Do apostles or prophets exist today? Some people are outspokenly claiming to be apostles or prophets. Is this true; are they right? According to God’s word, apostles were called and picked directly from Jesus Christ. All of the apostles saw Jesus face to face. “The word ‘apostle’ in our English Bible is a transliteration of the Greek word apostolos. The actual translation would be something like “envoy, ambassador, messenger, sent one” (New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Brown, Vol. 1, 126). The verb apostello carries the notion of “to send with a particular purpose,” thus, apostolos would mean “one commissioned” or “accredited messenger” (New Bible Dictionary, Davis, 57-60).
Jerome, in translating the NT from Greek into Latin, rendered apostolos as the Latin root missio (the basis for our “missionary”). (2 Corinthians 12:12, NIV) The things that mark an apostle – signs, wonders, and miracles – were done among you with great perseverance. Gifts given to the prophets seem to have been a transient gift bestowed by the Christ for the laying of the substructure of the church. Prophets were essential to and for the church (Ephesians 2:20). The prophet proclaimed a message from the Lord to the
early believers. Sometimes a prophet’s message was revelatory (new revelation and truth from God) and sometimes a prophet’s message was predictive (see Acts 11:28 and 21:10). The early Christians did not have the complete Bible. Some early Christians did not have access to any of the books of the New Testament. The New Testament prophets “filled the gap” by proclaiming God’s message to the people who would not have access to it otherwise. The last book of the New Testament (Revelations) was not completed until late in the first century. So, the Lord sent prophets to proclaim God’s Word to His people.
We notice that the word “missionary” is not found in an English Bible. Yet essentially every evangelist believes in “missionaries.” “Missionary” is the charismatic equivalent of apostolos.
Foremost, the apostles had physically seen the resurrected Lord Jesus, who had been called by name; chosen by Jesus to represent Him. The apostles were trained directly by Jesus for their calling (compare 1 Co 15:8-9; Ga 1:11-2:10). This group consisted of spiritual heavyweights. They were the norm for doctrine and practice in the early church. It was they who authored or approved all books now in the NT canon of Scripture. They gave the prophecy of what is now available for “man” to “know.” There are no future revelations to be revealed, thus the prophets of old are NOT on the earth, for their work is done in
One objective for the apostles was evangelism. In talking of the apostles, Paul referred to apostles as “those who preach the gospel” (1 Co 9:14). Similarly, Timothy was charged to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Ti 4:5). Even a cursory reading of Acts will show this to be an important function for apostles. Another objective of those sent out by the church was to organize and strengthen the newly established churches. This was partially the reason for the one or two year stays. In 1 Thess. 5:21, Paul says, “test all things…” Take particular note that the above Scripture specifies that such spiritual gifts, if genuine, are manifested. Doesn’t that clearly imply that they should be real, palpable, and factual?
How do we know if they are? Let’s first look at a general classification of true and false prophets: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.” (Matt. 7: 15-18)
Now, how can we discern the pertinent fruits of a true and false prophet?
“But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ “When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.” “(Deut. 18:20-22)”
There are presumptuous (false) prophets today (Matt. 24: 5, 24). Some claim to be prophets, but, because they know this Scripture, they usually say that at a certain date this may happen or that may happen as if by their wishful thinking it will. Then they claim to have made the prediction, and if it doesn’t the word “may” is their escape clause.
It should be very elementary that a true prophet, one directly inspired by God, will make an unequivocal prediction that will come to pass! Are there true prophets today? I believe God is capable of anything. I will say this God does as He will, and if there are prophets “it is His will.”
Although the Bible mentions prophets yet to come, including Elijah (before the end of this age, Mal. 4:56) as well as the Two Witnesses (Rev. 11:3-12), these have yet to appear. Other Recommended Bible Study Materials: Can YOU Understand Bible Prophecy?
Paul planned a visit to Ephesus, but in case he was delayed he wrote instructions so that they would “know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household” (1 Ti 3:15). Timothy’s job was to “confide” the truth to “faithful men who will also be qualified to teach
others” (2 Ti 2:2).
