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The Persecuted Church




Was Agabus wrong as a prophet?

Some say Old Testament prophecy has to be 100% but that New Testament prophecy is fallible, that it may be mixed with human error. The Bible is consistent in teaching of prophecy, New Testament prophecy is to be treated just as Old Testament prophecy is. If it is not 100% accurate than God cannot be trusted in what He says to man.

Throughout church history no one ever accused Agabus of prophetic inaccuracy until modern times when false prophets have redefined prophecy. What he said was not appoint of contention throughout church history until our day.

We are told Agabus’s prophecy was in error (Acts 21:11), in that the Jews did not bind Paul and hand him over to the Romans.

Let’s look at what Scripture has to say:

Acts 21:10-11 a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. When he had come to us, he took Paul's belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, "Thus says the Holy Spirit, 'So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'

Paul recalls his arrest in Acts 28:17 he appeals to the very words Agabus spoke of him being handed over to the Romans. “yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.”

Agabus used prophetic symbolism in binding his own hands and feet, the same prophetic symbolism we find in the Old Testament (Isa.20:1-6; Jer.13:1-11; Ezek 4:1-)

The New Testament does not in any way teach that the nature of prophecy changed from the Old covenant to the New as revisionists imply.

Agabus introduced his prophecy with, “This is what the Holy Spirit says which is essentially “thus says the Lord.” Nothing in the text indicates that Agabus got his prophecy wrong. He would be known as the first false prophet in the Church. No one in Scripture criticizes the accuracy of Agabus’s words. 

Those who state Agabus was in error should be careful in their accusations, since Agabus himself is quoting that this from the Holy Spirit. To label Agabus as being wrong excuses a New Testament prophet to not be required to be as accurate as the Old Testament prophet’s.

Since prophecy is direct from God there is no such category as being Spirit-inspired but being fallible in the words of prophecy.

 Paul testifies that the Jews “delivered him over” to the Romans. In Acts 21:30-36

“And all the city was disturbed; and the people ran together, seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple; and immediately the doors were shut. Now as they were seeking to kill him, news came to the commander of the garrison that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. He immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down to them. And when they saw the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. Then the commander came near and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and he asked who he was and what he had done. And some among the multitude cried one thing and some another. So when he could not ascertain the truth because of the tumult, he commanded him to be taken into the barracks. 35 When he reached the stairs, he had to be carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob. For the multitude of the people followed after, crying out, "Away with him!"

The apostle is arrested by the Romans. The Jews relinquished Paul into the hands of the Romans once the soldiers arrived. Agabus’s prediction was accurate.

Agabus’s statement is validated by the testimony of Paul himself. Acts 28:16–17, describing Paul’s arrival in Rome, says this:

Acts 28:16-18 Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him. And it came to pass after three days that Paul called the leaders of the Jews together. So when they had come together, he said to them: "Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans, “

Agabus said that the Jews would seize Paul and they did. He prophesied that they would hand him over to the Gentiles, and they did, Agabus is accurate.

The judging of prophecies does not imply prophets could speak error along with truth. In the Old Testament the only way to determine whether someone was a true prophet was by testing prophecies. If the prophecies were wrong in any way, that person was not a true prophet (see Deut. 18:21–22; 1 Sam. 3:19–20). 1 Cor. 14:29; 1 Thess. 5:20–21 ;Prophecies are always to be judged, tested, just like teaching.


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