Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.

Modern Day Prophets & Apostles Today in the 21st Century? Yes!

Summary:  Let's get right to the bottom line. Are there still prophets and apostles today, in the 21st century? The Bible's answer, as we will see, is a clear "Yes!"

Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.
Curiously, and without biblical support, this fivefold list of ordained ministries from Ephesians 4:11 has been split by the modern church into two lists.

There is broad acceptance of the evangelist, pastor, and bible teacher as being valid ministries for the church today. But the ministries of apostles and Christian prophets are relegated by many to the first-century church only. But do prophets and apostles exist today? In recent years, many Christians have been reexamining the Scriptures to answer increasingly discussed questions like these: Are there apostles today? Are there prophets today? Were the ancient prophets and apostles the only valid ones? Or are there modern day prophets and apostles in our 21st century? Does apostolic and prophetic ministry continue in our day?

The intent of this bible study is to prove biblically that all of what have been called the “fivefold” ministry or “ascension gift” ministries are valid and needed in the Christian Church today. The “perfecting of the saints” intended by the Lord (Ephesians 4:12) will require all five of these ministry gifts given by the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:11).

Some might be wondering, "Pastor Jim, do you know any prophets and apostles today?" Yes, I have known some genuine, God-called prophets and apostles with the godly character and giftedness to hold those important ministries, and also with remarkable records of effectiveness in their prophetic and apostolic work. Your follow-up question might then be: "Can you give us a list of modern day prophets and apostles?" That I cannot do for two primary reasons: (1) I can't accurately apply Jesus' important fruit test to people I don't know. That is, "By their fruits you shall know them." And (2) I would be unable to determine if they were properly related to and part of the ministry of a local church, which to me is an absolute requirement for any fivefold ministry. The lone-wolf minister is not consistent with the New Testament pattern reflected in, for example, the Antioch church: "Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers ... Barnabas ... Simeon ... Lucius ... Manaen ... and Saul" (Acts 13:1, KJV).

That being said, in response to the question, "Are there apostles today, and do you know any?" I personally had the wonderful privilege of being raised in the faith under the care and ministry of the late apostle Richard C. "Dick" Benjamin, of Abbott Loop Christian Center in Anchorage, Alaska. Under apostle Benjamin's leadership, that church trained and sent out about 1,300 men, women, and children on 80 church-planting teams. In the 48 years preceding his death in 2019, apostle Dick Benjamin was a beloved and deeply respected spiritual father in the faith to me.

Let's move forward now to a biblical examination of the reality of modern day prophets and apostles in our 21st century.


1. Apostles and prophets are the two foundational ministries in the body of Christ

Ephesians 2:19-20 ...God’s people...[are] built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

I have great respect for dedicated evangelists, pastors and teachers. I am personally ordained to two of those three ministries — pastor and bible teacher. But the bible singles out prophets and apostles as the two ministries which, anchored to Jesus the Chief Cornerstone, undergird the Lord’s Church. All Christians are entitled to be built on this apostolic and prophetic foundation. And we will see later in this study that these are not just restricted to the early church’s apostles and the Old Testament prophets. They include contemporary, modern day prophets and apostles as well.

2. Who gives these ministries to the Church?

1 Corinthians 12:28 And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.

Ephesians 4:7-8, 11
But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men” ... [11] It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers.

The verses above declare that it is God the Father and Jesus the Son of God who give apostles and prophets to the church, as well as the evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Jesus Himself is the premier expression of each of these offices.

“Jesus, the apostle ... whom we confess” (Hebrews 3:1)

• “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth” (Matthew 21:11).

• Jesus was certainly the Great Soulwinner, the consummate evangelist.

• Jesus is “the Shepherd [Greek word for “pastor”] and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25).

• “Rabbi, we know you [Jesus] are a teacher who has come from God” (John 3:2).

It seems that Jesus — the chief apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher — is giving an expression of Himself to the Church in the form of these ministry gifts. For example, in Paul, Peter, and the other apostles we see a partial reflection of the perfect apostleship of Christ. In Agabus (Acts 11:27f; 21:10f) and other Christian prophets we see a partial expression of the perfect prophetic ministry of Jesus. The same could be said for God-given evangelists, pastors and teachers.

3. Apostles and prophets are in the Christian Church for the entire church age

Are there still prophets and apostles today? Certainly. A number of Scriptures (see below) make it very clear that prophets and apostles were intended for the full church age, and not just for the first century church.

Ephesians 3:4-5 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.

Paul declares that the mystery has “now been God’s holy apostles and prophets.” These were “now” — that is, contemporary — apostles and prophets in the Church several decades after Christ’s resurrection and ascension to heaven.

Some have erroneously identified the “prophets” in this verse as Old Testament prophets. But this very Scripture says quite the opposite. It states that the prophets receiving this “now” revelation were “NOT ... men in other generations.” No, these were Christian prophets, contemporary to the time in which Paul was writing. There were New Testament prophets (and apostles, too) existing in the church long after Jesus had ascended back to heaven.

Ephesians 4:8, 11-13 This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men” ... [11] It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Here the apostle Paul gives us additional proofs that apostles and prophets were to continue during the Church Age.

• “When He ascended on high...He gave ... some to be apostles, some to be prophets...” These were not the original 12 apostles. This refers to apostles and prophets that Jesus continued to give after His ascension to heaven! For that reason some have called the “fivefold” ministries of Ephesians 4:11 the “ascension gift ministries.” In His ascended position in heaven, Jesus continues to give all five, not just evangelists, pastors and teachers.

• And this giving of five ministries by Christ was not just to get the early church started. Rather, the giving of all five is needed “until we all...become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” That is an ongoing process occupying the entire time between Jesus’ First Coming and His Second Coming.

Revelation 11:10 The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth.

These “two prophets” are the Lord’s “two witnesses” (Rev. 11:3) who will prophesy and do great signs and miracles at the very close of the Church Age during the time of the Antichrist. In this verse we see Christian prophets — here, end-time, modern-day prophets — long after the time of the early church, in fact at the very end of this age.

4. Is the New Testament Church today properly structured without prophets and apostles?

The answer to that question can be found in a very simple test. May I add that most Christians will fail this test!

• Question #1 — Which three of the Ephesians 4:11 ministries are mentioned most in the New Testament?

• Question #2 — Which two of those fivefold ministries are mentioned least in the New Testament?

The answers may shock you. They indicate how far out of balance the contemporary church has grown compared to the original church that Christ established on the earth.

Answer to question #1:
• The word “apostle(s)” occurs 85 times in the New Testament.

• The word “prophet(s)” occurs over 150 times in the New Testament, about 20 of those occurrences referring distinctly to prophets in the Church Age.

• The word “teacher(s)” occurs 125 times in the New Testament.
Answer to question #2:
• The word “evangelist(s)” occurs only 3 times in the New Testament.

• The word “pastor(s)” occurs precisely one (1) time in the entire New Testament! One time! (Ephesians 4:11)

Consider those numbers. The Bible speaks of New Testament apostles, prophets, or teachers a combined total of at least 200 times. Pastors and evangelists are mentioned a combined total of four times!

And yet the modern day church calls most ministers by the term “Pastor” and shies away from “apostles” and “prophets” like a horse avoiding a rattlesnake! Or they'll talk around the subject without dealing with it directly: "Brother Jones has an apostolic mantle." Or "Bill has a prophetic mantle." These terms are not found in the bible, where they unashamedly called them "apostles" or "prophets." Man’s prejudices, fears, or misinterpretations have deprived the Lord’s Church of the two foundational ministries — apostles and prophets — that He Himself placed on earth. The Church today, wherever it denies these two ministries, is improperly structured. Pastors, evangelists, and teachers alone cannot bring the church to maturity. They were never intended to. Jesus gave all five ministries for that purpose.

In the two sections that follow, we will examine the characteristics and work of prophets and apostles in the Church Age. Nowhere in Scripture is there a concise, precisely worded definition of these two offices. Therefore, I will not try to define the terms "prophet" or "apostle." Rather, I will offer to the reader overviews, or composites, of these two ministries in the New Testament. Of course, no individual first-century or modern-day apostle or prophet could be expected to fulfill every aspect of these descriptions. That level of perfection remains the privilege of the Lord Jesus Himself. So to the question "what is an apostle (or prophet)?" I offer the following composite of the New Testament prophets and apostles in the Bible.

