Last weekend my wife and I went shopping and we noticed a new children’s game called, “Fortune Telling Fun”. The makers of the game probably think it’s just a bit of fun, but it’s really not. The Bible prohibits all unauthorised or illegitimate communication with the supernatural, spiritual world; whether through fortune tellers, the occult or modern-day mediums because of the tremendous danger involved. Little attention is paid to the Bible’s warnings today. In African Traditional Religion many visit the witchdoctor or sangoma who communicates with the spirits and ancestors. Many people today claim to receive messages from the spirit world and angels, then write books about it. Even some Christians claim to receive “words” from God which they in turn relate to other unsuspecting believers. All throughout history people have sought to communicate with the spirit-world in order to receive guidance, help and advice.
The Bible has some important things to say about communication with the spiritual world.
1. God spoke to his people through the prophets
In Deuteronomy 18:9-22 God tells his people the one legitimate way the supernatural world communicates with us is through the prophets who speak on behalf of God. The Bible presupposes the existence of a supernatural, spirit world from the very first verse in Genesis. This spiritual world consists of God, Satan, angels and demons. Moses also lists some of the illegitimate ways of communication with this spiritual world (v9-14). These include mediums, fortune tellers, necromancers and the like. One of the reasons these are forbidden is that more often than not one would be communicating with demons.
What is a prophet?
V18 gives us a good definition of a prophet when God says, “And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” A prophet speaks God’s words that he has heard from God to God’s people.
What is a false prophet?
v20 says, “But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’
A false prophet speaks things he has made up and are not true. How do you recognise a false prophet if he claims to speak in the name of God?
v21-22 says “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 come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.”
A true prophet must be 100% accurate and everything he pronounces must be “true” – it matches up with what God has already said. If we had to apply this criteria to the many so-called prophets today few would be left standing.
Another prophet like Moses
Moses was considered the greatest prophet in the Old Testament, yet God promised, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” (v18)
Besides the establishment of the role of prophet, God promises another one great prophet who will speak all that God commands him.
2. God has spoken to us ultimately in Jesus
After Malachi, last prophet in Old Testament, God was silent for a couple of hundred years. Then in Bethlehem, the town of David, a virgin gave birth to a son. The child is named Jesus and he grows up and does things only God could do. He raises the dead, he commands nature, he heals the blind and mute and lame, and he knows the thoughts of those around him. He claims to speak from God: “Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” (John 14:24)
Mount of transfiguration
One on occasion Jesus goes up a mountain with two of his disciples and miraculously Moses and Elijah (the two greatest Old Testament prophets) appear before them. A voice from heaven says, “This is my beloved son; listen to him (Jesus!).” Jesus fulfilled the role of the ultimate prophet from God who spoke God’s words to us. Jesus is the prophet like Moses; even greater than Moses – God’s very own son. All the things Jesus said came true and matched up to the rest of the Bible.
3. The message about Jesus in the Bible is God’s final and sufficient word to us
Hebrews 1:1-2 says, “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 comes as the ultimate prophet of God to speak God’s word to us. The New Testament, written by the apostles and their close associates, contains God’s word to us about Jesus. We don’t need another word or message from God!
Modern day prophets
Every second pastor in Africa claims to be a prophet. I believe that this is unbiblical and dangerous. The Bible is God’s final word to us. If God had to speak another word or message, we need to add another page to the Bible so all the world can read it.
Ephesians 2:19-20 is an important passage in this discussion. It says, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone…”
The apostles and New Testament prophets laid the “foundation” for the church; now that the foundation is laid, we no-longer need, require or have apostles and prophets. A foundation is only laid once.
Again, this is a huge issue for the church today. We see many church leaders (especially in Africa) claim to be apostles or prophets. They claim to receive great visions and messages from God and a great amount of harm is done in God’s name. We must be clear: we have God’s final word to us in the Bible. “God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” If someone claims to be a prophet, do not listen to him or her.
Do not add to these words
Revelation 22:18-19 says, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”
This warning refers to the book of Revelation, but by implication the same is true for the rest of New Testament and the entire Bible. If God has another message, we need to add more words to the scriptures.
Therefore pay close attention to the Bible as God final and sufficient message to a rebellious world. God holds us accountable as to how we listen to his word. If any Christian leader today claims to be a prophet, Deuteronomy 18 says, “the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.” Do not listen to him or her; this includes fortune tellers, horoscopes, mediums, witchdoctors and any book, other than the Bible, claiming to be a message from God.
Here is a sermon by Conrad Mbewe that I found extremely helpful. Here is a link to the talks at the recent Strange Fire conference that was convened to speak against the abuses of the Charismatic movement – including the abuse of the office of prophet. Here is a link to a earlier post on the gift of prophecy.