segunda-feira, 29 de novembro de 2010

Has the Gift of Prophecy ceased?

Introduction

Deuteronomy 18:20-22 You may say, "How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?" If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously.

Some Christians believe that miraculous gifts ceased, including prophecy. They are “cessacionists”. Others Christians believe that all miraculous gifts are for the Church today, including prophecy. They are “continuationists”.

There are still others, who are “moderate cessacionists” or “moderate continuationists”. If you continue to read, you will understand better why we can call them “moderate”.

Before we come to the conclusion on this subject, I would like to say something about the following points:

I. The substance of the gift of the prophecy

I I. The ecstatic state of the prophet

I I I. The vessel of the gift of the prophecy

I V. The format of the gift of the prophecy

V. Final conclusion

V I. The ministry of the prophet in our days

I you have a few minutes and read the first two points, you will begin to understand my views about Prophecy.


I. The substance of the gift of the prophecy

A. Prophecy can not be confused with preaching or teaching

In the bible, prophecy can not be confused with preaching or teaching.

Why? Because prophecy has two elements that preaching and teaching don’t have, respectively a supernatural “revelation” together with a supernatural “prediction”, coming directly from God’s mind (mouth) to a human vessel.

Prophecy is a supernatural word coming from God; this is the “revelation” element.

This supernatural word can also refer to things that are going to happen in future, or things that have already happened, but are hidden from us. This is the “prediction” element.

The other element in prophecy but can also be found in preaching and teaching, is “the word of God”. Prophecy, like preaching and teaching can be also based in the Bible. In the old days, prophets nearly always referred to Moses' books, in our days prophets can refer to many prophecies in the Bible and apply them for the situation today.

This is the reason why prophecy never fails. It is a “revelation” coming directly from God that can include a certain degree of “prediction”. And, any “Bible text” used when a person is prophesying, is part of this directly divine “revelation”.

B. New attempts changed the substance  of prophecy

However, we realize that currently, there are news attempts at defining prophecy that have challenged this basic substance of prophecy, that prophecy never fails. In a certain way these news definitions deny the miraculous nature of prophecy that makes it infallible.

These news attempts present the possibility of 'mistaken' prophecy, whereby the prophet is sometimes, but not always accurate. Even modern fortune-tellers can claim varying degrees of partial or intermittent accuracy. However, genuine biblical prophets and prophecy are qualitatively different from any such claims.

Some movement's approach to 'prophecy,' admits that prophets can be and are sometimes mistaken. They say that 'Prophecy in ordinary New Testament churches was not equal to Scripture in authority, but was simply a very human-sometimes partially mistaken-report of something the Holy Spirit brought to someone's mind.'

Although I respect the good work some of these movements do for the Lord, I don’t agree with them in this particular point – about the nature of prophecy.

Because, any prophetic pronouncements must stand the test of accuracy and uniqueness found in such places as Deuteronomy 13:1-5; 18:20-22. The moment that a prophetic pronouncement demonstrates itself as being inaccurate or wrong, it must be labelled as a false prophecy.

If people were taught that when they pronounce a false prophecy - they are, at least, false in the moment they pronounced it, we wouldn’t have so many people standing up in churches trying to prophesy all sorts of mistakes.

Deuteronomy 18:20-22 you may say to yourselves, "How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?" If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously.

I agree that we must distinguish the prophecy of the Prophets and Apostles of the Bible, who formed “the holy canon”, from any prophecy made after “the holy canon” was finished.

The latter is not responsible for the formation of “the holy canon”, and is not absolute, but rather relative because the vessel is not under a full inspiration/revelation of God, like the former!

It is obvious that if the person who prophesize is not under a full inspiration of God, his mind can allow an eventual mistake.

But, I sincerely believe that if the person is under a supernatural activity of the Spirit of God at the moment he pronounces a prophecy (although he is not under a full inspiration, like the prophets of the Bible) his prophecy will be accurate. If he allows occasionally a mistake, I believe it will be a small mistake. But if he continually allows mistakes, it doesn’t come from the Lord, or the person has not the gift of prophecy. Ask him/her to stop!!!

So, although a distinction must be made between an absolute prophecy spoken by the prophets of the Bible, and a relative prophecy spoken in New Testament Churches, in nature they are equal, they are both a “revelation” from God, and for this reason they must be accurate.