5. What are the biblical characteristics and ministry of apostles?

• Acts 2:4 They were filled with the Spirit.
• Acts 2:14-36 They preached the Word of God.
• Acts 3:1-8 They healed the sick.
• Acts 4:1-12 They were persecuted.
• Acts 5:1-11 They pronounced God’s judgment.
• Acts 5:12 They worked signs and wonders.
• Acts 5:42 They taught and preached Jesus Christ.
• Acts 6:1-6 They ordained deacons.
• Acts 8:14-17 They laid their hands on others to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
• Acts 8 and later chapters. They founded and/or strengthened new churches.
• Acts 9:36-43 They raised the dead.
• Acts 10 They preached to the Gentiles.
• Acts 12:1-11 They were martyred, persecuted, and sometimes delivered.
• Acts 13:4 They were sent by the Holy Spirit (the root of the word “apostle” means “sent”).
• Acts 13:11 They pronounced a curse.
• Acts 14:21-22 They confirmed disciples in their faith.
• Acts 14:23 They ordained elders.
• Acts 15:1-21 They settled doctrinal disputations.
• Acts 15:4,6,13,19 Some were church leaders.
• Acts 16:18 They cast out demons.
• Acts 19:22 They sent forth other ministering men.
• Acts 20-28 list further ministries that apostles performed.
• 1 Corinthians 3:10 They were wise master builders. They laid spiritual foundations.
• 1 Corinthians 4:14-15 The apostle Paul warned his “sons” in the faith.
• 1 Corinthians 7:1 They counseled and answered the saints’ questions.
• 1 Corinthians 11:34 They set churches in order.
• 2 Corinthians 11:28 Paul exercised “care of all the churches.”
• 2 Corinthians 13:10 They used their authority for edification.
• Ephesians 2:20 Apostles are part of the foundation of the church.
• Ephesians 3:3-5 They received revelation from God.
• Ephesians 4:11-12 They perfected the saints.

6. What are the biblical characteristics and ministry of New Testament, Christian prophets?

• Acts 11:27-28 They (1) did trans-local ministry and (2) they foretold future events.

• Acts 13:1 They can be among the leaders of a local church.
• Acts 15:32 they exhorted and confirmed the brethren, sometimes with “many words”.
• Acts 21:9-11 Prophets may speak predictive, personal prophecy under divine inspiration. It is worth noting that Philip had four daughters in that household who had the spiritual "gift of prophecy" (vs. 9, Amplified). But God did not use them to speak a major predictive, prophetic word to the apostle Paul. Rather, God brought to Philip's house "a prophet named Agabus" from Judea (vs. 10).
• 1 Corinthians 14:29 They prophesied in church services.
• Ephesians 2:20 Prophets are part of the foundation of the church.
• Ephesians 3:3-5 Prophets may receive revelation from God.
• Ephesians 4:11-12 Prophets perfected the saints.

7. Should we identify and recognize apostles and prophets today? Certainly!

Luke 6:13 "When morning came, [Jesus] called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles." If Jesus named them and designated and recognized them as apostles, how can we do otherwise?

Acts 14:4 "...the apostles Barnabas and Paul...” The New Testament, here and in many other verses, consistently recognized men by name in the office of apostle.

1 Corinthians 14:29, 32, 37 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.... [32] The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets.... [37] If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command.

The early church — here, the church at Corinth — found it quite normal to have a prophet or prophets [plural] in the church.

Acts 13:1 In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers.

Again, it was not unusual, but accepted, that there might be prophets in a local church. And the New Testament church identifies some Christian prophets by name:

• Agabus (Acts 11:28; 21:10)

• Judas and Silas (Acts 15:32)

Matthew 10:41a, KJV He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward.

Why beat around the bush? Jesus tells us to receive someone who is a prophet “in the name of a prophet.” There is no biblical encouragement for identifying certain ones as “evangelists, pastors and teachers” and then identifying true prophets and apostles with descriptive but controversy-avoiding phrases like: “He has an apostolic [or prophetic] ministry.” As if the Lord has given three nouns (evangelist, pastor, teacher) and two adjectives (apostolic, prophetic)! No! Jesus said to receive a prophet “in the name of a prophet.”

It’s time for the Church to shake off the fear of man and return to biblical patterns. From the Scriptures we've addressed the question: do apostles and prophets exist today? And we've found in the Bible a resounding "yes!" Then let's be faithful to God's Word and recognize all five of the Ephesians 4:11 ministries. How can we reject what Jesus is giving to His Church? (Ephesians 4:8,11)

My prayer is that once more in the 21st century, as in the first century, the Church will return to the clear pattern of Scripture. May the body of Christ once again grow and thrive as we open our hearts to the God-given ministries of modern day prophets and apostles, as well as evangelists, pastors and teachers. Are there apostles today? Christian prophets today? Certainly yes. In my 50+ years in the Lord's work I've had the privilege of working side by side with some true apostles and prophets. And their beneficial influence on my life and the lives of many others has been extraordinary.

And along with the much-needed "five-fold" ministries of Ephesians 4:11, may the Church recognize also the biblical, local-church ministries of God-called elders and deacons, as well as the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Revival can again break out in churches determined to search the Scriptures, to rediscover the proven, historical, spiritual "ancient landmarks" of God's Word the Bible, to open their hearts to the ministries of God-given, modern day apostles and Christian prophets, and to “build ... everything according to the pattern” (Hebrews 8:5) laid out by God in Scripture.


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©2005, 2015, 2018 James H. Feeney.
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Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.