May 1, 2007
The Last Prophet
And The End of Prophecy
By A. Disciple
What is a prophet?
We need to know before we can identify the last one, for the word has a variey of definitions. Let us look at these examples of two Old Testament prophets, Moses and Jeremiah:
Ex.3:15 God also said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites, 'The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.' This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation."
Jer.2:1-3 The word of the LORD came to me, saying, "Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the LORD, I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown.
In each of these examples, God spoke to an individual, gave him words and commanded him to proclaim them in the hearing of the people. This, then, is our precise definition, drawn from the testimony of Old Testament figures that were honored as prophets by Jesus of Nazareth:
This corresponds well with the common English dictionary definition1:
A prophet is a human that speaks to humans as commanded by God, with words heard directly from God..
1 : one who utters divinely inspired revelations:
This, then, is our definition of prophet-- a human that receives words from God and, being commanded by God to do so, delivers them in the hearing of other humans. We will not accord the title or office to anyone that does not match this definition. We note in particular that a prophet need not be one that foretells the future, though this is not excluded. A prophet does need to inform humans of things previously known only to God, and that are not knowable by humans acting alone.
We are able to identify prophets other than Moses and Jeremiah by applying this definition,. In particular we are able to identify Jesus of Nazareth as a prophet because we accept the authority of his Word and count it as True. This is not an arbitrary acceptance. We accept the authority of his Word because of the astonishing message the Words convey. His Word is self-validating.
Was/is Jesus of Nazareth a prophet in accord with the above stated definition?
Jn.12:49 Because I have not spoken from myself, but the [one] having sent me, [the] father himself has given to me commandment what I should say and what I should speak. What therefore I speak, just as the father has spoken to me, thusly I speak.
Jn.17:7 (Words addressed to God the Father) Now they know that all, whatsoever you gave to me, is from you; 8 that the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they received [them] and they knew truly that I came from beside you, and they believed that you sent me.
Jn.20:17 Jesus says to her: Be not touching me, for I am not yet gone up to the father. But be going to my brothers and tell them, I go up to my father and your father and my God and your God.
By this we confirm Jesus as a true prophet, meeting the above definition. He speaks words to us that he heard directly from God, the one whom he knows as Father. Other biblical figures, both contemporary and later, may be tested by this definition. There is one person in particular that requires a comment, not because he demonstrably complies with our definition, but because the Lord affirmed him.
Was John the Baptist a prophet?
Yes, but in this case we must refer to the Word of Jesus. We have verified that Jesus of Nazareth is a true prophet, and a true prophet will not mis-identify others.
Mt.11:7 Now when these are going, Jesus began to be saying to the crowd concerning John: What did you come out into the wilderness to see, [a] reed shaken by the wind? 8 So what did you come out to behold? [a] man clothed in soft [things]? Behold those wearing soft [things] are in the houses of the kings. 9 So why did you come out? To behold [a] prophet? Yes, I say to you, and much more than a prophet.
We conclude that John was a prophet according to the Word of Jesus. But being contemporary with Jesus, who was and is a prophet, he could not have been the last of the prophets. We have this statement of the Lord to specify that John was a transition figure:
Lk.16:16 The law and the prophets [are] until John, from then the kingdom of God is proclaimed and all forcibly enter it.
Jesus survived John and, as a prophet, succeeded John. The divine revelation that Jesus brought into the world was the gospel of the kingdom of God, to which he refers here. By this we know that John was not the last prophet.
Many New Testament references ascribe prophecy and the title "prophet" to persons, both men and women, in the early church. Paul speaks of their prophesying. He and the Christians that penned those documents had definitions of "prophet" and "prophecy" different from the one we set forth above (see an example in Acts 15:32). Ours is a precise definition as it must be to define the Truth.
