What does the Bible say about Revelation, Apostles, and Prophets?
I know the topic at hand may be controversial to some. However, before you read this please know this information is not given because I am seeking to be controversial. I don’t want to fight, I don’t want to divide, I really just want to know Jesus and His truth. I wrote down some thoughts that helped me work through issues as it relates to truth and those who claim to share it. I want to trust in the Lord as he as revealed himself and I want to hear His truth as he has proclaimed it. There are people in this world that God has gifted to claim his truth and people in this world who claim to have that gift when in fact they do not. I want to be cautious and search God’s word carefully as it says to do in Acts 17:11. I want to prove all things and hold on to the truth as it says in 1 Thess. 5:21. I don’t want to believe those who claim to be of God when in fact they are not. We should strive to follow 1st John 4:1. If you read the following blog, I hope you read it as a person that is open to scripture and not as one who feels defensive. I hope you read as a person who simply wants to follow after Jesus. I hope you are ready and willing to grab ahold of Jesus, and his truth. Be willing to let go of false teaching and teachers. Jesus is interested in your heart and He loves you more than anyone.
Define your Terms
Some people define the words Apostle and Prophet different from the definition the Bible uses for a person who held the OFFICE of Apostle or Prophet. Therefore defining these terms are important.
When one uses the words apostle and prophet today, it could be referring to these terms in the most basic understanding of the Greek. The word Apostle simply means “Sent forth”, and the word prophet simply means “proclaimer of truth”. Today we express the basic function of an apostle and prophet when we “send out” missionaries to places without the gospel to “proclaim” truth.
When the Bible uses the words Apostle and Prophet to describe the Office it means:
Apostle: One of apostolic authority given by Jesus. The position is demonstrated by signs and wonders for the purpose of validating their message, establishing churches and bringing people to maturity in Christ. Those that held the office of Apostle were on the frontlines of ministry where there was little to no Gospel present.
As Paul lived out the office of an Apostle; (1 Corinthians 12:12) Paul said, “I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles.”
Prophet: One who is given a direct message from God to proclaim his truth and predict future events. A prophet’s ministry was validated when His prophetic statements aligned with God’s previously revealed truth and when the prophet’s prophetic words were fulfilled. A prophet would commonly begin his prophetic statements by saying “The Lord says” (Isaiah 52:3,4). The prophets of God were careful to share truth accurately. In the Old Testament Moses encourage the peopel to test the word of a prophet to see if it were to come true. If one statement was proven false, the prophet was considered a false prophet and was to be stoned to death (Deut 18:18-22 see also 13:1-5). In addition Hebrews 1:1-3 tells us that God spoke through prophets in the PAST, but today he has revealed himself in Jesus. This passage in Hebrews seems to suggest that God has accomplished what he has wanted from prophets and today this is no longer necessary because Jesus has been revealed.
I avoid calling someone an apostle and prophet because I don’t want to confuse people over terminology. By the simple definition of Prophet, I could use the word prophet to refer to any person who is proclaiming God’s truth. However, if someone else hears me use the word prophet they can wrongly assume I mean predicting the future.
I could use the term apostle to mean someone sent forth to plant a church but I do not mean they hold the Office of Jesus’s original Apostles. Therefore, because the terms apostle and prophet are often abused, I avoid them in my vocabulary.
What does the Bible Say about Apostles and Prophets?
- Ephesians 2:20 “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.”
The Bible says the Apostles and Prophets were used to lay a foundation. When you build a building, You only lay a foundation once. Today the church is referred to as that building (Eph 2:22). Therefore, we should expect the ministry the apostles and prophets served has been completed and we do not need them to continue this specific work.
- Jude 3 “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.”
A prophet was given to lay out the Faith. However, the bible now says that Faith has been communicated and delivered to the saints (another word for the Church). Therefore the church needs no further revelation to communicate the faith. We need to be faithful to the faith we have been given. (1 Corinthians 4:1-2)
- Revelation 22:19 “and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.”
Some interpret Revelation 22:19 as only applicable to the book of revelation. However, there is something to be said when the last few verses of the last book written in the Bible warns us not to add or take away from what has been revealed. When one considers the thoughts of Jude 3 quoted above, you see God carrying a similar heart in Revelation 22:19
- Titus 1:5 “For this reason I left you in Crete that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders.”
The term elder was a borrowed term to refer to older people. A church elder was typically an older person. In fact Titus 1 suggests an elder had a career and was married with children. The Bible says the early church appointed elders to lead a church and not apostles and prophets. Paul even lays out the qualifications of these church leaders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Paul is operating under the thought that the ministry of the apostles and prophets will end and the elders will lead the church in the future. This is an important point because if God wanted the office of apostle and prophet to continue he would have told the apostles to appoint other apostles and prophets as the church leaders and not elders. Therefore, because elders are appointed to lead, one can only assume that the ministry of the office of apostle and prophets was coming to a close. As we have already discovered this is because the foundation has been laid (Eph 2:20), and no new revelation of the faith will be given to the church (Jude 3).
- 1 Corinthians 15:7-9a “then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. 9 For I am the least of the apostles,”
Paul indicates from his own mouth that the office of apostle is a limited office that is not going to continue. This is seen as he refers to himself as the “Last of all”. Hebrews 1:1-2a “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son,” In the book of Hebrews God seems to further indicate that the office of prophets were ending just as the apostles as stated above. According to the book of Hebrews quoted above,, Jesus says in Past Days we learned from Prophets but TODAY we learn from Jesus.
- 1 Corinthians 12:12 “I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles”
The office of a true apostle was confirmed with signs, wonders and miracles conducted in places where there were not any Christians. If Apostles exist we need to send them to Africa to cure Ebola and establish churches.
- Acts 1:21-26 “Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”
It seems the qualification for electing an apostle was that the apostle had to have seen the resurrected Christ.
- James 5:14-15 “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.”
Just because the Office of apostle and prophet does not exist, does not mean God stop supernaturally intervening in our culture today. In fact, James tells us in one instance to gather the Elders to pray for those in need. In that event described it says that God supernaturally heals. This healing was not done by a priest, an apostle or a prophet but by God working through those who love him.
Food for Thought
Those that claim to be apostles today look much different from the real apostles of the first century. The real apostles lived in places where there were no Christians because they were the ones “Sent out” to establish new churches. The biblical apostles were abused. They lived in poverty, and hunger (see 1 Corinthians 4:9-13). Paul encouraged Christians not to be envious of the true apostles because it was the lowliest of positions. Today it seems those who claim to be apostles live where there is a heavy population of their followers, and they live in luxury. Even if I set aside the Biblical passages above, it’s hard for me to believe someone is an apostle like the New Testament apostles. Those who claim to be apostles today often live in large homes and ride in expensive cars while wearing fancy clothes.
When the Bible wrote about prophets it recorded the existence of multiple prophets at one time and not a single prophet. Today if someone claims to be a prophet, we typically see one man or woman living as a single prophet for an entire group, but we know the God of the Bible spoke through multiple prophets. In fact many of the Old Testament prophetic books overlap each other on a historical timeline because multiple prophets existed at one time. Keep in mind that the prophetic books of the Bible (16) do not represent the only prophets in Israel. Israel had prophets that never wrote a biblical book (example: Elijah & Elisha). A prophet’s job, of communicating God’s revealed truth, was considered a serious ministry. God told the Jews to kill a prophet if he claimed to speak a prophecy and it was false. (Deuteronomy 13 &18) Just one false prophecy is all it took to be called a false prophet. If you meet someone who claims to be a prophet perhaps it would be good to consider if they are really prophesying? If they are, does it align with the truth God has already revealed? God will not contradict himself.
The office of apostle and prophet are no longer appointed offices. However, I don’t think that stops the Spirit of God from guiding someone to share truth with others. In fact I think God’s spirit can lead us to share his truth in such a way that he uses our words to penetrate the heart of another much like the prophets were intended to do in the Old Testament. God may even lead someone to a foreign land to proclaim his truth in a place where there is no truth, just like the apostles. I do not believe that truth will produce further biblical revelation because I believe that revelation has already been given and the revelation we do have is intended to penetrate hearts. (Jude 3).
Administer a Test
If someone is led of the Lord to speak God’s truth, how do we know if that person is sharing from the Lord? The way we can determine if someone is sharing from the Lord is to see if their words align with the Word of God. If someone feels led to share a helpful word with me and it agrees with God’s revealed truth, praise God. We can validate such a statement as truth. If someone says they have a revelation from God and it doesn’t align with God’s truth, it is not only heretical, it is dangerous. False religions are born when people believe in revelations of false teachers even though it contradicts God’s Word
If we are being honest, many Americans are so skeptical about God, if we start of a statement with “God told me”… those listening may close their ears to our message. Rather than say “God told me”, just say “the Bible says” as a way to speak truth into someone’s life. I don’t think you want to be compared to crazy people, and there are plenty of crazy people running around doing things they claim God tells them to do. If the truth you share aligns with the Bible, this gives testable credibility to your statement. God isn’t going to give you a thought to share that contradicts his Word. He will align the truth he wants you to share with His Word.
What about Joel 2:28-30? What is it talking about? Does this relate to prophets and apostles?
Joel 2:28-30 “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. 30 I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. In Joel 2, Joel is speaking to Israel. He prophetically states that in the future, Israel will prophesy, dream, and have visions. Some will read this passage and ask, “does this mean we can do this today”? The short answer is, No. How do we know this? Because Joel 2 is talking about the Day of the Lord during a period of history called the tribulation. If you look at the beginning of Joel 2, it says “Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming.” If you are wondering when is this “Day of the Lord”, Joel chapter 2 is quoted in Revelation 9:1-9. This passage is dealing with the tribulation. The event described in Joel 2 is a future event that is to be fulfilled in Revelation 9. Why is this event happening in Revelation 9? Well based on Joel 2 it is to bring Israel to God. If you remember Israel rejected God and God is using these signs to draw them back to him. (For further study you may also note that Acts 2 quotes Joel 2 as a mini revelation of what the Spirit will do in the future according to Revelation 9)
Does the office of Apostle and Prophet exist today? If we are referring to Apostles as people with signs, miracles, and wonders… NO. The biblical office of apostle was held by those appointed by Jesus who saw Jesus in his physical resurrection (Acts 1:21-26). If by Prophet we are referring to one who gives new revelation and predicts the future… No. However, if we are referring to an apostle as one who simply has gifts that enable him to go to an area where there is not a church and see a church start… Yes. If we are referring to a prophet as one who share God’s truth and lives are changed… Yes. I personally do not use the term apostle and prophet just because it is an abused word and so many misconceptions are related to it. This does not mean that God is not actively working in our current place in history. In fact, I think he wants to use you to share his truth with people today. If you faithfully follow him, you will seek to share his truth accurately out of a heart of love.