FOX News recently published an article about pastor/author, Shawn Bolz, a self-proclaimed prophet as well as pastor of a church in Los Angeles, CA.
Bolz isn’t the first – nor will he be the last – modern day Christian to claim to have the spiritual gift of predictive prophecy. I use the adjective predictive because the New Testament term for prophecy does not suggest modern day prophets function in this way of being able to predict the future. (Read the FOX News article here.)
This begs the common question: Do prophets still exist? (The kind of prophets that can actually predict the future?”)
Good question. Let’s take a closer look at what the Bible says…
NOTE: The question of whether or not there are modern-day predictive prophets is a debatable one as this doctrine is clearly subject to interpretation, some firmly believing the “miracles & sign gifts” are as viable today as they were prior to the completion of the canon of scripture. And, in Bolz’ defense, I have never met him and am certain he is a wonderful and loving man. My purpose here in this blog is solely to provide biblical context for the reader so that they may prayerfully and carefully consider the scriptures where this doctrine is concerned.
To get started, I agree with John MacArthur on this doctrine:
Like its Hebrew equivalent (nābā), the Greek [New Testament] verb (prophēteuō) behind prophecy simply means “to speak forth, to proclaim.” It assumes the speaker is before an audience, and could mean “to speak publicly.” The connotation of prediction was added sometime in the Middle Ages…
A [modern-day] prophet of God, therefore, is simply one who speaks forth God’s Word, and prophecy is the proclaiming of that Word. The gift of prophecy is the Spirit-given and Spirit-empowered ability to proclaim the Word effectively. Since the completion of Scripture, prophecy has no longer been the means of new revelation, but has only proclaimed what has already been revealed in Scripture.
The simplest and clearest definition of this function is given by Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:3, “But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.”
I, personally, tend to hold to the conviction that the “miracles & signs gifts” served the purpose of providing apostolic authenticity i.e. God authenticated a particular chosen servant by giving him/her authority to perform miracles & signs. (I always wonder why people claiming to have the spiritual gift of healing aren’t walking the halls of hospitals and nursing homes healing those people.) However, these types of gifts gradually decreased as the canon of Scripture – the full revelation of God to man – increased and came to completion. Paul wrote,
As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 1 Corinthians 13:8-10
“The perfect” is the Word of God. The Bible.
The author of Hebrews adds,
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 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. 1:1-2
In other words, with the miraculous revelation of God’s Word we no longer are in need of these gifts to help us know what God is saying to us.
Of course, and I believe this strongly, this does not mean God can’t employ these gifts in modern day any time he chooses. Occasionally, I read of – and believe – stories of miracles & signs taking place around the world. But, this would be the exception, not the norm.
In the FOX News article, Bolz confesses his prophecies are not always true:
[Boltz] “said most of his prophecies come true. But he’s quick to admit he’s been wrong at times. ‘I told one family a diagnosis of a family member who had cancer and told them I thought God was going to bring healing, and she died a few months later. I took responsibility.”
No doubt, Bolz was forced to come to grips with a well-known passage from Deuteronomy:
“When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously…” Deuteronomy 18:22
God doesn’t make mistakes. Ever. If the spiritual gift of predictive prophecy was still in play it wouldn’t be hit & miss. Rather, prophecies given in God’s name would be fail-safe, never being wrong.
Even in New Testament times, words from prophets were to be evaluated by the congregation:
Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. (1 Corinthians 14:29)
Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21)
God’s warns believers to be wise, never gullible. As such, we must be careful never to swallow whole someone’s claim to be able to, in the name of God, predict the future without giving said prophecy careful biblical consideration. To do so places us on dangerous ground, making room for crushing disappointment when the prophecy fails.
Whatever your conviction always be careful to weigh every word and action of another against the infallible Word of God.
Soli Deo Gloria, Nick