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While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” Acts 21:10-11 ESV

Recently, I was listening to an online discussion regarding prophecy in the Old Testament versus the New Testament. During the discussion, the statement was made in defense of errant prophecy today, concluding Agabus as inaccurate in the prophecy ministered to the apostle Paul in Acts 21. Now I am by no means a Bible scholar or a theologian. But as a lay person, I have to candidly say that the statement bothered me when I heard it. I had just finished working my way through the Acts of the Apostles for the third time in two years, and when reading the account of Agabus and beyond the words he spoke, it proved to be one of the final nails in the coffin for me that prophecy in the New Testament held to the same standard as prophecy in the Old Testament. That standard when speaking for God was inerrancy. 

The reason why this statement bothered me so much was because it seemed as if Agabus was being thrown under the prophetic bus in order to justify or to excuse prophetic words conclusively false today. But what if Agabus did not get any of the prophecy wrong? What if Agabus was completely accurate? If he was then this changes everything with regards to the notion that prophetic words today spoken by a professing prophet can be inaccurate. Claiming to be a mouthpiece for the Lord is a serious matter. God has not changed His mind about the nature of prophecy. 

A few things stand out regarding Agabus and the prophecy he spoke to Paul. It is interesting to me that after Agabus spoke the prophecy to Paul, Luke does not make any reference in Scripture to indicate that Agabus missed it. What is also worth noting is that Agabus began the prophecy with “Thus says the Holy Spirit”. It is sobering to me that some would say Agabus was inaccurate when he began as many Old Testament prophets did in proclaiming to speak on behalf of God. When prophets of God spoke on behalf of God, it was never inaccurate. The vessel is fallible, but God is not, and when God spoke to them, it was clear. Agabus demonstrated that the Holy Spirit was revealing what was to take place in Jerusalem with Paul. To attribute error in this account is to lay it upon the Holy Spirit, which in itself is error because the third Person of the Trinity is infallible. 

You may find this interesting. In Acts 21:27-36, we read of Paul being arrested in the temple. The people were falsely accusing him regarding his teaching as well as assuming the he had brought Trophimus, a Gentile, into the temple. Verse 30 in this account says the people seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple. To be dragged out of the temple would mean he was unable to move himself, but that he was drawn by others. Here is a question. Why would Luke bother to reiterate to Theophilus here the details of the prophecy and how Paul was bound as Agabus said he would be? If Agabus had errored in the prophecy, it would seem that Luke would have made a point to bring this to light in this very account. We then see in verse 33 that after the people stopped beating Paul, he was arrested by the tribunal and bound with two chains. This in no way concludes he was not already bound somehow by the Jews in the temple. 

Following this prophecy, there are those who essentially confirmed the prophecy of Agabus being seized by the Jews and given over to the Gentiles in Jerusalem. Again, there is no one mentioned in Scripture who discredits Claudius Lysias wrote to Felix the governor, stating he rescued Paul as a Roman citizen from the Jews after they had seized him. Tertullus explains to Felix in Acts 24 about how they seized Paul in the temple on account of his alleged actions. The Jews in attendance confirmed what Tertullus said (Acts 24:6,9). Paul himself confirms in his defense before King Agrippa that the Jews seized him in the temple and tried to kill him because of the message of repentance (Acts 26:21). Paul also states in Acts 28:17 that he was “delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.”

There are other aspects concerning this prophecy which affirm Agabus’ accuracy, but I believe the central issue here goes back to Agabus proclaiming to speak by the Holy Spirit. Again, it troubles me that error would be attributed to God in any way. It brings sincere questions to mind, and some of these I have already asked. But here is one final question. Why would we want to justify error in any way in the prophetic movement by searching the Scripture to find an origin of error? According to Bible scholars, the claim of error on the part of Agabus was not ever brought into question or consideration until modern times. There are people far more qualified than myself who have broached this subject. Ultimately, the Word speaks for itself. I believe Agabus was accurate because the written Word of God confirms it, and I sincerely refuse to attribute error to the Spirit of God who spoke through him.Please follow and like us: