REVELATION 19:9-10: “And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (ESV)
OBSERVATION: What is the role of a New Testament prophet? The ministry of the “prophet” is one of five-fold equipping gifts given to the church. Paul writes in Ephesians:
- “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:11-13 ESV)
It is a good thing that the church is rediscovering the importance of the five-fold ministry being alive and active in every church. The Lord never intended the equipping gifts to be resident in one person that we have come to know as the “pastor”. The “pastor” in that past has been delegated all the equipping roles. The pastor was the paid professional. It was the pastor’s job to begin new ministries, speak the word of the Lord, win the lost, teach the sheep, and guide the congregation. Church turned into a spectator sport with the faithful simply voting for their favorite “pastor” through their tithes and offerings.
This was never God’s intent. When Jesus ascended into heaven He gave “gifts” (plural) to the church. These gifts were not intended to “do” the work, but to “equip” (train, enable, mend, and guide) the saints (all the redeemed of the Lord) to “do” God’s work. The “work” is to live out the Great Commandment and to fulfill the Great Commission. One of the key equipping roles involved in this process is the “prophet”. The ministry of the “prophet” did not die with Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and others. The ministry of the “prophet” is to be functioning in every church as part of God’s equipping gifts to His body.
Yet, I am afraid the pendulum has swung to the other extreme. Instead of discovering the New Testament gift of the prophet there is a move to rebirth the Old Testament role of the prophet. There is now an entire movement that has established “prophets” in a hierarchy and given them a place of prominence. It is not a role of those equipped to edify, comfort, and exhort God’s people toward fulfilling the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. Rather, it has become the source of information from heaven. People now look to the “prophet” for everything. What have the “prophets” said? What are the “prophets” doing? In essence, many have begun to worship the modern day “prophet”.
John made this same mistake. When he was granted the privilege to see the future “Marriage Supper of the Lamb”, he fell down and began to worship the messenger who brought the revelation. I think all those who walk under the mantle of the ministry of a “prophet” need to heed the words of this messenger, as well as those who have become enthralled with the return to an Old Testament pattern in this New Testament age. The messenger said,
- “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.”
Then, and most importantly, the messenger reminds John what the real focus and goal of a prophet should be when he proclaims,
- “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
I believe in the New Testament ministry of prophecy, and in the equipping gift of the “prophet”. However, I am concerned with the Old Testament offices and patterns I am seeing in the modern day resurgence of this gift. We need to remember that Paul defined prophecy in the New Testament as,
- “On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.” (1 Corinthians 14:3 ESV)
The writer of Hebrews reminds us of this important truth.
- “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (Hebrews 1:1-2 ESV)
How can we identify a true New Testament “prophet” today? I think it is simple. Who do we see through their ministry? If we see the “prophet”, then I think they have adapted an Old Testament model. If lives are being built up, encouraged, and comforted, if they are being directed to fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, if Jesus is being lifted up and glorified, I believe we are looking at a New Testament “prophet”. We need those who have been given this gift to use it mightily to equip the Body of Christ, while pointing everyone to – “Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy!”
In Jesus Name!