Do prophets still exist today? My answer: Yes and No. Please allow me to explain.
Yes: Basing on Scripture we see that prophets were the men called by God to speak on behalf of God. In other words, prophets took a word from God and gave it to God’s people. In this sense, I would say that prophets still exists in form of preachers of God’s Word. Every time, a preacher stands up to preach from the Bible (God’s Word) he is actually saying: “Thus says the Lord in the Bible.” So in this case, prophets (preachers) still exist today.
No: Prophets both in the Old and New Testament got their revelation directly from God in various forms. So, in this sense, prophets of the caliber of Old and New Testament (who directly get special revelations from God) do not exist anymore. Why? Because God’s special revelation ceased with the completion of the Bible (66 books: 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament).
I know the statement ‘God’s special revelation ceased’ has sent cold chills down the spine of some and probably you have began to agitate in anger against me but I beg you to hear me out. So, please read on.
God’s giving of special revelation (the Bible) had to with the redemption or salvation of man after man sinned. From Genesis, God revealed his plan of salvation little by little until when Christ came and completed the plan of saving man through his birth, death, burial and resurrection. So, when God completed his work of saving man through Jesus Christ, God also completed the work of giving out special revelation with the last book of Revelation.
F. Fowler White is right when he writes in his article, “Does God Speak Today Apart from the Bible”
“God’s giving of revelation, spoken and written, is always historically joined and qualified by God’s work of redemption. Now that God has accomplished salvation once-for-all, in Christ, He has also spoken His word, once-for-all, in Christ and in those whom Christ has authorized and empowered by His Spirit (Hebrews 1:1, 2; 2:3, 4; Matthew 16:15-19; John 14:26; Ephesians 2:19, 20). With the completion of salvation in Christ comes the cessation of revelation. Consequently, the church now lives by a ‘Scripture only’ principle of authority,” (Reformed Perspective Magazine, Vol. 9, No. 15, April 8-14, 2007).
Today, we cannot get any special revelation apart from the one that God has revealed to us through the Bible. Please consider this. Suppose a person calling himself a prophet comes to you with a book in which he has written all ‘the revelations’ he has got from God, will you add that book to the Bible so that you have a Bible with 67 books? Would you call that book the Word of God as you call the Bible? Certainly not! Yet what God revealed to the prophets of the old is contained in the Bible as God’s own word. I hope you get my point there!
Also ponder with me on this. When I ask those who believe that prophets still exist on how they know whether a prophecy is true, they say that they weigh it against the Bible. If what is said is supported by the Bible they take it. If what that man calling himself a prophet says anything that contradicts the Scripture, they leave it.
Now, if you always have to compare any ‘new revelation’ with the Bible, it means that there is no single new revelation that can come to you besides the Bible. In other words, you are in essence saying that God’s final revelation is the Bible and whatever ‘revelation’ that is outside the Bible is not God’s revelation at all, isn’t it? By this, you, further, agree with me that there are no new ‘revelations’ apart from the Bible hence no new prophecies apart from those contained in the Bible consequently also no prophets like those we read in the Bible.
But some would argue for the existence of prophets today by quoting that familiar verse about various ministries in the church, Ephesians 4:11, 12: which reads: “And he (Christ) gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”
But before you can conclude that prophets still exist basing on these verses, please just go back to chapter 2 of the same Letter to Ephesians and read verses 19 to 21:
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord,” (Underscoring added).
The same Apostle Paul who tells us that God gave the gifts of apostle and prophets to the Church also reminds us that these apostles and prophets are the foundation of the Church. Now, let me ask you. After you have laid the foundation of a house, do you still use the same foundation materials to build the wall of the house as well as roof it? NO! The foundation remains down.
Similarly, the apostles and prophets being foundation of the church are no longer needed today unless we say that the church is still at its foundational level. But most certainly, after almost 2, 000 years since the birth of the New Testament Church no one would say that the Church is still at its foundation level. The church of Christ has grown and it continues to grow.
But what about the ‘predictions’ that the men called ‘prophets’ make and they come to pass, aren’t these a sign that prophets still exist today? First, we should not confuse prophecy with prediction. In as much as prediction is part of prophecy, prophecy is more than prediction. The prophets of the Bible rebuked, taught, encouraged and also predicted.
Secondly, we should realize that the ability to predict does not always and solely come from God. In Acts 16:16-18, we read of a girl who could predict out of powers of a demon. Recently also, during the 2010 World Cup Soccer Finals, there was an octopus called Paul in Germany that also predicted outcome of games before they were played. Did this ability to predict, in the two cases cited, come due to revelations directly from God? No! Would you call the girl and the octopus, prophets? God forbid!
As I wrap up, I would like to highlight that there are some good and well meaning Christians, some of them are my good friends and even relatives, who believe that prophets still exist, probably basing on what is happening, especially, in the African Church today. Of course, I would not call them heretics. However, I would encourage them to sincerely and prayerfully study Scripture and they will find out that prophets no longer exists today except in cases in which a prophet means a preacher of God’s Word. Bill Crouse says it better:
“The men who challenge the Church to revive the gift of prophecy have good intentions. They want to see significant growth in the Kingdom; they want to see believers have a vital mystical relationship with Christ. They are not heretics, but they are proposing major doctrinal shifts that we sincerely believe will lead to confusion and dangerous consequences. Regardless of spectacular experience being reported by godly men, we must resist the temptation to satisfy our spiritual thirst for anything other than the certainty of the written Word of God” (C.I.M. Outline #57, The Gift of Prophecy: Is it for today?).