Today, evangelism certainly corresponds with doing God’s work. That is, they have been sent out by the church to evangelize and to plant churches. Although “church planters” appear similar to apostles in that they start churches, we should be careful to call them apostles. Again the apostles were directly picked and called upon by Christ.
The New Testament does show a clear pattern for modern-day “church planters.” How then should these modern-day missionaries carry out their ministries? Looking in the Scriptures Ac 1-7, 8:12, 15:1-2; cp. Ga 1:11, 1:18, 2:1, 2:9; and Ac 21:17-18, “it appears that most of the Twelve worked out of Jerusalem for at least seventeen years (it was their base of operations). While there, the apostles devoted their time to evangelizing to the lost in Jerusalem and to empowering the saved. They also sometimes took short
missionary trips while operating out of Jerusalem.” (Ac 8:14, 25) When Paul went to Jerusalem in (Act 21:17-18), the apostles seem to have left. Only James was still there. However, looking again to the NT, it becomes obvious that near constant movement characterized many of the other first apostles. They itinerated, proclaimed, and preached the Gospel and organized churches. Rarely did these traveling apostles settle down permanently in one place. This is far different from what typically goes on in contemporary missions! So there is a difference concerning apostles (if you will) carrying out of missions of their calling.
Sporadic training stops were made in strategic locations, but then the mission continued. In one example, Paul spent one and a half years in Corinth (Ac 18:11), two years in Ephesus (19:8-10), and two years in Rome (28:31). He managed to extinguish the temptation of staying any longer. Similarly, Paul told the apostle Timothy to “stay in Ephesus so that [he] might command certain men not to teach false doctrines
any longer” (1 Ti 1:3). When his time was done there, Paul wrote for him to “do your best to get here before winter” (2 Ti 4:21). Despite what is commonly supposed, Timothy was an apostle to Ephesus, not a pastor there. Another example is Titus, left in Crete to “straighten out what was left unfinished” and to “appoint elders in every town” (Tit 1:5); once this was accomplished Titus was to join Paul at Nicopolis (Tit 3:12).
Apostles were higher than Elders, and their role is to the universal Church, whereas Elders are responsible for the training and matters in their local church. Apostles’ roles are temporary (in churches); they are in the business of appointing and training Elders. Once the Elders are trained well, the apostles would move on to the next church to which the Lord has instructed. Beneath the Holy Spirit’s leadership, no words accounted for in Scripture are unintentional or without significance. All authored Holy Scriptures were written for our profit. Just as we ignore NT patterns for ecclesiology to our peril, to disregard NT apostolic practices is unwise. The actuality of mobile, traveling, itinerant church workers is a New Testament pattern. Essentially, every church referred to in the NT was initiated by apostolic teams, and continued on in their affinity with these teams for years after their founding. “Your blood circulates all over your body, bringing in oxygen and taking away impurities. Itinerant church workers are to the church as the blood is to the body. Their ministry is a part of God’s design for growing, healthy churches. The NT pattern is for existing churches to send out church planters who will start new congregations in un-churched areas” (Atkerson).
To this day, we need the ministry of such men. These modern (apostles) church leaders can also serve existing churches by helping ground them in sound doctrine and practice. They serve as seminary professors on wheels, training and equipping church leaders in their local settings (1Ti 1:3; 3:14-15; 4:16, 13; 2Ti 1:13; 2:1-2, 14;4:1-5; Tit 1:5; 2:1-15). “Current or modern apostles are to be servants of the church, not lords over
it. Though they will naturally have the influential authority of an elder over the churches they begin, a modern apostle is really no higher in “rank” than any elder. Modern apostles are not like the Twelve of old. It must be remembered that the faith was “once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). No “new” teaching is needed. No essential theology has been withheld from the church. Thus, a church planter’s teaching must be in harmony with the preceding revelation from the Twelve. No doubt there will occasionally arise false teachers (apostles), and because of this, we must be like the Ephesians who “tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false” (Re 2:2) (Atkerson).
What are the biblical characteristics and ministry of apostles?
• Acts 2:4 They were filled with the Spirit.
• Acts 2:14-36 They preached the Word of God.
• Acts 3:1-8 They healed the sick.
• Acts 4:1-12 They were persecuted.
• Acts 5:1-11 They pronounced God’s judgment.
• Acts 5:12 They worked signs and wonders.
• Acts 5:42 They taught and preached Jesus Christ.
• Acts 6:1-6 They ordained deacons.
• Acts 8:14-17 They laid their hands on others to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
• Acts 8 and later chapters They founded and/or strengthened new churches.
• Acts 9:36-43 They raised the dead.
• Acts 10 They preached to the Gentiles.
• Acts 12:1-11 They were martyred, persecuted, and sometimes delivered.
• Acts 13:4 They were sent by the Holy Spirit (the root of the word “apostle” means “sent”).
• Acts 13:11 They pronounce a curse.
• Acts 14:21-22 They confirmed disciples in their faith.
• Acts 14:23 They ordained elders.
• Acts 15:1-21 They settled doctrinal disputations.
• Acts 16:18 They cast out demons.
• Acts 19:22 They sent forth other ministering men.
• Acts 20-28 lists further ministries that apostles performed.
• 1 Corinthians 3:10 They were wise master builders. They laid spiritual foundations.
• 1 Corinthians 4:14-15 The apostle Paul warned his “sons” in the faith.
• 1 Corinthians 7:1 They counseled and answered the saints’ questions.
• 1 Corinthians 11:34 They set churches in order.
• 2 Corinthians 11:28 Paul exercised “care of all the churches.”
• 2 Corinthians 13:10 They used their authority for edification.
• Ephesians 2:20 Apostles are part of the foundation of the church.
• Ephesians 3:3-5 They received revelation from God.
• Ephesians 4:11-12 They perfected the saints.
What are the biblical characteristics and ministry of New Testament, Christian prophets?
• Acts 11:27-28 They (1) did trans-local ministry and (2) they foretold future events.
• Acts 13:1 They can be among the leaders of a local church.
• Acts 15:32 They exhorted and confirmed the brethren, sometimes with “many words.”
• Acts 21:10-11 They may give personal, predictive prophecies.
• 1 Corinthians 14:29 They prophesied in church services.
• Ephesians 2:20 Prophets are part of the foundation of the church.
• Ephesians 3:3-5 Prophets may receive revelation from God.
• Ephesians 4:11-12 Prophets perfected the saints.
Should we identify and recognize apostles and prophets today? Certainly!
• Luke 6:13 “When morning came, [Jesus] called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles. If Jesus named them and designated and recognized them as apostles, how can we do otherwise? We must remember that JESUS called them.”
• Acts 14:4 “…the apostles Barnabas and Paul…” The New Testament, here and in many other verses, consistently recognized men by name in the office of apostle.
• 1 Corinthians 14:29, 32, 37 “Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said….  The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets… If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command.”
The early church – here, the church at Corinth – found it quite normal to have a prophet or prophets in the church.
• Acts 13:1 In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers.
Again, it was not unusual, but accepted, that there might be prophets (even plural prophets) in a local church. And the New Testament church recognized other Christian prophets by name:
• Agabus (Acts 11:28; 21:10).
Judas and Silas (Acts 15:32).
• He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward (Matthew
Why beat around the bush? Jesus tells us to receive someone who is a prophet “in the name of a prophet.” There is no biblical support for identifying certain ones as “evangelists, pastors, and teachers” and then identifying true apostles and prophets with man-made phrases like: “He has an apostolic [or prophetic] mantle.” As if the Lord has given three nouns (evangelist, pastor, teacher) and two adjectives (apostolic, prophetic)! No! Jesus said to receive a prophet “in the name of a prophet.” It’s time for the Church to
shake off the fear of man and return to biblical patterns.
