While the prophets often did present God’s revelation of the future, their calling had much more to do with how God’s people were living in the present. Today, Barry Cooper observes how the prophets reminded remind God’s people of their covenant obligations, culminating in the ultimate Prophet, Jesus Christ.
A friend and I once set ourselves up as financial consultants. Nothing particularly unusual about that, except for the fact we were sixteen at the time. We started offering advice to our school friends about how they should invest their pocket money, all for a very reasonable fee.
As chief marketing officer, I came up with a name for our corporation, and I was very pleased with it. It was called Profit Prophet. I spelled the first profit with an f, you see, and the second prophet with a ph. It was a very clever name, and as it turned out, the name was by far the cleverest part of the whole thing. Because in reality, neither of us were prophets with a ph, and therefore no one made any profit with an f. I remember his mortified parents making us give people their pocket money back.
I’m guessing that’s what most of us think of when we think of the word prophet. A prophet—a true prophet, as opposed to a false prophet—is a person who predicts the future and predicts it accurately. Biblically speaking, that’s true, but there’s more to it than that.
Mainly, the prophets’ role was to remind God’s covenant people of their covenant obligations. They were sent by God to call people to turn from their sin, put their trust in God, and fulfill their covenant obligations.
As we saw in another episode of Simply Put, the one about the offices of Christ, Jesus Christ is the ultimate Prophet.
A prophet in the Old Testament was someone through whom God spoke—predicting the future, yes, but also calling God’s people to repent and trust in Him. Hebrews chapter 1 places Jesus at the head of a long line of prophets:
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
Jesus Christ is also the ultimate Prophet because all the other biblical prophets point to Him. As the Apostle Peter says in the book of Acts: “To [Christ] all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Jesus, then, is not just a prophet, but the fulfilment of prophecy. In Deuteronomy, Moses says to the Israelites, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen.” In the book of Acts, both Peter and the early church leader Stephen show that Moses’ prophecy referred to Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself says, “Everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
Christ’s identity as a Prophet is repeatedly confirmed by His power. When Jesus raises a young man from the dead, we read: “Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has arisen among us!’”
Having heard His teaching, the people say, “This really is the Prophet.” In fact, the reason the religious authorities were afraid at first to arrest Jesus was precisely because the crowds were convinced Jesus was a Prophet. They cried out, at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, “This is the Prophet Jesus.”
Jesus also explicitly identifies Himself as a Prophet: “I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following,” says Jesus, “for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.”
But Jesus wasn’t just any prophet. Not only was He speaking to people on behalf of God as the earlier prophets did, but He spoke directly to them as God. In other words, Jesus doesn’t just speak prophetic words; He Himself is the prophetic Word of God, with a capital W.
Like the prophets of old, Jesus predicts the future. But it is a future in which He Himself is center stage, both as eternal Judge of the world and also as its everlasting King.
Like the prophets of old, Jesus calls people to repent and turn to God. However, unlike those prophets, this Prophet—being Himself God—called people to turn to Him.
He doesn’t just point the way to the Father, as the earlier prophets did; He Himself is the Way. Because it’s only through His death and resurrection that anyone is reconciled to God.