Jesus - The Prophet
Fr. Thomas Hopko · July 20, 2009
When the Bible refers to Jesus as The Prophet, is it saying He is able to predict the future or is it something much deeper?
One of the titles for Jesus as the Messiah is the prophet. Again we have the definite article, not a prophet, but the prophet: the final prophet, the last prophet. And here, of course, we have to see again how all of this is prepared in the Old Testament. Actually, in the beginning of the Old Testament, in the first pages, the first parts of the Old Testament, the prophets didn’t have a very good reputation. They were mostly false frenzies, as it says in Psalms, or false prophets, kind of ecstatics, caught up in all kinds of spirits uttering all kinds of things, and they didn’t have a great reputation among those who were followers of God and followers of the Law. There were these kind of bands of nevi, of prophets who were going around saying all kinds of things and even very often accused by the people of Israel as being inspired by demons or inspired by baal’im and by their own ecstasies and frenzies and so on.
Nevertheless, it is also true that in the old covenant, you have those who were real prophets, those who really were inspired by God, called by God, spoke the word of God, and here, of course, we have to just define what we mean when we say prophet. What is a prophet? Most people think of prophets as a person who predicts the future, who tells what’s going to happen, and that very often is the case that when the prophet is inspired by God, they do say what is going to befall the people, especially they say, if they do not repent. If the people do not change, if they do not keep the law of God, if they do not follow His paths, if they do not keep themselves from the idols, then the prophet of God declares what will come upon them. And that is where you get the imagery of the prophet, first of all, as a kind of predictor of the future and a foreteller of doom and destruction: the one who says that God’s destroying power and punishment is going to come upon the people because of their sins. That is certainly true.
However, we have to see that the term prophet is, you might say, deeper and wider than that. The prophet, basically, is the person who is inspired by God. The Lord’s prophet, God’s prophet, is the one upon whom God’s spirit, God’s own spirit, is dwelling, that it is the Spirit of God, not the elemental spirits of the universe or the evil spirits, or the idolatrous spirits, or the dark spirits, but the very Spirit of God himself: the ruach Yahweh, the Spirit of the Lord. And then the prophet is filled with the Spirit in order to proclaim the davar Yahweh, the Word of the Lord. We have already commented many times about how in the Holy Scripture, when God acts, when the Lord God acts, he always acts by his word, his davar, which is his spoken word, his proclamation, his truth, his wisdom, but that word “word” davar, means God’s action, God’s presence, God’s thing, God’s doing, God’s work, and the work of God, the word of God, the davar Yahweh, the logos Kuriou, or the logos tou Theou, is always accompanied by the ruach Yahweh, or the pneuma Theou, the spirit of God, the wind, the breath of God because the word is always a vivifying word, a living word, an active word.
As it says in the letter to the Hebrews, the word of God is living and active, sharper than a two-edged sword, cutting through bones and marrow. And then that Spirit of God is there, and the word is always meaningful. It’s always carrying a truth, a power, and that power is because of the Holy Spirit. So when we read the Scripture, we see, as St. Iraneus said, we mentioned this already several times, that God always acts by his word and his spirit, and they always go together. St. Iraneus says that God’s word and God’s spirit are his two hands, and he never acts with one hand. He always acts with two hands, and the two hands always go together, the word and the spirit go together. St. John of Damascus, the great Christian saint around the 9th century, 8th century, 7th century I think, I’m not sure exactly, John of Damascus, his dates, but certainly he was at the time of iconoclasm, and he defended the holy icons which were attacked in the 8th century. So John is an eight century man. But John has that wonderful sentence in his treatise on the Orthodox faith where he says, God never speaks without breathing, and he never breathes without speaking. His breath always contains a word and his word is always living, vivified, breathing, alive, and so this is how we understand and speak about God.
So you have these prophets, the real prophets, the true prophets, who speak the word of God because they’re inspired by the word of God. And being inspired by the word of God, they proclaim the word of God. They proclaim the truth. They proclaim what God is doing, what God is wanting, what God is telling, what God is commanding. And here, it is very important to see that in the Holy Scripture, the prophets are not at all opposed to the Law. The prophets are proclaiming the word of God that is enshrined in the Law of Moses. In fact, Moses himself is considered to be the first, among the first of the prophets. Certainly in the Orthodox Church, when we commemorate Moses liturgically, he’s always called the prophet, the God-seer, the one who speaks God’s words, who brings God’s word, vivified by God.
