NO CONTINUATION OF PROPHETS TODAY
By: Victor T. Stephens
"People often claim to hunger for truth, but seldom like the taste when it's served up."
~ George R.R. Martin
The Two Prophets in Revelation 11:3, 10
Non-cessationists charge that if prophecy has ceased, then why does Joel 2:28–32 and Revelation 11 allude to the future operation of this gift? Joel 2:28–32 depicts prophesying in the seven year Tribulation and millennium, and Revelation 11 points out two prophets during the seven year Tribulation period.
Non-cessationists fail to understand God's distinct and separate plans for the church and the nation of Israel. The cessation of the prophetic gifts in 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 are placed in the context of God's plans for the church age; whereas the carrying out of prophecy in Joel 2:28-32 and Revelation 11 is placed in the context of God's plans for the nation of Israel. Let's examine this further:
Romans 1:16 clearly states that the Gospel is to be preached to the Jews first. Paul says:
"For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation to the Jew first and also to the Gentile." (Romans 1:16)
God appointed the nation of Israel through whom Jesus would come and laid the groundwork for them through the covenants. Jesus arrived first to offer salvation and the kingdom to Israel. Christ said in Matthew 15:24:
"I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the House of Israel." (Matt. 15:24)
Jesus also stated in John 4:22:
"Salvation is of the Jews." (John 4:22)
Paul and the apostles adhered to God's divine plan to bring the Gospel to the Jews first. However, many of the Jews rejected Christ.
"Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. '''O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'" (Matt. 23:36-39)
In response to Jewish rejection of Jesus, Paul changed course and set out to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. Acts 18:6 says:
"But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, 'Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.'" (Acts 18:6)
Acts 13:46 states:
"Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: 'We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.'" (Acts 13:46)
Paul states in Acts 28:28:
"Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!" (Acts 28:28)
Since many of the Jews rejected Jesus, God's prophetic plan for the Jews was temporarily suspended. Thus, the early church gradually became a congregation of a faithful remnant of Jews (John 8:31-32) and Gentile believers. In Romans 11:17-23, Paul uses a metaphor of the root and branches to illustrate the unbelieving Jews, remnant Jewish believers, and Gentile believers.
"If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, 'Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.' Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again." (Romans 11:17-23)
"If some of the branches have been broken off" represent the Jews who rejected Jesus as their Messiah. On account of their rejection of Christ, they were uprooted from their position of God's chosen people.
"Wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others" represent the believing Gentiles who were "grafted in" among the remnant Jewish believers. These Gentiles had a share in the position of preference that had originally belonged entirely to the nation of Israel.
Verse 23 says, "And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again."
Although many of the Jews rejected Christ, God will give them an opportunity to repent of their unbelief. This process will begin during the seven year Tribulation period.
Now ... a proper understanding of Daniel 9:24-27 and the seven year Tribulation period will bring greater clarity to the primary theme of this segment.
Daniel 9:24-27 speaks of God's time schedule for the nation of Israel.
"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 Place. Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out 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 put to death 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 at 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)
This passage speaks of seventy (70) weeks, which at the conclusion, God's plans concerning Israel will have been fulfilled. Each week is equivalent to a period of seven years. Thus, seventy (70) weeks equals 490 years. This period of 490 years consist of two segments: A time period of 483 years or 69 weeks, which concluded with the death of Christ in A.D. 33; and one final seven-year period which is the seven year Tribulation period.
The last seven years of Daniels prophecy did not follow immediately after the first 483 years. Scripture makes a separation between the first 483 years and the coming seven year Tribulation period. Recall, God's prophetic clock for the Jews was temporarily suspended when they rejected Jesus.
Now ... since God has suspended His initial prophetic plans for Israel, the present day church age is set between God's past and future relationship with the Jewish people. The church age in which we now live will end at the Rapture. The two prophets or "witnesses" of Revelation 11 are on earth during the coming seven year Tribulation which follows the church age. Thus, the church has been removed during the time these two prophets appear. It is at that point in time God resumes His prophetic clock for Israel and concludes His judgment of the unbelieving world (Daniel 9:24). The two "witnesses" are old covenant prophets, not new covenant prophets. Notice that temple worship will be reinstated during this time (Rev. 11:1), while there is no temple (building) during the current church age.
Let's now examine Joel 2:28-32. It says:
"And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, even among the survivors whom the Lord calls." (Joel 2:28-32)
Previously in this chapter, devastation was sworn for Israel on account of their refusal to repent (Joel 2:1-11). However, the Lord did not permanently reject Israel; for He would considerably bless them at a prospective time in the future (Joel 2:19-27). In verses 28-32, the Lord promised Israel that He would pour out His Spirit on all people. This outpouring of the Holy Spirit is mentioned in Isaiah 44:3:
"For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants." (Isaiah 44:3)
The same Spirit who empowered the Old Testament prophets is promised to return at a future time in Israel. Joel 2 is the continuity between Old Testament and New Testament prophecy. Thus again, the two "witnesses" are old covenant prophets in Israel, not new covenant prophets from the church age.
That said, in Joel 2:28-32, this prophecy is aimed toward the nation of Israel during the seven year Tribulation period, not the church in our current day. In Acts 2:18, Peter quoted this passage only in the sense of illustrating the semblance of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit during Pentecost with that same outpouring of the Holy Spirit during the seven year Tribulation. Remember, the church is gone by the time the prophecy of Joel 2 is fulfilled.
Why is this important to know? Because before the church age ends with the Rapture, Christians now have the completed Word of God. Thus, the prophetic gifts ceased after the Book of Revelation was completed around 95 A.D. Therefore there is no longer any need for prophecy. God's final will for the church is complete.
Now by comparison, it should be clear that the tribulation period is distinct from the current church age. Prophets will be necessary during that period of time to verbally communicate the will of God to the nation of Israel, not the church. Again, this explains the two prophets in Revelation 11:3, 10. The seven year Tribulation will end with the fulfilling of Daniel's prophecy, which will end the old covenant period that was suspended by God when the Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah.