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Bible verses about Prophet, Function of
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Because of the way "prophet" is commonly used, there is a misconception that its basic definition is "someone who foretells the future," but this definition is too narrow. Prophet is better defined as "one who speaks for another." A true prophet, then, is a person who speaks for God, delivering a message that God has ordained him to give. In Exodus 7:1, God tells Moses that Aaron, his brother, would be his (Moses') prophet, even as Moses was God's prophet. Because of Moses' unbelief in God's ability to speak through him, God would speak to Moses, who would tell Aaron what to say to others - Pharaoh in particular (verse 2). It is the function of speaking for another, rather than the miracles they performed or their foretelling of what would befall Egypt, which defined Moses and Aaron as prophets.

Frequently, the words a prophet spoke on God's behalf were, in fact, foretelling what would happen later. However, the prophet's essential role was to speak for God, regardless of whether he did any predicting of the future. A prophet expresses the will of God in words, and sometimes he uses signs to back up what he says and to demonstrate God's power behind it.

In a similar way, a false prophet also may not be in the business of foretelling the future. A false prophet is simply someone who speaks for another but falsely. False prophets either speak for the wrong god, or they claim to have heard from the true God but do not accurately represent Him or His words. At the very least, they speak out of their own human hearts, but more likely, the "god" they are speaking for is really a demon.

It is true that, if a prophet foretells something that fails to come to pass, he is a false prophet (Deuteronomy 18:20-22), but foretelling the future correctly is not the determining factor when looking at false prophets. The real issue is whether one who claims to be representing God and speaking for Him is doing so accurately or falsely. A prophet may accurately predict an event or demonstrate supernatural power, but if he is leading people away from the true worship of the true God, he is a false prophet.

David C. Grabbe
What Is a False Prophet?


 

Exodus 4:14-16

Of course, Moses was not really God, but in the teamwork aspect of their working relationship, God is clearly pointing out that Moses was the leader, even though Aaron would be doing the bulk of the speaking—at least until Moses' confidence, his faith, increased to the point that he no longer worried about being slow of speech. Moses would be in the position of issuing the orders. Aaron would be in the position of submitting to what Moses said.

Moses was in the position of God to Aaron, even as God was to Moses. Moses was God's prophet, but Aaron was Moses' prophet. A prophet is one who speaks for another, who speaks the words that the other put into his mouth—a simple arrangement, easy to understand.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 2): God's Pattern of Leadership


 

Exodus 7:1-2

Aaron was Moses' prophet, and Moses was God's prophet. The prophet is a message carrier from one of greater authority. In this case, Moses was in the position of God to Aaron, as well as to Pharaoh. By combining Exodus 4:10-16 with Exodus 7:1-2, the biblical usage of a prophet has a good foundation. A prophet is one who expresses the will of God in words and sometimes with signs given to confirm what is said.

Through Moses, the function of a prophet begins to be established: to cry aloud and show men their sins (Isaiah 58:1). It does not stop there, though, because they were also pastors and ministerial monitors of the peoples' conduct and attitudes. Their function differed from that of priests in that the priest approached God by means of sacrifice on behalf of the people. The prophets, by contrast, approached men as ambassadors of God, beseeching them to turn from their evil ways and live (Ezekiel 33:11).

The difference between a prophet and a priest is a matter of direction, in that one goes from God to man (the prophet), and the other goes from men to God (the priest). It is also a matter of directness. The priest is indirect, while the prophet is direct. We have things going in opposite directions here, yet both working to accomplish essentially the same thing, which is to bring man and God into a relationship with one another. This has direct application to us under the New Covenant (II Corinthians 5:20-21).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 1)


 

Deuteronomy 13:1-5

It is a prophetic voice that speaks for God, and His prophets will always have as the basis of their prophecy the commandments of God as evidence. The message they give (predictive or not) will always be in harmony with previously revealed truth, even though the prophet may be breaking new doctrinal ground, which happens now and then.

We can see another difference between a prophet and a priest or minister. The priest or minister conserves old truth and implements new truth given by the prophet. Most of the time new truth will come through a prophet. Under the New Covenant, of course, new truth came through apostles who were about as close to prophets as one can get without being prophets. Paul makes that clear when he lists the offices in the church, listing apostles first and prophets second (Ephesians 4:11). Once we leave the Old Covenant for the New, God uses apostles to announce new truth, and the prophet is moved into a secondary position. However, throughout the Old Testament, new truth or new doctrines came through prophets.

A minister's job is to conserve what has already been given, to hold fast to what was given in the past, and to recognize that new truth comes through an apostle. There is no apostle now, so we should not expect that there will be any new truth. However, if God raises up a prophet, then we also have to recognize that new truth can come through him. He will not break God's pattern. New truth will either come through an apostle or a prophet. The prophet breaks new ground, yet he also conserves the old.

There is a difference between a minister and a prophet. A minister does not give new truth but conserves old truth. The prophet or the apostle will conserve the old and also proclaim the new.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 1)


 

Deuteronomy 13:1-5

This passage begins with the assumption that the prophet does foretell the future accurately or perform some other, humanly impossible work. Nevertheless, if that prophet's central message is to follow after a different god or to take a spiritual path that the true God has not said to take, that person is a false prophet. God states unequivocally that misrepresenting Him incurs the death penalty, and Revelation 19:20 says that this is exactly what happens to the False Prophet: He is thrown into the Lake of Fire.

The message of the false prophet is contrasted in Deuteronomy 13:3-4 with loving the true God with all of our heart and soul (life), walking after Him, fearing Him, keeping His commandments, obeying His voice, serving Him, and holding fast to Him. These elements indicate what God wants His people to be focused on, helping to define whether a man claiming to speak for God is truly doing so or not.

Verse 4 mentions obeying God's voice and keeping His commandments. This is a regular theme with God's true prophets: They always have God's law undergirding their messages. When the Old Testament prophets were sent to warn or inform Israel and Judah, they always pointed out the grievous ways in which the people had transgressed God's law.

False prophets, on the other hand, will not hold the moral line that God requires. Lamentations 2:14 says that the false prophets "have not uncovered your iniquity, to bring back your captives, but have envisioned for you false prophecies and delusions." False prophets will not connect the dots between the sinfulness of a nation and national calamity. They instead focus on something other than God's standard of righteousness.

This same principle appears in Isaiah 8:19-20. Both houses of Israel were guilty of seeking out mediums and wizards for spiritual guidance, and God's response is very telling:

And when they say to you, "Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter," should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

God gives us a standard by which to measure the words of a prophet: the law and testimony - His Word. If the prophet's message contradicts what is already established as God's Word, it is evidence that he lacks spiritual understanding. If his words do not line up with God's law and testimony, he is not speaking the truth.

In summary, the hallmark of a true prophet is his upholding of the law of God, while false prophets dodge moral teaching and instead preach a message that appeals to the masses. God's truth - and His law in particular - is abhorrent to the natural mind (Romans 8:7), and thus it is quite common for God's prophets to be killed, while the false prophets enjoy widespread popularity and support.

The current trend of outcome-based churches serves as a good example. Their leaders preach a widely popular message, and thousands of people follow them. Yet, Jesus says in Luke 6:26, "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets." Popularity is not a good measurement of God's pleasure with a leader!

Jesus Christ, the most perfect Spokesman for God who has ever lived, only had about 120 true followers when His ministry ended (Acts 1:15). This was not due to failure on His part, but because His Father's message could be wholeheartedly believed only by those whose minds God had already prepared to accept it.

"Purpose-Driven" church leaders will not preach the unadulterated Word of God because they know it is divisive. It would also thwart their goals of a large following and a large income. Thus, their messages do not involve repentance, sound doctrine, or God's law, except where it may serve to further whatever purpose is driving them. Their messages do not remind people of their moral responsibilities to God and brother, and thus if they claim to speak for God or say that God sent them, we can know from biblical patterns that they are, in fact, false prophets. Their large churches, as amazing as they might seem, are not accurate indicators of God's involvement or blessing.

David C. Grabbe
What Is a False Prophet?


 

Deuteronomy 18:15

There is no doubt that God Himself is speaking. Deuteronomy 5:1-6 shows that God is speaking to Moses specifically, and through him, to the children of Israel.

More questions arise from verse 15. What does God promise to Moses and the Israelites? He promises to raise up a Prophet. Where will he come from? Note the words "a Prophet . . . from your midst, from your brethren." He will come from the tribes of Israel; the Prophet will be born an Israelite.

What special attribute will this Prophet have? The words "like me" indicate that he will be like God Himself! The Israelites are then commanded to hear the words of this Prophet. This means we are to listen and to act upon what we hear.

Staff
The Prophet


 

Deuteronomy 18:15-18

All of us desire to know the future so we can be prepared for it. We want to be in control of our destinies and not at the mercy of events. However, some have this desire so strongly that they set themselves up as channels through which the future is revealed.

Such people have misled many. Deuteronomy 18, along with chapter 13, warns against such people. Whether they are called diviners, charmers, spiritists, or channelers, using methods like reading tea leaves, casting lots, or conducting séances, they are to be seriously and carefully avoided because there is no godly reality to their prognostications. Those seeking to know are being misguided, putting themselves at the mercy of lying demons, or at the very least, imaginative men and women.

At other times, simply following a church tradition regarding a prophecy can also mislead a person. This occurs because someone in the past, sincerely believing he understood a particular prophecy, began preaching his belief, and many in his audience then believed without the resources to prove the interpretation wrong. Due to frequent repetition, it came to be accepted as truth.

