Wednesday, September 23, 2020

An Argument from Scripture for The Cessation of the Prophetic Gifts

     There are large numbers of people in modern western society who claim supernatural experiences. (Keener 2011) This should not be surprising, secular humanist skeptics notwithstanding. The issue is not whether the supernatural exists, but rather does God give prophetic (charismatic) gifts in the post-apostolic period. Prophetic gifts were present among God's people (we will use the term Church for both God's Old Testament, and His New Testament people) to varying degrees throughout biblical history. The question at hand is this: Are post-apostolic claims of tongue-speaking, prophecy, healing, and discernment of spirits legitimate? God's word tells us that those claims are not. (Judisch 1978)

Jesus says that signs and wonders would continue in the end times, but those signs would be of diabolical origin. Their purpose, according to Christ, would be to deceive. Jesus explains this to His disciples as they look at the temple from the Mount of Olives; He tells them the answers to their questions: 1) When will the temple be destroyed, and 2) what will be the signs of Christ’s return, i.e. the end of the age? (Matthew 24:1-35). About signs and wonders Jesus says, “At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time.”[1]

Charismatic gifts can be broadly defined as special supernatural gifts given to men by the Holy Spirit. Charisma in the New Testament, however, refers to any gift that is freely given, including redemption. The term prophetic gifts may be a more accurate way to describe what is commonly called the charismatic gifts: speaking in tongues, prophetic utterances, miraculous healings, discerning spirits. In scripture, all these prophetic gifts are connected to prophecy. In its broadest form, prophecy may be defined from Holy Scripture as discourse in words given or taught by God, which may or may not involve predicting future events. (Judisch 1978)

It is vitally important to the Church to determine whether or not God still bestows the prophetic gifts described above on men now, during the post-apostolic end of the age. It will affect both the Church’s doctrine and practice. If modern day prophets are speaking God’s word, we must submit to their teaching. Scripture calls us, however, to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.[2] How do we know what constitutes that faith if there are a constant stream of self-proclaimed prophets, claiming direct revelation from God? We must follow the same rules for judging prophecies as the Church did throughout it’s existence: we must use the external word of God as the standard.

Scripture alone must be used to judge teachings, without extra-biblical sources, including our own feelings, interpreting and adding meanings which are not present in the text. Scripture texts should be interpreted according to the plain meaning of the language, and always in context. This, of course, includes texts concerning what today are commonly called the charismatic gifts. (Judisch 1978)


“As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men” (Acts 17:10-12).


Luke gives us the positive example of the Bereans to follow when it comes to doctrine. It must always be tested against God’s authenticated word. The scriptures against which the Bereans tested Paul’s words, to see if they were given to him by God, were what we today call the Old Testament.

God warns His people through Moses not to follow lying prophets, even if they perform great signs and wonders to authenticate themselves. This may seem backwards from the stated purpose of the prophetic gifts. It makes sense, however, that during the time when the prophetic gifts were given to authenticate claims of divine authority for prophecy, the prophet’s message must be tested against God’s previously authenticated word; even Satan masquerades as an angel of light, and can perform what scripture calls lying, or false wonders. This way, God’s people would know that someone claiming to be a prophet who did signs and wonders, but who proclaimed a message that contradicted God’s previous revelation, was a false prophet; God does not lie or change.


If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul (Deut. 13:1-3).


The signs worked by the false prophet are signs worked by the devil. They serve God’s purposes, however, by being signs of judgment against unbelievers who would reject the words God had truly given the people in the covenant for a lie.

In the same vein, Paul writes to Timothy: “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given to you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you…Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:13-14, 16). It is important that we teach the teachings that God gives us in Holy Scripture, rather than to just “agree to disagree”.