I think it is unbiblical and irresponsible to encourage Christians to prophesize, teaching them: “don’t worry too much, prophecy can and will sometimes be mistaken.” How could this kind of prophecy be distinguished from fortune-telling which also has a partial or intermittent accuracy?

I believe we must rather teach our congregation: “When you think you have a prophecy, be sure that comes from God and it will be accurate, otherwise don’t stand up”.

If we look at what is happening in Churches today, we don't see a record of supernatural and miraculous accuracy in prophecy. This accuracy was required from the true biblical prophets.

Why is this? I believe the problem originates in Churches that are spreading this new concept that allows people to freely stand up and in the name of God, make prophecies which are sometimes right, but sometimes wrong?

So, these news teachings are trying to cover up a big lacuna in Churches, where so many supposed prophecies are proved to be wrong, by teaching people that “prophecy can and will sometimes be mistaken”.

If we want to be truthful with God, we have to be confronted with the STATEMENT bellow or find a biblical basis to believe that this gift hasn't ceased and is still for today:

“A close examination would reveal an overwhelming trend to a great level of inaccuracy. If people claiming a prophetic status are evaluated on the basis of a correct understanding of the biblical data and requirements for prophets, the inaccurate activity of the gift of prophecy in Churches in our days, demonstrates that the genuine gift of prophecy has ceased”.

So, does the inaccuracy of prophecy in our days, prove that the gift has ceased and it's function was solely linked with the formation of the Bible and with the foundation of the primitive Church, which had a direct involvement with the formation of the New Testament?

Or does this gift continue, still maintaining a high level of accuracy? But, what we need to do is to give a closer look to its practices and teachings within the Church in our days, in order to stop what is happening in our congregations, which makes prophecy so cheap!

C. Paul did not say that prophecy can fail

But, before I go to my second point, which is a reinforcement of this first point about the nature of the prophecy, I need to clarify one thing.

If we believe that the gift of prophecy is still for our days, basing our convictions e.g. in Romans 12:6; I Corinthians 12-14 and in Ephesians 4:11-12, and also in Acts: Acts 21:9 – the daughters of Philip prophesied Acts 11:27, 21:10-11 – Agabus prophesied for practical/situational reasons. Acts 13:1 – In the Church of Antioch there were prophets .

We should not use I Corinthians 14:29 “Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said”, to say that “prophecy can and will sometimes be mistaken”.

Paul is not teaching here that “prophecy can and will sometimes be mistaken”, when he says the “others” (the other prophets) should weight carefully what is prophesized.

Paul is saying:

If two or three prophets speak, they should not take for guaranty what they say, without weight carefully, because although prophecy is a “revelation”, or “prediction” that comes directly from God, Paul knew that like in the Old Testament times, some people might not speak from the Lord, but from their own thoughts and imaginations. Jeremiah 23:18,26

Paul didn’t want Churches to have a “revelation” or a “prediction” that don’t come from God, so we.

In Paul’s days, they appointed apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Prophets were recognized by the Churches like the apostles, evangelists, pastors and teachers.

Paul gave freedom for prophets to fulfil their ministry. But what would have Paulo done, if a prophet in the congregation continually spoke mistakes in the name of the Lord.

Would he have kept this persona in the ministry within the Church?

A supposed prophet brought by a friend, said in my Church: “The Queen of England is going to die”! He didn’t like at all, when our young people laugh! The Queen is still alive.

Another one, also brought by a friend said: “the brother S.... will become the pastor of this Church (instead of Viriato)!

The brother S ... left our Church to go back to his country one year after the “supposed prophecy” was told!

I have never accepted again these supposed prophets to speak in our Church, because they were telling wrong revelations in the name of the Lord.

Not just because they were wrong, but because they were very misleading too!!!! What would they have said in their next visit!?

But, you might say that teachers, evangelists and pastors are not always right.

I agree, but they are only involved in teaching the word, preaching the gospel and looking after the flock, subject to divers “Theological Interpretations’ in certain matters, which can make them teaching mistakes and errors sometimes.

But a prophet is not only a teacher or a preacher, trying to interpret and apply the word to their audience; his ministry is involved in transmitting “revelations”, or “predictions” that come directly from the mouth God to their audience? They have to be right!

Let us see our second point.


I I. The ecstatic state of the prophet

A. The ecstatic state of the prophets of the Bible

When we see people prophesying in our days, do we really think they go through an ecstatic state like the Prophets in the Old Testament or the Prophets and Apostles in the New Testament?

