Prophecies Will End
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul writes that one day, some spiritual gifts will cease to exist. "Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will come to an end...For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror, but then face to face. " (13:8-12)
The final verse is crucial to our understanding of when this will happen. When Paul writes "now we see only a reflection as in a mirror, but then face to face", he's referring to the period when Christ returns and we see Him face to face. God gave the spiritual gifts of prophecy, tongues, and knowledge to help people learn about Christ; but when He returns, we will have direct access to Jesus Himself. If there needs to be a prophecy, Jesus Himself can give it. If there is a language barrier, Jesus can overcome it. If there is confusion about the truth somewhere, Jesus can clarify it.
The book of Zechariah gives more explanation about what Christ will do in Israel during this period. During His reign from Jerusalem, He will cleanse Israel from sin, impurity, prophets, and unclean spirits.
"On that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the residents of Jerusalem, to wash away sin and impurity. On that day"—this is the declaration of the Lord of Armies—"I will remove the names of the idols from the land, and they will no longer be remembered. I will banish the prophets and the unclean spirit from the land." (Zechariah 13:1-2)
Notice that Christ will banish prophets from the land. Since the spiritual gift of prophecy comes to an end in Christ's kingdom, any remaining prophets will be false ones.
At this point, some might wonder why there would be false prophets in Christ's kingdom. Won't everyone on earth already be a Christian?
Actually, no. The Bible teaches that there will still be sin, death, and unbelief in the world throughout Christ's 1000-year reign. Revelation 20:7-9 shows us that at the end of this period, Satan will be released from his 1000-year prison and will again lead the nations to attack Jerusalem. He will do that because sinful, unbelieving people will still live on the earth. And there will be enough of them to coordinate a military attack on Jerusalem.
Now, some unbelievers during Christ's kingdom will pretend to be prophets even after Jesus has officially abolished the official title of "prophet" from His spiritual order. So how will King Jesus deal with them?
In his final words on the subject, Zechariah prophesies the Messiah will have a zero-tolerance policy for false prophets:
"If a man still prophesies, his father and his mother who bore him will say to him, ‘You cannot remain alive because you have spoken a lie in the name of the Lord.’ When he prophesies, his father and his mother who bore him will pierce him through. On that day every prophet will be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies; they will not put on a hairy cloak in order to deceive. He will say, ‘I am not a prophet; I work the land, for a man purchased me as a servant since my youth.’ If someone asks him, ‘What are these wounds on your chest?’—then he will answer, ‘I received the wounds in the house of my friends.’" (Zech. 13:3-6)
This is a vivid description of what life is like for anyone who claims to be a prophet during Christ's millennial kingdom. Zechariah describes four major realities of this period, regarding those who claim to be prophets:
First, Christ will require the family of the one claiming to be a prophet to kill him (13:3).
Second, in response to this, anyone who tries to be a prophet will be "ashamed" of their vision (13:4). They won't prophesy publicly. Nor will they dress like prophets. They won't dress like Elijah or John the Baptist. Doing so would endanger their lives.
Third, when anyone asks them, these people will deny being prophets. Instead, they will claim to be slaves, purchased and owned since childhood (13:5). These false prophets will outwardly claim to be the furthest thing from a prophet in order to conceal their sin. A prophet can't be a slave to anyone other than God, so this would seem to be a plausible denial.
Fourth, Zechariah says that some of these false prophets may have "wounds" concealed under their shirts. Much like the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:28, these future false prophets will continue to pierce themselves to get the attention of the false gods they serve (13:6). Even though their mouths may lie, their bodies will give them away.
The Mosaic Covenant had a nearly identical law against false prophets in Deuteronomy 13. In both cases, the family of the false prophet is responsible for bringing the punishment. When God reigns over His people in the land He gave them, He demands that no other god would compete for their hearts. He will cleanse His people from all spiritual impurity so that they worship Him alone.
As we study Christ's first coming in the book of Mark, we see Jesus show His ability to cleanse Israel from sin, impurity, and unclean spirits. Nevertheless, people gave alternate explanations for His exorcisms, claiming He did them by the power of Satan (Mark 3:22).
When Jesus returns, I imagine some unbelievers may do the same. But Jesus won't suffer again at the hands of those who lie about Him. He will deliver perfect justice and condemn spiritual deceivers.
The continuing existence of false prophets reveals the depth of humanity's sinful rebellion against God. In our natural state, our hatred of God is so great that we will deny Christ's authority over us even when it's clear we are in the wrong. Sin is so evil that it compels people to create false religions to replace the true worship they were designed to give God.
How should we respond to this? If you are a Christian, you have been freed from that power. As Galatians 5:1 says, we should, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage."