One of the dreadful side effects of sin was an end to face-to-face dialogue between God and His people (see Isaiah 59:2). However, in spite of sin, God maintained communication with humanity, but used other means to communicate to His people, including sending messages to encourage, correct, or warn using His prophets. So it seems strange that the Bible declares that this will come to an end.
To understand this prospect, we must understand the nature of prophecy and what prophets do.
A prophet “receives communications from God and transmits their intent to His people” (Frank B. Holbrook, “The Biblical Basis for a Modern Prophet”). While the biblical prophet spoke for God, prophets did not prophesy whatever they wanted, “for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). These messages from God through His prophets benefited adherents, as was promised: “Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper” (2 Chronicles 20:20).
The Prophetic Gift
In the New Testament the apostle Paul outlines several gifts from the Holy Spirit that were given to the church for its edification. Of the gifts, he preferred love the most, but he also mentioned the gift of prophecy and its importance. Even though prophecy is a spiritual gift to the church, Paul indicated that there will come a day that prophecy will cease. “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away” (1 Corinthians 13:8; see also 1 Corinthians 12:1-4 and Ephesians 4:10-13).
Herein lies the conundrum: if prophecy is a gift from God to the church, and it is extremely valuable to God’s people, why would it end?
To answer this, we remember that spiritual gifts bring believers into “the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). When Jesus Christ returns to this earth to redeem His people, the need for such prophetic guidance will no longer exist. When God’s people reach their heavenly home, prophecies will cease!
Nevertheless, until this glorious day, prophecy is critical to preparing God’s people for His soon return.
What to Do With Prophecy Now?
Just as God gave the gift of prophecy to His people to announce His first coming (see Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23), God has given the gift of prophecy in earth’s final days to announce His second coming (see Matthew 24).
Among many strong prophetic passages in the Bible announcing the Second Coming, God reveals both warning and great hope to be embraced by His people. For example, John the revelator warned that just prior to Jesus’ second coming Satan will wage war against God’s remnant people.
“And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:17). Revelation 19:10 defined the testimony of Jesus as the “spirit of prophecy.” Hence, God’s remnant people—those who are commandment keepers and have the spirit of prophecy—will be persecuted by Satan, but Revelation 12:11 assures us that they will overcome him “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony”!
When God redeems His remnant from this earth, and secures their future for eternity, and all prophecy culminates, when the loud voice from heaven that John heard declaring, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God” (Revelation 21:3, KJV), is sounded across the earth, that is when all prophecy shall cease!