I know there are quite a few Christians out there who believe that supernatural miracles still happen on a regular basis and that prophecy (the divinely inspired kind) can occur on a daily or weekly basis. If it matters (it probably doesn’t), most of the ones I know come from a charismatic background. I’m not one of those Christians, though I do think that God can, and does, work that way today. I just don’t think it happens as often as some want to believe.
What is (or was) the purpose of miracles and prophecies? It was to authenticate and validate both the existence and the power of God and His Word to all people. Every place in history that we see a significant amount of the divinely supernatural, it was God communicating with His creation. All throughout the Old Testament days, miracles were common, prophecies regular occurrences, and God audibly speaking to his selected followers a frequent activity. In the New Testament days, particularly in the first days of the church, healings, speaking in tongues, and more prophecies were prevalent. Nearly all were exclusively held by the apostles as the pillars of the early church.
In every single point in history, miracles and prophecies were used by God to establish a little more of His Word to His people because there was nothing written down at the time. As such a more ‘physical’ presence was required, things that would ‘prove’ to all who saw them that God was real and active in the world. Once His Word was completed, however, all such activity came to screeching halt; there was no more need for divine communication because everything we needed to know was written down in the form of the Bible. Once the apostles’ ministries were complete, there was no more need for miracles or prophecies. The Church was established and thriving, the truth laid out at their fingertips. The power of the Word was complete, the Body acting as the image of God, with no more need for the supernatural to validate the existence and power of God.
That is why I do not believe that God uses such means to communicate and interact with His people to any a great extent today, particularly in the areas where the Bible is readily available. If people will not believe His written Word, then they will not believe an obvious miracle or prophecy – they sure didn’t when Jesus performed them right in front of their eyes. The exception to this occurs, I believe, in those countries where Jesus and Jehovah God are virtually unknown or where missionary access is very restricted. Stories have come out of countries like Africa, South America, and China where people have never heard of Christ before and yet have accepted Him because He came to them in a vision and requested they follow him, or where a missionary has had the ability to speak a language never learned before just long enough to communicate the Gospel to a native and bring him to Christ, or to bring healing to a dying villager so that an entire village may believe. It happens that the supernatural still intervenes in the world, but it seems to be restricted to those who have never heard and are not likely to in their lifetimes.
This is not to say that God does not act even here in the US, where the Gospel can be found on just about any street corner; there is evidence that He does. I just don’t necessarily think that it happens in a weekly church service or that an individual can receive divine prophecy directly from God when his Bible is sitting right in his lap. That sort of thing doesn’t seem to fit the model for the reasons miracles and prophecies occur.
I could be wrong on this, but I don’t think I am. After all, everything we need to know about God, about how to know and follow Him, has already been written down for us. Why would we need anything more?