It is important for us to understand that prophets were not merely temporary and occasional expedients God would turn to. They played a vital and continuing role in Israel, especially in those times before the Word of God was widely distributed. This is why God makes provision for them within the law. He shows in many places that those He appoints to the prophetic office will always preach the keeping of the commandments of God as evidence of the Source of their inspiration. They will teach the conservation of past truths even as they break new doctrinal ground.

They both forthtell - that is, proclaim a message truthfully, clearly, and authoritatively to those for whom it is intended - and they will on occasion, but not always, foretell - that is, predict events before they take place.

It is misleading to believe these verses in Deuteronomy 18 apply only to Christ. His is undoubtedly their ultimate application, but the promise and description applies to all true, God-ordained prophets. Notice some of the identifiers in these verses:

1. God established the foundational pattern for the prophetic office in Moses ("like me").

2. God will raise a prophet up from among the Israelitish people. Later biblical sources show he might be drawn and appointed from any of the tribes and from any occupation. In other words, he did not have to be a Levite.

3. He will perform the function of a mediator between God and men (verses 16-18).

4. He will stand apart from the system already installed. He will not be antagonistic to the system, but he may be very antagonistic to the sins of those within the system, especially the leadership.

5. God will directly appoint and separate him for his office. Thus, the thrust of his service as God's representative is direct and authoritative. By contrast, the priest's function flowed from man to God by means of sacrifice - far less direct and more appealing and pleading than demanding. The New Testament ministry combines elements of both, but parallels the prophet's function more than the priest's.

Simply and broadly, a prophet is one who is given a message by another of greater authority and speaks for him to those for whom the message is intended. Thus, Moses was God's prophet, but Aaron was Moses' prophet.

Without a doubt, when we hear the word "prophet," we immediately think of the Old Testament. This is a natural reaction because that is where most of them appear in the Bible. Our memory instantaneously brings forth names like Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and David - all great men. However, without a doubt, the two greatest prophets of all time appear in the New Testament: John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. John the Baptist is the last and greatest under the Old Covenant, and Jesus Christ is the first and greatest of the New.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Elijah and John the Baptist


 

Deuteronomy 18:15-18

Note the association of the word "prophet" with the phrase, "I will put my words in his mouth." This is what God told Moses He would do, so a chain of communication is set up—from God to Moses, from Moses to Aaron, and from Aaron to Pharaoh or to the people.

Contrary to what it shows in The Ten Commandments movie, the Bible suggests that Aaron did the bulk of the speaking before the people rather than Moses. This does not mean that Moses was excluded from speaking to the people, because eventually, even though it is likely that he never overcame his lack of eloquence (Exodus 4:10), he nonetheless became secure in his position as the leader. As the forty-year trial went on, he more often spoke directly to the people. When Israel finally got away from Pharaoh, Moses probably did the bulk of the speaking before the people, and Aaron faded into the background in that regard.

Every other prophet, except Christ, only built on the foundation laid in Moses. These verses particularly foretell of Christ, but it applies in principle to all the prophets that followed Moses. They all were spoken to by God, and they in turn did what Moses did: delivered the message to the ones it was addressed to.

Until New Testament times, prophets have been God's way of reaching the people. Whenever the people needed a prophet or a mediator with God, as He says in verses 16-17, God would raise up a prophet and put His words in his mouth.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 1)


 

Deuteronomy 18:15-18

God shows in many places that those He appoints to the prophetic office will always preach the keeping of His commandments as evidence of the source of their guidance. They will teach the conservation of truth, that is, past truth, even as they break new ground in terms of doctrine.

Isaiah 8:19-20 is an expansion on Deuteronomy 18:15-18:

And when they say to you, "Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter," should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 2)


 

Deuteronomy 18:15-18

In this, God adds honor to the life and reputation of Moses as both the governing leader and legislator of Israel. Moses is a clear type of Jesus Christ in both of these offices. However, in this case, the passage emphasizes the office of prophet. True believers have respected Moses to a degree few other leaders of any nation have been. The Promised Seed, the Messiah, will be like Moses but far greater still.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Eleven): Signs


 

Deuteronomy 18:19

God warns that any who will not listen to and obey God through this prophet will have to answer to Him. This warning should put God's people on double alert: first, to heed and obey the words of Jesus Christ; and second, if a final fulfillment of the Prophet appears in the end time, we will recognize him and heed God's words though him.

Staff
The Prophet


 

1 Samuel 3:1

Precious (KJV) is used in the sense of "rare." Rare things are usually precious or valuable.

