The prophetic gifts are not the only gifts that God has given His church, but they are very important gifts nonetheless. First off, it is important to understand that God is not dead, asleep or on leave. He is eager to speak to His children today, both through His written Word and the gifts of prophecy. However, there are varying manifestations of the gift of prophecy.
I. Prophetic Revelation
One thing that is important to understand about prophecy is that not all prophecies foretell the future. Many people have this misconception of prophecy. Because of this, people feel that prophecy is only for a select few, when this is far from the truth. Prophecy, as was explained above, is simply the ability to hear God’s voice. In most cases, God will not tell a person in detail about future events. God’s still, small voice will speak to a person and give that person instruction, encouragement and guidance.
The gift of prophetic revelation is the ability to foretell the future. It was given to Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel and many other Old and New Testament prophets. It is a fascinating gift. It is hard to find a person alive today that would not like to know his or her personal future. However, this is not a gift that God has given en masse. In most cases, God hides the future so that a person will learn to trust, faith and reliance on God.
Prophecy is the ability to hear God’s voice in this day and age. Discernment is the ability to differentiate between God’s voice and the voice of the evil one. This is an extremely important gift. The good news is that it is at the disposal of every single Christian who asks for it. As James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God…and it will be given to him.”
Acts 2:17 states clearly that God’s spirit will be poured out upon all flesh and that men would dream dreams. There are many examples in the Bible of prophetic dreams that foretell the future. On the other hand, some dreams simply reveal God’s will for a person without revealing future events. This is not a gift that is given to all, but some people do have it.
IV. Tongues and Interpretation
The gift of tongues is a controversial one. However, the Bible states clearly that tongues is one of the gifts of the Spirit. It is the Spirit speaking through a person, often in a language that the person has not learned before and does not understand.
However, tongues is not truly useful to a person without the gift of interpretation. The gift of interpretation is the gift of being able to discern what God is speaking. While tongues on their own are edifying, as the apostle Paul told the Corinthians, they are not useful to the body unless one can discern what is being said.
Another prophetic gift is the gift of seeing visions. There are many instances in the Bible where God showed His prophets a vision of future events, or a vision that answered a particular question or solved a particular problem. A person with the gift of visions would do well to write or dictate what he or she is seeing. It is not uncommon for the vision to progress, much as a movie would. By keeping a record of the vision, one will be able to go back over it later and better understand what God was showing.
Each of these prophetic gifts has their place. As Paul aptly noted in Romans 12, each person has been given spiritual gifts. While God still speaks today and will talk to anyone who stops to listen to Him, there are some special prophetic gifts that are not given out to all. These gifts can help a Christian in their walk with God and in the ministry God has called him or her to, but they are not the all in all. Every Christian, with or without prophetic gifts, would do well to remember Paul’s admonition in 2 Corinthians 13, that without love, it is all worthless.