Christians as Prophets


A lot of people say that a Christian is called to be a priest, king, and prophet when they are joined to Christ. This post is merely speculative, based on the work of Peter Leithart and James Jordan, but I would like to find a basis to defend that idea (if it is worth defending) and hopefully cause a conversation.

Biblical history moves according to the faces of the Cherubim around the Glory-Throne-Chariot. Ezekiel sees an ox, a lion, an eagle, and a man face. The ox symbolizes the priest who stands in the east at the altar of ascensions and looks West toward the altar. The lion is the king who stands in the west with the Ark-Throne and looks toward the east toward Eden. The eagle stands in the south at the lampstand and looks to the north, from exile in the south toward freedom in the north. The man stands in the north with the showbread and looks south, the descent from heaven to earth in the incarnation bringing bread to the world. (H/T James Jordan for a lot of this). The history of Israel moves from Sinai (the priests) to the Throne (the king) to the prophetic age to the age of man, when Christ is vindicated by the resurrection and takes his place on the throne surrounded by men rather than angelic elders (Revelation 4:1).

Priests are the most immature of all of the three stages. You begin as a priest, simply obeying rules and procedures laid out by God. This is why Paul says in Galatians that the law was given as a guidepost until the Messiah came. Priests follow rules and regulations to offer up their sacrifices. They will soon mature into kings, who by the Spirit, are able to discern between good and evil and make wise decisions. Because their knowledge has matured, they are able to make rulings on things that the Law does not specifically address. Prophets are the most mature out of all three of these: prophets confront kings directly and destroy and create worlds. (A lot of this comes from Leithart)

Jordan would suggest a different way to look at this: each office is a different relationship to the Triune God. The priest learns correct obedience to the Father (just like Abraham had to learn obedience to his father); the king learns how to deal justly with his brother (Cain failed at this, but Jacob and Esau learn correctly how to deal with their siblings) and builds with his hands; the prophet learns to relate to the Spirit because he is a universal witness that creates by his words rather than by his hands (like Joseph saves Egypt from famine by his decrees, saving both Jew and Gentile). These offices work in a cycle: God is the prophetic king who creates, Adam is the priest-king who rules creation and guides worship, Cain and Abel are king and priest respectively who offer creation up to God, and Enoch is the prophet who stands against the Sethites intermarriage with the Cainites.

God is the ultimate prophet who creates by His Word and His Breath. Luke especially draws our eyes to focus on Jesus as the prophet to the nations, whose work is carried on by believers in Acts. So, God creates by his prophetic Word. Leithart says that as images of God, part of our work in the world is imaging his prophetic-creating powers.

Later, God infuses the prophet Jeremiah with his Word, by which he is to “build and tear down” the nations of the world (Jeremiah 1:10). He builds up Jerusalem by telling them to join with Babylon and tears down the nations at the end of the book. Isaiah tears down Israel to build them up again around the Servant of Yahweh. Each prophet destroys the foreign nations and Israel/Judah to rebuild them around the Messiah. This is specifically seen in Zechariah 6:15.

So where does this bring us? How are individual believers prophets? We are given the power to build up and destroy. This comes from Ephesians. Adam, Israel, is blessed by God as his special representative in the earth (1:1-14) but is joined by Eve, who is blessed by her union to Adam-Israel, his glory (1:15-2:10). Adam and Eve, Jew and Gentile. are built up together in the Messiah as God’s holy temple (2:11-22). This temple is the fountain of wisdom because God revealed his mysterious plan to bring Jew and Gentile together in the Church to the divine council (3:1-21). The Church, like Adam and Eve, is supposed to grow into maturity together (4:1ff). The temple, though, is in danger: believers have the ability to build it up or try and tear it down (4:29). Ultimately, yes, God will destroy the one who destroys his temple (I Corinthians 3:17), but we can either join God by building the temple or oppose him by tearing it down.

James makes similar points, telling us that our tongue has the power to bring fresh or sour water (James 3). This is a reference, I think, to the Garden. Adam was supposed to follow the four rivers out of Eden and use the water to cultivate the ground around it. We can do that, or we can drink in the bitter water Moses made from the ashes of the golden calf (Exodus 34).

A final point is that, as Abraham Herschel points out, prophets stand on the council of God and influence his decisions. Abraham batters with God in Genesis 18-19, God tells Amos that he doesn’t act without telling his prophets first (Amos 3:1-7), and the prophetic word reveals Christ (2 Peter 1) to the divine council who stand in awe, wanting to study it. In the new age, the angelic elders step off the thrones (probably because of the judgment they received in Psalm 82) and let men step on. Now men are the arbitrators of the word of the Lord to the world rather than the angels through whom the law was mediated through (Galatians 3-4).

We also intercede for each other now. Abraham was called to intercede for Abimelech and now we pray for each other. Some prophets are told to intercede for the world and some were not (Ezekiel).

All that to say, our power to build and destroy by our words might be the best defense of the idea that believers are prophets. And because we would be prophets, we can confront the other believer-kings as Nathan confronted David or as Elijah confronted the wicked council of Israel. Just like Israel, we must mature into more prophetic people as we mature in the knowledge of the Messiah.


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