So, we have to see because sometimes people think that prophets are opposed to teachers or to scribes or to priests and that would not be the biblical teaching. In fact, some of the prophets were priests like Ezekiel. The priesthood and the prophets are not opposed to each other. In some of the jargon of my earlier theological studies, they would say, people would say that the institution is opposed to the event, and that the event judges the institution. And sometimes even people see that in the New Testament where you have the institution being the twelve apostles headed by Peter, and then Paul becomes the great symbol of the event, the one that God raises up directly. But as in the New Testament, Peter and Paul they may have clashed in the beginning and may have had misunderstandings, but ultimately they have one mind, one spirit, one word, one life, one truth, and they go together. And the priests and the apostles like Peter, they’re not any less inspired than the prophets because the priest himself has to be an inspired servant of God, a prophetic servant of God. The teacher, as we spoke about Jesus being a teacher, has to be a prophetic teacher. He’s not a teacher simply in a scholastic or academic way, quoting words from a page, but he is a lively speaker, a speaker whose words are anointed with the Holy Spirit, whose words are filled with the Holy Spirit, inspired by the Spirit.
So we do not oppose teacher and prophet and priest to each other. We do not do that, and in fact, when you read about the prophets, the prophets are always calling people to follow God’s law. They’re always calling people to treat the temple properly. They’re always calling people, and even calling the priests themselves to do their jobs and do their tasks properly according to the will of God, to make right offerings to the Lord, and to offer the offerings in the right spirit, and certainly not to go after false idols and so on.
So, we have the true prophets and very often, of course, in Holy Scriptures, the true prophets are rebuking the false prophets. And you always have false prophets, you have false teachers. You have corrupted priests. You know, you find this throughout the Holy Scripture. One of my teachers used to say, the Lord God Almighty instituted the holy priesthood, the temple, the worship. He gave the law, the teachings, and then he sent prophets to rebuke those who did not follow these teachings and this worship properly and then he sent the true prophets even to rebuke the false prophets, to say that there are those who prophesy but not from God. They say “thus says the Lord”, and it’s not the Lord. You find this throughout even the writings of the prophets themselves.
Certainly you have the teachings of the prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel and Hosea and Amos and Zephaniah and Malachi. They’re all saying prophesying against the false prophets. Just for example, there are some fiery words, for example, of Jeremiah who says the following in the fifth chapter. An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land. The prophets prophesied falsely, and the priests rule at their direction. My people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes? So you have Jeremiah saying these things. Again, I could read to you from Jeremiah. He says, from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain, from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have healed the wound of my people lightly saying peace, peace, when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed. They did not know how to blush. In fact, that particular section is quoted verbatim twice in the prophecy of Jeremiah.
So you have these teachings. Let me give you some more from Jeremiah concerning the prophets. My heart is broken within me. All my bones shake. I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine because of the Lord and because of his holy words. For the land is full of adulterers because the curse of the land mourns the pasture of the wilderness are dried up. Their course is evil, their might is not right. Both prophet and priest are ungodly. Even in my house I have found their wickedness says the Lord. Then he continues, they speak visions of their own minds. Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They say continually to those who despise the words of the Lord, it shall be well with you. I did not send the prophets, yet they ran. I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. So you have the Lord saying, behold therefore, I am against the prophets, says the Lord, who steal my words from one another. Behold I am against the prophets, says the Lord, who use their tongues and say, says the Lord, but behold, I am against the prophets, those who prophesy lying dreams, saying the Lord, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness when I did not send them or charge them, so they do not profit this people at all says the Lord. When one of this people or a prophet or a priest asks you, what is the burden of the Lord, you shall say to them, you are the burden, and I will cast you off, says the Lord,
So, there is a lot in Holy Scripture, Old Testament and New Testament, even in the Christian time, the writings of the New Testament are especially like Timothy, Titus, Jude, they’re talking about the false prophets. Those who claim to be prophets but are not prophets, but that does not mean that there are not the true prophets. And here in the Old Testament, already in the time of Moses, and then certainly in the time of Elijah, who is fighting with all those baal’im false prophets, there is the appeal to true and proper prophecy. For example, in the law of Moses, in the book of Numbers, for example, there were two men in the camp named Eldad and Medad and the spirit of the Lord rested on them, and they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent. And so they prophesied in the camp. And the young men ran and told Moses, Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp. And Joshua, the son of Nun, the minister of Moses, one of his chosen men said, my lord Moses, forbid them, but Moses said to him, are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets that the Lord would put his spirit upon them? And Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.
That expression of Moses, would that all the Lord’s people were prophets that the Lord would put his spirit upon them, that is picked up in the New Testament, saying that as a matter of fact, in the Messianic prophet, the prophet Jesus Christ, who is also the great high priest, who is also the teacher, the rabbi, who is also the king, the judge, the lord, the Christ, all things, Jesus is everything, they’re going to say that in Jesus, those who are baptized into Christ and die with him, they all receive the Spirit of God, and then the New Testament becomes a prophetic community, a community of prophets and priests as it will say in the book of Revelation, and in the Holy Scripture.
So we have this element of true prophecy. Those really inspired by God who really pronounce the word of truth, the word of God who do so under the direct inspiration and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. So it even speaks about the spirit of God coming upon a prophet that his mouth would be opened and that he would speak the word of the Lord and pronounce it to the people. Now, also, extremely important, in the Old Testament, is the teaching of Moses in the Law, that God was going to raise up a prophet in the last day like himself, like Moses, and then Moses says that if the people do not receive this prophet, the prophet, that last final prophet, then they are lost. Then there is nothing more for them to hope in. And this is how it is written in Deuteronomy. It’s the 18th chapter.
Moses says, the Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brethren, him you shall heed, just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, nor see this great fire anymore lest I die. And the Lord said to me, they have rightly said all that they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brethren. I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him and whoever will not give heed to my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. But the prophet who presumes to speak the word in my name which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die. And if you say in your heart how may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or does not come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously, and you need not be afraid.
Now, let’s hear this again. The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from among your brethren. Him you shall heed. And then it says, again, I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brethren, and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not give heed to my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. Now, this is very important because one of the expectations in the last time was that that prophet would appear, the one that Moses foretold, the prophet that’s raised up from among the brethren that would speak the words of God, and if you do not heed him, it would be required of you. You will not be saved so to speak. That word will condemn you. That word will judge you. Now, in the New Testament, we see the witness that that prophet, that prophet is Jesus. That prophet is Jesus. He is the prophet. And it’s the prophet with a definite article, not a prophet, but the prophet. He is the prophet that God sends.
Now, we see this in a couple of places, very explicitly. First of all, we see this in the Gospel According to St. John. When John the Baptist comes out preaching and teaching and baptizing the people, the leaders of the Jews come to him and start questioning him about what he’s doing and why he is doing it, and what is going on there? You know, who is he anyway? Is he the Christ? Why is he doing these things? And in St. John’s Gospel, it’s very interesting that when John is questioned, when they question him, the way they question him is by asking him these questions: Are you the prophet? Are you the Christ? Who are you anyway? And this is how it reads. We have John coming out, and the Pharisees come to him, and they ask him: why then are you baptizing? Who are you? And the priests and the Levites also came to ask him, who are you? And here we have in the 20th verse already of the first chapter of St. John’s Gospel, John confessed: he did not deny, but he confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, what then? Are you Elijah? And he said, I am not.
Now that’s an important question because at the time the idea was that when the Christ would come, Elijah would come from heaven. Elijah was whisked up into heaven in a fiery ball of chariot, and he was going to come again. He was going to be the forerunner of the Messiah. So they asked John, are you Elijah, and it’s very interesting that he says that he’s not Elijah, but in the Synoptic gospels, when the disciples ask Jesus, isn’t Elijah supposed to come to be your forerunner, it does say that Jesus spoke to them about John the Baptist. So it becomes kind of a confusing thing. One time, even a woman wrote me a letter, a woman from Carnegie, PA wrote me a letter a number of years ago saying, is John the Baptist Elijah reincarnated? And I had to answer her, no, but Elijah means the man of God. And John the Baptist is that man of God who is a forerunner. But probably the confusion was best cleared up by St. John Chrysostom. This is what he claimed. He said, John the Baptist is the man of God, the Elijah, who comes as the forerunner for Jesus into his kenotic crucifixion in the form of a slave. John the Baptist is the forerunner of Jesus, even into Hades. He is the one who announces that Christ is the Lamb of God who comes to take upon himself the sin of the world, and we find that in St. John’s Gospel right in the very first chapter.