The sense of this is that the priesthood at that time spoke without inspiration; there was "no open vision." Their messages carried no moral authority because God was not with them. Obviously, Eli was not a very good priest, and his sons were even worse. They did not make the truth open or clear to the people; they were not hearing the inspired Word of God. The people were no longer positively affected by the ceremonies being performed by a decadent priesthood, so through Samuel, God raised up a new moral power to correct the situation.

There does not seem to be a systemized process of succession from one prophet to another. Each prophet received his office directly from God by appointment. This is another distinction between a true prophet of God and a priest, even if a priest speaks under the inspiration of God. A prophet was directly appointed by God, whereas a priest received his office simply because he was a descendant of Aaron.

The classic prophet was a man who preached the way of God to the Israelites yet tended to be outside the established system. This becomes clear from Samuel on.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 1)


 

1 Kings 18:17-18

Elijah is declaring himself as one sent from God. A prophet will always have the law of God at the foundation of his message.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 1)


 

1 Kings 18:17

Revelation 11:10 says that the Two Witnesses will torment the people of the earth, which is why the world will celebrate when these prophets are finally killed. Here, Elijah was thought of in the same way, as a "troubler" of Israel.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 6)


 

1 Kings 18:19-21

Elijah is quite instructive here. He began to prophesy in a time of immediate crisis, one that would become far worse before it ever improved. There was tremendous evil to overcome. His ministry took place about 150 years before Israel was to fall, becoming the Lost Ten Tribes, so God was beginning to make a powerful witness to them. Elijah's work was to reveal the true God to Israel in a time of growing national crisis. Elijah prepared the way for Elisha, who had a double portion of Elijah's spirit and did many more miracles. In this regard, Elijah was a type of John the Baptist, and Elisha, a type of Christ. God's pattern is being established. He sends someone long before the real crisis reaches its peak, while it is building.

Elijah says disturbing things. This is a prophet's job, a hallmark of a prophet of God. People like to feel comfortable. The only trouble is that people like to feel comfortable in moral mediocrity. They become "settled on their lees," as it says in Zephaniah 1:12. The prophet comes along and troubles people by awakening them to their sins, making them feel guilty about their relationships with God and each other. He awakens them to their spiritual and moral responsibilities. These Israelites were lethargic in terms of true, spiritual matters.

When a person is freezing to death, he feels a pleasant numbness that he does not want to end. He just goes to sleep as he is freezing to death. But when heat is applied, and the blood begins rushing into the affected areas, pain immediately occurs. Though it hurts, the pain is indicative of rescue and cure. God sends a prophet to people who are cold in their relationship with God—spiritually freezing to death—though they want to stay that way. The prophet turns the heat on, and they become angry with him when he is actually working to make them better. He is often accused of causing their pain.

A prophet's life is not a happy situation. Perhaps the clearest example of this is Jeremiah, who moaned and complained to God, "This is more difficult than You ever told me it would be. You tricked me." He did not like the position God put him in. He wanted people to like him, which is understandable. Nevertheless, he was still faithful, and he did his job. Yet, he was in trouble his whole life, from his teenage years on.

There are several ideas as to exactly what Elijah meant by "How long will you falter between two opinions?" One idea is that he means, "How long are you going to hop from branch to branch?"—like a bird in a tree. The bird cannot make up its mind where it wants to settle down, so it just keeps hopping around. Another idea is that it pictures a person shifting his weight from one foot to the other, indicating a degree of lameness. A third is that he is describing somebody teetering on a tightrope and trying to maintain his balance. Whatever the case, there is no doubt about Elijah's intent: "How long will you keep shifting from one opinion to the other?" Their spiritual lethargy for the true God made them uncommitted. Their commitment went one way, and then it went the other way.

Once Elijah began preaching, their conscience pricked them, and it encouraged them to worship the true God. But their carnality and their fear of men persuaded them to worship Baal, because they wanted to be friends with their fellow Israelites. They were straddling the fence in a precarious state of imbalance, attempting to combine the worship of God with the more popular worship of Baal and Asherah. This is typical Israeliltish syncretism, but it will not work.

At one point in A Stillness at Appomattox by Bruce Catton, he deals with soldiers who left the service of their army—either the Confederate army or the Union army. These soldiers would surrender themselves to the other side to be given a bit of favor and put into prison. In exchange, they would offer information about their unit. For a while, both sides—the Confederate and the Union—accepted those turncoats and took their information. However, before the war was over, both sides were summarily executing anybody who did this because those traitors could not be trusted. Most of the information they gave turned out to be wrong, to be lies. Most of them were just saving themselves and making themselves comfortable in their situation. They were not committed to the side that they were supposed to be on. Elijah was dealing with the same thing here, albeit spiritually.

When Elijah preached his message, it put the people in a bind because they knew their conscience was telling them that they had to commit themselves to God or to Baal. It disturbed them. Only the individual could decide which side he would be on, because Elijah made it clear, "God does not want you the way you are. Either you are going to be committed to Him or not. If you will not be committed to Him, you are going to die."

