“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city… to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy….”
“And He shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel… Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples…. To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”
“And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with Him in the holy mount [Mt. 17]. We have also a more sure word of prophecy… knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation.”
2 Pet. 1:18-20
Nature of the Prophets in 1 Cor. 14 & Expositing the Scriptures as “Prophesying”
Order of Contents
. Prophecy is Infallible
. Prophecy is Ceased
Prophecy is Always Infallible 5
On 1 Cor. 14:29, ‘Let the prophets speak… and let the other judge’
Introduction – Prophecy: Infallible & Ceased
The first task in a discussion of prophecy must be to set the bar for what ‘prophecy’ is, as high as Scripture sets it: that prophecy is 100% right, without fail, every time.
Establishing this will go a long way toward shedding clear light on this subject, breaking up the ground, clearing doubts, removing objections and preparing us for looking at the numerous cogent and conclusive passages of Scripture in the second half of this Introduction which teach that prophecy would cease with the apostolic generation. These passages of Scripture are clear, though many are not familiar with them.
Prophecy is Infallible
With regard to contemporary ‘prophecy’, Pentecostals in the early-1900’s and Charismatics since the 1960’s (the latter being a minor modification of the former), initially affirmed the obvious: that God-inspired prophecy is true and must always come to pass.
However, due to the inconvenience of countless failed prophecies by sincere, godly people speaking in the name of the Lord, concessions began to come forth that the best contemporary prophet might only get things right 40% of the time. In order to explain this phenomenon, a ‘Third Wave’ arose in the 1980’s which made the dramatic concession that contemporary prophecy is fallible.
Needless to say, all prophecy in the Bible is infallible, as prophecy is God Himself speaking through the prophet with his own Word. The hundreds of prophecies in Scripture, being true, have come to pass in detail exactly as spoken, or will so come to pass, because God has spoken it. The test to know if something is from the Lord, is whether it comes to pass or not (Dt. 18:22):
“When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken.”
There is no instance in Scripture of a God-inspired prophecy being false. The outcome of Biblical prophecy is not dependent on the strength of the human person’s faith (1 Kings 19:9-18), their faithfulness (Jonah 1:1-3; ch. 4), their personal holiness (1 Kings 13:1-26) or their subjective state in any way, but rather it is dependent on the authority of God only, who cannot lie and brings it to pass.
Hence, if a prophet’s prophecies do not come to pass 100% of the time, that person is a false prophet, whom God disowns. (Dt. 18:20-22; Jer. 23:21)
In response to this plain and natural reading of Scripture, the Third Wave has claimed that there are two types of prophecy in the Bible: a type which is infallible and a type which is fallible.
In order to substantiate their positing of a category of erroneous prophecy, they have had the audacity to claim that two Scripture prophecies failed, that of Agabus prophesying: (1) of a famine in Jerusalem (Acts 11:27-29) and (2) that Paul would be bound by the Jews at Jerusalem and handed over to the Gentiles (Acts 21:11).
(1) Their argument that the first of these prophecies failed is from silence: Scripture does not otherwise say what came of it, and they assume the worst.
(2) With regard to the second prophecy, a variety of details unfold in the account of Paul’s trip to Jerusalem which Third Wave interpreters try to make contradict each other. Agabus, in the original prophecy (Acts 21:11):
“took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, ‘Thus saith the Holy Ghost: So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'”
The point of the dispute is whether it can legitimately be said that the Jews ‘bound’ Paul (as in the prophecy), or whether, as the Third Wave would have it, this ‘binding’ can only be attributed to the Romans (and hence the prophecy failed).
The narrative continues:
“the Jews… stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him… and all the city was moved, and the people ran together and they took Paul, and drew him out of the Temple.” (Acts 21:27,30)
The Jews were about to kill Paul, but were prevented when the Romans heard of this tumult and rushed onto the scene. The Jews left off beating Paul (Acts 21:31-32); the Romans bound him with two chains (Acts 21:33) and further kept him in bonds at the fierce demands of the Jews (though the Romans would have let him go).
In light of Acts 21:33 saying that the Romans, not the Jews, bound Paul, amongst other considerations, two options arise in understanding this account:
(1) It is perfectly possible that when the Jews ‘laid hands on’ Paul, ‘took’ him and ‘drew him out of the temple’, that they bound him with whatever they had in the process.
It may even be the case, that, having little available, the Jews bound Paul with his own girdle (belt around his robe), as Agabus pointedly did to himself with Paul’s girdle in illustration of the prophecy. Binding the person was the most common (and easiest) way to beat or flog that person.
Whatever may be the case, the burden of proof is upon the one claiming that the prophecy failed to show that no legitimate possible fulfillment of the prophecy could have happened, and that the account necessarily contradicts the prophecy. This cannot be done.
(2) The Jews were the sole driving impetus why the Romans bound Paul in chains; hence they were responsible for it, the Romans being simply an instrument in the designs of the Jews. This is similar to Scripture laying the responsibility for the death of Christ upon the Jews (Acts 3:12-15) though He was actually and literally killed by Roman soldiers.
Paul reveals his inspired viewpoint on the matter after the event (Acts 28:17):
“…yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.”
The Greek word for ‘prisoner’ here is δεσμιος, which means ‘bound’ or ‘in bonds’, and is from the root word δεσμεω, which means ‘to bind’ (see Thayer, Lexicon). This binding in this verse must have been by the Jews in Jerusalem because only after this, the verse says, was Paul ‘delivered’ ‘into the hands of the Romans.’ Paul further places the responsibility for continuing to be bound ‘with this chain’ upon the Jews in his narrative (Acts 28:18-20):
“Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me. But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of… because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.”
Thus, Scripture itself considers Agabus’ second prophecy to have been fulfilled as spoken.
Objection & Categories of Prophecies
Sometimes persons find persuasive the following practical argument for modern ‘prophecies’ that appear to come true:
If the prophecy is a good word consistent with the spirituality and teaching of Scripture, must not this be from the Lord despite other erroneous prophecies? For what pleasure or good use could Satan derive from such an edifying message or true prophecy? Every good thing must come from the Lord.
In shedding some light upon this rational, we will look at the four categories that all modern ‘prophecies’ fall into:
(1) ‘Prophecies’ that have no predictive content, which are usually simply a reflection of the (often skewed) spiritual, theological or cultural background of the spokesman. Any and all persons often feel safe making these pronouncements as they have no practical teeth: it is not hard, nor does it take any supernatural influence, to say something consistent with Scripture.
Contrary to the claim that these ‘revelations’ can have no ill effect (they not subverting any Scripture doctrine), if they are prefaced by, ‘Thus saith the Lord’, this is taking God’s name in vain, as God has not directly and immediately said this thing.
Adding dross and chaff to the sufficiency and exclusivity of God’s Word, is one of Satan’s favorite and most treasured devices. “Whatever is beside the Word of God is against the Word of God.” (Samuel Rutherford, Divine Right, p. 119)
If the ‘prophecy’ spoken is conceded to only be simply a pertinent teaching of God’s Word (deriving its only authority from God’s written Word), then the message is simply from a measure of the ordinary illumination of the Spirit, which message is not immediately inspired in its exact words and can be wrongly understood and applied. All pretenses to ‘prophecy’ should be dropped.
(2) ‘Prophecies’, ‘words of wisdom’, etc. that are so general and vague that they carry little or no specific, discerning or predictive merit. Almost everyone at any given time is having some ‘trouble with a relationship’. Regarding the future, even a broken clock is right twice a day.
The first two categories of prophecies form the overwhelming majority of modern ‘prophesying’ and take no supernatural influence, they coming simply from a person’s heart, which is capable of being deceptive above all things (Jer. 17:9). It is good to know what the Bible says about prophesying which is not from God but simply from the human heart:
“Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you… they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord.” (Jer. 23:16)
“…they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart.” (Jer. 23:26)
(3) Specific prophecies that have real, credible, specific, predictive merit that are otherwise out of the control and natural forecasting of the spokesman, which events would be very unlikely to happen on their own or to be predicted accurately, yet the ‘prophet’ is not always 100% right in all of their prophecies.
Be it noted that this class of prophesying was well known in the ancient world as evidenced in the pagan oracles, has happened through Church history (prominently in the Middle Ages), and continues to happen today even by secularists and person’s of non-Christian religions.
We grant a possible supernatural influence. However, as God never makes false predictions, nor allows his prophets to, what other supernatural influence could be inspiring this? If you discern a supernatural prophetic influence, but that influence is not always right, you ought to tremble:
Demons have been around since the creation of the earth, have observed human society since, have an intelligence that may far surpass ours, the spiritual world around us being open to them, they are in control of a large portion of the earth and societies, they may be able to forecast better than we, though they are not infallible (being finite and limited creatures), and they are able to perform miracles:
“And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out… for they are the spirits of devils, working miracles…” (Rev. 16:13-15)
If our contemporary ‘prophets’ are sincere Christians, how could devils have anything to do with them or our Christian churches?
A devil wrought his influence in the regular worship of a congregation that the Son of God Himself was preaching to (Mk. 1:23-24). Scripture warns against allowing the Devil to gain a foothold in Christian marriages through something as small as anger and bitterness (Eph. 4:26,31).
We are told in the latter times that we live in that seducing spirits will reveal ‘doctrines of devils’ to those in the Church, and people will give heed to them (1 Tim. 4:1-2). One of the manifestations of this demonic activity is persons ‘speaking lies’ (false prophecies) ‘in hypocrisy’.
If you find out something to be a lie, you should run from it as far as you can. But instead of doing this, carnal Christian ‘prophets’ have let ‘their consciences [become] seared with a hot iron’, overlooking and desensitizing themselves and others to their own self-evidently, untrue claims.
An abundant measure of fallible words of prophecy are not innocent and harmless if mixed with a few remarkable prophetic fulfillments. How Christianity and God’s name are confused with and washed over by falsehoods!
The Devil often masquerades as a minister of light (2 Cor. 11:14), especially if he can, by liberally gifting a few sparkling stones, persuade Christians and a multitude of churches and denominations, with all sincere affections, to cling to a heap of prophetic trash.
The Severity of False Prophecies
Scripture gives no confidence to the true prophecies of a prophet that makes some prophecies which fail:
“The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart.” (Jer. 14:14)
So far from being tolerated, such a false prophet was to be put to death by the civil magistrate as a blasphemer and subverter of society and the true religion:
“But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.” (Dt. 18:20)
To those who don’t believe that the civil magistrate is to uphold the general equity of the Old Testament civil laws (Westminster Confession, 19.4) and the Moral Law of God, namely all of the Ten Commandments (see the Establishment Principle), this punishment may appear rather unwarranted for such an innocent offence. John Calvin corrects us. Such an offence:
“touches not the creature only, neither is the wrong done to a mortal man alone: but it is an outrage done unto God also, and that is high treason to his Person.” (Sermons on Deut., p. 682)
The Reformation understanding these things (having more wisdom than we have today), when a person in a city under siege by the enemy made great and glorious prophecies that on the morrow the besieged city would attain a miraculous victory, and it didn’t come to pass, they threw him over the wall.
One benefit to exercising (by faith) the Biblical solution to this matter, is that it gets rid of the problem.
(4) That which we affirm: the possibility of extraordinary premonitions given by God’s general illumination and governing providence through general revelation (God being ‘free to work without, above and against’ his regular means ‘at his pleasure’, WCF 5.3), which premonitions form no rule or authority to others, may be fallibly interpreted, do not occur with the authority for a person to bring them about on demand, do not constitute Biblical ‘prophecy’ or an office in the church, they have not been promised to be a continuing presence in the Church, they are not ordinary or to be regularly expected, and ‘Thus saith the Lord’ cannot be attributed to them.
The possibility of such extraordinary occurrences no God-fearing person will deny (and we will not put God in a box). This category is evidenced by, and largely explains, credible stories of seeming supernatural events in buttress of Christianity, especially on the mission field to unbelieving societies, both in history past and today.
Thomas M’Crie, the Scottish Church historian, in commenting on such an unusual prediction by the martyr George Wishart, and other Reformation instances, says (Story of the Scottish Church, pp. 20-23):
“God may, on special occasions, such as in times of hot persecution, have granted to his faithful and prayerful servants premonitions and forewarnings of coming events, beyond what could be discovered even by ‘an extraordinary degree of sagacious foresight’…
Our worthies never pretended to be endowed with the spirit of prophecy, in the sense in which this is true of the ancient prophets; they did not lay claim to inspiration, nor require implicit faith to be placed in their sayings as divine; they did not propose them as rules of duty, nor appeal to them as miraculous evidences of the doctrines they taught.
But they regarded such presentiments as gracious intimations of the will of God, granted to them in answer to prayer, for their own encouragement or direction; and they delivered them as warnings to others, leaving the truth of them to be ascertained and proved by the event…”
None of the historic, Reformation occurrences of this phenomenon claimed ‘the Word of the Lord says’, but they stood simply as remarkable predictions of human authority to be confirmed or disproved by the outcome. If the event proves the prediction of the righteous and orthodox person true, we have reason to receive the prediction as a good gift from God, to give glory to Him for it, and to receive it as having possibly come from a special motion of his Spirit.
If such a person does preface their message with ‘Thus saith the Lord’, or connotates the same implicitly, and it does not come to pass, this falls under category (3) above and should be treated accordingly.
For more on this topic, see our section: Scottish Continuationism?
Given that prophets of the Lord are always 100% right in their predictions, most or all of the claims to contemporary prophecy today fall far short of this Biblical standard and must be regarded as rubbish:
“When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken… thou shalt not be afraid of him.” (Dt. 18:22)
This being the case, that Biblical prophecy is simply not around today, it is no wonder to find that the Bible teaches in numerous clear passages that prophecy would be sealed up with the apostolic generation.
As we go on to consider these passages, let us also remember the numerous warnings that the Bible gives us to beware of false prophets in New Testament times:
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Mt. 7:15)
“And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.” (Mt. 24:11)
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” (1 Jn. 4:1)
Prophecy has Ceased
Just as God from the beginning made it very clear who his true prophets were in order that his Church might clearly discern that it was He who was speaking to them, so likewise God foretold through these very same prophets when He would cease speaking to them through this medium so that his Church would be sure of it, without wavering in doubt.
Old Testament Predictions of the Cessation of Prophecy
The Old Testament predicts the cessation of prophecy upon the First Coming of Christ in Isaiah 8:16,19-20, Daniel 9:24 and Zechariah 13:1-5.
The prophet Isaiah in ch. 7 prophesies of the virgin birth of Christ. In ch. 8 the description of the nature of Christ’s ministry at his First Coming is that He shall be “for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel… and many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken…” (Isa. 8:14-15) In this First Coming context, Isaiah speaks of the closing up of authoritative revelations from God:
“Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.” (Isa. 8:16)
The growing collection of prophetic revelation taking place in Isaiah’s day would be finally and fully deposited and preserved in the future in the finished body of the written Scriptures. This authoritative body of Scripture would form a canon, or rule, by which all else would be judged.
In New Testament times, it is prophesied that persons will look for other forms of revelation, but we are directed solely to the Scriptures:
“And when they shall say unto you, ‘Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter…’ To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isa. 8:19-20)
Notice here that no distinction is made in this passage between the category of Scriptural revelation and another category of continuing, different, prophetic revelation in addition to Scripture. Rather, in this passage, the looking for other forms of prophetic revelation is in contrast to the finishing of Scriptural revelation. The one completes the other.
The prophet Daniel, coming after Isaiah, gives greater detail as to when exactly this sealing up of prophecy would be.
In 490 years (a prophetic ‘week’ being 7 years) from the decree to rebuild the Jewish Temple after the Babylonian Captivity, the Messiah would come, be ‘cut off’ and the Jewish Temple would be destroyed (Dan. 9:26). In that time, Scripture says the Jews’ sins would be filled up, the Atonement accomplished and visions and prophecy would be sealed up (Dan. 9:24):
“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy…”
Notice that the passage does not say that written Scripture alone would be sealed up, but that all vision and prophecy (unqualified) would be sealed up. Further, the finishing of prophecy is tied up with completion of the atonement. The one can continue no more than the other.
The prophet Zechariah gives further revelatory detail of this coming, important time period God was preparing his saints for. In ch. 11 he prophesies of the Messiah being sold for thirty pieces of silver (vv. 12-13). In ch. 12, Christ’s crucifixion is fore-signified (v. 10). In the first verse of ch. 13 it says that:
“there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.”
This fountain symbolizes the healing power of Christ’s Atonement opened for all. Upon this event, a new time period will be ushered in (v. 2):
“it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land.”
As reformation happens by God’s Spirit through the Christian gospel, the idols and prophets are turned out of the land. ‘Prophets’ here designates not simply foreign, pagan prophets, but prophets (unqualified) within the covenant community, as the following verses make clear (vv. 3-5):
“And it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him… ‘thou speakest lies in the name of the Lord’… and it shall come to pass in that day, that the prophets shall be ashamed every one of his vision, when he hath prophesied… but he shall say, ‘I am no prophet’…”
The first century context of Zechariah’s prophecy is further confirmed by the immediately following verses which speak of the Shepherd being wounded in his hands in the house of his friends, the flock scattered, and a third of Israel (the believing Christians), being saved, while the rest of Israel is cast away (vv. 6-9).
With this Old Testament teaching firmly in place, that the cessation of prophecy would occur with the coming of the Messiah and the finishing of the scriptural writings, the New Testament need not re-lay these same foundations, but rather will be seen to be a filling out of them.
The New Testament
The natural principle that when the unchanging, perfect and complete fullness arrives, that which led up to it, being lesser, in-part, varied, changing, temporal and a prefiguring of the greater, passes away, is a predominant theme throughout the whole of Scripture (Gen. 49:10; Dt. 18:18-19; Isa. 65:17; Hag. 2:6-7; Mal. 3:1-2; Mt. 11:11; Lk. 5:36-38; 1 Cor. 13:8-11; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 3:23-4:7; Col. 2:16-17; Heb. 8:5-13; 12:27-28). When the greater is present, the lesser is needless and can only be a detraction from that which is better.
Scripture is clear in placing the mode of both Old and New Testament prophecy in the category of being a piecemeal revelation of bits and pieces, something incomplete:
“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets…” (Heb. 1:1)
“…and we prophesy in part.” (1 Cor. 13:9)
What could be expected but that when the Son of God Himself comes to earth, who is the fullness of the image of the Father and our chief Prophet, that all previous and even subsequent temporary modes of prophecy (which had served their unique purposes, in-part shadowing forth Christ’s prophetic office) should cease with Christ and his directly commissioned apostles?
Notice, in contrast to the Old Testament, the singularness and exclusivity of how God has spoken to his people (in the past tense) for the whole of the Church age, ‘these last days’ (Heb 1:1-2):
“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son…”
B.B. Warfield summarizes Abraham Kuyper on God’s method of revelation for the Church come to maturity in the latter days of the Messiah:
“…it has not been God’s way to communicate to each and every man a separate store of divine knowledge of his own, to meet his separate needs; but He rather has spread a common board for all, and invites all to come and partake of the richness of the great feast. He has given to the world one organically complete revelation, adapted to all, sufficient for all, provided for all, and from this one completed revelation He requires each to draw his whole spiritual sustenance.” (Counterfeit Miracles, ch. 1)
The Prophets: a Foundation
The apostles and prophets (whether Old Testament prophets or those of the New Testament) are called the ‘foundation’ which the saints of God are built upon (Eph. 2:19-20):
“Ye… are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner-stone.”
A foundation is only laid once (1 Cor. 3:10; 1 Kings 5:17; 2 Chron. 8:16; Ezra 3:10-11; Isa. 28:16; Hag. 2:18). The office of prophets in this verse cannot be continued anymore than can the immediately commissioned and numbered apostles (see our section on Apostles), or the one-time earthly ministry of Jesus Christ.
