The identity of the last prophet in the Bible is a topic of much discussion and debate among Christians. There are differing views on who this prophet is, with the main candidates being John the Baptist, Malachi, and John the Apostle. In this comprehensive blog post, we will examine the evidence for each of these prophets being the last one mentioned in the Bible. We will look at their lives and prophecies, as well as how the Bible may point to them as the final prophet. Our goal is to present the cases for each prophet fairly and objectively, with an eye towards understanding this important biblical question.
Prophets were central figures in the Bible who spoke God’s word and truth to His people. From Moses to Isaiah to Daniel and many others, prophets played vital roles in guiding Israel, speaking out against injustice, and pointing people towards faith in God. The Bible contains prophecies from hundreds of years of history, but there had to be one who was the last prophet chronologically.
Identifying the final prophet mentioned in the Bible is important for understanding God’s unfolding plan of revelation and salvation. For Evangelical and Charismatic Christians who believe in the authority of Scripture, determining the last prophet can provide insight into how God uses prophets, how prophecy develops across biblical history, and how the prophetic tradition culminates.
As we explore this topic, here are some key things to keep in mind:
- There are good biblical cases for John the Baptist, Malachi, and John the Apostle all being the last prophet.
- We must examine the evidence carefully for each prophet.
- There are thoughtful Christians on varying sides of this issue.
- Identifying the last prophet is ultimately less important than understanding their prophecies and God’s message.
- There is room for discussion and debate on this topic while still respecting differing perspectives.
With these principles in mind, let’s dive into a thorough examination of the cases for John the Baptist, Malachi, and John the Apostle as the last biblical prophet.
The Case for John the Baptist
John the Baptist stands out as a major prophet and forerunner to Jesus Christ. All four Gospels record details of John’s life and ministry. He fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy of a messenger preparing the way for God’s arrival (Isaiah 40:3, Mark 1:2-4). John called people to repentance and baptized those responding to his message, including Jesus. He pointed others towards Christ, saying “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30). These and other factors point to John as potentially the last biblical prophet. Let’s look more closely at the case for his being God’s final prophet mentioned in Scripture.
John’s Biblical Significance
The Gospels give John great significance in God’s plan and connect him to the prophetic tradition. When asked if he was Elijah, whose return Malachi prophesied, John said “I am not” (John 1:21) yet Jesus later called him “the Elijah who was to come” (Matthew 11:14). Some see John as taking up Elijah’s prophetic mantle. His birth was foretold, like the great prophet Samuel. John is the link between Old Testament prophets and the Messiah he preceded. For these reasons, some believe John represents the culmination of prophets pointing towards Christ’s coming.
Last Old Testament Prophet
While John appears in the New Testament Gospels, he is often considered the last of the Old Testament prophets. John is the only prophet who features significantly in both Testaments. His birth is announced by an angel in Luke 1, reminiscent of angels addressing Daniel and Zechariah. John prepared the way for Jesus, the fulfillment of Messianic prophecies. In this transitional role, John stands as the last representative of prophets looking ahead to the Messiah before Jesus’ ministry began. For some, this straddling of the Testaments makes John the logical final prophet.
Jesus on John’s Significance
We should also consider how Jesus described John’s importance. In Matthew 11:7-14, Jesus calls John a prophet and the messenger sent ahead of Him. He says no one greater than John has been born. Some interpreters take this to mean John was the last and greatest of the prophets Jesus would mention. John is also the only prophet Jesus called “great”, which underscores John’s precedence. While Jesus praises John’s greatness, He clarifies that the least in the kingdom is greater, possibly because John belongs to the old era giving way to the new kingdom’s arrival. Still, Jesus assigns John great prophetic significance.
There is a strong case from these biblical passages for John the Baptist being the last prophet chronologically. While the Bible does not state this explicitly, John’s transformative role bridging the Testaments and his unequivocal greatness for Jesus may suggest he was the final prophet before the kingdom’s inauguration.
The Case for Malachi
Another likely candidate for the last prophet is Malachi. Scholars estimate the Book of Malachi was written between 440-420 BC. The Hebrew Bible ends with Malachi, making him the last writing prophet. Let’s survey reasons why Malachi may be the last prophet in the Bible.
