Whenever people start on a tear about “prophecy has ceased,” I usually dig my heels in.
Not because of any personal, emotional connection. I was born in a semi-liturgical denomination, and grew up in pretty rationalist circles.
No, I never bought the cessationist mantra because of what I see in the Bible.
Then I came across a new presentation of this theological ideology, and I think I’ve gained some perspective. Maybe we’re not so different, you and I, Mr. Apostolic Age.
I mean, I still don’t believe in an “apostolic age”…but I think if we narrowed down some definitions, you’d find I’m not such a flaming heretic as you think. And maybe we’ll both be able to agree over the Scriptures.
The book is The Ever-Loving Truth, a group Bible-study book by Voddie Baucham, and the chapter in question is Week 4, Day 3 (pp. 104-107).
The chapter starts by talking about church-attenders who use the “God told me —” or “I’ve really prayed about this, and —” to excuse un-Biblical behavior.
That is baloney sauce, and these Bible teachers are right to call people on it.
(Y’know: “God has given me peace about leaving my wife.” No, He hasn’t.)
It is never okay to divorce your wife for un-Biblical reasons, or to pursue a ministry you are obviously unqualified for (like a woman as pastor), because you “feel at peace” about it or “really feel called.”
That is called “emotions” talking…sometimes called “selfish ambitions” or “evil desires,” and the Bible tells us how to respond to them.
If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him.
But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. (Deut. 13: 1-5)
To take the point and drive it into the ground, if your own heart tempts you and tries to draw you after other gods – sports, money, chocolate, nice vacations, Disney movies – any other god that doesn’t start with J- and end with -esus, then…cut it out and throw it away. (See Mark 9:43-45.)
“It is better to enter life without your heart, than with a functioning aorta to be thrown into hell.”
*another metaphor bites the dust*
God warned us that false teachers and prophets would try to drag us away from Him with lies and dreams and all kinds of false signs. The best way to tell the real ones from the fakes is to live in God’s word.
Another kind of “prophecy” is just personal, specific, time-sensitive messages.
When the prophet in Acts (11:28) warned the church of an up-coming famine…they didn’t brand him as a “charismatic,” they didn’t accuse him of undermining their faith, and they didn’t chant, “The cannon is closed, the cannon is closed.”
They started raising money to send aid to their fellow believers affected by the famine.
This kind of prophecy doesn’t contradict God’s word. God is very serious that, if you say such-and-such in His name, it had better come true…otherwise you better like rock sandwiches.
(Okay, I am only joke – we can’t stone false prophets anymore. At least not dead.)
But you get the point…claiming “God told me —” is super, deadly serious.
And if you say, “God told me to divorce my wife so I can pursue my dreams,” I will be hunting for the nearest stone.
God does not contradict Himself!
Which is why I don’t believe prophecy has ceased. After all, the same God who taught us:
“All Scripture is God-breathed, and useful…” (see 2 Tim. 3:16)
also gave us:
“Some He made apostles, some prophets, some teachers, some pastors…” (see Eph. 4:11-13)
From this I assume two things. 1) That the second passage is still useful for teaching, correcting, and training in righteousness. 2) That prophets and teachers are not identical…and therefore prophets are still a thing.
I don’t get it, and I’m not actually comfortable with people standing up in worship services saying, “I have a word –!”
—But I’m not comfortable saying, “God’s word doesn’t apply to us anymore.”
We have to remember the prophet from the days of Judah and Israel, though. (Read 1 Kings 13.)
He went to prophesy against the wicked king of Israel, but God had warned him he shouldn’t stop and eat or drink anything on the way home.
Some other guy (whether he was a real prophet or a self-styled prophet, I don’t know – God knows) came and stopped the first guy and brought him home for a snack.
The second guy told the first guy, “God told me to tell you to come back and eat.”
Now, the first guy should have said: “God told me not to stop and eat, so I’m going to stick with what I know He told me.”
Instead, he had the snack – then Mr. Two told him he was doomed to die on the way home…and sure enough, a lion killed him on the way home.
I’m not exactly sure what the moral of the story is, but, “Don’t take some guy’s word over God’s word” is a pretty safe bet.