Baal, of course, could not talk to them, but if he could, he would probably have said basically the same thing, so the people were in a very uncomfortable situation. The lesson for us becomes clear, because Jesus says the same thing (Matthew 6:24; 12:25). The Sovereign Creator is not a God who allows His favor to be bought with crumbs. He is a loving Master who only is to be obeyed and served—and only on His terms.

Elijah was sent by God, and he was fulfilling the responsibility of a prophet, to prod the people to whom he was sent to their responsibilities. He was to be an aid in getting them from their state of being merely "churched" to that of being truly religious and servants of the Most High God.

Some become discouraged with the church because we are always being told—to some measure anyway—disturbing things about ourselves. But church is where we come to have our minds stretched and measured against Christ's standard. For one to keep on coming to services and leaving, like a theatergoer, without his options, opinions, or decisions resolved but deferred, is an erosion of character. "Whatever is not of faith is sin" (Romans 14:23).

The sum of what Elijah said is actually spiritually dangerous, due to the fact that God is judging. Christ's purpose is to cure, not merely to comfort, so pain will be often involved when dealing with a prophet.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 1)


 

2 Chronicles 36:15

God did not just let them go into sin. He sent messenger after messenger, prophet after prophet, judge after judge, king after king—and they never listened. Maybe for a short time, they would put on a face of righteousness, but that was all it was. Because He loved them, God sent these men and women, but the people never listened. Even though God had compassion on them and wanted to save them from this, they were not willing.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
How to Survive Exile


 

Jeremiah 1:6-10

Above all others, Jeremiah is the "axial" man prepared by God. God told Jeremiah, a prophet not only to Israel and Judah but to the nations and kingdoms, to root out, pull down, destroy, throw down, build, and plant. Many of us understand this verse in light of Jeremiah's influence on the destruction of Judah and the replanting of David's dynasty in Ireland. However, Jeremiah 25:15-29 shows that his responsibility extended much farther than Israel and Judah.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 3)


 

Jeremiah 15:17

John the Baptist was like this too; he sat alone. When push came to shove, the other prophets of God, like Isaiah and Hosea, also sat alone.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 2)


 

Ezekiel 3:16-21

The rest of the chapter relates that Ezekiel himself will be a sign through the means of being struck dumb. The only words that he could speak were what God gave him to say. This was how the people would know that God was speaking.

This shows that the servant of God is a watchman sent to warn the people. What God dwells on is sin; the prophet is to warn them of their sins. There is also an element of warning them of what is coming, but this warning message also has a personal and individual aspect to it. It is not just telling the world, "The Great Tribulation is coming, and Jesus is coming not long thereafter." There is also the part of "show My people their sins." In effect, the prophet is to say, "Look, you perverts. What you are doing is not the way it should be! This is the way God has said. You should change. Repent!" This is what Ezekiel was supposed to do with the bitterness, the anger, and the astonishment that had been building inside him for seven days. God tells him, "This is how you channel that attitude and those emotions. You preach a warning message, as a watchman."

Obviously, such a job would bring him into conflict with the people; people do not like to hear such a message. They do not like to hear that things are going down the tubes, and especially that they are personally responsible. But that is basically what the watchman's message is. Nothing changes unless it begins in the individual. The individual must change! He must repent and go God's way. As more individuals do this, society will change.

However, Ezekiel has already been told that everything he says will fall on deaf ears, so he must have a forehead of flint, an undaunted, courageous spirit, to keep repeating the message until he dies.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 1)


 

Ezekiel 9:1-8

Ezekiel's blood must have run cold when he heard God's judgment, which appears in the last verse of the previous chapter: "Therefore I also will act in fury. My eye will not spare nor will I have pity; and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them."

Continuing the vision in Ezekiel 9, it relates a partial execution of that judgment. It is important to note here that the prophet witnesses God actually leaving His portable throne (described in detail in Ezekiel 1). At this point, "the glory of the God of Israel" actually demounts from it and removes, as verse 3 records, "to the threshold of the temple." So He has taken His place in the Temple, but not on the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies. He is, in effect, in the gate, a place of judgment.

And this is a momentous judgment. In verses 5-6, God commands some of the angels, "Go . . . through the city and kill; do not let your eye spare, nor have pity. Utterly slay old and young men, maidens and little children and women." This is a summary judgment on the entire populace of Jerusalem!

When Ezekiel heard this command, how did he respond? Certainly not in a self-righteous, I-told-you-so manner. When he is alone with God, the angels having left on their mission, he falls on his face in apparent anguish, crying out: "Ah, Lord GOD! Will You destroy all the remnant of Israel in pouring out Your fury on Jerusalem?" (verse 8).

