I believe God does, from time to time, reveal Himself to us through prophesies and visions. After all, it is written:
And it shall come to pass afterward
That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions.
And as mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12, prophecy is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, so no doubt there will those who are blessed with this gift.
But that brings us to the obvious question: How do we know if a prophecy is from God?
I mean, we can’t just take in every “thus says the Lord”, hook, line, and sinker, that comes our way just because some famous preacher or church leader said so. As John had written, “… do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.(1 John 4:1)”.
So how should we test?
And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’—when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.
While this should be obvious enough, let us also take a look at what Paul tells us about prophecies in the New Testament:
“But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.
(1 Corinthians 14:3)
Edify: To instruct especially so as to encourage intellectual, moral, or spiritual improvement.
Exhortation: A speech or discourse that encourages, incites, or earnestly advises.
Comfort: To soothe in time of affliction or distress.
As we can see, any prophecy in these modern day that does not meet the above criteria is most certainly not of God.
Some may argue that many of the prophecies recorded in the Old Testament were the “doom and gloom” , “fire and brimstone” types, not exactly things that are edifying, exhorting or comforting, so what do we have to say about that?
If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant.
(1 Corinthians 14:37)
But lest we forget, we are now under the New Covenant, and when it comes to the “new contract”, we should look to Paul and he stated quite clearly that purpose of prophecy (under the New Covenant) is so “that all may learn and all may be encouraged. (1 Corinthians 14:31)“. Thus let us not “Babylon” ourselves by confusing the old with the new, for God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33).
Indeed, let us be very discerning when it comes to prophecies, for God did issue some pretty stern warnings to those “prophets” whose words did not come to pass:
But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.
Woe to the foolish prophets, who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! They have envisioned futility and false divination, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord!’ But the Lord has not sent them; … You say, ‘The Lord says,’ but I have not spoken.
Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Because you have spoken nonsense and envisioned lies, therefore I am indeed against you,” says the Lord God. “My hand will be against the prophets who envision futility and who divine lies…
But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.
(2 Peter 2:1)