Prophesying is not a lost art.
Indeed, if we mean no more by prophesying than telling the future and predicting what lies before us in the days to come, we will have to qualify that statement a little.
Yet we want to insist that even as far as predicting the future is concerned prophesying is not a lost art.
At the same time we wish to point out that the work of the prophet was a great deal more than foretelling the future. In the Old Testament times, of necessity the prophet was busy with such predictions. Enoch prophesied of God’s coming judgment. Noah likewise predicted the Flood one hundred and twenty years before it became a reality. Saul’s servant said to him, when they failed to find the lost beasts of his father, “Behold now, there is in this city a man of God, and he is an honorable man; all that he saith cometh to pass: now let us go thither: peradventure he can show us our way that we should go.” I Samuel 9:6. Long before this in the wilderness God used even such a reprobate prophet as Balaam to prophesy the coming of Christ in very beautiful language. Isaiah, the first major prophet, predicted the captivity and the return of Israel decades before it took place. The very city where Jesus would be born was pointed out by Micah. John the Baptist is called the greatest of the Old Testament prophets by no one less than Jesus Himself. And this John was because his was the unique privilege of pointing out the Christ with the words, Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world.
But we want to begin right there. John was the greatest of all the Old Testament prophets; and yet he that is least in the kingdom is greater than John as an Old Testament prophet. He is not greater than John now, nor will he obtain a higher degree than John. John shall be very high in that kingdom, and you and I will not attain to that high position in God’s kingdom that by God’s grace is reserved for John. But as far as the truth in Christ is concerned we on this side of the cross, with the full revelation of the way of salvation, see far more than John did at that time, are greater in knowledge than he was in that day; and we can sing the song of Moses and of the Lamb, while John could but sing the song of Moses. We maintain that even our little children can prophesy more richly than even John the Baptist was able to do in his age and day. And we maintain also that we as parents and officebearers in the Church are so inclined to underestimate and to fail to appreciate what a wonder work God performs even in our little children. But we are running ahead and hope to come back to this later. But let it now be stated that even our little children can foretell the future in a very rich and wonderful way.
To be sure we and our children do not predict the future in the same way that the prophets of the Old Testament times did. That is, we do not receive the knowledge of that truth which we predict in the same way that they did. They received from God direct revelation in vision and dream. Our source of information is indirect and from the Word of God. We can prophesy only that which we find upon the pages of Holy Writ. And the prophet in the Old Testament times could predict only that which was revealed to him by God. But whereas the saints in the Old Testament times did not realize that there would be a twofold coming of Christ into our world, the little child of God today can speak very sweetly and yet very richly of a coming of Christ in glory and in judgment to raise the dead and change our vile bodies into bodies like unto His Own glorious body. Our little children can predict a Church of God that is gathered from every nation, tongue and tribe, of a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness shall dwell and of various things which will precede all this and be signs of its realization.
All the predicting in the Old Testament times was an important aspect of the work of the prophet of God. Through him God revealed the fulfillment of His counsel. His glorious promise which He gave in Paradise when He Himself prophesied the appearance of two seeds, of a ceaseless struggle between them, of victory for the Seed of the woman, is being realized, and through the ages, step by step, He revealed more of that truth to His Church through the mouths and minds of His prophets. They, of necessity, spoke of future things. They pointed out the various steps in the realization of that promise especially as they pertained to the birth of that Seed of the woman. Now He has come, and the Scriptures concerning His coming and His work are now fully written. There is no more direct revelation. That last direct prediction of future things is in the Book of Revelation. To it we may not add, and from it we may not take away. And all the future things, in as far as we need to know them for our faith and salvation, are revealed. Therefore the work of the prophet today is rather in explaining and showing the meaning of these truths revealed in the complete Scripture than in predicting more in detail future events.
We wish to make another observation at this time. The chief work of the prophet is not that of teaching God’s people. This too is a tremendously important work. And by the prophets in the Old Testament dispensation God did teach His people His fear. In as far as this phase of the work is concerned we may also say that today the prophet is the Minister of the Word of God in his pulpit and in all his instruction and exhortation. Speaking of Christ as the Anointed of God the Heidelberg Catechism also states that He is called Christ, “Because He is ordained of God the Father and anointed of the Holy Spirit, to be our chief prophet and Teacher, who has fully revealed unto us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption . . .” And we surely need not only His revelation to us as the Chief Prophet who calls and instructs all the other prophets, but we also need this prophecy which He gives us through men. We need Him as our Teacher, and He is the teacher with whom no other teacher can even begin to compare. This phase of the prophetic office is very necessary for us while we are in this vale of tears and see as in a glass darkly. But the Word of God also teaches us in I John 2:27, “But the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him.” Still more, in Isaiah 11:9 we read, “They shall not hurt in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” And once again from Hebrews 8:10, 11, “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their minds, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least unto the greatest.”
This teaching, as we said, is very essential, but it only serves a higher purpose and is the means rather than the end. One day that phase of the prophetic office shall recede while God’s purpose in all this instruction will be reached. Even then, there are those in the office of every believer today who occupy no position of teaching. They may have no children to teach. They may have very little talent to teach and be greatly in need of being taught. They may be little children, and as regenerated children of God they already have the office of every believer. In that office they serve already in the early days of their childhood though they may not be able to teach at all and reveal to others the truth of the Word of God and the counsel of God in regard to our salvation.
No, the prophetic office as we already pointed out last time is that we “may show forth the praises of Him who hath called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.” I Peter 2:9. Then again in Isaiah that well known passage that speaks of God’s purpose in all our salvation, the instruction instrumental in realizing it included, “This people have I formed for Myself; they shall show forth My praise,” Isaiah 43:21. That is the work and calling of the prophet: he must praise God, ever praise God and magnify His name. When he instructs God’s people he does that. When he sings the songs of Zion and when he confesses God before men? he reveals himself as a prophet of God. In fact to praise God is to speak the truth concerning Him. Whatever you may say about Him in truth is to His praise.
How different that is with you and me. When we speak the truth about each other, we certainly do not speak words of praise. Not when we speak the truth. We must say of each other that we are wretched, damnable sinners, totally depraved, inclined to all evil, filthy and corrupt. Only the false prophet can say something nice about man, for he cares not whether he speaks the truth or the lie. And the awfulness of the false prophet is that he will deceitfully say something nice about man, while he insists on speaking the lie about the Holy and Righteous God. He will lift man as high as he can in his humanitarian endeavors and will debase God to a foolish, weak and vile beggar, an impotent and vacillating would-be ruler of the universe. You may read of that in its most violent and devilish form in Revelation 19:20 in connection with II Thessalonians 2:4. In the former passage we read of the false prophet who served the beast. That beast is the antichrist, and the false prophet is the false church. And as the mouthpiece for that antichristian kingdom the false prophet is the one who in II Thessalonians 2:4 speaks the blasphemy to shew unto all men that this antichrist “is God.”
But simply say that He is God, and you praise Him. Speak of His virtues—and vices He has not: all His attributes are virtues—and you praise Him. The prophet serves to point out to us these virtues or perfections of the Living God and to teach us to know Him. But the ultimate end of all that work of prophecy is, even as God Himself declares it, to form unto Himself a people that will show forth His praises. And in the office of every believer that is our calling. We are God’s royal priesthood, delivered from the service of Satan. We and our children, yea even the little ones, are to speak and sing His praises. Consider the passages of Holy Writ that speak of heaven and of the New Jerusalem. And listen! You hear singing, the singing of God’s praises. A Hallelujah Chorus swells to the thrice holy God. Your voice on earth is also raised to His praise?