John says it, behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. After me comes a man who ranks before me for he was before me. So Chrysostom says, John the Baptist is the one who prepares the way of the Lord to the cross, to his death, into Hades, and then when he’s raised and glorified and taken up into heaven, John the Baptist says perhaps when the Lord appears in glory from heaven, Elijah, the original Elijah, the one that gotten taken up in the fiery chariot, will be the forerunner of the second coming. John the Baptist is the forerunner of the first coming, and Elijah the forerunner of the second coming, and then that idea is kind of enforced or led to be considered to be possible because as a matter of fact at the transfiguration of Christ on Tabor in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets, both of whom are considered prophets and prophetic inspired by the Spirit of God, they appear with Jesus on the mountain, and they are worshipping him.
They are glorifying him, they are honoring and adoring him as the messianic king, as the Son of God, and certainly as the prophet, the prophet who Moses predicted. So in any case, when John is asked, are you the Christ, he says no. They asked him are you Elijah, he said I am not. Then they ask him, are you the prophet. It’s very important. The prophet. It’s a definite article. Ho prophetes. The prophet. Are you the prophet? And that meant that last final prophet, that messianic prophet, the prophet after whom there would be no prophets. And John answers and says no. I am not the prophet. He said to him then, who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself, and he says, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord as the prophet Isaiah said. Then they asked him, why are you baptizing then if you are neither the Christ nor Elijah nor the prophet? And John answers, I baptize with water, but among you stands one whom you do not know, even he who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie. This took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan where John was baptizing.
So John says I am not the prophet. I am not the prophet. Now, that expression the prophet is a messianic title. The messiah is the prophet, the Christ is the prophet. God’s son who was made Christ and Lord through what he suffers, he is the prophet. Now, we have to think a little bit about John the Baptist again though. Because Jesus claims in the gospels that John the Baptist whom he calls a shining lamp that the people did not follow, who is burning brightly, John says about John the Baptist not only that he was a burning and shining lamp in whom you were willing to rejoice for awhile, but in his light, and then John bore witness to Christ, and Jesus says, there’s a testimony that’s even greater than John the Baptist. It’s the testimony of God the Father. It’s the testimony of the Holy Spirit. It’s his own testimony by his own words, by his own works, by his own deeds. These all bear witness to him. But about John in the synoptic gospels, in Mark and in Luke and in Matthew, Jesus insists that John is the greatest of the prophets. That among the regular prophets you might say, the nearly human prophets, John’s the greatest, and he’s the last. He’s the greatest, and he’s the last. And that no one born of woman even, according to Jesus, is greater than John the Baptist.
That’s amazing that Jesus says such a thing. That of all those born of woman, there is no one greater than John. He says, but even the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than John. Now usually that is interpreted to mean that John dies before the kingdom comes, so to speak. He is in Sheol. He has to be delivered from death by the messianic king when he dies, and sometimes even in our Orthodox piety, where it says the least in the Kingdom of Heaven, meaning those who have received the Spirit and have entered into eternal life, is somehow symbolized by Christ’s mother Mary, the least in the kingdom is greater than John. And that’s why in Orthodox iconography, especially the most original earliest iconography, you have Christ enthroned, and then John the Baptist is one side, and the Virgin Mary Theotokos, is on the other. And so, John is like the final greatest man, the greatest near-human being, born of woman, the greatest prophet, the last of the prophets of old, he is adoring and worshipping Christ who is the messianic prophet, and then of course, Christ’s mother Mary who also conceives of the Holy Spirit, who receives the Holy Spirit, who is in the upper room at Pentecost getting the Holy Spirit with the other disciples, she is also adoring her son as her Lord and as her God.
Now that expression, the prophet, not a prophet is the prophet is used several times in the Gospel According to St. John. It’s used several times, not just in the beginning when John is asked are you the prophet, but it’s used also, for example, in the sixth chapter of St. John. In the sixth chapter of St. John where you have Jesus multiplying the loaves and the feeding the people and then launching into that very long discourse of himself about “I am the bread of life.” We will meditate on that in the future, Jesus as the bread, the living bread that comes down from heaven, but when he is multiplying the loaves, the people saw the sign that he had done, and they say, this is truly, this is indeed the prophet, ho prophetes, who is to come into the world. So they proclaim him as the prophet, but a prophet, but the prophet. Sometimes he’ll be called a prophet, even in St. John’s gospel.
For example, the Samaritan woman will say, I perceive sir that you are a prophet. When the blind man from birth who was healed by Jesus is asked who healed you, then he says, Jesus, and they say well who is this Jesus anyway, and he says, well perhaps he is a prophet, a prophet. But there is also that expression the prophet. When John is asked if he is the prophet, he says no. When Jesus multiplies the loaves, the people say, this is truly the prophet who is to come into the world. You have that expression also used in the seventh chapter of St. John’s Gospel where Jesus is speaking about the living water, and he will give the Holy Spirit to those who believe in him when he is glorified, and if they drink this water, they will never thirst again. You have that already in the fourth chapter in the conversation with the Samaritan woman, but in the seventh chapter, you have this line, when they heard these words, some of the people said, this is really, this is truly, the prophet. Others said this is the Christ, and of course that amounts to the same thing. The Christ, the prophet and the prophet is the Christ. And again, it’s ho prophetes. There’s a definite article. He is the prophet.
Now, of course when we think about these things, we can’t help but think about Islam because of course, the Muslims exclaim and proclaim that the final and ultimate prophet is Mohamed. And the Muslims think that Jesus is a prophet. They even think he’s one of the greatest prophets before Mohamed, but for Muslims, he’s only a prophet. He is one who is anointed by God, who is filled with the spirit, who speaks the word of God. In the Koran, Jesus is even born of a virgin. In the Koran, Jesus is not crucified however because God’s prophet cannot be put to death by a degrading, humiliating death. He can die a natural death, but he cannot be viciously put to death, but the Muslims think that the final prophet is Mohamed. But of course, we Christians would say the final prophet who is merely human, the last and the greatest is John the Baptist. He is the new Elijah. He is the Elijah who foreruns the Christ into Hades, into the realm of death. He dies himself getting his head cut off. So even that prophet, the greatest prophet dies a violent death in the Christian tradition, which according to Islamic tradition cannot happen, Islamic teaching. But Jesus is the Son of God. He is divine. He becomes human and as a man, he is the ultimate final prophet. He is the messianic, anointed prophet.
Now, this is testified to very specifically in the Book of Acts, in the Book of Acts. It is testified to when Peter is preaching. Now, Peter gives the very first sermon in Christian history, at least according to the Book of Acts, constructed in such an elegant manner by St. Luke, and he announces that this Jesus who is crucified, God makes both Christ and Lord, exalting him from the dead and placing him upon the throne and referring to that most quoted sentence in the Old Testament, the Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I make thine enemies a stool for thy feet. So, Peter preaches on the very first day of Pentecost, that Jesus is the risen Lord. He is the messianic king who enters his glory as the suffering servant by being crucified. Now, in the third chapter of Acts however, Peter preaches again, Peter and John go to the temple. They heal a man who is paralyzed at the gate that’s called beautiful. The man jumps and clings to Peter and John, all the people run together, they see what happens. And Peter says to the people, men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us as though by our own power or authority we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our fathers glorified his servant or his child, that’s the name in Isaiah for the suffering servant, Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate when he had decided to release him. But you denied the holy and the righteous one and you asked for a murderer to be granted to you and you killed the author of life whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses, and his name, by faith in his name, has made this man strong whom you see and know, the faith which is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.
Then Peter continues, and this is what he says: And now brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance by killing Jesus, he means, and so did also your rulers. They acted in ignorance. You know, Jesus from the cross cries out, Father forgive them. They know not what they do. They’re in ignorance. They acted in ignorance. Then Peter continues, but what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets. So the claim is that all the prophets have said is fulfilled in Jesus. He is the fulfillment of the Law, and the Prophets, and the Psalms and everything. And in fact, in Luke’s gospel, the same man that wrote Acts, it says very explicitly that when Jesus was raised from the dead that he opened the understandings of the minds of the apostles that they would understand that he had to be crucified and suffer to enter his glory, and so he opens their minds to understand how everything, all things, in the Law and the Psalms and the Prophets, are about him, his crucifixion and his glorification.
So you have Peter saying this also in the Book of Acts. He said this: But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets that his Christ should suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and turn again that your sins may be blotted out that times of refreshing, of renewal it means, may come, apo prosopou tou kuriou, from the presence, or from the face of the Lord. This time of renewal, of revivication, refreshment will come from the face of the Lord. And by the way, the Holy Scriptures will claim, certainly the Apostle Paul will claim, that when people resist Christ and don’t want Christ and don’t want life, the very judgment comes upon them, prosopou tou kuriou, from the face of the Lord. So from the face of the Lord, the presence of the Lord comes mercy and life and refreshment and renewal for those who love him and receive him, and judgment and torment for those who do not.
And then, Peter continues here: That he may send the Christ, appointed for you, Jesus. Repent again that your sins may be blotted out, the times of refreshment may come from the presence of the Lord, and that the Lord God may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old. So he says Jesus is raised and glorified, and he will return, and he will establish all that God spoke by the mouths of his holy prophets from of old. Then Peter continues, Moses said, and now we have the reference to Deuteronomy 18 that was made a few minutes ago. Moses said, the Lord God will raise up for you a prophet from your brethren as he raised me up. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you, and it shall be that every soul that does not listen that prophet shall be destroyed from among the people. And all the prophets who have spoken from Samuel and those who came afterwards also proclaimed these days, you are the sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God gave to your fathers saying to Abraham, and in your posterity, in your seed, shall all the families of the earth be blessed. God, having raised up his servant, Jesus, sent him to you first to bless you and turning everyone of you from your wickedness.
Now what we want to focus on right now and emphasize is that line, Moses said, the Lord God will raise up for you a prophet. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you, and it shall be that every soul that does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from among the people. So, that prophet. It’s interesting by the way that the King James Version of scripture, the translation, King James Version, in St. John’s Gospel wherever it says “ho prophetes”, the prophet, the translators write “that” prophet. So they, in the King James, if you read the King James Bible, when they ask John the Baptist, are you that prophet, and then in those other texts it will say, he is that prophet, surely truly, really, he is that prophet, because you have that definite article.
So what we want to see now and what we have seen is that Jesus is that prophet. He is the prophet. He is the divine, theandric prophet, the divine human prophet. He’s not even numbered the prophets in the usual listing. John the Baptist is the last of the greatest. He’s like beyond it. He’s of another genus as you might say. He’s of another monaganis. There’s only one of his kind. There aren’t any other kinds of human beings. There aren’t any other kinds of lords and christs and teachers and prophets and kings and judges that are even like him. All of them prefigure him. All of them point to him. All of them are fulfilled in him. All are types of him. But he’s unique. He is unique. He is God’s son. He’s the Word incarnate, and being the Word incarnate, he is that prophet. That one that Moses spoke about, the unique one, the final one. That’s who Jesus is.
Now, we have also just mentioned in conclusion that it is certainly the Christian teaching that those who are baptized into Christ and receive the Holy Spirit by chrismation who are members of the Church, are supposed to be, and as God is concerned, really are, made to be prophets. We are made to be prophets. We are all supposed to be prophetic. The main gift that every one of us is supposed to have as a Christian is the gift of prophecy. That’s certainly the teaching of the Holy Scriptures that all Christians, all human beings, are supposed to be prophets, and that’s why you have that saying of Moses: would that all God’s people were prophets. The Christians believe that that is fulfilled with the coming of the Messiah. That’s fulfilled with the coming of Jesus when he puts his Spirit, the very spirit of God, upon all the people that they would become a prophetic people, that they would be a kingdom of prophets and priests, a prophetic people, a people filled with the Spirit who live only by the Holy Spirit. This is what is contained and spoken of in the Scriptures.
Now it’s also the teaching, however, just like when it comes to the teachers, as we mentioned previously, everyone is supposed to be a teacher or a prophet or a prophetic teacher. Every member of the Church is supposed to be, every human being in Christ is supposed to be. Nevertheless, in the Christian body, in the Christian community, there are some people, some members, who have the particular gift of prophecy just as there are some who have the particular gift of healing or have the particular gift of teaching. So this is what we see in the New Testament. There is a charismatic gift, a particular charisma for some of the people to be prophets. And we know that the New Testament even refers to and mentions them. For example, in the book of Acts, the daughters of Philip, the women there are considered to be prophets, the daughters of Philip who prophesied.