We have as our standard for judging doctrine the prophetic and apostolic scriptures. The scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the only true standard by which teaching, and preaching can be judged. The Old Testament scriptures are those that were preserved by God through His people Israel and recognized by Jesus and the Apostles. The New Testament scriptures are those writings which come directly from an Apostle, or were attested to by an Apostle, the Apostles themselves being validated by their possession of, and ability to confer on others, the prophetic gifts. (McCain 2005)

Before examining the question of whether or not God continues to bestow prophetic gifts, we must briefly consider how He has bestowed those gifts in the past, and what was their purpose. God can certainly do anything He chooses. If He chose to impart the prophetic gifts to a person directly today, He indeed could. God could also come to people and convert them from unbelievers into Christians spontaneously, if He chose to work that way. He has instead chosen to come to people, and to give His gifts to people, using means. He gives His gifts of repentance, faith in Christ, forgiveness of sin, life, and salvation through His word and sacraments (sacraments being physical elements, joined to God’s word and promise by God’s instruction);[3] He gave His prophetic gifts of prophecy, speaking in tongues, and healing through His Apostles. To say this is not to limit God; it is to acknowledge what God has revealed to us in His word: that He wishes to deal with us only through these means. (McCain 2005)

The Holy Spirit has two roles where the charisma are concerned: He is the creator of the gift of faith in the hearts of men, and He is the giver of prophetic gifts. Both of these gifts God has decided to give through ordinary means. Faith is given through God’s word and sacraments; the prophetic gifts are given through the means of the Apostles themselves. (Judisch 1978) Hebrews 2 connects the distribution of the prophetic gifts to the Apostles. Verses 2-3 imply that the confirmation, which we already know is the purpose of the apostle’s prophetic gifts, was a past and completed action.


“We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (Hebrews 2:1-4).


God’s will was to give these prophetic gifts, not immediately and directly to men of every age, but through the means of His Apostles for the purpose of confirming their message, and as signs of judgment against those who did not believe.

The account of the Samaritans who came to faith, recorded in Acts 8, demonstrates the Holy Spirit working in both capacities of giver of the gifts of repentance and faith, and giver of the prophetic gifts. The Samaritans received the Holy Spirit when they heard God’s word and were baptized, and the Holy Spirit created faith in them. They also experienced the Holy Spirit working in His capacity as giver of prophetic gifts through the Apostles. (Judisch 1978) Luke writes:

“They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic. But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw” (Acts 8:11-13).


The fact that the Samaritans received the Holy Spirit is evident because scripture tells us that they believed. They did not, however, receive any prophetic gifts at that time. When Phillip evangelizes Samaria, his words are attested to as God’s words by the signs and wonders he performs; he has the prophetic gifts through the Apostles by the laying on of hands. He is not able, however, to transmit the gifts he has to others. We know this because the Apostles send apostolic delegates to Samaria to bestow on them prophetic gifts. They had to go to the Samaritans themselves because only the Apostles could transmit the prophetic gifts to others. (Judisch 1978)


“When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:14-17).


This is an example of the Apostles, God’s means for transferring the prophetic gifts to others, bestowing those gifts on other believers as a further sign of their divine authority and the veracity of their message.

There are no examples in the New Testament of a person receiving prophetic gifts except through an Apostle. Jesus gave the gift of healing to the 70 evangelists, but this is properly considered the Old Testament era; this account does not give us an indication of how prophetic gifts would be distributed after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, during the “end of the age” in which we now live, post-Pentecost. (Judisch 1978)

While God could deal with us directly and immediately, He has chosen to deal with us through the means of His word. In like manner, the only means God established for distributing the prophetic gifts was the apostolate. Once the Apostles were dead and gone, the gifts could not be given to other people. This is a limitation God placed on Himself. We know this by the words of Jesus in Matthew 24, and Paul in 1 Corinthians 13. (Judisch 1978) We limit the Holy Spirit, not when we assert the scriptural truth that prophetic gifts have ceased, but rather when we insist that the Holy Spirit must treat post-apostolic believers in the exact same way as He treated the faithful during the time of the Apostles, and before, by giving us the exact same gifts. (Judisch 1978)


The Prophetic Gifts of Prophecy, Tongues, and Healing


As it occurs in scripture, prophecy is discourse in words taught or given by the Holy Spirit. This may or may not involve predictions of the future. Prophecy always involves men speaking words given to them by God; faithful preachers and teacher are, therefore, prophets, to some limited degree, by the biblical definition. (Judisch 1978) All the examples of charismatic (prophetic) gifts recorded in scripture serve to validate the authenticity of the prophet and his prophecy. The gifts show that the words spoken were given, or taught by, God the Holy Spirit. (Judisch 1978) It is in this way that all the prophetic gifts are connected to the gift of prophecy, i.e. speaking or proclaiming words given or taught by God. The purpose of the prophetic gifts given to the Apostles was the same as that of the signs and wonders given to all the other prophets to perform: to authenticate their message as truly from God. (Judisch 1978)