This is a vital question. Ezekiel is concerned about the people and about the scope of God's judgment. Like Lot, he lived in his own kind of Sodom, in his own type of Gomorrah, and he felt anguish over the sin that he saw and heard and over its consequences—as it were, tormented by what was happening around him. Ezekiel was emotionally and spiritually tormented or tortured, not by what the pagans were doing around him, but by what the leaders and the people of Israel were doing in his immediate environment—and even in the Temple! Their wickedness and what they were about to suffer for it are what tormented this righteous man. In vision, he must have witnessed a terrible slaughter, and the trauma and shock of that vision affected him most acutely. Indeed, a prophet of God has no pretty job.

Charles Whitaker
The Torment of the Godly (Part One)


 

Ezekiel 33:1-7

In His explanation of Ezekiel's role as a prophet, God informs the man that he was to be a watchman for the people. Of what use is a watchman if the enemy's advance and all the pertinent details of his attack are already known? Anciently, a watchman would stand in a high place, upon a wall or a tower, and scan the horizon for enemies. When he saw them approaching, he was responsible for shouting a warning to the unsuspecting citizens that danger was near and that they needed to prepare for the onslaught. However, he did not know exact details—only what he could discern from his vantage point.

Once war begins, the most precious commodity is precise and timely information, and it is almost never transmitted in time to those who need it most. The best scenario a leader can ask for is to know as far in advance as possible that his enemy is on the march against him, for this gives him time to make the preparations necessary to secure his people and possessions, assemble his forces, and meet the enemy on the battlefield of his choosing. An excellent watchman just might give him the advance warning he needs.

However, this presupposes a physical attack. A continued reading of Ezekiel 33 clarifies that the prophet was not warning about a physical enemy but a spiritual one. Ezekiel's job was to warn the wicked in Israel to turn "from his way" (Ezekiel 33:8-11). His job as watchman was spiritual in nature! He was to warn against sinful lifestyles, against iniquity and wickedness, and to implore them to repent and live righteously. A companion passage in Ezekiel 3:16-21 makes this plain.

In other words, his role as prophet/watchman—just as a Christian minister's job is today—was heavily weighted toward preaching and teaching God's way of righteousness. It was essentially, like the gospel of the Kingdom of God, a warning message of repentance and an exhortation to growth in faith and obedience to holiness. In this regard, the prophetic hints about future events were, as they are to us, prods to motivate change before the coming, dreadful Day of the Lord.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Prophecy's Place


 

Amos 3:1-7

Prophecy is both practical and positive, not all gloom and doom. Most of prophecy begins negatively but ends positively because God is confident that what He prophesied will accomplish His end, which is always good! Much of the thrust of Amos is an education for catastrophe. Amos followed Elijah about 90-100 years later. During that period, Israel's sins continued to mount horribly. Despite this, they became very wealthy and self-indulgent, even oppressively so.

Religiously, they were trying to walk a tightrope between God and Baal. They were behaving and worshipping like Baal worshippers but doing it in the name of the Lord. Does that not sound familiar to an informed observer of our modern, American scene? People in high places are claiming we all worship the same God; they say the God of Islam and the God of Christianity are the same!

Amos, a Jew from the southern kingdom, was sent by God to preach against the sins of the northern ten tribes. In those from the north, there would be a natural resistance to such an arrangement. The first thing Amos needed to do, then, was establish his authority to preach against them.

The prophet begins in the first two verses with a "thus saith the LORD," providing the foundation for all that follows. He sets out two things that construct a basis for what he says. First, God and Israel have a special relationship: "You only have I known." This phrase indicates a very close bond, as in a marriage, from which ensues the sharing of life's experiences. This ties what Amos would say to correct them to their responsibilities within that close relationship.

Second, he makes a veiled warning, contained within the next five verses: Amos' words carry authority. Israel had better heed because his words are not idle. He establishes this through a series of illustrations posed as challenging questions that can logically be answered only one way. His aim is to awaken them from their spiritual lethargy. It is as if he is saying, "Think about the practical ramifications of this." What follows is a general pattern of God's operation in His people's behalf.

First: People traveling in the same direction toward exactly the same destination would hardly meet except by appointment. It is no accident that God and Israel have this relationship. This also applies on a smaller but more immediate scale: Amos has been sent by appointment, and he does not speak promiscuously. He is there by no accident. His utterances are not his own words; they began with God, who sent them because the close relationship is seriously threatened.

Second: Lions do not roar unless they have taken their prey because they do not want to scare their intended prey away. Israel is God's prey, as it were, and He is not roaring yet. This means, "Take heed! He is stalking you, and you are in mortal danger. Punishment is imminent, at the very door. Beware, for the margin of safety is very slim."

