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 javascript popup window.

In today's church, however, there are some who see a restoration of the so-called five-fold ministry, and who believe that the church again includes certain people who occupy the office of ''prophet.''

Robert Bowman addresses this unbiblical teaching in his article on the five-fold ministry, discussing apostles and, here, prophets:

Nor are there any prophets in the usual sense, as they were part of the ''foundation'' laid in the first-century church. This is not to deny the continuing validity of the gift of "prophecy," since Paul does refer to prophesying as a basic activity in which all Christians are urged to participate to the extent God gifts them (Rom. 12:6 javascript popup window; 1 Cor. 11:4-5 javascript popup window; 12:10 javascript popup window; 13:2 javascript popup window, 8-9 javascript popup window; 14:1-6 javascript popup window, 20-33 javascript popup window; 1 Thess. 5:20 javascript popup window ), and in a general functional sense persons exercising this gift are even called ''prophets'' (1 Cor. 14:32 javascript popup window, 37 javascript popup window ). Yet Paul also speaks of specific persons who occupied an office of ''prophet'' which was second in authority only to apostle (1 Cor. 12:28-29 javascript popup window ). It is this office of ''prophet,'' not all prophecy, which I am arguing passed away around the end of the first century.

I have heard prophecies, words of knowledge and teachings that were 100% correct. I have also heard prophecies, words and teachings that fell anywhere between 0% and 100%.

However, we no longer stone prophets who do not get it all right. For one thing, we no longer have people who operate in the office of ''prophet.''

In addition, we are no longer dependent on what the prophet (teacher, pastor, leader, Bible Answer Man, etc.) says is the Word of God - but rather on what God confirms as His Word.

This confirmation comes in various ways: through Scripture, through listening to the Holy Spirit, and through the instruction of others (which, in turn, is tested.)

But always - without exception - all prophecies, dreams, teachings, and etcetera must be tested by the standard of Scripture:

(Acts 17:11 javascript popup window NIV) Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Note that Paul later reiterated this point in his letter to the Thessalonians:

(1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 javascript popup window NIV) Do not put out the Spirit's fire; {20} do not treat prophecies with contempt. {21} Test everything. Hold on to the good. {22} Avoid every kind of evil.

The fact that we constantly have to  test, keeps us dependent on God and His Word, as opposed to on a teacher or movement. Never forget that we are not of Paul or of Apollos javascript popup window - we follow God.

That said, when certain people consistently make erroneous prophecies and/or teach things that militate against the written Word of God, and that cause Christians everywhere to have "checks in their spirits," the church must warn against - and discipline - those teachers. If your baker consistently sells you moldy bread, you naturally stop trusting him, and start buying your bread elsewhere.

See Also

» Spiritual Gifts
» Spiritual Gifts and Manifestations A brief, verse-by-verse look at 1 Corinthians 14

About this page:
Old Testament vs. New Testament Prophecy
First posted: Oct. 9, 1996
Last Updated: May 31, 2001
Copyright: Apologetics Index
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