To be honest, when I heard most people prophesying in Churches, I have the impression that their words are coming from their mind and mouth, sometimes in a much stumbled way, and not from the mouth of God. They don’t show any signs of being involved in this ecstatic or prophetic state that demonstrates the unique revelatory role of the prophet as a spokesperson for the Lord?

We can see this ecstatic or prophetic state in nearly all the cases when Prophets and Apostles of the Bible received supernatural revelation from God. We see in certain stereotyped phrases, the Bible revealing the ecstatic prophetic state of the prophets and Apostles of the Bible.

B. Examples from the Bible

For example 'the Holy Spirit entered into' the prophet and that prophet received revelation (e.g., Ezek. 2:2; 8:3; 11:5-12, 24; 12:1), or 'the hand of the Lord' was on the prophets when prophetic communication was received (e.g., 3:14, 22; 8:1; 33:22; 37:1).

Sometimes the phrase 'the Spirit of God came upon' is used to describe the revelatory state (Num. 24:2; 1 Sam. 10:10; 11:6; 19:20; 2 Chron. 15:1; Isa. 61:1), or the phrase 'the word of the Lord came to' is used (1 Kings 19:9; 1 Sam. 15:10; 2 Sam. 24:11; Jonah 1:1; Hag. 1:1; 2:1, 20; Zech. 7:1; 8:1). Another phrase is 'filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord' (Mic. 3:8).

Paul was in this prophetic state when he received 'visions' and 'revelations' from the Lord (2 Cor. 12:1).

Genuine New Testament prophets who were in the prophetic state were guarded from erroneous revelatory statements because of the intimate ministry of the Spirit of prophecy 1 Cor. 12:3

John was 'in the Spirit' on the Lord's day Rev. 1:10.

'Through the Spirit' Peter predicted the coming famine during the reign of Claudius Acts 11:28.

Peter received revelation regarding the inclusion of uncircumcised Gentiles like Cornelius into the fellowship of the church Acts 10:10

Do we see that in our Churches, when people are prophesying?

I could give many others example, but you can get them from the On Line Bible.

C. The Holy Spirit control the activity of the prophet

The Holy Spirit exercised sovereign control over the true prophet's prophetic activity. These verses also serve to stress the special work of the Holy Spirit in prophecy, maintaining them under this prophetic state, which demonstrates the miraculous and rational nature that such experiences entailed for both Old and New Testament prophets.

We need to say that although they went through an ecstatic prophetic state they kept their rational capacity intact; rarely have they lost their rationality and consciousness.

So, I am not speaking about experiences happening in Churches in our days, where we see people losing control: laughing, shouting, soaking, slaying or shaking in the Spirit, like they say.

We don’t see in the Bible those experiences when people were prophesising (or exercising another gift: healing, tongues) under a supernatural activity of the Spirit.


I I I. The vessel of the gift of the prophecy

A. Who is the vessel of the gift o prophecy

Another view that came together with these new attempts that changed the substance or nature of prophecy is the teaching that any believer can be a vessel of this gift, so the Church instead of a “Priesthood Nation” (we are all priests with different gifts), became a “Prophethood Nation” (all believers can prophesize).

This teaching is mainly rooted in one verse in the book of Acts: 2:18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy”.

By the laws of biblical hermeneutics, we should not really base our conviction in just one text of the Bible (Acts 2:18).

But, they also use I Corinthians 12-14 to back up this position.

The problem with I Corinthians 12-14 is that we also find in this section of the Bible a few verses which show us that the gift of prophecy has been given only to some believers.

For instance: “To one there is given through the Spirit ... faith ... to another prophecy” I Cor 12: “Are all prophets?” I Cor 12:29

The point I am trying to stress here is: If the gift of prophecy is for the Church today, although doesn’t function anymore has a foundational gift used by God to form the Bible and to put the foundation of the Church, it is still a gift given to a person called Prophet.

B. Has the gift of prophecy ceased?

The question is:

“Has the gift of prophecy ceased?” “

“Does the Church have prophets in our days?”

Some people believe that there are still Prophets today, but they say the prophet is a preacher who knows how to apply the Bible in a “prophetic way” to a situation in an individual’s life, in the church or even in the world.

C. The positions about the gift of prophecy 

Normally, the people who believe that the prophets still exist in our days, have one of the three positions below:

1. Traditional position

First position, a more traditional position, like the one I have explained above, that a Prophet in our days is the one who can apply Bible prophecies to the world, Churches and peoples lives, but he is basically a preacher.