Third: One cannot snare a bird unless a trap is set, and then something—in this case a bird—has to cause the trap to spring shut. This illustration is declaring a cause-and-effect relationship, meaning, "Israel, you are already in the trap, and you, through your conduct, are just about to spring it shut on yourself. Your sins brought this warning, and punishment will follow if you continue sinning."

Fourth: All too often, the alarms go off, and then people take notice. "Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" (Ecclesiastes 8:11). Amos is declaring that God is involved in His creation; He has not gone way off. The Israelites must not allow themselves to be self-deceived. God is managing it, governing it. His warning of impending calamity would not come if they were not deserving of it. They have been flippantly careless and have no one to blame but themselves.

Fifth: It is illogical to think that God would punish without first warning His people. It is an aspect of His mercy. We can infer that Amos did not choose to be there before them. God appointed him to this task and "caused" him to speak. It is from God that the authority for the prophet's message emanates.

An important overall warning from Amos for those of us who have made the New Covenant with God is that great privileges must not be abused, or they will bring great penalties. To whom much is given much is required (Luke 12:48). Our great privilege is to have access to Him and His Spirit, and therefore have a far closer relationship with Him than Israel ever had under the Old Covenant. Israel's sin was first neglecting and then departing from God and the relationship. This in turn produced great moral corruption through self-serving idolatry, illustrated as and called "fornication" in other books.

The overall effect of these sins produced a careless disregard for the simple duties people owe their neighbors, as well as oppression of the weak. Amos speaks strongly against public and private indifference toward the keeping of the second of the two great commandments (Matthew 22:37-40). When these are considered, we see that he is truly a prophet for our time, when public morality has fallen so low. We need to heed His words seriously because our cultural circumstances parallel what Amos confronted in his day.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophecy and the Sixth-Century Axial Period


 

Amos 3:7

Combinging this scripture together with Deuteronomy 29:29—and with an example Daniel 12 when God tells the prophet that the meaning was sealed until the time of the end—we can see that He is clearly telling us He promises to reveal the understanding of prophecy on a "need-to-know" basis. When we need to know, He will tell us. That is His promise. So until that time arrives, precise understanding will be impossible. Therefore, anyone's interpretation of prophecy has to be understood as theory until the evidence arises that it is a true interpretation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 3)


 

Amos 3:7

He is not out to trick us or to trip us up. Our beloved friend and elder brother Jesus Christ echoes this to His disciples: "No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you" (John 15:15).

We can have confidence in God's promise that He will not do anything significant concerning His people without informing us first in a clear, orderly, and understandable manner. If and when He chooses to send a special end-time leader to His people—whether he be a prophet, an apostle, or one of the two witnesses (Revelation 11)—God will make sure we are able to recognize the man as His true servant.

Staff
The Prophet


 

Amos 3:7

This verse reveals a divine principle or a pattern. God does not give every detail, but His pattern of behavior is to let His people know (at least in generalities) what He is going to do. He gives enough information, but not so much that we do not have to live by faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 11)


 

Mark 11:32

The highest Jewish authorities—the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders—were fully aware of John's reputation as a prophet, and they feared it. These men, who were accustomed to the use of power and authority within a nation, would not fear something they did not respect, and they would not respect a wild crazy man. When John talked, people listened. They had something to lose by yielding to his preaching, and so they would not repent.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 2)


 

John 13:19

Jesus tells us - within the context of speaking of His betrayer - how we are to approach prophecy: "Now I tell you before it comes, that WHEN IT DOES COME TO PASS, you may believe that I am He." He repeats this two other times (14:29; 16:4) so that we understand that prophecy has its greatest impact on us after it is fulfilled!

God has drummed this principle since Moses' day. The sign of a true or false prophet is whether or not their predictions happen (Deuteronomy 18:21-22). The prophet Ezekiel vividly illustrates this principle. God made him do many strange things, all of which represented points of prophecies, many of which have yet to be fulfilled. God says of him, "Thus Ezekiel is a sign to you; according to all that he has done you shall do; and WHEN THIS COMES, you shall know that I am the Lord GOD" (Ezekiel 24:24).

Dozens of times in Ezekiel, God uses the phrase, "and they shall know that I am the LORD," or a variant of it. In every instance, it implies the subject understanding this after its fulfillment. For example, notice Ezekiel 22:16, where God speaks to the people of Jerusalem about their sins: "You shall defile yourself in the sight of all the nations; then you shall know that I am the LORD."

Most, if not all, of the prophets had little or no idea how and when God would fulfill their prophecies. Daniel is a classic example. Though angels explained the prophecies to him, he still did not understand.

Although I heard, I did not understand. Then I said, "My lord, what shall be the end of these things?" And he said, "Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end" (Daniel 12:8-9).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
No Private Interpretation


 

1 Corinthians 12:28

In the New Testament sense, the word prophet probably means "preacher"someone speaking under the inspiration of God. It would not exclude someone who foretells the future, but in the New Testament context, prophet generally means somebody who forth-tells—who preaches something strongly, in a straightforward manner, giving the truth of a matter.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace and Law (Part 13)


 

Revelation 11:3-12

The primary texts on the Two Witnesses are Revelation 11 and Zechariah 4. What does not fit the facts and implications of these two prophetic passages we can discard as highly speculative and not worth serious consideration except in dismissal. Some people have asserted truly wild ideas about these two prophets, but we will see that they derive from their own imaginations rather than from the Bible.

First, the Two Witnesses will not be crazed, unstable individuals. Nothing in the Bible—much less these two passages—suggests that God ever uses people of unsound minds to accomplish a major work for Him. The apostle Paul tells us that God's Spirit in us is not "of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (II Timothy 1:7). While some of God's prophets had personal problems and were commanded to do some strange things to get God's point across in symbolic ways—Ezekiel comes to mind—they were far from being lunatics. They were different from the world around them because they believed God and did His will, but they were quite sane and rational.

Second, they will not be anything other than men. We can take this on two levels. Some have suggested that the Two Witnesses are entities like the Old and New Testaments, Israel and the church, the Jews and the Gentiles, or even the Philadelphia and Laodicean eras of the church! However, Revelation 11 is quite clear that the Two Witnesses are "prophets" (verse 10), that they can be killed (verse 7), that they have bodies (verses 8-9), and that the breath of life enters them upon resurrection (verse 11). The literal meaning of these details is the best interpretation, leading to the conclusion that they are people, not things.

The other level is gender, a touchy subject in these inclusive times. Many have tried to hold the door open for a woman to fill the role of one of the Two Witnesses, but the language in the primary passages is overwhelmingly masculine (except where the natural gender of the languages demands it). Additionally, the pronouns are consistently masculine plural, as is the word "prophets" in Revelation 11:10.

Although it can be argued that the masculine is the Greek default gender for groups of mixed gender, the biblical pattern reveals that it is far more likely that God would choose two men to shoulder the burden of this final work. In addition, the allusions to types within the two primary passages are to men: Moses, Elijah, Joshua, and Zerubbabel. This is not to say that a woman could not do this work, but that the preponderance of Scripture argues against God choosing a woman to do it.

Third, the Two Witnesses will not be resurrected saints from the past, such as the aforementioned Moses and Elijah or perhaps Enoch. These three are often cited as candidates because the Bible describes their deaths so mysteriously, as if they are not really dead but in heaven waiting for God to send them back as His witnesses in the end time. There is no indication in the primary passages even to suggest this. So much time has passed since their lifetimes that it is ridiculous to think that anyone on earth today would even know who they are!

Besides, Hebrews 9:27 and the rest of New Testament theology, as well as God's consistent patterns, challenge this view. Except for Jesus, all the dead await the resurrection. In addition, God has never used a servant in two separate times. Jesus Himself tells us, "If they do not hear Moses and the prophets [in Scripture], neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead" (Luke 16:31).

Fourth, and finally, they will be neither unconverted nor recently converted people. In other words, they will be baptized members of God's church and probably ordained ministers. Again, God's pattern in working to bring His plan to fruition reveals that the Two Witnesses will come from among His people, just as the prophets came from Israel and the apostles were chosen from among His disciples. The apostle Paul may seem to be a glaring exception to this rule, but even he was required to undergo a three-year period of instruction before he was sent out to fulfill his expansive calling (see Galatians 1:16-18). Due to their mission's magnitude, the Two Witnesses will likewise be prepared for it over an extended period beforehand.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
God's Two Witnesses


 

Revelation 19:9-10

Prophecy plays a large part in our lives, so a Christian should understand more than just the bare basics. Verse 10 lets us know that Jesus' message—the gospel—is not only prophetic, but it is the essence of all biblical prophecy.

Testimony means "a statement given by a witness to an event." It is frequently associated with evidence presented during a court trial, but it is not limited to that. Newspapers, for instance, give accounts of what people say of some event that occurred of interest to others.

Jesus' statement—the gospel—is the message He preached during His lifetime. It is that message around which all biblical prophecy revolves; it is prophecy's heart and core. Spirit in this context means the "essence" of prophecy. Therefore, anybody looking forward to Christ's return—Christians, the church—should have more than a casual interest in prophecy.

Most of us pay more attention to the prophecy than to the prophet. This is as it should be, but on the other hand, Ephesians 2:19-20 says:

Now, therefore, you [the brethren] are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.

The church is built upon the apostles and the prophets and the words they wrote. They not only prophesied (that is, foretold events), but they also gave the most accurate accounts of ancient history. In addition, they gave us a great deal of the doctrine, the teachings, we believe and after which we pattern our lives.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 1)


 

 




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