Prophets are presented in the Bible as having several functions. First, prophets are spokesmen for God. When the people of Israel asked the prophet Samuel for a king, God told Samuel, “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king” (1 Samuel 8:7). Samuel was responsible to relay the Word of God to the people of Israel, and God states that He was the source of Samuel’s authority and words. Thus, Samuel the prophet was God’s representative.
Many other passages in the Old Testament have statements such as “the word of the Lord came to,” indicating that the source of the message was God and not the prophet (e.g., 2 Samuel 7:4; 2 Kings 20:4; Jeremiah 1:4; Ezekiel 3:16; and the opening verses of Hosea, Joel, Micah, Jonah, and Zephaniah). Similarly, Jesus taught a heavenly message: “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me” (John 7:16). He also stated that He spoke “just what the Father has taught me” (John 8:28). In Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer, He says, “I gave them the words you gave me” (John 17:8). Thus, Jesus clearly fulfilled the role of a prophet, as He was a spokesman for God.
The second primary function of a prophet in the Bible is what people commonly think of when they hear the term prophecy, and that is foretelling or predicting future events through divine revelation. Foretelling, though not the prophets’ most common task, is another form of their primary role. In speaking on God’s behalf, sometimes the message would include predicting the future. Jesus predicted the future when He told His disciples “that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Matthew 16:21). This prophecy is recorded as fulfilled in all four Gospel accounts (Matthew 27—28; Mark 15—16; Luke 22—24; and John 18—20). Jesus also predicted that, shortly after His ascension, the disciples would receive power at the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). Acts 2 records the fulfillment of the prophecy: the apostles received the Holy Spirit and spoke in languages they did not know to proclaim the gospel to at least fifteen different language groups present in Jerusalem for Pentecost. Thus, Jesus clearly fulfilled the role of a prophet, as He spoke predictively.
A third function of some of the prophets was healing and miracles. Moses performed many miracles, including parting the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21–22). Elijah performed a miracle when he called fire down from heaven to burn up a sacrifice (1 Kings 18:36–38). Elisha performed a miracle when he made the ax head float in the water (2 Kings 6:6). All four Gospel accounts record Jesus performing many miracles and healings (e.g., Matthew 8:14–15; Mark 1:40–45; Luke 8:42–48; and John 6:16–21).
The title “prophet” is used many times in the Gospels when other people refer to Jesus (Matthew 21:11; Luke 7:16; John 4:19). Jesus also alluded to Himself as a prophet in Mark 6:4.
God had told Moses that someday He would send another prophet to Israel, “and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him” (Deuteronomy 18:18). Jesus was the prophet who fulfilled that prophecy (see Acts 3:22; 7:37). Jesus fulfills all the requirements for a prophet in title, word, and deed. He is the ultimate prophet in that He is the very Word of God Himself (John 1:1).