2. Pentecostal and charismatic position

Second position, a more charismatic position, believing that a Prophet is not just a preacher or a teacher. He is the one who receives a supernatural “revelation” from God, and has the ability to “predict” certain things in a supernatural way.

3. The gift of prophecy have been given to all believers  

Third position, some people believe that this gift has been given to all believers. Any believer can receive a “revelation” from God, and have the ability to “predict” certain things in a supernatural way.

Conclusion:

It doesn’t matter for now the position we have. If we believe in prophecy for our days, we should teach our congregation that people must deliver true prophecies/messages, and not teach that their prophecies sometimes can be right but sometimes wrong.

We have to keep this view, particularly, if we have the second or the third position, as this position involves the belief in a supernatural “revelation” and “prediction” from God.

But let us go to our third point, before my conclusion.


I V. The format of the gift of the prophecy

A. Prophecy in the "first person"

The new teachings about the nature and the vessel of prophecy have also brought in a new format of prophecy. They don’t just teach that God can use any person as a vessel of prophecy, but they also allowed people to prophesize in the “first person”, where people stand up and say, for instance: “I am not pleased with you ....” as if God was speaking directly through their mouths.

The problem is, the prophets of the Bible, they have never prophesized in the “first person”. They always prophesized in the “third person”: “Thus says the Lord.

I believe that it is irreverent to prophesize in the “first person”, and more so, when many supposes prophecies made in the “first person” are wrong.

I believe that leaders should not allow people to prophesy in the “first person”. It is unbiblical and irreverent, even though sometimes these prophecies could be made by faithful believers who have been taught wrongly.

B. Visual forms: images, pictures, visions 

In our days, prophecy takes another format - a visual form, which can be an image, a picture, a scene, a feeling, a dream or a vision, that a person says has been given by God. If we would take some time to study about “visualization” we would understand a bit better this subject. I speak about “visualization” in my blog: http://www.religiao-filosofia.blogspot.com/

However, I would say that many of the visual forms used by people in our days in their prophecies have no biblical relevance and even are sometimes bizarre and wrong. Also, visualization is used a lot in old pagan’s religions, and in new age religions.

It is very difficult to find biblical grounds for the type of “visualization” used in Churches in our days, even if we believe that God can still reveal himself in dreams, visions and even in another supernatural way.

I believe that in many places the use of prophecy is used by opportunists and liars, but in others places is a problem of a wrong teaching about the gifts of the Spirit, and unfortunately people involved in this error, are often faithfully leaders and believers.

If Churches believe that prophecy hasn’t ceased, and God can still reveal Himself supernaturally, they should give a closer look to the Bible to understand better the nature, the ecstatic state of the prophet, the vessel and the format of prophecy or any other supernatural intervention, to avoid such errors.


V. Final conclusion

A. Five conclusions

Finally I come to the following conclusions:

1. First conclusion

First conclusion: is that prophecy has ceased, because what we see in Churches has nothing to do with what we read in the Bible about the nature, vessel and format of prophecy. Another reason is because prophecy is a foundational gift to do with “the formation of the holy canon” and “the foundation of the Church, itself”.

2. Second conclusion
Second conclusion: based specially in Ephesians 4:11 and a few other texts, is the believe in the office of the prophet for the New Testament, but see the prophet merely as a preacher who can apply the Bible in a “prophetic way” to the situation in the world and Churches.

3. Third conclusion

Third Conclusion: based mainly in Ephesians 4:11 and I Corinthians 12-14, is the belief in the office of the prophet for our days, but the prophet is more than a merely preacher. He has a revelatory role and is a spokesperson for the Lord, and he has the potential to “predict” future events or to “reveal” what is hidden in people’s lives or in the church as a whole.

4. Fourth conclusion

Fourth conclusion: it is like the third conclusion, but believing that all believers can prophesize

If we decided to keep the first position “cessacionism” we have this problem solved for ourselves, at least, and we will not allowed prophecies at all in our congregations.

If we decided to take the second, third or fourth position, our position can be more coherent with the Bible, if we decided to keep in mind the thoughts about the nature, the ecstatic state, the vessel and format of the prophecy explained in this document.

5. My own position is the following one

Firstly, I think prophecy had a foundational role, fundamental for the formation of the Jewish Nation, the Old and the New Testament and the Church with all its doctrines and practices.

The foundational aspect of the gift is no longer necessary in our days, and has indeed ceased. So, considering things from this point of view I am a cessacionist.

Secondly, I think that possibly God can still use in our days an aspect of this gift, and give it to certain members of the body to fulfill some of His plans for the world and the Church.

When believers as well as the Church and the world are no longer following His word and are breaking His laws, God can use this gift (like in Old Testament days) to warn people that if they don’t repent , He will bring His wrath on them.

What I am trying to say is that the foundational aspect of the gift has ceased. And because of this, I believe, prophets in our days should not speak in the first or even in the third person, and whenever they speak as a spokesman for the Lord, they must be accurate and true.

So, in our days, prophecy has no longer a foundational role, but can still be used as a miraculous gift given to some members to work out God’s plans and will for the world and the Church, revealing things that sometimes may need a supernatural revelation and even a predictive one.

Between the second and the third position explained in page 5, I am more inclined to the more traditional one, the second position: the prophet is a preacher who can apply biblical prophecies to the situation of the world and Church. But, some people think that a prophet role, must include a certain revelatory/predictive aspect in his ministry.

So, if we don’t include this revelatory/predictive aspect in the prophet ministry, it is better to call him a preacher, and in this case we line with the more tradition position that sees the prophet as a merely preacher who can apply biblical prophecies to our situation in the world today.

Thirdly, if there are still prophets in a ministry that involves “revelations” and “predictions”, but not having any more the foundational role of forming the “holy canon”, or a prophet is only a preacher that can apply bible prophecies to the situation of the world and to the Church today, I would see the ministry of the prophet in our days, as the following one:


V I. The ministry of the prophet in our days

A. The power of lawlessness

The “power of lawlessness" (or iniquity) is at work since the beginning of creation, the reason why Adam an Eve fell into sin; this power will reach its maximum stage, called Babylon, with the coming of the Antichrist revealed in Revelation. It is the power of Satan, the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. Thes 2:7-8 and I John 4:1-2

Revelation speaks about Babylon the great city. Babylon is an allegory of a political and religious system that will govern the nations around the world in the end of times. This system has been created gradually by the work of the power of lawlessness through all the generations.

The first Beast of Revelation will govern Babylon with the help of the second Beast. They will govern the social, political and religious systems in the world. The Church of Christ will be infiltrated by lies, doctrines and heresies coming from this system – the Great City - Babylon.

B. The ministry of the Prophet in our days

So, I believe, that the ministry of the Prophet in our days, having a revelatory and predictor task or in line with what I think the prophet is just a preacher, his ministry is to present to the Church the meaning of the message expressed in the two texts below and in other texts of the Bible, and tell the Church to come out of Babylon, and not be part of it.

We see quiet often in scriptures in the Old Testament and New Testament a relation between the message of the prophet and ‘apocalyptic times’.

Why, because quiet often the prophet speaks about the coming of the Day of the Lord, which is a judgement day for a certain Nation or for the entire world, if they don’t hear God, and repent from their wicked ways that have brought the wrath of God on them.

Joel 3:14 Multitudes, Multitudes in the valley of decision! For the Day of the Lord is near!

Obadiah v15 The Day of the Lord is near to all nations, as you have done, it will be done to you, your deeds will return upon your own heads.

Revelation 18:4-6"Fallen! Fallen is Babylon! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird. 3For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. 4Then I heard another voice from heaven say: "Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; 5for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes”

Amos 5:4-5 4 This is what the LORD says to the house of Israel: "Seek me and live; 5 do not seek Bethel, do not go to Gilgal, do not journey to Beersheba. For Gilgal will surely go into exile, and Bethel will be reduced to nothing.

The sanctuaries in Bethel, Gilgal, Beersheba where the Jews had their fakes worships (and Babylon), can apply to the Churches involved with prosperity, positive thinking, new age ideas and other heresies, that together with a lawlessness society lead by corrupt politicians and leaders, are trying to break completely all God’s laws in our World.

“Come out of her, my people”, should be the principal Prophet’s or preacher message to the Church in our days.

Some people believe in rapture and millennium, and think that the Church will be not on earth, so “come out of her, my people” refers to the millennium time, however the “power of lawlessness” is at work in a large scale in the end of the times, so “my people” can be also applied to the Church who are living in difficult times as darkness takes over all world, no matter if we believe or not in rapture and millennium.


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