How can we trust in a prophet?

When God sent his first prophet, How could people trust in him?

How can they be sure that He was realy messenger of God?

How could they be sure that he was not seduced by satan?

They had no way to be sure without some miraculous event to give witness to their testimony.

For example, Jonah was thrown off the boat, but survived his ordeal, and was welcomed in Nineveh, even though he delivered a message that the citizens would much rather not hear. The king put on sackcloth and ashes and did penance.

The Jews even questioned the source of Jesus’ teaching. Jesus pointed out that he had cast out demons, and how could Satan survive if he worked contrary to his own purposes? “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

The Jewish Church never had (and still does not have) a teaching authority comparable to the Catholic Magisterium. We can know something as true because the Church tells us so. That’s how CATHOLICS can believe a prophet. We have a Church lead by the Holy Spirit to guide Her in all truth.

The Jews tried to figure it out based on the available evidence. They often got it wrong (often because their decisions were largely influenced by their own interests), only to become aware of their error years later.

FWIW, The Church teaches that all general prophecy ended with the death of the last Apostle. There are more recent prophecies, but no Catholic can ever be required to believe any of them as a matter of Faith, and he never commits sin if he does not believe. When the Church “approves” a prophecy (such as a Marian apparition - Lourdes, Fatima, etc) it is only an affirmation that the message is not contrary to Faith and MAY be believed and taught by faithful Catholics. A faithful Catholic is free to NOT believe, though he is not free to try to publicly discredit what the Church has taught about it.

If we use the words of the Apostle Paul perhaps we can discern wether the Prophet is representing either God or the evil one.

How? Well a true Prophet of God cannot teach or utter anything that goes against the truth.

We have the deposit of Faith, the Bible and the living Magisterium protected by the Holy Spirit to test what a Prophet manifests and decide the legitimacy off.

We are much better off now compared with the Israelites of old.

The easiest way to find out the true nature of a prophet is to simply ask them if God is the almighty savior and creator of everything that is…a false prophet or one seduced by Satan would not be able to answer this or give any credit to God.

You may be interested in this passage from Numbers 11:16-30

The Lord said to Moses: "Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you. 17 I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone.
26 However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp. 27 A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”
28 Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”
29 But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” 30 Then Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp

The Holy Spirit was active in the Old Testament through a special gift granted by God. As you may have noticed, the gift was to help Moses in sharing the burden of the community. Today, we know that the Church encourages people to use the charisms that God bestows upon them for the building up of the Body of Christ, as St. Paul also taught in a few scriptures. They are usually for the good of others.

As for your other two questions, God will confirm His message when He sends His prophet. Usually, this is a deep interior “knowing” that God plants in the hearts of the hearers that operates under the Spirit’s gift of knowledge or counsel. Sometimes another may also confirm the message as well, so that it will be understood as His word. We are taught to “test the prophets” and “let the community judge.”

God’s timing in these works is awesome to observe how He prepares both persons in advance to recognize His message. In Acts 10, God was preparing Peter through three dreams/visions just prior to the visit from the messengers Cornelius sent to him. Both Peter and Cornelius received God’s word in advance. When the messenger arrived, Peter could connect the dots, so to speak, but the actual realization of God’s purpose took place when he arrived at the home of Cornelius and saw the gift of the Spirit being poured out upon his household.

Fr. Jordan Aumann gives excellent spiritual theology on these gifts here. With regard to prophecy, he wrote that the devil cannot

  1. … Make truly prophetic predictions, since the devil does not by his own powers of intelligence know future contingencies, although he knows so many things in their causes that it may appear to human beings that what was predicted was a true prophecy.

  2. … Know the secrets of a person’s mind and heart, since the devil does not by his own power have access to the human intellect and will. [St. Teresa of Avila taught this also.]

Revelation is the supematural manifestation of a hidden truth or divine secret for the general good of the Church or the benefit of some individual. …] If revelations refer to the future they are ondinarily called prophecy, although prophecy as such abstracts from time and place. There have always been persons gifted with prophecy, as is testified by Scripture and the processes of canonization of the servants of God. Nevertheless, private revelations do not pertain to the deposit of faith, which consists of the truths contained in Scripture and Tradition under the vigilance of the Church.

These graces are not given primarily for the benefit of the individual who receives them but for the good of others and for the edification of the Church.

Ordinarily, when this gift is bestowed, we need to examine the “purity of the vessel” as one author worded it. The holier a person is, the more likely his words will be true. We also examine that they do not contradict Church teachings or scripture.

Romans 10:
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”[g]

The prophet is sent.

Then from 1John 4… Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world……………6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit[a] of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

And submits to apostolic authority…

Here is a further example of true prophecy in the New Testament.

Acts 11: 27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29 The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

The disciples, also through the Spirit, were convicted that the prophecy was true and acted upon it.

It is good to distinguish this from another type of prophecy mentioned by St. Paul.
1 Corinthians14:1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. 3 But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. 4 Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy.

This is not the fortelling of hidden events, but an unction sent by God to His servant, that builds up another with a similar anointing that he receives interiorly. This is the more common form, and one that we all should desire as being most profitable. We might say that many priests use this gift in the confessional and in their homilies. It may also be used in writings that the Lord inspires for the good of another.

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