If God gives us words, which we call prophecies, we must accept them. We are warned by scripture, however, that sometimes words that are claimed to be God’s, are not. These words are to be rejected. We must, then, test all prophecies that are purported to come from God, and accept only those that pass the test. Words that were confirmed by the Apostles as authentic can be accepted as God’s word, because Jesus appointed the Apostles as infallible teachers; these words must be used as the standard for the test. The Apostles manifested prophetic gifts, including discerning spirits, as a proof of their authority. This means that all the writings of the Old and New Testaments may be relied upon as authentically God’s word. (Judisch 1978) The only legitimate test of whether prophetic gifts are genuine is the test against scripture. We cannot rely on whether the words speak well of Christ, the good character, or outward holiness of the supposed prophet, or if the words make us feel good. (Judisch 1978)

The ultimate sign of the apostolic office was the ability to give the prophetic gifts they possessed to others. This was the definitive authentication of the truth of their message and of their authority. Jesus also considered the ability to confer the gifts to others, as he did with the power to heal, as the most compelling of the authentications. (Judisch 1978) If words that are supposed to have been taught by God do not have the sanction of an Apostle as the words of Holy Scripture do, or one who was “personally authenticated as a prophet by an Apostle” they are false. No alleged modern prophetic utterance can receive such sanction, since the Apostles are dead, along with any prophets validated by them. Consequently, the book of Revelation is the summation of prophecy in scripture and the history of God’s plan of salvation for man. It is the end of true biblical prophecy. (Judisch 1978)

Finally, no prophet validated by an Apostle was ever known to have sanctioned the prophecies of another. Therefore, no post-apostolic prophecies may rightly be called God’s word, and any such prophecies must be rejected by the Church. This includes tongue-speaking, along with all the other prophetic (charismatic) gifts, as they are all vitally interconnected with prophecy. (Judisch 1978)


Daniel: Sealing Up Prophecy


As discussed previously, all of the charismatic gifts have their foundation in prophecy, which is the speaking of words taught by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when the gift of prophecy was “sealed up” in 70 AD, and ended completely with the death of John, the other gifts of healing, tongues, and discerning spirits ended as well. (Judisch 1978)


“Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him” (Daniel 9:24-27).


Daniel 9:24-27 explains how God’s plan of salvation plays out. Basically, Daniel shows that the Anointed One, the Messiah, would come to the rebuilt Jerusalem and temple after a long and complete (70 “weeks”) period of time, to die. The Messiah would covenant with God’s people and then die as the atonement for sin. In this way, He would bring an end to the temple sacrifice. (Judisch 1978) Jesus, the Messiah, would confirm a covenant with Israel, His Church, thus bringing the old covenant sacrificial system to an end; soon after this the end decreed for Jerusalem would be poured out on it by Titus and his legions in 70 AD. (Judisch 1978) According to Judisch, the vision and prophecy that Daniel says will cease is not his own prophetic career, nor does he refer to some other specific prophet or prophecy. The words we translate as “prophecy” and “vision” are collective nouns. They refer to prophetic knowledge, prophecy, and prophets in general. (Judisch 1978)


It is important to observe that hazon (vision) and nabi’(prophecy) are collective nouns, referring to prophetic vision and prophets in general…But once hazon and nabi’ be acknowledged as collective nouns, no grounds exist for restricting them to any particular kind of prophecy, whether merely messianic prophecy or even Old Testament prophecy in general. Since neither the context nor the analogy of faith requires any qualification, we must see these terms as embracing all instances of the gift of prophecy, regardless of time or circumstance. (Judisch 1978).