The Last Book
In our English Bibles, Malachi comes right before the New Testament with no other prophets between. Originally in the Hebrew Bible, Malachi was also placed after the other prophets as the conclusion. This final canonical position may signify that Malachi’s prophecies were God’s last words through prophets before the period of silence preceding Christ’s birth. The Jewish arrangement of the prophets ends with Malachi, so some Christians see him as the last prophet too before John the Baptist hundreds of years later.
No Later Prophets
Malachi is also the latest prophet chronologically among the writing prophets. Haggai and Zechariah date to about 520 B.C. during the temple restoration. Malachi addresses deteriorating faith and practices around 430 B.C., likely among those who returned from exile. No canonical prophets arose in Israel between Malachi and John the Baptist that we know of. Malachi warned Israel about God’s coming day of judgment and the need to faithfully follow Him. As the last prophetic book, Malachi may capture the final written prophetic warnings to Israel before the intertestamental period.
Malachi contains a prophecy Christians often see fulfilled by John the Baptist. Malachi 3:1 says “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me.” As the forerunner to Christ, John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus and the gospel. Since Malachi is the last prophetic book, some identify his “my messenger” prophecy as pointing to John the Baptist as the next prophet to arrive 400 years later. They take this to mean Malachi was the last prophet before that intervening period.
Malachi makes a reasonable case for being the chronologically final prophet in the Bible before John based on his canonical position, timing, and the “my messenger” prophecy. This has led many scholars to end the prophetic tradition with Malachi before transitioning to the New Testament era.
The Case for John the Apostle
John the Apostle, writer of a gospel and Revelation, is another candidate for being the last prophet in Scripture. Also known as John the Elder, he was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples and is considered the same John who wrote 1, 2, and 3 John. Let’s examine reasons why John the Apostle may be the Bible’s final prophet:
Author of Revelation
The first reason is because John the Apostle wrote Revelation, the only New Testament book classified as prophecy. Its apocalyptic visions predict Christ’s future return and the culmination of God’s plans. As the only apostle to receive and record prophecies about the future after Jesus ascended to heaven, John served as God’s prophet to the early church and subsequent generations. Writing Revelation around 95 AD, John is the last known representative of the apostolic prophetic tradition.
Last Surviving Apostolic Prophet
The second case for John is that he was the last living apostle. All evidence suggests John outlived the other apostles by at least a few decades. The early church reported John served into the reign of Emperor Trajan which began in 98 AD. As the last surviving apostolic prophet, John would have been God’s final mouthpiece of biblical revelation and prophecy before Scripture was completed. His Gospel and letters pointed back to Christ while Revelation anticipated the future, making him a prophetic bookend to the New Testament era.
Uniqueness of Apostolic Prophets
Finally, John’s status as an apostolic prophet may elevate his importance. The apostles served a unique prophetic role in founding the church. Their teachings and writings hold authority as Christ’s closest followers. While John the Baptist was the last prophet before Jesus, John the Apostle was the last directly commissioned by Jesus to serve as His witness. The apostles possessed prophetic gifting to write Scripture and lead the early church. If we consider apostolic prophets as distinct, John has a strong case for being the last prophet chronologically due to his apostolic commission.
With his apostolic authority and likely position as the last living apostle, John the Apostle stands out as potentially the final prophet in the Bible for important theological reasons.
Determining the last chronological prophet in the Bible is a complicated question with good cases for John the Baptist, Malachi, and John the Apostle. Each has strengths based on biblical positioning, relationships to other prophets, and timing. Rather than definitively picking one as the last prophet, Christians can benefit from studying each of their lives and prophecies more closely.
The Bible does not make explicit statements about who the final prophet would be. But the ministries of John the Baptist, Malachi, and John the Apostle each hold valuable lessons for followers of Christ:
- John the Baptist reminds us to humbly point others to Christ, not ourselves.
- Malachi teaches the importance of wholeheartedly obeying God rather than compromising with sin.
- John the Apostle exemplifies how to follow Christ faithfully for the long haul, even as the last remaining disciple.
Rather than focusing on identifying the final prophet, the lives of these men turn our attention to the One they all proclaimed: Jesus Christ, the ultimate fulfillment and subject of all biblical prophecy. May we take up their examples of courageously proclaiming God’s truth while anticipating the day Jesus will return to fully establish His everlasting kingdom!