The Rise of God’s Prophets
From Man’s fall into Original Sin (Gen 3), God proclaimed the Protoevangelium (First Gospel), the prophecy of Mary and the salvation of Jesus Christ (CCC 411). From then on, God raised up prophets (e.g. Abraham, Moses, Samuel, Elijah, Isaiah, Daniel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel) over thousands of years to speak the Truth of God to Man. Old Testament prophets spoke Truth inerrantly through a special charism (gift) of Grace called “the Spirit of the Lord” (1 Kings 22:24; Is 61:1) and “the word of the Lord” (Jer 1:2, 4; Ezek 1:3). The prophets called Israel and all nations to turn to God (CCC 64, 2595) by reasserting God’s laws, performing miracles and by offering future predictions. False prophets emerged, leading people away from God (Is 28:7; Jer 5:31, 6:13, 23:9–40; Ezek 13:1–23; Mic 3:5–7) and were condemned to death by Moses (Deut 13:1-18) and by Elijah (1 Kings 18).
False Prophets in the Modern Age
False prophets continue to draw Man towards away from God. Some idolize humanistic forces (e.g. Nietzsche: power, Marx: economics, Freud: sex). Some idolize ideologies (e.g. secularism, progressivism, conservatism, nationalism, scientism, environmentalism, feminism, homosexualism). Some idolize people (e.g. “gurus”, political messiahs, celebrities). Some promote religions that reject the Truth of Jesus Christ preserved in the Catholic Church (e.g. Chinese Folk, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism, Tribal religions, neo-paganism, Wiccan, Satanism). Some perpetuate Christian division built upon previous heresies and schisms that “wound the unity” (CCC 817) of the “sole Church of Christ” (CCC 816): Orthodox and Protestants, while still sadly separated in these old errors, are accepted with affection as “brothers in the Lord” (CCC 818). The Church continues to pray that the Father will “reunite all His children, scattered and led astray by sin…into His Son’s Church” (CCC 845).
Jesus Christ – Divine Prophet
Jesus Christ is the Divine Prophet. Jesus:
- Is prophesized in the Old Testament – The Messiah is long foretold and awaited Prophet (Deut 18:15, 18; Is 49): “It was necessary that the Messiah be anointed by the Spirit of the Lord at once as king and priest, and also as prophet” (CCC 436; Is 11, 61:1-2; 58:5; Zech 4:14, 6:13).
- Is announced by the last of the Old Covenant Prophets – The 500 year-old prophecy of John the Baptist (Mal 4:5) as the final precursor to Christ (Matt 3:3; Luke 1:76; CCC 719) was confirmed by Jesus: “for all the prophets and the law prophesied until the time of John…he is Elijah who is to come” (Matt 11:13).
- Is anointed like a prophet – Like some prophets in the OT (Ex 29:7; Lev 8:12; 1 Sam 9:16; 10:1, 16:1, 12-13; 1 Kings 1:39, 19:16), Jesus is anointed (Lk 4:16-21) at His Baptism (Lk 3:21-22).
- Acts like a prophet – Jesus’ public acts were reminiscent of OT prophets. Like Moses, Jesus offers the blessings of the Commandments (Deut 6:5-25; Matt 5), selects 12 disciples (Num 13:2-6; Matt 10:2-4) and cures leprosy (Num 12:10-13; Matt 8:2-3). Like Elijah, Jesus raised the widow’s son from the dead (1 Kings 17:17-24; Luke 7:11-17) and offers miraculous feedings (2 Kings 4:8-37; Matt 9:23-25). He acted in dramatic form, cursing and killing a fig tree (Mark 11:13–14) and cleansing the Temple (Mark 11:15; Is 56:7; Jer 7:11), causing people to marvel in fear (Luke 7:11–16; Kings 17:17–23).
- Speaks like a prophet – Jesus speaks for God: “You must listen to what I have to say, because the words I speak are not mine; they are the very words of God” (John 3:34). Like the OT prophets, He warned of the judgment to come (Matt 11:21–24, 23:13–29; Luke 6:24–26) and offered promises of blessings from God (Psalm 9:7-8; Matt 5:3–11, 13:16–17; Mark 10:29–30). He denounced hypocrisy, quoting Isaiah (Matthew 15:7; Isaiah 29:13). He speaks of Himself as the prophesized “Son of Man” (Dan 8:17; John 5:27) who will sit in judgment.
- Is prophetic about the future – He makes offers prophetic insights to Nathaniel (John 1:47-49) and the woman at the well (John 4:39). He predicts His Passion and Resurrection with amazing detail including that: Judas will betray Him (John 6:70-71), He would die in Jerusalem (Luke 13:33), be rejected by the priests and elders (Mark 8:31), be delivered to the Gentiles to be mocked, spit upon and scourged (Mark 10:33-34), crucified (John 3:14) and be resurrected in 3 days (Matt 12:39-40). Jesus accurately predicts the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. (Mark 13:2).
- Is recognized as a prophet – Jesus was widely considered a prophet by His disciples (Luke 4:19), by those who witness miracles (John 7:16), by those who are healed (John 9:17), by those who hear His prophecies (John 4:19; Matt 16:14; Mark 6:15; 8:28; Luke 7:16; 9:8; 24:19; John 6:14; 7:40; 7:17; Acts 3:22). He is proclaimed a prophet upon entry to Jerusalem (Matt 21:11) and is arrested because “they feared the multitude, because they held him to be a prophet” (Matt 21:46), the Romans taunt Him as a prophet (Mark 14:65; Matthew 26:68; Luke 22:64) and is murdered like the prophets (Matt 23:30, 31, 37).
- Is greater than all the prophets – Jesus spoke of Himself as a prophet. When rejected in Nazareth, He responds, “a prophet is not without honor, except his own country” (Mark 6:4; Luke 4:24). He contrasted Himself with “false prophets” (Matt 7:15, 24:11, 24; Mark 13:22), identified with Israel’s great prophets (Luke 13:31–33) and sends out prophets in His name (Matt 10:41). Jesus taught that He is “greater than Jonah” (Matt 12:38–41) and greater than Moses (John 6). The greatest OT prophets, Moses and Elijah are called to witness Christ’s Transfiguration (Matt 17:3).
- Endows the early Church with prophets – Prophets played an important and esteemed role of the early Church (Acts 11:27, 13:1, 15:32, 21:10; 1 Cor 12:28, 14:3-5; Eph 4:11; 1 Tim 1:18, 4:14). They were among the teachers of the early Church (Rom 12:6; 16:26; 1 Co 12:10; Eph 2:20), guided with insights from Christ (1 Cor 13:2, 1 Pet 1:19-21; Rev 1:1, 4-5) to encourage believers (1:Cor 14:3) and with the apostles form the foundation on which the Church was built (Eph 2:20).
- Continues to call the Church to His Prophetic Office – “Jesus Christ is…established as priest, prophet, and king. The whole People of God participates in these three offices of Christ and bears the responsibilities for mission and service that flow from them” (CCC 783). The laity is especially called to offer prophetic witness by their holy lives and by proclaiming Jesus Christ to make Him known (LG 35; CCC 897-900).