May the body of Christ once again grow and thrive as we open our hearts to the God-given ministries of modern day, 21st-century apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. And may the Church recognize also the biblical, local-church ministries of God-called elders and deacons, as well as the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit
Revival can again break out in churches determined to search the Scriptures, to open their hearts to the ministries of God-given, modern-day apostles, and Christian prophets, and to “build … everything according to the pattern” (Hebrews 8:5) laid out by God in Scripture. These are scriptures for you to review, study, pray, and think on. I pray in Spirit that He will give us wisdom in Jesus’ name!
Tests For False Prophets
The Bible gives us two tests for detecting false prophets. “And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? When a prophet spiked 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: thou shalt not be afraid of him,” Deuteronomy 18:21-22.
The first test for a false prophet is his accuracy. True prophets were 100% accurate – not 95% or even 99%, but 100%. True prophets were controlled by God, so they never missed. If a prophet missed even one time, that “prophet” was a “false prophet.”
Those who claim to be prophets today miss all the time. The amazing thing, however, is that even though they predict things that do not come to pass, they do not lose their following. In the Old Testament, they would have lost their life. God so despised false prophets that in the verse prior to our last text, He instituted the death penalty for them.
“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 (Deuteronomy 18:20).”
There is a second test for false prophets. If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul (Deuteronomy 13:1-3).”
In this case, what the false prophet predicts comes to pass, but he is still a false prophet. God will sometimes allow this to test people to see if they love Him with all their heart. The test this time is in the message the prophet gives. Does it line up with scripture? Does it lead us into truth and following the God of the Bible? Or does it lead us into following a false god or into ERROR? Some of the greatest doctrinal heresy today comes from the mouths of those who claim to be prophets. We test these so-called prophets by examining whether or not what they teach lines up with the Bible. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try [test] the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world (1 John 4:1).”
It is the doctrine that is taught that is the test of the spirit behind the prophet. The Bible warns us that in the last days, many shall be deceived by evil spirits. “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils (1 Timothy 4:1).”
So, then, there are two tests for false prophets. First, a prophet has to be 100% accurate. If they miss even once, they are a false prophet. Secondly, a prophet must speak according to sound doctrine. Their message may not contain a doctrinal error. It must lead people in the way of truth and after the true God of the Bible.
Does God like it when people claim to speak for him? “Then the LORD said unto me, 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. Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and
famine shall not be in this land; By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed (Jeremiah 14:14-15).”
“I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart (Jeremiah 23:25-26).”
“Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD (Jeremiah 23:31-32).”
The last verse talks about the “lightness” of the false prophets. They do not take seriously the responsibility of claiming to speak for God. This is a serious matter. Much is lost for such men. Test those who claim to be this or that. Never stop praying for Jesus to give you truth. While it appears that most people would say there are no prophets, I am not willing to put a limit on God’s will nor the will of the Holy Spirit.
May the peace of the Lord dwell within you. May the Lord give us all the wisdom that we might see. See-through the “eyes” of truth and not through false ideologies and false doctrines. The only way to gain in this world is through the doctrine of the Bible. Some people have spoken of the doctrines of the Apostles; it is my opinion that the “true” doctrine of the Apostles is identical to that of the Bible. Be in good spirits and pray relentlessly without regard to fallacies and false teachings. Be steadfast in the Lord seeking that which is of the “Spirit” constantly. Be mindful of the Holy Scriptures and live by them to the best of your ability. Additionally, take the Word of God to the lost. Don’t wait for people to come to you. The Lord commands us to go to those who need Him. God gives wisdom freely. Ask yourself this. Can you afford to not partake in the free gift of eternal life and the fruits of the Spirit? Be in constant meditation on that which is of the Lord, and He will comfort you! He will not forsake you! How do I know? I know through
that which is spoken in His Word and the work that He is doing in me personally.
(© 2020 Andrew Cyr, M.Th)