A close-up shot of an open Bible revealing verses from the Book of Acts, emphasizing the continuation of prophecy and God's guidance after Jesus' ascension.

What Does The Bible Say About Prophets After Jesus?

The Bible contains many references to prophets who lived both before and after Jesus Christ. In the centuries after Jesus’ life on earth, the early Christian church debated the continuing role of prophecy and prophets.

While mainstream Christianity eventually came to emphasize the finality of divine revelation through Christ, some Christians still look to modern day prophets and miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. This article will examine biblical references to prophecy after Christ’s life, early church views on later prophets, modern movements that accept new prophets, and scholarly perspectives on how to interpret the biblical material.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The New Testament refers to prophets who were active after Jesus’ lifetime, like Agabus in Acts. But most mainstream Christian groups see biblical prophets as limited to the foundational era of the church.

Some Christian offshoots believe new prophets can share fresh revelations from God.

New Testament References to Prophets After Jesus

Agabus in Acts

The Book of Acts mentions a prophet named Agabus who was active after Jesus’ death and resurrection. In Acts 11:28, Agabus accurately predicts a severe famine that will spread across the Roman world. Later, in Acts 21:10-11, Agabus warns the apostle Paul that he will be imprisoned if he travels to Jerusalem.

Agabus is presented as a true prophet whose predictions come directly from the Holy Spirit.

Prophets in Ephesians, 1 Corinthians and Didache

The New Testament letters also make reference to Christian prophets who were active in the early church. Paul mentions prophets as one of the giftings given by the Holy Spirit for the edification of the church (Ephesians 4:11).

In 1 Corinthians 14, he gives instructions for how prophets should function orderly during church gatherings. The early Christian text Didache (c. 90-150 AD) also mentions prophets and even outlines procedures for testing true and false prophets.

These references indicate that prophecy was considered an active gift in the decades following Jesus’ death and resurrection. Early Christians believed God continued to speak through prophets to edify, encourage, and correct the church.

Debate Over Authorship of Revelation

The Book of Revelation has traditionally been attributed to the apostle John, which would make it prophetic words from a New Testament prophet. However, some modern scholars debate whether Revelation was actually written by John or a separate prophet named John of Patmos.

Regardless of the authorship, Revelation contains apocalyptic prophecy in the tradition of Old Testament prophetic books like Daniel and Zechariah.

Early Church Views on Later Prophets

Cessation of Public Prophets

In the early church, there was a view held by some that the office of public prophet had ceased after the time of the apostles. This cessationist perspective believed that public prophets were no longer needed after the foundation of the church had been laid by Christ and the apostles (Eph 2:20).

While private prophecy could still occur, authoritative revelation was seen as closed with the scriptures that the apostles and prophets had provided.

Private Vs Public Prophecy

However, contrasting views also existed. Some church leaders like Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian acknowledged ongoing private prophecies among regular believers. But they still maintained a distinction between private revelation given for edification, and the public prophets who spoke universally binding revelation for the whole church.

Tertullian explained it this way: “For the Creator shareth the prophetic gift of His Spirit, not indeed among all believers, but only in the degree which seems to Him to be expedient. There is a difference between the gift of prophecy and the gift of healing.”

(Tertullian, On the Resurrection of the Flesh). So while prophecy could continue privately, authoritative prophets like in biblical times were seen as ceased.

Montanist Movement

Challenging this was the mid-2nd century Montanist movement started by a prophet named Montanus. The Montanists claimed to bring new prophecy and revelation from the Spirit to clarify aspects of Christian living beyond what Scripture addressed.

Key followers like Prisca and Maximilla claimed to be prophetesses speaking authoritatively for Christ across the churches.

However, other church leaders including Firmilian, Miltiades, Apollonius, and Serapion examined the movement and declared their prophecies false and the movement heretical. They stated authoritative public prophecy into the church ended with the apostles. (Serapion, Letter to Caricus and Pontius).

And so the cessation view persisted as the mainstream position.

Modern Christian Groups That Accept New Prophets

Latter-day Saints

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as Mormons, believes in modern day prophets and continuing revelation. They accept the prophet Joseph Smith, who founded the Latter Day Saint movement in early 19th century America, and believe there has been an unbroken succession of prophets in the church leadership since then.

The current prophet and president of the church is Russell M. Nelson.

Mormons believe God continues to reveal divine truth to prophets today as he has done throughout biblical times. These modern prophets provide inspired guidance to church members and regularly speak in General Conference meetings that are broadcast globally.

Revelations and guidance provided to modern prophets are recorded in sacred texts like the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants that members view as scripture (churchofjesuschrist.org).

Jehovah’s Witnesses

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that God has appointed a “faithful and discreet slave” as the only channel for passing on truth to God’s people on earth today. This “slave” is a small group of anointed elders who lead the Watch Tower Society.

Though not claiming individual prophetic inspiration, Witnesses view the “slave” as God’s collective modern-day prophet (jw.org).

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe this “slave” class provides “food at the proper time” – interpreting biblical truths and prophecies as understanding of God’s purpose improves over time. They point to adjustments in doctrinal views over the decades as proof that God’s spirit guides these anointed leaders in revealing truth.

They place strong faith in the worldwide bible education work the small group of these elders have directed for over 100 years.

Pentecostalism and Charismatic Movement

Pentecostal and charismatic churches believe the biblical spiritual gifts of prophecy, healing and speaking in tongues are still active today through the power of the Holy Spirit. Hundreds of millions of Christians identifying with these movements consider messages given by those exercising these “sign gifts” as authoritative revelations that provide guidance, edification and comfort.

Protestant and Catholic groups within these movements record prophecies given in their parishes and may adjust church doctrine or direction based on supernatural messages viewed as from God (pewresearch.org).

However, prophecies surfacing in these communities are tested against scripture and only accepted if they align with the Bible’s teachings and core doctrines.

Scholarly Perspectives on Prophecy After Christ

Prophets as Limited to Foundational Era

Some Bible scholars argue that the gift of prophecy was primarily intended for the foundational era of the early church. They point to verses like Ephesians 2:20 which speaks of the church being “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.”

This suggests that prophets, along with apostles, served a founding purpose.

These scholars also highlight 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 which says that prophecy and other spiritual gifts will “cease” and “pass away” when “the perfect comes.” They understand this to mean that the partial gifts of prophecy were only temporary until the full revelation of Scripture was completed.

So with the closing of the New Testament canon, the gift of prophecy transitioned from a dynamic vocal gift to the static gift of Scripture preservation and interpretation.

Ongoing Gift of Prophecy

Another perspective argues that New Testament prophecy continues to operate in the church today. Supporters of this view point out that prophecy is mentioned among the gifts of the Spirit in places like Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 without any indication that it has ceased.

Furthermore, they highlight the Apostle Paul’s instruction to the Corinthian church toeagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially prophesying (1 Cor 14:1). To these scholars, there is no suggestion that this gift would soon end.

On the contrary, prophecy is presented as something to be passionately pursued to build up Christ’s body.

From this outlook, prophecy did not just establish the church but continues to strengthen, encourage, and comfort it today through Spirit-empowered speech (1 Corinthians 14:3). The canon may be closed, but the prophetic gift remains open though its modern manifestations may differ from the early church.

Symbolic vs Literal Interpretation

There are also differences in how modern prophecy is understood – whether predictions should be taken literally or symbolically. Some treat modern prophetic speech as infallible declarations from God regarding specific future events.

But others argue that New Testament prophecy should not be seen as binding revelation but rather as conditional words to be weighed and judged (1 Cor 14:29).

From this perspective, when prophetic speech does pertain to the future, it is more poetic and symbolic, not deterministic – intended to reveal God’s heart and will in the moment rather than circumvent the freedom of individuals or communities.

So while all Christians affirm the unique authority of the prophets and apostles whose writings gave us Scripture, there is sincere debate around the perpetuity versus cessation of the New Testament prophetic gift.

There are also differing views regarding the nature of inspiration and authority granted to prophecy that may continue today.


In the early church, the role of prophet evolved from an open and public office like Agabus to a more restrained practice focused on exhortation and strengthening faith. While a few fringe groups continued to embrace new revelations from prophets, mainstream Christianity limited prophecy to inspired Scripture and rejected any subsequent prophets after the apostolic era.

Modern scholars continue to debate whether the biblical concept of New Testament prophecy should be viewed as an ongoing gift of the Spirit or relegated solely to the early church. But most Christian churches have reached a consensus that public prophecy along with miraculous gifts ceased after the 1st century AD, based on the sufficiency of the biblical canon.

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