Prophets and prophetic vision were to be sealed up by the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. People who already received the gift would not necessarily lose it. There would not, however, be any further dispensation of this gift from that time forward. (Judisch 1978)


Zechariah Prophesies a Time Without Prophets


The prophet Zechariah, in chapter 13 of his book, does not pinpoint a specific date when the prophetic gifts would cease. He does, however, indicate that they would not continue indefinitely. (Judisch 1978) Zechariah connects continuing prophets and prophecy with the devil. He basically calls false prophets “prophets” in the same was that idols are called “gods” elsewhere in scripture; his use of the term is meant to ridicule the false prophets. (Judisch 1978) In the time about which he is prophesying, Zechariah says that men will recognize false prophets by the simple fact that they claim to speak words given to them by God. The mere fact that a man is prophesying will make him a false prophet. (Judisch 1978) This fits together with Jesus’ end-times warnings about false prophets performing miracles to deceive.


“On that day, I will banish the names of the idols from the land and they will be remembered no more,” declares the Lord Almighty. “I will remove both the prophets and the spirit of impurity from the land. And if anyone still prophesies, his father and mother, to whom he was born, will say to him, ‘You must die, because you have told lies in the Lord’s name.’ When he prophesies, his own parents will stab him. On that day every prophet will be ashamed of his prophetic vision. He will not put on a prophet’s garment of hair in order to deceive. He will say, ‘I am a farmer; the land has been my livelihood since my youth.’ If someone asks him, ‘What are these wounds on your body?’ he will answer, ‘The wounds I was given at the house of my friends.’” (Zechariah 13:2-6).


Zechariah says in “that time” the prophets will be ashamed of their prophetic gifts. They will not dress like prophets, so as to keep from being identified as prophets. (Judisch 1978) The wounds Zechariah describes on the bodies of the prophets, which they will lie about (see verse 6) give us insight as to the true nature of their prophetic gifts. These wounds were typical of pagan seers and prophets, who would cut their flesh and abuse their bodies to try to work themselves into an ecstatic frenzy, so that they could prophesy. It is clear that Zechariah is talking about a time when genuine prophecy would cease, and only false prophets would remain. (Judisch 1978)

Zechariah identifies the time of the cessation of prophecy as “that day”, to wit: the day of the appearance of the Lord, which inaugurates the Messianic era. This is evident from the opening verse of the chapter: “On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity” (Zechariah 13:1). This is the time from the birth of Jesus to the Last Day when Christ will return in Judgment. While he does not pinpoint the time exactly, Zechariah indicates that the prophetic gifts will cease “a considerable time before judgement.” (Judisch 1978)

When The Prophet about whom Moses foretold came (Christ), and the Messianic age was initiated by the outpouring of the prophetic gifts on the Apostles at Pentecost, the gifts would pass away with the Apostles; the Messianic era would be, for the majority of its duration, an age without prophets. (Judisch 1978) Zechariah’s words require the church to reject modern self-proclaimed prophets and miracle-workers. The Church must point out to these, and all people, that everything necessary for the salvation of men is contained within Holy Scripture. (Judisch 1978)


Tongues – A Sign of Judgment


Investigations into, and evaluations of modern claims of manifestations of the charismatic gifts are available from many sources. Examples of modern tongue-speaking have been evaluated by psychologists and linguists for decades; most have not been shown to be genuine languages unknown to the speaker. Instances of genuine tongue-speaking have occurred, as recorded in several well-documented cases of demonic possession. These examples, however, must be attributed to diabolical sources rather than to the Holy Spirit. (Judisch 1978) Biblical tongue-speaking is something much different than what charismatic Christians today call speaking in tongues. According to scripture, speaking in tongues is simply speaking words in a language unknown to the speaker. It is in this way that speaking in tongues is related to prophecy: the speaker is speaking words given to him by God the Holy Spirit. Prophecy, as it is commonly thought of, is different only in that the speaker is speaking in his own native, or in a learned, language. (Judisch 1978)

When a person speaks in tongues, according to the biblical standard, words are given to the speaker in an unlearned language, by a supernatural source. In the New Testament, that source is God the Holy Spirit. (Judisch 1978) Throughout Old Testament history, God used people speaking foreign tongues to judge and punish the nation of Israel. Moses wrote in Deuteronomy that, “The Lord will bring a nation against you from far away, from the ends of the earth, like an eagle swooping down, a nation whose language you will not understand…” (Deuteronomy 28:49). The prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah warned that, as God had warned in His covenant with Israel, if they continued to forsake the covenant, they would eventually be punished by those who spoke a tongue that they could not understand. The shadow of the fulfillment of this prophecy is Assyria and Babylon; the ultimate fulfillment came when Israel rejected God’s final word, Christ. They were once again forced to listen to God address them through foreign tongues. (Judisch 1978) Isaiah wrote, “Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people…” (Isaiah 28:11). Because Israel did not keep the covenant, because they rejected God’s plain words to them, Jeremiah was given to prophesy their punishment:


“O house of Israel,” declares the Lord, “I am bringing a distant nation against you – an ancient and enduring nation, a people whose language you do not know, whose speech you do not understand” (Jeremiah 5:15).