Also, as the regulation of the government of Christ’s Church is appointed in his Word, as is seen below, there are no directions in the New Testament for how the prophetic office should be regularly continued by succession in the continuing Christian Church.
Scripture: More Certain
Often the Charismatic experience appeals to people in exalting the claimed certainty and confirmatory assurance of personal, human experience above nearly everything else, including the bare words on the pages of the Bible. However, this is quite a reversal of what God’s Word teaches:
The Bible explicitly says that written Scripture is more sure than even an audible, voice from Heaven. Peter, speaking of audibly hearing by his personal experience (with multiple witnesses) God the Father testifiying from the heavens of his Son on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mt. 17:1-9), directs us not to put our trust in the certainty of such personal revelations, but in the Word of the Scriptures, as something much more certain (2 Pet. 1:18-21):
“And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with Him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed… Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.”
The Closing of the New Testament Period
What is often not recognized in considering the role of prophetic activity in the New Testament, is the chronological development on this subject in the New Testament itself. Towards the end of the New Testament period there are less and less references to such prophetic activity.
2 Peter was probably written fairly late in the canon, around 68-69 AD, which, as quoted above, directs the readers to look from private revelations (past tense) to the abiding testimony of Scripture (see also 2 Pet. 3:15-16). Scripture, he states, will be as “a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn,” that is, until the Eternal Day which will attend Christ’s 2nd Coming (2 Pet. 1:19).
2 Timothy was likewise written late in the New Testament period (probably between 67-68 AD, right before Paul’s impending death, 2 Tim. 4:6-8). In it prophecy and miraculous gifts are not mentioned (such was last spoken of in 1 Tim. 4:14 in the past tense).
Rather, Paul, on his way out of this world, instructs Timothy to “hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me…” (2 Tim. 1:13) and “the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” (2 Tim. 2:2)
Thus, Timothy and Titus are instructed, for the regular, abiding instruction of the Church through the coming age to ordain ordinarily instructed (and fallible) elders (not prophets) that would successively continue the Church’s official teaching, and directs them how to do so (2 Tim. 2:2; 1 Tim. 3; Titus 1:5-8; Acts 14:23; 1 Tim. 4:14; etc.).
Hence, Paul warns Timothy that the days were shortly coming when people would “not endure sound doctrine” and would turn away, not to false prophets, but to false teachers (2 Tim. 4:3-4, see also 2 Pet. 2:1, which speaks of ‘false prophets’ in the past tense, and warns of ‘false teachers’ in the future tense).
The Sufficiency of Scripture
In this context, after most of the genuine, prophetic activity of the New Testament and near the end of the completion of the writing of the Scriptural canon, Paul sets forth that foundational pillar of the Church, the perfection and sufficiency of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16-17):
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
The great need for private revelations today, it is often claimed, is for personal direction in life and Church. This was by and large the function which special prophesies served in the immature Old Testament period and in the infant New Testament Church before the completion of the written Scriptures, forming a major aspect of its incomplete, partial and temporary nature (1 Cor. 13:8-9). Though Scripture has done away with this outmoded function of prophecy (Heb. 1:1-2), yet many people want to return to it today.
While affirming the continuing necessity for subjective guidance through general revelation (illumination of the Holy Spirit, providence, calling, God-given wisdom, convictions of conscience, natural law, seeking human counsel, etc.), yet, as regards any form of special revelation, Scripture is complete and sufficient as an objective rule for personal guidance in life and Church: “that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” Nothing else is needed or to be desired in addition to it.
There being no need for private revelations for subjective guidance today (as there was before the completion of the canon), there is nothing left for the doctrine of Continuationism to stand on.
In stark contrast to the partial and ceasing nature of private revelations stands the divinely revealed, abiding purpose for the written Scriptures for the Church age:
“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” (Rom. 15:4)
“Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” (1 Cor. 10:11)
For a further filling out of the doctrine and details of the Sufficiency of Scripture and the Cessation of Biblical prophecy, see Calvin, Robertson, Kayser and Gentry below, in that order. Also be sure to see the many more relevant resources on our main-page for Cessationism.
See also the resources on our mainpage: Cessationism
‘All Principles of Piety Subverted by Fanatics, who Substitute Revelations for Scripture’ 5 pp. in Institutes, Book 1, ch. 9
pp. 681-684 of 4th Sermon on Dt. 18 in Sermons on Deuteronomy
Carter, William – ‘Manifestations of God unto his People in the Last Days’ being pp. 67-90 of The Covenant of God with Abraham, Opened. Wherein 1. The Duty of Infant-Baptism is Cleared. 2. Something Added Concerning the Sabbath, and the Nature & Increase of the Kingdom of Christ. Together with a Short Discourse Concerning the Manifestations of God unto his People in the Last Days. Wherein is Showed the Manner of the Spirit’s Work Therein to be in the Use of Ordinary Gifts, not by Extraordinary Revelations (1654)
Machen, J. Gresham – ‘Prophets False & True’
Knight III, George – ‘Prophecy in the New Testament’ Buy (1988) 23 pp.
Farnell, F. David – ‘Is the Gift of Prophecy for Today: a 4-Part Series’ These were 4 published articles.
Farnell is a professor of New Testament at the Master’s Seminary (Dispensationalist), who did his dissertation on this topic.
Durand, Greg Loren – ‘The Cessation of Tongues & Prophecy’
Kayser, Phillip – ‘The Prophetic Closing of the Biblical Canon’ being pp. 26-52 of The Canon of Scripture: Biblical Presuppositions (2010) 54 pp.
The author is a partial-preterist, which is not entirely recommended.
See also the resources on our mainpage: Cessationism
Robertson, O. Palmer – The Final Word: a Biblical Response to the case of Tongues and Prophecy Today Buy (1993) 136 pp.
Gentry, Kenneth – The Charismatic Gift of Prophecy: A Reformed Response to Wayne Grudem Buy (2011) 170 pp.
Gentry comes from a partial-preterist perspective, which is not entirely recommended. An overview of Grudem’s view and points can be gleaned from this critical article by Stephen Kring, a reformed baptist.
That Prophecy is Always Infallible
MacArthur, John – ‘Prophecy Redefined’ (2014) 21 paragraphs A response to John Piper
Farnell, F. David
‘Fallible New Testament Prophecy/Prophets? A Critique of Wayne Grudem’s Hypothesis’ n.d. 25 pp. in The Master’s Seminary Journal
Farnell is a professor of New Testament at the Master’s Seminary, who did his dissertation on this topic.
‘The Gift of Prophecy in the Old & the New Testament’
‘Does the New Testament Teach Two Prophetic Gifts?’
Budgen, Victor – Chs. 1-2 & Appendix, ‘Prophecy in the New Testament’ (2001) in The Charismatics and the Word of God, pp. 261-288 Buy
Gentry, Kenneth – The Charismatic Gift of Prophecy: A Reformed Response to Wayne Grudem Buy (2011) 170 pp.
Gentry comes from a partial-preterist perspective, which is not entirely recommended. An overview of Grudem’s view and points can be gleaned from this critical article by Stephen Kring, a reformed baptist.
1 Cor 14:29, “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.”
This verse is often claimed to teach, in order to justify modern charismatic phenomenon, that NT prophecy was subject to error. Gillespie demonstrates from Scripture, in detail, that this is not the case.
Gillespie, George – Objections 5 & 7 on pp. 35-36 of Ch. 5: ‘Whether these prophets and prophesyings in the primitive church, 1 Cor. 14; 12:28; eph. 4:11; were extraordinary and not so to continue; or whether they are precedents for the preaching or prophesying of such as are neither ordained ministers nor probationers for the ministry’ in A Treatise of Miscellany Questions
Dickson, David – Commentary on 1 Cor. 14:32
“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”
The Third Commandment
“But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak… even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken?’ When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously…”
“In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David… for sin and for uncleanness. And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that… I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land. And it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, ‘Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the Lord’: and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the prophets shall be ashamed every one of his vision, when he hath prophesied… But he shall say, ‘I am no prophet…’”
Offices of Apostles, Prophets & Evangelists
The New Testament Gift of Miracles
Commentaries on All the Prophets