Some thoughts on prophesy

In this study we would like to see what the Bible says about prophets and specifically in the New Testament. Prophesy was a major part of God in revealing truth to His children.

We will consider a number of different aspects.

1. What was the purpose of prophesy?

How that by revelation was made known unto me the mystery, as I wrote before in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye can perceive my understanding in the mystery of Christ; which in other generation was not made known unto the sons of men, as it hath now been revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;
(Ephesians 3: 3- 6)

Paul wrote here that the mystery of Christ was unknown to past generations, but these things were "now" made known by the Apostles and prophets.
See here the connection between the Apostles and prophets. Both the Apostles and prophets were a part of revealing the truth of God.

We do know from the scriptures that all the 12 Apostles have died and that there is no need anymore for new revelation. The 12 Apostles and the prophets made it all known. The truth of God has been made known.

In Jude 3 it talks about the faith that has been delivered for the saints.
In 2 Tim. 3: 16, 17 it talks about the concept that all of God's word has the function of making His children mature and ready for every good work.
Gods truth has been presented and God has used Apostles and prophets to do that job.

Prophesies were given to make the truth complete.
When Christ was on the earth he said that the Apostles would be guided into all truth.

Important note: Remember that when these words were written (book of Ephesians) the Christians did not have the Bible as we have it. They just had the Old Testament and slowly more and more manuscripts were circling around as they were written.
This is very important to understand.

Look at the words of Jesus from the Gospel of John.

How be it when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth: for he shall not speak from himself; but what things soever he shall hear, these shall he speak: and he shall declare unto you the things that are to come.

(John 16: 13)

In these chapters (13- 16) Jesus made a promise to the Apostles that he would guide them into "all truth". That concept has fully been fulfilled when on the day of pentecost the Apostles were baptized in the Holy Spirit. From that moment on they made "truth" known to the world.

When Jesus spoke the words in John 13- 16 only the Old Testament was there in written form to read. The Gospels and the the New Testament was not there for them to read, so further revelation was nessecary. And Jesus was going to die, yet He would send the Holy Spirit who would guide the Apostles and prophets into all the truth.

So then ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone;
(Ephesians 2: 19- 20)

From this verse we learn that the truth known to the Ephesians was the truth that was made known through the Apostles and prophets.
So, in the times of the Apostles living the Christians did not have full revelation. But as the revelation of God became known more and more they became more mature.

And he gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
For the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ:
till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a fullgrown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

(Ephesians 4: 11- 13)

Here we read that the offices given by God were to lead towards maturity. As the truth was made known little by little, the Christians became more and more like a fullgrown man.

2. Some examples of prophesy

Now in these days there came down prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch.

And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be a great famine over all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius.

(Acts 11: 27- 28)

Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers, Barnabas, and Symeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen the foster-brother of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

And as they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.

(Acts 13: 1- 2)

And Judas and Silas, being themselves also prophets, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them.

(Acts 15:32 )

And on the morrow we departed, and came unto Caesarea: and entering into the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, we abode with him.

Now this man had four virgin daughters, who prophesied.

And as we tarried there some days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus.

And coming to us, and taking Paul's girdle, he bound his own feet and hands, and said, Thus saith the Holy Spirit, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.

(Acts 21: 8- 11)

3. What can be said about the duration of prophesy?

Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall be done away.

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child: now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things.

For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known.

(1 Cor. 13: 8- 12)

Here we read that there would come a time when prophecies would be done away with, it was also the time that tongues would cease.
The writer, Paul, compares this with a child and a man.

Key concepts in these verses are the words:

A. For we know in part and we prophesy in part.

From these words we understand that all the Apostles and prophets only revealed part of the truth that was to be made known.
So, Paul revealed part of Gods plan, Peter revealed another part, James, John and others revealed other parts.
So in prophesy the same was true, prophesy was also done as time moved on.

B. But when that which is perfect has come.

There was a time when the church was in infancy, it was the time when the writings of the New Testament was not yet complete. It was the time that in part truth was revealed to the Apostles and prophets.

What about the word perfect:

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brought to its end, finished

wanting nothing necessary to completeness


that which is perfect

consummate human integrity and virtue

of men

full grown, adult, of full age, mature

So, this word means that something is brought to completion, something has become of full age, something has become full grown.
If we then look at the context and see what he is talking about, we see that he has just been talking about tongues and prophesies.
So, when the New Testament, the truth, has been made complete, there was no need anymore for prophesies.

What would remain?

But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

(1 Cor. 13: 13

C. The child and man illustration.

So, how does Paul use these words?

He compares the growth of the truth to a child. When Paul and the rest of the Apostles and the prophets were revealing truth the church was in infant stages.
But when the truth was fully known then he could compare the truth to a man of full age, a man that is mature.

In all these writings we see that prophesy belonged to the early church, it had an important function. But the function has ceased to be nessecary, the truth is complete and no more new revelations are needed.

Jud 1:3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

The complete truth has been delivered by the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit has completed his work through the apostles and prophets.
The promise that Jesus gave to the apostles have been completed (John. 16: 13)
The truth has been delivered for us all to read and to love. Gods revelation to man is perfect and complete. (2 Tim. 3: 16, 17)

We have been given all by God.

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