by Vernon Maxted
Retired Baptist Pastor-Minister
After His resurrection and ascension the Lord sent the Holy Spirit to empower His churches for their mission in the world - see Acts 1:8. According to Ephesians 4: 11-12 He also provided Spirit-gifted leaders for the churches, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some ‘prophets’, some evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…” It is significant of their importance to the churches that prophets are listed second after the apostles.
A clear definition of the function of the prophet is given in the Old Testament in I Chronicles 12:32 which speaks of “…the sons of Issachor who had understanding of the times to know what Israel (God’s people) ought to do…”
Another defining Scripture is Ezekiel 3:17 (Repeated in 33:7-11) “…Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel: therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me.” The duty of a watchman over a city was to stand on the wall to see any approaching danger and warn the city to get ready.
Basic to our understanding of these times is Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24 and the parallel passages in Mark thirteen and Luke twenty-one. In Matthew 24:11, 12 He says, “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” - lawlessness in society and declining love for Jesus in the church. These are conditions throughout the age that come to a climax in the last days. We are seeing those conditions in America today.
The purpose in understanding the times is not to draw up a detailed schedule of future events. The Jewish leaders in Jesus’ time thought they had that figured out, and when Jesus did not fulfill their expectations, they rejected and crucified Him! The purpose of prophecy is practical - to see how we ought to live for the Lord and serve Him in perilous times - “to know what Israel (God’s people) ought to do.” This is the purpose of all Scripture - “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” - II Timothy 3:16.
The Bible says in II Timothy 3:1-5 that “in the last days perilous times will come…” We are living in such times. We need pastors and teachers who are taught by the Word and by the Holy Spirit to understand the times and how “to live upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope - the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ…” (Titus 2:12, 13 NIV).