The Bible clearly teaches that the Holy Spirit living inside us guides us into all truth. Every time we read the Bible, new things jump out at us. In each stage of our lives, God prompts us and prods us to grow in the direction of His choosing.
Not all of us grow in the same directions at the same time. Not all of us are called to minister in the same places, or in the same ways. The same passage of Scripture can say two different things to two different Christians, depending on their own sin struggles, their stage of growth, their mission callings, etc.
Is this “prophecy”? Does this count as “God told me – in such-and-such passage – that I need to apologize to my neighbor”?
According to The Ever-Loving Truth – no. The author there says that this is the work of the Spirit through God’s word, and not actual “revelation,” and therefore not banned under the “prophecy has ceased” mantra.
So what is “prophetical revelation” according to this author?
Apparently it’s a “dream, a vision, a spiritual visitation”…something that claims spiritual authority because of its metaphysical appearance, and so trumps Scripture.
And with that definition, I totally agree with them.
As Paul said:
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.
As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Gal. 1:8-9)
“…even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” (2 Cor. 11:14)
There are a lot of silly ideas floating around Christianity. Some of them come from reading too many “Sunday school versions” of the “Bible stories” – and not enough of the actual historical accounts in the Bible.
Some silly ideas come from listening to the culture around us, and not thinking hard about the things they say. A lot of our mental images of angels don’t come from the Bible (bright, terrifying, male) but from the world (pretty, winged, female).
You know – the world Jesus was talking about when He said:
“I have given [my disciples] your word[, Father], and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
“I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.
“They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
“As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.” (John 17:14-19)
The Ever-Loving Truth makes the case that God has given us everything we need to know Him and grow in Him.
After all, Jesus is the culmination of all history and prophecy (cp. Heb. 1)…the whole Law of Moses, all the prophets, the setting apart of Israel as God’s chosen people – all of it was a flashing neon arrow pointing at Jesus.
What more could we need?
I’d like to ask that question of the people trying to figure out how election works. Mostly to see the sparks fly, because I’m wicked.
(When I’m done there, I’ll go put the question to the people making timelines for Revelation.)
I’ve never been satisfied with the arguments that, “The cannon is closed; get over it.”
Revelation 22:18-19 is specifically talking about “the words of this prophecy” (and isn’t charting out the time-table kind of adding to the book, eh?).
I don’t see why new revelation would challenge our faith, cause us to doubt, or destroy the church. After all, the New Testament didn’t do any of those things.
It did tear down the top-heavy system of Jewish religion…but only because, with the Perfect Passover Lamb sacrificed, there was no need for all the rest of it. It was complete…fulfilled…
“It is finished.”
If God really had anything more to say, whatever He said would align perfectly with everything that went before, from Genesis to Jude and beyond. It wouldn’t just rhyme…it would harmonize.
He’s awesome like that.
But what more could He possibly add to the cap-stone and cornerstone that is Jesus Christ the God-Man?
How about, “I am Jesus, and I am the way to God. Find this Christian to find out more.”
This is apparently the message to many Muslim people in closed countries, who see Jesus in a dream so they can seek out believers and hear the gospel.
It’s not “the work of the Holy Spirit through God’s word” because they don’t have the word to read… And they’re not Christians yet, so they don’t have His Spirit living inside them to guide and teach them.
I don’t know about you, but when this “prophetic revelation” is driving people to seek Jesus, not “other gods they have not known,” I can but praise God and give thanks for more brothers and sisters saved.
I don’t think I’ll ever take in stride people standing up in the middle of corporate prayer or something and spouting out a “message” they’ve been given.
Fortunately, God loves us all, and is big enough to take us all in.
As long as we’re matching everything against what God has already said, I can’t say, with my dispensational, cessationist brothers – “Prophecy has ceased, gifts have ceased, get with the program, you heretic.”
And I can call you my brothers as long as we can agree on these key things:
God never lies. He does not change. God cannot prove false to Himself.
Jesus Christ, Son of God – sent by God, crucified for our sins according to the Scriptures, buried, and risen again according to the Scriptures.
This post is approved by my spiritual head.
She’s bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.
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