The Apostles, who were Jews, speaking in unlearned Gentile languages signals the end of God’s special relationship with the physical nation of Israel. Jew and Gentile alike were, after Pentecost, on the same level, being called to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins, in whom there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free. (Judisch 1978)

Paul says that the tongue-speaking of the apostolic age was a sign to unbelievers that God was alienated from them. In this way the prophetic gift of tongues is like Our Lord speaking in parables, which were used to veil His teachings from unbelievers. (Judisch 1978)


Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers. So, if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? (1 Corinthians 14:22-23) …Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. In the Law it is written: “Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me,” says the Lord (1 Corinthians 14:20-21).


The speaking in unlearned languages in the New Testament serves, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14, as a sign that God’s alienation from the physical nation of Israel was complete, and He had transitioned to the Gentiles. (Judisch 1978)

The culmination of God’s rejection of physical Israel is the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. Because it served as a sign of judgment to unbelieving Jews in the post-Pentecost era, the prophetic gift of speaking in tongues was, by its nature, temporary. After the ultimate judgment, the destruction of the temple, was complete, there is no further purpose for the gift of tongues. (Judisch 1978) Jesus tells the Jews plainly of the impending rejection of the nation of Israel by God in Matthew 21: “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce it’s fruit” (Matthew 21:43). (Judisch 1978) And again, more ominously in Luke 21:


“When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:20-24).


The Prophetic Gift of Healing


There has been mainstream media attention on healing and the “power of prayer” in recent years. Surveys of doctors and patients alike show an overwhelmingly positive attitude toward intercessory prayer to help patients recover from illnesses and manage pain. But prayer to whom? Biblical prayer is not a magical incantation people can use like a healing spell. (Keener 2011) Examples presented in the media show that a majority of Americans believe in the supernatural, much to the chagrin of David Hume, even if their Christianity is dubious, at best. (Keener 2011)

Pentecostals claim great success when it comes to miraculous healing. Keener says that, in the Pentecostal magazine, “The Evangel,” where miraculous healings are reported, maladies reported to have been healed range from sciatic nerve pain, to ulcers, to blindness, and even death. (Keener 2011) Keener reports the healing of a young boy from a skull fracture and hematoma, including neurological damage, after the parents persisted in prayer “six hours a day” for an extended period. The father was tempted to lose faith, but he “felt God speak” to him and assure him that that his child would be healed. (Keener 2011) What better way for Satan to drive a wedge between a man and his faith in Christ than to perform for him counterfeit healing miracles through the agency (or means, if you like) of a heretical teacher. He will get the healing he desires and, if he is not careful, he may take the healing as validation that the healer’s words, his doctrine, is given by God. Satan can only fool him if our hypothetical man does not heed Christ’s warning in Matthew 24.

The prophetic gift of healing is not the same thing as God healing a person, according to His will, in answer to prayer. Scripture calls us to bring our concerns and requests to the Lord in prayer. Receiving the answer to our prayer for healing, however, does not mean that God has given us the prophetic gift of healing; we should not, therefore, offer our prayer-healing services publicly for hire, or think that we are miracle workers.


The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12)…And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).


Part of the masquerade is that Satan and his false apostles and false ministers will perform miracles, signs, and wonders. When those through whom the devil performed such lying wonders cry out “Lord! Lord!” on the Day of Judgment, Christ will say, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” If we allow for the possibility of the enthusiastic theological idea that God speaks and interacts with men directly and without means, we enter dangerous territory. Satan, who is the father of lies, masquerades as an angel of light; he creates false signs and wonders to deceive. What is it to Satan if he physically heals your child, but separates you from God’s word and sacraments, which are the places where God has explicitly promised to give the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation?