In the letter to the Corinthians of course, there is a problem with this whole prophetic teaching because the Corinthians are kind of an ecstatic community with tongues and glossolalia and all kinds of stuff, very similar to those ecstatic charismatic, nebi, the prophets that we find and hear about in the Old Testament, and sometimes they get carried away and sometimes the spirit is not the Spirit of God and they need to be sobered up. They need to be checked so to speak, they need to have a person like St. Paul and those guiding them in the variety of their gifts to make sure that they are gifts of God. But in the letter to the Corinthians, for example, it’s really when St. Paul speaks about all the various gifts that are given, he speaks about the particular gift of prophecy. He says the Holy Spirit is given for various purposes: for the utterance of knowledge according to the spirit, faith according to the spirit, gifts of healing of the one spirit, the working of miracles, the ability to distinguish between spirits, but he also says to another prophecy is given, the gift of prophecy. And then when there’s an argument about these charismatic gifts and the spiritual gifts and which are the best and what’s important, Jesus said the only important thing is love, and you could have all these charismata and all these gifts, but if you don’t have love, it’s nothing and it profits you nothing and basically you simply go to hell with all your gifts. So the gifts are for the upbuilding, the encouragement, the consolation of the Church, and love should be the aim. Love is ultimately, God is love. That is the teaching.
Nevertheless, he says, God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues, he said are all apostles, are all prophets, are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? He says no. Obviously they all do not. But the more excellent way is the way of love. But then he says, make love your aim and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, and then it says, especially that you may prophesy. Especially that you may prophesy, for one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God for no one understands him, but on the other hand, he who prophesies speaks to men. And then he says three reasons that the prophet speaks for: edification, exhortation, and consolation. Upbuilding, encouragement, and comfort.
This is what the real prophetic gift is. And that’s very important to know, that in the New Testament, the prophetic gift is to utter the word of God for the building up of the body, the building up of the Church for edification, ekodomi, in Greek. Building up. Not tearing down, not factious, not separating, and St. Paul was very concerned that a lot of these charismatics were separating from the Church. They were causing trouble. They were not upbuilding. They were carried away by all kinds of things. They were even misusing their gifts that even God had given them. So he says, you got to be careful about that. And way back, you might daresay, you might say, way back in the Sermon on the Mountain, Jesus Christ himself our Lord in this Christian Torah, in his teaching in Matthew on the Sermon on the Mountain, he says not everyone who says Lord, Lord shall enter the kingdom but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven and the will of the Father is to love.
So Jesus says on that day, many will say to me, Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not cast out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty works in your name? Three times it says “in your name.” And then Jesus says, then will I declare to them, I never knew you, depart from me you evildoers. So God can give his spirit to people to prophesy, to cast out demons, and to do miracles, and that person himself or herself might be lost because they’re not doing it out of the love of God. Nevertheless, St. Paul says to the Thessalonians, do not quench the spirit. Do not despise prophesying. He says it very, very particularly in the letter to the Thessalonians. Do not quench the Holy Spirit. Do not despise prophesying. Test everything, hold fast to what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. So, prophesying is part of the story. It’s got to be there, but it can’t be false prophesying. It can’t be self-centered prophesying. It’s got to be prophesying, really by the spirit of God, the truth of God, and the one who prophesies has to be a person who loves, and the person who is loving prophesies for three reasons according to the Apostle Paul: for edification, for exhortation, and for consolation. And this is how we understand what the prophet is. The prophet is the one inspired by God who pronounces and proclaims the word of God by divine inspiration for the sake of the edification, the upbuilding, the encouragement, the exhortation, the consolation, and the comfort of God’s own people.
So, the prophet is Jesus. And he gives the Spirit to those who are baptized in his name, the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. He gives the Spirit to those who believe in him or who obey him, and they become a company, a prophetic people. And that very same spirit is given to some people particularly to be very specifically prophets of the Lord. But what we know now is this, the Lord, himself, is the prophet, and the prophet is the Lord, Jesus Christ the Lord is the messianic prophet, the unique prophet, the ultimate prophet, the prophet different from all other prophets, just like he’s a king different from all other kings and a priest different from all other priests. We’ll talk about that. That he’s a teacher different from all other teachers. He is the unique one. But for Christians, for all Christians, there’s only who is that prophet, the prophet. That one is Jesus of Nazareth who is made Christ and Lord through what he suffers. Jesus, the son of God, the Messiah, is the prophet, that unique prophet.