Seeking The Last Prophet
Jesus of Nazareth is/was a prophet as identified above. According to his Word he is also the last! Listen:
Mk.13:21 And then if any say to you: Behold there is the Christ, or: Behold here, be not believing. 22 But false Christs and false prophets will arise and will make signs and wonders in order to be deceiving if possible, the chosen. 23 But you be looking; I have foretold you everything.
This statement foretells many deceptive false prophets to follow the Lord, as must be the case of any later one pretending to be a prophet. He does not foretell the coming of any later true prophets, for there is nothing more for a prophet to foretell:
But you be looking; I have foretold you everything.
Therefore there are no more prophets! Our Lord, Jesus of Nazareth, is the last prophet. Everyone that follows him with the claim of prophesy is, according to the Word, a false prophet.
His Apostles were not prophets because they did not receive the Word of the Father directly from the Father. The Lord did not title them prophets but gave to them the lesser title apostle. They were commanded to be his witnesses, which is the very same function that he elsewhere accords to his disciples in every age.
We can confirm this by reference to the Word in the Fourth Gospel. Call to mind these statements of the Lord.
Jn.15:15 No longer do I say you [are] slaves, because the slave does not know what his lord does; but I have called you philia-beloved, because everything that I heard from my father I made known to you.
Jn.16:12 I have yet many [things] to be telling you, but you are not now able to be bearing [them]. 13 But when that [one] comes, the spirit of truth, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak from himself, but as much as he hears will he speak, and the coming [things] will he disclose to you.14 That [one] will glorify me, because he will receive from me and will disclose to you. 15 All as much as the father has is mine. Because of this I said that he receives from me and he discloses to you. 16 [A] little [while] and you no longer behold me, and again [a] little [while] and you will see me.
Jn.17:6 I revealed your name to the men whom you gave to me out of the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that all, whatsoever you gave to me, is from you; 8 that the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they received [them] and they knew truly that I came from beside you, and they believed that you sent me.
Jesus of Nazareth is/was a prophet, having received his message directly from the Father for delivery to men. On this basis we infer that and apostle is inferior to a prophet. The apostle receives his message, not directly from the Father as did Jesus, but through an intermediate medium -- first through the medium of Jesus the Son, and secondarily through the medium of the Holy Spirit.
The False Apostle and False Prophet, Paul of Tarsus
To Paul, a prophet was anyone that uttered "prophecy," the latter being so according to his own definition. He considered the members of his churches that appeared to utter inspired words to be prophets.
I Cor.14:1 Be pursuing agape-love, but be being zealous for the spiritual [things], but more that you may be prophesying. 2 For the [one] speaking in [a] tongue does not speak to men but to God. For no one hears, but he speaks [a] mystery to the spirit. 3 But the [one] prophesying speaks upbuilding and exhortation and consolation to men. 4 The [one] speaking in [a] tongue builds himself, but the [one] prophesying builds up [the] church. 5 So I want you all to be speaking in tongues, but more that you prophesy; for the [one] prophesying is greater than the [one] speaking in tongues, unless he interpret, in order that the church receive upbuilding.
Yet he did not identify himself as a prophet in his epistles. He was not averse to claiming great things for himself. Why not claim the title of prophet?
This was due to his clearly stated hierarchy according to which, contrary to Jesus, being a prophet was not uncommon:
I Cor.12:27 So you are [the] body of Christ and members in particular. 28 And in the assembly has God placed first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then powers, then gifts of healing, helps, administrations, [various] kinds of tongues. 29 [are] all apostles? [are] all prophets? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?
With this in mind, and in view of the fact that he laid claim to the office of apostle, I conclude that he failed to identify himself as a prophet because this would have been a demotion for him, and would have placed him (in his view) on the same level as many members of his churches. He definitely laid claim to being an apostle:
I Cor.9:1 Am I not free? Am I not [an] apostle? Haven't I seen Jesus our Lord? Aren't you my work in the Lord? 2 If I am not apostle to others, rather to you I am certainly; for you are my seal or apostleship in the Lord.
I Cor.1:1 I, Paul, [a] called apostle of Christ Jesus through [the] will of God, and Sosthenes [my] brother, 2 to the assembly of God that is in Corinth, to those made holy in Christ Jesus, to the called holy [ones], with all those in every place calling upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, theirs and ours, 3 grace to you and peace from God our father and Jesus Christ [our] Lord.
He mentions prophets and apostles together several times, and always apostles comes before prophets. This man had no conception of a last and final prophet; anyone -- man or woman -- could be a prophet and there were many of them in his churches. In Paul's evaluation, the office of prophet was not so high but that the members of his churches could readily qualify!
The critical element in his experience was his purported vision of the Lord Jesus, and it was on this basis that he laid claim to being an apostle: Am I not [an] apostle? Haven't I seen Jesus our Lord? If he had seen the Father and if he had had revelations directly from the Father he surely would have made it known. He did not; therefore he did not qualify to be a prophet according to our definition and his own assertions.
Not being a prophet, he was certainly not the last prophet!
The "Prophet" of Islam
Muhammad claimed to be a prophet, and has himself so addressed in many places in The Qur'an. For example, we have this:
Say: "O men! I am sent unto you all, as the Messenger of Allah, to Whom belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth: there is no god but He: it is He That giveth both life and death. So believe in Allah and His Messenger, the Unlettered Prophet, who believeth in Allah and His words: follow him that (so) ye may be guided."
Muslims almost universally acclaim him as the last prophet.
When Muhammad (saas) reached the age of 40, the angel Gabriel came to him with revelations that established his prophethood.
The Muslim definition of prophet radically deviates from the simple definiton we have accepted here, by placing the angel Gabriel between Muhammad and Allah (the Muslim name of God). So by his own testimony, Muhammad did not receive his revelations from God. There was an intermediary! Not understanding how a human qualifies as a true prophet, Muslims believe him to be a prophet -- indeed, the last prophet.
In the next 20 years of his life, he communicated the message of Allah to his people, and set an example for how each human being should lead her or his life. This is especially valuable since Muhammad (saas) is the last Prophet of Allah.
Yet Muhammad cannot be a prophet. He did not, by his own testimony, receive his message from the mouth of God and therefore was not a prophet of God. He was not the last prophet!
The Mormon "Prophet"
Many have laid claim to be prophets since the Lord terminated this calling. Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon religion, was one of those. He claimed to be a prophet "like unto Moses."
Salvation cannot come without revelation; it is in vain for anyone to minister without it. No man is a minister of Jesus Christ without being a Prophet. No man can be a minister of Jesus Christ except he has the testimony of Jesus; and this is the spirit of prophecy. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 160.
Fact is that he did not claim to meet the qualifications for a prophet according to our definition. He thought and taught that it was "having the testimony of Jesus" that made him a prophet. His revelations came, by his own testimony, with the aid of an imagined intermediary angel, Moroni. This one therefore necessarily stood between him and God; therefore, his claim of being a prophet is false.
More Recent Claimants
The above individuals are only a few of those that have, through the centuries, claimed the title of prophet or have been designated as such by their followers. Should it be possible, and should I set forth to name every one, I doubt that I would live long enough to do it. They include women also -- women such as Ellen O White (Seventh Day Adventists) and Mary Baker Eddy (Christian Science).
A Google search for "modern prophet" returns almost 35,000 results, including individuals from many times and cultures other than Jewish, Christian, and Muslim and from secular as well as religious contexts. Seems that the great majority follow a much broader definition of prophet than the one accepted here. That is in accord with our language, for at least one legitimate definition is very broad:
4. an effective or leading spokesman for a cause, doctrine, or group.
You may dispute its breadth, for it excludes the prophetess! Not to worry, for there is a separate definiton for that:
a woman who is a prophet
Jesus of Nazareth is and ever remains the last prophet -- the last legitimate messenger from God to man, and his Word is the last prophecy and the end of prophecy.
I have foretold you everything.