The Prophetic Gifts in the End Times


The prophetic gifts served to authenticate prophets in the Old Testament, through the time of Christ. Now, in the End Times, signs and wonders such as speaking in tongues serve as signs to deceive people. Christ Himself warns His disciples to be on guard against such signs and wonders in Matthew 24. Such supernatural signs, or false prophetic gifts, are a mark of deviation from the faith. (Judisch 1978)


Jesus said, “At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time” (Matthew 24:23-25)…In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe (Hebrews 1:1-2).


The proclamation of the Gospel, as attested by the Apostles is the final stage in the revelation of God to the church on earth. (Judisch 1978) Christ Himself warns of serious consequences to those who would add to the words of “this book” (see Revelation 22:18). While He is obviously speaking of the book of His revelations to St. John, He certainly also means this warning to apply to scripture as a whole. Judisch argues that this is demonstrated in the way the revelation given to John is constructed. The tree of life calls back to Genesis; the book of Revelation is “a virtual mosaic of Old Testament allusions.” Moreover, it is the last of the words given by God, through the Spirit, to an Apostle. (Judisch 1978) Paul confirms this:


“Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:8-12).


Here, Paul concludes the famous love chapter of 1 Corinthians by telling the Corinthian church that the prophetic gifts – prophecy, tongues, and discerning spirits – will pass away. The fact that God has ended the prophetic gifts should make the Church happy and give us comfort. Judisch says that the cessation of the prophetic gifts proves that God the Father has accomplished His saving work for mankind through Jesus the Messiah. (Judisch 1978).

Various prophetic gifts have been given to men throughout biblical history, whom we call prophets, by the Holy Spirit to validate the message of the prophet. Indeed, “in the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.”[4] But now, in Christ Jesus, the perfection has come. He is the fulfilment and culmination of Holy Scripture. And, as Paul wrote, when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.[5] The prophetic gifts, poured out on the Apostles at Pentecost in fulfillment of the words of the prophet Joel,[6] and conferred to others by the laying on of apostolic hands, have died away in these last days because they have served their function. They are no longer necessary.

The signs and wonders of the prophetic gifts no longer serve as a validation of a prophet’s message, but as a sign that the prophet is false, and that according to Christ Himself. The canon of scripture, with the Revelation of Jesus Christ to St. John, has closed. Mankind has all that is necessary for forgiveness of sins, everlasting life, and salvation in the external word, the prophetic and apostolic scriptures, collected and preserved for us by the working of the Holy Spirit through the Church. The thing that each Christian is given to cling to, that will reassure them that they are connected to Christ and His righteousness, and that they are a child of God, is not the promise of a personal revelation or the manifestation of a prophetic gift, but rather their baptism. Holy Baptism connects us with Christ’s death and resurrection, clothes us with Christ, washes away our sins, and saves us by the resurrection of Christ. The Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the preaching of the Gospel through physical means. It is in Word and Sacrament where Christ has promised us forgiveness, life, and salvation, not in signs and wonders, or personal, inward encounters with God. It isn’t that God can’t cause signs and wonders to happen. God is able to do whatever He wants to do. If He chooses to give someone the gift of healing, of speaking a language that they previously did not know, of speaking to someone directly, He can and will. The issue is that God does not want to do these things. He has made that clear to us in His Word. ###



Judisch, Douglas. 1978. An Evaluation of Claims to the Charismatic Gifts. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

Keener, Craig S., 2011. Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts. Vol. 1 of 2. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic. Supernatural Claims in the Recent West.

McCain, Paul T., et. al., eds. 2005. Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions. A reader’s edition of the Book of Concord. The Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, The Comprehensive Summary, Foundation, Rule, and Norm, 3. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

—. Concordia: The Lutheran Confession. A reader’s edition of the Book of Concord. The Smalcald Articles VIII 3, 7-13. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

[1] Matthew 24:23-25

[2] Jude 1:3

[3] Mark 16:16; John 17:20; Acts 2:38; 11:14; Romans 1:16; 10: 14, 17; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Ephesians 5: 26; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; 3:15-17; Titus 3:5; James 1:21; 1 Peter 3:21

[4] Hebrews 1:1-2

[5] 1 Corinthians 13:8-12

[6] Joel 2:28-32

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