What does the Bible say about the spiritual gift of prophesy?
First, let’s define or describe the spiritual gift of prophecy.
Prophecy (1 Cor. 12:10; Rom. 12:6) was the gift God the Holy Spirit gave to some believers (1 Cor. 12:11, 29) of receiving a message directly from God and then declaring it to people either verbally or in writing or both [e.g., 2 Pet. 1:20-21; (Num. 12:6-8 with Deut. 5:1-5; 18:15; Ex. 17:14; 34:27); (Jer. 1:1-5, 7 with Jer. 30:2; 36:2); (Ezek. 1:3 with Ezek. 2:1-7; 24:1-3; 43:7, 11); and (Rev. 1:1-4, 10-11, 19; 21:5)].
Second, there’s the spiritual gift called “the word of knowledge” (1 Cor. 12:8), and it is only mentioned in 1st Corinthians.
The word of knowledge or just “knowledge” was the gift the Holy Spirit gave to some believers of receiving revelations of exhortation or unusual spiritual insight from God in the practical areas of life, such as in settling practical problems before the New Testament was completely written (Dr. R. Gromacki, An Exposition of First Corinthians – Called to Be Saints, p. 153; Dr. C. Sellers, Biblical Conclusions Concerning Tongues, p. 15). Passages such as 1 Cor. 8:1-13; 10:14-33; 11:4-16; 1 Tim. 5:3-5; and 1 Tim. 3:1-10 could be examples of the exercise of this gift.
So, is the gift of prophecy still in existence today?
Well, the apostle Paul, who wrote the book of First Corinthians in about A.D. 55, states in 1 Cor. 13:8-10, “…if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away … if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part, and we prophecy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.”
So God tells us here that the gifts of both prophecy and knowledge will be done away when “the perfect comes”. But what is “the perfect”?
The words “the perfect” are the Greeks words “to teleion”, meaning “complete” (Dr. W. Perschbacher, The New Analytical Greek Lexicon, p. 404). And, in fact, these Greek words are translated as “complete” in Col. 1:28. And since these Greek words are in the neuter gender in 1 Cor. 13:10, it means “the completed thing” (V. Budgen, The Charismatics and the Word of God, p. 75). But what is “the completed thing”?
Well, “the completed thing” in context is of the same kind of thing as “the partial” things or that which is “in part” (from the Gk. word “meros”, meaning “portion”), and that which is “in part” (“portions”) are the word of “knowledge” and prophecy (1 Cor. 13:9, “know in part” and “prophesy in part”). And that is how God’s revelations/messages came from God to His prophets, “in many portions” (Heb. 1:1) and “in many ways” (such as visions, dreams, mouth-to-mouth/face-to-face, etc., Num. 12:6-8). So “the completed thing” is completed knowledge and prophecy, in other words, God’s revelations or Word/Scripture/the Bible, as that’s what the whole Bible is composed of (God’s prophecies and knowledge given to man via His prophets). And since the Bible was completed in about A.D. 95 with the book of Revelation, the spiritual gifts of prophecy and the word of knowledge were done away with or rendered inoperative for this dispensation (which is a specific period of time in which God relates to or deals with mankind in a particular way; a type of administration or stewardship of God’s). And the Church Age/Dispensation, which we are now in, began at Pentecost in Acts 2 and ends with the Rapture (when God takes the Church, Christians, up to heaven at Christ’s coming in the clouds) as described in 1 Thes. 4:14-17. The Church Age/Dispensation deals with God saving by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ people not only from among the Jews/Israelites but also from among the Gentiles to form one body in Christ called the Church (Eph. 1:9-12, 22-23; 2:8-22; 3:1-12; Rom. 11:1-32; and Col. 1:24-28).
So, from all the above, we see that the words “the perfect” are not referring to either Jesus or His coming to earth, but to the completion of the Bible in A.D. 95. Also, the fact that there are two prophets mentioned in Rev. 11:3-6 prophesying does not nullify the termination of the gift of prophecy in this dispensation/administration/period of God’s stewardship known as the Church Age, as these two prophets in Rev. 11 are in a future dispensation known as The Tribulation Period [a 7-year period, Dan. 9:27, between the Rapture (1 Thes. 4:14-17) and The Second Coming of Christ (Matt. 24:29-31; 25:31; Acts 1:11; Jn. 5:28-29; 2 Thes. 1:6-10; 1 Thes. 3:13; Rev. 1:7)] where there will be tribulation for everyone on earth, especially for believers, for 7 years (Matt. 24:3, 21, 29-30; Rev. 7:13-14; 3:10; Mk. 13:14-20). In Dan. 9:27, the word “week” is the Hebrew word “shabua”, meaning “a period of seven”; a heptad (a group of seven); and the seven can refer to 7 years (e.g., Gen. 29:27; Lev. 25:8), as it does here in Dan. 9:27, as seen from the context of Da. 9:24-26 (where the 70 weeks refers to 70 weeks/sevens of years).
Another biblical evidence that the gift of prophecy ended in the first century A.D. is based on Eph. 2:19-20. The church/Christians in Eph. 2:20 is compared to a building which has a foundation and a superstructure. The apostle Paul says that the foundation represents the first period of church history, which is Christ and the apostles and prophets. The superstructure represents the succeeding centuries since the first century. We are now in the period of the superstructure and not of the foundation period (the 1st century). Once the superstructure of a building is laid down upon the foundation, you don’t relay the foundation. Prophecy was the foundation, as even the apostles of Jesus Christ got prophecy from God (for example, the books of Matthew, John, Revelation, 1st-2nd-3rd John, all the epistles Paul wrote in the New Testament, and Jesus’ promise to all the other 11 apostles in Jn. 16:12-15 and Jn. 14:26). So we can’t go back to the foundation of prophecy but rather continue to build the superstructure (with the spiritual gifts that are still for today, such as teaching, leadership, faith, helps, service, mercy, giving, exhortation, and evangelism, Rom. 12:7-8).
So, the gifts of prophecy and apostleship ended during the foundational period of the church by the end of the first century A.D.