If our goal at the end of this study is to know that we truly know the answers to our questions we need to begin at the beginning and validate the source of information we'll be using. Since we’ll be using the Bible as our source, is it a valid source?
The Bible is full of evidence proving God is the author of this library of 66 books. Job speaks of springs in the bottom of the sea (Job 38:16). In 1977 we sent a deep sea submersible to the bottom of the sea and saw these springs. How could Job have known about them? Someone who knew must have told him, and the only one who could have known was God. Job speaks of the earth having an empty space in the north and hanging upon nothing (Job 26:7). We’ve been in space and have seen that this is true. Solomon spoke of the water cycle centuries before we knew about it (Ecclesiastes 1:5-7). Isaiah tells us that the earth is round (Isaiah 40:21,22). Job said that the wind (air) has weight (Job 28:25) and David speaks of the paths in the sea that animals use to move from one place to another (the currents, Psalm 8:8). The abundance of scientific evidence that has been independently confirmed by human beings over the centuries since the Bible was written prove that the Bible truly is the word of God. (There are many other proofs we could use to validate the Bible as the word of God. You may read them in “Why must we use the Bible only?”)
Let's take this a step farther. There is an untold number of religious writings from which we could choose. Since we know the Bible is a valid source of information, is it the only valid source of information? If it is, then every religious writing we encounter must be based on the Bible and be true to its teachings before it could be given any consideration by those seeking to know the will of God. In "Why must we use the Bible only" I've covered this topic in detail. However, it's of such great importance that I'd like to go through it again here. Is the Bible the only valid source of information regarding the will of God? If it is, how do we know?
From the revealed scientific foreknowledge, fulfilled prophecies, historical accuracy and unity of the writers we know the Bible is inspired by God and therefore is His word. In Titus 1:2 Paul tells us that God cannot lie, and in John 17:17 Jesus says that the word of God is truth. Therefore, everything recorded within the Bible must be true. So what, if anything, does the Bible tell us about other religious writings? Are they inspired by God, too?
Let's begin by looking to the New Testament and see if it tells us anything about those who wrote these 66 books. Peter, in his second epistle, chapter 1 verses 21 and 22 tells us that prophecy did not come by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. But to whom did the Holy Ghost reveal the word of God? We know they were holy men, but is that all we know? The answer is found in Ephesians 3:5. The Holy Ghost revealed the word of God to apostles and prophets. Therefore, if the Holy Ghost is still revealing God's word today then there must be apostles and prophets to receive it. Do we have these holy men of God today?
Do we have apostles of Jesus Christ today?
The apostle Paul warned the Corinthian brethren that there were false apostles living in their day, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). In 2 Corinthians 12:12 he tells the Corinthians how to identify a true apostle from a false one: the true apostle worked signs, wonders and mighty deeds. We must apply the same standard today. Anyone claiming to be an apostle of Christ must perform the miracles required of a true apostle in the first century. I'd like to take a slightly different approach to this question. Rather than examining miracles in detail I'd like to look to the New Testament and see if it tells us whether apostles do or do not exist today. (Search for Truth lesson 3 addresses miracles and is published to my site. I strongly recommend you begin with lessons 1 and 2 before going to lesson 3, since some background material is covered in those two lessons.)
Judas Iscariot was an apostle of Jesus Christ (Matthew 10:1-4). In verse 4 of this passage Matthew tells us that Judas betrayed Jesus. In Matthew 26:14-16 we learn that he betrayed the Savior for 30 pieces of silver. When Judas realized that Jesus had been condemned to death he sought to return the money, telling the chief priests and elders that he'd betrayed an innocent man (Matthew 27:1-4). Their reply: "What is that to us?" Upon hearing this he cast the money down and went and hanged himself (Matthew 27:5). The chief priests discussed among themselves what to do with the 30 pieces of silver. They decided it wasn't lawful for them to return it to the treasury and used it to buy a field in which strangers would be buried. That field became known as the "field of blood". (Matthew 27:6-8)
A few weeks later (after Jesus' death, burial, resurrection and ascension into heaven) Peter and the other apostles were gathered together in Jerusalem with some 110 of Jesus' disciples (Acts 1:15). Peter stood in the midst of them and said that it was necessary for the scripture to be fulfilled that David spoke concerning Judas (Acts 1:16). He was numbered with the apostles (see Matthew 10:1-4 above) and the money he received to betray Jesus was used to buy a field, known as the "field of blood" (Acts 1:17-19). It was prophesied in the book of Psalms that his habitation would be desolate and that another would take his office (Acts 1:20; Psalm 69:25; Psalm 109:8). Peter then establishes three qualifications that one must meet in order to be considered to take Judas' apostleship: they must be a man, they must have been with Peter and the other disciples from the time Jesus was baptized by John, and they must have remained with them until the day Jesus returned to heaven (Acts 1:21-22). Two men who met these qualifications were identified, and after prayer the apostles cast lots. The lot fell upon Matthias. He then assumed Judas' ministry and apostleship. (Acts 1:23-26)
There cannot be true apostles of Jesus Christ today. Nobody can fulfill the qualifications that one must meet in order to be considered for this office. There is nobody alive today who was with Jesus and His disciples when he was baptized by John and remained with them until He ascended into heaven. No matter how badly one may want to fill this office or sincerely believe that they do, they cannot. In other aspects of everyday life we understand that some cannot run for an elected office. For example, there are specific requirements one must meet in order to run for the office of President of the United States: they must be a natural born citizen of the United States, be at least 35 years of age, and have resided in the U.S. for at least 14 years. No matter how badly a 30 year-old person wants to run for this office, they cannot.
The office of apostle of Jesus Christ is one that is no longer filled by men today. Since there are no apostles today the Holy Spirit cannot be revealing the word of God through apostles. If the Holy Spirit is still revealing His word, it must be through prophets.
Do we have true prophets today?
Next, we must determine whether true prophets exist. If they do, then the Holy Spirit God may well continue to reveal the word of God through them. However, if they don't, then God has ceased revealing His word.
Just as the New Testament warns of false apostles, it warns of false prophets. Jesus tells us that we can't identify these false prophets by their outward appearance: they look like sheep, but are ravening wolves on the inside (Matthew 7:15). Our Lord warned those of His day that false prophets would arise, working signs and wonders, to seduce, if possible, even the elect (Mark 13:21-23). Jesus told the multitude woe unto them when people speak well of them, for such did their fathers of the false prophets (Luke 6:26). We are warned that false teachers will come unto us, bringing damnable heresies (2 Peter 2:1), and that we are to test every spirit whether they be of God, because many false prophets have gone into the world (1 John 4:1). In the New Testament there is an abundance of warning about the reality of false prophets and what they do. With all of these warnings the Bible must have told us how to identify a true prophet from a false one.
In the Old Testament the children of Israel were given specific means whereby they could recognize a false prophet. If a prophet came to them claiming to speak a word from God which He hadn't commanded them to speak, the thing which they spoke would not come to pass (Deuteronomy 18:20-22). But for us, there is no such warning in the New Testament. We're warned that false prophets would come, that they'd look innocent on the outside and that people would say good things about them. We are not to be drawn away, however. We are to compare what they say to what God has already said ("try the spirits whether they are of God") In the Old Testament the Israelites were warned to look for something to happen to prove that the prophet was speaking God's word. However, in the New Testament we are warned to compare what God has already said to something the false prophet is saying. Could this mean that God is no longer revealing anything new?
Paul said plainly that prophecies would fail (1 Corinthians 13:8). In verses 9 and 10 he tells us when this would happen: when that which is “perfect” (or “complete) has come. Miraculous measures of knowledge and prophecy are "in part" and would be done away when that which is perfect has come. But what is that which is perfect of which Paul speaks? In the Christian religious world today you'll commonly hear that this is Jesus, and that prophecy remains until He comes again. Let's see if we can confirm this doctrine.
When Jesus comes again, every eye will see Him (Revelation 1:7). In verse 13 of 1 Corinthians 13 Paul tells us that three things are going to abide (or remain) after that which is perfect has come: faith, hope and love. If that which is perfect in 1 Corinthians 13:10 is Jesus, faith, hope and love will remain after He comes again. Let's see if these three things will remain after our Lord has come again.
First, let's look up the New Testament definition of faith. It's found in Hebrews 11:1. Here the writer tells us that "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Please think carefully about this definition. The writer tells us that faith is the evidence of things not seen. When Jesus comes again every eye will see Him. Since faith remains after that which is perfect has come, and faith is the evidence of things not seen, that which is perfect cannot be Jesus because every eye will see Him when He comes. Faith as we know it will end when Jesus returns.
Next, let's look up the definition of hope. It's found in Romans 8:24-25. Here Paul tells us that "hope that is seen is not hope" and that a man doesn't hope for something he's seen. Again, we know that every eye will see Jesus when He comes again. Since hope that is seen is not hope and every eye will see Jesus when He returns the second time, hope will end when He comes again. Hope as we know it will end when Jesus returns. Therefore, that which is perfect in 1 Corinthians 13:10 cannot be Jesus.
Well, we now know that which is perfect in 1 Corinthians 13:10 is not Jesus, but what is it? It must be something that was incomplete at the time Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, but which would be finished sometime before Jesus returned. Let's look at the context of 1 Corinthians 13:10 to determine what is this perfect thing. Here are verses 9 and 10: "For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." Paul links the coming of that which is complete to the ending of those things that are in part. Prophecy is listed as one of the "in part" things that would end when that which is complete has come. What was the purpose of prophecy? To reveal the word of God (Deuteronomy 18:20). Since prophecy was to end sometime before Jesus comes again, God was going to stop revealing His word to men sometime before the second coming of His Son.
Prophecy is but one of the miraculous manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Paul gives us a complete list of these gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11. The book of Acts shows us how one received these miraculous manifestations. In Acts 19:1-7 we read of 12 disciples in Ephesus who hadn't yet heard of the Holy Spirit. Paul asked them for some details regarding their teaching. When they realized they'd been mistaught they were re-baptized, this time in the name of Jesus Christ. Afterwards Paul laid his hands upon them and they received the Holy Ghost and spake with tongues and prophesied. In Acts 8:5-24 we read of Philip preaching to the Samarians, performing miracles and baptizing those who believed. The apostles in Jerusalem heard that the Samarians had received the word of God and sent Peter and John to them. They came for a specific reason. The people in Samaria had heard the word, believed it, been baptized in the name of Jesus Christ but had not yet received the miraculous manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Peter and John came to Samaria to lay their hands upon them and grant unto them these miraculous gifts. A man named Simon had heard Philip preaching and had been baptized, too. He realized something once Peter and John came to Samaria: it was only through the laying on of the hands of an apostle that one could receive these miraculous gifts (verse 18). He wanted to be able to impart these gifts to others, too, and offered Peter money in return for this ability. He was soundly rebuked by Peter and told to repent, praying that perhaps he might be forgiven.
Let's put together what we've learned in these passages. Prophecy is a miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit and was imparted to another by the laying on of an apostle's hands. However, we've already learned that true apostles no longer exist. What does this tell us about prophecy today? There are no true prophets alive today Anyone who claims to be a prophet today must be a false one. Since neither apostles nor prophets can exist and the Holy Spirit revealed the word of God to apostles and prophets, He must no longer be revealing God's word. Since God's word is no longer being revealed it must be complete. We now know what is the perfect thing in 1 Corinthians 13:10: it's the word of God. Several New Testament passages confirm this. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." Something that is incomplete cannot make me complete. Since scripture is capable of making me perfect (or complete), it must also be complete. Paul warned the Galatians that if anyone (a man or an angel from heaven) preach any gospel to them other than the one Paul had already preached, that one is to be accursed (eternally condemned, Galatians 1:8-9). The Bible closes with the following warning: "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." (Revelation 22:18-19) Not only is the word of God complete, it is eternal. Jesus said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." (Matthew 24:35)
The Bible is the only valid record of God's will available to us today. Since the deaths of the last true apostle and prophet many have claimed to have received a new revelation from God. Such claims are false. Many have claimed to be apostles and prophets. Such claims are false. Some have claimed that the Bible is corrupted and God gave them a new revelation that cannot be altered. Such claims are false. The Holy Spirit has made it easy for us to know what God has and has not said. You must be on guard against being deceived by the false prophets that come into the world today. Never forgetting that God's word is complete and eternal will make it a simple task to understand the source of any "new revelation" today.
Now that we've validated the Bible as the only source of information we need, let's proceed to answer our original question.