In the last days, God said,
I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
and your old men will dream dreams.
In those days I will pour out my Spirit
upon all my servants, men and women alike,
and they will prophesy. Acts 2:17-18
According to Peter in Acts, the gift of prophecy is anything but gone. Clearly, since the time of Christ we have been living in "the last days" and this gift is fully in operation today.
However, perhaps more than with any other gift, we should use extreme caution when either demonstrating this gift or receiving it from others, because we are warned in the last days that there would be many false prophets:
Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. 1 John 4:1
So how can we know for sure? Here is a list of some of the signs of a true and authentic prophecy (not exhaustive):
It will always agree with scripture.
- Where willful sin is present in the recipient's life, the sin will be dealt with before any promised blessings.
If it is about a future event, it will come true 100%.
It should be confirmed by God in what He is already doing or saying in the recipient's life (usually a prophetic word spoken into my life is something He's already been telling me or else something He begins to define from that moment, confirming at least two or three times).
It will be given in a spirit of humility.
It may or may not be a conscious effort by the messenger (often times the messenger doesn't even know they are giving a prophetic word).
It may be offensive to our flesh or comforting to our spirit, depending on where we are at with God in that moment.
People are used differently, so it should never be expected that any two people have the same kinds of gifts operated in the same manner. Consider King David. Acts 2:30 tells us that David was a prophet, yet in the Old Testament you don't see him telling individuals what is going to happen to them like say, Elijah or Isaiah. But throughout the Psalms, David prophesied about the future Messiah and His Kingdom. I am not sure that David even knew he was prophesying most of the time. So there are different kinds of prophets, and different kinds of messages.
In general, the gift of prophecy can work out in many different ways. A few examples might be in dreams, special insight either into the Bible or in life situations, direction for future events, declaration of sin, and even just "truth-telling."
And remember, prophecy can have many vessels, according to Acts 2. Men, women, children, and elderly folks—anyone can be one of God's vessels for prophetic work. We must keep our ears attuned to listen for prophetic words and signs, as well as be clean vessels if God might want to use us at times to be His messengers of a prophetic expression for others. But again, one must use extreme caution and "wait it out" to see whether the word is from God, lest we be tricked by a false gift or a false impression.
For more on this topic, check out my more in-depth article.